There was another game in the Premier League on Sunday, by the way. And at the Vitality Stadium, Lucas Paqueta had his best domestic performance in a West Ham shirt as the Hammers made light work of what was expected to be a high-pressure match in the bottom half against Bournemouth.
West Ham went to the south coast on a high having made a European semi-final for the second year in a row. The midweek win over Belgian outfit Gent set up a Europa Conference League bout against AZ Alkmaar – who were actually beaten by Dundee United in the qualifying round before battering the struggling Scottish Premiership side 7-0 in the second leg.
Domestically, however, it has been a bitterly disappointing campaign after an extremely ambitious summer window that saw the acquisitions of Lucas Paqueta, Nayef Aguerd and Gianluca Scamacca. Many expected West Ham to be challenging for European qualification once again, but have not been out of the bottom half of the Premier League all season and have even fallen into the bottom three on more than one occasion.
Sunday’s opponents, Bournemouth, began the campaign knowing survival would be an outstanding achievement. Yet, they would go into this fixture above West Ham and arguably more favoured to get the three points. From the first kick, it never looked like it would happen for Gary O’Neil’s side and they will feel aggrieved that summer signing Paqueta carried on after his goal and two assists on Thursday as the Hammers’ travelled to the Vitality Stadium.
Having been linked with Arsenal and Newcastle United before West Ham bit the bullet and bought the Brazilian playmaker from Lyon for around £40million, Paqueta’s arrival in England was greeted with excitement and high expectations. It has not happened for him, scoring three and assisting five in 33 matches across all competitions and performing underwhelmingly for a player of his undeniable ability.
West Ham took the lead at their relegation rivals courtesy of a thunderous Michail Antonio header which left Neto flat-footed. Soon after it was 2-0 thanks to another header. Paqueta dominated big Jack Stephens in the air to thrash the ball beyond Neto, who once again didn’t move with the game slipping away from the Cherries, a week on from their dramatic win at Tottenham – who were 5-0 down at Newcastle in the same minute of their Premier League encounter.
2-0 is a dangerous lead, they say. And Bournemouth were still in it until another corner proved to be their Achilles heel. An Aaron Cresswell delivery found its way to Declan Rice, who sweetly struck the ball into the net. Neto, this time, dived for it, but didn’t stand a chance.
With the result beyond doubt, West Ham had the opportunity to take the piss a bit. They looked comfortable in possession, with Paqueta the centre of near enough everything. They actually took the piss so much, Pablo Fornals put the icing on the cake with a scorpion kick to make it four for the Londoners.
Paqueta wasn’t just fun to watch, passing the eye test for anyone who bothered to watch, but he was stuffing the stat sheet, as they like to say in American sports. He finished the match with an 8.7 rating on WhoScored, made five tackles, won two aerial duels, completed one dribble, completed 40 of his 47 passes and had two shots.
Paqueta needed this performance and West Ham needed this result. There was no European hangover after one of their biggest results of the season, which was followed by their most convincing display away from home in the Premier League in 2022-23. Bournemouth, on the other hand, once again backed up an impressive result with a disappointing one. The Hammers are now above them in the table and a week on from everyone thinking they will be fine, they are right back in the thick of it.