A Flattering Scoreline or Spirited Fightback?
Yesterday’s game was nowhere near as close as the record books will show for eternity. After a cagey opening period Spurs, realising that there was to be no early West Ham onslaught, upped their game and, by the early part of the second half, had taken a commanding hold on the match . The visitors with a midweek European adventure on the horizon decided to ease up rather than go for the jugular in the way that Arsenal and Manchester city had previously done at the London Stadium. West Ham, to their credit, did not implode on this occasion despite heads appearing to have dropped at the time of the third goal. The two headed goals plus the sending off leading to a barnstorming finale that was out of character with the rest of the match. It was not that West Ham lacked spirit but they were very much second best in terms of quality and cohesion. Should the Hammers find the same desire (frustratingly reserved for matches against the north Londoners) in the coming run of fixtures then a reasonable haul of points might be expected. How can it be that the team is not ‘up for it’ every week?
Decide On A Shape and Stick With It
With the players available most were happy with the starting lineup and for the opening twenty minutes or so the team pressed and blocked well. On paper Spurs looked vulnerable in the centre of midfield where expensive misfit Sissoko filled in for the absent Wanyama and Dembele. Although the Hammers did little to exploit this weakness they were more than holding their own until the Michail Antonio injury. Antonio’s pace, power and stamina are one of West Ham’s greatest assets and he was always going to be missed but, even so, it was a baffling decision to replace him with Andy Carroll and to meddle with the shape of the side so early in the match, given that things were going reasonably well. It should be safe to assume that our preparation had been based around playing in a particular shape and style; to change it appeared, and was ultimately proved, to be foolish.
Individual Errors, Collective Disarray
When any goal is scored I guess you can always point to someone who could have done better to prevent it. Yet I believe that individual errors are far more costly when a side is poorly organised, where players are not firmly drilled in what is expected of them and where the need to cover for each other is not apparent. Giving the ball away cheaply is an all too common feature of our play and Carroll’s attempted pass, without looking, on the half way line led directly to the opening goal; as did his half-hearted challenge for the second one. On both occasions, however, Tottenham still had lots to do and it was disappointing that there was so much space for them to exploit and that a number of players were merely ambling back. In different circumstances it would be possible to admire how fast clinical Spurs were on the break; an ability that is in stark contrast to our own laboured efforts to turn defence into attack.
Arnie Is Back – To Being Moody
In what was probably our best move of the game, Mark Noble played an astute pass to Marko Arnautovic who powered past his marker only to be denied by what one commentator describe as ‘an absolutely brilliant tackle by Aurier’, when in fact the tackle was only possible due to the fact that the defender was tugging at Arnie’s shirt. Why this was not a foul and yet Alli’s blatant cheating dive in the build up to the third Spurs goal was, is anyone’s guess. Not that the officials can be blamed for our defeat and, despite claims at the time, there was no offside for either of the first two Tottenham goals. After his encouraging performance in midweek it was a disappointing show from Arnautovic who doesn’t look the type of player you can rely on to run his socks off each week. Sadly there are too many like that on show in the current team which continues to give the appearance of a group of strangers rather than a well oiled machine.
Dead Manager Walking
Almost everyone you talk to believes that it is only a matter of time before Slaven Bilic is replaced as West Ham manager. Maybe the mood in the boardroom is to allow him to see out his contract (whether this is out of loyalty or to save money, you can decide) although such procrastination is a dangerous game, as we know only too well from the Avram Grant experience. As I have mentioned before, I see no scenario where Bilic is still manager at the start of the 2018/19 season. Everyone must know that including himself, the coaching staff, players and the tea lady. It must produce a completely negative and toxic atmosphere around the club. It is not impossible that the team could muddle along and collect enough points here and there to survive but it is not going to be pretty to watch. The ongoing concern is that with over two years under his belt we are no nearer seeing any emerging direction or style from Slaven. Although I have no knowledge of who the potential available replacements might be I still see little justification for putting off the inevitable any longer.