Oh What A Terrible Game!
Dull, dire, dismal, ghastly, abysmal, boring, joyless, tedious: none of these words alone do justice as to how bad this game was as a spectacle; in what is supposed to be the world’s elite football league. In truth, I was expecting a poor game from two very direct sides lacking creativity and subtlety and, in that, it did not disappoint. West Ham were shockingly bad and West Brom were probably even worse. It was best summed up in a comment I read online at half time where someone suggested that they would take a point now if it meant not having to watch the second half. Entertainment it was not; and the fact that both teams are allowed to keep a point as a result seems a travesty. Possibly our brains do a good job of expunging the most dreadful games from memory with the passing of time; maybe there have been worse games in the past but none readily spring to mind. Even Fat Sam at his most unenterprising and point respecting pomp would find it difficult to top such a shabby display.
Selections and Substitutions
As predicted, Slaven Bilic opted for an unchanged team to start the game. There is some merit in the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ approach but not when it extends to ‘don’t fix it until it breaks,’ which is what will eventually happen. Optimists may point to a steadying of the ship with two consecutive clean sheets as proof of the wisdom of a move to three at the back; even if we did play against two teams who appeared to have little interest in trying to score. We will now stick stubbornly to this formation regardless until the next time that we ship four or five goals (e.g. against Spurs next week) and then it will be a return to a back four. There is no concept of setting up to counter the opposition, just a collection of players who have been assembled without any apparent thought as to how they will work together. When James Collins had to be replaced due to injury the obvious options would have been a straight replacement with Angelo Ogbonna or a switch to a back four. Instead Bilic elected to go for one of his baffling re-arrangements that saw Zabaleta move from right wing back to the left side of the back three and Michail Antonio (the only real attacking threat) withdrawn to wing back as his replacement. If confusion was the objective then it was certainly successful.
Slave Wants More From Wide Players
Having spent the best part of three transfer windows scouring the world for a proven goal-scorer, finally signing a supposed long term target with one of the best goals to minutes played records in Premier League history, agreeing to pay him well in excess of £100, 000 per week to secure his predatory fox-in-the-box skills, who in their right mind would then play him on the wing. To add insult to injury, Bilic then berates the wide players in his post-match press conference for not doing enough to win the game. The passing was woeful yesterday with Kouyate, Obiang and Cresswell particularly culpable but despite that our overall passing success rate was a creditable 86%; the reason being the preponderance of pointless passes in our own half. I can only assume that it is under instruction that the first instinct on receiving that ball is to go sideways or backwards rather than forwards; and what is it with the short free kicks in good positions that end up back with our own keeper when there is a perfect Andy Carroll head to aim for? With the team lacking pace and movement throughout the options for the man with the ball will remain limited. Where Cresswell was able to put in great crosses in the past by running into space created by Payet or Lanzini now he is attempting to do the same from a standing position in congested areas. Ponderous build up has successfully nullified our own threat.
That Obiang Shot
The forty-five yard shot from Pedro Obiang that hit the bar after he spotted Foster off his line was the one moment of class in the whole match. It didn’t really belong in this game at all such was the vision, quick thinking and execution; it would have been perverse had such an amazing goal won such an appalling game. According to the statistics there were only 15 shots in the entire match of which only one each side were on target.
That Foster Tackle
Aside from the Obiang shot, the only other incident worthy of note, and one that finally managed to stir the emotions of the West Ham players, was the tackle by Foster on Hernandez. Did it warrant a red card or not. It could have gone either way based on the precedents of last week’s refereeing decision and Tierney played it safe by not sending off the home keeper. It was all a touch unseemly to see the manager and players waving imaginary cards in a desperate attempt to gain an advantage. As soon as laws of the game got to be interpreted not based on an action in itself but took account of the surrounding circumstances or where on the pitch it occurred then you are always going to be left with a matter of opinion. What is consider dangerous, was a goal scoring opportunity denied or who is the last man mean? I blame Willie Young for all this but in attempting to eliminate the cynical challenge all that has been achieved is to move it further up the pitch, where ‘taking one for the team’ is now seen as something commendable.