Were you expecting a barnstorming Premier League clash between Newcastle and West Ham to open up their respective campaigns?
No, we weren’t either.
Fortunately though, both clubs had other ideas as they put on one hell of a show at St James’ Park. Six goals were split 4-2 in West Ham’s favour, as David Moyes’ Hammers fought back from trailing at half-time to get their season underway in fantastic fashion.
Full player ratings from the game can be found here, but here’s six things we learned from Sunday’s early kick-off.
This is said with a degree of tongue in cheek, but West Ham do actually need to sign a striker to lighten Michail Antonio’s horrendous workload.
So what better way to strengthen than by stealing Callum Wilson* from Newcastle, who religiously scores against West Ham – his opener, after superb work from Allan Saint-Maximin, was his ninth goal in 11 games against the Hammers.
Ultimately, Wilson’s efforts would be in vein, but how he’d like to play West Ham each and every week.
*Absolutely 100% not happening.
After getting themselves into a strong position – during what was a supremely entertaining first half of football – Newcastle seemed to run out of steam.
Wilson was good early on while Saint-Maximin was a constant threat whenever he had the opportunity to take on West Ham‘s defence. But the reality for Newcastle is they need more players with the ability to take the game away from an opposition, something Willock showed he can do last season.
Miguel Almiron is a hard worker but doesn’t have that real spark you need, and neither do Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden. Willock’s quality was missed here, big time.
2020/21 wasn’t a disappointing campaign for Said Benrahma, rather a season of adaptation and transition.
Stepping up from the Championship, he needed time to find his feet in the Premier League – often leading David Moyes to claim that the Algerian playmaker needed to work harder off the ball.
Here, Benrahma showed the class and ability that has had West Ham’s fans purring in pre-season. A goal and an assist is a fine return on the opening day, but it was his overall display that offered so much promise.
Benrahma was busy, and unpredictable, very capable with the ball at his feet and had end product. He was also willing to track back and press, much like Jesse Lingard did during 2020/21. A great display.
“I’m forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air,
They fly so high,
Nearly reach the sky,
Then like my dreams,
They fade and die.
Fortune’s always hiding,
I’ve looked everywhere”
Those lyrics from West Ham’s club anthem embody the pain many supporters have endured over the years.
So often the bridesmaids on the big occasion, the Hammers’ specialty is wrestling defeat from the jaws of victory, particularly when they’re on the cusp of success. But it feels like that soft underbelly is starting to firm up, and West Ham are now made of sterner stuff under David Moyes.
Problems remain but this isn’t a game West Ham would have fought back to win convincingly under many predecessors.
Ciaran Clark is one of those old school defenders that you need to have around your club.
100% committed, willing to put his body on the line regardless of what may happen, and fully switched on. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the rest of Newcastle‘s backline, who time and time again continue to let Steve Bruce and the supporters down.
Poor decision making and failing to do the basics allows far too many games to get away from Newcastle, and although West Ham were good value for their win in the end, the Magpies made life far too easy in their own box.
If only there was a potential takeover in the offing…
Last but not least, wasn’t it great to hear the roar of 50,000+ spectators up in the North East?
Football isn’t the same without the fans and arguably the high intensity that we saw from both sides would have fallen flat were it not for the electricity pumping through the veins of those watching.