West Ham United 1-1 Leicester City: what did we learn?
A promising display from West Ham United was enough to hold visiting Leicester City to a 1-1 draw. David Moyes’ side delivered a battling performance, which bodes well for the future.
So, what did we learn from the contest?
Upton Park 2.0?
Not quite. The London Stadium was a cauldron of noise, though, with the Hammers’ tenacity inspiring fans. Often lamented, chastised and condemned as soulless. Well, it wasn't on Friday night. For the first time in a long while, West Ham fans had something to get excited about. And they duly responded - with encouragement rather than the usual moans that often greeted the side under Slaven Bilic.
If Moyes’ team can inspire such passion on a continual basis, the London Stadium might begin to feel a little like home. The club has one of the most loyal, fervent fan bases in the country. It can act as inspiration for West Ham's players.
Deployed on the left wing, Arthur Masuaku provided verve and vibrancy. His physicality asserted his presence, while deft foot-work and guile ensured he caused problems for Leicester's Danny Simpson throughout the match.
Despite his gangly stature, which makes him look like he shouldn't be a footballer, Masuaku impressed on his first start in over a month.
One criticism that could be levelled at the Frenchman was his final delivery. When Andy Carroll leads the line, crosses into the box are imperative. Masuaku failed to whip in as many balls as he should when the opportunity was presented.
Although Demarai Gray has scored just one goal in eleven appearances, his productivity in that department shouldn't reflect poorly on him. He showed his true ability against the Foxes. The Englishman was daring going forward and looked especially threatening when the opposition tried to hit on the break.
Possessing electric pace and quick feet, Gray has the attributes to fashion himself into one of the most dangerous attackers in the Premier League.
Game time is essential for Gray's development. He still cuts a raw figure with mass potential, but fortunately, he has a manager who trusts him. The 21-year-old will be given a platform to evolve by Claude Puel.
Emphasis on fitness paying off?
It is normally a boring soundbite. A new manager walks into a job and blames a lack of fitness on the team’s ensuing poor performance. It instantly levels the blame at something vaporous, shielding the players from direct criticism. It also ensures the manager will have an excuse for the next one or two matches, should results not improve.
''The team is still unfit, it will take time”, and so forth.
Against Leicester though, the Hammers played with industry and commitment. It was an energetic first half, and despite the second half teetering into indifference, the home side continued to close down the opposition. It represents a refreshing change, albeit one that Moyes will do well to maintain.