West Ham United’s resilient defensive display against Arsenal – their third such performance in successive Premier League matches – was built on many different foundations.
Formation, tactics, teamwork, commitment, discipline and bravery were all evident as David Moyes’ team held the Gunners scoreless for the first time in 14 top-flight matches.
And West Ham could even have snatched all three points late on, when their selective high pressing turned the ball over deep in Arsenal territory, and Chicharito’s well-struck curler was tipped onto the underside of the crossbar in the first minute of added time.
Let’s start with the sheer hard work Moyes’ boys put in on Wednesday evening.
In total, West Ham ran 2km more than their opponents at London Stadium, covering 113.17km to Arsenal’s 111.16km.
Just six teams outran West Ham during the midweek Premier League round of fixtures. Only AFC Bournemouth, West Bromwich Albion, Liverpool, Newcastle United, Huddersfield Town and Burnley covered more ground than the Hammers.
Unsurprisingly, Mark Noble led the way, covering 12.52km. Only West Bromwich Albion’s James McClean covered more ground of the 220 players who started Premier League games on Tuesday and Wednesday evening and, even then, it was just 10 metres more than the West Ham captain.
Manuel Lanzini ranked third overall, with 12.39km, with Burnley’s Jack Cork being the only other Premier League player to pass 12km.
Pedro Obiang was not far behind, covering 11.95km himself, while Arthur Masuaku, Marko Arnautovic, Pablo Zabaleta and Aaron Cresswell all passed the 10km-mark.
Arnautovic sprinted 67 times, with Lanzini (64), Noble (58), Zabaleta (53) and Antonio (51) all stretching their legs more than 50 times each. In comparison, Hector Bellerin (69) was one of just three Arsenal players to break the half-century mark.
These figures are even more impressive when you consider West Ham spent so much time defending inside their own half, as the heatmap shows.
The game was played inside the hosts’ defensive third 36.6 per cent of the time, in the middle third for 44.9 per cent of the time and inside the Arsenal defensive third for just 18.5 per cent of the time.
West Ham employed a 5-3-1-1 formation and stuck to it rigidly, staying compact and not allowing Arsenal to penetrate their defensive line.
Instead, the Gunners spent much of the game passing the ball sideways around 30-40 yards from the West Ham goal, while 12 of Arsenal’s 22 shots were unleashed from outside the penalty area.
It was Italy international Angelo Ogbonna who was the Hammers’ standout defender, making eleven clearances, blocking three shots, making two interceptions and one tackle.
Ogbonna’s disciplined display was replicated by every player in Claret and Blue, as West Ham committed just nine fouls in the entire 90 minutes. Arsenal also committed nine.
The home side’s teamwork was evidenced by the number of touches each West Ham player had of the ball. Lanzini led the way with 57, but every outfield player had at least 34, and nine had 43 or more.
And, while they were undoubtedly under a lot of pressure for long periods, West Ham did not just wastefully punt the ball away, either. Lanzini completed 90.9 per cent of his passes, while Noble, Arthur Masuaku and Angelo Ogbonna all completed at least 81 per cent of theirs.
Going forward, the work done by Arnautovic and Antonio in attack was invaluable, with both players, supported by Lanzini, Noble and Obiang, pressuring the Arsenal back line and turning possession over no fewer than 35 times between them.
Surprisingly, perhaps, the Austrian was West Ham’s most-advanced player in terms of average position, a good ten yards ahead of Antonio, who nominally started the game as the team’s centre forward.
All in all, the Hammers gave absolutely everything. Again. And got their reward.