Issues remain in this area: Three things we learned about West Ham in defeat against Leicester
By Matt Farr
Football Insider analyses three major talking points from West Ham’s 1-0 defeat to Leicester in the Premier League on Saturday.
Defensive issues still remain
Since being thumped 5-1 by Arsenal at the start of December, the Hammers have conceded just four goals from as many games, including back-to-back clean sheets against Hull and Burnley. The games saw better defensive displays from West Ham, but against Leicester, Slaven Bilic changed his approach to a 4-2-3-1, going back to a more traditional back-four. However, despite their recent record, it was clear that the Hammers still have plenty of work to do in the defensive department. Havard Nordtveit did not look too comfortable at right-back, making a number of errors and was lucky not to have conceded another goal as a result. Bilic has been missing a couple of players through injury, including James Collins and Sam Byram, while the likes of Artur Masuaku and Alvaro Arbeloa have struggled this season, so he’s not been blessed with too many options. But the January transfer window cannot come fast enough, and Bilic will certainly consider a few defensive reinforcements. It won’t be a quick fix, sadly.
Noble would be a big loss
The West Ham skipper was on the receiving end of a meaty challenge from Daniel Amartey. He looked in some discomfort following the Leicester defender’s challenge, and was forced off early in the second-half. It is not yet known whether Noble will be sidelined for a period of time, but it was clear he couldn’t continue. Should he face a spell on the sidelines, his absence would be a major loss for West Ham. Noble is the Hammers leader, and is the focal point of their midfield. He dictates the play, distributes the ball and is a crucial cog in the West Ham machine, and without him West Ham will struggle. The Hammers face Manchester United and Manchester City in their next two games – the latter in the FA Cup – ahead of an important double with Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough. Pedro Obiang is now back in contention after serving his suspension, but they lose Cheikhou Kouyate to the Africa Cup of Nations, so there is no clear replacement for Noble if he were to miss the next few games.
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Lacking a decisive touch in the final-third
After an early onslaught in the first-half, West Ham took their time establishing a foothold in the game. It was not until Leicester went ahead when the Hammers really showed much fight. In the second-half, Leicester allowed the Hammers to commit numbers forward, but many of their chances were put to waste. The away side had 23 shots on goal, of which just five were on target, and it was once again apparent that West Ham need a prolific goalscorer in their ranks. Andy Carroll has been a handy asset to have following his return from injury, but he has scored just twice in his nine appearances. Michail Antonio is the current top goalscorer at the Olympic Stadium with eight goals, but the striker dilemma is another issue that Bilic will be keen to address as soon as possible. Andre Ayew finally bagged his first Hammers goal in the victory over Swansea last time out, but looked all at sea against the Foxes. Leicester stopper Kasper Schmeichel was in good form, denying a host of Hammers’ opportunities, but there’s only so far the credit can go. West Ham’s upturn in form was crucial to their survival hopes, but if they are serious about finishing in the top half of the table, they need someone with that decisive touch in front of goal.
In other West Ham news, West Ham are favourites to sign this goal machine in January.