Another day, another hiding. This week we have lost 4-1 to Man U away and now 5-1 at home to Arsenal. Things are not good, and only the fact that 3 teams appear to be worse than us is keeping us from dropping into the relegation zone. And having watched these games, I’m struggling to believe they are actually “worse” than us.
Slaven has an issue, the board have an issue and we as fans have an issue.
Slaven needs to raise the team back to last seasons levels. This is becoming difficult if what he said in the post match interview is anything to go by. He is aware the players aren’t putting a shift in and basically stated they are the same in training. Now I’m not close enough to say whether he has lost the dressing room, but things don’t look good. Even Mark Noble looks resigned. Read more…
Really, really not a lot to say here that wasn’t summed up by Slaven, who stole my thunder with his “A draw was fair, as neither team deserved it”. Spot on big fella.
So let’s have a look why.
It’s often said in Boxing that styles make matches, and i think it’s fair to say that this was part of the issue yesterday. West Ham set themselves up in their new look 3-3-3-1. Stoke set up in a traditional 5-3-1. What this meant was as West Ham attacked they were swallowed up by the Stoke back 5, and Stoke’s natural defensive play with the ball was negated in the packed midfield. Read more…
Could it get any worse? The recent few games have been a wake up call for all WHU fans, that with a big ground and a big pitch comes big responsibility.
With that in mind Slaven made some further changes, bringing in Obiang for Lanzini, and pushing Ogbonna out to left back, for another centre back change with Reid and Collins making up the back four with Byram. Personally I would have played Arbeloa and got my wish in unfortunate circumstances as Byram was stretchered off just 7 minutes in, with I think a thigh knock.
Noble was pushed further forward to help the front man, who seemed to be Antonio or Tore. Basically we had no front man. I’ll assume Slaven wanted a point first, but it did look odd. We were getting most of the ball, but finding it difficult to break through. Adrian didn’t have a lot to do, but neither did Valdes in the opposition goal. WHU shaded the first half, but we went in 0-0.
We needed to change up top, and Slaven took off the ineffectual Tore in favour of Zaza. Tore was terrible if I’m honest, and needs to be benched if this is his best. Zaza isn’t much better, and it’s a bit worrying that if he plays 15 games we have to buy him for 20mn. Hopefully Andy Carroll and Ayew are close to returning.
But it did give us balance to attack, and once again we had most of the ball. On 51 however, Boro had a corner and Stuani got a header at goal, which appeared to bounce off of Noble, who was on the line, but the referee and his technology ruled it over the line, and normal service at the OS had been resumed !!
But for once, we didn’t have to wait long for a response, as Payet took the by the scruff of the neck and ran through Boro’s defence to score a Goal of the Season contender and make it 1-1. Cue jubilant scenes in the OS, and atmosphere breaking out abounds.
Then Noble made way for Lanzini and it looked game on, but once again Zaza got no service and those balls that did come his way, didn’t really inspire confidence in my opion of the Italian.
So we put the run of losses to the sword, at the expense of another injured full back. Did we play well, no, but we also didn’t let in another torrent of goals. We probably actually looked better to the observer than we the fans thought we did. Every time Boro made one of their quick attacks the fans started to panic , as we seem to slip goals like a poor project manager recently.
The fans, as they were against Southampton, today were largely well behaved. The standing nonsense seems to be sorted for now. Whether the club has accommodated the move requests or not, there seemed to be no outbreaks of bother, and some areas seemed to be standing and other were seated, all with no issues. One of the standing areas seems to be to my left in the lower tier. and we got 2 new songs. “Stratford’s a shit hole, I want to go home”, and “Can we go back to Upton Park”
My new neighbour was OK today as well. So all good.
Payet will get all the headlines, but Reid and Collins were way more solid than recently today, and everyone else did their jobs, with the exception of Kouyate, who seemed very quiet. Hopefully Obiang will get a run in the team now, even if its in the space of (whisper it ) Mark Noble.
oh, there was one more talking point. Antonio had a shot from miles out near the end, the spooned off nowhere near the goal. The crowd reacted , as they do, with a collective “why do that?” moan, and Arbeloa started clapping the crowd for making that noise. And it didn’t look sarcastic either, more a “I agree with you, what the hell is he doing ?” Interesting……
MOTM – Payet.
I didn’t blog after our killer win against the might of Accrington Stanley (exactly !) on Wednesday because basically it was shit. But Slaven did put out all the new boys, and I thought had worked out that Antonio goes back on the right, Tore goes home and Zaza needs to knuckle down.
So we start today with no Tore or Feghouli, Antonio on the right, and Zaza up top with Payet and Lanzini for company. So far so good. But Arbeloa starts on the left and Nordveit on the right. Excuse me ? Arbeloa has won world cups playing right back, sure if we are going to play a midfielder as a full back, lets make sure the real right back is on the right side.
Anyway, Southampton played everything down their left to get inside of Nordveit, but we seemed to be weathering the attacks and were actually playing well, from a defending standpoint. Attacking was different though, Lanzini was shocking and both Payet and Kouyate looked like they had never met anyone on the team before.
Southampton kept plowing a furrow down their left and got their rewards when Austin broke the deadlock , just before half time.
Slaven tried to ring the changes at half time, swapping Lanzini for Feghouli, but it didn’t work, and in what is now becoming a rather worrying trait we shipped a further 2 goals in the second half to cement our position in the bottom 3.
Now, I’m not pushing the relegation button just yet, but we cannot ship 16 goals in 6 games (more than anyone else) and not be concerned. Reid, believe it or not played well. Slaven has to pick his best back four and get it done. For me, its Reid, Ogbonna, Arbeloa (RB) and for now with Masuaku injured, why not Sam Westley? He’s a defender, plays either side and has a squad number. He’s 22. If he is not good enough bin him.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and I hope the board stick with Slaven, but we don’t have many more games to lose before we lose touch with the rest of the league.
The one thing no one wants to talk about is Mark Noble. He has gone over one summer from someone who should be in the England squad no question, to someone who’s looking lost on the pitch. This needs sorting quickly, either drop him out, or let him play his game further up the pitch, because he slows our game down so much currently, the defending team get to reshape.
MOTM for WHU Winston Reid
So another interesting day of growing pains in the OS yesterday tapped off with a poor performance.
Payet was back, and Antonio was placed back in his rightful position in midfield. Zaza started up top, and with the exception of Byram being played in front of Arbeloa we probably had our strongest team in my opinion. That opinion has now changed, but lets get onto that later.
After our small adventure in Europe and our last minute loss to Chelsea we start our home campaign in the new shed against Bournemouth hoping for no repeat of last season.
Last season saw us lose 4-3 in an end to end game (see here WHUFC vs AFC Bournemouth EPL 22/08/2015). Our team was missing Andy Carroll that time and it turns out he was absent again today, making it 3 for 3 for the Geordie with respect to injuries and first league home games ! As well as AC, we were also missing Ayew, which gave Valencia another chance to redeem himself as our main attacker. Slaven has obviously been listening to the critics and took Antonio out of the right back slot only to put him into left midfield. So we have to assume he fancies both Feghouli and Gore in front of the best attacking right winger we have had since Kevin Keen. Wrong, wrong, wrong. And Payet was missing. This made me think that maybe 0-0 wouldn’t be too bad.
It appeared that everyone else had the same thoughts as the game itself was dull as hell. Nobody really took it by the scruff of the neck. The first half flashed by in a series of mediocre football, only livened up by the standing West Ham fans bickering with the Stewards. How anyone thinks that 5 teenagers will make 200 fans sit down is beyond me, and so they just kept going backwards and forwards almost pleading to no avail.
As we all got an email regarding this last week, means something will happen and there will be a few empty seats for the next game I imagine.
I got to meet my new seat mate, and I think although nice enough there will be some interesting conversations as the season goes on. Hi Steve if you are reading this..
The goal came late on when Antonio was allowed to play on the right and made the run and got the cross in. Gore picked it up at the far post, put it back in and Antonio nods it in to keep our competitive 100% record at the OS. Food for thought Slaven.
Bournemouth looked a shadow of last season, although Ibe looked useful when he moved into the middle.
Key takeaway from today was that we need Lanzini and Payet back as soon as possible, and Calleri needs to start. He got a chance late on when Noble put him through , that I think will be bread and butter later on if he gets the game time
MOTM Antonio. And a big shout out to debutant Arthur Masuaku, who looks very comfortable at left back.
First off welcome back to the blog. Things have been pretty busy. I do have 2 more entries lined up around a trip to Vegas and a trip to Dubai but time has conspired against me. If there is any interest in the comments, I’ll fire them up.
So onto the show. The longer the summer went on the more concerned I was about our new home. Would there be atmosphere? Is my seat any good? Will it feel like home? Well after a sample size of one, I can say Yes, Fantastic, This will take time.
The ground itself is well laid out and as it was nearly full last night (53K), the atmosphere took a bit of knock early on as everyone is sitting with new neighbours, etc and was feeling things out, so after a rousing chorus of bubbles to begin with (slight lump in throat) things were a little flat (with the exception of both Kouyate goals) . However once people were settled things got going, and for most of the second half you could be in Upton Park, same songs, same sounds. Bearing in mind there were more than a few day trippers yesterday, we need to witness a league game to really compare.
The game. We were 2 -1 down from the first leg, which was a poor show. We still don’t have our Euro participants except for Randolph, so last night we lined up with Reece Oxford pairing with Winston Reid and Nordveit playing in the midfield. The bug bear of nearly all WHU social media “commentators” was also apparent, with Antonio playing right back, and Byram playing left back. This has to stop. Obviously losing Cresswell at LB was not planned, but come on, a professional football team playing a RB at LB, and Right Winger at RB. Especially one who has made it clear he doesn’t want to play there. Needs must, but we will get torn apart in the PL with this strategy. Antonio, for all his talents, is not a defender, and if this carries on I can see him leaving this window.
Seeing Oxford back was great and I hope not temporary. He obviously is not 100% on staying as some seriously big boys are sniffing around, and he hasn’t signed his new contract. 18 years old and £18mn quid could turn anyone’s head. It’s a worry if I’m honest, not just for us, but for him. At this stage Ogbonna and Reid are better, but we cannot let him go to City or United and become the next Scott Sinclair or Wilfried Zaha. This kid is being touted as the future of England, and surely we are in a position to now keep someone like that. It’s Rio Ferdinand all over again.