Monday, 26 September 2016

The Five Problems That Have Caused the Crisis at West Ham (and how to fix them!)

OK, let's get one thing straight, this IS a crisis [DEF: 'a time when a difficult or important decision must be made']. With five defeats in our first six games - mostly against quite modest opposition - and with a whopping sixteen goals conceded things are really bad.

Even worse, our fans are fighting with each other and the media are having a field day, linking our difficulties to the demise of working class Britain and fuelling rumours of feuding in the dressing room. Skybet have added petrol to the mix by quoting SuperSlav as the Premiership favourite to next get the sack, with odds of 8/11! 

After the game Bilic said "It's my responsibility, it's my team, I know how it works and I'm not running away".  Slav, we don't doubt you for a minute. You haven't become a bad manager overnight and every team has bad runs. as the wider media circles the club looking to feast on our problems, we need to stick together right now.

However, we also need to be honest about what has gone wrong. At yesterday's post match conference Slav looked shellshocked and bereft of ideas. He muttered that he couldn't identify what to do next - well, for what it's worth, here are a few thoughts to consider about our situation:

1. First up, our defence has lost it's confidence. This started with an experiment at right back  that has gone horribly wrong. ever since Karl Jenkinson's demise we have been playing makeshift games. Splashing gazzillions on a 'marque' striker (we never got one!) while overlooking the need to spend the modest amount needed for a decent right back was poor judgement. Sam Byram is still developing, while neither Antonio nor Nordtveit are true defenders. Michail Antonio's form since reverting to right wing is one of the few positives about our efforts over the past month but highlights the double waste of having played him at right back. Alvaro Arbeloa's arrival will steady this but has been undermined by the lack of stability at left back. Sometimes luck isn't with you! Nevertheless, when we finally can field a back four of Cresswell, Reid, Ogbonna and Arbeloa one suspects that the laughable defending of late will improve.

2. Letting James Tomkins go was a mistake. At a time when we are struggling to retain our identity at a new stadium we need the homegrown players to remind us what we have come from. Captain Claret can't do it all himself and he looks withered by all the problems. Similarly, why can't Reece Oxford get a run out - at the very least it would cheer the fans and in all honesty we could do with a defensive-minded midfielder in front of our leaky defence. Starting a League Cup game without a single English player could be seen as a poor reflection on our famed academy system, but the fact is that we do have young players but do not seem to be managing them properly.

3. We need to adapt tactically to the bigger stadium. we have a host of wide midfielders that we brought in to use the width of the new stadium. We are trying to play as a more dominant team and have largely ditched the Leicester-style counterattacking that served us so well when we scalped the big six last year. In reality, the visitors are making better use of the greater space and we have been repeatedly caught out on the break. In short, we are trying to play too open and offensively. The increased running burden in midfield is showing on Noble and Kouyate who both look tired. It's time to drop one of the attacking midfielders and play three across the centre. Slav, we need to go 4-3-2-1 instead of the 4-2-3-1 that is killing us at present.

4. In contrast to last year, our Summer signings have not impressed. Feghouli looks promising, Nordtveit is solid but not offensively good enough to be a right back, but Tore, Calleri and Zaza have fluffed their lines. Although everybody is focussing upon our problems at the back, we have only scored 7 goals in eight games which is simply not enough. Thankfully, this latter three are on loan but I doubt if anybody would complain if they returned to their parent clubs right now! Zaza in particular is a concern as he is approaching the game count that triggers a mandatory buy out clause for £20 million. Yikes! Oh how we need the abrasiveness of Sakho and the pure physicality of big Andy. Let's hope Slav has made peace with Diafra and that Andy stays fit for a month or two. At least if the bad fortune continues we might get some joy chasing games with long balls if, instead of Zaza, Carroll is in the box.

5. Lady Luck has deserted us. We can't get a bounce of the ball right now. Last year we scored at the right times in games and then seized the opprotunities as the opposition got desperate and pushed up. This season it's been the par opposite - conceding just before half time and then getting put to the sword as we tried to rescue things. We need to pray to the footballing Gods for a  rapid change in fortune because the Middlesboro, Palace and Sunderland games are starting to look like season-defining games for Slaven.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Bilic Goes Top of the Premiership!

What a load of balls!
 Slaven Bilic has gone top of the Premiership ratings for the sack. Before today SkyBet quoted him at odds of 12/1 but after a display described as 'laughable' by his team captain Mark Noble, Bilic's odds were slashed to 8/11!!! Bilic tried to play a more controlled and defensive game today and although uninspiring, the Hammers looked defensively intact until forty minutes in when Charlie Austin put Southampton ahead. Thereafter the Hammers seemed to lose confidence and struggled to mount any kind of meaningful comeback. Things got worse when Dusan Tadic grabbed a second after some woeful defending and then West Ham lost their shape going on to concede a series of chances as Southampton romped home 3-0. In perhaps the most damning statistic from the game, the shots on target tally was 9-1 in favour of the visitors! Embarrassingly, West Ham picked up five yellow cards, including two for simulation as in their desperation they resorted to diving! Bilic appeared distraught afterwards and was unable to offer a clear plan ahead. With three key matches coming up against Middlesborough, Crystal Palace and Sunderland, the pressure is starting to mount.  Let's hope that our chairmen don't over-react, Bilic needs time and a bit of luck to get things going again. Maybe it's time to bring in Reece Oxford or the very patient Pedro Obiang and play three in central midfield and drop one of the flair attackers - Lanzini is top of the list right now.  BTW anybody know where Julian Dicks has gone to?         

No More Jibba Jabba - It's Time to Show Some Nuts!

It's been such a disappointing season so far that you can easily find yourself noticing irrelevancies such as the number of West Ham players who have first names beginning with the letter 'A'. In fact, we have so many that you could almost name a starting XI featuring the 'A-Team'.

However, it's the absence of the A-Team that has underpinned what is becoming a disastrous start to life at the London Stadium. At the back the loss of Aaron Cresswell has destabilised what was a tight unit. Even worse, his replacement Arthur Masuaku is now also crocked and we are back to limited options at left back. maybe it's time for SuperSlav to push Angelo Ogbonna out wide? On a positive note, the problems at right back have eased with the arrival of Alvaro Arbeloa who looked solid against Accrington and is finally match fit.

Up front, the recurring absence of Andy Sicknote is nothing new, but the loss of Andre Ayew - who was our marque signing from the Summer - has forced a panic loan of Simone Zaza who to date has failed to impress. We are missing Carroll at set pieces - both offensively and defensively but on the bright side, Antonio is on fire and keeping our attacking aspirations alive.

Ashley Fletcher was denied a part in Wednesday's League cup tie  - a competition that usually provides opportunities for our developing players. Perhaps this signals a more significant role for him today against Southampton - possibly as a surprise starter?

And then we have the other absentee - the REAL Adrian! What is going on between the posts? Normally a reliable presence, our keeper has suddenly become a liability and it would be no surprise if Darren Randolph were to displace him today.

Good managers tend to keep the faith with their netminders but Dazza has been very patient and always impressed when given the chance. If he doesn't get a run as the starting keeper right now you would have to wonder whether he will get itchy for a move elsewhere? Similarly, if we don't buck up soon then Mr Payet may well get fed up with carrying the team and listen more carefully to the advances of Europe's top clubs.

As Mr T once remarked “You might not have the things you want, but if you check carefully, you got all you need” ....Wise words indeed - it's time to quit all the jibba jabba about injuries and get to work with what we have. This is a strong squad and even without half of our A-Team we should still be a formidable force.

Time to show some nuts!


Saturday, 24 September 2016

No Lions in the Shirt...

As West Ham prepare for a crunch tie with Southampton tomorrow in which they will hope to end a terrible runs of morale-sapping defeats in the Premiership, many fans are calling for the team to show some good old English grit.

However, for a club that is known for it's development of youth talent through the famed academy, it's something of a shock to note that the starting eleven for the midweek clash against Accrington Stanley did not include a single English player!

In a competition that usually allows the bigger clubs an opportunity to blood up and coming home-grown talent, the Hammers only English contribution was from Michail Antonio as a late substitute! 

One really has to wonder why Reece Oxford didn't get a run out, while Sam Byram will be hoping that his omission means that he will be a starter tomorrow. Interesting times at the London Stadium! it looks like SuperSlav will need to look to continental flair to get his side back on track.

West Ham United vs Accrington Stanley: Randolph, Arbeloa, Nordtveit, Ogbonna, Masuaku, Feghouli (Payet 46), Obiang, Fernandes, Tore (Lanzini 46), Calleri (Antonio 69), Zaza.  Subs not used: Adrian, Byram, Oxford, Fletcher

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Phew! But have we become a one man show?

In some respects one could say that a visit from League Two minnows looking to pull off a giant-killing was the last thing that the Hammers needed just now. On the back of four straight defeats and with the defence in chaos, Accrington Stanley must've been fancying their chances.

SuperSlav selected a pretty strong starting XI and wisely, included some big guns on the bench just in case things got messy.  And so it was, as Accrington relished the big stadium atmosphere and gave an excellent account of themselves - well organised defensively and with some decent attacking moves. At half time Slav decided to up the ante and released Payet and Lanzini into the fray.

The Hammers huffed and puffed but couldn't find a breakthrough. Simone Zaza came close on a couple of occasions but is yet to open his account and many fans are getting twitchy. At least the 'Maiga in disguise' taunts haven't started just yet! In fairness, he looks hungry for opportunities and the goals will surely come.

Things looked to be going all wrong yet again when Arthur Masuaku went off leaving the fulled substituted Hammers with only ten men as the game entered injury time. Cue Mr Payet to put an end to the misery with a trademark audacious free kick. Game over.

It's hard to take too much from the game other than that we are short on confidence right now. Still - it's a win and a much needed clean sheet. Bring on Southampton and let the recovery continue.

A final thought for Accrington Stanley - a great club with a great history and an inspiring story of determination to survive that rests in our football consciousness. You should be proud of your performance last night. hopefully some day you will return to the very top flight and grace the Premiership.



Monday, 19 September 2016

Too Good To Go Down?

As we currently lie in the bottom three and with a defence that is the laughing stock of the Premiership right now, it's inevitable that we recalibrate our aspirations for the season. That we could find ourselves in a relegation battle seemed a ridiculous idea a few weeks ago but if you equate Payet with Di Canio, which squad is stronger?

No doubt the 2003 side experience outrageous bad fortune culminating in being relegated with 42 points - a haul that has ensured safety in every other season of the Premiership. However, just now we can't seem to get a break...hmmmm. Take a good look at that squad - frightening that such a side could go down!


Are we really that bad?

After yet another defensive circus in yesterday's comical defeat to the Baggies, it is again unfortunately necessary to consider what has gone so wrong at the back? In contrast to last year, where Bilic's side demonstrated an impressive capacity to shut games down, we are now defending like a lower league pub side and for all our alleged attacking flair, canmot seem to get a result to save our lives right now.

Chief to their defensive problems has been the chaos at right back. Having moved on from the crazy experiment using Michail Antonio as a wing back, Havard Nordtveit stepped in yesterday and was the only one of our back four to emerge with any credibility as he stuck to his defensive duties. Unfortunately, his lack of attacking ability meant that in the final quarter as we pushed for an unlikely comeback, the canny Baggies allowed play to shift to the right wing where he repeatedly botched decent attacking opportunities.

The arrival of Alvaro Arbeloa will provide options but he is still somewhat short of match fitness and at 33 years of age is only a temporary solution. Sam Byram needs to get more game time under his belt - but at what cost to results? How SuperSlav must be wishing we still had James Tomkins on the books?

On the left, Arthur Masuaku had a disappointing game - his first for the club but it's worrying that all four defensive positions look shaky right now. Cresswell still has more than a month before he will return but at that point it will be a relief to see a probable starting back four of Arbeloa, Reid, Ogbonna and Cresswell. Presumably Adrian will get over his dip in form - has the call up to the Spain squad distracted him?

In midfield, both Noble and Kouyate look jaded. Neither had major Summertime commitments but for whatever reason the pair are not dominating midfield the way they did for much of last season. It's hard to know what can be done to reinvigorate this pair but Slav needs to do something quickly.

Meanwhile, at least up front things are looking interesting. As the final 30 knutes demonstrated, the Payet-Lanzini-Feghouli triad could well be a winner. All three are defensively weak, but if we can tighten up behind them they will create chances. Zaza needs more time to adjust to the pace of the Premiership but will need to start delivering soon with big Andy back in the next few weeks and (maybe) also a revitalised Diafra Sakho? The League Cup will provide Ashley Fletcher with an opportunity to stake his claim and on the basis of his cameos as a substitute so far he looks odds on to take it.

Finally, the continued rise of Michail Antonio is a real joy to behold. He stuck at it when things were really going against him earlier in the campaign. Maybe we all need to take a leaf from his book and get behind the team - the results will surely follow.