West Ham United (A)-Everything goes wrong at the hands of the resurgent Hammers


Active Member
Feb 23, 2004
Thread starter #1
There is a school of thought that suggests that by delaying the analysis of an event, you are able to shake off any reactionary judgments and examine the incident through a more rational eye. The lateness of this match report has absolutely nothing to do with that. In truth, the thought of having to reconsider the mistakes of Saturday afternoon filled me with such dread that any menial task I could possibly find for myself seemed far more appealing. However, the time has come and there is a job to be done, so here goes.....
West Ham is one of those games that you rarely enjoy. It usually consists of some hairy moments, some decent football and three points at the end of it. After Tom Huddlestone blazed wide with the goal at his mercy, I felt even more certain that Saturday was going to be one of those days-keep it going like this and we WILL score eventually. However, when all things apart from the score seemed to be grinding into place, the curse of the substitution (that has blighted us on too many occasions already this year) struck again, and any impetus established since West Ham’s goal was obliterated; good players were replaced by average ones and average players replaced by rubbish ones-whichever way you look at it, that formula is a recipe for trouble.

Unsurprisingly given their gradually improving results, West Ham started the game brightly, clearly wanting to test our makeshift back four. Whilst they had a fair amount of possession and set-pieces, they actually created very little for themselves, relying more on a lack of concentration by both Bassong and Huddlestone for their only real chances of the opening exchanges. Having negotiated a tricky twenty minutes we then actually began to knock the ball around quite well, with Modric and Van Der Vaart combining nicely in front of the West Ham defence. Although we lacked genuine penetration, the presence of the Dutch maestro gave us an extra dimension in attack, namely that we now have someone who can shoot with power and accuracy from range, an attribute that may have changed the outcome of the numerous frustrating home games we had last year where we were unable test the opposing keepers from anywhere outside of the box.

After a number of shots had stung the palms of Rob Green in the West Ham goal, it seemed as if it would be a matter of time until we opened the scoring. However as always, we conspired to our own downfall after half an hour, allowing Frederic Piquionne to glance home from 8 yards from the Hammers’ billionth corner. Ultimately, whilst the marking wasn’t great, our inability to play the percentage game proved costly. As everyone is taught from an early age, you really must have a player on each post when defending corners, and whether this shape has been devised by Redknapp, Tony Parks or even Carlo himself, one would hope that this goal sent a message to the managerial team to sort this situation out; there really is nothing more frustrating than conceding a goal through a lack of common sense.

If there is one positive to take from the game, it is that we responded to the goal as well as I can remember. Efforts from Modric, Crouch and Van Der Vaart were brilliantly saved by either Rob Green or the West Ham full backs, and on another day we could have gone into the half-time break three-one up. This pattern of play continued after the break and we created the kind of chance that decides games. In this instance, the usually ice-cool Huddlestone seemed to panic under pressure and as players and supporters watched the ball sail high-and-wide, you couldn’t help avoid thinking that it wasn’t going to be our day.

As if to compound this feeling of deflation, Harry then decided to make three of the most baffling changes imaginable, replacing Lennon, Van Der Vaart and Crouch with Gio, Keane and the Pav in the space of fifteen mad minutes. As well as greatly weakening the personnel on the pitch, these changes destroyed our shape completely as a wide and expansive 451 was transformed into a 442 with a diamond midfield. Although the theory behind this made sense as it would give Bale and Hutton space to move into, Upton Park is a narrow enough pitch at the best of times and with so many players crammed into the middle of the field, they sat deep and made it impossible to break through. In truth, we had been completely nullified and could have fallen further behind had it not been for some excellent work by Carlo in goal. I am one Cudicini’s biggest critics and probably will be until he hangs his gloves up, but he has made some really good saves recently; sadly for him very few have actually resulted in us improving on a result due to poor performances from the men in front of him.

This being Tuesday it seems futile to examine too closely what the negatives were of the game on the whole. The one thing I would like to point out with a touch of trepidation is the attitude that is seemingly creeping into the squad and management team that the Champions League is the most important competition this year and everything else is a bonus. I have become really frustrated in the past few weeks with interviews either before or after league matches that continue to harp on about the top table of European football, as if to say that the league is secondary and will sort itself out providing things go well on the continent. In my opinion, this is a really dangerous attitude to adopt and I fear a situation occurring where we get knocked out of Europe in February, realise we are well behind in the league but don’t have enough time to rectify the problem. This may be an unpopular idea but I would far rather put full strength sides out for ninety minutes on a Saturday afternoon and rest players in midweek than the other way round.

In saying that, the Twente game tomorrow gives us a great chance to bounce back from what has been a fairly awful week and give us some form and confidence before the equally big game against Villa on Saturday