Another week, another game, and the prospect of another ninety minutes where David Moyes deploys exactly the same tactics in the hope of a different outcome. Yet again, we are faced with the familiar conflict of wanting West Ham to do well but recognising how hopeless the cause is without a change of manager.
A record of one point from a possible eighteen doesn’t lie. Previewing a match is becoming increasingly difficult when nothing ever changes. It is like being assigned to produce a weekly update on the fortunes of Sisyphus who in Greek mythology was consigned to roll a huge boulder up a hill for eternity.
Everything that is wrong with the current setup on the pitch has already been said over and over again. But for the sake of using up some column inches, let’s have a recap. The squad has been allowed to become too old. And it contains a serious lack of pace throughout. The over-riding game plan is not to lose – except against top teams when it is not to lose by too many. The keeper is among the worst with his feet in the league – yet the hurried pass back is one of our top-rated moves. The centre-backs most often look uncomfortable with the ball at their feet. The full-backs lack Premier League quality – and, in any case, are deployed far too narrow. There is nobody in the squad capable of playing the wing-back role effectively. Any attempt to press has been abandoned in favour of a ridiculously low block. There are never enough players in front of the ball to launch incisive counter-attacks. Movement off the ball is terrible and contributes significantly to poor passing success and ball retention. Players rarely take the ball in their stride or play on their toes . Imagination and creativity is missing in the final third. Wide attacking players are given too much defensive responsibility. The lone striker ends up isolated and gets drawn too deep or too wide, through a lack of support. Throw-ins are an invitation to return the ball immediately to the opposition. Corners either fail to beat the first defender or are floated into the keeper’s arms. There may be more. Other than that, we are in great shape.
There are many things in life that defy explanation – the ability of electrical wires and coat hangers to tangle themselves up, the reason your fingers get wrinkled in the bath, the surprising popularity of LInkedIn – but the owner’s belief that Moyes is the man to turn the season around trumps them all. The current trajectory leads to just one destination – the Championship!
Relegation can be in no-one’s interest. The only reasons to own a football club are for prestige and asset value. Both would take a battering by demotion to the second tier. The indecision over Avram Grant still rankles as one of the worst episodes of recent West Ham history. But the Board had terminated the services of both Slaven Bilic and Manuel Pellegrini by this stage of their final seasons – Bilic after eleven games in November 2017, Pellegrini after nineteen games in December 2019. Act NOW please, or we will never escape this hole!
Such indecision was not on show at today’s opponents, Wolverhampton Wanderers, where a managerial change was made prior to the World Cup break – eminently sensible timing for any struggling club.
The Wolves owners, who I believe are Chinese, have a strange obsession with the Iberian peninsular when it comes to player and manager recruitment. In the apparent absence of any available Portuguese managers, they were forced to turn their attention on this occasion to Spain when appointing Julen Lopetegui who had recently been sacked by Sevilla.
Another unusual aspect of the appointment is that in Lopetegui and Nuno Espírito Santo before him, they have now employed two former goalkeepers as manager. That is quite a rarity with the only other ex-keepers I can think of who have managed at the top level in England being Mike Walker and Nigel Adkins. Keepers area rather like drummers in rock bands. You obviously need to have one, but they are far too crazy and unpredictable to make any wider contribution.
Performances this season suggest today will not be a high scoring encounter. Wolves have scored just five times at home in the league, West Ham have managed just six away. The overall comparison of this season’s scoring and shooting stats (West Ham first) show: Goals (15 v 11); Shots (240 v 202); Shots on Target (62 v 56); Shots on Target % (25.8 v 27.7). West Ham have had the sixth highest number of shots in the league but have the worst on target percentage of anyone. A reflection of laboured ineffective build-ups that end with speculative long shots.
Some have seen signs of improvement in the past few games, but I have yet to be convinced. Those with a glass half full, might already be talking about being unbeaten in two. Although any 3rd round cup win is welcome, would it have ended that way if Frank hadn’t taken the unfathomable decision to rest so many key players.
I didn’t see Wolves cup tie at Liverpool where they are said to have played very well and would have won had it not been for VAR. I did catch them against Manchester United and it was apparent that they still lacked a cutting edge. No more obliging opponent than the Hammers for them to sharpen that on.
What to expect today? I’ve no idea, and really don’t know what to hope for so the current madness can be brought to a rapid conclusion. How about an unimagined 3-3 draw? COYI!