Faced with a lethargic opponent and subdued home crowd, the Hammers dominated possession from start to finish and finally made their control count when Italian centre-back Angelo Ogbonna glanced home an excellent Jarrod Bowen corner at the near post midway through the second half.
David Moyes’ men were full value for the victory and saw a Tomas Soucek goal rightly disallowed for offside in the opening 45 after he hammered a finish into the roof of the net following a Jordan Pickford save from a Bowen shot.
This was a drab game low on chances but the visitors always looked the more confident on the ball and more likely to create openings.
Jarrod Bowen stepping up a level
Former Hull City forward Jarrod Bowen arrived at West Ham in January 2019 with the reputation of a consistent goalscorer, having scored 54 in 131 appearances during his time with the Tigers.
Since signing the raw data doesn’t look all that impressive; he has only notched 10 in 64 games. But Bowen is evolving into the kind of persistent pest which Premier League defenders hate having to deal with, and he was at it again here this afternoon.
Bowen created the winner with a scintillating delivery; the kind of fast, twisting cross that makes defenders lose all sense of their surroundings and runs from opponents. What’s more, he saw a great late curling effort palmed away by Jordan Pickford and it was hit shot the England goalkeeper saved in the run-up to the disallowed Soucek goal.
The 24-year-old never stops moving, never gives defenders a moment’s peace, and seems to improve with every passing week.
Everton lack movement without forwards
Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison remained absent for the Blues thanks to thigh and knee injuries respectively, and their replacements struggled all afternoon long.
Salomon Rondon toiled throughout the ninety minutes as he failed to hold the ball up or link with those behind him, while Alex Iwobi fluffed his lines when presented with the best chance of the game from a Demarai Gray cutback towards the penalty spot in the first-half.
The quality Benitez’s men missed most without Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison was their movement around the penalty area. Rondon and Iwobi were static, unimaginative and slow, meaning a West Ham defender was never dragged out of position and the visitors’ shape was confident and comfortable for the entirety of the game.
Hammers’ away form a major source of strength
West Ham are now unbeaten in their last eight competitive away fixtures and have won their last three in extremely impressive fashion, beating Leeds United and Everton in the Premier League and knocking Manchester United out of the EFL Cup.
The success David Moyes is having in this role, after failed stints with Man United, Real Sociedad, and Sunderland, is a surprise in itself but one of the cornerstones of the Irons’ progress under the Scotsman has been their self-belief and confidence on the road.
Learning to beat good sides away from home on a regular basis will not only benefit them in finishing as high as possible in the league, but also potentially in the knockout stages of the Europa League come spring.
Allan struggling in Everton midfield
West Ham dominated possession and they were able to assert themselves in central midfield thanks primarily to the sharp passing and ball-carrying ability of Declan Rice.
Everton struggled to either create or defend in the middle of the park, on the other hand, and former Napoli midfielder Allan in particular put in a really poor performance. The Brazilian ended the match with a passing accuracy of just 64 per cent, and only managed two tackles.
Abdoulaye Doucoure was mediocre alongside him this afternoon but has enjoyed a strong campaign so far, while Allan has been a bit of a weak link on a number of occasions. Central midfield could be somewhere Benitez looks to strengthen come January.
4-2-3-1 makes match feel retro
Both Benitez and Moyes’ true heydays were in the mid-to-late 2000s, truth be told, and a relic both have carried forward with them into the 2020s is the consistent use of a 4-2-3-1 shape.
In an era when 4-3-3 and three/five-at-the-back-hybrid formations are en vogue, this felt like watching a match taking place in 2006 rather than 15 years later.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies