Sleek Southampton stroll to win and devote West Ham grounds for fear

5 months, 4 days ago

Slaven Bilics West Ham United suffered their fifth defeat in six Premier League matches this season when Southampton beat them 3-0 at the London Stadium

The initial temptation is to blame the ground and say that West Ham United were sorely mistaken when they decided to leave Upton Park. The explosion of optimism that greeted their move to the London Stadium has given route to an unmistakable sense of drift, on and off the pitching, and Slaven Bilic could only watch helplessly as Claude Puels sleek Southampton inflicted a third defeat on his ragged squad in their new home.

At this phase, however, it would be a flimsy excuse for West Ham to argue that anyone would experience these teething problems after moving grounds. Their flaws operate deeper than that. They have conceded two or more objectives in 15 of their past 23 matches, did not force Fraser Forster to make a single save in the Southampton aim and played with the louche air of a squad who are yet to accept the severity of the situation.

While West Ham find themselves stuck in the bottom three and look like a team without any discernible scheme after losing five of their opening six league matches, Southampton shot up to ninth place, thanks to a performance that showcased the craft and intelligence that persuaded them to appoint Puel after Ronald Koemans summer departure to Everton.

It was a stroll for the visitors after Charlie Austins composed finish shattered West Hams fragile confidence long before James Ward-Prowse added a third objective in stoppage time and there was a pleasing verve to their play, their zest encapsulated by the way Dusan Tadic left Adrin on the floor before inducing it 2-0 shortly after the end of the hour.

After a somewhat unconvincing start to life under Puel this was their fourth successive victory in all competitors. In the second half we could see a team with a good technical level, the Frenchman said.

West Ham were fortunate not to be beaten out of sight and as a mood of uncertainty spread around this curious ground before kick-off, it felt like a sign of the times that, to borrow the terminology favoured by the stadium operators, clients were advised that persistent standing would result in offenders being expelled. Those kind of messages explain why it is difficult not to suspect that the club left an indelible part of its identity back at Upton Park and it was not long before stewards were trying to persuade the boisterous little pocket of home fans near the away end to sit down.

Arguments in the stands were not Bilics main concern. He required a reaction after the defensive capitulations against Watford and West Bromwich Albion but West Ham were ponderous on the ball, predictable in assault and vulnerable whenever Southampton transgressed forward.

Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyat were passengers in midfield unable to be dealt with Southamptons diamond as video games wear on, while Dimitri Payet was subdued. Simone Zaza has not hit the ground running after joining on loan from Juventus and there was none of Michail Antonios usual brio.

Individual mistakes, tactical indiscipline and the failure to defend as a collective division have all contributed to West Hams decline and it was no help that knee injuries to Arthur Masuaku and Aaron Cresswell deprived Bilic of both of his left-backs.

lvaro Arbeloa, who did not possess the pace to supporting West Hams assault, filled in after moving across from the right while Havard Nordtveit was a fish out of water at right-back.

Comfortable in defence, measured under midfield and lively up front, Southampton sought to capitalise on that weakness and the origins of Austins opener were not a astonish, given that Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg had already fired an early warning shooting. Nordtveit, who was signed to play in midfield, failed to read the danger when Tadic slipped a pass behind the Norwegian and Ryan Bertrands cutback determined Austin, who took advantage of slack marking from Angelo Ogbonna by sweeping a low finish beyond Adrin.

Soon Cdric Soares was almost doubling Southamptons lead after peeling behind Arbeloa and Bilic had find enough, replacing the ineffectual Manuel Lanzini with Sofiane Feghouli at half-time. That change allowed Payet to slot into the No10 role but Zaza remained forlorn and isolated.

West Ham fought back from a objective down to win this fixture last season. But they are a pale imitation of their former selves, mustering little beyond got a couple of half-hearted penalty appeals, and Southampton would not let them off the hook this time.

Although Tadics objective was a wonderful piece of skill, it was also a damning indictment of West Hams lax attitude. Winston Reid and Kouyat took it in turns to bungle with the ball just outside their own region and Nathan Redmond combined with Austin, who released Tadic. Faced by Adrin again, the Serb duped the goalkeeper with a dreamy body swerve before rolling the ball into the unguarded net.

That masterclass in efficiency and imagination from Tadic encapsulated the difference between the two teams and the only surprise was that Southampton had to wait until the dying moments before Ward-Prowse scored a simple third.

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