For the second weekend running, Said Benrahma gets a talking point all to himself. The Algerian was at the heart of everything positive for West Ham going forward against Atalanta and must be going into the new season with sky-high confidence.
The mercurial attacker constantly found himself in space to receive the ball and run at the Italian defence. His sharpness to pounce on a ricochet and play in Michail Antonio was key to giving West Ham the lead and oozed class.
With Jesse Lingard no longer an option, David Moyes needs one of his current squad to step up and fill the creative void left by the Manchester United man and Benrahma looks to be just the player to do it.
Moyes has always said that Benrahma needed a settling-in period in the Premier League and with a season under his belt, now is the time for the 25-year-old to step up.
Pre-season is not always the best gauge of where a team or players are at but it can only be a good thing that he is clearly full of confidence and ready to take his game to the next level.
Leading by example
Mark Noble once again lead the way off the pitch for West Ham. Saturday’s friendly was also the Betway Cup and came with a trophy for the winner.
Upon the final whistle, the Hammers grouped together and Noble was invited to lift the cup, however, the skipper let youngster Jamal Baptiste lift the trophy while he stood back and applauded.
Following the lap of appreciation for the fans, Noble returned to the pitch along with fellow substitutes Jarrod Bowen, Ben Johnson, Ryan Fredericks and Conor Coventry to get some more running into their legs.
There were a few hardy souls left in the stadium and Noble led the group over to the fans after their extra fitness session and handed over his shirt to a young fan in the crowd. Johnson and Coventry followed suit. Neither of Noble’s actions were grand gestures but both were appreciated by the crowd and give a glimpse into the example he sets for his team.
Andriy Yarmolenko returned to the West Ham team for the first time since Euro 2020 action along with Tomas Soucek, Declan Rice and Vladimir Coufal.
The Englishman and Czech duo are key figures for the Hammers going into the new campaign but Yarmolenko’s future is less clear.
The Ukraine captain had a sensational Euro 2020 showing form for his country that has not often been present in a West Ham shirt. The 31-year-old has less than 12 months remaining on his Hammers deal and due to lack of game time last season it was assumed he would be offloaded this summer in order to take his hefty salary off the wage bill.
However, with a player who is as susceptible to injuries as Yarmolenko, handing him a run out in pre-season and risking an injury would not be a smart move if he is set for a medical in the near future.
Yarmolenko’s season last time out was impacted hugely by injuries but if he were able to maintain a high level of fitness there is no reason why he could not be a useful squad member during West Ham’s European campaign.
The alternate reading is Yarmolenko was given a run out in order to increase his fitness and make him a more sellable asset seeing as he would be match-ready for any potential suitors.
The Ukrainian is a popular member of the Hammers squad and with European experience, it would be no bad thing were he to remain at the club. However, if Moyes opts to let him go then it would not cause major disruptions to his plans.
Yarmolenko’s future is certainly one to watch over the remaining three weeks of the transfer window.
Areola or Fabianski
Next weekend’s selection of goalkeeper will be a huge choice for Moyes. Fabianski was the undisputed number one last season and football.london understands he will be the starting ‘keeper against Newcastle.
Areola had a superb campaign for Fulham and has not come to West Ham to sit on the bench, however, such was Fabianski’s form for the Hammers the Frenchman may have to bide his time.
Areola made his first appearance in a West Ham shirt on Saturday but only as a 64th-minute substitute. Fabianski has started the past three matches for West Ham and has a lot more pre-season football under his belt than Areola as a result.
The Pole will go into the new season knowing that he has an excellent goalkeeper champing at the bit for his starting spot and any mistake could cost him his place in the first XI. With European competition added to the mix, both ‘keepers should see enough game time to keep them placated but neither will be content on the bench.
Keeping both men happy will be a hard job for Moyes but having two players of such quality for one position is a conundrum the manager will be thrilled to have.
Following an excellent summer away with England, Hammers fans were delighted to see Declan Rice return to the claret and blue.
The 21-year-old vice-captain got the loudest reception of all the West Ham players and put in a solid if unspectacular performance.
Rice saw a lot of the ball and his positional sense was excellent throughout, particularly with Pablo Fornals playing an unfamiliar left wing-back role and often leaving a huge hole to fill.
Rice was the man to drop in for Fornals and when Fabianski had the ball in his hands, Fornals could be seen to bomb forward leaving Rice free to receive the ball in the left-back area and build attacks from there.
The Fornals experiment was a curious one and is not likely to be repeated against Newcastle, but Rice’s intelligence to know when he was needed to cover was just more proof that he is growing in experience.
Unlike with England, Rice is given slightly more licence to get forward and on a couple of occasions, he did so. In the first period, he won possession back midway in his own half before going through the gears and cruising past a number of Atalanta players.
The move came to nothing after no West Ham player made themselves available for a pass but it was a clear sign Rice has the confidence to carry possession forward and take men on himself.
In the second half, it was out of possession where Rice showed his willingness to get forward. The defensive midfielder harried an Atalanta midfielder to such an extent he ran back with the ball well into his own half.
Rice did not let up and forced a mistake from the Italians to win West Ham a throw-in well into the opposing half. At the time Rice was the furthest Hammer forward and was visibly delighted with his work.
Having an almost telepathic understanding with Soucek helps in this regard as the Czech knows that if Rice is moving forward either with or without the ball he needs to drop a little deeper and act as the defensive screen.
It would be no surprise to see Rice add to his five Premier League goals this season with the England international showing he is more than capable of contributing to West Ham at both ends of the pitch.
Source by Football London