Wish You Were Here
So that is 1 point out of a possible 9 since the warm weather jaunt to Dubai where the boys apparently worked on their defending as well as getting involved in a spot of team bonding. The value of these trips in the past has always seemed rather dubious but this time around there should be some serious questions asked judging by the results, performances and defensive displays since the return. An all-expenses paid holiday as a reward for getting knocked out of the cup early is a really strange one.
The Insanity of Slaven?
It is said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a sign of insanity. If that is the case then perhaps our manager is a raving lunatic! He may well be cool, know West Ham (whatever that means), have a good sense of humour and be the sort of bloke you could imagine going down the pub with but a deep thinking manager he is not. Last season he introduced some much needed flair to the team; a refreshing change to Fat Sam’s attritional style of play but which exploited Allardyce’s organisation legacy to secure some excellent results particularly against top 6 sides. This year not only the swagger has gone and also the organisation. I can understand how a side can be a work in progress but right now it is difficult to see which direction we are meant to be heading in. Tactics, selection, recruitment and organisation are all over the place with no discernible style or strategy . This is not he astute full of ideas younger manager that I thought we were getting. The last time he did something innovative was to play Reece Oxford against Arsenal in the first game of last season. Maybe he is an upgrade on Allardyce but he is no Pochettino or Koeman. Sorry to say but we need better. Early cup exits and a bottom half finish would be a relatively disastrous season. Yesterday we were very lucky to come away without a substantial hammering.
Mark Noble has served West Ham well in his 10 plus years at the club. On MOTD yesterday Motty posed the question “what price loyalty?” when observing that Noble had made close to 400 appearances for the club but had recently been criticised by fans on social media. There is, of course, no connection between the two facts. Noble like any other player should not be in the team if he is not performing well enough. What he may or may not have done in the past is purely sentiment and not a justification for selection. All careers come to an end. Unfortunately Noble slows everything down due to both a lack of pace and slowness of thought. His first instinct is to play a first time short pass backwards or sideways as if it were an extended game of one-touch. The game is played at speed these days and you need to be an exceptional talent to survive without pace all around the pitch. That we have several other plodders in the team only makes matters worse. I admire loyalty up to a point but he has make a good living at West Ham and I doubt that any bigger club has ever come courting; Palace or Stoke perhaps. Bilic says his role as captain is vital to the team and that he gees things up when things are not going well. Is that really enough? Perhaps he can come good again but right now I don’t understand how he keeps making the starting team-sheet.
Right Back Where We Started
The right back situation is a farce. Who next after Antonio and Kouyate? Why not give Adrian a try? Or how about giving Sam Byram a decent run; an actual right back who defends at least as well as Cresswell and can also offer something going forward. For reasons best known to the manager he would rather play others out of position than employ a specialist. Is it to give his favourites a game or simply stubbornness because Byram was not his transfer pick? Some say that Bilic will have better knowledge because he sees the players in training every day but this is the same manager who didn’t really fancy Antonio and Obiang; arguably our best two players now. In his post match Bilic was suggesting that Byram was at fault for the third goal but in reality it was Ayew who screwed up. A case of getting his justification for next week’s selection in early?
The Deadwood Stage
There is a cycle at West Ham. The squad is littered with dead-wood, jobbing footballers. Every now and then there is a clear out with cut-price transfers and contracts paid up only to fill the space created with more of the same bench warmers. It is just like the process of clearing out your attic. Look at the January transfer for example. What was the point on spending the best part of £20 million on Fonte and Snodgrass when we could have made do until the summer with Collins and Feghouli/ Ayew? Neither are bad players but both have their best days behind them. The absence of a long term transfer strategy worries me. The names that we are being linked with (while many may be pure rumours) make me shudder. Players such as Sagna or Zabaletta at the end of their useful careers and looking for a final payday. Or even worse the woeful Benteke. Scouting needs to go up several notches to focus on hungry young talent. It is no point pretending to compete for established players who will in all probability end up at Champion’s League clubs and then being forced to do your shopping from the bargain basement.