Against Burnley, Said Benrahma produced what is universally recognized as his best performance in a West Ham jersey. The attacking midfielder started wide left in the 4-2-3-1 formation, often drifting inside and trading with Jesse Lingard through the middle.
The Algerian was central to all that was god from the Hammers, he led the Burnley defense and showed flashes of his prodigious talent. Nothing more than the delicious assist from the winner of Michail Antonio.
The cross had to be perfect and he managed to get past four Burnley defenders to leave the striker with the simplest of finishes.
Benrahma’s performance was a joy to watch but was all the more impressive as in the 39th minute you saw him kneel on the ground to break his fast.
As a pious Muslim, Benrahma observes the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. On Monday, May 3, the fasting times were between 3:46 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. The West Ham attacking midfielder went without food and water for at least nearly 17 hours and was still able to produce a sublime performance.
Referee Anthony Taylor noticed a Hammers coach on the sidelines and, on the next break, lowered the game for a minute to allow Benrahma a much-needed drink and snack. At first, Burnley’s players were unaware of Benrahma’s situation and assumed he was receiving treatment for an injury, so they asked the referee to resume the game.
To be fair to the hosts, as Taylor and Antonio explained the situation to them, screams of “sorry” were heard for their instant reaction. James Tarkowski took it upon himself to speak to Benrahma as he returned to the pitch and apologized for the reaction.
A small gesture from Tarkowski and an understanding from Taylor to allow the game to take a break can make a big statement. Photos of Benrahma breaking his fast on the football pitch will have been around the world and in an era of proactive action against discrimination in football of all kinds, this type of inclusion should be applauded, as should the performance of Benrahma and his ability to play such a level game under these circumstances.
It was one of the times when everyone came out a winner.
Diop’s trembling start
Issa Diop had a very difficult opening of 45 minutes. He was indecisive on several occasions, not more than in the events leading up to Burnley’s penalty in the 19th minute.
At first, Diop misread the ball over the top and was unable to intercept it as it fell over his head, he then went to the ground but failed to dispossess Chris Wood. Diop quickly bounced to his feet only for Wood to graze the ball above his head, leaving the defender stranded.
Tomas Soucek then attempted to pinch and nick the ball but was a fraction too late and was rightly penalized by the referee. Diop is of course not guilty of Soucek’s mistake but it was the Frenchman’s indecision that led to the incident.
It wasn’t the only opportunity in the first half that the 24-year-old got caught in two minds and it was just a reminder if one needed one that without Angelo Ogbonna the Hammers’ defense is always over low.
Diop had a much improved second half, he had his lead on many crosses and long balls from Burnley and his pace is a huge asset, as shown on one particular occasion when he covered behind Dawson to stop the danger.
However, if Ogbonna can play a role for David Moyes’ side again this season, a return to first choice behind four of Ogbonna, Craig Dawson, Aaron Cresswell and Vladimir Coufal is to be hoped for.
The return of Mick
Michail Anotnio’s return was necessary and vital. It’s not a revolutionary opinion when the club’s lone striker returns to the fight with two goals, but it’s more than his goals.
Jarrod Bowen has done well in Antonio’s absence and it isn’t to disparage the 24-year-old to say that bringing the forward straight back for him was an obvious and welcome move.
Bowen isn’t a natural forward, and neither is Antonio in all honesty, but Bowen isn’t as experienced as Antonio in the role. The players have different attributes as Antonio showed with his powerful header to equalize. Bowen probably wouldn’t have taken off the scorer’s back and had the jump to score that goal.
Bowen would be more likely to have been involved in the wide play in the channels or to rush past the defender, a move Antonio did not make in the second half and was reprimanded by Coufal after another excellent performance.
But Antonio despite the misfires in the second half is an excellent liaison player, he is short and uses his strength to hold defenders and bring others into play. He is smart and quick on the counterattack, he runs selflessly for create space and never give defenders a moment’s rest.
Bowen is also a smart player and good on the counterattack, but he’s not the liaison player Antonio is and can’t provide the same physical challenge to defenders, without his fault.
Against the pairing of Ben Mee and Tarkowski, Antonio was the perfect man for the job, and an unbelievable failure would have had a hat trick to prove it, as it’s a brace was just enough to keep the Hammers on target. way.
Cresswell makes the difference
Another highlight of the evening was Aaron Cresswell’s return. He hasn’t contributed a clean sheet, threatened with a cut delivery, or added another pass to his name, but he made a huge contribution to the team.
West Ham struggled at first but once they got the first foot, something conceding a goal seemed to wake them up, they were by far the better team.
Cresswell played high on the left side, he was often free to receive the ball from the excellent Manuel Lanzini and the captain for tonight kept it simple. Often all he did was quickly move the ball towards Benrahama on the inside towards Lingard, but he did so to the beat.
The full-back moved forward well in support, he did a number of overlapping runs that ended without him receiving the ball, but created space by stretching the defense.
His ability to play as a third center-back also allows him to see danger well on defense and fall back inside to support Diop when needed and this tactical intelligence provides a solid foundation for the back line. An excellent return to the team and a great performance from the skipper on Monday.
Against Chelsea, when Mark Noble left, the manager’s choice seemed curious to bring Lanzini back to the heart of the midfield, but for ten minutes it worked well. He saw more ball than anyone on the pitch during this time and dictated West Ham’s play.
Unfortunately, Fabian Balbuena was severely sent off, and as we now know wrongly, and the Hammer struggled to see so much ball with just ten men.
It was a brief appearance by Lanzini when the team were at full power, but showed Moyes enough to trust the Argentine to play from the start in the absence of Noble and Declan Rice, and the boy did paid.
Lanzini was the fulcrum in Turf Moor, he dictated the game receiving it from the defense and extending it on the pitch and off to pace.
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After the game, Moyes praised the 28-year-old for the work done in a deep playmaker role: “I thought Lanzini was very good, I don’t know if he gave the ball tonight “, he mentioned.
Moyes added: ” [He] passed the ball well and helped us play better, he kept it [well], so I’m really happy with Manu because he’s someone I really love and he’s done well before. ”
Soucek advanced at times, which left the defense exposed to direct attacks from Burnley with only Lanzini returning to help center-backs, but with Rice expected to face Everton, there might be a way to get Lanzini into a midfield. three with Soucek and Rice by his side.
This would provide defensive cover through the vice-captain, a playmaker in Lanzini and a box-to-box midfielder in the Czech international. Definitely, a tantalizing prospect for Moyes to consider in this week’s practice.