The GoatyGav Column
A recent manager of ours stated that winning football is entertaining football. We’re all familiar with the term ‘soft underbelly’ which is how many teams have viewed West Ham in the past. To his credit, and notwithstanding his drawbacks, that same manager instilled a resilient organisation which was low on risk and high on defensive rigidity. So rigid, in fact, that there was one particular occasion when a ten man opposition, playing two up front, couldn’t influence a change in our shape or system despite being in a winning position.
Those deluded amongst us were extremely unhappy because we believed that another ‘way’ was possible without surrendering defensive solidity. Well it turns out that we were right.
Going back to the ‘soft underbelly’ that our club has been accused of historically it’s safe to say we’re well on the way to developing a gritty, determined and well organised rear-guard instead.
Manuel Pellegrini was a centre back as a player. In a thirteen year career he ran out 315 times (source Wikipedia – nb. other sources quote over 400 games played) for Universidad de Chile playing once for his national team at the end of his career. The influence that his playing days have had on his managerial expertise are now beginning to shine through with the burgeoning partnership between Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna.
At times the current centre back pairing have ridden their luck a little however there’s no doubt that the two of them are beginning to work as a partnership. Looking back the chemistry in central defence in all top teams have been instrumental to that team’s success. It helps when a back two have a decent keeper behind them and that’s another key piece in West Ham’s current defensive jigsaw.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to get over-excited just yet. The only, real, top team that we’ve played this season banged in five against us but it can’t be denied that there has been more than one example where the boys have won, and drawn, games that they would have historically drawn or lost. Many of those points that have been picked up have featured clean sheets. The stat of ten scored and two conceded in the last six, with shutouts in the last four, illustrates the importance of the back line’s contribution as much as the teams effectiveness going forward.
Looking back to my childhood, when Liverpool dominated in England as well as Europe, I remember the monotony of the, ground out, results that ‘The Reds’ achieved by winning games that other teams would have drawn and drawing games that other teams would have lost. Although at nowhere near the same level there is definitely an element of that resilience in West Ham’s recent performances. Going back to the type of resilience that Mr Allardyce installed at West Ham it seems that we really can tuck right in to our cake instead of gazing longingly at it. My excitement before the game last weekend was not just based on our chances of a win but the likelihood of an exciting match. Ok – so it didn’t deliver on both counts but the fact that my, and many others’, anticipation of a hum-dinger was in such evidence tells a story in itself. These really are good times to be a West Ham fan – long may they continue.
This week sees the League Cup third round. Pellegrini takes his charges to the Kassam Stadium to face an in form Oxford United. I’d have liked to have gone to the game, which is just up the road for me, but I’m, unfortunately, away at Label Expo with work. I sincerely hope that we progress to the fourth round, and beyond, but nothing should be taken for granted against the League One outfit. I’m fairly confident that the gaffer will play a team of mixed experience. I should think that Ben Johnson will stand a decent chance of some game-time. Apart from the academy right back I sincerely hope that Nathan Holland gets some minutes. The former Everton academy winger has looked very impressive since returning from an injury last season. In his most recent PL2 outing he scored a superb solo goal, that has subsequently helped the team go three points clear at the top of the league, which I thought was straight out of the top drawer. You can view the goal and match highlights of the game away at Middlesborough U23s last Friday at the following link to the club page (Holland’s goal from 0.35 mins)… https://tinyurl.com/y2fosckx .
The West Ham ladies, by all accounts, gave a good showing of themselves away to a strong Chelsea team this weekend but didn’t manage to reply in kind to the West London team’s two goals. Despite that the Ironesses sit in fifth place, level on points with this Sunday’s opponents, ahead of the game at the London Stadium this weekend. I’m unable to make it to watch the match but I wish our girls all the best for the game and hope that they get a great crowd to cheer them on. With prices at such reasonable rates, and up to six kids able to go for free with each adult, I hope that the turnout is excellent, they play well and come away with all three points.
Have a great week all.
Come On You Rip Roarin’ Irons!