I am writing this on the back of the Cardiff City Capital One cup clash, a game that we thankfully managed to win in the end, although it should have been more comfortable. There were a few good performances but no one came close to threatening Ravel Morrison for the Man of the Match award. This was of course achieved in 58 minutes before he was replaced by Diame.
This would suggest good things and that he was taken of as a precaution to insure that he was fit to start against Hull City at the weekend. I think that this has to be the case and unless there is a dramatic drop in his performances or form, he should be a permanent fixture in the starting eleven. Of course Ravel, given his history and age, needs to be managed carefully and there may be times that he needs to be rested in order to not burn out but he should be featuring from the start in most games.
Having had a season ticket for the last 23 years I genuinely think Ravel is right up there with some of the brightest talent we have seen emerge at this age alongside Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Jermain Defoe and Michael Carrick. There have been much published problems in his early career and of course a few brushes with the law but he really does appear to have matured and moved on to a better frame of mind. It has also been well documented that at Manchester United he was seen as the most naturally gifted player to be produced from the youth team since Paul Scholes, a reference that does not get much better.
Against Cardiff, not only did he display skill, quick feet and an eye for goal he also showed an excellent work rate. He regularly tracked back and harried the opposition, often winning the ball back, when he seldom lost it. I also noticed him encouraging and motivating more senior players at times. There is more to Ravel then just tricks and skill, his creativity and eye for a pass among his many other attributes.
In my eyes he has given Sam a much needed selection dilemma and surely cannot be replaced in the team. Of course when Downing and Joe Cole return from injury (which they both could do this weekend) and Mark Noble having served his suspension, we really have a range of quality options in midfield. So the question is, if Morrison has to start who does he replace?!
I believe Ravel plays best as an attacking midfielder behind the forward. Where his direct running and creativity enables others to benefit and get into good positions and it is no surprise that Matt Jarvis, who rarely scores, got one from a Morrison run and pass to Vaz Te. I think as the season goes on we will see Ravel being involved, in some part, in most West Ham goals.
Saying attacking midfield is Ravel’s best position means to me that he has to start ahead of Kevin Nolan in that role. If we are to play 4-5-1, my centre three would be Diame and Noble with Morrison further forward. I am sure there will be many who disagree with me but for me Morrison will contribute more than Nolan.
I like Kevin Nolan. He is a superb captain and one of the best we have had in my 24 years as a season ticket holder. He is an extremely popular player with the management and players. I was told that Nolan was not fit to play against Cardiff having had a knock prior to Everton, which was then aggravated during the game. Even if all three central midfielders had been injured during the Cardiff match he would not have come on. He was purely there to be in the changing room and doing the captain role that he does so well, especially with Mark Noble also out. Anyone who has been the fifteen bar in Loughton and seen Nolan there, will know he is happy to buy any West Ham fan a drink and chat for ages about the club. I do believe he is a very positive personality to have round the place and is the player’s link, in some ways, to Big Sam.
Of course there are also the goals. He scored ten premiership league goals last year from midfield and of course that is a massive contribution. He is probably our best natural finisher at the club and is the one player I want the ball to drop to in the box. My real problem is, if Nolan isn’t scoring, he only really offers the role of captain to some games.
If we look at Morrison compared to Nolan on goals. Morrison was the top scorer in pre-season and already has three this campaign (Cheltenham, Everton and Cardiff) as opposed to Nolan’s one (Opening League game v Cardiff). So already the one thing you could probably argue Nolan was better at, isn’t the case this season. I don’t want this article to be a “slate Kevin Nolan piece” it is more a “praise Ravel Morrison article” but I do often think that Nolan contributes very little to some games. There are occasions when I struggle to think of things he has done and he often seems so off the pace. Whereas, despite his early years, Ravel is beginning to really dictate the games that he plays in.
You could argue that one of the other midfielders could be dropped instead and that Nolan and Morrison both play but for me this is not a good solution. I think their best positions are the same and Nolan cannot play as a central midfielder due to his lack of pace and stamina. Diame’s performances last year and this, mean he also has to start for me. He offers power, directness and a box to box midfield presence. He is beginning to show the form he did when he first joined us this season. Noble offers a defensive option, harrying the opposition, a calmness to midfield and of course an extremely reliable penalty option. I find it much easier to argue a case to drop Nolan than the other two. I also do not see Ravel as a winger so putting him out there is also not something we should consider when everyone is fit.
I genuinely believe now that Ravel has changed his attitude, for which we have a lot to thank Birmingham City for, we have a real quality player on our hands and we have to take advantage of that now. You pick your best team, regardless of age and he is our most talented player. Ravel was told in preseason that he had to prove himself and if he did he would work his way into the team. He has more than proved himself and I think it would be extremely demotivating for the player, if when other players are fit, he finds himself on the bench despite being our star performer this year.
One thing is for certain it is nice to have these midfield options. Of course I haven’t even included all our midfield options in the post, so when all are fit some will not even make the bench. If only we had this selection dilemma upfront! I expect Ravel to start against Hull City and for him to receive even more glowing references. COYI