5 Observations from Arsenal Humiliation

An abject performance against Arsenal sets alarm bells ringing and requires questions to be asked.

5 Things WHUCrisis, Dilemma, Emergency, Disaster, Mess

That’s 21 games played in all competitions this season with just one good performance (Chelsea in the EFP Cup) and one decent performance (away to Palace).  Even for the most optimistic supporter the alarm bells must be ringing loud and clear.  Sure Arsenal are, on their day, an excellent side but it was the manner of defeat rather than defeat itself that is the most worrying.  Watching the TV pictures of the players in the tunnel before the game and they looked petrified, like a deer caught in headlights, and when the game started it looked no different.  From the off you sensed it was only a matter of time before Arsenal scored and then having steadied the ship a little we gifted them another very soft goal; the rest is history.  This is not a team that is simply going through a bad patch or a loss of form and confidence.  It is shades of Roeder, Grant and Pardew’s last season all rolled into one. A desperate situation in the club that needs desperate measures in response before it is too late.  Hoping that is will all sort itself out is the height of foolishness.

Under Pressure

It is astonishing to think that following a buoyant first season that we are four months into a new season and manager, Slaven Bilic, looks broken, lost and devoid of ideas.  We may have had a bad transfer window but the core of the squad is the same as the one that performed so admirably last season.  They have not all suddenly become bad players but now look unmotivated, unfit, disorganised and careless.  It is almost impossible to articulate what our style of play is supposed to be; there is no plan and no structure in our play.  While managers such as Klopp, Pochettino, Conte and even Eddie Howe have built momentum based on intensity, pace, movement and pressing, West Ham fumble and stumble around haphazardly hoping that they might eventually get a free kick close enough to goal.  These problems lie squarely at the door of the manager and the coaching staff.  To bemoan a lack of intensity in training is a ridiculous comment when you are the one with the responsibility to make sure it happens.  A thin squad in terms of quality (caused in part by poor recruitment by Bilic) and an unwillingness to risk young players means there is largely no competition for places and this breeds complacency, as it has done in the past.  In a situation where a club doesn’t look to be heading in any particular direction it is the guy asleep at the wheel who needs to be changed.  Bilic says he will not walk away but that is a financial stance more than anything.

Case for the Defence

For starters, I’m not sure you could fault Randolph with any of the goals and he made a few decent saves to keep the score in single figures.  With the athletic Kouyate missing it was disappointing that we stuck with the suspect 3 at the back against a team like Arsenal who are typically so strong down the flanks.   In some respects I was quite pleased when Ginge went off and was replaced by Arbeloa (rather than Nordtveit) as it suggested a change to 4 at the back.  The problem was that Arbeloa and Fernandes both seemed unsure as to what formation we were now playing and decided to compete for the right wing back spot.  Mainly through Arsenal’s profligacy we settled a little after the early storm only to self-destruct by gifting them what was a deserved lead.  The main culprit was Ogbonna who during one of his daydreaming moments gave the ball away sloppilyin a dangerous position.     Reid was one of few players to earn his wages and gave another committed display and it is time he was given the captain’s armband full-time.  Masuaku had some good moments going forward but was later exposed by the excellent Sanchez.  Masuaku is OK as cover for Cresswell but not much more.  Arbeloa is a stop gap and we really do need a proper right back.  It is perplexing that West Ham is the only club that doesn’t seem to believe that having specialist full-backs is important.

Stuck in the Middle

Payet and Noble were shocking.  Payet wasn’t even interested enough to audition for Arsene Wenger who, according to that morning’s newspapers, was interested in his signature.  Regardless he still seems wasted marooned on the left wing.  Noble looked completely lost; apart from going back to exchange passes with his own defenders the game mostly passed him by.  He was like a little kid playing piggy-in-the-middle with his much bigger brothers.  Obiang put in another good performance and Lanzini was one of a few West Ham players playing with energy and at least trying to make things happen.  What was a disorderly midfield setup was turned into farce when Carroll and Ayew replaced Noble and Fernandes leaving a massive gap between defence and the attack minded players.  This led directly to the 3 goals in the last 10 minutes which even if it didn’t affect the result will have a further detrimental effect on confidence.  I would take your calculator to Anfield next week.

Looking Forward

Ashley Fletcher tried hard as the lone striker.  Better than Zaza but not as effective as Sakho in creating space and closing down defenders.  He can potentially become a good player.  Carroll came on, scored a consolation and didn’t get injured; what more could you ask.  Ayew didn’t look anything like a £20 million player.  After looking sharp in his brief cameo at Old Trafford he was back to languid and ineffectual.

I Wouldn’t Bet On It 19 – A good win last week

Looking to profit from a hard earned draw at the London Stadium.

Fancy A Bet

Last week we had some fun bets on our game at Manchester United. And the following bets were successful:

16 points on West Ham to win or draw the game @13/8 (42)
1 point on a 1-1 draw @7/1 (8)

The fifty points that we won added to our balance of 51 brings our total balance back to 101 points, just above where we started.

I haven’t got a clue how West Ham will perform this week so I wasn’t going to have a bet at all. But just for fun, three small bets to retain a betting interest in the game:

1 point on Pedro Obiang to score the first goal and the game to end 2-2 @275-1 (276)
1 point on Andy Carroll to score the first goal and the game to end 2-2 @60-1 (61)
5 points on the game to end in a draw @14/5 (19)

Our balance after staking these seven points is down to 94 points.

We win on the day if the game ends in a draw. It was 3-3 last year and Andy Carroll terrorised the Arsenal defence. Can he do the same this time? Will he be back from injury? Will he be picked? We get our point back on the second bet if he doesn’t play.

What are the chances?

Matchday: West Ham entertain L’Arsenal!

Here comes Andy! The King of the Impossible rides to West Ham’s rescue.

West Ham ArsenalIt seems that we can now all stop worrying as, if reports are to be believed, the unplayable, unstoppable Andy Carroll is ready to return for today’s late kickoff against Arsenal. Here comes the messiah and the cavalry all rolled into one to destroy that easily intimidated Arsenal defence who really ‘don’t like it up ’em’. A repeat of last season’s hat-trick heroics is a mere formality as we unleash our favourite blunt instrument on the soft north Londoners.

“He is a good player, not only heading or putting the ball in.  That doesn’t make you a great player, he’s got all that but he’s probably the best in the league at occupying the defence for me.”

– Slaven Bilic on Andy Carroll

To be fair, in some circumstances (and formations) Carroll can be a very effective option but to pretend there is far more to his game than his aerial ability (as our manager does) is a stretch as long as his neck; certainly at Premier League level. The expression “‘If your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail” is doubly apt here and raises the concern that our tactics will once again be an over-reliance on Andy’s head. Add to that the quality of our crossing, particularly if Cresswell is out, and it hardly instils confidence that Plan A is the surefire winner that many are hoping. As always I will be more than happy to be proved wrong.

Head to Head

West Ham are very much second best in the Head to Head stakes with Arsenal. The Gunners are probably one of few teams that hold the advantage both home and away. Last season’s victory at The Emirates was our only success in the last 12 meetings which have featured 10 dispiriting defeats.

 

P

W

D

L

F

A

Sequence

Home

62

14

24

24

78

98

DLLLLL

Away

60

14

16

30

62

103

WLLLLL

 

122

28

40

54

140

201

 

The last home win against Arsenal was in November 2006 courtesy of substitute Marlon Harewood’s 89th minute winner as he slid home following an uncharacteristic battling run by Matthew Etherington; the only goal of the game. The aftermath of the goal celebrations that day resulted in the famous ‘slugout in the dugout’ contest between Alan Pardew and Arsene Wenger.

Team News

Following another short lived comeback, Diafra Sakho is now reported to be side-lined for up to 6 weeks. Would be wing-backs Cresswell and Antonio both picked up thigh strains during the Old Trafford cup exit in the week and it seems that top-scorer Antonio is definitely out while Cresswell will have a late fitness test. Although unconfirmed there are also internet rumours of a bust-up between Bilic and Ayew over the latter’s fitness levels. It is difficult to know what the manager will do selection-wise but my guess is that he will stick with his (flawed) 3 at the back with Fernandes in at right wing back and Masuaku on the left if Cresswell is unavailable. Midfield is likely to be Obiang, Noble, Payet plus Lanzini or Ayew (if he isn’t on the naughty step). Upfront it will be Carroll or Fletcher and it will be interesting to see whether Andy gets a start (following the big build up) and how long he lasts this time.

Arsenal also have their injury problems with Bellerin, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Welbeck and Cazorla all missing and Giroud and Elneney doubtful. Unwilling to risk former Hammer’s loanee Carl Jenkinson, following his comical comeback display, Wenger will join in the playing players out of position fun by using Gabriel at right back.

“I have pity for every manager, but I think he has done a very good job there, he has built a good squad, and I’m sure it will come out in the long distance”

– Arsene Wenger on Slaven Bilic

I can’t help but have very bad thoughts at what an on-song Arsenal team might do against our defence with their fluidity, pace and inter-play. Let’s hope it is a bad day at the office for them.

The Man in the Middle

Today’s straw clutching comes in the form of a welcome to this season’s lucky referee Craig Pawson, yet another referee from Yorkshire. Pawson was in charge of the home wins against Bournemouth in the league and Chelsea in the EFL Cup. Pawson has officiated 12 games this season awarding 43 yellow and 1 red cards; the one red card being Harry Arter setting up victory in the game at the London Stadium.

The Lawro Challenge – Week 14

Lawro Crystal BallThirteen rounds of games in the Premier League have now been completed. That means we have now predicted the results of 130 matches. In Week 13, Rich scored 12 points, Geoff 7 points, and Lawro 9 points.

Quite possibly Geoff’s prediction of a scoreless draw in the Swansea v Palace game has taken the lead in the running for the worst prediction of the season award.

In this challenge we award one point for a correct result, and a further two points (making three in total) if the score prediction is spot on.

 

Rich

Geoff

Lawro

Total after 12 weeks

98

66

90

Score in week 13

12

7

9

Total after 13 weeks

110

73

99

 

 

 

 

Predictions – Week 14

 

 

 

 

Rich

Geoff

Lawro

SATURDAY

 

 

 

Man City v Chelsea

2-2

2-0

2-1

Palace v Southampton

0-1

1-1

2-0

Stoke v Burnley

2-0

2-1

2-0

Sunderland v Leicester

2-1

1-2

1-1

Tottenham v Swansea

2-1

3-1

2-0

WBA v Watford

2-1

1-1

2-0

West Ham v Arsenal

2-2

1-3

0-2

SUNDAY

 

 

 

Bournemouth v Liverpool

1-2

2-2

1-1

Everton v Man United

1-1

1-0

1-1

MONDAY

 

 

 

Middlesbrough v Hull

2-0

2-1

2-0

Man United 4v1 West Ham – League Cup Review & Arsenal Preview

Looking back and forward. How will West Ham react to midweek disappointment against Arsenal?

Carroll ArsenalI 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:

Randolph,
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.

5 Painful Points from the Old Trafford Sequel

The litany of lacklustre league cup exits just got a little longer.

5 Things WHUYet Another Tame Cup Exit

Yet again a promising cup run comes to an end in the most disappointing way. Not that away to Manchester United was ever going to be easy. And that the cause was helped by having held them to a draw a few days earlier leaving the hosts with a feeling that they had something to prove. No, it wasn’t simply the fact that West Ham are now out of a competition that was probably the best chance of silverware it was the manner of the surrender that has created such disappointment and disquiet. It is difficult to find any positives in the game with the possible exception of Ashley Fletcher’s first goal for West Ham.  Otherwise it was a lame, tame, feeble performance.

Look Through Any Window

Much has been said already about the outcome of the terrible summer transfer window and there I was believing that we had poached a hot-shot head of recruitment from Everton. There are possibly one or two for the future in the assorted incomings but none has served ti improve the first team. The only silver lining is that common sense prevailed and that Zaza and Tore ended up as loan deals rather than parting with £30 million plus for theor services. Our stock in being able to attract players before the season would have been reasonably high but now, out of Europe and looking at a relegation battle, it is a much less attractive proposition for potential transfer targets. The worry is that we will need to shell out for short term fire-fighters to get out of a hole at the expense of continued squad improvement. It would be a big surprise to me if Payet is still at the club in January; maybe it would be a good time to cash-in (it’s what Arsenal would do) but the worry is that modern day Rigobert Songs and Titi Camaras would be the type of players bought with the proceeds.

Less Than the Sum of the Parts

We had played reasonably well on Sunday but then so poorly just a few days later. Same ground, same opposition, same formation and with only minor personnel changes. How does a team go from being organised and disciplined to amateur and shambolic in such a short space of time? Bad attitude or bad coaching? The 3 at the back formation was instigated to fix a particular defensive problem, had some initial success but is now looking very unconvincing when taking account of the players that we have at our disposal. It might have looked a good option for the defence but ignored what would happen in front of it. The system/ formation is not a good fit, players do not look comfortable with it and it does not allow some to perform to their strengths. A club that has such blatant gaps in its squad strength (right back and striker) in a multi-million pound industry raises some serious questions as to how it is governed.

Careful What You Wish For

We were careful what we wished for and got ourselves an ex-player as manager who performed commendably well in his first season even though it was characterised by over-performing against big clubs and under-performing against the others. Most of the goodwill earned, however, has dribbled away in the opening months of this campaign. On the evidence of the season to date the coaching staff do not score highly on the team’s motivation, discipline, fitness or organisation. Add to that some bizarre transfers, team selections and substitutions then the level of confidence in their ability is trending relentlessly downwards. Perhaps it is not yet time for hysteria but I’d be removing the glass from the panic button just in case.

Turning Down The Volume

The Owners have come in for a lot of stick about the shortcomings of bringing new players into the club. Personally, I don’t like the way that they appear to do so much of their business in public, giving it large in the press and on Twitter as to who the targets are and how much wedge is in our war chest. On the other hand I don’t think that it’s a case of money not being made available. For a club our size the net spend is significant in circumstances where we have had no big-money exits in many years.  If rumour is to be believed it was Sullivan who vetoed the straight transfers of Zaza and Tore which at least shows some good judgement. Overall I still believe that they have done a great job for the club, but wish they would do it more quietly.