I began my preview of the Manchester United League Cup game with the title “West Ham in the League Cup”. I could have titled the review of the game “West Ham no longer in the League Cup.” And from the second minute of the game I knew we were on our way out of the competition. I continued to watch throughout in the hope that I would be wrong, but despite equalising late in the first half, and going in level at half time, I just could not be my usual optimistic self, and my fears came to fruition with a second half performance even more abject than the first, and that takes some doing. We could easily have been 4-1 down at half time, let alone at full time.
I was pleased for Fletcher scoring the goal in front of the Stretford end, and enjoyed listening to our magnificent away support singing “he’s one of your own”. When they were coming through the youth ranks in Manchester, apparently Fletcher was considered more highly than Rashford, and I hope that, in time, he is given the opportunities. I thought that Fernandes once again showed promise, and remain convinced that he will turn out to be an excellent acquisition. I’m not really sure about any of our other summer signings. Masuaku could be an OK squad player as backup for Cresswell, and Ayew hasn’t really got going yet. Where was he at Old Trafford? Was he injured, or just being saved for Arsenal this weekend?
And talking of injuries, our run of bad luck (if it is bad luck and nothing to do with the preparation and conditioning of our players) continues. I just hope that the withdrawal of Cresswell and Antonio were precautionary, but at the time of writing I’ve not read anything so don’t know if they will be available against Arsenal.
Only West Ham can seem to make Rooney look like Messi, when for much of the season he has looked a pale shadow of the player he once was. I hate to see him berating referees, and reckon he is lucky to stay on the field on so many occasions, mainly I think because of his reputation, and position as England captain.
Our defending was shocking, and although Manchester United were clearly up for the game and attacked us at pace, I was disappointed by the ease with which we were opened up. For me the 3-4-3 formation, whilst it worked initially, has to be abandoned. In any event we need to be able to adjust tactics to suit the opposition we are playing, even in mid-game when plan A is not working. It’s hard to believe that our manager, and one of the first team coaches (Dicks), were such excellent defenders at the club, yet fail to inspire a defence that has conceded more goals in the Premier League than most other teams.
You couldn’t fault Adrian for any of the goals, but for me Randolph is the safer bet, and is less prone to error. I noticed that one of the many hundreds of players that we are being linked with at the moment is Joe Hart. I can recall twice in our history we’ve set a new world record when buying a keeper, Ferguson in the sixties and Parkes in the seventies. Although the first didn’t turn out to be a great success, Phil Parkes was probably the best keeper I’ve seen at West Ham. Wouldn’t it be good if our owners showed some intent, broke the bank, and once again bought a really top class keeper. I don’t know if any would come, but the best I’ve seen in recent years is Butland at Stoke.
The Payet debate continues on social media with many, including some ex-players, believing that he doesn’t look interested and wants to leave in January. He was certainly largely at fault for their second (and crucial early second half) goal, and didn’t have one of his better games, but then how many of the team did?
As for Zaza, his cameo included a shot from around twelve yards that went out for a throw-in (at the edge of the penalty area!), and completely missing the ball when he could reasonably have expected to have put a header on goal. If ever there was a player lower on confidence I’ve yet to see him. Feghouli has failed to live up to his initial promise, and had two late chances, but criminally failed to hit the target from good positions.
Obiang, once again, demonstrated that he is the best midfielder at the club, certainly from a defensive viewpoint, and for me should always be the first name on the teamsheet. Quite how he was overlooked for so long continues to baffle me. I presume Mark Noble will be back for the Arsenal game, though, much as I admire him in so many ways, I’m not sure that this would in the best interests of the team.
I think that if Carroll is fit then he will play, just because it is Arsenal, and he scares the living daylights out of their defenders. But he will be massively rusty and I wouldn’t necessarily expect too much, nor a full 90 minutes. If he does play then I would hate to see him isolated a long way from the midfield. He would be a much better proposition playing alongside another striker, although I can’t see that happening, especially against Arsenal, where Bilic will want to try to match them in midfield.
Personally I’d much prefer to see us play with four at the back, but in the absence of a decent right back (any news on Byram by the way?), I reckon Bilic will stick to the same three, although we could easily be torn apart by Ozil, and more importantly, the movement of Sanchez.
I haven’t got a crystal ball but reckon Bilic might pick the following team on Saturday if they are all fit:
Kouyate, Reid, Ogbonna,
Antonio, Noble, Obiang, Cresswell,
Ayew, Carroll, Payet.
It would be a shame if this is the case as I would like to see places for Fernandes, Lanzini and Fletcher. They are three players that I believe will be very much part of our future, and they do add pace and urgency to the team, which has been sadly lacking for much of this season.
On recent form it’s hard to be too optimistic, but I’ll go for a 2-2 draw.