Five things we learned from West Ham’s pre-season friendly defeat to Werder Bremen

Trevor Brooking Stand

West Ham United were beaten 2-1 by Werder Bremen in their last friendly before the Premier League season starts, but what did we learn from the match?

Despite a Diafra Sakho opener – a superb cushioned volley from Dimitri Payet’s expert right wing cross – an Anthony Ujah first-half brace was enough to seal the win for the Bundesliga side.

Although the game was only a pre-season match, Bilic did admit beforehand that it would more or less be the side that will face Arsenal in the big kick off at the Emirates on Sunday.

So what did we learn from the match?

1) West Ham are looking shaky at the back

West Ham fans were critical of many things under Sam Allardyce, but one thing that couldn’t be called into question at the Hammers during Big Sam’s tenure was how solid they were defensively.

The Hammers were very rarely rolled over under the former Blackburn Rovers boss, although they perhaps paid for it with a lack of creativity at the other end.But under Bilic so far they have look decidedly shaky on occasions at the back. It is for a variety of reasons, the main one being a lack of consistency in the back four leading into the new season.

Injuries and suspensions in the Hammers’ Europa League matches for James Tomkins and James Collins has meant an almost entirely different back four in each game. The Irons have also clearly changed their style and want to play out from the back more under Bilic which will take time for the players to get used to. Maybe facing the might of Arsenal will focus one or two minds.

2) Manuel Lanzini looks like a player

While it may have only been a friendly, new signing Manuel Lanzini was one of the real positives from the second half performance against the German visitors. Bilic has admitted he has taken a gamble on the 22-year-old Argentine who has spent the last couple of seasons playing in the footballing backwater that is the UAE Arabian Gulf League for Al Jazira. He was another in a long line of skilful Argentinians who were likened to Lionel Messi when he broke through at River Plate as a 17-year-old. But it is easy to see why. When he came on for the second half he looked fit, lively and true to his nickname ‘the Jewel’ very tricky on the ball.

He was a willing runner and always looked to take on his marker, something the fans present enjoyed immensely. From this early showing Lanzini looks like a gamble that could well pay off for the Hammers.

3) Dimitri Payet will be targeted this season

Against Bremen, Dimitri Payet showed again why Bilic made him his number one target after taking over the Hammers with some sublime touches. The 28-year-old Frenchman dictated the play and set up Sakho’s goal with a clever cross. But like in his previous matches at Southend, Charlton, Norwich and in the Europa League against FC Astra on Thursday night, he was targeted for some rough treatment by the opposition.

It is a backhanded compliment that the other team clearly see him as West Ham’s main threat, but he will have to get used to being kicked and keep his composure if he is too be the difference for the Hammers this season. Fans are already talking him up and comparing him to the likes of Paolo Di Canio such are his mercurial talents.

4) Raphael Spiegel may be ready to challenge Adrian

West Ham brought in goalkeeper Darren Randolph from Birmingham City on a free transfer this summer to put pressure on number one Adrian. But after a less than convincing start for his new club, it could be that young Swiss ‘keeper Raphael Spiegel will emerge to do just that.

The 6ft 6 stopper is very highly rated at the club but is yet to be trusted in the first team given that he is still only 22. He was very impressive in his first game at the Boleyn Ground, though. He replaced Adrian at half-time after the number one had made a terrible error which led to Bremen equalising immediately after West Ham had taken the lead.

It was a rare blot on cult hero Adrian’s copybook, but Spiegel certainly took the chance to impress and it was not long before the youngster was called on, diving away to his left to acrobatically tip Felix Kroos’ vicious half volley behind for a corner when it looked a goal all the way. It was a fine stop and he collected the resulting corner with conviction too to great cheers from the home fans. If he isn’t kept in the squad to challenge Adrian a decent loan move beckons for the tall Swiss.

5) Bilic will take a reserve side to Romania for crucial Europa League tie

One thing we did learn in the Bremen match, from Bilic’s own words, is more or less the starting line-up to face Arsenal on the opening day – minus Carl Jenkinson who is on loan from the Gunners.

After Thursday night’s first leg 2-2 draw with Romanian side FC Astra Giurgiu, Bilic said the players that played in the second leg this coming Thursday would not feature in Sunday's Premier League game against Arsene Wenger’s Community Shield winners.

So we know that, if Bilic is true to his word, West Ham will send a much weakened second string to Romania in the hope they can pull off what would be something of an upset and make it through to the final qualifying round.

Many fans may feel that even West Ham’s reserves should have too much for Astra. But the Romanians have been called a ‘mini Chelsea’ in their homeland after signing an entire new team with big investment from its owners. They also have more recent European experience than the Hammers and beat French giants Lyon over two legs to make last season’s Europa League group stages where they also beat Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb and drew with Celtic.

Some fans argue West Ham would be better off out of the Europa League and say it has already damaged their preparations for the Premier League season. But others want to see some big European nights under the lights at the Boleyn Ground to make for a fitting send-off to their home of 112 years before the big move to the Olympic Stadium next summer.

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