Zaman Siddiqui's Match Review

We got our just deserts... Cherries

What a frustrating end to the match. Of course, the defeat is the main thing that we are upset about, but it is the manner in which it came, with Lady Luck teasing us along the way. For instance, I (like many others, no doubt) kept questioning myself as to whether we were going to win or lose this match. The number of changing outcomes (missed penalties, unexpected goals etc) within the match had me frazzled throughout. There were just 48 seconds between Bournemouth’s first missed penalty and West Ham’s opening goal. As it so happens, I briefly spoke to a friend online about the match as it progressed saying we deserved to lose when 2-1 down. So when we equalised, I said I didn’t expect the scoreline to change and was quite happy with the point. Then came my cathartic moment when King wrapped up all three points for the Cherries. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: being a West Ham supporter can’t be good for your health. That is, even excluding Pie and Mash.

How Bournemouth won, in spite of missing two penalties, is beyond me. Bournemouth are the first side to miss two penalties in the first half of a PL game since Aston Villa vs. Wimbledon in September 1998. With our long and proud history dating back to 1895, I can’t imagine that we have lost too many matches in which the opposition have missed more than one penalty in regulation time – answers on a postcard. Fortunately, there is another 1895 creation that we can always depend on when we’re down in the dumps – brunch.

During that time period, post-church meals on Sundays were highly sought-after. But for those nursing a hangover from the previous night’s partying and debauchery, the food on offer wasn’t particularly appetising. This is when a guy by the name of… well, Guy, penned a proposal about a meal that combined both breakfast and lunch – brunch. In it, he advocated a dining option that was lighter than the typical heavy meats and savoury pies typically consumed in place of a variety of pastries and other assorted starch-based foodstuffs. Rather unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for brunch to catch on.

I don’t think I’ve been this riled up watching a match in months. No doubt there were many Hammers drinking away late into the night drowning their sorrows. I think that we can all agree that 1895 was a memorable year for the two aforementioned reasons. Brunch has allowed us to be able to forget about matches that didn’t have a positive outcome. It is manna from the Gods that keeps us going. At the end of the day, it is worth keeping in mind that both creations go hand in hand in providing us warmth and that we should always support the team, much like the away fans did so at Dean Court. Oh, and if you’re opting for pancakes as part of your brunch today, do away with the Cherries. Also, during brunch, the churchgoers spoke about their wild and wacky Saturdays for a great deal of time (in other words, commence the commenting – haha).

Something that I take issue with Bilic is the amount of cronyism in our squad. The most pertinent example I can find is the gaffer backing Noble commenting: “Mark is our captain, he is our skipper and he has done really well recently”. Well, Slav is right about the first two points; not so sure on the latter. Obviously, whether one thinks he is good or not to play is subjective. But for a manager to back his skipper is ridiculous. Bilic and Noble get on very well. There is no need for the manager to create a public debacle where none exists. We only have to read the team sheet and watch the match to know what Slaven really thinks of him. For instance, Noble started in our previous two matches, but was also subbed off in both as well. That informs us that he is quite a valued member.

Cresswell is another player who has not been at the races recently, yet has kept his position in the starting XI. How Masuaku hasn’t been given a chance is beyond me. Just because he is a new signing this season doesn’t mean that he is only there as an injury back-up. As a matter of fact, I’m not so sure how much influence other staff members have on squad selection, but I feel that it is a possible reason why more or less the same players appear. This again is yet another possible form of cronyism. It was blatantly obvious with Big Sam and Kevin Nolan. It is now becoming quite clear between Bilic and Noble. His insistence on playing Lanzini wide and Kouyaté aren’t helping his cause either. On top of that, Ayew scored and Byram assisted having come off the bench – players that really ought to be starting.

That leads me nicely onto my next point. Whilst I didn’t want to have to talk about the manager this much, I feel like I have no choice but to continue. Bilic’s tactical nous, of late, has been atrocious. There is a reason why we have failed to win recently and I feel it bogs down to this. We have dropped 17 points from winning positions this season. Our defence was all over the place. It astounds me just how poorly we are playing with penalties being conceded left, right, and centre. But that isn’t even the main concern. Players are being left unmarked from set-pieces (Obiang with the second goal) with half-hearted defending at times (Fonte against King). In defence, we aren’t playing with a lot of confidence. It is genuinely worrying, as it is reminiscent of the early part of this season. Additionally, Carroll could do with a striking partner (preferably Ayew).

We have failed to get a win from our last four matches. This is a real cause for concern, as three of our next five opponents are in the bottom half. This has huge significance as we have only managed to beat one top half team in the Premier League this season – that was Southampton. Our next few matches against Leicester, Hull and Swansea could have big repercussions, given that we aren’t too far off from the relegation zone ourselves. At the moment, we are on track to get 45 points. You don’t need to be Sam Allardyce to know that is quite close to the drop with many matches to go. It is very probable that at least one of the aforementioned teams will get relegated.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

Bournemouth 3, West Ham 2. Get The Knives Sharpened.

Last season, I would be on Twitter one hour and one minute before kickoff to see the starting lineups and subs. This season, not so much. But today was different. I had hope that what seemed so obvious to so many supporters regarding the right back position and the midfield would appear before Bilic like a vision. The Ghost Of Football Clarity, perhaps? Nope. Kouyate at right back, Ayew on the bench. And the home side hadn’t won a match since December. Today was a vision, all right. A vision of what we will live through most weeks if we don’t dramatically improve the squad in the summer.

The first five minutes did nothing to allow me to settle in to my comfortable surroundings at home. The West Ham defense looked out of sorts and sometimes out of position. King and Afobe tried to take advantage of two mistakes by Cresswell, first waiting too long to clear the ball from danger and second being caught out of position on an offside trap. Thankfully for us, the Cherries didn’t threaten either time. But in the 8th minute, the calamity at the back culminated when Feghouli brought down Daniels and Madley immediately pointed at the spot. They deserved to go one up. But in order to do that, you must finish the job. King didn’t do that, sending his shot wide despite sending Randolph the wrong way.

It’s often said that football can be a cruel game. It can also offer salvation to the damned. Indeed it can. Despite Bournemouth missing the penalty, it was still Feghouli that handed them the chance. So when he intercepted a pass from Arter in the Bournemouth area, redemption was at hand. A quick pass to Antonio who spun around and put a low shot past Boruc. Salvation, sort of, complete.

Bournemouth 0
West Ham 1

For a club managed by a former central defender, West Ham played like that position had never even been discussed in training. Reid and Fonte looked so out of sorts that Bournemouth found a lot of success early on sending balls over the top and into the heart of the West Ham danger zone. In the 14th minute, a lob over the top found Afobe between the two Center Backs but as his lob over Randolph headed towards goal the referee spotted that Afobe had used his hands to control the ball. Moments later Bournemouth were on the front foot again when Pugh sent Daniels down the left but his ball across the face of goal was too pacey for King to get on the end of it.

West Ham had a great chance to double their advantage in the 24th minute when Lanzini sent a through ball down the left that Antonio chased down to the left of Boruc. He rolled the ball back to Lanzini, but from a dangerous spot he sent his shot well over the bar.

In the 29th minute, Randolph was forced into a good save but not from the kind of build up play Bournemouth had used to dominate the first half. Instead, Fraser got the ball 30 yards out and looked to have said to himself “F This” and fired. Randolph had to dive to his right to push the ball out for a corner. The set piece found Cook in the box but his header was tipped over the bar. Two minutes later, Bournemouth finally got the goal they richly deserved when King received the ball in the box, spun around Fonte, and slid it past Randolph.

Bournemouth 1
West Ham 1

It’s pretty rare for one side to be awarded two penalties in one game, let alone one half. So what are the odds that side will miss both? According to OptaJoe, West Ham had never seen an opponent miss two penalties in the same EPL match. I’m think a tenner on that would bring back some decent funds. In the 36th minute, Daniels sent a through ball into the box for Pugh. Fonte stuck his leg out to stop him, which is rarely a good idea in the box. Pugh went down, and Madley pointed to the spot a second time. As soon as Afobe started to stutter step towards the ball, I’m guessing Bournemouth supporters worried. His weak shot probably made them sick. Randolph’s save made us laugh.

The Hammers had another good chance in the 41st minute when a Carroll attempt bounced kindly to Feghouli in the box. His right-footed shot made Boruc dive the wrong way, but his left leg did enough to deflect the shot out for a corner.

Bournemouth finished off what was largely their half when a low pass from Pugh found Daniels on the left. Daniels then sent a good ball into the box for Afobe but his shot was blocked by Reid.

Bournemouth 1
West Ham 1

Early in the second half, Bournemouth were awarded a free kick when Reid was called for a foul on Fraser thirty yards from goal. Fraser’s delivery floated into the box, Afobe flicked it to King, and six yards from goal he couldn’t have missed it. Madley talked to his assistant for a second to see if West Ham could get their third Get Out Jail Free Card of the match for an offside. King may have been offside on the first ball, but not on the second. And regardless of what we think of that rule, King was onside and the goal stood.

Bournemouth 2
West Ham 1

In the 53rd minute, Obiang lost the ball at midfield…words which have rarely if ever been spoke this campaign…and Bournemouth were on the break. Fraser collected Arter’s pass and went for goal, but his shot was deflected into the arms of Randolph.

The 57th minute saw the changes most of us thought would happen at halftime. Feghouli and Noble off, Snodgrass and Ayew on. But in what can only be described as a prototypical West Ham moment, Snodgrass went down in a heap seconds after coming on with an ankle injury. He tried to run it off, and eventually came back on. For how long would remain to be seen.

In the 68th, Bournemouth had a chance to possibly put the game out of reach for a West Ham side bereft of ideas when King and Afobe combined on a counter attack that ended with Afobe taking on three West Ham defenders in the box yet still managing to get a shot off that Randolph was able to grab. Minutes later Smith sent a short cross into the box that Afobe attacked but his header went over the bar.

In the 80th minute, West Ham won a corner when Lanzini fed Antonio on the edge of the Bournemouth penalty area. Antonio tried a shot with the outside of his right foot that might have been goal bound had Cook not blocked it out for a corner.

When Byram came on for Kouyate, I’m guessing the reaction on Twitter and elsewhere was something like “yeah, but why now”? I’ve long questioned what Byram has done to deserve being ignored by Bilic. Is he the perfect right back going forward? Maybe not. But leaving him in the West Ham Phantom Zone has forced Bilic to play Kouyate out of his preferred position in midfield, among other moves. In the 83rd minute, Obiang slipped a truly sublime ball behind the Bournemouth back line that Byram ran onto perfectly. The West Ham RIGHT BACK didn’t have to break stride as he rolled the ball back to an onrushing Ayew. The Twenty Million Pound Man had nothing but a open net to shoot at, and he slotted it home.

Bournemouth 2
West Ham 2

I was planning on what my words were going to be in my concluding paragraph. The gist was gong to be that we got a point we almost certainly didn’t deserve. Bournemouth helped me in the 89th minute when they dispossessed an unforgivably sloppy Ayew in midfield and broke forward with numbers. Wilshire got off a good shot that Randolph was able to stop, but the rebound came out to King who was able to complete his hat trick and secure, deservedly, all three points for the home side.

Final Score
Bournemouth 3
West Ham 2

We have lost games this season by more goals and with far more abject performances than today. But today was a game that made me want to stop the season and start again next year. We were second best throughout, possibly fourth if you count the home and away supporters. The need for new players, better players, in any number of positions is transparently obvious. I could list those positions, as well as the obvious players who had poor games and should be concerned about their status, but that would be boring. I’d rather go cut up the pork shoulder I’m going to grill as Kebabs for dinner tonight.

I better go sharpen my knife. As should West Ham.

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Match Thread

Match Thread: Bournemouth v West Ham

AFC Bournemouth v West Ham
FA Premier League
Vitality Stadium
KO 3pm
TV: None

Bournemouth Starting XI

Please use this thread to comment on the game as it continues.

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Lineup Prediction

Lineup Prediction: Bournemouth v West Ham

Lineup: Randolph, Reid, Fonte, Cresswell, Byram, Kouyate, Obiang, Ayew, Lanzini, Antonio, Carroll
Subs: Adrian, Noble, Fernandes, Calleri, Feghouli, Snodgrass, Collins

I may have got this wrong, but I think Andy Carroll often scores against Bournemouth. He’s set to start this afternoon, with Michail Antonio returning after suspension. There’s a lot of chatter around Mark Noble at the moment. I wonder whether this might be the match that sees Kouyate replace him in midfield, with Byram coming in at right back. I’m not sure I’d put money on that, but a well placed source within the club tells me this is becoming ever more inevitable. Noble’s error which led to Chelsea’s first goal on Monday may become more significant than it looked at the time.

Assuming we retain and 4-3-3 formation, it could well be that Andre Ayew comes in, in place of Snodgrass, who has so far failed to convince. Ayew will have been disappointed not to start against Chelsea, so he may be chomping at the bit. Similarly, I wonder whether Feghouli will retain his place.

Our recovery has stalled a bit in recent games so three points at The Vitality Stadium would be very welcome indeed. I suspect a draw is the most likely outcome.

You have until 1.55pm to enter the Predictor League. Apologies that there was an error up until yesterday. Nobody told me about it until yesterday morning!

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Talking Point

Getting the Breaks

Blind Hammer looks at some of the lessons from the Chelsea Defeat

The narrative emerging from the performance and defeat on Monday was that we encountered a side superb at lightning counter attacking football, and that we had to hold our hands up to acknowledge that Chelsea were top of the table for a reason.

Whilst this holds some merit, and the performance was a significant upgrade from the collapses against Manchester City, twice, and Arsenal, this does reflect some unwarranted complacency.

The fact is that we have been susceptible to the point of fragility to attack on the break all season. Whilst it is convincing to talk about our exposure to the skills of mega stars at the top of their form like Hazard, this obscures our propensity to display this weakness against far less potent opponents.

Those of you who attended our home game against Hull will remember that we were undeniably fortunate to win on the day. How time after time Hull exposed us on the break. It appeared that Hull was at their most potent when defending a corner against us. It was only poor finishing from Hull and the woodwork on two occasions which prevented us from suffering an embarrassing defeat. I still regard that as the pivotal game in our season, helping to arrest a slide in confidence which could have had dire consequences. Such are the narrow margins of success and failure in football.

There are 2 characteristics of our weakness on the break. The first is our propensity to surrender possession unnecessarily in advanced positions, leaving us exposed to the counter. The other is when we are loading our attack with defenders to support either a corner or a free kick.

In both situations the loss of possession in an advanced position has resulted in a frantic chase back, with sometimes outnumbered defenders attempting vainly to repel an effort on goal.

The last ditch tackle is an important part of football drama, but should really not become a standard feature of our defending. It should be preserved for when we are chasing a game, and having to over commit, rather than a first line of defence.

How to remedy this is obviously a mixture of personnel and organisation.

A structural weakness in our team this season is how we have taken two of our most potent performers, able to influence a game whilst we are in possession, and transform them into ordinary or even mediocre right backs. The failed experiment of using first Antonio and now Cheikhou Kouyaté at right back suffers from two consequences. Both are weak and likely to be targeted as defenders, but more importantly their skills at dominating possession are wasted as they are withdrawn from roles which allow their strengths to prosper. The nettle of dropping Noble to the bench needs to be grasped. If Obiang etc. lack Noble’s match reading and organisation they need to step up an acquire it. Other performers at right back like Håvard Nordtveit also do not meet Premiership standard.

In the most competitive league in the world fudging 25% of our defensive team with makeshift substandard performers is simply not supportable. If Byram is not up to the job this should have been sorted in January.

The other issue with personnel is the need for pace. The recruitment of Fonte was probably sound but we were definitely not investing in youth and more importantly speed. We need to ensure that our right back at least has powers of recovery and can hare back with the best athletes in the league.

The final issue is one of team organisation generally and defensive organisation in particular. It was hoped that Fonte would provide some defensive experience to aid organisation but this is clearly a work in progress. It may be that we must surrender both Reid and Fonte advancing for a corner unless we are chasing a game.

Against the best in the league, for example our upcoming games against Liverpool and Tottenham; we need to make a plan to remedy our weakness on the break.

We need to maximise our midfield strength and have the game awareness not to surrender possession in dangerous situations. We may have to have a more cautious approach at corners and free kicks. The problem is obvious to see, whatever the solution is will be the challenge for Bilic and his coaching team to address.


David Griffith

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