West Ham United hosted Fulham in the 13th week of the Premier League season. Both teams had a poorer season so far than expected. Fulham were in a position which would have meant relegation come May, while West Ham were above them only on goal difference.

The formations

 West Ham United abandoned their strikerless 4-6-0 formation. They switched back to a 4-2-3-1, with Modibo Maïga up front. Kevin Nolan played behind him, with Matt Jarvis starting as the left attacking midfielder, and Stewart Downing starting as the right attacking midfielder. 

 Fulham started in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Adel Taarabt started behind Darren Bent as Dimitar Berbatov was ill. Steve Sidwell was back in the starting line-up in the expense of Derek Boateng. Damien Duff made his fifth start of the season, Bryan Ruiz started on the bench.

West Ham's build-up play

 West Ham United have brought out the ball with long passes. They have played diagonal balls to the wings  if they have won the ball from Fulham while defending. Kieran Richardson was struggling against the balls played behind him. He was cautioned in the 8th minute for fouling Downing when the winger reached one of these long balls.

 West Ham have used vertical long balls in only two situations. Either if their full-back had time to push up, or if they had a free-kick from a deep, central position. West Ham had two players - a winger and a full-back - to receive the ball in the first case, while they have used the free-kicks to put the ball into the Fulham box.

 If West Ham played a vertical pass, one of the Fulham holding midfielders - Parkers or Sidwell - moved towards the wing to try and win the second balls. This created a numerical advantage for Fulham in this area. This prevented West Ham from crossing the ball from the edge of the box. It was vital for Fulham to prevent the host from putting the ball into the box as much as they could.

West Ham have still managed to put 37 crosses into the box, 9 of them were successful.

Fulham's attacks

 Fulham were poor in the air, winning only 26 out of 63 aerial duels. They were especially poor in West Ham's half. Darren Bent had won only one of his twelve duels in the air. Whenever Bent dropped deep for the ball, either James Tomkins or James Collins followed him, dominating him in the air. 

Aerial duels won (green) and lost (red) by Fulham.
(Image taken from Squawka.com)

 Martin Jol has brought Bent to Fulham to have a finisher in the team. He said in the summer that he wants to use Bent as someone who can play 'off the shoulder of the last defender.' The striker's role was very different in this game. He had to drop deeper in order to receive the ball from Adel Taarabt and play it back to him when Fulham counter attacked. If Bent could play it back to Taarabt, Bent ended up behind the ball, and could not get into the box to finish the attack. In such cases, either Taarabt finished it with a shot, or the Fulham winger from the other side made a run to the far post. This was all very straightforward, and easy for West Ham to defend against.

 If Bent could not pick out Taarabt, he had to play a backwards pass, and the chance to hit West Ham on the counter was gone. 

Bent's passes. He had only one successful forward pass.
(Image taken from Squawka.com)

 Adel Taarabt was Fulham's best attacking player. Fulham played long balls to him out of defence. He received these balls with his back to goal in midfield. If he could turn with the ball, he dribbled towards the goal. He had two shots from such situations, both of those were blocked.

 All in all, Fulham's attacks were easy to defend against. The biggest problem with these counter-attacks was that Fulham won the ball too deep in their own half in the majority of cases, so they had to start the counter with a long ball to Bent or Taarabt. Their team-mates had to run across the whole length of the pitch to be able to join in, which made it impossible to put together any kind of move that could have resulted in a clear-cut chance. 

Adel Taarabt's take-ons. His dribbling and pace
was Fulham's most valuable attacking asset.
(Image taken from Squawka.com)

The second half

 West Ham took the lead only a minute after the half-time break. Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell were dispossessed in quick succession, which allowed Diamé to run at Amorebieta. His shot took a deflection on the defender, leaving no chance for Martin Stekelenburg. 

 West Ham's two wingers - Jarvis and Downing - have switched sides for the first 20 minutes of the second half. Downing had a better game all in all, so it made sense to put him on the left side, where he could play against Zverotić, who pushed up a lot more than Richardson did on the right wing. However, Zverotić did alright against Downing. Both of Downing's attempted crosses were unsuccessful in this period, which led to Jarvis and Downing switching sides again in the 65th minute. 

 Fulham had more possession after going a goal down. They had 46% possession in the first half, and 56% in the second half. However, they could not capitalise on it. 

The Fulham substitutions

 Fulham failed to involve the wings in their attacks. Martin Jol decided to bring on Bryan Ruiz in place of Damien Duff, and make a like-for-like substitution when taking off Sidwell, and sending on Karagounis. Given that Kasami is not a straightforward winger either, Fulham had no wingers on the pitch for the final 20 minutes. 

 The lack of wingers made Fulham's passing centre-heavy, and easy to defend against. All West Ham needed to do was to stay narrow, and congest the area between their midfield and defence. 

Fulham's passing in the last 20 minutes.
(Image taken from Squawka.com)

  Taarabt often dropped in front of the midfield to get on the ball, instead of playing as a second striker. So even when Bent made sideways runs on the edge of the box to pull a defender out of position, no-one made a run into the unoccupied space.

 West Ham United have scored two more goals in the final ten minutes of the game. Carlton Cole scored from Downing's cross in the 82nd minute. Joe Cole's scored West Ham's third in the 88th minute.


 This was a must-win game for both teams. West Ham had a strategy coming into this game, which targeted the weaknesses in Fulham's defence. 

 Fulham had only one way to attack. They have failed to change their play for the better when they went a goal behind. Fulham's substitutions removed their wing play completely, taking away the chance of an equaliser. 

 West Ham have gained three vital points, while Fulham failed to win against a fellow struggling team, making relegation a possibility for the West London outfit. 

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