Where do I start! Another good performance again, this time from home against Cardiff City. A solid 3-1 win, with a few changes made to the winning side against Newcastle last weekend.
Tactically, as predicted there would be changes as I said in my last blog post, my predicted line up was spot on until news broke that Balbuena was being rested for the game. Masuaku came in for Cresswell, and Antonio coming in for Zabaleta, a nice 4-4-2 with the rest of the team who faced Newcastle keeping their place.
We started the first half brightly, with fast build-up play with a high press to, even Diop getting involved on the edge of the Cardiff box with a nice pass and move with Snodgrass, creating a shooting opportunity.
Felipe Anderson again early on was picking up the ball and playing some penetrating passes, as he cut open the Cardiff defence, into Arnie who failed to chip it over the keeper. Our main chance of the half came through Arnautovic again as he powered past Bamba and drilling a low shot past the keeper, which was cleared off the line.
Apart from those early chances in the first half hour we looked flat, the pace of our play clearly dropped, which is when disaster struck as Arnautovic shoved Hoilett in the back conceding a penalty. This came minutes after the talking to with both captains on the topic of fouling from corners and in the box. For me Arnie should know better, Hoilett wasn’t going anywhere, he should have simply held him up. Luckily it was a poor penalty from Ralls and Fabianski calmly saved and held onto the ball to give us time to regroup.
Shortly after that Arnautovic pulled up with his hamstring, as I’ve mentioned on occasions in a few of my post-match blogs, Arnautovic has been a cause for concern, not only with the talk from his agent, but also his injury struggles in the first half of this season. He appears to be playing through the pain, and most games we’ve seen him go down holding something, and we have all held our breath hoping he’s okay. Well unfortunately this time, I think he won’t be so lucky. Hamstring strains alone take a couple of weeks to heal, but if it’s worse your looking up to a month or more. And with our best player out over the Christmas period, that could be damaging for the team. Lucas Perez replaced him just before half time.
The second half started off with a flyer! As Snodgrass lifted the ball into Perez who shot past Etheridge. His celebration was an interesting one, flashing the back of his shirt to the camera, as if to say, I’m still here, remember me? And again four minutes later he struck again as Masuaku’s timed pass opened up a shot for Perez who coolly slotted it under the Cardiff keeper. And again, flashed the back of his shirt. A clear message sent to possibly the manager and the fans, and it was/will be well received.
We really took the second half by the scruff on the neck, scoring a third in the 60thminute, this time through Antonio. As I said in my Manchester City post-match blog, I said hopefully we would get the old Antonio back, and it was a vintage Antonio header, holding off the man at the near post and heading past the keeper.
Minutes later saw the introduction of The Big Man, Andy Carroll. We had a comfortable lead, and it was a comfortable game to ease him back into the swing of things. A long waited return for him, and it was good to see him. Hopefully we see him regularly, and again it depends what Andy Carroll we get.
Throughout the rest of the half we dominated the game creating many chances, the last change was Grady for Snoddy, who again had a good game, notching 2 assists. 3 in his last 2. And as expected Diangana was causing havoc, his pace and skill really is exciting to watch, and having him and Anderson on either wing, as a full-back I bet your counting your lucky stars their having an off-day because they are so hard to handle!
Somehow Cardiff got a goal back through Murphy, to me and I’m sure most, it was a clear foul on the Fabianski. A goal which in a sense ruined a perfect performance. None-the-less it was another brilliant game, coming out 3-1 winners.
Star performers were Perez, Antonio who at right-back was solid and got himself a goal, Snodgrass again brilliant, Fabianski for keeping it 0-0 going into half-time. But as for everyone else it was a good performance.
What’s next for West Ham? Its Palace at home on Saturday. In terms of score prediction and predicted line up. I think it’ll be 2-1 to the Hammers, with Lucas Perez coming in for Arnie and Zaba coming back in for Antonio despite Antonio’s good performance.