It’s time to take a look at some of the overriding Talking Points from our 3-2 defeat at The St Mary’s Stadium yesterday afternoon, as we continued our 100% losing start to the 2017/2018 season.
Fans Fume at Ill-Tempered Arnautovic
Hammers’ fans were left bitterly disappointed and angry by the repulsive antics of club record signing Marko Arnautovic as his needless dismissal ultimately cost us a result against Mauricio Pellegrino’s men.
Just after the half-hour mark, the Austrian international planted an unprovoked Elbow on the throat of Saints’ centre-back Jack Stephens, leaving referee Lee Mason no option but dismiss him with a straight red card. Arnautovic also appeared to kick out at a bag in the mouth of the tunnel as he left the field in a fit of rage and will undoubtedly face a Violent Conduct Charge on top of his three-match ban.
The 26-year-old also becomes the first player in Premier League history to be sent off against Southampton twice, and the incident was the fifth red of his career which is a considerable amount for an attacking player. However, the former Werder Bremen man did take to Instagram to apologise directly to West Ham fans for his foolish actions, but will now miss the visits to Cheltenham, Newcastle United and the home tie with Huddersfield Town at the very least.
We always knew of the passion and aggression that a player like The No7 would bring to our team, but many Hammers were imagining a Julian Dicks or Paulo Di Canio style of player. Instead, have we wasted £23 million on a player who can’t cope with the demands of modern Football?
Slav’s Poor Disciplinary Record Plagues Us Again
Aside from Arnautovic’s madness, it was yet another afternoon of poor disciplinary on The South-Coast, as we became the team who have conceded the most goals from penalties in The Premier League since 2015.
In yesterday’s case, it was simple errors from the likes of Jose Fonte and Pablo Zabaleta that caused us to give away two penalties, both of which were avoidable. The first spot kick was given away by Fonte after he pulled down his former teammate Steve Davis inside the area when the Irish international had already lost control of the ball and Aaron Cresswell was about to intercept.
The second penalty incident, although slightly more contentious than the first, was still a poor example of defending from Pablo Zabaleta, as he allowed Maya Yoshida to get goal side and then brought him down. However, our lack of defensive and all-round discipline isn’t a new thing under Slaven Bilic and his Managerial Team.
Many will remember Bilic’s first few games in charge, where we went down to ten men in three of the first five games of his reign. Last season, we gave away a number of key penalties on the road in games at White Hart Lane and The Hawthorns just to name a couple. So, does The Croat have to start focussing on basic discipline to finally perfect his winning formula?
Charismatic Chicharito Nets First Hammers Goals
One of the few positives of our defeat at The St Mary’s yesterday was the performance of £16-million-man Javier Hernandez. The Mexico international showed fantastic technical ability to notch his first two goals In Claret & Blue, his first goals in The Premier League since April 2014.
The former Red Devil was on hand to clear up the scraps of a Michail Antonio effort late in the first-half and finish brilliantly past Fraser Forster to make it 2-1. “The Little Pea”, who also claimed the Man of the Match award at Old Trafford last week, was then in the right place at the right time yet again to bring us level. The 29-year-old showed fantastic reflexes to convert an improvised finish from a Diafra Sakho header that cannoned off the keeper and the crossbar.
The proven goal-scorer is already a big hit with fans, showing great skill and determination to almost win us a point yesterday. Chicharito also adopted the traditional cross Hammers celebration after scoring his second in the game, starting what should be a long love affair with The Claret & Blue Army.
Experts And Pundits Malign Mason
Premier League referee Lee Mason has been the subject of widespread criticism from most of the Football world, after his poor display in yesterday afternoon’s clash with Southampton.
Mason was adjudged to have made a series of key errors in the game that culminated in our defeat and put him in the referee watch spotlight. His first questionable decision came in the early stages as Dusan Tadic flew into a tackle on Hernandez that should have warranted a red card, but only a yellow was produced. Such was the might of the tackle that Tony Gale described it in commentary as “More like GBH (Grievous bodily harm) than a Football tackle”.
A similar incident would occur with our skipper Mark Noble just minutes after, but he was lucky that Mason had already pulled Mario Lemina up for an offense that could have also seen him given his marching orders.
However, surely the most ridiculed decision of his poor display was the one to give the hosts a penalty in the final minute of normal time. In the incident, Pablo Zabaleta made light contact with Maya Yoshida and he pointed to the spot. Former FIFA Referee Graham Poll led the criticism of the decision and even the scorer of the penalty Charlie Austin branded it as “soft”.
Nevertheless, the decisions will stand and they helped to condemn us to a second consecutive defeat to start the 2017/2018 Premier League season. The last time we opened a season with back to back defeats was in the 2010/2011 campaign, and we would be relegated that season. However, there is no need for panic stations in East London just yet, but Wednesday’s Carabao Cup tie with Cheltenham Town is now a huge chance for Bilic to ease some of the pressure off his shoulders.