Slav Loves to Try Out New Positions
New father Slaven Bilic can’t resist trying out a new position. This time we had Antonio playing the role of lone striker, Ogbonna moved to left back and Tore……….,well Tore was also on the pitch somewhere although it wasn’t totally clear what he was supposed to be doing. To be fair Antonio made as good a fist at his new role than any of the specialists employed so far this year, and at least brought some energy to the party. Also Ogbonna was good enough defensively at left back although was unable to offer much going forward. The re-shuffle saw Byram return, albeit temporarily, at right back with Abeloa joining Lanzini on the bench.
Tempo and Approach
Of all the Premier League football I have seen this season no other team plays with such a slow tempo as do West Ham. I am never too bothered about possession statistics but if you are conceding possession then the response needs to be pace and movement. We have not demonstrated either of these attributes except maybe in very short bursts. To me it is impossible to deduce what style of play we are actually aiming for. Our two most dangerous players Payet and Antonio are generally out wide leaving no creativity in the central areas with a huge gap behind the lone striker. It improved to some extent when Lanzini came on but even then we failed to exploit the momentum following Payet’s wonderful equaliser. We clearly didn’t bring the kitchen sink in the move from Upton Park.
You Have Scored One with No Passes
I have not looked to see what the statistics were for pass completion. They might be quite good but all passes are not created equal. My guess is that our most common combinations are Noble back to Collins and Collins to the opposition. For a team who have centre backs with such poor distribution it is ironic that we use them so frequently as the springboard for our attacks. Not that it is entirely their fault as their are few options available by either the central midfield players or static frontmen. Years ago Ron Greenwood used to say that West Ham play on their toes; this is definitely not the case at the moment. Several times what looked like promising attacking positions ended up with the ball back with Adrian. Even free kicks around the half way line end up going backwards. It is a very strange tactic. I don’t recall from the game any sequence of quick passing that engineered an opening or a half chance; even against one of the weakest sides in the division. The ability to pick out players in space is well below standard and, as for the kick for touch from the kick-off, that was straight from the Graham Taylor coaching manual..
At Last a Defensive Midfielder
I was pleased to see Pedro Obiang start. Partly because I don’t believe he has been given much of a chance since he was signed and partly because we have desperately needed a dedicated defensive midfield player. I though he acquitted himself pretty well performing better both with and without the ball than anything we have seen fro Nordtveit. Although it was only Boro, the defence looked more solid yesterday apart from the lapse at the corner; whose idea was that goal-line technology? I hope Obiang gets a run in the team with possibly Fernandes coming in to provide some spark in a more attacking central midfield role.
A Chance Would a Fine Thing
If you ever played Sunday morning park football you may remember that a high percentage of goals were the result of the hopeful ball forward where either the defender misjudged it or the striker muscled him out of the way. Like a cruder version of Leicester tactics and the game plan that we now seem to have adopted but without players of the right quality. I still can’t see a future for Zaza but, in mitigation, the way we are playing is never going to suit his style; even Dennis Bergkamp would have struggled. We created no chances from open play and had to rely on a stunning solo goal to salvage something. OK, so Noble was unlucky to hit the bar, Antonio should have done better when he did muscle his way through but other than that there were just a few pointless long range balloon shots. The Boro keeper could have brought a book along to keep himself occupied. Carroll might be an upgrade on Zaza but our best hope is for both Ayew and Sakho to return physically and mentally prepared.