It’s now time to trawl back over some of the main cause for discussion in the wake of Saturday’s impressive away triumph at the hands of Mark Hughes’ Stoke City as David Moyes’ West Ham United climbed out of the dreaded drop zone.
Arnie Ablaze To Gain Stoke Redemption
The victory in Staffordshire took on extra importance for one Claret & Blue star in particular as he made a return to his former stamping ground if the Bet365 Stadium.
This winger was, of course, club-record Austrian Marko Arnautovic, who was persistently booed by the home fans throughout the 90 minutes and had nothing but revenge in his mind.
However, despite his remarkable showing in all areas of the pitch, things could have and probably should have been a hell of a lot better for the Austria International.
Both in the first period and second period, he was presented with a whole host of opportunities, starting with a moment before half-time when he was played clean through on the right side.
However, unable to finish past a stern Jack Butland from close-range, after the break, there would be yet more chances for the winger to impose himself on the affair.
No more than five minutes into the second-half, he was able to get on the end of a long free-kick from Aaron Cresswell, nodding back across goal with the ball sailing just over.
But, the openings would become increasingly clearer for Arnautovic, as he was played one-on-one with his former teammate by the brilliance of Arthur Masuaku, squeezing an effort just wide via a Geoff Cameron deflection, the travelling Claret & Blue Army had thought that it breached the net.
A short while later, it would be Argentine playmaker Manuel Lanzini, another Man of the Match contender, setting him up with a clever pass.
Holding the ball up nicely, shimmying and unleashing a precise effort, Arnautovic struck the bar much to the amusement of the home supporters, he would goad them in the aftermath by performing a trademark crossed Hammers action.
It was written in the stars that he would eventually get himself on the scoresheet, this moment finally came on 75 minutes.
Lanzini, the creator once more, participated in a magnificent give and go with the wide man, eventually teeing him up with a delicate flick over the home defenders, leaving “Arnie” with a simple finish under Butland and into the back of the net.
Unsurprisingly, he celebrated in style, rubbing salt into the Potters’ wounds, later being substituted, arguing with former Manager Hughes and having to be escorted down the tunnel by Assistant Manager Billy McKinlay.
The strike was Arnautovic’s second Hammers goal, both coming in the space of three games, and he is quickly becoming a fan favourite after his £25 million move in the summer, but will he be able to keep his electric form up over the busy festive period?
Hammers Pick Up First Win On The Road
After a painstaking season so far away from home, the Bet365 Stadium would duly become the location of our first victory away from London Stadium in 2017/2018.
The last time that the Irons managed to return to East London from afar with three points for their troubles came all the way back in May, courtesy of a 1-2 victory at Turf Moor.
Yesterday afternoon was also Moyes’ boys biggest winning margin in the Premier League, three goals, since January of this year coming over Crystal Palace, then under Slaven Bilic, and making it a third consecutive clean sheet.
Just the Hammers’ third League win of 2017/2018 overall, it was also the first time since early 2013 that they have reigned supreme in Stoke, and the improved form when travelling is surely an installation of the Moyes era.
Despite losing three of his first four matches in charge, Moyes has now been able to steady the ship in East London, guiding his team up and out of the bottom three for the first time since early November.
There have been major improvements both at home and away, but the question now remains, will the East Londoners be able to continue in this vein as they head into the New Year?
Eventful Day For Skipper Noble
At the announcement of the two teams in Staffordshire on Saturday, there was no doubting that it was going to be a very special afternoon for a certain Captain.
Mark Noble was to make his 300th Top-Fight appearance and it would be nothing short of entertaining for the boyhood Hammer.
Having regained his permanent place in the starting Xl under Moyes and performed well against Chelsea and Arsenal, the Skipper started the game strongly in midfield.
On 18 minutes, the ever-present Lanzini was able to win a penalty, an incident that we will touch on later, and Noble was able to reassume his role of taking spot-kicks.
Converting in trademark style past Butland, it was his first PL goal of the campaign and since December 2016, however, he wouldn’t play much further part in the encounter.
Off the ball, Noble pulled up with injury just after the half-hour mark, Moyes making the instant decision to place him with Irish youngster Declan Rice.
Rice, the 18-year-old, continued his impressive form alongside Pedro Obiang, who helped to set up the third goal of the game, scored coolly by substitute Diafra Sakho.
Whereas, the extent of the Captain’s knock is unknown as of yet, but could keep him out for the next few weeks, something of a blow on a day out in the Midlands to remember for the Hammers’ longest-serving player.
Tumbling Lanzini Could Face Ban Despite Super Showing
For all of the positives from the trip to the Bet365, there was perhaps a single negative that shrouded the impressive scalp in controversy.
This came in the early stages when, after Ryan Shawcross had struck the post with a glancing header for the hosts, the visitors broke, Lanzini advancing at speed.
The Argentina man went on a blistering run which he continued on into the Stoke box, there he was met by Eric Pieters, who lunged in with, causing him to go to ground.
If it had looked like a clear foul in real time, replays appeared to show minimal contact as the two players seemed to avoid colliding with each other in any major way, making for a slight exaggeration from the West Ham midfielder.
Although the goal that followed proved key to the direction that the tie would flow in, stars guilty of simulation, such as Oumar Niasse of Everton are subject to bans under new rules coming into force this campaign.
Lanzini is eligible for a ban, which could be as lengthy as three matches under the new legislation, but it’s unclear whether the FA will take action, could Moyes be without his playmaker for upcoming ties against Arsenal and Newcastle United?
So, now that everything there was to talk about in the wake of Saturday’s Staffordshire thrashing of Stoke City has been well and truly covered, will there be yet more positives to draw on come Tuesday night? After the Carabao Cup Quarter-Final trip to the Emirates Stadium.