1. A resilient recovery
Few grounds in European football are more atmospheric than St James’ Park.
With their team unbeaten all season on home turf and through to a first major cup final in 24 years, Newcastle United supporters were at their noisiest as Saturday’s game kicked-off.
When Joe Willock scored within 40 seconds, the roof on the Gallowgate End was raised. Although that goal was chalked off on a VAR review, the relieved cheers of the Claret and Blue Army had not even ended when Callum Wilson raced through and slotted past Łukasz Fabiański, and the roof on the Gallowgate End was blown off.
Less than three minutes had passed, only four of West Ham United’s eleven players – Nayef Aguerd, Fabiański, Michail Antonio and Paquetá – had touched the ball, but it had been in the visitors’ net twice.
After making such a shocking start in such a hostile environment, many visiting teams would have buckled, but David Moyes’ Irons showed admirable resolve and resilience to first gain a foothold, then some semblance of control, equalise through Paquetá’s well-taken goal and turn the Toon Army’s jubilant cheers into anxious near-silence by half-time.
The Hammers then resisted a second-half offensive from the Magpies to secure a very hard-earned Premier League point.
It was one defeat in six matches in January in all competitions, five of them played away from home, and West Ham go into February with growing belief and confidence.
2. Wing-backs take flight
West Ham United’s recent improved run of form has coincided with David Moyes employing a back-three – or back-five, depending on which team was in possession of the ball.
In the four matches Moyes has used three centre-backs and two wing-backs since the turn of the year, the Hammers have recorded three wins and a draw and conceded just one goal – Callum Wilson’s at Newcastle United on Saturday.
At St James’ Park, those wing-backs were influential.
Vladimír Coufal (62) and Emerson (60) had more touches than any other West Ham players, providing outlets in defence and options in attack, where the Italian caught the eye with his willingness to repeatedly carry the ball forward and relieve the pressure on his team.
The Czech led the way defensively with a team-high five tackles as he produced what was, statistically, his best performance of the season in a Claret and Blue shirt.
3. Paquetá settling in
Speaking to West Ham TV after Saturday’s game, Paquetá explained how he is feeling more connected and at ease in the team he joined from Olympique Lyonnais last August.
Like so many players signed from overseas, it has taken the Brazilian a little time to settle into his new surroundings and adapt to the intensity of English football.
At St James’ Park, Paquetá was impressive, combining with Declan Rice to dominate the midfield for long periods.
No player had more goal attempts than the No11’s four, including his clinical finish past Nick Pope after he had shrugged off Kieran Trippier and controlled Rice’s corner at the far post.
4. Aguerd shows his class
Nayef Aguerd is fast becoming a favourite among West Ham United supporters – and Saturday’s performance at St James’ Park showed why.
The defender illustrated yet again why David Moyes was eager to build his back line around the Morocco international with an all-action performance.
The No27 recovered from the shock of conceding inside three minutes to produce another front-foot display full of pace, anticipation and determination.
The highlight came 14 minutes from time, when Callum Wilson latched onto a through ball from substitute Anthony Gordon and bore down on goal.
Aguerd had yards to make up on the Newcastle United goalscorer, but make those yards up he did, before sliding in with a perfectly-timed tackle to stop the Magpies No9 in his tracks and put the ball behind for a corner.