WHO Poll
Q: 2021/22 What competition should we prioritise this season?
a. The league is our bread & butter, so this year let's have a club sandwich
25%
  
b. We're owed an FA Cup after Gerrard nicked our last one in 06, our name's on it in 22
9%
  
c. A bye to the League Cup 3rd round gives us a good start, let's make it count
6%
  
d. The Europa is our best ticket to the Champions League, this is the one
37%
  
e. What's wrong with you, let's do the lot, has the quadruple ever been done
24%
  



Irish Hammer 8:14 Fri Nov 19
Great Article on Rice, Creswell & Fornals' Roles this Season
Analysing Rice, Cresswell and Fornals’ roles in

West Ham analysis
The big question for West Ham this season was whether they could sustain their excellent domestic form from 2020-21 now that they were involved in the Europa League.

The answer so far? An emphatic yes.

David Moyes’s side are flying high, domestically and in Europe.

Third in the Premier League table going into the international break and already through to the Europa League knockout stages, West Ham have been one of the most consistent sides in England this season. Their tally of 23 points — the same as Manchester City and just three fewer than leaders Chelsea — has not been acquired by chance.

That statement is backed up by the numbers. Their rolling expected goals average shows West Ham have been creating more chances than they have conceded this season, just as they did for long periods last season.


Add in a quarter-final clash in the Carabao Cup and you can understand why West Ham fans are riding the crest of a wave at the moment. Statistically speaking, this West Ham side are the best in the club’s history, and it helps that they have such a settled side. No manager in the Premier League has named an unchanged XI more often than David Moyes this season, with the 58-year-old electing to go with the same starting line-up on seven occasions so far.

Within the squad, so many performers have shone. Michail Antonio has spearheaded the attack brilliantly and his six goals in nine Premier League games are a reward for long-standing strong underlying numbers.

The loss of Angelo Ogbonna to injury will be a big one as the Italian has been such a commanding presence in West Ham’s back line. Further forward, Tomas Soucek’s form has picked up after a quiet start to the campaign and a lower goal return than his impressive tally from last season.

Aside from the Czech man-mountain, the three outfield players with the most minutes played run right through the team in Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice and Pablo Fornals — each of whom are deserving of a closer look into their numbers this season.

Starting at the back, Cresswell has played every minute for West Ham in the Premier League and seems to be providing as much energy as he has ever done. The 31-year-old performed admirably when asked to play in a left centre-back role within a 5-3-2 or 5-4-1 formation over the last 12 months, but it is clear that Cresswell is most comfortable in his regular left-back position in Moyes’ 4-2-3-1.

Digging into his defensive metrics, Cresswell looks to be putting himself about more this season with a higher volume of “true” tackles — which includes tackles plus challenges lost plus fouls committed — compared with last season.

He is also contesting a higher volume of aerial duels per 90 minutes and a marginally higher volume of “true” interceptions — which includes interceptions and blocked passes — compared with last season.

This increase may well be influenced by his shift back to his better-known left-back position, but it is also interesting to see that his success rate in the challenge is also much improved. This may well be a quirk of the early season, but Cresswell’s “true” tackle win rate (68 per cent) and aerial win rate (66 per cent) is the highest it has been for years.

This speaks to the discipline and structure of Moyes’ team — they are compact out of possession but also quick to get forward when they do regain the ball. For Cresswell, he might not be the most creative full-back in the Premier League, but looking at his touch map this season, you can see how much he gets up and down the flank from one box to another to protect his side defensively and support the attack.

Given just how many minutes he has played under Moyes, Cresswell is something of an unsung hero when thinking of West Ham’s rise in the past 18 months. That may be the case from the outside, but there is little chance of him being underappreciated among Hammers fans.

The poster boy for West Ham’s recent ascent has to be Rice — and rightly so. The 22-year-old is quickly establishing himself as one of the best young midfielders in Europe, gliding around the field, breaking up play and carrying the ball forward at the first opportunity.

Rice has been playing more of a box-to-box role this season, which is a reverse of the dynamic that saw midfield partner Soucek typically bomb on and arrive late into the box last season.

In terms of the touches he is getting, Rice is seeing more of the ball this season, with 72.3 touches per 90 minutes compared to 60.5 last campaign. If we look at the location of those touches, you can see that Rice is appearing in more advanced areas in the centre of the pitch — true to the all-action role he is looking to fulfil.

The Athletic has previously reported that Rice has taken inspiration from Premier League midfield greats Yaya Toure and Patrick Vieira, who were known for their physical presence and driving runs forward.

Rice himself has the physical attributes to emulate those players, and his numbers are looking strong in carrying West Ham forward this season. According to Statsbomb data via FBref, Rice’s 6.9 progressive carries — ie, carries that move the ball towards the opponents’ goal by at least five yards, or any carry into the penalty area — per 90 minutes put him in the top five per cent for midfielders in the Premier League.

More specifically, his three carries into the final third per 90 minutes also places him in the top five per cent among his positional peers. He is often driving the team forward as they spring into attack from a deeper, compact defensive block.

You can see below just how many of Rice’s longer carries — 20 metres or more — show him to pick up the ball in his own half, drive into the opposition half and predominantly pick out a successful pass to a team-mate.

No midfielder has averaged a higher progressive carry distance than Rice’s 200 yards per 90, which highlights just how much he is acting out his intentions this season.

It is unsurprising that Rice has played every minute of West Ham’s Premier League campaign so far, given his importance to the side. Moyes will be reluctant to take him out of the team, but with West Ham currently battling on three fronts before even considering the FA Cup in the new year, Rice will surely need a breather somewhere to avoid any unnecessary injury or fatigue that would prevent him bringing that energy he offers between the two boxes.

Moving towards the top end of the pitch, each of the three attacking midfielders of Fornals, Jarrod Bowen, and Said Benrahma have shared some strong creative and attacking threat between them this season, but it is Fornals who is worthy of a closer look.

It wasn’t too long ago that the Spaniard was deemed to be a dispensable player in the West Ham side. Since joining from Villareal in 2019, it was clear that there was a good player in there, but Fornals did not provide enough attacking output to merit too much fanfare.

Under Moyes, the 25-year-old has kicked on and added more output to his game in key attacking areas. Four non-penalty goals in the league this season is already only one off his tally of five last season, with Fornals earning favourable reviews for his recent performances on and off the ball.

Despite only having one league assist this season, only Antonio has created more chances in open play than Fornals. As you can see below, those chances have come predominantly from the left where the Spaniard typically operates, but he has also popped up in pockets of space centrally and on the right side of the pitch, which is indicative of his confidence and creativity during one of the best spells of his West Ham career.



Based on the quality of the chances that Fornals has created for his team-mates, he could feel hard done by that he doesn’t have more assists to his name. Of course, a pass to a given team-mate requires them to put the chances away, and one such example is Bowen on the right side of West Ham’s attack.

The 24-year-old has provided fantastic width and energy, and his stock is rising all the time, but only five Premier League players have underperformed against their expected goals more than Bowen, who has scored 1.7 goals fewer than the chances that have fallen to him.

It is interesting to explore the balance of West Ham’s attack on the flanks this season. They have a slight tendency to attack down the left-hand side, with 40 per cent of their attacking touches coming in that third of the opposition half.



With the ever-growing confidence and performances of Fornals, supported by the energetic presence of Cresswell behind him, you can understand why West Ham might focus their attack down that side a little more.

But the quality that West Ham have all over the pitch cannot be underestimated, and their underlying numbers suggest they are not showing signs of relenting in their consistently strong performances.

(Photo: Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

Mex Martillo 8:11 Mon Nov 22
Re: Great Article on Rice, Creswell & Fornals' Roles this Season
Nice, but they will need to be back on form for Man City if we are to get anything.
Thanks Irish

angryprumphs 8:30 Sat Nov 20
Re: Great Article on Rice, Creswell & Fornals' Roles this Season
gph 11:41 Fri Nov 19

I agree! Generally posts the most interesting Hammers content on here, needs pictures!!!! Mods

Jasnik 11:42 Fri Nov 19
Re: Great Article on Rice, Creswell & Fornals' Roles this Season

Irish Hammer 8:15 Fri Nov 19

he seemed a bit upset was trying to cheer him up

gph 11:41 Fri Nov 19
Re: Great Article on Rice, Creswell & Fornals' Roles this Season
Pictures for Irish! Now!

Jasnik 10:42 Fri Nov 19
Re: Great Article on Rice, Creswell & Fornals' Roles this Season
( ) ---> . {______} .. GOAL

riosleftsock 10:32 Fri Nov 19
Re: Great Article on Rice, Creswell & Fornals' Roles this Season
Thanks Irish, really appreciate these pieces.

epsom 10:23 Fri Nov 19
Re: Great Article on Rice, Creswell & Fornals' Roles this Season
Irish, thanks as always...

daveyg 8:40 Fri Nov 19
Re: Great Article on Rice, Creswell & Fornals' Roles this Season
Fornals has been one of my favourite players since he joined.
He found getting used to the PL and his surroundings. But has blossomed into one of our most crucial players. When comes on as a sub in EL I now feel we can contain teams if needed.
Great investment

With Kind Regards 8:31 Fri Nov 19
Re: Great Article on Rice, Creswell & Fornals' Roles this Season
Thank you Irish.

gph 8:25 Fri Nov 19
Re: Great Article on Rice, Creswell & Fornals' Roles this Season
Thanks, Irish.

Irish Hammer 8:15 Fri Nov 19
Re: Great Article on Rice, Creswell & Fornals' Roles this Season
This had loads of great drawings and charts etc but I can't post them

:(





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