Hammer House of Horror
Once again West Ham were accommodating hosts to a team looking to end of dismal sequence of results. Leicester got their first away league win of the season and maintained their record of not losing points from a winning position; West Ham maintained their average 2 goals per home game against the Foxes. The second half performance was possibly one of the best 45 minutes of the campaign. Such a shame, then, that the first half was down there with one of the worst. Has there been a consistent positive showing over a full 90 minutes this season; home or away? The opening 10 minute period was abysmal. Cresswell’s reluctance to stay close to Mahrez was negligent but Randolph’s attempt to save was awful. Time to rotate the gloves again, I think, and give Adrian another run. The defending for the second goal was collectively appalling; a total lack of organisation allowing Huth and a couple of his colleagues all the space they could ever want at the far post.
Is There Even a Plan A?
Many fans got the starting eleven that they wanted with Byram in at right back, Ayew in for Feghouli and Kouyate partnering Obiang in central midfield. Unfortunately while introductions were still being made we were two goals down and Reid was lost to injury. The relative roles of Lanzini, Antonio, Ayew (and later Snodgrass) was never really obvious to me. Maybe Bilic has a vision somewhere in his head of a fluid retro ‘totaalvoetbal’ approach but the players either don’t understand it or are unable to execute it. Antonio occasionally gave the impression of being the left sided midfield player but only for brief spells, otherwise it was a no-wide-man-zone. Leicester had a shape and game plan which they stuck to throughout whereas West Ham’s organisation was close to anarchy, particularly in the first half. Sometimes I wonder whether the team talk goes beyond fist bumping. The thinness of our squad was also apparent by a comparison of the two benches. Leicester had Slimani, Musa and Gray to call on as attacking options, West Ham had Snodgrass.
West Ham ended the day with injuries to Reid and Obiang both of which looked bad by anyone’s standards but judging by West Ham experience look like at least 6 weeks out . Antonio also picked up an injury that will keep him out of the England squad and the opportunity of a first cap. Reid and Obiang have been two of our best performers this season but neither had great games yesterday before going off. Like most I expected Ginge to be the like-for-like replacement for Reid but moving Kouyate back was probably the right decision in the circumstances with Vardy’s pace to cope with. No arguments either with Fernandes on for Obiang. Although he is not a holding midfielder Fernandes give the impression of an accomplished and intelligent player always looking to do something meaningful with the ball rather than simply playing it to the nearest teammate. His introduction did coincide with Leicester tiring but nonetheless was still an encouraging performance.
Holding on to The Jewel
Having gone two goals down we didn’t really threaten until Lanzini conjured up a little free-kick magic in the 20th minute. For a while it looked like a lifeline that we could turn to our advantage but hope was dashed by the third Leicester goal. Carroll, normally one of our most reliable defenders at corners, completely missing the ball with is head and Vardy scoring a poachers goal in the ensuing scramble; something our own strikers were unable to emulate later in the game. Lanzini has emerged from the shadows to become a quality creative force in midfield; always positive, looking to go in the right direction and posing problems for opposition defences. Very quickly he has risen to the status of far too good for a team in lower-mid table and it would be no surprise if someone came in to steal The Jewel in the summer.
How did they do?
Ayew scored his 4th goal in seven games when he nodded home West Ham’s second yesterday but his performance will be best remembered for the shocking miss late on from Antonio’s pass. With the whole goal at his mercy and the keeper stranded he inexplicably went for power and blasted over the top. I would have to think very hard to remember an easier chance being squandered; Carroll came close in added time but you have to give Schmeichel much of the credit to for that one. Despite the goals I am still to be convinced as to what Ayew brings to the team with his all round game. He is another with the inclination to play one touch lay-offs/ passes much of the time rather than getting involved in build up play. While Ayew, glaring miss apart, did OK, Snodgrass was a big disappointment. Played on the right because he doesn’t have the pace to go round the full-back, he continually abdicated responsibility to Byram to get a cross in. Byram himself had a decent game and must surely have warranted a run at right back to prove himself. Fernandes should also be given more opportunity than the usual 5 minutes at the end to show what he can do. There was also an encouraging cameo from Masuaku which could allow the under-performing Cresswell to pack his suitcase and join Noble at the seaside for a few weeks.
Ratings: Randolph (4), Byram (7), Reid (5), Fonte (5), Cresswell (5), Kouyate (5), Obiang (5), Ayew (6), Lanzini (8), Antonio (7), Carroll(6) Subs: Snodgrass (4), Fernandes (6), Masuaku (6)