Tony Hanna's Musings
Moyes in or Moyes out? Moysiah or Dinosaur? Well, if we go down he will be gone for sure and in my opinion if we stay up he will be with us for at least another season. Personally, I thought he pulled all the right strings on Sunday with the possible exception of playing Mario instead of Lanzini. But there again I am not privy to just how fit the latter is following his injury lay off. Moyes made all the right substitutions at the right time – again in my opinion. Hart deserved another game as Adrian’s chance will come next weekend anyway, against City. We were never going to take the game to Arsenal. They have a 100% home record against teams outside the top six and even with weakened team selections they put three past Stoke and Southampton in recent weeks. At the 80 minute mark we looked like we were getting a point which in our current predicament would have been gold. Until that mistake from Rice. Hart last week – Rice this week, but players are human and the only thing we can hold onto is that they learn from their mistakes. But do they? Do they really go back on the training ground and work on their own weaknesses, or is it just back to the same stuff they were doing last week. I would really like to know. I am sure the best of the best do, but do our players?
When I was eighteen I had joined a new football team. The manager soon had me taking all the free kicks and corners. But a few games into the season we were playing a Cup match and we were 3-0 down at half time against Leyton, a team we were expected to beat. We pulled the deficit back to 3-2 and with the last kick of the game we were awarded a penalty. The manager was pointing at me to take the penalty. I had never taken a penalty in senior football before and as I placed the ball on the spot I had no plan other than to blast it as hard as I could. I managed to do that but the ball sailed over the bar. Walking off after that game I felt distraught having let my team mates down. “Don’t worry Tone, it’s Ok” was something I heard several times from my team mates, but I knew deep down it was me that had let the team down. The manager came up to me and said “you better put some practice in lad because you will be taking the next penalty we get”. Good job my best mate was one of the best keepers in the district because I spent hours with him on a routine that included my run up, body shape for deception on delivery and hitting the exact same spot inside the post to the keepers right. I only missed one more penalty in my playing days. So when I see the National team getting beaten in penalty shoots outs and they turn up for the next World Cup and the manager says “no, we don’t practice penalties” I just cringe. These players are far more talented and dedicated than I ever was, but now they are at the top are they practising the right things, ironing out their weaknesses and really working on improving rather than just stagnating or staying comfortable. With some of the things I keep seeing with West Ham I have my doubts.
My self- indulgent journey back in time to my own playing days was a prelude to Declan Rice’s error against Arsenal and even to Joe Hart’s the week before. When I see a young player making a game changing mistake it often takes me back to how I felt after that penalty miss. Moyes defended Hart for his error against Stoke but put blame on Rice a week later. He knows the players better than us and hopefully his remarks are well judged psychologically. I would like to think that there was a rational reasoning for his different responses. But at training this week will we be practicing crosses coming in at Joe Hart with Rice in front of him? Will their communication be worked upon? Should the keeper be calling “away” or only calling when the ball needs to be left. I could go on but you get the drift. Because for some time our free kick and corner kick routines have been pathetic. There has been almost no creativity in working on new set piece variations to catch out opponents. Bang it into the box but fail to beat the first defender is a common theme. Another area where we are really poor is keeping possession from our own throw ins. I was listening to an ex player the other day, forgive me as I can’t remember who it was, but he was a player who moved from the Championship to the Premier League. He said the first thing that struck him in training was that his PL club didn’t practice throw in routines. “In the Championship we would spend several hours every week just on those” he stated. I bet you we don’t practice ours at West Ham! Monreal scored the first goal for Arsenal from a corner – a set piece. He was Cresswell’s “man” but found three or more yards of space from the moment the corner was taken to the time he shot home. Before the ball went in Masuaku was protecting the near post but seemed to move away from his station to allow Hart more room to make a save – for the first two goals it was all about our defenders not taking responsibility. It really was a comedy of errors but they seem to be occurring every week.
The other area that leaves a lot to be desired is keeping the ball in the corner from corner kicks or playing the short one. The one in the last minute at Chelsea that went pear shaped was followed by the very next corner West Ham had at home to Stoke where the pass back to the corner taker put him offside. Both were abysmal and totally inept. Surely, if we are going to waste time then put Arnie and Kouyate in the corner, rather than Cullen and Noble. Makes sense doesn’t it – getting around those two big lumps would be rather more difficult! So, back to my first paragraph about Dinosaur or Moysiah? He told us he would get the players fitter, which he probably did but we don’t know for certain. But has he made the players better? Has he got them working on their mistakes and deficiencies or are we just going through the same motions at training every week. Because the manager we need is the one that is doing the former.