London Stadium witnessed a late drama in a dramatic London derby this Saturday evening when West Ham United took on Fulham. West Ham United escaped with all three points as Fulham’s Ademola Lookman missed a Panenka-style penalty with the last kick of the game. The panenka-style penalty made Fulham’s manager Scott Parker frustrated and he stated angrily “You can’t take a penalty like that”. The Hammers too opened the scoring in the additional time of the final whistle just a few minutes before the missed penalty which was enough to earn three points. This defeat was unfortunate for much-improved Fulham side who were out of the danger zone after a win over West Brom last week and now likely to push down again in the Premier League table. Fulham was good defensively and their defence was rarely tested as Hammers lacked the attacking spark. The tactical analysis of this game covers the tactics of the West Ham United build-up and their defensive strategies. Also, we will be highlighting the analysis of Fulham’s approach in this game and their defensive structure.

Lineups

David Moyes keeps the same starting XI that was narrowly defeated by Liverpool. That means new signing, Said Benrahma is on the bench and will have to wait for his first start in the Premier League. Scott Parker makes one change from their impressive team performance at West Brom with Mario Lemina ruled out so Harrison Reed plays in front of the back four.
Premier League 2020/21: West Ham United vs Fulham - tactical analysis tactics

West Ham United’s passing, movement & attacking

West Ham United’s build-up consisted of a 3-4-3 shape with playing three at the back. Aaron Cresswell played an important role in the left centre-back position and also getting higher up the pitch in the crossing position. At times, Declan Rice drops as a pivot to take Cresswell’s position and Cresswell makes that move higher up the pitch on the left flank.This allows West Ham United to beat Fulham’s pressing and open up the defence, eventually creating space.
Such movement and switching positions can be witnessed in other players as well. The two centre midfielders, Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice played the roles of a pivot with either of them would drop as a pivot on the right or left respectively during West Ham United’s build-up. Sébastian Haller, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen formed the attacking three and Haller played the lone striker role.
Premier League 2020/21: West Ham United vs Fulham - tactical analysis tactics
Here, West Ham United are playing in 3-4-2-1 shape with Haller playing on the top as a lone striker. Wing-backs Vladimir Coufal and Arthur Masuaku have spread wide to stretch the play. This gives wingers Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals to get inside and make inward runs. Fabián Balbuena, Angelo Ogbonna, and Aaron Cresswell formed the defence three. Rice and Soucek playing holding midfield roles and controlling the play. These two anchored the midfield during Hammers’s build-up to an attack.
Premier League 2020/21: West Ham United vs Fulham - tactical analysis tactics
This shows a similar shape of West Ham United in the attacking half. The defence three is in the high up in defensive half to guard against any counter-attack from the opponent. Wing-backs have gone wide and wingers get inside to play supporting striker role on left and right respectively. They maintained this shape consistently and were in command of the midfield. Hence, were easily able to control the play and keep possession.

Counter-pressing and high line with five at the back West Ham United’s defending

Moyes’s side played with a high line in order to control and nullify the counter-attacks of Fulham. Playing with a high line is risky, especially against the side who are looking to get behind with pace. But a well organised and co-ordinated high line can slow down the attack or catch them offside. They did counter-pressing whenever they were out of possession. The tactic was to win the ball higher up the pitch and attack them quickly to take advantage of out off position defence. It also helps to restrict the opposition from advancing. Let’s have a look at the counter-pressing of West Ham United players and few examples of West Ham United’s high line later.
Premier League 2020/21: West Ham United vs Fulham - tactical analysis tactics

Here, during Fulham’s build-up, two centre-backs, Tosin Adarabioyo and Joachim Andersen are quickly pressed by two West Ham United’s forward players. Adarabioyo is on the ball and passes quickly to the midfielder as Fornals was charging on him. Rice then did pressing on Reed as soon as he received the ball from Adarabioyo in the midfield. On the other side, Haller was pressing on another Fulham defender, Andersen and Soucek pressing on midfielder Anguissa. The analysis here shows the counter-pressing tactic of Hammers.

Premier League 2020/21: West Ham United vs Fulham - tactical analysis tactics
The above example from second half highlights the pressing by David Moyes’s side higher up the pitch. The tactics here were to win the ball back higher up the pitch in the attacking half or attacking third and attack quickly. Ola Aina has the ball but he is quickly closed down by Masuaku forcing him to turn back and find another player. Pass towards a defender on the left side of the pitch is blocked by Haller. Two West Ham United’s midfielders Rice and Soucek have marked Fulham’s two midfielders, Reed and Anguissa respectively, and are ready to press. Fornals realises the only option that Aina has a back pass towards Andersen, so he changes direction to press on Andersen. This analysis shows the man to man marking and pressing of West Ham United to win the ball back and block Fulham from advancing further.
Premier League 2020/21: West Ham United vs Fulham - tactical analysis tactics
West Ham United kept a high line and did counter-pressing when the ball was in Fulham’s defensive half. When Fulham advanced in their attacking third, West Ham United switched to five at the back defence structure. With wing-backs, Masuaku and Coufal dropping to support the three centre-backs and forming five at the back defence unit.
Premier League 2020/21: West Ham United vs Fulham - tactical analysis tactics
Again in the second half, West Ham United maintaining well organised 5-4-1 defence formation when Fulham has entered into the attacking third. This pattern gives solidity and makes it difficult for opponents to break through the centre against such deep defending with a high number of men.

4-2-3-1 Fulham’s attack

Fulham’s build-up starts with a short pass by goalkeeper, Alphonse Areola to either of the centre-backs. The two full-backs going wide and higher up the pitch in order to stretch the play from wide areas. Two centre midfielders, Reed and Anguissa would drop as a pivot to support the play. They played together and parallel to each other in the centre. Scott Parker’s side found it difficult to build the play from behind against the pressing of West Ham United’s attackers. They were forced to go direct with long balls or try through wide areas.
Premier League 2020/21: West Ham United vs Fulham - tactical analysis tactics
Let’s first look at Fulham’s shape in a build-up in their own half. Two midfielders, Anguissa and Reed dropping deep to support the defence and take the play forward. The four defenders are nicely spread in four areas with full-backs, Aina and Robinson going wide on either side respectively. Scott Parker’s tactic in build-up was routine and lacked movement and switching position ability. They struggled in their build-up with this tactic against the pressing of West Ham United players.
Premier League 2020/21: West Ham United vs Fulham - tactical analysis tactics
This example shows Fulham’s shape in the attacking half. The two full-backs, Aina and Robinson have advanced higher in the attacking third and supporting the two midfielders, Reed and Anguissa to spread the play wide. Mitrovic is playing on top supported by three playmakers, Bobby Decordova-Reid, Tom Cairney and former Everton winger Ademola Lookman behind him playing on right, centre, left respectively.

4-4-2 Fulham defending

Scott Parker’s defensive tactics were the opposite of Moyes’s high line. They sat back in a 4-4-2 structure and looked to attack quickly on the counter. Fulham was solid and composed in their defence throughout the game with only defensive error coming in the additional time of the final whistle. As usual, Fulham didn’t allow the opposition to expose them from the centre. Also, full-backs tried to close down the opposing players trying to cross from flanks. This defence hardly allowed the in-form West Ham United’s attack to create chances. They were successful in keeping the Hammers attack quiet. They defended well but lacked themselves in the quality to counter-attack and punish.
Premier League 2020/21: West Ham United vs Fulham - tactical analysis tactics
This example shows Scott Parker’s tactics of defending deep and maintaining a proper 4-4-2 shape while defending. He kept two players, Mitrovic and Cairney off defensive duties in order to launch a quick counter attack to find these two players. Full-backs, Aina and Robinson along with two centre-backs, Adarabioyo and Andersen formed a solid four at the back defence.
Premier League 2020/21: West Ham United vs Fulham - tactical analysis tactics
It is evident here, again in the second half, Fulham kept the same defensive tactics of defending in a 4-4-2 shape. This helped Fulham in nullifying West Ham United’s attack from the centre. Full-backs tried to close down the opponent players whenever they were in crossing positions.
Premier League 2020/21: West Ham United vs Fulham - tactical analysis tactics
This error by Andersen in the 90th minute cost them the game. A poor clearance with the head by Andersen from a long ball of Rice and was straight towards substitute, Benrahma. He was free and selflessly set it up to another free player on the side Soucek, who beautifully finished past Adarabioyo and goalkeeper, Alphonse Areola. Ola Aina left Benrahma free, Andersen with a poor clearance, and Soucek was unmarked, all these errors resulted in conceding the only goal of the match. A controversial decision as Haller was clearly offside when Rice played the ball but the goal stands leaving behind a debatable question on offside rules. In my opinion, the goal should have been disallowed, as Haller was offside when Rice released a long pass intended towards him.

Conclusion

The tactical analysis shows that West Ham United was in command and control of the game but they lacked the spark in the attacking third which was witnessed in their recent games. They were the better side but Fulham too matched them and deserved a point from this fixture. Again, Fulham was unfortunate in the Premier League and are looking a much-improved side in the league as the season progresses. It is important now for Parker to react, work out better tactics, and pull out results in the league. Improvement is a positive sign but results matter in the end, to stay up in the Premier League.  West Ham United didn’t look much threatening and kept it too late to win it. They were expected to win easily after an impressive run of results against top teams in the Premier League. Moyes’s side won narrowly and needs consistent performance in delivering quality in their play.