The Kingsmeadow Stadium witnessed one of the major upsets this season, where League One strugglers AFC Wimbledon pulled out a sensational 4-2 win against Premier League outfit West Ham United. Manuel Pellegrini’s side conceded three goals at either side of the first half alone, and though the Hammers managed to score two goals of their own in the second half, the goals let in by them in the first 42 minutes proved way too much for them, with the score reading 4-2 in the end. This tactical analysis looks at how West Ham were instrumental in their own downfall at the Kingsmeadow Stadium.
AFC Wimbledon had deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation during their previous game against Fleetwood Town, and they did the same against West Ham too. Manager Wally Downes made five changes to his side which lost to Fleetwood, with Rod Mcdonald, Anthony Wordsworth, Scott Wagstaff, Dylan Connolly, and Kwesi Appiah slotting in for Paul Kalambayi, Will Nightingale, Andy Barcham and Joe Piggot.
Unlike AFC Wimbledon, West Ham decided to change their formation to a 4-4-2 shape, accompanied with six changes from their previous league loss against Bournemouth. Adrian, Grady Diangana, Arthur Masuaku, Pedro Obiang, Robert Snodgrass, and Chicharito came in for Lucas Fabianski, Pablo Zabaleta, Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice, Felipe Anderson, and Samir Nasri.
West Ham sloppy in conceding the first goal:
During the first half an hour of the game, West Ham looked very comfortable on the ball but the players doing everything else apart from creating a goal scoring chance too. Their lack of consistency in attack cost them in the 34th minute, where a sloppy clearance by Mark Noble allowed a pressing Wimbledon team to thread in a deflected effort courtesy of Ogbonna’s foot. When Wimbledon’s Pinnock failed to muster anything out of his cross from the left, all Mark Noble had to do was to clear the ball as far as possible, or to just pass it to the nearest teammate around.
As we can see from the image above, Mark Noble clearly had two easy options to take, and the green arrow highlights to the distance which the ball travelled from Noble’s foot. If he had turned to his left and seen the space available for Chicharito (highlighted in black) or even anyone at the other flank for that matter, they wouldn’t concede such a basic goal.
If we can forgive Noble’s sloppy clearance, we certainly cannot look over the mid-field pressing of the Hammer during the goal’s build-up. As Oshilaja capitalised on the loose clearance, there was no one to really deny a free run in or a through ball from West Ham’s colours. This made it easier for the Brit to run inside and provide a further pass leading to the goal.
Oshilaja’s run through the middle and pass found Woodsworth with acres of empty space, and just when it looked like he was about to pull the trigger from the edge of the box, he threaded in a beautiful ball into Appiah’s path, whose shot luckily went in through Obiang’s deflection.
Though it was Obiang’s foot at fault for the deflection, he was to be fair, sweeping up for Diop’s error at the back. When Wordsworth had the ball from Oshilaja’s pass, Diop came too forward off his line, which enabled Appiah to have acres of space down the right side of the pitch. And as Obiang was sprinting off his line to block Appiah’s shot, but the ball, unfortunately, deflected off his leg and wrong-footed Adrien past his goal too.
Wimbledon’s good pressing game:
Though Wimbledon were considered to be the clear underdogs of the tie against the Hammers, the team went on the pitch with no sense of anxiety and got on woith their game from the first whistle. The one thing they were excellent at was the way they pressed throughout the game.
As we can see from the above image, the mid-field part of the pitch had the most activity involved, and that is where Wimbledon were excelling in terms of pressing at West Ham. During the 41st minute of the game, Diop fed an easy ball towards Obiang, whose bad second touch helped the likes of Appiah and Wagstaff.
The above picture shows the amount of space which is allowed for Obiang to dribble, but the team isn’t concerned with Wimbledon’s pressing. As you can see, there is no one to support the mid-fielder in the middle, which ultimately forces him to go towards his own goal, leaving Wimbledon’s Appiah with a free chance at gaining possession too.
As soon as Obiang’s touch lets him down, Wagstaff easily dispossesses the mid-fielder and slotting in a cool finish through a 1 v 1 situation against Adrian. In the above image, you can still see as to how high Angelo Ogbonna is off his line, which enables Wagstaff to have an easier shot on goal. The three lines clearly show the vast spaces which were easily exploited by Wagstaff leading to his first of the night.
Ball watching Masuaku:
West Ham’s second half of the game couldn’t have started in a worse way. Just half a minute into the second half, Appiah’s dipping cross from the left flank was too high for Diop in the middle, but Arthur Masuaku had to do better in terms of man-marking. As the ball was played down the left-hand side, Masuaku was still ball watching, not aware that Wagstaff was just behind him, waiting for a cross or a slip up to happen inside the box.
As the above picture suggests, Masuaku (on the extreme right) is clearly seen ball watching and not aware of the attacker behind him (the attacker is unfortunately not captured).
What happens next? The inevitable. Wagstaff easily runs past Masuaku’s line, skips ahead of the African, and slots in a beautiful finish towards the hand side of the netting. The curious thing about this goal is again, the amount of space offered for Wagstaff to make the run. Though he has already scored once, the team hasn’t been able to track down his runs, which often left him with many open spaces through the middle and through the flanks as well.
West Ham’s sloppy mistakes ultimately knocked them out of the FA Cup. Three huge errors, done by seasoned players, is just not acceptable in a tense competition like the FA Cup. But the fact that they managed to grab two goals back and keep the game alive is a good thing to look upon.
As things stand, West Ham are out of the FA Cup, but they have received some good news about the future regarding Arnautovic, who has assured fans that his future lies at the London Stadium. Pellegrini’s men travel to the Molineux Stadium, where the Hammers face Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League.
For AFC Wimbledon, a clash against Millwall in the 5th Round of the FA Cup beckons.
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