West Ham United vs. Newcastle United: 6 Things We Learned
Newcastle United earned their first win of 2014 on Saturday with a convincing 3-1 victory over West Ham at Upton Park.
A goal in each half from Yohan Cabaye and a Loic Remy strike handed the Magpies all three points, while a Mike Williamson own goal was all Sam Allardyce’s men had to show for their efforts.
The result dropped the Hammers back into the Premier League's relegation zone and level on points with bottom side Cardiff City, while the Toon strengthened their position in eighth place.
Following the game, we take a look at six things that were learned in East London this weekend.
Andy Carroll Is Nowhere Near Match Fit
There was some confusion at Upton Park on Saturday when West Ham United striker Andy Carroll failed to take his place on the substitutes bench after the break.
As it turned out, the ex-Newcastle man was being primed behind the scenes to take to the field against his old club, but he needn’t have bothered.
In only his second appearance of the campaign, Carroll looked sluggish and rarely threatened the Toon’s back four. When he did get a rare sight of goal in the 76th minute, the 25-year-old blazed over from close range.
Such is the Hammers’ plight, manager Sam Allardyce will feel justified in introducing the target man while his team were still in the game.
But in truth, the England forward looks a long way from being completely match fit after his eight-month lay-off and gave away a needless free-kick for the Magpies’ third goal.
Mike Williamson Has Become One of Newcastle’s Most Important Players
In the face of some typically direct play from the home side after the break, Newcastle United’s Mike Williamson—much like he has done all season—stood firm at the heart of the Toon’s defence.
In front of watching England manager Roy Hodgson, the 30-year-old centre-half consistently nullified the twin threat of Carroll and Carlton Cole in the second half.
At the beginning of the season, the former Wycombe man couldn’t of dreamt of the impact he’d make this term and was Alan Pardew’s fourth choice behind Fabricio Coloccini, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Steven Taylor.
But the Magpies’ defensive stats at Upton Park on Saturday owe much to the dominance of Williamson, who won nine of his 12 aerial battles to keep West Ham at bay.
Sam Allardyce Sent His Players Mixed Messages with His Substitutions
Having watched his side being passed off the park for the majority of the first half, West Ham United boss Allardyce seemed to change direction at the break with the introduction of Ravel Morrison.
It suggested a different approach and was largely welcomed by the Upton Park crowd after Newcastle had controlled the tempo of the fixture in the opening 45 minutes.
But any tactical resurgence was declared null and void by the introduction of Carroll just after the hour mark, as the home side immediately began hitting it long to their target man.
The fact that Joe Cole—another flair player alongside Morrison—was called upon with 20 minutes to go further muddied the messages coming from the home dugout as the Hammers continued to pump the ball aimlessly toward Carroll.
Yohan Cabaye’s Price Tag Is Fully Justified
Back in the summer, Arsenal baulked at Newcastle United’s £20 million-plus valuation of playmaker Yohan Cabaye, but on Saturday, the Frenchman fully justified his lofty price tag.
From an advanced midfield role behind striker Loic Remy, the former Lille man pulled the strings in the first half and put Newcastle United in control with a delicate touch and finish after 15 minutes.
He could have added to his tally before the break, and though his influence waned slightly for a spell in the second period, his expertly taken free-kick in stoppage time put the lid on things for the Geordies.
When he’s in this form, it’s easy to understand why the likes of Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain continue to be linked with the 28-year-old, and the transfer window can’t close soon enough for Toon boss Alan Pardew.
West Ham’s Home Form Must Improve
If West Ham United are to survive in the Premier League this season, a vast improvement in their home form is required—and quickly.
Saturday’s loss at the hands of Newcastle was their sixth defeat at Upton Park this term, and only two victories in East London have heaped huge pressure on Hammers boss Allardyce.
The ease with which the Magpies controlled the game in the opening 45 minutes set alarm bells ringing on the terraces.
And while it’s no secret the Irons have suffered badly when it comes to injuries and suspensions this season, it will ring hollow as an excuse if their form does not pick up in their own backyard.
Newcastle Should Have Wrapped Things Up Before Half-Time
Such was Newcastle United’s dominance in the opening 45 minutes on Saturday, it would have been no surprise to see the visitors head to the dressing room with a three- or four-goal cushion.
As it was, a slender 2-1 lead at half-time failed to colour the picture of the first half after Williamson’s unfortunate own goal had given the Hammers hope.
Chances for Remy, Moussa Sissoko and Cabaye could have put the Geordies out of sight had they been buried, but the Magpies just couldn’t turn the screw.
And it wasn’t until Cabaye’s injury-time free-kick finally put the result beyond doubt that Pardew’s men, and their fans behind the goal, could breath a collective sigh of relief.