The behind closed doors game against Rapid Wien in the Europa League highlighted something fascinating about West Ham star Alphonse Areola.
As David Moyes stated before the match in Austria we all hoped the days of playing in empty stadiums were behind us following the dark days of the pandemic.
But with Austria entering a national lockdown Rapid Wien’s Allianz Stadion was an echo chamber as West Ham won 2-0 and cruised through to the Europa League last 16.
The match was proof yet again – if it was needed – that football is nothing without fans.
What it did give West Ham fans, though, was a fascinating insight into summer signing Alphonse Areola.
The huge French goalkeeper has been outstanding for West Ham when he has deputised for Lukasz Fabianski.
Five clean sheets in six matches – two of those against Man United and Man City – tells its own story.
Areola is on loan with the option to buy and West Ham will surely be taking up that option for the 28-year-old come the summer.
West Ham fans have seen how good his shot stopping and distribution is. And his presence and command of the box is there for all to see too.
But the behind closed doors game highlighted something fascinating about West Ham star Areola in Austria.
West Ham fans tuned into BT Sport’s coverage in their droves.
Behind closed doors game highlighted something fascinating about West Ham star Alphonse Areola
And with no crowd noise, what became clear very early on is that Areola is a big leader from the back for the Hammers.
The 6ft 5in stopper could be heard barking instructions to the team throughout the game.
Areola was shouting at his teammates, reminding them of their jobs, encouraging them and keeping everyone on their toes as West Ham cruised to a 2-0 win.
He did not have much to do in terms of saves but his calmness, distribution off both feet, presence and most of all communication showed his worth.
There was one moment in particular where Rapid Wien won a corner during a bit of a lull in West Ham’s performance and he was hollering at every one of his Hammers teammates, picking some out individually to tell them to concentrate, do their jobs, mark their men and keep switched on.
It was so loud you could hear it boom around the empty stadium.
Getting Areola in at West Ham has been a masterstroke.
The interesting story behind the Xavi Valero inspired signing was revealed earlier this season.
West Ham have a real leader on their hands.
But fans could only truly appreciate that when they heard it for themselves in last night’s behind closed doors game.
Every cloud and all that.
Sign him up West Ham.