Football Features

Chelsea’s RVP tribute can’t stop Bowen and Premier League ‘scalp-hunters’ West Ham

By Harry Edwards

Published: 15:15, 4 December 2021

West Ham United threw a huge spanner into the Premier League title race as they beat leaders Chelsea 3-2 at the London Stadium.

The Blues went into the game having seen their lead at the top cut to just one point in the past week and suffered a pair of disappointing performances against Manchester United and Watford, despite beating the latter.

In Saturday’s early kick-off they faced a West Ham side also struggling for form, without a win in three matches going into the London derby with two losses and one draw. But that run would come to an end, as the Hammers overturned a 2-1 half-time deficit to take all three points and add to Chelsea’s misery.

While many of the West Ham players can be commended for their performances, as well as David Moyes for his team selection and formation change, special recognition should be reserved for Jarrod Bowen.

West Ham set up to frustrate Chelsea and did so perfectly in the opening 25 minutes, with their flat back five and three midfielders sitting in front of them. Some will look negatively on the set up, but it was the best way to stop Chelsea from playing through the middle, forcing them wide for crosses without a recognised centre-forward.

It was so effective that Chelsea could only get the breakthrough in the first half from a set piece, with Mason Mount delivering a delicious corner onto the head of Thiago Silva, who had escaped his marker. But they would be pegged back when Bowen capitalised on an error between Jorginho and Edouard Mendy.

With Chelsea playing the ball around at the back while West Ham pressed high, Jorginho undercooked a pass to Mendy, selling his goalkeeper short. Rather than booting the ball into the stands, Mendy opted to take a touch with Bowen breathing down his neck and lost possession to the Englishman. Despite having his back towards goal, Bowen managed to draw the foul from Mendy and win his side a penalty which Manuel Lanzini converted.

West Ham being level didn’t last too long, just four minutes in fact, with Mount performing a bit of magic to put Chelsea back in front. It came through an excellent sweeping ball from Hakim Ziyech over the West Ham defence with Mount just cushioned into the bottom corner on the volley. It was reminiscent of Robin van Persie’s volley for Manchester United against Aston Villa in the 2012/13 campaign, albeit from a slightly different angle and difficulty. Questions should be asked about Lukasz Fabianski’s role in being beaten at his near post, but the strike was superb. And the internet thought so too.

The goal made Mount Chelsea’s top scorer in the Premier League this season with five strikes, while joint-top with Reece James across all competitions (also five). Only James sits above Mount for direct goal involvement for Chelsea this season too, with the midfielder now on nine (five goals, four assists). And he has been directly involved in each of Chelsea’s past four Premier League games, scoring two and assisting two.

But it was Bowen and West Ham that would steal the show. Just over 10 minutes into the second half, West Ham had sensed Chelsea’s weakness down their left flank and looked to exploit the defensive incapabilities of Marcos Alonso. The Spaniard was outmuscled in the build up to West Ham’s second equaliser, which Bowen tucked into the bottom corner with a fine finish from just inside the area.

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It was a goal Bowen deserved on his performance, giving the Chelsea defence serious problems. He had seven touches in the opposition box, won six duels, had a game-high four shots and also won four fouls including for the penalty.

The performance continued Bowen’s impressive run for the season, now scoring three goals and providing four assists in 1,233 Premier League minutes. In the Premier League, only four English players have been directly involved in more goals than Bowen this season – with just Jamie Vardy, Mount, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James above him.

It’s performances like that which have West Ham fans calling for him to be named in an England squad, a dangerous attacking player that can also do the work defensively – something Gareth Southgate wants from all of his players. But perhaps he is hindered by the amount of quality in front of him in England, such as Mount who has already played himself into Southgate’s heart.

Bowen did have the last laugh on the afternoon though as West Ham went on to take all three points late in the game, with Arthur Masuaku catching Mendy out with a crossed that swerved into the near top corner. While ending West Ham’s poor recent run, it also extended their excellent record against the so-called Big Six this season.

The Hammers have now beaten Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea in the Premier League this season, while also knocking Manchester United and Manchester City out of the Carabao Cup. Moyes is working wonders at the London Stadium and it’s about time he got some credit for it.

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