Decisions, decisions, decisions. Should Carroll play, and if so how should he be used? Who should step in for the suspended Noble? Song or Obiang? And using what formation? Lots of people were calling for Tomkins to be dropped for Ogbanna, but according to one stat we hadn’t conceded a goal with JT at right back for Jenkinson. That question, in my opinion, was of vital importance because West Brom have been lethal in the first half so far this season. According to my good mate and Baggies supporter Andy Caulton, beware the Baggies in the first half. Just by taking first half stats alone, West Brom would be joint second, a point behind Man U. He also said they would be top of the league at putting their supporters to sleep under Pulis, a sickness we can identify with. Making the right calls on these other issues would determine whether West Ham are in a slight tailspin or pulling back on the stick to regain altitude. At the end of the day, it was neither.
I wonder if one of those statistic companies the TV folks use to throw out things like “Arsenal lead the league in goals scored while supporters are in the toilet” has records for attacks ruined by lousy first touches. Because if they did, I think we’d be pretty high up that table. In the 6th minute, Moses was sent in with a nice through ball on the right but his first touch would have needed legs made of Silly Putty (was that toy in the UK?) to reach, and the very idea of something good happening was gone.
The argument of Carroll or Sakho, which isn’t really an argument, has always been about movement. The player’s movement, the movement of those around them, and the movement of the ball. The 9th minute provided another illustration of that when Sakho sent Moses off on a break down the right. Moses fed Lanzini in the box, who then passed to Zarate on the left but his tight angle shot went into the side netting.
Another “argument”. Is the creative spark of Zarate worth the aggravation of watching him lose the ball more often than makes us comfortable? In the 13th minute, Zarate lost the ball to McClean who then passed to Rondon on the right. When Rondon let loose with his shot, I wasn’t at all concerned. I mean, the shot was the ultimate in speculative, right? As it sailed like a perfectly straight missile towards the goal, I wondered if I was watching the single hardest hit shot I’d ever seen for a goal. Thankfully, it sailed wide. But not by much.
I don’t know who it was, but someone Tweeted before the match that when Zarate starts he scores. I doubt that is more than slightly accurate, but after McAuley fouled Sakho 25 yards out and Zarate stepped up to take the free kick, I thought about that Tweet. When the camera zoomed in on him and he lifted his chin a bit in what might have been him visualizing the path of the shot, I thought even more. Then he let it go, and I’m sure he knew where it would go because the area in the top corner was only big enough for a football. And that’s where it went.
West Ham 1, West Brom 0.
Scoring certainly breeds confidence in our number ten, and after his wonder kick he was flying. In the 20th minute, his pace alone won a free kick on the left from McAuley. Lanzini stepped up to take it, but his effort went right to Myhill. Three minutes later West Ham should have doubled their lead when Cresswell sent a perfect cross into the path of Kouyate but instead of hitting the proper target, the back of the net, it went wide. A minute later Lanzini stole the ball at midfield and ran right at the heart of the Baggies defense before firing a low, swerving shot that made Myhill look more like an ice hockey goalie making a “kick save” then a football keeper. Minutes later, Lanzini and Zarate linked up again on the right before Lanzini fed Zarate in the box to force another good stop from Myhill. My note pad said “starting to rue missed chances for 2nd”.
West Ham had a couple of half chances right before half time. First, in the 44th minute Cresswell sent a low cross from the left that was likely intended for Zarate, but he forgot how to use his feet and the ball rolled past him to Sakho, who forgot to how to use his feet well and his weak shot went out for a corner. A minute later, Zarate tracked back to regain the ball he had lost and sent a through ball to Kouyate on the right. Kouyate fed Moses in the box but his shot went high.
Halftime. West Ham 1, West Brom 0.
Rickie Lambert has been linked with West Ham more times than a Kardashian girl has been linked with secretly videotaped trouble. Be that as it may, Pulis saw that his tactics weren’t working and added the former England striker to keep Rondon company up top. In the 50th minute, even if it wasn’t a direct correlation, the move worked. A curling cross by McClean was headed out by Jenkinson but only as far as Fletcher. The almost Hammer chested it down to Lambert who immediately let a shot go that deflected off of Reid’s arm and past a helpless Adrian.
West Ham 1, West Brom 1.
After the own goal, West Brom took to the offensive and for awhile looked the more likely to take the lead. In the 52nd minute a Rondon cross from the right nearly found Morrison in the box but like Zarate earlier, the connections from the brain to the feet failed and the ball rolled away. Minutes later, Lambert won a free kick from Ogbanna outside the box and then stepped up to try and finish the job. His low shot, however, was pushed out for a corner, which was then cleared by Kouyate. Two minutes later West Brom should have taken the lead when a Fletcher cross found Rondon right in front of Adrian. Nine times out of ten that becomes a goal celebration, but on this one time Adrian made himself big and was able to keep the ball out with the save of the match.
West Ham supporters love a good, attacking substitution late in a game. They got one in the 64th when Carroll came on for Obiang right before an attacking corner. A goal by AC would have been utterly poetic. A wide header by Sakho was a bit less dramatic.
If the idea of today being two dropped points was bad, what happened in the 72nd minute was significantly worse. Moses and Sakho broke on the counter, and it looked like a goal could be on offer. Moses slid the ball into the path of Sakho on the right side of the box but his shot was blocked by Olsson. Sakho, lying on the pitch, immediately signaled he had to come off. “That could be six to eight weeks by the look of it” said the TV. “Why don’t you go take a nap in traffic” was my loud reply.
West Brom continued to be on the front foot in the 78th minute when McClean found himself on the left of the West Ham penalty area with enough space to worry Reid, who had to lunge in quickly and force a corner. The delivery sailed over everyone and out to Zarate, but Yakob took one for the team and fouled the Argentine to squash any counter.
We have all been wondering when, or if, Antonio would get a chance to show what he can do. After Zarate won a free kick in the 82nd minute it was good to see the young winger finally get another chance. It just seemed odd that it was Zarate who made way. The free kick bounced to Carroll, but he couldn’t get a shot off quick enough and it bounced off any number of West Brom defenders.
West Ham came close to a stylish winner in the 89th minute when Carroll flicked the ball over the Baggies defense to Lanzini in the box, who then lobbed the ball across the box to Moses. But the Blue Loanee fired a low volley wide. Two minutes later it was West Brom’s turn to try a lob pass in the box, with Rondon looking for Lambert but the latter’s toe poke was light, weak, and easy pickin’s for Adrian.
The final chance came in the final minute of added time when Antonio passed to Lanzini near the top of the West Brom penalty area, who won a free kick. Incredibly, the satellite feed died at the moment Cresswell stepped up to take it. I’ve read that Myhill made a great save on a low shot. I hope that’s wrong because I’d rather not think we came that close on the last kick of the match.
Final Score. West Ham 1, West Brom 1.
So, no wins in four now. Not to mention we are actually behind ourselves from last season, when we had 24 points and a plus six goal differential after 14 games. I’m not suggesting we are in fact worse than last year, because I do not believe we will see the kind of relegation form we saw last season in the final 21 games. But it has made me push the personal re-set button and no longer concentrate as much on the table and points tally, but to try and see how we look on the bigger picture. Whether or not I can actually do that remains to be seen. We are playing better football overall than we have in a few years. And Bilic does prefer to attack the extra points than respect the one. We knew we would have a difficult run at some point, and being West Ham we also knew we would have difficult injuries to cope with.
How Bilic and the squad react to these things will say more about out future than the big wins earlier in the season.