Neil Shaw-Smith > It was on the cards that it would take until after Valentine’s Day for West Ham to win their first penalty of the season (the last team in the Premier League to have one) which the captain dispatched. Contrast this with Leicester City being in double figures for spot kicks.
Technically you could say a West Ham player still hasn’t been awarded one as both have come from a certain rejuvenated Manchester United loanee (let’s not mention the terrible miss as he scored the rebound).
But is this a coincidence or by design?
A contributing factor is having a throwback manager that wouldn’t stand for the nonsense of throwing yourself to the ground with a yelp for good measure. Stating on record in his signature manner that he wants his players to stay on their feet if they can and play with honesty is admirable, so the writing was on the wall to be less foul-fortunate. In the days of VAR and micro-analysis refereeing, you would think it would deliver more. Which begs the question as to why this is?
Aaron Cresswell has the most assists for a defender in the league; join up this with the most headed goals and you start to get a picture as to why they are less likely candidates for penalties. They spend less time in the box. Crosses are whipped in to play to the strengths of several players excellent in the air, where pulling and shoving are given a lot more free license and less likely to be classed as penalty-worthy. Alternatively, you wouldn’t say the team were blessed with classic dribblers where you just need to give them the ball and point them towards the goal, and the rest is down to them.
The only players West Ham possess that are likely to drive into the box and draw a foul is the tricky Bemaraha, who is still finding his feet, and Jesse Lingard. It seems no coincidence that adding the latter into the team has meant he has won both of their penalties this season. This canniness was evident against Manchester City when he could be used as an outlet, hold the ball up to entice a challenge and draw a foul which would give the defence a breather.
Unfortunately, you could see this savvy side Lingard brings severely lacking when it came against the red side of Manchester, the penultimate fixture before an international break. His notable absence resigned the claret and blues to limited offensive options and they stayed heavily defensive in order to not be exposed and enveloped by a swarming Reds attack. The reliable mix and match defence have had an outstanding zero errors leading to goals, with only one own goal that only just happened against the Man U side who seemed like they were authors of their own destiny.
But with statistically the second worst conversion rate of penalties in the league (50%), but hitting the woodwork the most amount of times (18); maybe Moyes is the font of all this knowledge and knows his team are not the type that needs to rely on a pen…on paper at least.