Football Features

“An absolute machine from set-pieces” — Corner kings West Ham leapfrog Liverpool with deadball bombardment

By Ben Green

Published: 19:10, 7 November 2021

West Ham United secured a famous 3-2 win over Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday to leapfrog the Merseyside club in the table.

The Hammers set out as they meant to go in the opening exchanges, soaking up pressure from the visitors before springing a counter, winning the first corner of the afternoon and capitalising on their deadball scenario. A wicked delivery from Pablo Fornals was inadvertently (according to the Goal Accreditation Panel) deflected in by Alisson, and the tone at the London Stadium was set.

Liverpool naturally pressed, like an insatiable swarm of bees, and restored parity through a world-class Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick, further igniting his tussle with fellow No. 2 Reece James for the starting right-back berth for England. But, David Moyes’ men refused to conform to past stereotypes.

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This latest version of West Ham under Moyes have proven resilient, determined and hungry. Most of today’s key players were on display for their gruelling 2-2 against Genk in Belgium on Thursday night, but the European greenhorns have handled the added strain of continental midweeks like an established heavyweight.

After the break, they hit the woodwork from another deadly corner, this time via substitute Craig Dawson, before Fornals got West Ham back in front, and Kurt Zouma netted from another set-piece: 3-1. A consolidation goal from Divock Origi offered a modicum of hope for Liverpool, but the hosts held out.

And so, West Ham now find themselves third in the table, rubbing shoulders with a collection of the Premier League’s so-called ‘Big Six’; and they continue to vindicate their position in the upper slopes of the top flight, following on from their sixth-placed finish last term to consolidate their standing near the summit.

Their effectiveness from corners was highlighted by Jamie Carragher during his commentary for Sky Sports, in which he described the club as “an absolute machine from set-pieces”, with Zouma’s headed finish being the 14th such occasion that West Ham have registered an assist directly from a set-piece since the start of last season.

For context, they are the only club across 2020/21 and 2021/22 to register 10 or more assists from set-pieces, with Chelsea and Southampton coming in at eight apiece. Of course, there is so much more to West Ham than deadballs alone, but that route to goal has become such a vital tool in Moyes’ tactical kitbag.

The Hammers shattered the glass ceiling last term and gatecrashed the top-six party, and that high finish was put down by many as a flash in the pan, a one-off, a fluke. Moyes’ continued managerial resurgence would suggest otherwise. He has cultivated a winning mentality in E20, and his players are responding.

The festive period will prove the real acid test for Moyes and his relatively thin squad, but thus far the European distraction has not blunted their domestic aspirations. West Ham now look a genuine threat to the Champions League qualification places, a team of substance, arrogance and togetherness; a mix of panache and pragmatism.

Whether this result is famous in isolation (as a rare win over Liverpool) or famous in the context of another incredible Premier League finish, remains to be seen. But, the way West Ham are going about their business, taking down heavyweights, winning their ‘winnable’ fixtures, and making lightwork of the Europa League, you wouldn’t bet against them replicating their achievements from 2020/21 — or going one better.

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