It’s now time to delve deep into the main topics of discussion from last night’s magical Wembley victory over Tottenham Hotspur, as the pressure on Slaven Bilic was partially relieved and our Hammers booked a place in the Carabao Cup Quarter-Finals.
Ogbonna The Cup Hero Yet Again In Claret & Blue
Italian defender Angelo Ogbonna, making only his seventh appearance of the season, was at the centre of the action at Wembley yesterday evening, as he headed the 70th-minute winner from a Manuel Lanzini cross.
However, the former Juventus man surely did himself some favours when it comes to regaining his first-team place from Jose Fonte, accompanying his historic winner with a superb performance at centre-back.
But, it’s not the first time that Ogbonna has proved the hero in a vital Cup clash, who could forget his similar headed 120th minute strike against Liverpool in the Fourth Round of the 2015/2016 FA Cup?
Furthermore, the Italy International was also among the goals in Round Three’s 3-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers at The London Stadium last month, converting a fantastic free-kick cross from Marko Arnautovic.
The tall defender certainly does have a knack for popping up in the right place at the right time in certain matches, but this is also helped by his aerial prowess and unflappable heading ability.
Despite this, having struggled for starts in the Premier League this campaign, did he manage to do enough last night for a place in the starting Xl at Selhurst Park on Saturday? Only time will tell.
“Hard-Working” Ayew Earns Rave Reviews
Much like his aforementioned teammate, despite managing two goals this campaign so far, Andre Ayew has very much been an outcast under Bilic of late, but yesterday’s encounter will have gone a long way to changing that.
Partly the reason for him being overlooked so much recently is surely criticism from fans following some underwhelming and “lazy” performances, but Ayew has certainly turned things around since then.
Starting up-front with Andy Carroll, Ayew put a fantastic shift in during the first period, but to little effect as the home side raced ahead.
However, just ten minutes into the second period, the former Swansea City forward exemplified his natural poacher’s ability by being exactly where he was needed to poke in the rebound of an Edimilson Fernandes effort.
Shortly after that, superb anticipation saw Ayew peeling away in celebration yet again, as he showed great strength to hold off Toby Alderweireld and finish into the top corner.
The Ghana international’s goals, his third and fourth of the season in all Competitions, wouldn’t only make him our highest scorer, but also provide the cement for a magical derby victory at ‘The Home of Football’, making Ayew a serious contender to start at the weekend.
But, it wasn’t just the striker being lauded by the critics, the performance of second string keeper Adrian San-Miguel was an admirable one.
The Spaniard made key saves to deny Dele Alli in the first-half and Moussa Sissoko in the second, he also ran the length of the pitch to celebrate our third goal with teammates.
His frequency of appearance in Claret & Blue may have changed, but Adrian’s passion for the badge is clearly one thing that hasn’t, much to the delight of the adoring 4,800 Hammers that made the trip to West London last night.
Bilic Saved With Wembley Magic?
Having reportedly been given two matches to save his job at The London Stadium and last night’s affair being one of them, the victory could have certainly gone a long way to securing Slaven Bilic’s future for the meantime.
But, things looked oh so different at half-time, off the back of last Friday’s gut-wrenching home defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion and heading for a heavy defeat in the Carabao Cup.
The Croat needed something to change drastically in the second period and whatever happened in the dressing room at half-time, it worked.
Sky Sports Pundits Jamie Redknapp and Alan Pardew were among many to praise Bilic for coming up with heroics in his hour of need.
However, the key question remains with the Board, has Slaven Bilic done enough to remain Manager of West Ham United regardless of Saturday’s result in South London?
Pochettino’s Spurs Lose Two-Goal Lead For First Time
Perhaps one of the most compelling elements of last night’s incredible Wembley triumph, aside from the fact that it was a feisty London Derby, was the calibre of opposition in Tottenham Hotspur that we defeated.
Not only had Pochettino’s never given up a two-goal lead heading into the home tie, they hadn’t been beaten in 11 games before yesterday, and most recently dispatched Liverpool 4-1 in The Premier League.
Interestingly, one could argue that Spurs made seven changes to their side for the affair, thus weakening their team without the likes of star striker Harry Kane and playmaker Christian Eriksen.
But, in fact, Bilic made more altercations to his starting Xl than Pochettino with nine, leaving such names as Javier Hernandez, Marko Arnautovic and Joe Hart out, whilst also without injured 2016/2017 Hammer of the Year Michail Antonio.
And if that wasn’t enough, we also got a scary taste of how well the hosts could perform when they raced two to the good through Sissoko and Alli before the 40-minute mark.
There is no doubt that the opposition were blown away by huge willingness and character that has been so absent in recent weeks, showed by Bilic’s Boys in the second-half.
A feeling of revenge can additionally be derived by many members of The Claret & Blue Army, who witnessed Spurs overcome us by exactly the same margin of victory at The London Stadium only last month.
So, now that we have well and truly covered all the main causes of conversation as we booked our place in the last eight of the Carabao Cup, can we avoid one of the ‘Big Boys’ in this evening’s Quarter-Final Draw?
And, What will there be to discuss come Saturday evening? After a tricky trip to face Crystal Palace in south London.