They’re Flying So High
Three consecutive wins and scoring three goals in each and the team being described as free scoring, maverick, weird and wonderful! It is like West Ham’s Marty McFly moment having traveled back in time to the unpredictable but entertaining days of Greenwood and Lyall. A cornucopia of silky skills, glorious goals, inconsistency, sloppy defending and nervously bitten nails. Periods of rampant, full throttle dominance interspersed, in the blink of an eye, with others of careless, lost concentration. In all probability it will not bring any greater success but after the dark days of the recent past, it is, at last, worth getting out of bed for on a chilly morning to brave the hazards of public transport. Welcome back West Ham! All of a sudden it is great to be a Hammer again with plenty of reasons to be cheerful.
Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 1
The central defensive partnership of Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena continues to look sound. In fact, they had little to bother them against Palace who lacked any out and out striker. There are concerns, given our vulnerability at set pieces, as to who is meant to be marking who, in that our shortest players are often assigned to deal with the greatest aerial threats. Nevertheless, Diop and Balbuena are developing into one of the best central defensive pairings since Alvin Martin and Tony Gale. The full-back positions remain a priority upgrade, but more likely in the summer than next month. Pablo Zabaleta shows tremendous commitment and is a truly great professional but his legs are not a long term solution. I love to see Arthur Masuaku when he gets forward (some delightful interchanges with Felipe Anderson on Saturday) but we know he is suspect defensively – although suggestions that he is single-handedly responsible for all goals conceded are entirely ludicrous. Following a succession of fine displays, Lucasz Fabianski is so solidly cemented in the number one shirt that there is never any debate as to whether there are other options.
Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 2
Looking at the defensive and central midfield area, the standout successes of the season so far have been the performances of Declan Rice and Robert Snodgrass. Both have surprised me and proved my initial judgements on them to be wildly wrong. I was sceptical that Rice could do an effective job in midfield – seeing him an emergency central defender conversion who might be able to provide protective cover but offer nothing creatively. He has proven to be a far more technical, adaptable and accomplished all-round player than I imagined – even if he was the cause of the failed offside trap for the opening Palace goal. There was one tackle in the first half that was outstanding. Snodgrass has been a revelation. He had never really been on my radar before signing for West Ham and his performances under Bilic were uninspiring to say the least. I fully expected him to return to what I assumed to be his more appropriate level, in the second tier, during the summer. But the new slimmer, fitter, faster Snoddy now fully deserves his starting place on merit and it was great to see him get on the scoresheet. Mark Noble has been a mixed bag for most of the season. The effort is still there but the legs are very heavy. There have been great passes but too many careless ones. This is the position I see and the number one priority if the club are going to spend in January.
Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3
As suspected the Little Pea/ Lucas Perez partnership lacked the necessary pizzazz. It was no surprise to see Andy Carroll appear after the break although the timing could equally have been due to the hole in Perez’s foot than as a tactical change. Although Carroll still looks too rusty to play for more than parts of a game, his presence certainly shook up Palace and gave them a more difficult problem to deal with. Felipe Anderson is now demonstrating what a super player he is. Far more involved, getting used to the pace and physical aspects of the English game and growing in confidence all of the time. An excellent performance topped off with an amazing goal – when he shaped up to shoot I wondered how he would manage to get it through the goalkeeper’s legs from there but I needn’t have worried. Chicharito remains an enigma. He does very little in the game apart from score but it is goals that win matches. At what point does the balance of goals scored outweigh the absence of team play contribution? A conundrum for Pellegrini to ponder! His goal on Saturday was a perfect example of the poacher’s goal and followed up with a perfect goal celebration. However, despite another three goal haul the return of Marko Arnautovic cannot come soon enough for me.
Having dragged ourselves up, albeit temporarily, into the top half and accumulated a points tally that would have been unthinkable at the start of September, we can now forget all about the situation at the foot of the table. I also get the impression that an excellent team spirit has been created in the squad and that it is a very together group of players. A tussle for sixth spot with Everton and Manchester United should at least be the new target – even if it will be a difficult one to achieve. The new found optimism has largely muted the long running criticism of the Board and the stadium – even though both may never be loved actually. Despite all the recent positivity there are still those who can’t help themselves but take to Twitter to slag off individual players. I suppose there have also been lunatics, the opinionated and even opinionated lunatics but in the past these voices were laughed at and lost in the crowd. Now the internet and social media gives them a limitless audience (just like me on here, really). The usual, possibly drunken insults are along the lines of ‘waste of space’, ‘stealing a living’, ‘get out of my club’ to whoever this weeks scapegoat is. Of course, everyone is entitled to an opinion but the degree of vitriol about the team you are meant to ‘support’ is difficult to fathom. And shame on the so-called fan pages who chase readership and advertising revenue by cutting and pasting to give oxygen to such inanities.