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Why West Ham can make it to Wembley

It is often the case in the Carabao Cup that a round of 16 tie needs a penalty shoot out to spark it in to life. Very little was happening as West Ham United and Manchester City faced off at the London Stadium — both teams cagey and tentative, worried about over committing in crucial areas and losing a grip on the game. For the visitors, it was the end of an unbeaten streak in the competition that stretched back over five years, for the hosts – pure ecstasy – not one for the neutrals but as a Hammer you certainly wouldn’t be complaining after upsetting the bet exchange.

Pep Guardiola’s swashbuckling City side are often attached with so many superlatives when it comes to cup football. For all the good free-flowing game they play they tend to get favourable draws in the early stages of the competition, with the likes of Cheltenham Town and Bristol City some victims of their attacking assaults, but when faced with a team that are flying on current form, and a vociferous crowd that is crying out for silverware, Pep simply didn’t have the answers to David Moyes’ questions.

It leaves West Ham in a terrific position this season. Domestically, they have picked up where they left off last year, flying the dizzy heights of fourth in the league at the time of writing, whilst also competing in Europe — looking likely to get through to the next stages of the Europa League. A cup run is exactly what this side needs, and based on the togetherness they showed against City, what they deserve. Read on, as we discuss why West Ham can go all the way in the Carabao Cup.

Squad depth

The biggest test of a team on a cup run will always be how the fringe players perform. A midweek game can provide an opportunity for managers to rest key players but for this West Ham side, Moyes has rotated at appropriate times and got his team selections spot on so far. The latter stages of the competition take place at difficult times in the season, with the African Cup of Nations, busy Premier League schedules and inevitable fatigue all factors Moyes will have to deal with, but with a plethora of capable squad players and a reliable starting eleven, many of them featured against City despite also playing in the win over Spurs just three days previously, there is enough talent to ensure a cup run is on the cards.

Penalty composure

Speaking of the competition’s latter stages, West Ham have shown they are ready to step up and be counted from twelve yards. Phil Foden’s miss allowed the hosts to gain control of proceedings, with not one of the Irons missing their penalties. Mark Noble laid to rest the memories of that Manchester United miss with a composed finish before Saïd Benrahma put the tie to rest with a composed finish — with a visibly emotional Noble speaking of his relief post-match:

“I just couldn’t wait to take it and obviously Manchester United is always going to haunt me because when you miss in that degree, but to go away and win at Manchester United away on the Wednesday after that, then to score a penalty here in front of my family and my kids was special.”

Strong defence

The old saying that attacks win you games and defenders win you trophies could not be truer with regard to West Ham’s cup resilience thus far. The Hammers are yet to concede in the competition and while they may have only found the net once from open play, the shape they showed as well as the organisation from both Craig Dawson and Issa Diop put them in a great position. Youngster Ben Johnson was also given an opportunity as he started at right back and seized his chance with both hands, potentially earning a place in the team for the next round.

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