Newcastle United got 2020/21 off to a winning start, beating West Ham United 2-0 at the London Stadium on Saturday night.
Pre-season for both clubs was largely dominated by unhappiness surrounding the ownership, with Newcastle fans helpless as the Saudi Arabia-backed bid for the club was blocked, while West Ham supporters have had to watch their team stagnate.
But despite the two teams being in similar positions behind the scenes to an extent, there was a clear difference on the pitch, and it was Newcastle who came up trumps.
Newcastle reaping the rewards of their summer activity
Newcastle fans may not have got the takeover they wanted, but the Magpies have been active in the summer transfer window, bringing in five players so far. Three of those players started at the London Stadium on Saturday night with Callum Wilson joining Andy Carroll in attack, Jeff Hendrick on the right side of midfield and Jamal Lewis at left-back (Ryan Fraser and Mark Gillespie were unused substitutes).
Changing to a very basic 4-4-2 on paper, Steve Bruce had two strong centre-forwards capable of going up against West Ham’s defence but actually enjoyed the most luck down the left in Allan Saint-Maximin and Lewis, a partnership which could be effective for Newcastle over the season.
Saint-Maximin was arguably the best player of the first half, constantly breaking through the gaps West Ham had between their midfield and defence, though he let himself down on occasion through over-complication.
Callum Wilson has now scored eight goals against West Ham in the Premier League, at least three more than against any other team.
He opens his Magpies account against the Hammers. pic.twitter.com/1p4Yj2yWcE
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 12, 2020
But they found their breakthrough just 10 minutes after half-time, with Wilson tapping in Hendrick’s header following a deflected cross, winning the battle with Lukas Fabianski. It continued Wilson’s wonderful record against West Ham, now scoring eight goals in nine Premier League games. Hendrick added a goal to his assist late on, capping off a deserved win.
Negativity costs West Ham
While Newcastle started three of their new signings, West Ham played all zero of their summer arrivals, in that they haven’t actually brought anyone in, preferring to sell. And that lack of positive action in the transfer market was mirrored by negativity on the pitch in the way David Moyes set up his side.
A 4-2-3-1 with Mark Noble as the attacking midfielder was never going to be cutting through defences, and the decision was made even more bizarre when you looked at the players on the Hammers’ bench. At least one of Andriy Yarmolenko, Manuel Lanzini, Felipe Anderson or Sebastien Haller would have been a better option to join Michail Antonio in attack from the start. Against a top six side this might have been understandable, but Newcastle hadn’t won on the opening day since 2012.
Granted, West Ham were unfortunate with their efforts in the first half, hitting the crossbar twice, but they combined that with being far too open on the rare occasions they did attack, allowing Saint-Maximin the freedom of East London at times.
Haller’s arrival with just over 20 minutes remaining brought positivity to West Ham’s play but it was not enough to get them back into the game before Hendrick completed the win.