The Blind Hammer Column
*Blind Hammer suggests the example of Scott Parker should provide comfort for Wilshere *
On Sunday we saw, much too all our relief, the first tangible returns from a record breaking summer investment. What was not anticipated then was that the “gelling” of an effective midfield would be facilitated by the forced removal of Jack Wilshere.
Our early matches were tough. Liverpool and Arsenal are rarely happy hunting grounds. The good form of both Bournemouth and Wolves have placed our reversals against them in some context.
Nevertheless this should not blind us to our early structural weaknesses. We were terrifyingly open, conceding more efforts on goal than any team but Burnley. We forced Fabianski to make more saves than any other PL goalkeeper.
Finally the combination of Rice, Noble and Obiang appears to have provided the solidity and protection our overstretched defence craved. Noble received wide praise for the way he organised this midfield. He spread play but crucially organised, allowing both Rice and Obiang to flourish. Rice added defensive solidity whilst Obiang reminded us that he can provide lovely interchanges on his day. Above all this unit provided the platform for our offensive trio to flourish with security.
Yet if Wilshere had not succumbed to yet another ankle injury it is unlikely that this midfield would have clicked. Wilshere’s position as one of the club’s highest wage earners indicated he was central to Pellegrini’s plans. Noble in particular seemed under pressure for his place.
Pellegrini hinted as much in pre-season. He commented that whilst Noble remained club captain and was an important squad member he would not necessarily feature regularly.
In early lack lustre performances Noble and Wilshere seemed unable to effectively partner. Yet
Few believed that the removal of Wilshere was the key.
For the next 6 weeks Wilshere’s problematic ankle will provide an opportunity for Noble to, yet again, defy his critics and cement his place. Assuming we overcome Macclesfield, (probably tempting fate) Wilshere will most probably find his route back to first team action through the Carabao Cup. This is precisely the opposite of what we expected in pre-season, Noble, not Wilshere, was aimed more for a Carabao Cup campaign.
Wilshere was the heir apparent to Noble. Like Noble a lifelong West Ham supporter, he had youth on his side to cement a place leading midfield. He was envisioned as eventual club captain. Now only a few games in and Rice is looking the more likely heir apparent.
Despite his current setback, Wilshere’s wages means his eventual finding of some effective form remains important.
Arguably he could succeed in an advanced rather than deeper role. If so he is competing more with Anderson and the returning Lanzini rather than Noble.
If nothing else Wilshere has previously shown dogged determination to overcome injuries. He should not be written off too early. His day may still come. If he wants inspiration he should, as a West Ham supporter, remember Scott Parker as motivation.
Parker, like Wilshere, arrived with an indifferent injury record. Parker, like Wilshere, suffered early injury at West Ham. Yet Parker, like Wilshere, had classy ability . This eventually, allowed him to flourish to an exceptional level. Parker was a shining light in an otherwise dysfunctional team. He achieved the extraordinary feat of winning the PFA player of the year award playing in a struggling, eventually relegated team.
Wilshere has the chance to shine over the next few years in a team with more secure investment. Most imminently he has the chance to shine in the later rounds of the Carabao Cup. For the first time in years West Ham have the squad strength to mount a realistic challenge. If Wilshere can inspire glory in the cup, his wages can be justified by success in this competition alone.
Yet another Hammer from the past hangs as a less favourable spectre over Wilshere. What we need in the months and years ahead is the reincarnation of Scott Parker rather than the ultimatley failed investment in Kieron dyer. Much will depend not on just on Wilshere’s deterrmination, but also on the treatment room and the soundness of West Ham’s initial medical assessment. .