Tony Hanna's Musings
Well I think that was actually a harder watch than the West Brom game? At least at the Baggies we took control of the game and our passing was pretty good. The direness of that game was manifested by the spoiling tactics of the opposition and our inability to break them down. The game against Swansea was a home match where again the away team looked in control of the ball but, like us at West Brom, never really looked like breaking the home team down? If you are on the side of the argument wanting Slav gone then the ammunition has been resupplied with another display of misplaced passes, a lack of cohesion and a team put out that hardly seemed to know each other. If you are in the camp wanting Slav to stay for at least the rest of the season then you can point to three points and another clean sheet with the hope that a now fit again Lanzini will make a big difference? I must say though, if Sakho had not scored that winner at the end, after that performance I would have been surprised if our owners had not called time on Slaven Bilic’s reign. That very thing was going through my mind for most of the second half until the goal. I doubt a draw alone would have tipped the scales for the owners to push the button on Slav’s time but the amount of booing probably would have, together with the very audible dissatisfaction from the crowd. There would have been plenty more boos had it finished 0-0 and for me, hypothetically, it could have been the last straw.
As for the booing I can put my hands up and say I have never booed a West Ham team in my life. Never have and never will. If others want to that is their business. However, for Slav to get booed for taking Chico off was an overstretch. Chico had a very poor game despite being played in a two up top with Carroll, a position many have been crying out for Slav to play. His contribution was average at best and if his running to press defenders matched his arm movement in gestures we all might be in a better place. Slav was right to sub him and Sakho duly proved him right.
One of the current problems is that although I feel we do have a really decent squad of players the team has just not gelled. Whilst we should be happy that all our forwards are fit and healthy does Slav really know what ones to play and in what formation? Does he really know how he is going to play Lanzini now fit? Will he drop the captain? What does he do with Masuaku now he has shown he deserves another chance? I just get the feeling that once the glue is set and our manager finds the right combinations this side is capable of much greater than what we are seeing now. Will that manager be Slav though? For too long now there have been huge gaps between the players, width wise and between the front and the back. It is no wonder we are being forced to play the long ball so often. There is little compression on the pitch which makes it impossible to keep possession for too long and impossible for the players to press and hunt in packs when the opposition has the ball. It is no wonder there is little cohesion in our play.
I have long been a fan of Masuaku. My very amicable run ins with Dan Coker on the subject, who is a man I rarely disagree with, are legendary in our own lunch boxes! Dan is a Cresswell fan but for me whilst I agree that he may be a better defender, especially in a back four, Masuaku offers a deal more on the ball and going forward as a wing back. Could it even be that Masuaku be given a chance in front of Cresswell in a 4-4-2 formation? That would mean dropping Arnautovic and would Slav do that? Or could it be that Slav has earmarked the left side of a 4-4-2 for Lanzini? After all, he played Payet there. In my opinion I think Lanzini should play centrally in a 3-5-2 for the majority of this season if he stays fit. That would then ask the question of how do you fit Zabaleta and Antonio into the same side? However, it is all very complicated and we will all have our own opinions on player combinations and formations. Perhaps another plethora of injuries will make the decisions a lot easier but I am sure none of us want that! Talking of injuries and this was the second game running where Antonio has played but was clearly not running freely? We have already seen James Collins kept on at West Brom for the start of the second half when clearly struggling before the break with an injury. From my observations I am sure Andy Carroll was not right in the Huddersfield game as well. My understanding is that he had to pass a fitness test prior to that game? I am not sure who is making the final call on these players taking the field but when we have the competition for places we have at present it makes little sense risking further injury to players whose impacts on the game are clearly being harnessed by carrying injuries?
Finally, one thing that does pain me watching West Ham play at our new stadium is the lack of ball boys and their positioning. Watching the games from home I have time to go make a cuppa when the ball goes out of play for a throw. When the first ball went out of play against Swansea the nearest player went to fetch the ball himself for around a twenty yard round trip as it was going to be quicker than waiting for the ball boy. Why are there so few of them? Why are they sitting down? Why are they sitting down so far away from the pitch? Why do some of them look far from being athletic types that can actually speed the retrieval up? Answers on a post card please!