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.
The 80’s are fashionable currently so I hear. Jordan 1’s are back in stores, as is garish gym gear. Women’s fashion seems to be very 80’s based currently and last week I swear I saw someone playing with a Rubik Cube on the train.
West Ham join in the revival and we get castigated ! I remember a time when smashing the opposition bus, having several thousand fans locked out the ground, starting the game an hour late, throwing bottles at their keeper (plus the obligatory, should be old enough to know better, pitch invader) , running a bar dry, and leaving the ground to make your way through riot police was a staple of most Saturdays. But now people just get hot about it.
OK I jest, but anyone who wasn’t there and has just read the websites and papers, and listened to Adrian Durham drone on (who wasn’t there either) will think (once again) WW3 broke out in Upton Park last night. I’m not condoning any of the above (except the bar bit) but lets be real. Yes the streets were packed, yes loads of people without tickets were there, but a few idiots throw some bottles at a bus and it’s the ICF comeback. Nonsense. Absolute nonsense.
I spent about 5 hours there, and never heard a raised (angry) voice. But I heard many voices, all raised. The atmosphere was just something to behold. This fixture is always an occasion, but last night was off the chart. I was there for the last game of the South Bank, the North Bank and the West Stand, but this was something that will live with me forever.
All the stuff afterwards with the fireworks and all that, although I see some people liking it, isn’t for me and I scooted prior to the Rejects playing, which is a little annoying but like I say, that stuff isn’t for me
There was a video played on the screens, listing many of the players that had passed away but would technically been “young enough” to be there, and although John Lyall, and Graham Paddon were up there, obviously the big one was Sir Bobby Moore. The Man U fans spontaneously burst into a chant of his name. Class Act all round. It was that kind of night.
With all this going on there was a football game on as well, and although late, it was probably one of the best Premier League games of the season. Both teams still have their eye on 5th, and both put out very strong teams. Our nemesis, Mr Rooney, started for United which is usually ominous. But we seemed to contain him ,and he seemed a little off form, which doesn’t bode well for the Euros. Misplaced passes out wide were common place and we started to get the upper hand. For the first time in a long time we played two real strikers up top, I assume to keep the Utd centre backs busy, and it seemed to be paying off. Then Sakho bent one round De Gea from distance, and it was game on after 10 minutes. We had another chance when Carroll went clear from a great through ball from Payet but hit it straight at the keeper. Anyway, we held onto our lead to half time, and it looked like the dream night would happen. In the 2nd half Man U came out firing, and the wingers seem to be on their A game. In fact one of them, Mr Martial strolled though our defence to pick up a straight pass/cross and draw the visitors level. Did I expect it it ? Yes. Did I expect a re run of the first 2 Swansea goals? No. Slaven needs to get the CB’s to work on position when there is an overlap, its just too easy for the opposition.
Soon after Martial got another one by getting into a stoppable position again, and the wheels were coming off. But the team fed off the incredible crowd, and in only 4 minutes, Antonio had equalised with a great header. Once again he had a set celebration ready, but Andy Carroll dragged him up the pitch. He knew it, we knew it, this was our night, and ours only, even if you are the most decorated team ever in the English game. Another 4 minutes, another goal, this time from the unlikely source of Winston Reid, whose other goal was pretty famous on the terraces as well, but will always now be the scorer of the last ever goal at The Boleyn.
We played out the last 10 minutes on the edge but for a change in control. So who won the game? The players played for the fans, the fans went berserk for the players, and Slaven was the architect. Did it mean as much to him as everyone else? Considering he was in tears at the final whistle, I think the answer was yes.
5th place is in the hands of others now, and I think the game at Stoke is a bit after the Lord Mayors show, so we have to see the shake out of FA Cups and UEFA cups to see if we get another shot in Europe in our new shed in season 1, but I for one will never forget this evening. Leaving earlier than most gave me a bit of time on my own taking one last look at the old girl and I left with a heavy heart, but hoping we can build this club on the potential that is now in place. Whether I will be along for the full ride will depend on how the new “experience” plays out, but I have my ticket, and we shall see.
Thanks for the memories, old girl..
MOTM: The Stadium and the Fans
Last week’s win against WBA secured 2 records for WHU. Our highest points tally in Premier League history and our longest unbeaten streak in PL history. On Wednesday was the end of season awards do. I think all 3 contributed to WHU turning up with their minds on their holidays and getting spanked by a fully focused Swansea team who took their chances when they got them, and were clinical in the finish.
Also the fans were the same as the final days of the Boleyn are upon us, with only one game left. Will we win that ? I hope so, just to send the old girl off in style, but we cannot play like we did yesterday. Lanzini and Payet need to cover more ground, and be more clinical in their passing. The only WHU player who came out of yesterday with any credit was Antonio, who was once again out of position and superb. Why Byram cannot play back is beyond me, and then we can drop Moses who was also useless yesterday.
Anyway, for today and the final game against Man U, I have my camera with me, so hopefully the pics are better than usual from the phone.