West Ham United had strong defensive organisation to thank again on Saturday as Slaven Bilic’s side recorded a second successive home clean sheet in the 0-0 draw with Everton at London Stadium.
Before the game, the key battle looked likely to take place between 24-goal, in-form striker Romelu Lukaku and the Hammers’ back line. Not only does the Belgian sit atop the Premier League individual scoring charts but his record against West Ham had seen him score in each of the past nine meetings between the two clubs.
Lukaku was instead, though, limited to just one shot and failed to test Adrian in the West Ham goal throughout the afternoon.
The method to keeping Lukaku quiet was simple: “stop the service” Slaven Bilic explained in his Thursday press conference. Step in Arthur Masukau.
Whilst the performances of Jose Fonte, the returning Winston Reid, James Collins and Edimilson Fernandes all deserve plaudits, it was Masuaku who was the Hammers’ stand out man at the back.
The Frenchman was a constant frustration to Everton’s wide players, who rotated between being Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas and Tom Davies, and was on hand to make a total of four tackles in the game – bettered only by Havard Nordtveit for the Hammers. Masuaku also made four blocks and maintained the joint-highest pass completion rate (92 per cent) from 53 passes.
Not only was Masuaku impressive defensively, but his work rate and attacking influence was also a telling factor in the dominant display. He covered 9.6 kilometres of ground up and down the left flank, while also producing seven successful dribbles – the most by any player, and taking 77 touches.
The Frenchman admitted after the game that it was his “best performance with West Ham”.
Masukau has missed over two months of action through injury this season and was made to wait patiently for his turn in the side, however recent weeks certainly suggest he is repaying Bilic’s faith in him. Since returning to the side against Swansea in early-April, the Hammers have kept two clean sheets and remain unbeaten.
James Collins’ five interceptions and eight clearances was the most by any player, Edimilson Fernandes and Jose Fonte topped the charts for blocking and aerial duels respectively, while Winston Reid’s organisation and leadership was very-much welcomed back. It was a near perfect defensive display by West Ham.
Clearly, it was not a day for the Everton attackers but their defenders were called in to action on more than one occasion. Centre-halves Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams made 13 clearances between them, while Mason Holgate – often tasked with dealing with Masuaku – made five key tackles from right back.
Slaven Bilic’s side make the trip to Stoke City’s bet365 Stadium next weekend before welcoming free-scoring Tottenham and Liverpool sides to London Stadium in early-May. Unbeaten in three and two consecutive home clean sheets should allow Bilic and his defenders to take confidence in to this run of tricky matches so no doubt it will be a case of ‘same again’ when the defenders take to the pitch on Saturday.
Source : www.whufc.com