The HamburgHammer Column
Proud. Gutted. Angry. Confused. Confident. This is just a sample of the rollercoaster of emotions I went through during and in the immediate aftermath of the West Brom game. (And it wasn’t much different for the Concordia game the day after.)
Our best striker was out. So we started the game with no outright striker on the pitch. But we had a lot going for us. We had passion, endeavour, spirit, spark, especially in the second half. We even made good use of the length and breadth of the pitch. The atmosphere in the stadium was, from what I could gather at home, rocking.
Even though we didn’t get the win, it was a hugely entertaining game, well worth the price for a ticket.
There were quite a few major incidents all of which were, when in doubt, decided in West Brom’s favour, albeit most of those rightly so. There’s no need for me to go into detail as that has been discussed at length in previous threads. I am sick and tired of having to mention game-defining (bad) calls from the referees every other week. Once again it has cost us points or at least contributed to us losing points. Plus our manager and his assistant who are likely to get some sort of touchline ban for the upcoming games.
I don’t blame Bilic and Nikola Jurcevic, his assistant, for losing their composure. Don’t get me wrong: We battled back, we took the lead with only a few minutes to go and we failed to hang on and bring the points home. That is the responsibility of our players who simply need to show better focus and professionalism. Then again we shouldn’t have been behind in the first place, their player clearly fouling Feghouli in the buildup to their goal in my opinion, you see those given quite regularly.
A first half equaliser for us was waived off by way of a controversial offside call (watching the replay it was still a pretty close call, but maybe the right one actually, still harsh on us) and even their second goal came from a dubious throw in decision a few moments earlier.
Thankfully video referees will eventually arrive and it won’t be a moment too soon and I’ll leave it at that. As for our team I cannot name a single player who didn’t put in a shift and performance. I will write the same now as I would have done if we had indeed won the game as for me that draw was undeserved on West Brom’s part, I very much see West Ham as the morale winners here which doesn’t give us th three points of course but at least we can all be proud of a very decent performance under testing circumstances.
In terms of defending Reid was, as usual, the rock we could depend on, it wasn’t a perfect performance, but a very creditable one again. Noble was my personal MotM.
For all his detractors he was in the middle of everything, covering every blade of grass, driving the team on and without bothering to look up the official stats there can’t have been another player out there touching the ball more often than he did.
Feghouli seems to lack a fanclub at West Ham for the time being, but I reckon he is slowly beginning to win the Hammers faithful over. He did a lot of things against West Brom, and he did a lot of things right, being a constant nuisance to West Brom.
And Lanzini is stepping up beautifully and wearing those Payet boots very well indeed – and I mean that purely in footballing terms. Another class goal. He is our creative outlet and we will hopefully see a lot more from Manuel in the next few years, preferably in a West Ham shirt.
An honourable mention goes to Calleri who showed a lot of effort but looks decidedly lightweight and is unlikely to be a long term fix for us anyway.
Which brings me to the headline of my column. We need some balance here – and not just in terms of calling for Bilic’s head (in some quarters at least) or calling West Ham players mingers after one or two underwhelming performances. No, we definitely need some balance to our squad and that will need to be addressed and sorted out in the summer. No more deluded hoping that our players will not suffer injuries next season. No resting easy in the knowledge that certain players may fill in at RB or upfront for half a season or so.
Right now we have a plethora of midfielders, jostling for gametime in various positions, DM, winger, wingback, attacking midfielder, makeshift striker, but not enough reliable experienced strikers. We have Carroll who is a monster of a forward when he plays, but as we all know he cannot be relied upon staying fit and he cannot even train regularly for fear of straining his delicate bones and muscles. Ankle issues, groin niggles, thigh strains, you name it, he gets it. So we cannot and shouldn’t build our team around Carroll next season.
Same goes for the defending positions, especially the RB spot. Yes, we have players who can fill in there like Kouyate or Nordtveit. But when you consider injuries and off-field issues, we only have Byram who himself is injury prone. At LB Masuaku is only just coming back (from injury, what else?) providing some welcome competition for Cresswell who just hasn’t been the same confident player ever since being kicked heavily into the new season in that summer “friendly” against Karlsruhe.
So I would just like to ask our board to make sure we have all positions in our squad covered adequately next season. Even if that costs money. Proper RBs playing at RB for starters.
Proper strikers who can convert the opportunities we create and who can also stay fit for the vast majority of the season. Preferably players who can grow and develop with the club, not stop gaps filling in for a season or two before retiring.
If we had started the West Brom game with a proper striker, I am convinced we would have won. Our season is now drifting further towards midtable insignificance.
We are too far away to catch the likes of Everton and we won’t be involved in a relegation dogfight. 10th or 9th is where we will finish which, on paper, is fine for a team moving to a new home stadium and losing their superstar creative player midseason in the process as well.
But the question is: Have our board seriously done enough on their part to give our team the best chance and a conducive environment to succeed this season?
I’m really not sure…
Finally, for those of you interested, the Concordia game, kicking off the second half of the season after the end of the winter break, was unfortunately another scissor kick in the guts for yours truly. The lads could have earned themselves a significant cushion at the top of the Oberliga Hamburg table with a win or at least a draw as our fiercest promotion rival unexpectedly lost to a so called lesser side on Friday.
Cordi, however, subsequently failed to do their bit yesterday, losing 2:1 to a lesser side as well, after taking a one goal lead late in the second half, only to see the home team score two late goals in heartbreaking fashion, pouncing on some shocking defensive and goalkeeping blunders on Concordia’s part.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, are Concordia West Ham in disguise ? At least Hamburg SV and St.Pauli won their games, so it’s not all bad…COYI!
Zaman Siddiqui's Match Review
Michael Oliver certainly played a big part in this game. Most of his decisions went the way of the Baggies who managed to bag themselves a point in the final minute of the match. During that time, the manager was protesting about the awarding of the corner as they scored. Slav then smashed the TV microphone to the ground in a fit of rage, which saw him sent to the stands (along with the assistant manager from an incident before) in the dying embers of the match. Embers is the right word there: the manner in which we conceded that goal was appalling. Randolph had to push Fernandes to get him to focus, whilst our players were beaten in the air. Surely we bought Collins on for his aerial ability?
With such drama on show, it is very easy to blame the referee. Fans and pundits alike have questioned whether the Olympic Stadium is suitable for football matches. But something we can all agree on is that theatre shows wouldn’t go amiss. Just imagine… the pageantry of Mike Dean, and the melodramatic stylings of Michael Oliver – two fantastic performances in the space of roughly a month. Tell you what, we’re being spoiled rotten! We can’t expect to see too many performances like this on a regular basis. I hope we can go back to seeing more stock characters next time.
Tony Pulis commented that the atmosphere inside our theatre of football was good, thus disproving some of our critics. The second half, in particular, was extremely loud. The referee made a lot of decisions that were met with disapproval. You could tell that most of the fans at the ground became incapable of making sound judgements, judging by the excessive noise levels, and frustration building around the ground. They were booing whenever our players made blatant fouls, which the referee obviously had to clamp down on.
To be frank, I don’t blame the fans. We absolutely dominated when we stepped back onto the pitch after the break. In this match, we had 16 shots with a pass completion rate of 71% in the final third. It was quite tentative stuff watching the second half, as we struggled to create chances due to a lack of creative outlets. Even the initial goal came from Foster tipping Lanzini’s effort onto the crossbar only for Feghouli to react quickest to it and score. The way in which that ball went into the goal epitomised just how frantically we were playing. Antonio (as ever) had to play in quite a few positions. The frustrating thing with him is that he is good as a striker, but is also a good creator – that’s the dilemma we faced. When and where should we play him?
We have conceded at least a goal in each of our last four matches within the opening half-hour. This once more exemplifies just how frantically we are playing at the moment. When Feghouli went down, we should have been alert to the danger. There was no certainty that Oliver was going to give a foul on him by Brunt. Looking at the replay, it turns out the referee was right not to stop play. One form of theatrical art is improvisation – something done spontaneously without any prior practice. Kouyaté, and Randolph are to blame here, as Chadli nutmegged the former and scored between the latter’s legs. If they improvised even a bit, then we could have avoided the goal. Additionally, that goal in the final minute needed a bit of improvisation. Sure, Slav was protesting the decision, but that doesn’t mean that the players had to lose focus. This match showed that we can be our own worst enemies at times with the sort of goals we concede.
The world of theatre can be used to present the experience of a real or imagined event. It can also be used effectively to showcase our lives in short moments, and of course, football! Aristotle came up with the three-act structure. It is quite simple: it is made up of a setup, confrontation, and a resolution. Now, given that the Baggies scored even before all the fans had arrived, it is the setup. The confrontation is the point in the match when we scored. And the resolution is the point at which they equalised. The resolution was more of an anticlimax, but we can’t dwell on it for too long.
The fact that Carroll didn’t even feature on the bench meant that the entire setup had changed. Our setup could have been a lot different had he played any part for us in the match. Even if Andy didn’t start, he would have been a good option on the bench to come on for the final 20 minutes or so. Sure, we scored the crucial goal with Lanzini, though it could have come a lot earlier. This would have made the second act a lot more exciting. Imagine a confrontation with Carroll. Ha! Anyway, I think he could have given us a happy ending as well. Collins didn’t do much from the corner, but with the onus on Carroll, you can just imagine the Geordie clearing it away. At the start of the match, most would have taken a draw. The theatre we go to week-in, week-out can be quite melodramatic, but it is important to see the aesthetic value of the point we got today, in spite of Lanzini’s late goal. Speaking of aesthetic value, the Jewel scored an absolute scorcher!
Today's London Stadium attendance for West Ham v West Brom was 56,983 ???? pic.twitter.com/rdMWiEZ89j
— West Ham Football (@westhamfootball) February 11, 2017
A five-day training camp awaits the players in Dubai. Well, I say training camp… But seriously, no doubt there will be lots of exercise drills, and whatnot. I’m sure the team will be eager to get three points against Watford in a few weeks time. This match will go down as two points dropped. Only Bournemouth (6) have conceded more goals in the 90th minute of Premier League games than us this season (4). That is something we have to work on. Hopefully, the players will make sure we don’t concede late yet again. Mauro Zarate will likely be playing for the Hornets, so a bit of pride at stake. We are still in the top half, so no cause for concern just yet.
David Hautzig's Match Report
Before I begin my usual ramblings, I’d like to thank those of you who posted kind words about the loss of my dad last week. I particularly liked the cricket reference, noting that at the age of 95 he posted a “good innings”. I’d never heard that, and it certainly made me smile at a time that smiles were hard to come by. Football is special in many ways, and the sense of community it engenders amongst its family members is unlike anything known in other sports. Thanks again.
Talk about feeling out of place. Looking up at not only a Tony Pulis team, but a Tony Pulis team that at times have played some sparkling football to go along with the usual iron wall organizing that is his calling card. When you added the injury to Carroll (do NOT act surprised or indignant, we all knew it would happen), a point looked like a good result when I woke up this morning. Yet when I turn in tonight, I won’t be happy with that point. Not by a long shot.
Despite The Baggies solid shape in midfield, the Hammers makeshift right back Kouyate was able to break through the defense in the third minute to create space on the right side of the West Brom penalty area. He sent a cross into the area but Snodgrass couldn’t connect and the threat was gone.
At times this season it has looked like West Ham have actually rehearsed a kind of Keystone Cops routine of bad passing and defending. You can almost hear that Benny Hill music in the background. In the fifth minute, Noble and Feghouli tried to pass their way out of the West Ham area. Brunt may have fouled Feghouli just as he sent a pass that was intended for Noble. But it was weak regardless, and Morrison jumped right in to intercept. That wasn’t the worst of it. Morrison rolled a pass to Chadli, who nutmegged Kouyate before sending the ball through Randolph’s legs and into the net. Foul? Maybe. Weak defending? Absolutely.
West Ham 0
West Brom 1
When Snodgrass was courted and then signed, his free kick ability was listed prominently in the plus column. In the 12th minute, West Ham won a free kick 25 yards from goal, and while he didn’t score he showed his ability by forcing a good save by Foster. Two minutes later, West Brom broke on a long ball to Phillips. Rondon got on the end of Phillips lay off and sent a superb looping strike that beat Randolph but couldn’t beat the crossbar. West Ham were fortunate not to be two nil down and possibly out of the match before it started.
In the 18th minute, EPL officiating was once again the focus of attention. And scorn. Snodgrass stepped up to take another free kick and curled it into the box. Foster came out to get it but couldn’t control it. At the same time, he crashed into Dawson, pushing him into Antonio. Which likely felt like granite to the West Brom defender. He went down like a duck in a skeet shoot as the ball popped out to Lanzini. His low shot was deflected into the net by Feghouli. Goal, right? No. The linesman’s flag was up. But with Dawson down there couldn’t be offside, right? And no foul was called on anybody for Dawson’s predicament. So it’s a goal, right? Of course not. Why? No clue.
In the 30th minute, West Ham came inches away from an equalizer that would have counted when Snodgrass sent a corner into the box. Antonio attacked it and when Foster wasn’t able to gather it up the ball floated down right in front of Antonio. Any touch at all and it would have been 1-1. But Antonio hit nothing but air and West Brom were able to clear the ball off the line.
West Ham continued to move the ball well through the midfield, but without a recognized striker to finish the work done by Obiang, Lanzini, Snodgrass and company it looked destined to end the same way again and again. West Brom kept their shape and cleared the ball from any semblance of danger. The 40th minute exemplified that issue when Antonio made a run down the left and sent a cross into the box. The issue there was that Antonio, the best aerial threat in the side, wasn’t fast enough to get on the end of his own pass. Snodgrass and Lanzini in the box against large central defenders wasn’t a useful idea.
In first half injury time, after some good footwork near the top of the Baggies penalty area Snodgrass tried a nifty little pass off the outside of his right foot that Antonio couldn’t quite reach and it went out for a goal kick. Moments later Feghouli tried to roll a through ball in the box for Snodgrass. The Scottish international went down, screaming for a penalty. Michael Oliver did not agree, and the half was over.
West Ham 0
West Brom 1
One of the hardest things to do when you write these reports, even as a hobby, is to watch any part of a match after you know the result. Due to my desire not to see my son drown, with my wife at a work conference it was my job to get him to his swimming lesson today. I followed the match on my IPhone, and with seconds to go I shared the same elation as all of you. Only to see that turn to despondency. I was able to contain myself enough not to hurl my 6S Plus at an innocent child, or worse into the pool. So after getting home, making lunch for myself and the kids, I sat down to watch the second half knowing full well what I would see.
Cresswell being removed for Calleri to start the second half was the kind of positive change supporters generally take kindly to. If it wasn’t for most supporters disdain for the Argentine striker it might have been warmly welcomed. I for one still hold some hope for Calleri, so I gave both him and Bilic the benefit of the doubt. Although I’m probably in the minority.
At one point in January, it seemed like Feghouli to Roma was a foregoing conclusion. But thankfully for us, he started to show what he is capable of before the flight to Italy could be booked. In the 50th minute, he made a good run to win a corner, and then moments later picked out Antonio in the box but the human freight train couldn’t get a shot off. Finally, in the 63rd minute, Lanzini made space for himself at the top of the West Brom penalty area and unleashed a viscous shot off the crossbar. It bounced straight out, and Feghouli was quickest to react and put it where it belonged.
West Ham 1
West Brom 1
The sound at the London Stadium suddenly came through the television as if it was a proper football stadium. West Ham pressed all over the pitch, and Feghouli, Antonio, and even Calleri began to make adventurous runs. The latter thought he was fouled in the box and had earned West Ham a penalty in the 69th minute, but the contact wouldn’t have made me go down so I wasn’t surprised Oliver waved it away.
West Ham came close to taking the lead in the 74th minute when Obiang sent a fine through ball into the box for Calleri. The first touch was awful. The second not so bad, and Calleri rolled a shot that Foster had to dive to stop. Lanzini tried to get onto the rebound but just missed and the game stayed level….on my DVR.
Last season, despite all of you know who’s heroics, a friend of mine that works for another EPL club said to me that as good as the Frenchman was, Lanzini was the player he wished his club had. As the second half plowed on, The Jewel looked like he wanted to take hold of the game and own it. He made runs, crosses, and tracked back. Yet there was no end product. Until the 86th minute when he took a pass from Feghouli and fired a low shot from 25 yards that didn’t seem to be going anywhere….until it did. Right past Foster.
West Ham 2
West Brom 1
Then, in the 94th minute, we know what happened. I’m sure other supporters of other clubs probably think they have the worst luck. But I feel like we have lived through more last second heartbreak than every other club on the planet. Combined. Yeah, Slaven thought West Brom shouldn’t have had a throw. He may even face sanctions for pointing out what was indeed awful officiating. Yet that doesn’t explain why Randolph was busy pushing Fernandes in the back when Evans went up for the corner kick. It should not have happened. It did. And what should have been a glorious rest of the weekend became a damp sponge. A moldy one, too.
I guess if we were fighting the drop or chasing a top six spot the two points would eat away at the lining of my stomach far worse than it did at the final whistle. In all probability, we are right about where we will finish. Considering how many of us felt a few months ago, tenth on 32 points in February should be considered a blessing. And if you wanted to take an optimistic view, the club is now undergoing a kind of re-calibration. And the early signs are quite good. Feghouli looks close to undroppable, Lanzini is taking over the position of central midfield creative leader, Snodgrass acts like he’s been here for years, and Bilic is learning and growing on the job. So the intellectual vantage point is solid. It’s just that I’m controlled by the emotional one.
And that side will have me pull what little hair I have left out for a few days.
Please use this thread to comment on the match as it progresses.