We certainly didn’t hope to be at the bottom of the Premier League table after three games with no points and no goals, the only team in the top flight with that unenviable record. An opening day fixture against champions Manchester City was always likely to end in defeat despite our excellent 2-2 draw with them at the tail end of last season. In reality, despite the massive City possession statistics, new signing Erling Haaland was the real difference between the teams. Without his contribution we might have held on for another draw.
The second game at newly-promoted Forest was always going to be more difficult than many might have expected. We didn’t play particularly well but, in my opinion we were extremely unlucky not to win the game. Twice hitting the underside of the bar only to see the ball bounce down on the goal-line, a poor penalty miss inexplicably taken by our captain when surely there are better penalty takers in the team, and a goal chalked off after VAR had intervened suggesting that Antonio had impeded the defender (when surely it was the other way round?), were compounded with a Forest goal a result of poor defending, lucky bounce off the knee, and an inability to retrieve the situation in the second half.
And for some reason we just cannot beat Brighton. This was our eleventh attempt at doing so since they were promoted to the Premier League, but poor defending gifted them two goals and we were unable to break them down. When we did their keeper was good enough to repel our efforts. The Seagulls are a team that are underestimated by many and have developed into quite a force in the top flight. In Graham Potter I think they have one of the best managers around.
Perhaps injuries and poor fitness of some players, especially central defenders has contributed to our current plight? Perhaps trying to integrate new players into the squad is a factor? We continue to make signings that look very good on paper but it does take time for new players to bed in at a club. To be fair the new acquisitions have not really been in the team, or certainly the starting eleven in the league games to date. Perhaps it is continuing to select players who were not performing too well in the latter part of last season? Perhaps it is the reluctance to introduce substitutes until much later in the game than many fans would like to see to enable them to have a positive influence on the games? Perhaps too many players are just out of form? Perhaps a mixture of all of those factors plus others? Whatever the reasons we haven’t made the start to the new season that we would hope for.
Everybody has opinions, but the manager is the one whose job depends on making the right decisions. I have my reservations about some of the ones he makes, but two seasons of sixth / seventh place finishes after taking over at the club in a perilous position facing relegation, and qualification and (almost) success in Europe, should not be discounted because of three games. There’s a long way to go. If I remember correctly Pellegrini was manager when we lost the first four games a few seasons back and we still finished tenth in that campaign.
Given the fluidity of positions on a football pitch in modern times it is difficult to categorise players but forgive me and humour me in attempting to do so with our current squad. I’ll highlight 23 and for the purposes of this I’ll ignore our up and coming prospects such as Ashby, although I hope that the manager does not continue to ignore them. By my reckoning we have 3 international goalkeepers (Fabianski, Areola, Randolph) and now 7 international defenders (Cresswell, Zouma, Coufal, Ogbonna, Kehrer, Aguerd, Palmieri). We have 4 international midfielders (Fornals, Lanzini, Soucek, Rice) and 5 forwards with full international caps (Scamacca, Antonio, Cornet, Bowen, Benrahma). By my reckoning that makes 19 full international footballers out of a squad of 23 (so far). Even the four other players in the first team squad have some international recognition (Ben Johnson U-21, Conor Coventry (U-21 Ireland), Flynn Downes (U-20) and Craig Dawson has 15 U-21 caps and 3 Great Britain Olympic caps). Just 5 of the outfield 20 players are aged 30 or over (Creswell, Coufal, Dawson, Ogbonna and Antonio).
We all have differing opinions but I truly believe that we have a squad of footballers well capable of challenging for a place in the top 8 (hopefully higher) in the Premier League, in the cups, and in Europe. At least the first European hurdle was easily completed on Thursday evening with the 6-1 aggregate win over Viborg. We now move on to the league stage.
It is the job of the manager and coaches to mould the squad and produce results enabling those results to be achieved. Failure to do so will put his and their jobs in jeopardy. He has produced the goods in the past two seasons with what I believe was an inferior squad. I’m not at all upset by any of the players that have departed and believe that they have been replaced by footballers of a better quality. The manager and coaches now need to earn their money and produce teams week in and week out that have a method (and alternatives) of playing that will achieve the results that I believe a squad of that ability should be able to.
I’d also like to think that we haven’t finished adding to the squad. There are 3 players that I would be delighted if we signed one or more of them. A true consistently-proven goalscoring midfielder such as the Belgian, Vanaken, would be a tremendous signing, and Moyes has admitted we’ve put in a bid for him. Apparently our bid and Club Brugge’s valuation are some way apart and I wonder if it will happen?
I’d also like to see some real pace down the flanks and there are two players I like that would provide this. One is Sarr from Watford who I really like, but the other would be a controversial one and many will disagree with me. The other one is Adama Traore from Wolves. He has frightening pace and the potential to be a world beater, but his potential has never been realised mainly because there is little or no end-product from him. I’m sure he could be bought for a song and then it would be the job of the manager and coaches once again to turn massive potential into a top player. I honestly believe he would be worth taking a chance on if he can be acquired for a knock-down fee, and then we can see whether he can be coached into really achieving what I reckon he could be capable of. I wonder if we’ll see any of the three of them, or even Paquet (from Lyons) or Maitland-Niles (from Arsenal), both quality players that have been supposedly linked with us.
So there we are. That’s my view of the start we have made and what I believe we are capable of. My views are not shared by many on social media and that’s fair enough. We are all entitled to our opinions.
Matchday 4 of the Premier League season arrives this weekend and we are at Villa Park. That game is closely followed by fixtures against Tottenham, Chelsea and Newcastle. We could have 12 points after 7 games. We might still have zero. Or of course we could be somewhere in between. How many points do you think we’ll have? It’s time for the players, manager and coaches to really start earning their money, and for the team to start climbing the table.
One thought on “West Ham – the season so far”
its a win this week i hope.
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