A Little Organisation At Last
Let’s face it this was not the greatest game of football to grace the Premier League this season. However, it was a welcome point, when most (including me) felt that a convincing defeat was on the cards, and it was a much more disciplined and organised performance than most we have witnessed. There is a temptation to put the performance in the context that Everton were very poor on the day but a large part of football is preventing the opposition from playing to their strengths. For once, and possibly the first time this season, West Ham were effective at doing this and by neutralising the threats of Lukaku and Barkley they were able to protect the point quite comfortably.
Defending as a Unit
I am pleased that Slaven took my pre-match advice by playing with a back three, moving Fernandes to wing back and pairing Nordtveit and Kouyate in central midfield. The tendency is to always associate leaking goals with poor defenders, but that is only a part of the problem, and good sides both attack and defend as a team. The defence is not just three or four players but six or seven; plus the goalkeeper. Although all three of the central defenders acquitted themselves very well, the clean sheet also owed much to the efforts of the defensive midfield players. That it has taken so long to realise the importance of this nugget of football wisdom is baffling, but let’s hope that the penny has finally dropped for the games to come. Many observers singled out James Collins for particular praise and, as well as he performed, he was lucky to get away with the shirt pulling late in the game that could so easily have resulted in a penalty.
Wet Flannel Attack
For all the organisational positives, the creative and striking frailties within the team were still apparent. There were some signs of life, mostly in the second half, where delightful approach work was let down by a poor final ball or poor decision making. Lanzini showed some excellent touches but he needs better movement around him to provide more options. The persistence with Calleri is unfathomable. Surely there cannot be any intention of keeping him at the end of the loan so why bother? He has nothing more to offer than Fletcher and it would seem far more sensible to give our own player to show what he has. At least Sakho got half an hour without getting injured and hopefully he will be in the starting eleven next week.
I was pleased to see Adrian back between the posts. He is the best keeper we have by some distance even if he will always be prone to the occasional error. He presents a much more commanding figure in the area than Randolph. Apart from the early calamity when receiving the Fernandes throw-in he didn’t really have much work to do but I suspect the defence were more relaxed with Adrian behind them. Fine performances too from Arthur and Nordtveit. Arthur has amazingly quick feet for a defender and the wing back role suits him perfectly. You wonder if he might not be a little too laid back for sterner defensive duties but I do like watching him play. Nordtveit’s performance was a big surprise based on the evidence of previous performances, even if those were mainly out of position. He grew into the game and by the second half appeared to have picked up both speed and strength. Deserves to keep his place.
Sigh of Relief
Something of a reprieve for the manager to get the point with such a depleted squad. With both Hull and Swansea winning the point adds a little more reassurance in the absence of mathematical certainty. We didn’t have to endure Feghouli or Snodgrass at any time either which was a further bonus. I guess that we knew that Holland, Rice and Makasi were only on the bench to make up the numbers but bringing on Cresswell to play right wing back still seemed to be an odd choice. In the end it didn’t matter and we were able to go home and to our beds with calmness if not elation.