Albion Analytics preview: West Ham United

The Hammers are the visitors to the Amex on Saturday night.

By Liam Tharme • 15 May 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Yves Bissouma ranks highly amongst other Premier League players this campaign for a number of stats.

With safety secured, Albion welcome a West Ham side to the Amex whom they are unbeaten against in the Premier League. Seven of the 11 sides (Fulham twice) to have been promoted to the top flight with or since Albion in 2016/17 have been relegated since, with the Seagulls setting a club record for the number of consecutive seasons spent in the top tier (5).

Since promotion to the Premier League in 2017/18, Brighton have taken an average of 1.86 points per game against the Irons – and of the sides they have faced in all four Premier League campaigns, only against Newcastle do Brighton boast a better win ratio (50%) and goal difference (+8) than against West Ham – 43% win ratio and +6 goal difference.

The Seagulls will be hard pressed to add to their illustrious record in this fixture, facing the best West Ham side in recent years. David Moyes' first 50 games in his second spell at the London outfit returned 75 points, their best from that number of fixtures in well over a decade. Only five Premier League sides can better West Ham for goals scored (55) this season, a total which is their best in a Premier League campaign since 2015/16 (65). That tally could be even higher, as they top the Premier League charts this season for hitting the woodwork (21 times), with the Albion hitting the post and crossbar on 17 occasions. West Ham take shots from an average of 15.3 yards from goal, the closest in the division, with Albion third (16.3 yards) in this metric.

Former Albion loanee Jesse Lingard is in inspired attacking form after joining West Ham on loan from Manchester United in January. Since 1st February only Kelechi Iheanacho (12) has recorded more goal involvements than Lingard (11), with the England international (96) second to only Harry Kane (82) for fewest minutes per goal involvement during this Premier League season.

Lingard, who was directly involved in eight goals when on loan at Albion in the 2013/14 season, boasts the third most clinical finishing rate in the Premier League this season according to Expected Goals data, netting nine from 34 shots worth 4.9xG, with a shot accuracy of over 50%. 

The midfield battle may decide the result with 46% of action occurring in the midfield third in West Ham games, the second highest proportion in the league behind Spurs (47%). This season, the London outfit have been the second most passive side – after Newcastle – averaging a defensive action once every 16.5 passes and ranking bottom for midfield third (180) and final third (89) tackles. As a home side this season, Brighton are the third most active Premier League side, averaging a defensive action once every 9.2 opposition passes. 

Yves Bissouma – who ran the midfield in the reverse fixture – ranks inside the top 20% of Premier League midfielders this season for tackles in the midfield third and inside the top 10% for the proportion of his pressures that lead to a turnover inside five seconds. Last time out at Wolves, the Malian topped the Brighton charts for tackles plus interceptions (10) and successful pressures (6), sitting second for total pressures attempted (18).

Compared to last campaign, Bissouma boasts better success rates in overall pass accuracy (87.7%, compared to 84% last season), long pass accuracy (78.7%, was 75.7% last season), press success rate (35%, was 29.2% last season), dribble success rate (65.8%, was 60.5% last season), pass reception rate (94.3%, was 92.5% last season) and aerial duel win rate (63.8%, was 60.7% last season). 

Bissouma's partner in the midfield pivot, Pascal Gross, has five goal involvements (2 goals, 3 assists) against West Ham, the German's joint-most against any single Premier League side – he also has five against Manchester United (3 goals, 2 assists). Albion's no.13 assisted his seventh of the campaign at Wolves last time out, with only eight Premier League players boasting better assist tallies this season. 

Gross has created the most chances (44) of any Albion player in 2021, with only Bernardo Silva and Son (both 6) having assisted more than the German (5) this calendar year. Gross (104) is just one of 15 Premier League players to have recorded 100+ shot-creating actions this season, and he tops the Brighton charts in that metric as well as successful open-play crosses into the box (16) and Expected Goals created (5.4). He ranks inside the top 5% of Premier League midfielders for shots and goals created from set pieces per match.  

Crosses are likely to be a primary source of chances for both sides, with West Ham (96) second and Brighton (90) third for open-play crosses completed into the box. A total of 29% of all Brighton’s chances created in open play this season have been through crosses, including both their goals at the London Stadium in the reverse fixture. While posing a wide threat is important, Albion may benefit from efforts to split opposition defences more centrally next season.

Brighton have completed 31 through passes this campaign (below the Premier League average of 32.25) and WhoScored data has it that Graham Potter's side have created just four chances through such passes, though West Ham (17 through passes completed, 3 chances created) rank below them in both metrics. 

A win for Albion would see them reach the 40-point threshold for the third Premier League season, putting the Seagulls within touching distance – one point – of the club's record points tally.