In Search Of The Best Eleven
Manuel Pellegrini was quoted after match as saying that “we need to find what the best team is in this moment”. I think many of us could have told him before the game that the one he picked wasn’t it. Every manager deserves a honeymoon period while they instil new ideas and philosophy but, at the current trajectory, Pelligrini’s reign could rival that of Frank De Boer. I am all for a manager having a belief in and commitment to a style of play, and then bringing in players to fit that system, particularly if there is a willingness to entertain as part of that philosophy. Right now, though, it looks like some pragmatism might be required – he cannot re-create Manchester City with the players at his disposal any more than a Formula 1 team can build a new car from spare parts they picked up in Halfords. The optimism from an encouraging pre-season is currently looking sorely misplaced. It might take a while for players to really get to know each other but, in the meantime, they should still be working and fighting for a common cause. Fitness and energy levels appear well below what is required.
The Home Guard
By the end of the game yesterday, Jack Wilshere was the sole UK representative on the pitch for West Ham – compared to Bournemouth’s nine. OK, so we started with three but Mark Noble and Robert Snodgrass would be nowhere near that starting eleven if I was picking it. Overseas players have brought bags full of flair to the English game and it is fair to say that the majority of the real stand-out players in the Premier League are foreigners. Overall, the foreign invasion has been a good thing but having so few British players in your team is a mistake, both for identity and for the grit, hunger and determination of what it takes to compete in this league. For such an international bunch of players it would be nice to see a little more ‘free movement’ out on the pitch. Perhaps it is no surprise, given the make up of the backroom staff, where the recruitment focus lies and that we have been unable to scout home grown talent from the lower leagues – such as David Brooks who was a thorn in the Hammer’s side all afternoon.
A Question of Trust
Another Pellegrini comment was that the players had a lack of trust and were too concerned with protecting their first half lead; as if it was the typical game of two halves. I didn’t really see it like that. Although West Ham bossed possession in the first period, they were far from convincing, and created little aside from the disputed penalty. Bournemouth still had the better chances and might easily have had a penalty of their own. As with many of our opponents over the past few seasons it was the visitors who upped their game after the break when it was clear that the game was there for the taking. I know it sounds like a broken record but central midfield was once again too weak and too open. Also, if you are going to play four at the back then the wide midfield men need to do a lot more tracking back. Unless Felipe Anderson can be shaken out of his jogging back mode he is going to end up as an expensive flop. Even going forward he hasn’t shown the pace to go past any competent defenders, and apart from a few good passes he was largely anonymous. I wonder what Pedro Obiang has done to piss off successive managers?
As much as you have to give Callum Wilson credit for the Bournemouth equaliser it was assisted generously by Keystone Cops defending at its best. Noble floundering, Fabian Balbuena’s powder puff challenge, Pablo Zabaleta needless dive-in and weetabix goalkeeping from Lukasz Fabianski. It was the type of goal you might see over the park on a Sunday morning when most of the players are nursing hangovers – it has no place at the top of the professional game.
Running Away From Danger, Angelo
For 95% of the time, Angelo Ogbonna has the air of our best defender when suddenly there is an operating system malfunction and he enters standby mode. For the second goal he should easily have dealt with the initial danger but instead ending up fouling his opponent; which he compounded by trying only to impede the scorer from the resulting kick rather than looking to clear the ball. I am of the firm belief that the manager needs to consider three at the back to create some degree of stability. There were so few positives once again. Fabianski made some smart saves; Wilshere looks like he could eventually bring a new dimension to our forward play; and Andriy Yarmolenko looked lively once again during his brief spell on the pitch (why didn’t he start?) Other than that it was much like any other typical slow, ponderous and predictable performance that we have come to expect over recent years.