Football Features

West Ham 3-1 Southampton: Fearless forward Bowen refuses to back up Moyes’ Hull point

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 17:00, 29 February 2020

West Ham ended a seven-match winless streak in the Premier League to boast their chances of staying up.

David Moyes’ side, whose last victory came on New Year’s Day, ran out 3-1 winners against Southampton who not long ago were themselves in the relegation dogfight.

Naturally, there were individual winners and losers. Here are three of each from this encounter.

Winner: Jarrod Bowen

“If we’re signing a boy from Hull and trying to find a way for him to be the saviour, that’s wrong,” Moyes said on the eve of this game regarding 23-year-old Jarrod Bowen who had relocated from the KCOM Stadium last month. And there’s an element of truth in his statement. Moyes, who brought through Wayne Rooney and Ross Barkley during his time at Everton, knows a thing or two about developing and nurturing players. Although he isn’t a youngster anymore, Bowen is coming to a new club, and the onus is on to not burden him with great expectations.

But the Leominster-born winger isn’t helping matters. Starting his first match as a Hammer — after coming off the bench in defeats against Man City and Liverpool — he’d put the hosts in front after making a clever run with the game 15 minutes old. Given their predicament, and obvious apathy from a section of supporters (directed towards the club’s owners), such enthusiasm from this fearless forward could galvanise Moyes’ men and those cheering them on in their quest to stay up.

Loser: Alex McCarthy

If anyone was going to get Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side back in this game, it was James Ward-Prowse. His crossing technique has long been lauded, with some observers favorably comparing him to David Beckham, whilst Man City boss Pep Guardiola describing him as the best corner taker in the league. His latest assist, though, came from open play. Feed through by Stuart Armstrong, he’d delivered a well-timed pass for Michael Obafemi — deputising for leading marks Danny Ings — to level proceedings.

Southampton would subsequently be in control with the crowd subdued and West Ham now on the backfoot, however they couldn’t take the game by the scruff of its neck and go in front, instead their oft-reliable goalkeeper Alex McCarthy gifted the hosts an opportunity to retake the lead — by failing to position himself correctly to gather a dropping ball — which they obliged without hesitation.

Winner: Sébastien Haller

Profiting from this rare McCarthy brain freeze was the Hammers ‘number 22’, a striker desperate to score having gone six Premier League games shooting blanks before today’s match, Sébastien Haller in true poachers style kept his eye on the ball and once it happened didn’t hesitate to bundle the ball home. The goal itself was pretty good as Haller needed to adjust his body and convert from a tight angle.

As touched upon, goals are the lifeblood of a striker, for him to go nearly 580 minutes without one must have been energy sapping. But fair play to the French marksman, he’s not lost that desire, and it couldn’t be a better moment for him to rediscover that scoring touch now West Ham need his goals more than ever.

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Loser: Ralph Hasenhüttl

You can understand why Danny Ings started on the bench. Reports of suffering a knock in training seemingly factored in Ralph Hasenhüttl’s thinking, but having the in-form marksman as a substitute means he’s ready and available to play, so would it have not been more ideal to start him — increasing their chances of a win — before taking him off? Hasenhüttl is the one being paid the big dollars and like every tactician lives and dies by his decisions.

Hindsight is 20/20, no one can predict the future, but you have to ask would Ings starting been more likely to make a Hammers backline — that has been prone to be shaky once under considerable pressure — more nervous than not facing him from the get-go. Ings did eventually come on, with the Saints 2-1 down, but as soon as he got on Michail Antonio gave the Londoners a two-goal lead and they never looked back.

Winner: Pablo Fornals

Pablo Fornals’ acquisition was heralded as a statement of intent. The talented Spanish attacking midfielder turned heads during his respective spells with Malaga and Villarreal leading to big things being expected at the London Stadium, but to say he’s struggled early on is an understatement, as well as to be expected. His first 12 league outings, under Manuel Pellegrini, yielded no returns in terms of goals or assists. It didn’t help that he wasn’t guaranteed a starting berth.

Things would change at Chelsea in late November when he created West Ham’s only goal in a slender 1-0 victory, that would lead to a run of four games in which he created three goals. Until today Fornals hadn’t been able to create two goals in a single game, Bowen and then Michail Antonio profiting from his delivery, this follows his second goal for the club away to Liverpool, now trusted under Moyes that early season promise is starting to be realised.

Loser: Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg

No fewer than 11 players have scored for Saints in the Premier League this season but not among them is Danish midfielder and club skipper Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, who last season managed four in 31 appearances, a statistic that looks harmless on its own but when you factor how many shots he’s produced it becomes a little worrying.

Today saw the former Bayern Munich youngster have two shots on goal, as many as Obafemi and Armstrong, but for the 2019/20 campaign it brings him to 41 — no one in England’s top division has produced more without scoring than Højbjerg — with 10 matches remaining this term he’ll be keen to end that unwanted tally.

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