The Green Shoots Of Recovery
Well the green shoots of recovery that were seen last Friday didn’t survive very long and it is back to the drawing board and back to square one for David Moyes and the Hammers. Once again the attitude of the players, particularly in the first half, has been rightly criticised. Tails should have been well and truly up from a good second period against Leicester and after witnessing Everton’s troubles at Southampton. Fast out of the blocks and putting their players under immediate pressure from the off was what was required. As it was the hosts were allowed to play themselves into the game as West Ham sat back and took it easy. Surely, that could not have been the team orders, could it? If we thought we were rid of one Everton bogeyman in Lukaku then Rooney was afforded every opportunity to replace him as West Ham’s nemesis. Why does it so often need a half time bollocking to get any response from our players? It is far too early to lay the blame on the new manager but how long can we wait for signs of improvement if the worst nightmare is not to become reality?
Line Up Conundrums
There were certainly reservations about the line-up. In the absence of Andy Carroll the decision to start with Andre Ayew as his replacement rather than Diafra Sakho was a strange one. Is Moyes falling in to the old West Ham manager trap of having a preferred list of players and selecting them in turn when an opening arises regardless of which position is vacant? Is it the lack of options that has bred complacency in the squad? Collectively the defence has looked weak all season and we continue not to provide enough defensive support from midfield. Right now we need at least two players in midfield whose priority is to defend. None of Obiang, Kouyate or Noble is good enough on their own and Kouyate seems to have a remit to get forward as much as possible increasing the fragility. The slow and ageing back-line needs far more support. Once again Joe Hart failed to impress and, if there was a chance to get back in the game at 2-0, it was scuppered by his dreadful attempt at a clearance that fell to Rooney’s feet. It is difficult to understand why Hart (especially as an on loan player) is preferred over Adrian.
The A Team
It has been apparent for some time that being the record signing at West Ham has resulted in little success for the players concerned. Andy, Andre and Arnie have all failed to impress in terms of both attitude and aptitude, and the winners in each of those deals has been the selling club. Their overall contribution has barely repaid the first instalments on the combined £50+ million transfer fees and whatever wages are involved. Player recruitment and the reliance on agents rather than scouting continues to blight the club. There was a welcome return to match-day action for that other A-man, Michail Antonio who is needed back at his sharpest and fittest without delay. Those of us around for the Roeder relegation season will remember the season’s oft-repeated lament of “if only Kanoute had scored that penalty against Arsenal”; if things continue as they are we might soon be hearing the regular refrain of “if only Antonio had taken the ball to the corner flag against Palace”.
There has been a lot of debate about the penalties awarded in the game yesterday. It seems quite difficult to articulate what the exact law is nowadays but, within the current interpretation of what is and isn’t a penalty, it was no surprise that both were given by Michael Oliver. The danger is that this interpretation is moving football even further towards being a non-contact sport, particularly anywhere in the area, which is to the ultimate detriment of the game.
Things look bad. The three games where points were meant to be available before the run of games against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal have yielded just the one point. The return of points on games played to date would give us only 27 points if projected to the end of the season. It may seem obvious but, when looking for the likeliest relegation candidates, the teams with the worst goal difference are always at greatest risk; evidence as it is of problems at both ends of the pitch. At the moment West Ham, Palace and Huddersfield have the weakest goal differences and with the prospect of a double figure defeat at the weekend it might get a lot worse. For those interested in the record books we are closing in on Everton’s current position as having lost the most Premier League games since its foundation. We are just three defeats behind despite having played four fewer seasons.