I’m still not sure what to make of that performance against Kidderminster Harriers. How could a non-League side pass better, be more confident on the ball and have more ideas than a highly paid team from the Premier League’s top six? Was it just a case of poor attitude on the day against very committed opponents? Or are the Hammers reverting to type? If David Moyes had ordered a slice of luck before the game, he got a far larger portion than was deserved.
The first half was possibly the worst 45 minutes from West Ham for several years. I don’t recall any meaningful chances being created. It was a collective failure by all the players to impose themselves and their supposed superiority on the game. The performance of fringe players was a clear reminder of just how thin the squad is. Mark Noble was pedestrian and played far too deep; Nikola Vlasic was so anonymous it was easy to forget he was on the pitch; Andriy Yarmolenko was lethargic and disinterested throughout the whole two hours; Alex Kral was obsessed with playing first time passes without ever looking up; Issa Diop looked terrified of the opposition Number 9, while he and Ryan Fredericks looked like rabbits startled by the headlights each time the ball came to their feet. Neither did Alphone Areola do himself any favours in his quest to claim the Number 1 spot.
Incredible to think that the likes of Yarmolenko (106 caps), Vlasic (33) and Kral (29) are seasoned international players. This was the type of game they (as well as Said Benrahma) should be taking by the scruff of the neck and demonstrating their class. And whose daft idea was the short corner routine?
It was only the introduction of Declan Rice that eventually raised the tempo above comatose. What a poor side we look without him. Not a reassuring glimpse of a post Decxit future. We can’t always expect him to do all it by himself, even if he will try to. What a player! Surely, one of the best ever and an automatic choice in everyone’s all-time West Ham XI.
It was a heart-breaking way for Kidderminster to lose. They didn’t deserve to lose at all, and the timing of the goals must have been particularly distressing. Still the Hammers live to fight another round, although I am not confident on the chances of overcoming our next opponents. Maybe every cup run deserves a stroke of luck somewhere along the way. We may already have used ours up.
It’s back to league action tonight with Watford the visitors to the London Stadium. A quick re-match to follow on from the Hammers 4-1 win at Vicarage Road five weeks ago. Five weeks is a long time at Watford Football Club though and in that time they have swapped one ageing manager for another – Roy Hodgson replacing Claudio Ranieri. They have a very different concept of Manager of the Month in the Hornet’s boardroom.
Hodgson seems an odd choice to me. No doubt his team will be better organised and more difficult to beat than the shambles put out by Ranieri, but that may not be enough. The relegation race still looks like a four-horse race to me – Burnley, Newcastle, Watford, and Norwich – and the one that gets away will be the one able to score enough goals to win games. Difficult to imagine Hodgson’s Watford doing that.
As amusing as it would be, I can’t see Lampard Jr’s side getting dragged into the equation. Having crunched the numbers through the algorithm with my AI Predictor Pin TM I suspect it will be big spending Newcastle who will survive the drop.
Watford survived a drab goalless draw with fellow strugglers Burnley at the weekend and I doubt they will turn up tonight with entertainment on their minds. They are able to welcome Dennis back from suspension but are again without Sarr who has yet to return from AFCON.
Just as we were about to celebrate Kurt Zouma’s recovery from his worrying injury at the weekend, the dreadful story broke of his cat kicking exploits. Why anyone would do that is impossible to understand. Why they would also want it to be filmed for posterity is staggering. Zouma has made what passes for an apology these days – sorry I was caught out or sorry you were upset – but I would be surprised if he is included in today’s squad. His absence would have a huge impact, but the club need to make a stand for decency, even if it means playing Diop again.
Moyes will know he doesn’t have many options in team selection. His decision making will be limited to Coufal or Johnson at right back and which two of Benrahma, Pablo Fornals, and Manuel Lanzini joins Jarrod Bowen in the attacking midfield three. All that supposes Michail Antonio is fit and ready to resume the striker role. Bowen is not a viable alternative and his use there just weakens the team in two positions.
Predicted team: Fabianski, Coufal, Dawson, Diop, Cresswell, Rice, Soucek, Bowen, Fornals, Benrahma, Antonio
West Ham need to quickly get back to winning ways in the league if they are to build on an excellent first half of the season. A home fixture against Watford would have seemed straightforward some weeks ago. But to win they will need to break down what will be a determined and committed Watford rear-guard action. Unfortunately, there is scant recent evidence the Hammers are capable of this. Apart from the skipper, creativity and ideas are in very short supply. Could a set piece once again be our best opportunity? Not if they persist with short corners, it won’t!
It’s a half-hearted uncertain prediction, this time around, but I will go West Ham to win 2-0. COYI!