Something was needed. Two managers under pressure. West Ham on their worst home run in more than 19 years. Wolves have won just one of their last 14 Premier League games.
Once West Ham scored it was probably always Bruno Lage’s wolves who ended the evening in the last three, booed by their own fans.
Despite several chances and controlled possession, they remain hopeless in front of goal. The appearance of Diego Costa as a second-half substitute caused fleeting problems, but the impact submarine, whose wrecking ball tip was a distant memory, soon faded.
West Ham’s collection of three points was a testament to taking risks when you present them and the value of confident, determined attackers. “When West Ham get the ball for the first time, a quick attack, they score,” said Lage.
Gianluca Scamacca, West Ham’s goalscorer after 29 minutes with a sharp, slightly deflected finish, and Jarrod Bowen, their second’s goalscorer, appeared on each other’s wavelengths. Great news for David Moyes, who is trying to break through his team’s early-season torpor. “We really like him a lot,” said Moyes of Scamacca. “It’s a little different than what we have. He’s not a target man, he has skills in a different way.”
As for Bowen, who was not used by England during the international break: “I said to Jarrod, ‘Look, if you score five or six goals, you’re close to that plane going to the World Cup.'”
The wolves’ problems appear to be far more serious. “We’re under pressure,” said Lage. Does Costa represent despair or inspiration? The old warhorse, 34 years old on Friday and gulping energy drinks on the bench, had to wait until the 58th minute.
Earlier, a first-half strike against Pedro Neto had infuriated him for not being asked to warm up. That Costa was unavailable for 65 minutes was shown when he quickly ran out of breath in his first game since December 2021.
While Lage probably got that call right, his team’s makeup was less successful. Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves played together for Wolves for the 150th time, but not in midfield. Neves, with Nathan Collins suspended, was dropped on defense. An early booking for the blocker Bowen was indicative of the club captain’s struggles with the speed of West Ham’s attacks. Wolves, meanwhile, failed to control midfield.
The yellow card means he will miss next week’s game at Chelsea and Neves was in confessional mode after the game. “It’s time to look at ourselves,” he said, acknowledging the resentment that followed him and his teammates down the tunnel. “What we do in the Premier League is not enough. Having the ball is not enough. People don’t deserve to see what we’re doing right now.”
Waste and sloppy defense are a bad combination. West Ham’s second goal, expertly deflected by Bowen, came just after Adama Traoré’s miss and far too easily. After Thilo Kehrer’s shot was blocked by Max Kilman, Bowen used Rayan Aït-Nouri as a shield to beat José Sá.
Lage pressed the Costa button after 58 minutes. He came with the trademark snarl and ordered his new colleagues into position. Wolves gave up their previous skewed passing pattern and instead let the ball fire into the mixer, where Costa was able to ask Craig Dawson and Kurt Zouma, in the center of West Ham’s defence, very different questions.
His big chance came after 10 minutes, Traoré’s cross finding him uncovered in a position he’d met countless times. And yet he flew far away, this time he saved himself from growling. Next, it was directed at an assistant referee when he set up Daniel Podence for a tap-in but was ruled offside. At least something was finally happening up front for the wolves, although it wouldn’t last long. “It’s clear that we’re a different team when we have a reference, a striker,” said Lage. “He can play 35 minutes today. I think he can play at a good level.”
Lage knows he needs far more. “If a new manager comes along, he will still have the same problems,” he said. With no goals or a chance to score them, Wolves will remain in the bottom three.
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