Football Features

“They are so impressive” – Winners and Losers as Chelsea shut down 10-man West Ham to take control of fourth place

By Muhammad Butt

"They are so impressive" - Winners and Losers as Chelsea shut down 10-man West Ham to take control of fourth place

Published: 19:57, 24 April 2021

In a tense evening of football, Chelsea beat West Ham 0-1 at The London Stadium to take hold of fourth place.

The win puts the Blues three points clear of the Hammers, giving them a big edge as the race for a Champions League place enters the final stages. Who were the winners and losers?

Winner: Timo Werner

As the late, great Etta James once sang: “At last!”

When Timo Werner scored against Newcastle, he ended a 14-game run in the league without a goal. He must have thought his troubles were over but no. After that Stamford Bridge strike he went on another scoreless run that stood at seven before this game but seven is where it stays.

Today, Werner scored! And while the finish seemed simple enough; remember how bad some of his finishing has been (and still is: as we saw from the sitter he missed 10 minutes into the second-half).

Still, the hold-up play, smart run off the back of the defender, and neat finish in a big, high-pressure top-four clash was very impressive. Ability has never been his issue, neither attitude and application. He just needs more confidence and rhythm. He’s gone from 14 to seven-game goal droughts, next up 3.5??

Loser: Moyesball

West Ham have been electric to watch recently, and it’s been in large part to David Moyes’ system of play. No, really! The Scot has had West Ham play this 3-4-1-2 shape and the Hammers have been lethal on the break as a result. They’ve honestly been so much fun.

The thing is, that kind of system only really works if the opponent is going to open up and play against you. It’s harder to break opponents down if they don’t open up, and Chelsea had no interest in opening up.

So the Hammers saw a fair amount of the ball, and created a fair amount of danger, but bar one potential penalty for handball, they never really created enough moments of danger.

Loser: The referees and VAR

Of course, as much as Moyesball was defeated here today by Chelsea, and as ineffective as they often were, West Ham can feel incredibly unfortunate to leave The London Stadium with no points.

VAR is often criticised for “ruining” football but really, VAR is a tool that is only as good as the refs that use it and today it showed those referees up.

First in the opening half there was a handball incident where Cesar Azpilicueta thrust his arm (still tucked by his side, mind) at the ball to block it. The ball struck his body, then hit his arm, and the referee and VAR said no penalty was to be given.

It would have been harsh, for sure, but we’ve seen penalties given for similar offences this season and earlier in the day, Newcastle had a goal ruled out for a much more tenuous handball.

Still, it got worse late in the day as Fabian Balbuena got sent off for connecting with Ben Chillwell on his follow-through. It was an emphatic clearance and the impact was entirely accidental yet despite watching this on replay, the referee deemed it a red card and effectively killed West Ham’s comeback with just 10 minutes left.

Game’s gone.

Loser: Angelo Ogbonna

Ogbonna was in the running to be West Ham’s player of the season before injury took him out in February. His return to the side hasn’t gone so well, with West Ham losing to Newcastle and now Chelsea, and it was Ogbonna’s error that allowed Chelsea in today.

While he played well in general, when Werner got the ball just before half-time, the Italian defender stepped up to confront him. Now, whenever you break defensive shape to go and press someone then you had better either win the ball or commit a foul so the game is stopped: Ogbonna did neither.

Not only did Werner hold him off, but after the ball was released Ogbonna was so busy watching it he didn’t even notice Werner run off the back of him into space, where he was found by Chillwell for an easy tap-in seconds later. All because Ogbonna stepped out.

Winner: Thomas Tuchel

Thomas Tuchel really has turned Chelsea around. They have been incredible under the German, losing just once in the 14 Premier League games he has taken charge of.

The German has guided them to fourth place, and with the way they’re playing, you wouldn’t rule them out for finishing third. In addition to the league success, they’re also in the FA Cup final and a Champions League semi-final. The Blues could do a cup double!

Sure, they’re not the most exciting squad to watch and their brand of defensive cynicism and pouncing on defensive errors isn’t for everyone, but they execute their gameplan to perfection almost every time. 10 clean sheets in 14 games, with just one team (West Brom) scoring more than once against you in a single game, is absolutely phenomenal. Plus they out-Atleti’d Atlético Madrid!

They are so impressive.

Loser: Real Madrid

Los Blancos will be facing Premier League opposition for the second time in a row in the Champions League and would have hoped to be facing a side in a bit of a messy state as they did previously. And when Chelsea drew 0-0 with Brighton, Zinedine Zidane must have been licking his lips.

But Chelsea are no Liverpool. The Blues always seem able to rebound from disappointment and that is exactly what they did today against West Ham, picking up a 0-1 win and getting control over Champions League qualification. They were resolute in defence, they squashed the life out of the opponents and they broke with purpose.

Basically, they did what Real Madrid do to opponents, and if you look at the tables you’d argue they probably do it better. Could Los Blancos be out-walled for the first time??