Hull City players dejected after another defeat; credits Reuters
Mark Noble struck the winning goal for West Ham in what was their worst performance of the season against a Hull side who will be wondering how they managed to lose this game.
Mike Phelan’s visitors were far more threatening from the first whistle and hit the post three times, enough to make the post man of the match from a Hammers online vote.
Noble’s goal came after Tom Huddlestone was deemed to have pulled Michail Antonio in the box although contact appeared minimal.
The referee Lee Mason seemed to dismiss the claim at first before his assistant referee intervened and a penalty was given.
Although the converted spot kick secured back to back wins for the first time at their new home, this was a far from convincing performance from Slaven Bilic’s side.
Hull City forward Dieumerci Mbokani should have put the Tigers in front early in the first half but struck the inside of the post when one on one with Hammers goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
Harry Maguire had two efforts cleared off the line from two corners, whilst Andrew Robertson smacked the inside of the post with a thunderous drive from outside the area.
Despite all their good work Hull slipped to a seventh straight away defeat which seems them sink to the bottom of the table for Christmas.
Hull pay the price for missed chances
Another chance goes begging for Mbokani; credits sportskeeda.com
Hull set up in a 3-5-2, a formation which Phelan has used with mixed results so far this season.
Against Spurs in midweek, Hull’s wing backs were too tight to Spurs wing backs and Hull were punished out wide with the pace of Danny Rose too much for the likes of Ahmed Elmohamady.
However, West Ham did not pose the same threats in wide areas with most of the play in front of Hull which suited their aggressive back three.
Curtis Davies, Michael Dawson and Maguire were in command from the first whistle, with one marking Andy Carroll closely with the others picking up any flick ons in behind.
With the Hammers lacking runners beyond the Tigers’ defence, Hull could have been even more aggressive with their line to squeeze the pitch and limit the space for the likes of Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini to play in.
However, whenever West Ham looked like building up in front, Hull were able to snuff out any danger with good interceptions or tackles.
With their size, Hull were a real threat at set pieces and Phelan was able to make good use of the zonal spacing employed by Slaven Bilic and in particular where he put his best header of the ball, Andy Carroll.
With Carroll positioned at the near post space to head any short balls clear, it was left to Michail Antonio to pick up Harry Maguire, a clear mis-match.
With the reliable delivery from Robert Snodgrass, Hull sought to isolate Maguire against Antonio and only two goal line clearances from West Ham prevented Maguire scoring twice.
I thought Bilic may change this at half time but he stuck with his corner marking system and Maguire nearly scored again after the interval and this is an area where other teams may look to expose West Ham.
With Mbokani back after a three game suspension, he was the more effective centre forward on show, often retaining possession and linking well with his partner in attack Robert Snodgrass.
If Mbokani went up for a header, Snodgrass would be running in behind penetrating the Hammers back line, whilst Robertson and Elmohamady were always dangerous out wide.
In the second half Snodgrass received 25yds from goal and smacked the inside of the post and he showed why West Ham bid £8m for his services in the summer with a fantastic all round display.
The best chance of the second half though fell to Mbokani but his failure to capitalise on a poor Aaron Cresswell back pass, when one on one with Randolph, cost the Tigers in the end.
Hammers dig in
Mark Noble salutes the crowd; credits sky sports.com
The result was all that mattered to manager Slaven Bilic, although he knows the crowd will not be expecting to be served up such fare over the Christmas period, in a game Hull could have won comfortably.
Bilic got his formation and personnel wrong with too many ‘Number 10s’ and no threat in behind, West Ham were slow in possession, lacking tempo to their play and rarely penetrated the Hull back line.
In fairness to Bilic he recognised this and was swift in trying to effect a change in performance levels by making a double substitution at half time.
Andre Ayew and Fernandes replaced the ineffective Lanzini and Pedro Obiang and out went the Christmas tree formation and in came 4-4-2, with Michail Antonio the surprise choice to partner Andy Carroll in attack.
West Ham improved but the service from front to back was poor and Antonio failed in shine in an unfamiliar role with his back to goal.
You could see the rationale behind such a move, Bilic saw that he needed more pace in behind and Antonio is one of the very few players in his ranks who possesses such a trait.
Carroll though needed a centre forward beside him who was used to playing with a front man, someone to read flick ons, hold the ball up and play in a partnership.
Carroll appeared lacking in match fitness and often spent large periods of the game outside the box and I couldn’t help but wonder if the Hammers aren’t getting the most out of him or if he is not getting the most out of himself.
Whenever the ball was wide, West Ham were slow to get the delivery in and this is one reason Carroll seems to spend so much time outside the area.
Another, is he doesn’t expect the ball to come in as the likes of Payet and Lanzini like to dribble with the ball so much.
I looked at Salomon Rondon last week for West Brom who scored a hat-trick of headers, all from wide deliveries and I thought of Carroll.
As soon as Chris Brunt of West Brom received the ball wide, he looked to deliver into the penalty area and Rondon was in the box ready to challenge.
Carroll and West Ham need to play to the strengths they possess and start attacking wide with penetration, with Antonio as a winger receiving higher up, enabling Carroll to make his way into the box and the Christmas period seems the right time to switch to a more traditional formation and style of play.
The Boxing Day fixtures are next up for these two as West Ham travel to second-bottom Swansea 15.00 GMT whilst Hull play host to Manchester City at 17.15 GMT.
West Ham: ( 3-4-3):Randolph; Kouyate, Reid, Ogbanna;Antonio, Noble, Obiang (sub Fernandes 46min), Creswell; Payet (sub Nordtveit 90min), Lansing( Ayew 46min), Carroll
Subs (not used): Adrian, Feghouli, Fletcher, Quina
Bookings: Obiang, Noble
Hull City: (3-5-2): Marshall; Davies, Dawson, Maguire: Elmohamady, Livermore (sub Henriksen 68min),Huddlestone (sub Bowen 85min), Clucas; Robertson; Snodgrass, Mbokani (sub Diomande 68min)
Subs (not used): Jakupovic, Meyler, Maloney, Weit
Bookings: Livermore, Dawson,Henriksen, Maguire
Referee: Lee Mason