The GoatyGav Column
That was tough viewing in the second half. My brother and I were very pleased with what we saw in the first forty-five minutes. Apart from the goal, once again conceded from the left side of the pitch which caught the defence flat footed, the signs were very encouraging. The half time beer, like the football that preceded it, was crisp and lively with only the fizzy quality of both the Amstel and Walker’s run and cross unpleasant on the palate.
The key cause for my optimism for the forthcoming season, however, is the contribution of Haller’s debut. He barely put a foot wrong and was instrumental in virtually all of what was good about the first half. Despite not training with the team for very long and having had less of a pre-season to many other players he was my West Ham man of the match by some distance. I thought that Arnie could provide a positive impact on a match however Haller is going to leave the Austrian former West Ham player’s contributions in the shade.
I can understand fans jitters when it comes to early season form. Once bitten twice shy is an easily induced position to hold after four straight defeats at the start of last season but I really don’t think we should be concerned. The start of 2019-20 sees a completely different situation for the team. With a total of six incoming players, of which only four are outfield, there’s nowhere near as much new blood to our starting line-up and with a more established team we’ll be a far more cohesive unit coming out of the blocks this time around.
So why such a poor second half than first then? Well it was simply a question of Man City improving as the game went on. Frankly I’m pleased the game finished when it did as we could easily have conceded more. That said our final ball and finishing were both well below the standard of our opponents. For me that was the biggest difference on Saturday afternoon.
All that said there is still the ‘one half’ syndrome that has plagued the team for years now. Seldom has the team played well in both halves of a match. This is something that really does need addressing. I’m not convinced it’s down to fitness. Maybe we have players who feel that they can take their foot off the gas for periods during the game? Perhaps it’s a confidence thing? There was definitely an element of the latter on Saturday as the City players seemed to anticipate practically everything we did when in possession – a fact backed up by the stated stat of their 13 interceptions. Tactical fouls by City or not there’s no getting away from the fact that we played poorly in the latter half of the game compared to the earlier one. The streetwise nature of Pep’s team, with their thirteen fouls to our five, was a factor in the win but not a major one.
The stats from the game opens one’s eyes. An improved 44/56 possession ratio is an improvement on previous encounters with the PL Champions. Territorially we weren’t so inferior either – with 23.4% of play in City’s final third and 49.6% in the middle. Overall passes of 403 vs 547 with accuracy of 80.6% vs 86.5% (Source: Skysports) looks better than previous games too. There is, however, only one stat that matters. The amount of goals conceded in the last five games against City, compared to those scored, doesn’t make great reading.
The VAR thing’s been done to death. Personally I think it’s a good thing. If it means fairer outcomes and help for ref then it’s got my approval.
I expect us to look far better against a decent Brighton next week. If the team can just keep an intensity going for the 90 minutes I genuinely think we’ll come away with all three points and be far happier Hammers come five o’clock on Saturday. Frankly the sooner we can get result against the Citizens out of our system the better.
I’ll be writing next week’s piece from Barcelona. I feel a cheeky stadium tour coming on for my boys, my younger lad’s mate who is with us, and I despite it being a ‘family’ holiday. You never know – I might even treat M’Julie to a trip to the Camp Nou. She really doesn’t know how lucky she is having such a considerate husband as me.
Elsewhere I binge watched the Jack Sullivan documentaries on the BBC this weekend. Was even featured in episode 9 for a split second, with phone to my ear, at the start when they were showing some of the Ladies semi-final at Adams Park. There’s definitely a more engaged West Ham Women fan in me this season than at the start of last. If I had time to use it I’d have got a ST for the WSL games at Rush Green as well as the men’s first team this term. I will, however, try and get to as many games as I can to shout the girls on. I know that a number of last season’s squad have moved on to make way for new players but I was pleased to see the familiar faces from 2018-19 that are still on the roster. I look forward to their first game on the first of September and wish them all the best for the forthcoming season.
Lastly, but definitely not least, I’d like to go on record to wish Dan Coker and his family my heartiest congratulations on his new arrival. Such a special time – made up for you mate :D . All the best with it – hope the babe settles in to a decent sleeping pattern as soon as possible.
COME ON YOU RIP ROARIN’ IRONS!