A Road To Nowhere
How to sum up that performance: abject, disgraceful, wretched, miserable, hopeless, pathetic, pitiful, sorry, woeful, atrocious, appalling, the west-ham-way? It was a carry over from the Palace game – only far worse. I would hate to think what might have happened had they not had the extra week to prepare and work things out. On the evidence of these last two games this is a bottom half of the table squad. A benign set of opening fixtures mixed with good fortune had provided a warped impression of the Hammer’s qualities – but gravity has returned them to a more realistic next level. The manager had a stinker and few players came away with any credit. Roberto made some smart saves, although he should have done better for the first goal. Declan Rice showed early energy but even he was waving the white flag by the end. Issa Diop was the one player seemingly up for the physical challenge. Sebastien Haller worked manfully as a one-man attack. The rest ranged from anonymous to useless and should feel mightily embarrassed at what transpired over the ninety minutes.
It’s Now A Pellegrini Team
Several months into his second season in charge and this is now definitely Manuel Pellegrini’s team. He has had three transfer windows to freshen up the squad, plenty of time to assess strengths and weaknesses and run the rule over the academy players. I am ambivalent towards the owners but am aware that many die-hard board haters continue to pin the blame on the two Daves. Perhaps they could have dug deeper into their pockets but any manager knows he has work within the budget available – and optimising what is available is what good managers are paid for . Effective teams are a combination of talent, physical attributes, organisation and motivation. On paper, the talent is there (even if not in depth) but you have to question the whereabouts of the other components. Where is the motivation and desire to win? At this level, a team should never be soundly beaten simply because the opposition has a greater desire to win. Was it a surprise that Everton came out battling and on the front foot? Had there not been any preparation? Pellegrini may have been justified in lambasting the players but he needs to have a long hard look at his own part in the proceedings. Expecting players to express themselves may be a good thing – ignoring the detailed planning is not.
The Slowest Team In Town
West Ham have to be the slowest team in the Premier League. Perhaps someone from the home camp had snuck into the Hummer’s dressing room before the match and spread extra sticky toffee on their boots. Not just that there are few players with genuine individual pace but there is a collective inability to move the ball quickly, create space, switch play and pressure opponents when possession is lost. There is no intensity in our play. When possession is won it generally takes three or four backwards and sideways passes before even considering engaging a forward gear. We get sucked into playing in congested triangles and seem reluctant to use the full width of the pitch. There is no-one pulling the strings in midfield. When balls are finally played forward it is far too easy (Haller apart) for opponents to physically dominate against the lightweight midfield operatives – none of whom are anywhere near close enough to Haller. A patient build up is fine in practice but without pace, movement and guile you end up, as on Saturday, with hardly a touch in the opposition box.
Off The Ball
Out of possession we are equally weak. No pressing and no getting back in numbers. There is a slow retreat and that is happy to concede acres of space in the midfield. Walcott was given so much room he could have been mistaken for Messi. I think I heard that Roberto had made more saves in the game than any other keeper in any Premier League match this season. It is no surprise. The score remained at 1-0 for so long, not because of the efforts of West Ham, but due to the lack of composure in front of goal by Everton. There could have been no complaints if the match had finished four or five to nil.
Big Changes Needed
Saturday’s game was like watching a re-run of the game at Burnley last season. A team on a bad run who had been galvanised into action against an always accommodating West Ham side. Early domination of possession, an apparently disinterested and unmotivated opponent and freedom of the park bred confidence – and from then on it was one-way traffic. Despite the brightish start to the season the warning signs have been apparent for some time – although these had been buried beneath encouraging results. The team did acquit themselves well for large parts of the games against Manchester United and Norwich – but otherwise performances had not been convincing. The concerns that I had mentioned pre-match – lack of passion, leadership, cohesion and penetration were all worryingly apparent. Significant improvement is now essential, or else it will be yet another season going through the motions towards a (lower) mid-table finish. As things stand there are few obvious signs of sustained team building taking place. I don’t expect West Ham to win every game but I do expect to see a team that knows what it is supposed to be doing – and does it with 100% commitment.
Ratings: Roberto (5), Fredericks (4), Ogbonna (4), Diop (7), Masuaku (4), Rice (5), Noble (3), Anderson (3), Fornals (4), Lanzini (4), Haller (5). Subs: Yarmolenko (4), Wilshere (4), Ajeti (4)