Fatal Helicopter Crash
Ultimately, what happened on the football pitch was understandably overshadowed by the shocking helicopter crash that occurred an hour after the end of the game. A sad and terrible tragedy for those involved, their families and friends. An element of fortune, perhaps, that there were no further casualties among those on the ground.
A Captain’s Tale
The pivotal moment in the game was the needless Mark Noble red card at a time when West Ham seemed to be in full control of proceedings. Difficult to argue against the referee’s interpretation of the laws except from the perspective that inconsistency by officials does sometimes leads to leniency. I am certain that there was no malice involved in the tackle but then that is invariably the case in such situations; it makes it no less dangerous and that is the criteria like it or not. It was a reckless lunge and an out of control tackle, and the captain should have known better. To attempt it at that stage of the game in that area of the pitch was foolish – particularly as his tackles get a little bit later with each passing week. Noble’s best days are some way behind him but his contribution is till required given the length of the injury list and the absence of fit alternatives. It is impossible to know whether it would have been three valuable points gained had he stayed on his feet (and on the pitch) but the odds of it would have been greatly increased.
How to play when reduced to ten men is always a challenge. In the end the tactic was to hang on for dear life by getting as many people behind the ball as possible and defending deep. It was still quite surprising how much room Leicester were allowed, particularly down the flanks. However, the defence was remarkably resolute and well organised managing to lure opposition forwards into offside positions on multiple occasions. Aside from some early dodgy moments dealing with crosses Fabianski, once again, pulled off some smart saves. I had little confidence that the Hammers could repel the Leicester siege for the entire second half but, as I was starting to think it might just happen, the cruellest of luck intervened. The latest in a long line of desperate long range shots, this time from Ndidi, was destined for obscurity until it pinged off the backside of a Hammers defender and deflected into the empty net. Defeat (two points anyway) was snatched form the arse of victory.
Little Pea Fritters Away His Chance
In the absence of sick Marko Arnautovic there was a chance for Javier Hernandez to show what he was made of leading the attack. Sadly, he just reinforced the view that his style of play is a relic of distant age – before football required every player to contribute both on and off the ball. It might well be the case that he is the most gifted natural finisher in the squad but he remains a luxury that the team cannot afford – and we might already have one of those in Felipe Anderson. This reliance on Arnautovic and the lack of any real striking alternatives conjures wistful thoughts about the return of Big Andy – an event that is rumoured to be any day now, it offers a glimmer of hope even though experience suggests it will once more end in disappointment. Maybe Angelo Ogbonna was making his case for an attacking start, demonstrating that he can spurn chances as proficiently as any of our strikers. He could easily have had two goals in his brief ten minute cameo. Any commentator writing off Ogbonna’s last minute effort as a defender’s finish surely hasn’t ever watched West Ham strikers over the years.
The Three Amigos
As in so many of our games this season, the shining lights were the defensive minded trio of Declan Rice, Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena (in no particular order). Great to see ‘The General’ get his name on the score-sheet – what an honest, wholehearted player he is and what a snip in the transfer market. Rice and Diop show immense maturity, and no shortage of technique, skill and application, for such young players. It would be nice to think that we could be watching them in claret and blue for years to come but it is probably wishful thinking, and we should make the most of them while we can. With a quarter of the season now gone it is a three horse race for Hammer Of The Year!