West Ham were, at times, unplayable against Southampton on Saturday. The Saints were poor and seem distracted by their EFL Cup final date with Jose Mourinho and his Manchester United side at the end of the month.
However, take nothing away from the Hammers. Slaven Bilic was full of praise for his side speaking after the game about how they were almost faultless in the way they went about their work on and off the ball.
There was understandable disappointment from the travelling fans when, after just 12 minutes, the Saints Deadline Day signing, Manolo Gabbiadini, broke their back line and fired his new side into the lead.
However, the visitors bounced straight back through Andy Carroll, who took his goal in impressive form. His goal will be the main talking point from his showing at the weekend, however the former Newcastle and Liverpool man was a nuisance all afternoon and bullied Claude Puel’s back line up to the minute he was brought off early in the second half.
The Hammers manager later confirmed that he had hooked the number nine off after concerns were raised over a tight groin during half-time.
The England international recently revealed his new outlook on recovery and training in an in depth interview with former Liverpool and Three Lions midfielder, Jamie Redknapp. Carroll explained how in the past he hadn’t really bothered to explore what was happening with his injuries and why they kept coming back, but has now transformed his routine.
It is clear just how important to the east London side their big striker is. The power he has over some back lines is bettered perhaps only by Chelsea’s Diego Costa, and that is some praise.
Furthermore, his return to fitness and form came at the ideal moment. As the Dimitri Payet saga unfolded throughout last month, the 28-year-old’s goals showed the rest of the side that they can cope without the influence of the French playmaker.
Keep him fit and memories of Simeone Zaza’s woeful loan will be long gone thanks to the antics of Carroll, fans will forget that they were lambasting the owners for not bringing a striker just weeks ago.
This is where all involved need to be careful, if the Hammers, as a collective, can keep their talismanic striker fit and squeeze as many goals out of him as possible then the worries of earlier this term will be a distant memory, those at the London Stadium can look forward to many more moments akin to the spectacular Crystal Palace goal.
Some fans were less than pleased with Bilic when he brought their focal point off at St. Mary’s on Sunday but, whilst they did look a less potent force without the Geordie, in the long run decisions like that can have a profound effect on the rest of the season.