Back five set foundation for Swansea success
Arthur Masuaku and Diafra Sakho will rightly take the headlines from the 1-0 Premier League win over Swansea City.
However, the foundations for Saturday’s success were laid by the back four and goalkeeper Joe Hart, who produced another solid performance at London Stadium.
West Ham United made it four clean sheets in their last five games in all competitions, with Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Winston Reid, Jose Fonte and Aaron Cresswell standing firm to restrict Swansea to just six goal attempts and a single shot on-target – a first-half effort from 30 yards from Wilfried Bony that the goalkeeper dealt with comfortably.
In front of him, Fonte was the statistical stand-out, with the Portugal centre-back making eight clearances, four interceptions and winning a tackle.
To his right, Zabaleta continued to build his reputation among the Claret and Blue Army with another committed, composed performance at full-back.
The Argentina international was on the front foot all afternoon, winning a team-high five tackles, making two interceptions and blocking a goal-bound shot from Tom Carroll to keep the game goalless.
Alongside Fonte, Reid was at his consistent, physically-dominating best, making a team-high 14 clearances – twice as many as Swansea leader Alfie Mawson’s seven.
At left-back, Cresswell put his body on the line when he thundered into a first-half challenge with Renato Sanches, winning the 50/50 and risking injury when his shin collided with the Portugal midfielder’s boot.
The No3 also delivered two key passes – the same number as the man who provided the assist for Sakho’s winner, his fellow substitute Masuaku.
Masuaku was undoubtedly effective when he emerged from the bench with 16 minutes remaining, completing all five of his passes and both of his crosses, including the pinpoint delivery for Sakho’s last-minute winner.
Talking of accuracy, Manuel Lanzini was almost perfect, with 21 of his 22 passes reaching their intended target for a 95.5 per cent completion rate. The Argentina star also embarked on two successful dribbles, adding new impetus to West Ham’s play when they needed it most.
Cresswell and Zabaleta also put in the hard yards for their team, literally, covering 10.63km and 10.44km, putting them third and fourth in distance covered behind teammate Michail Antonio, whose 11.31km led his team ahead of Cheikhou Kouyate’s 10.93km. For the record, Antonio also made 79 sprints to lead his team.
Overall, West Ham covered nearly 3.5km more ground than Swansea – 110.27km to 106.81km – showing that, while their performance may not have been vintage, the home side certainly did not shirk on the hard work required to win a Premier League match.