Antonio, Bowen and JWP execute Moyesball flawlessly to burst Brighton’s bubble

Dave Tickner
West Ham goalscorers James Ward-Prowse, Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen celebrate against Brighton
West Ham goalscorers James Ward-Prowse, Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen celebrate against Brighton

It took West Ham eight games to reach seven points last season, kicking off what was a deeply fraught domestic campaign and constant doubts about the job security of David Moyes that even a European trophy couldn’t entirely quell in the summer.

Three games into this season they’ve already reached seven points having dispatched both Chelsea at home and now even more impressively everyone’s second favourites Brighton, who’d dominated their first two games of the season.

Moyesball is inevitable. Don’t fight it. He’s here forever. They’re top of the league ahead of Spurs on goals scored just as we all predicted a few weeks ago.

James Ward-Prowse gave further notice of just what an adroit piece of business he’s going to be for the Hammers, starting and finishing the counter-attack that gave West Ham the lead in the first half.

It would be tempting to describe that lead, and the goals that made it 2-0 and 3-0 in the second half, as coming against the run of play. That would be to miss the point. West Ham got those goals precisely as they intended to, hitting the attack-minded Brighton with lightning speed and precision.

Ward-Prowse was the star against Chelsea, but it was Michail Antonio who took headline honours tonight. He created that opening goal and scored the third while tirelessly and remorselessly leading the line for a team that knew it was going to have little of the ball. Antonio revelled in the responsibility of making the most of the ball when it came his way. He had only 27 touches in the whole game, but turned that into a smartly taken goal and an assist in all but name.

The best goal of the lot, though, was the second. You’ll go a long way to find a better counter-attacking goal. Said Benrahma was a picture of composure as events swirled around him, having the wherewithal to stop the game, look up, and pick out the lung-busting run of Jarrod Bowen. His first touch was as good as the pass to find him, the second kept the ball under his spell and the third sent the ball inside the post.

With Brighton suffering a rare off day in front of goal, West Ham’s clinical, ruthless efficiency on the break was enough to win the day. Brighton had 78% of the ball. It mattered not. Brighton’s 26 shots to West Ham’s 12 tell one story; West Ham’s 2.80 xG to Brighton’s 1.60 tells another.

Pascal Gross did pull one back, and even after that Alphonse Areola was forced into a couple of smart saves to prevent a truly nerve-wracking finish. But West Ham got the win they deserved for a flawlessly conceived and executed plan as Brighton had their bubble burst. This will remain but a minor setback for what remains an excellent side and superbly-run club, but for West Ham it is a huge win on the back of another huge win.

Quite what they can achieve this season remains a question with no firm answer, but what we can already determine with reasonable confidence is that there will be no repeat of last season’s struggles and uncomfortably real flirtation with relegation. This was always an upper mid-table squad that underperformed and losing Declan Rice hasn’t changed that. With Bowen and Antonio and the instant impact and significance of Ward-Prowse, they possess top-half quality if things fall their way as they did today.

Right now they can revel in the embryonic league table which has them looking down on Spurs and Arsenal from a London-heavy summit. That surely won’t last but there is now the very real prospect of David Moyes, who began the season favourite in the sack race, celebrating with August’s manager of the month award.