Just when we thought that football’s ability to surprise was a thing of the past, West Ham shrugged off the menacing dark clouds surrounding the London Stadium to register a remarkable and highly impressive victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers. Full credit goes to the players and manager(s) for lifting the gloom (at least for now) in the face of overwhelming adversity – what a difference a win makes!
As ever, there was going to be the usual debate. Was the win down to an excellent West Ham performance or a poor Wolves one? It’s impossible to answer but, for me, despite a number of fine individual performances, every West Ham player played their part in a superb effort. It was arguably the best we have seen for some years, scoring four times, preventing Wolves from getting into their stride playing and recording a rare clean sheet. Top half of the table and with a positive goal difference. From despondency to ecstasy in 90 short minutes – the erratic pursuit that is football supportership!
While we must wait until the weekend to learn whether it was the Wolves or the Newcastle performance that was the blip on the radar, we first have an EFL away tie with Everton to deal with. For the winner, it will be a place in the final eight, where the prospect of silverware suddenly becomes a little more realistic. A trip to an empty Wembley would be very West Ham. Both managers will be wanting to win tonight, but without risking fitness or injuries in this hectic schedule.
The Toffees have enjoyed a flawless start to the Premier League season and will be hoping to sit proudly on top of the pile come Saturday evening. In the previous round of this competition (against Fleetwood) Ancelotti selected five players who also started in the subsequent league game at Palace, including Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin. By comparison, Fabian Balbuena was the only Hammer who started against both Hull and Wolves.
How them might they approach tonight’s game? For the Hammers, further run-outs are probable for the likes of Sebastien Haller, Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko, Manuel Lanzini and Robert Snodgrass – plus we might also see one of Mark Noble or Jack Wilshere given an outing. More experience will be needed in defence, though, should Everton decide field their big guns once again. A much sterner test than that posed by Charlton or Hull.
With the game being played at a Premier League ground, it will come under the auspices of the dreaded VAR, and its ludicrous handball interpretations. Following the criticism received during its first year of operation, it was difficult to see how VAR could be made even worse, but somehow they have managed it. Rulings on handballs, offsides and penalties are now as much of a lottery (and as unfathomable) as offside decisions in rugby. Too many loose interpretations and all seemingly designed to help Manchester United, even after the game is finished. The next step might be setting up a VAR Cold Case Unit to investigate historic handball decisions against the Red Devils – any incidents resulting in the next match against offending opponents kicking off with a United penalty.
We must give credit where it’s due, so well done to Martin Atkinson for allowing Pablo Fornals quickly taken free kick on Sunday to stand in the lead up to the opening goal. A good example of advantage well played. On the other hand, I don’t understand why Tomas Soucek’s header was chalked up as an own goal. Surely, some mistake there!
Days go by and the transfer window deadline moves ever closer, and still it is all talk and no action. By now, we must have reached page 3 or 4 of the transfer target list. Even if the manager finds a players he wants, who is happy to come to east London, there is plenty of scope for the Board to scupper the deal by insisting on long, drawn out payment conditions – no deposit and nothing to pay for three years, as if they were buying a sofa.
Back to tonight’s game and it is very difficult to call without knowing the relative line-up strengths – who will take the gamble and who has the strongest second string to call upon. Goodison Park has never been a happy hunting ground, although West Ham have managed two wins from the last five visits.
The teams have met twice before in the League Cup, with Everton winning on both occasions – 2-0 at Goodison in a 1983 4th round replay; and 2-1 at the Boleyn in a 5th round tie in 2007. There will, of course, have to be a result tonight and maybe it will end up with a penalty shoot-out, just as it did in the memorable FA Cup tie in 2015. I wonder what Randolph is like from the spot?
After tonight the EFL Cup will take a break, returning in the week commencing 21 December for the quarter final ties. Will the name of West Ham United be unexpectedly in that hat?
7 thoughts on “Tales of the Unexpected: Wolves Sent Packing And A Route To An EFL Cup Quarter Final”
You’re deluded, you don’t become a good team with one win and wolves don’t become a bad team, it took us eight games last season for our first win and we have already done that.
Dissect your goals, first goal should have been disallowed due to the ball rolling at the free kick, second deflected straight to bowen were a blind person would have scored, third an own goal, fourth well our defence had gone home, you aren’t relegation favourites for nothing!
I’m not sure whether you actually read what I wrote or simply misunderstood it. On the day, West Ham were the better team – there was universal agreement on that in the media. Whether it was because West Ham happened to play very well, because Wolves had an off day or a combination of the two is open for debate. That is my point. There is no delusion that we are currently the better team.
Wolves were comprehensively beaten (no matter how you would like to explain the goals) but will in all probability finish higher in the league than West Ham come the end of the season.
Nice summing up Geoff. I just watched the highlights. Fornals was smart not to hit a rolling ball, but quick enough to take advantage. Bowen did well. Hard to tell about the opposition. Wolves were unrecognisable. We probably got lucky. Makes a change! 😉
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Yes, smart thinking by Fornals. And an excellent all round performance. Will be interesting to see what happens this weekend at Leicester
The team has won 6 out of the last 10 games played, scoring 28 goals in the process. It will be another rollercoaster ride but we do have some very good players, and I believe we’ll do better this time. Three at the back, as you write, worked well. Our use of substitutes generally makes no sense. Not so many points, I suspect, over the next few games, but things should pick up after that.
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A group of players who should be good enough to survive assuming no serious injuries to key players. Nowhere near where the club should be though given its potential
I guess you fulfil potential by first getting the basics right: at the moment there is no structure in sight. Hence inconsistency tending towards failure has become the GSB hallmark. But I do think we start the season a bit stronger than this time last year. I can see us finishing lower mid-table. Given the cheap stadium deal and last season at the Boleyn, this has been a spectacular failure to kick on. I don’t see how they take any pride or pleasure in what they have done. The only incentive I can see is a big pay day in April 2023….
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