The HamburgHammer Column

The art of the substitution - we need the squad to stay up

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This will be a fairly short column, by my standards, as David Hautzig has covered the unlucky defeat against Arsenal in his brilliant article better than I could ever hope to achieve. I have not much to add to that, mainly because I only started to watch our game after the 40th minute.

Due to a lengthy injury break the Concordia away game had taken much longer than anticipated, so I had started following the progress in the Arsenal game from the passenger seat in the car by way of updates on my smartphone, finding myself in the comfortable position of having been offered a drive home by a fellow Cordi fan.

So, it was still 0:0 when I started watching and what I saw after that was quite impressive from our boys. We really looked the more likely team to score throughout. The stats confirm this. While we had far less possession of the ball we still managed 14 shots on goal, six of them on target – significantly more than Arsenal. But, alas, no goal for us and no cigar.

The Gooners caught a lifeline with a little help from VAR – they were lucky getting the win not so much because of VAR ruling rightly in their favour but because they didn’t really do enough in the game to deserve the win.
But football isn’t always fair – we missed enough chances that on another day might have won us two games, but it wasn’t to be.

We did at least continue with a positive line up, including Bowen, Antonio, Haller and Fornals, causing Arsenal plenty of problems in the process. But we didn’t tuck those chances away. Being more clinical in front of goal has to be the top priority in training now for Moyes and the other coaches to work on down at Rush Green.

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Which brings me to my little discussion topic of the column: The art of substituting players. Some managers seem to be quite brilliant at it, always finding just the right moment to bring a player on who then scores a vital goal within five minutes of entering the pitch.

Other managers seem reluctant to make early substitutions (unless they have to make a switch due to an untimely injury to a player), being of the opinion it’s best not to upset a formation that has been playing reasonably well for 60 minutes.

Whichever way you look at substitutions, they can be a valuable tool for any manager to affect a game, to catch an opposition team by surprise, to react to a weakness spotted in the other team during the game or a weakness in your own line up for that matter.

There are valid arguments for both schools of subs. If you have a tight unit on the pitch, playing together regularly, with each player knowing the running patterns and movements of his teammates it might appear foolish to upset that chemistry and balance.

But if you need to mix things up a bit, change the tactics on the pitch, if you’re desperate for a goal or two – then sometimes you have to make changes. And any player on the bench worth his salt is itching to come on and put his stamp on proceedings anyway. Bench players can be a fearsome weapon. If you give them half a chance.

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In my book, there is nothing wrong with making changes early on, maybe even after half an hour or at half-time when you see that a gameplan just isn’t working or one of your players keeps being targeted as a weak spot in the line up by the opposition. I firmly believe that any player coming into a game from the bench needs some settling in time to find his feet, to get into the rhythm of a match. The earlier you make a change the better the chances that the player can have a positive impact.

David Moyes seems to be reluctant to use early substitutions. Most of the changes he makes happen around the 70 minute mark. Which massively increases the pressure on the substitute player as there is less time to affect the game. I strongly feel we have a good chance to stay up this season as all the teams down there with us have been struggling in recent games too – no other team has pulled away significantly from the relegation zone yet.

But I also feel we need to use the entire squad to give us the best chance to survive. We need squad rotation, competition for places and high energy levels out there on the pitch.

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Pace and pressing are crucial elements in our battle for staying up. That’s why I reckon Noble will not and cannot play 90 minutes of every game we will still have to navigate this season.

I have no inside information why it is that Ajeti is not even on the bench for us these days, if he has been throwing any toys out of any prams lately.
But he, for instance, is a clinical finisher. He has even done it in the CL for his former club. If you look at the goals he used to score for Basel they have been of an impressive variety, scored by foot or head, left foot and right foot, close-range efforts and piledrivers from the edge of the box.

If we want to start turning good performances into goals and wins we need fresh legs out there, we need to put more effort in than the opposition, we need to run more and we need to take our chances. I am confident we can do this as our fate is now in our own hands and feet. We don’t need to look (and neither should we) at what the other teams around us are doing – just approach every game as our own little cup final and go for the win every single time. Premier League survival will sort itself out for West Ham then in the end. Luck and VAR will be on our side if we keep pushing hard.

But it’ll be very tight around that relegation zone and not for the faint of heart.

COYI!!!

Fill in the 2020 London Stadium Survey at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/RRZNRGF


Poll

London Stadium Survey 2020

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Just over three years ago West Ham Till I Die with others ran the first London Stadium survey in March 2017.

Supported by a number of different West Ham websites, blogs and social media accounts, the survey was completed by over 10,000 match-going supporters in previous years.

The 2019 survey results were published last year at:

www.westhamtillidie.com/posts/2019/03/26/london-stadium-survey-results-published

The 2020 survey takes around three minutes to fill out and is designed only for those who have visited the London Stadium in-person to sample one or more West Ham games this season. Please base your answers on your most recent visit to the London stadium to recognise areas which may have improved or deteriorated.

We would like to encourage as many season ticket holders, claret members and general admission ticket supporters to answer this questionnaire as possible so please spread the word far and wide on forums and social media. This is designed to be an independent survey of supporters and not affiliated one particular West Ham site, blog or social media channel.

A copy of the results of this survey including all comments will be shared with the West Ham board of directors after the closing date.

Fill in the 2020 London Stadium Survey at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/RRZNRGF


Match Report

Black Comedy

Apparently, Newham Council have designated the London Stadium as a giant morgue. West Ham fans have know this since 2016. A good source says that Karren Brady wants to charge £700 for each body, if the West Ham schedule is disrupted and the West Ham mascot package will be adapted to demonstrate this is real value for money.

The glass barriers in front of GSB will finally be put to good use, as it will help them to isolate themselves from the virus. We want them to survive this pandemic, don’t we?

OK, this is black humour, but we, West Ham fans, surely must appreciate this kind of comedy and also have a good dose of being able to laugh at ourselves.

Anyway, I spent Saturday morning in Waitrose trying to buy a cake for International Women’s Day, but the cake shelf was cleared , as people were panic buying in case they had to arrange a funeral. I went home and baked a cake instead and froze it, in case my wife needs it. I grabbed the last pack of toilet rolls and I have absolutely no idea why I did that.

I’m just over seventy, so I will be quarantined shortly and not allowed to attend a football match. This may be excellent for the recovery of my mental health, although I now have obsessive- compulsive disorder, as, thanks to Boris Johnson, I am washing my hands every ten minutes. My own solution is for the Government to manufacture Star Wars Storm Trooper outfits, as this would seem the best solution for avoiding the virus, together with tasers to prevent anyone from getting within two metres.

I didn’t expect us to beat Arsenal. I was at the Emirates in 2015, when we beat them and there was a little bit of hope hiding somewhere at the back of my brain.
But, you can’t win a game of football if you don’t score goals. With three up front and the team showing plenty of effort, we had our chances. Bowen, in particular, stood out and it looks as if he has a bright future. When he sees the goal, he strikes.

Unfortunately, that cannot be said of Haller, who seems to have a dreadful loss of confidence, or, even worse, does not have the ability. His positioning at times is awful. Just when Antonio had the opportunity to give him a tap in, he runs onto the arms of the goalkeeper. In other games, I’ve seen him pass instead of having a go himself. And he doesn’t seem to have learnt from Antoniou that he has the strength to get stuck into to defences. My advice to him would be to get stuck in.

Rice is getting back to his best and he definitely reminds me of Bobby Moore, with his ability to understand the game. When he moves forward, he looks dangerous and I’d like to see more of that.

What we missed badly was Anderson. There is no doubt he is out of form. But we need his ingenuity, even genius. I don’t think it can be helpful to his mentality by bringing him on in the eightieth minute. I think Moyes is trying to compete with Pellegrini as to who has the worst understanding of how to use substitutes.

Soucek is back, thank goodness and he should replace Noble, who hasn’t been up to the job for a long time. He spent a season passing the ball sideways or backwards. Then, there was an improvement, but, against Arsenal, he looked a bit like a headless chicken. Why did he stand right by the ball, when Cresswell was taking a free kick just outside the Arsenal area? It can’t be good for Cresswell’s concentration.

People believe Noble is a good captain, but, perhaps, he could have done more to prevent the departure of Payet and Arnautovic. And then there was the incident with the bust up with Ogbonna on the pitch, with the latter appearing to be quite a mild character.

We have fixtures against Watford, Burnley, Norwich and Aston Villa. David Moyes have brought the team on, so that all of us think there is potential and these fixtures, should see us home and dry together with a couple of points from other games.


David Hautzig's Match Report

Arsenal 1, West Ham 0. Ohhhhh, To Be Clinical.

Once again, we spend equal parts watching West Ham play along with other results near the foot of the table. It’s where we have lived for the majority of my time supporting the club, so like many of you I’m used to it. Callum Wilson’s early goal for Bournemouth turned me into a cranky old bastard for the earliest part of my day. And Milner’s clearance off the line after an Adrian brain fart made my knees buckle. I was genuinely fearful Palace would fold against Watford, but a little more hopeful Wolves and Shafting United would do us a favor. In the end, everything went to form today yet we have reason to be disappointed.

West Ham started the match strongly when Bowen intercepted a very poor pass by Xhaka and let loose a low shot that Leno got his fingertips to and pushed it off the post for a corner. Cresswell’s delivery was, well, awful and the Gooners were able to clear.

West Ham should have taken the lead in the 11th minute when Fornals sent Antonio off on a counter. With Haller on his left, he chose to roll a pass to Haller in the box when maybe a shot would have been the better option. Or perhaps an earlier pass. In the end Antonio’s pass was behind Haller and the opportunity was gone. Moments later it was the home side on the front foot. Ogbonna couldn’t quite clear and Ozil had a chance that Diop blocked out for a corner. West Ham was able to deal with the threat through the forehead of Declan Rice, but Arsenal won another corner that again called on Rice to handle.

West Ham had yet another chance in the 18th minute when Bowen won the ball 25 yards from goal, which allowed Noble to roll a pass to Haller inside the box. But his first touch was heavy, which allowed Leno to come out and block Haller’s attempt out for a corner. Three good chances in the first twenty minutes at The Emirates was good. Having nothing to show for it was awful.

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The 22nd minute was Arsenal’s turn to rue a missed chance. Pepe passed to Aubameyang inside the West Ham eighteen yard box, and the man from Gabon looped a ball for Sokratis. The man from Greece should have scored, but his header went over the bar and onto the top of the net. The universe returned one of West Ham’s missed chances.

In the 30th minute, Antonio was lucky to win a corner when his run into the box included a very heavy touch that deflected off Mari. That’s when Jordan Ayew scored for Palace against Watford, so there was that bit of good news to offset the rather poor delivery from Cresswell. Minutes later it was Arsenal with a corner when Cresswell was forced to send a long pass intended for Pepe down the right into the crowd. Fabianski came out to claim the ball, and after a slight lapse in concentration in getting rid of the ball when Mari ran in front of him the threat was over.

Five minutes later Pepe got the ball on the right side of the West Ham eighteen yard box. I knew he would do a few step-overs before trying a shot with his left foot, because he kind of always does that, so why Cresswell didn’t seem to know that surprised me. The shape and organization of the back four stayed true, so the game remained scoreless.

Thank you Billy Sharp. Norwich down by one to Shafting United.

West Ham upped their count of missed chances to four in the 40th minute when Antonio made a run down the left and sent a cross into the box that Luiz headed behind for a corner. Noble found Diop at the far post with the set piece, and the West Ham center back headed the ball towards goal. Antonio was there, but it looked as if he didn’t quite know where he was and the ball bounced off his shin and out for a goal kick.

Halftime
Arsenal 0
West Ham 0

The second half opened with Arsenal on the ball in the West Ham half. They moved the ball around, won the ball back after Bowen intercepted a pass and tried to start a counter, and generally looked the better side. In many ways, other than the scoreline, it resembled the match earlier in the season at The London Stadium. Arsenal were second best in the first forty five, but started to assert themselves when the whistle blew to star the second half.

Arsenal had a chance to take the lead in the 52nd minute when Saka danced through three West Ham defenders and threaded a pass to the cutting Nketiah. Fabianski came out to meet the striker and stopped the shot with his left arm and Ogbonna cleared. Nketiah got behind Ogbonna moments later but Fabianski came out to smother and end the attack.

West Ham yet again had a fantastic chance to take the lead in the 56th minute. Cresswell sent a cross from the left that Haller was able to flick on to Antonio all alone in front of Leno. But his header was weak and right at the Arsenal keeper. Despite the possession numbers West Ham had more solid chances than the hosts, and the specter of not taking something from a game like that was looming.

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Bowen went on a run in the 66th minute down the middle. He may have made the wrong choice by trying a long low shot instead of finding someone else out wide. Maybe his shot could have been better. But in real time, watching it, he had space and I understood the decision. Leno saved it with ease. A few minutes later it was Bowen again on the run, this time winning a corner down the right. It was cleared, but only as far as Noble who then won a free kick 25 yards from goal. Arsenal handled the set piece, and the squandered chances scoreboard kept leaning in West Ham’s direction.

Fornals had a very good chance in the 75th minute after Bowen launched a counter attack. The initial swarm was repelled, but Noble sent a cross that found Fornals unmarked in the box. The in form midfielder tried a volley, but his contact wasn’t solid and into the ground. The ball bounced rather harmlessly to Leno.

In the 78th minute, Arsenal finally made the breakthrough courtesy of VAR. A pass from Saka deflected to Ozil, who pushed it to Lacazette, who bounced it past Fabianski. Danny Gabbidon was doing the color commentary and said West Ham will feel hard done by since we have been the better side in his opinion. “Chance after chance after chance” said the former Hammer.

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Arsenal 1
West Ham 0

West Ham almost answered when Bowen sent a pass to Haller in the box. The angle was tight, but Haller got a shot off that Leno did well to stop. Moments later the Hammers won a corner but couldn’t capitalize. Soucek then sent a cross into the box that Fornals couldn’t get to in front of Leno. Seconds after that Ngakia broke down the right and rolled a pass into the box that Haller got a touch on, but Luiz came back and did enough to push the ball wide. Then Rice went on a long, box to box run that ended with a ball out wide for Antonio. But his looping cross didn’t find anyone and Arsenal cleared.

Final Score
Arsenal 1
West Ham 0

If we were 13th in the table or something like that, the performance today would have been something I could easily finish my weekend with. And in the end, the table looks almost exactly the same as it did at the start of the day. When you are in a relegation battle and away at Arsenal, it could have turned out far worse. But Arsenal were lucky and got away with it. We were a bit better, and had we been even a little clinical in front of goal we would have had a point.

Maybe three.


Book Review

Match Thread: Arsenal v West Ham

Arsenal v West Ham
FA Premier League
The Emirates
KO: 3pm
TV: None
Radio: WHUFC.com

Please use this thread to comment on the match as it progresses


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