We all know what they aren’t. Not a shadow of the squad that got results twice v Real Madrid and blistered Liverpool at Wembley in autumn 2017. Or the one the previous spring that didn’t lose for 13 games as they chased Chelsea for the title. But last night they were good enough to be the better in a London derby against the worst Premier League side in London and one that is just waiting for Villa or Bournemouth to rise up and win a couple of games to relegate them. Because that is what David Moyes does.
I’ll start with what I liked. A very solid performance against an admittedly feckless East London bunch by our back four. The pairing of Sanchez and Dier is growing on me—both battled West Ham’s one true threat—Michail Antonio—to a standoff for the 90 minutes and neither of our fullbacks were wasteful in possession. The central midfield was perhaps—since Tanguy Ndombele continues to occupy Jose’s doghouse—our best combination and I could toss a coin between them for MOTM, with Giovanni Lo Celso winning simply because of what he created and what he tried to create. But the truth is that Moussa Sissoko has very quietly over the past year or more—going back to the final stages of Poch—become our most reliable player. Limited but reliable in getting back, starting the counterattack, balling up the opposition attack.
I have less good to say about the forwards. Dele was anonymous. He either chose to make a simple layoff to Son when the box and something more aggressive beckoned or he failed to connect with his teammates in some other fashion. Mark it up to rust—I’ll be patient for another game or two before pronouncing this the Great Tease—Dele’s brother moved away for just a few games before returning with a vengeance. Lucas at least had the engine running and was trying to create, but the linkups between him, Kane, Son and Dele were simply absent against the Hammer bus. Son finally found Kane for the late break and the clincher– let’s hope there’s more to come but truth is our talisman looks a far place away from his pre-World Cup best. Credit Erik Lamela for making the play to seize control of the ball and make the getaway pass to Son which led to the goal. And Steven Bergwijn is active in whatever role he is asked to play.
And now we wait more than a week until the Kazakhstan Derby at Bramall Lane—loser goes home in all likelihood in terms of Europe; winner gets Thursdays somewhere in the vastness that is Eastern Europe. Assuming there will be a Europa League this autumn, that is. The Blades have so far looked like one of the clubs who lost their mojo during the lockdown (sorry, Woolwich—you never had it to begin with), so perhaps we can build on these two decent results and make the final few weeks a bit more interesting.
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