I Can Take The Despair, It’s The Hope I Can’t Stand
We wanted a return to the West Ham Way and that is what we’ve got. Periods of exciting, free-flowing football, purple patches of form and heightened expectations – only for it all to come tumbling down just as a tantalising glimpse of glory is beckoning. In reality, the return from the December fixture list is more than acceptable and the club appears to be in much better shape than it has been for some time. That hardly softens the blow, though, of what was a massive disappointment in Sunday’s performance. That the final score wasn’t by a margin of five or six goals in the host’s favour was due to the Clarets wayward finishing rather than the efforts of the Hammer’s defence. At the other end the threat was so lame that even Joe Hart could have kept a clean sheet.
They Don’t Like It Up ‘Em
Various mitigating circumstances have been put forward to explain the inadequacies of West Ham’s performance: the lengthy injury list; a day less to recover than Burnley since their previous matches; and travel difficulties associated with the timing of the return flight (!) from Southampton. Had the Hammers began proceedings with a fighting display, but faded in the last half hour, then a claim of tiredness could be more acceptable. The fact of the matter was that West Ham were never at the races and gave the impression that in the aftermath of the hosts capitulation to Everton, they only had to turn up in order to snaffle the points. As with the Watford game, Burnley bullied the Hammers out of it. The Clarets were superior all over the pitch as our boys were out-thought, out-fought and out-played. It must be a worry that many other teams will come to realise that the way to beat West Ham is to rough them up a bit. Something I haven’t seen mentioned is that perhaps it was the light grey 3rd kit that was to blame – making our players invisible to each other as it had done for Ferguson’s Manchester United back in 1995.
Manuel Pellegrini made two changes from the team that started against Southampton. Mark Noble replaced Pedro Obiang in the centre of midfield and Marko Arnautovic returned in attack in place of Grady Diangana. The return of Arnie was eagerly anticipated although, with his most effective work done as a lone striker, would he struggled to adapt to a role alongside Lucas Perez? The Noble for Obiang switch came as a surprise. With Pablo Zabaleta still absent through illness, Obiang would have been a more solid option and better suited to supporting stand-in right back, Michail Antonio – as he had at St Mary’s. At least, we managed to fill all the seats on the bench this time.
Past Performance and Future Success
With the exception of Declan Rice and Lucasz Fabianski few came out of the game with any credit. Perez, Noble and Angelo Ogbonna were particularly poor with Noble even trying a repeat of the tackle that got him a red card at Leicester. Robert Snodgrass looked totally spent while Felipe Anderson rarely got a kick under the close supervision of the Burnley defence. Antonio had some decent moments going forward in the second half but Cresswell was mostly anonymous. Ogbonna had one of those games where his attention is mysteriously elsewhere and that lack of focus also crept into Issa Diop’s display. Arnie was off-the-pace and possibly a start came too early for him. The net effect was that, despite plenty of the ball, there were few cohesive passing movements, no penetration and minimal goal threat. At the other end Burnley opened up the Hammer’s defence at will. Of the substitutes: Diangana showed enterprise during the brief period of the game where West Ham applied late pressure; Andy Carroll did at least test the Burnley keeper with one header; and debutant Xande Silva also had a decent attempt on goal.
Looking Through The Transfer Window
The majority of the long term injured will not make any contribution to the remainder of this season and so, with the January transfer window about to open, it will be telling whether any new recruits make their way to the London Stadium. With the manager wanting to play a passing game, attack with pace and defend narrow and high, there are several pieces of the jigsaw that are missing. The team is badly deficient in central midfield where no-one has the necessary pace, vision and passing range to orchestrate play. Better alternatives at full-back and other mobile striker options are also needed. The recruitment of Samir Nasri seems to be a done deal but will there be any more than that? Will it be a case of muddle through to the summer with what you’ve got, or will there be further recruitment to push-on during the second half of the season? The conundrum is that if the season fizzles out then some of the better players will start to look elsewhere. Contracts really are no guarantee once a players head is turned.