Jarrod Bowen Shows He's Premier League Class on Full West Ham Debut

From the London Stadium - With the backdrop of vocal pre-match protests and general ill-feeling towards the West Ham board, there was a bigger picture to be painted at the London Stadium as Southampton travelled to the capital.

It required a beleaguered Hammers side to paint a happy face on proceedings by picking up three crucial points in their fight to stave off Premier League relegation, in what has been another season of unmitigated disaster.

Another season that has seen a promising summer transfer window  - bringing in Sebastien Haller and Pablo Fornals for big money - dispensed with quickly for the age old tradition of woe, wonder and what ifs, all under the umbrella of absolute carnage.

Against Southampton, in a game you felt the ​Hammers had to win with fixtures against Arsenal, Wolves, Tottenham and Chelsea around the corner, there was plenty of carnage to go around as the protests against owners David Sullivan and David Gold, as well as vice chairman Karren Brady, reached fever pitch.

David Moyes, Jarrod Bowen

But on the field, things were a little more clear for manager David Moyes as he handed a first start to £18m January signing Jarrod Bowen.

The 23-year-old had a watching brief in his first few weeks at the London Stadium, ineligible against Brighton at the beginning of the month, before appearing in cameos against ​Manchester City and Liverpool.

Against reigning Premier League champions City, he wasn't able to offer much in the ten minutes he was on the field, as the hosts ran out convincing and comfortable winners at the Etihad. At Anfield, though, Bowen showed in his six minutes of on-field action what he can offer his manager, with an incisive run in behind Liverpool's backline.

Though he was unable to beat Alisson to earn an unlikely point, that moment alone was enough to get him into the side from the start this time - and it was an opportunity that the Hereford United academy graduate didn't pass up.

For a long while, West Ham have lacked a cutting edge going forward, despite scoring 30 goals in the ​Premier League prior to kick off. Their top scorer in that time had been Haller, with six to his name, but he'd often looked isolated in a lone striker role, particularly under previous incumbent Manuel Pellegrini.

Since Moyes' arrival at the beginning of the year, things have changed. West Ham have hardly set the world on fire, no - results show that - but they have at least found the shape and structure they want to play both home and away. The trouble is they haven't had the personnel willing and able to do what is asked of them, particularly on the flanks.

But that may now have changed, after a superb showing from Bowen on his full debut, and Fornals, too, who is finally looking like the kind of player West Ham hoped he'd be when he joined from Villarreal for £24m last summer.

From the off, Bowen was full of running and spirit, barely missing a beat despite his lack of regular minutes in the last few weeks. 

The Hammers' setup played nicely into Bowen's strength of bursting forward on the counter, as a compact 4-4-2 pressed Southampton in the final third, before retreating in numbers to soak up pressure once the Saints crossed the halfway line.

Haller, meanwhile, was playing in a deeper number ten-like role, in the first half at least, and his aerial ability and constant winning of headers allowed Bowen to link up play nicely.

It wasn't long before Bowen would show what he's been doing all season - having scored 16 times this season for Hull and 22 in the Championship last season don't forget - as he latched onto Fornals' smart through ball, controlling perfectly before lifting the it over Alex McCarthy in his stride from an acute angle.

It wasn't an outrageous finish, it wasn't a sublime finish - but it was a composed, calm and well executed finish from a player who clearly has the knack of scoring goals. A player who has a bit of finesse about him, but knows what spaces to occupy as an inverted winger.

The other thing to note here is that Bowen not only took up a superb starting position, he also glided in unnoticed, timing his run inside Jan Bednarek perfectly before applying the finishing touch. It's something that West Ham have missed this season, with Andriy Yarmolenko out of favour, unfit and looking like he's heading for the exit door.

For the next hour or so, Bowen was busy, engaging himself nicely in the play, working the ball well in tandem with Antonio and Haller - who were both excellent throughout.

With Fornals ticking things over well on the other flank - even contributing a second assist in the second half - West Ham had full control and autonomy of the wide areas. Southampton's only real threat, in truth, came on the counter too, but a lack of spark and quality let them down often in and around the box.

When the final whistle blew, there was relief all around the stadium, for three reasons.


Relief that West Ham were out of the relegation zone, with an encouraging performance to boot.

Relief that Bournemouth slipped up late on against Chelsea.

And relief that in Jarrod Bowen, named sponsor's man of the match, they have a player with goalscoring touch - ready and willing to deliver on the Premier League stage.

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Source : 90min