Well, fellow WHTIDers: Let me start by thanking you all again for the wonderful reactions to my previous article chronicling events and antics of my recent trip to East London for the Palace game. I didn’t quite expect so much positivity and goodwill but I’m glad most of you liked the piece anyway…
Back to Planet Earth then after that fantastic trip of mine, back to my own living room and armchair in East Hamburg (I’ve actually started calling the place Dagenhamburg now, in an affectionate way mind), screwdriver at the ready of course and boy, did I need it for this game! When we went 2:0 down I immediately thought back to Norwich and Everton away and subsequently kept watching in anticipation of a fightback which is exactly what we got. After getting our tactics slightly wrong with the defensive setup initially Bilic made the necessary amendments second half and then of course there was the Andy Carroll we had hoped, wished and prayed for ever since he signed for West Ham, the one who is unplayable, not because he’s watching from the stands, injured yet again, but because he is a handful for any defender when he is actually fit and playing..
The Arsenal game was without doubt one of the best this 44 year old Hamburglar has ever seen and it is not often that I am still disappointed after drawing 3:3 with Wenger FC. This felt more like a cruel and undeserved defeat and unfortunately yet again the referee (with assistance from his linos) had a hand or two in it.
Not giving a perfectly legitimate onside goal by Lanzini, failing to send off Gabriel after clearly lashing out at Carroll with his foot (after getting fouled by Carroll immediately prior to that), not giving the Payet goal (which is one of those which could have gone either way to be fair) plus giving numerous decisions Arsenal’s way while also allowing one of their goals to stand which was at least borderline offside.
Yes, he maybe could also have given Carroll a second yellow card at one stage, but overall it was still a pretty biased and shocking performance by Mr.Pawson.
Now then, I like a good old conspiracy theory as much as the next geezer, it’s good for a bit of a giggle, it’s exciting, it gives us something to pontificate about (thanks Zaman!).
In terms of referees or the FA conspiring against West Ham getting into the Champions League though I am not so sure.
Does anyone really believe the FA has held a secret meeting with all their referees in a secluded Ipswich hotel, handing out orders to deliberately give decisions against West Ham on a regular basis to keep them from finishing 4th or 3rd ? Maybe promising them bonus payments for their services at the end of the season or a two week all expenses paid holiday to Barbados ? I’m not buying that.
Then again, bad decisions against us and penalties not given in our favour have piled up over the course of the season and especially in the last five games or so.
The timing of this is significant too as we have reached the business end of the season. Leicester are almost over the line to win the title, they are already over the line actually in terms of playing CL football next season – don’t forget, at the expense of at least one of the usual suspects like Chelsea or Liverpool.
Does the FA maybe feel a bit uncomfortable with the thought of another rebel club like West Ham breaking the top four and take CL football away from yet another usual suspect in Manchester United or Manchester City ? It still is too unlikely a scenario to even consider it to be true, but then again it does make a lot of sense in terms of protecting the global marketability of the Premier League. We can’t have all those Asian Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool fans going through a season without CL football for their adopted clubs only to see unfashionable newcomers like Leicester and West Ham gatecrashing the party…
What doesn’t quite make so much sense to me anymore is starting Adrian in league games. In my view he no longer is the automatic choice he used to be as he has been very erratic in recent games, committed the odd shocker (like against Palace) and in general has been sending out pretty nervous and insecure vibes lately all of which seems to affect our defenders.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Adrian to bits, he’s a club legend in the making already and a great guy to have at West Ham, but he shouldn’t be immune to losing his shirt after a series of less than impressive performances. Randolph deserves his chance in my view, he is incredible calm and composed and that seems to filter through to the rest of the team.
The thought of Randolph in goal for us fills me with a lot more confidence at the moment than Adrian keeping his place and we have plenty of games coming up anyway, so no reason not to give Adrian a bit of an extended breather.
The absence of Sakho for the Arsenal game has resulted in an avalanche of rumours about why exactly he was missing: Minor knock suffered in training as Bilic hinted at in interviews ? Did he walk out of training in anger and not show up for the Arsenal game because he had been told that Carroll would be starting and not him ?
Is there something even more sinister in it, like him engaging in some sort of relationship with the girlfriend or wife of a teammate as has been rumoured on another West Ham forum ? We can only hope it is indeed just a minor injury that kept him out rather than one of the other scenarios.
Bilic won’t have any of that, he has started to build our success on a solid foundation of togetherness, teamwork and chemistry in the dressing room.
You rock the boat at your own peril as guys like Amalfitano and Zarate had to learn the hard way. I get it if Sakho feels frustrated at not playing, having just returned from a lengthy injury spell. I expect every single one of our players in our squad itching to play every single game, especially our strikers. But the team is the most important thing.
If Bilic felt Carroll was the best option to cause Arsenal problems (and boy, did he cause Arsenal problems on Saturday!) then this is the manager’s prerogative and the players need to accept that. I reckon we will learn soon enough what really is behind all this and if matters can be resolved with a serious talk between Bilic and Sakho.
If not, then we could do a lot worse than signing Emenike on a permanent deal. I’ve been singing his praises for a while as I like a trier and a workhorse at West Ham and he is certainly that. Fenerbahce’s asking price is rumoured to be around the 8 million quid mark and if we can negotiate that down somewhat I reckon he is someone worth considering to bolster our options. He hasn’t scored many yet, but that could just be an issue of scoring one league goal to get the confidence growing and banging in a few more after that.
He runs his socks off for the team, has a good first touch and creates spaces and opportunities for others too. He’s a bit of an unsung hero and I can see him as a West Ham player beyond this quite remarkable season. “The fighting goalscorer” has been his nickname in Turkey and Nigeria, we’ve seen plenty of fight for him so far, let’s hope we now get to see more of his goalscoring side as well in the upcoming games.
Right then, Manchester United next, final FA Cup game ever under the Boleyn lights, another night of potential magic, beauty and sheer excitement in East London.
I’ll throw my hat in the ring here and ask for JOB to start at RB, he is just the kind of experienced head and solid no-nonsense performer we need there at the moment.
Leave the tricks, flicks and stepovers to guys like Payet, Lanzini and Antonio – and let JOB handle that right side of our defense which has looked shaky in recent weeks.
Other than that I just hope we give them one hell of a game and the result will not be unduly affected by more howlers from the refereeing crew.
On paper we should have more than enough for them to go through top the semi finals, with or without Rooney on the pitch.
May the screwdriver do its job and may the dead badger be with us! COYI !!!