The Hammers never appeared to control the game, and despite scoring three goals their lack of quality possession and defensive ineptitude will be a worrying sign for Hammers fans ahead of their opening Premier League fixture against Newcastle. With this result coming in the wake of tensions between the board, players and supporters, there is little optimism surrounding the East London club at present.
Defensive Woes Continue
Some things never change in football, with West Ham’s off-the-ball disorganisation being one of them. A comical defensive display by across the backline gave Bournemouth plenty of space to exploit throughout the game, as the Hammers were punished time and time again by defence-splitting passes and dribbles. Despite losing defensive stalwarts Declan Rice, Tomáš Souček and Lukasz Fabianski to international duty, there really was no excuse for such a poor off-the-ball performance, and piles further pressure on the club to invest in new defensive personnel.
At the start of the transfer window the club made clear its intentions to sell players before investing in new recruits, but saw no bids come in for established senior players. This fuelled the decision to sell Academy product Grady Diangana to West Brom for £18m – a move that was widely criticised by fans, pundits and players, most notably Hammers captain Mark Noble.
It is imperative that West Ham spend Diangana’s transfer fee wisely as to not escalate public backlash – it can be agreed upon that new defenders would be a step in the right direction. Neither Aaron Cresswell nor Arthur Masuaku look to be cut out for another season of Premier League football, and Moyes will no doubt see this position of weakness as a priority.
Mixed Fortunes for the Academy
Despite looking promising throughout the tail-end of last season, right-back Ben Johnson had a performance to forget this afternoon. The 20-year-old started the game with a series of mistakes, in particular being caught out of position to allow Bournemouth’s Adam Smith through on the right flank and assist Dominic Solanke to double Bournemouth’s lead.
Johnson never seemed to recover from his early errors and continued to make rash challenges and incoherent decisions, picking up a yellow card before being substituted off for Ryan Fredericks after just 25 minutes of play. Johnson’s poor display may well place a seed of doubt in Moyes’ selection plans ahead of West Ham’s opening tie of 2020/21.
On the other hand, 24-year-old Academy graduate Josh Cullen enjoyed a fine 60 minutes of game-time, having been substituted on for the injured Manuel Lanzini on the half-hour. A more well-rounded central midfielder than the offensively-inclined Lanzini, Cullen offered greater stability to West Ham in the middle of the park, as well as showing his offensive capabilities with two superb assists to Jarrod Bowen.
Cullen featured regularly at both League One and Championship level for Charlton Athletic over the past two seasons, and at 24 years of age it appeared as if he was destined to leave the Irons for regular first-team football. However, with a series of solid displays in pre-season Cullen may finally find himself in his parent club’s plans. Though probably not on the level of Declan Rice or Tomáš Souček, he could prove to be a very useful rotation option for Moyes.
The Forward Line Conundrum
Despite the departure of Diangana, David Moyes still has decisions to make in attack for the Newcastle game. Sebastian Haller, Michail Antonio, Pablo Fornals, Andriy Yarmolenko, Felipe Anderson and Jarrod Bowen are all likely to be fit for next Saturday and Moyes will need the best possible combination of the six to get West Ham firing from the get-go. Fornals looked lively in a central role today, as did Michail Antonio on the left wing, whereas Haller struggled with the pace of the game.
Against a defensive side such as Steve Bruce’s Newcastle, Haller and Antonio’s physicality and positional know-how could be the key to unlocking a tight Toon backline. With Fornals pulling the strings in attacking midfield, it is imperative that West Ham look to stretch the play and create space for the target men to exploit and create chances with.