Saturday 15 April 2023

Three Talking Points after the Gent Disappointment

There's a lot of negativity around West Ham just now as the season lurches along with the background hum of possible relegation. In reality, a draw away from home in the first leg of a European tie is a decent result but having been outplayed for much of the game while we struggled to put any chain of passes together was worrying. Here's some key talking points right now:

1. David Moyes is trying to change things - even breaking with longstanding habits like playing two up too against Fulham as well as making multiole early substitutions in games. His future at the club beyond this season is under major threat and at this point only seems plausible if we achieve Premiership safety and win the Europa Conference. You might argue that Paqueta, Scamacca and Aguerd will only reach full throttle in their second seasons in the Premiership but equally it seems that our playing style isn't working with this (expensive) squad and that Moyes' tactics aren't suiting these more expansive talents. Also, his persistence with a misfiring Tomas Soucek is impressive in its loyalty but has become a visible source of frustration for Hammers fans, especially as Flynn Downes has impressed on the limited occasions that he is unleashed from the bench. In short, one suspects that the board recognise that a new manager is likely to get more out of this squad and by playing more attractive football?

2. Three quarters of the way through the season and we still don't know our best defensive line up. After 14 changes in centre back partnerships it's uncertain whether we will go with Zouma and Aguerd or whether Oggy will partner one of thos two? Similarly, we look confused at the full back positions with a pass the parcel being plsyed out between Johnson, Coufal, Emerson and Cresswell. In reality, its hsrd to be confident in any combination of these four against the craft of Saka and Martinelli as the Gooners come to visit tomorrow. None of those four have enough pace to confidently handle what is an impressive Arsenal wing attack. We have had youngsters hovering on the margins but they have not gotten the necessary to step in st this point despite a relatively easy European adventure where they surely could and should have been blooded. Moreover, the lack of a pacet right back has stunted our best attacking threat in Jarrod Bowen who has all too often had to plough a lonely furrow on the right wing, rarely receiving quick ball or the threat of a pacey overlap to distract opposition left backs.

3. What on earth is going on with our corners - it has become like a lottery as to who will take them and as a result the quality of delivery has been really disappointing. Yes, we are efficient defending corners but in offense our set pieces rarely deliver. In part, the absence of Dawson reduces our aerial threat, but quite simply the balls in have lacked precision despite Bowen, Cresswell, Benrahma, Emerson and even Declan Rice all having a go at various points. We need to improve at the training ground and in the longer term must address this major shortcoming in the Summer.

All of that said, two wins out of nine in the Premiership and we are safe. Gent should be there for the taking next week when they come to London and then it's a semi-final where everything is possible. 

It's been a weird season but could still end with success.


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