5 Things We Learned From The Limp Draw With Stoke

Sorting through the debris of a dire draw with Stoke at the London Stadium.

5 Things WHUA Very Poor Spectacle Indeed

No doubt about it this was one of the poorest games of Premier League that I have seen all the way through for a long time. I would imagine that any neutral observer would have walked away/ switched off at some point before half time. Very little action and incident with just two saves of any note during the whole 90 minutes; one at each end. Any football that was played was played by the visitors and it was fortunate that they appeared to come with very low expectations in the absence of Amautovic and Shaqiri.  West Ham didn’t deserve to win and they barely deserved a draw.

A Rigid Style with No Obvious Pattern

We tried 3 at the back, it worked in a couple of matches and now we appear to be sticking with it rigidly regardless of opposition and circumstances; repeat until accidentally stumbling upon a new formation. From the kick-off a typical piece of Noble-Collins shuffling backwards and sideways before a hopeful punt up-field set the tone for what was to come. The 3 centre-backs playing it to each with no urgency or sense of what to do next allowing a well discipline Stoke side plenty of time to close down any space. It was impossible to work out what the game plan was meant to be and even more puzzling why it took so long to do anything about it when it was clear that the original plan (whatever that was) wasn’t working.

Slow and Sluggish Doesn’t Win Anything

In those games where we have looked a better team we have approached the game with intensity and pace. This doesn’t seem too difficult to comprehend to me and so would expect match preparation to focus on achieving those objectives. How can a team collectively turn up for their 90 minute working week with such little energy and spirit. Where is the leadership? It really didn’t look like the players knew what they were supposed to be doing which, I guess, may go back to the lack of a plan. We had Cresswell pushed way up, Antonio dropping too deep and Ayew (our lone striker) coming back to retrieve the ball in his own half. We might hope for a moment of magic from Payet to come to the rescue, as he did so often last year (and he looked well off the pace), but he still needs others to create space to work in. The lack of movement in front of him did him no favours. Stoke were given every opportunity to fill any space that became available while we were much more generous with it for their attacks.

Those Strange Substitutions Again

The BBC reported that inspired substitutions changed the game. Hardly! The substitutions, like the curate’s egg, were good in parts with the right players came on but the wrong players went off. There appears to be a predetermined plan that no matter how well or poorly anyone is playing that Lanzini and Obiang are the players taken off. Maybe because the technical area is such a long way from the dugout it is easier to decide these things beforehand. I don’t know! Not for the first time this season Pedro was our best player and, even if Lanzini delivered no end product, at least he was willing to run with the ball with an attempt at purpose. But no, off they both go! As far as the men coming on were concerned Fernandes didn’t really get into the game but Ashley Fletcher made a good account of himself and looks much more like a footballer than Zaza does. Plus there was a little cameo from Feghouli that included probably his first successful cross of the season.

Where Do We Go From Here?

If the alarm has not yet reached the full light flashing, klaxon blaring, buzzer sounding intensity that you see in the movies there has to be some very serious warnings being issued. As things stand we don’t look like we can play our way out of trouble and I doubt we are equipped for a relegation dogfight. Of course there is still time and there are hopefully enough poorer teams to keep our head above water but this is not a team on the up. We have seen no consistent signs that the foundations of a solid and organised team are in place. We still struggle to break down teams we should (and need) to beat and the freak results against the top teams will not be repeated so readily. After his monumental gaffe for the equaliser it is time for Adrian to take a break from first team duty while Mr Marriner has forced decision to leave Mark Noble out of the next starting eleven. Noble looks increasingly lost and pedestrian to me; I have long admired his commitment but that is no longer enough on its own.  Perhaps we will have other striking options by the time of the Tottenham game but I am not going to be holding my breath. And please let’s not stick slavishly to 3 at the back and learn to use it when it is appropriate to the match and opposition in hand.  My approval rating for the management team is currently at all-time low.  Not a time to panic but a demonstration that all is under control would be welcome.