If you are going to keep an unbeaten run going, then a draw with Brighton and Hove Albion after victories over both Manchester United and Arsenal in successive games is not a bad way to do so. That’s how West Ham United kicked off 2024 and it’s a result which keeps them in sixth place in the Premier League table.
David Moyes made three changes to the side that inflicted Arsenal’s first home defeat five days ago, as Ben Johnson, Pablo Fornals and Saïd Benrahma came into the starting line-up in place of the injured Lucas Paquetá. Mohammed Kudus was on international duty with Ghana at the Africa Cup of Nations, while Vladimír Coufal missed the game due to illness. Angelo Ogbonna retained his place and was once again handed the Captain’s armband.
A number of youngsters made up the matchday squad, as Kaelan Casey, Connor Coventry, Lewis Orford, Levi Laing and Divin Mubama were all drafted in.
In the recent Carabao Cup tie away at Liverpool, the Hammers attacks were sporadic but this game was a really slow start from both sides!!!
The Irons have won games having had very little possession already this season and again, they were content to let their opponents pass the ball between themselves.
The home fans in attendance thought that their team should have been awarded an early penalty when Edson Álvarez went down after evading the attentions of Billy Gilmour. Referee Sam Barrott consulted with VAR official Robert Jones and both decided nothing was to be given.
Fifteen minutes then followed where both sets of players and supporters were flat but the game suddenly was given a new lease of life up until half-time. Roberto De Zerbi’s side were now pressurising their opponents but thankfully, home goalkeeper Alphonse Areola prevented them from making the breakthrough.
Facundo Buonanotte was first to try his luck but the French stopper managed to thwart him. Then the visitors were throwing all they could at him, as Danny Welbeck, youngster Jack Hinshelwood and Pascal Groß all went close.
The hosts then had chances to open the scoring themselves. The first of which was thanks to great combination play from Jarrod Bowen and Benrahma. The duo linked up well to play in Emmerson Palmieri, who made a hash of his effort and unfortunately sent it wide. Seconds later, Bowen got on the end of a pass from Tomáš Souček but visiting goalkeeper Jason Steele dealt with his effort as he managed to divert it onto the post. Had Bowen found the net, it wouldn’t have counted as the linesman raised his flag for offside.
The home side kept on going and the three previously mentioned players were in on the act again as they were all involved in order to send James Ward-Prowse clear. No matter how hard his volley was struck, even he wasn’t getting past Steele.
After his first goal for the club against Mikel Arteta’s men, Konstantinos Mavropanos was obviously trying to get another here. The Greek international had two attempts but couldn’t do so, before Barrott blew the whistle for the break.
De Zerbi’s side were keen to get their revenge on West Ham for their 3-1 defeat in the reverse fixture last August and were the better side. Despite appeals for a penalty being turned down for handball by Palmieri, they kept applying pressure. The only problem for them was that Areola was a constant barrier.
Moyes’ team had their own spell of pressure just minutes later when Pablo Fornals saw his low shot well held by Steele. Then, Souček wasted a golden chance to give his team the advantage. Benrahma knocked the ball down for him but the Czech midfielder sent it wide.
There were more heroics to follow from the French stopper, as Welbeck gave him a test, before he was forced into an easy save from João Pedro. The former Watford striker sent the ball straight into his gloves, despite getting past a trio of Hammers’ defenders.
On sixty seven minutes, De Zerbi replaced Welbeck with Evan Ferguson. The Irish youngster is often amongst the goals and he was straight in on the act here but instead of finding the net, his effort went wide.
Ferguson was quickly into the action again but fortunately for the majority inside the stadium, both he and Groß missed the target with tricky headers.
West Ham changed personnel with seventeen minutes of normal time to play. The Algerian winger was hoicked off by Moyes, as Mubama was introduced in his place, while Brighton made a double change just seconds later with both Buonanotte and Adam Webster making way for Adam Lallana and Jakub Moder.
As the match entered five minutes of stoppage time, the Seagulls nearly clinched the points but the home fans could breathe a sigh of relief when Moder sent his close-range volley over the top.
The Hammers couldn’t quite do the double over the side from Sussex but they have at least taken four points from them which is a good achievement.
West Ham have not been past the fifth-round of the Emirates FA Cup in recent seasons and this season they will try to make it into the latter stages of the competition. They open their 2023/24 campaign on Sunday with a home tie against Sky Bet Championship side Bristol City on Sunday afternoon.