West Ham should be cautiously optimistic about the season ahead after starting the campaign with a comfortable 2-0 victory over the Bluebirds.
Fans of the claret and blue will be pleased their side enjoyed a winning start without summer signings Stewart Downing and Razvan Rat or, their star striker Andy Carroll.
Cardiff City were also without their new striker, Andreas Cornelius, who missed out due to an ankle injury, but fellow new-recruits Gary Medel and Steven Caulker were fit and made largely anonymous debuts.
For Malky Mackay, there were few signs his team are ready for their first top-flight campaign in over half a century and the Irons delivered a rude awakening to life in the Premier League after just 12 minutes when Joe Cole guided home a swivelling strike from inside the area.
While Matt Jarvis’ clever cut back will earn him many plaudits, it was once again the robust Mohammad Diame who created the opportunity after wrestling possession back before releasing Jarvis out on the left.
West Ham looked far too comfortable for long spells of the first half and Cardiff rarely threatened to reduce the deficit at Upton Park despite a weak penalty appeal waved away by referee Howard Webb after Fraizer Campbell went down under Winston Reid’s challenge.
The Hammers enjoyed large periods of pressure as they poured forward in search of a second goal, with Cole squandering a one-on-one opportunity and Diame seeing a thunderous effort deflect inches wide of Andy Marshall’s left post.
After the break, Cardiff grew into the game but the home side continued to look the most likely to score as Modibo Maiga’s strike forced Marshall into making a fine save.
When the right players are on the pitch, the Irons are capable of moments of brilliance and the deadlock was broken again on 75 minutes when five players combined in a fine, flowing move as Mark Noble jinked forward and stroked a pass to Nolan who clinically finished off a great team goal.
Cardiff contested the midfield well but were unable to offer must of an attacking threat, largely due to ex-Hammer Craig Bellamy dropping deep to collect the ball which left Fraizer Campbell isolated up front. This, combined with poor decision making going forward meant the Welsh outfit rarely threatened to break down the Hammers defence and West Ham secured a comfortable victory.
While many positives can be taken from this opening fixture, much improvement can still be made to ensure we build on our top 10 finish last season.
It must be noted that our team has been significantly strengthened over the summer months, with Sam Allardyce spending in excess of £20 million and, more importantly, retaining the services of our most impressive individuals from last season. The best piece of non-business this summer has been keeping Diame at Upton Park but under-fire Arsenal could still move for Diame.
With him in the team, Allardyce has forged a promising midfield where Diame will continue to be a robust presence and, along with Noble, will make the midfield tick.
The perception last year was that West Ham could only play direct football. Now we are a more robust team, difficult to play against yet willing and able to mix things up when we need to. In Stewart Downing, West Ham has acquired an unselfish seasoned professional and with Matt Jarvis on the opposite wing, Andy Carroll should enjoy an endless supply of tempting crosses. This combined with a seemingly free-scoring and resurgent Joe Cole, equals a much more attractive and promising prospect for the Hammers this season to come.
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