The HamburgHammer Column
Proud. Gutted. Angry. Confused. Confident. This is just a sample of the rollercoaster of emotions I went through during and in the immediate aftermath of the West Brom game. (And it wasn’t much different for the Concordia game the day after.)
Our best striker was out. So we started the game with no outright striker on the pitch. But we had a lot going for us. We had passion, endeavour, spirit, spark, especially in the second half. We even made good use of the length and breadth of the pitch. The atmosphere in the stadium was, from what I could gather at home, rocking.
Even though we didn’t get the win, it was a hugely entertaining game, well worth the price for a ticket.
There were quite a few major incidents all of which were, when in doubt, decided in West Brom’s favour, albeit most of those rightly so. There’s no need for me to go into detail as that has been discussed at length in previous threads. I am sick and tired of having to mention game-defining (bad) calls from the referees every other week. Once again it has cost us points or at least contributed to us losing points. Plus our manager and his assistant who are likely to get some sort of touchline ban for the upcoming games.
I don’t blame Bilic and Nikola Jurcevic, his assistant, for losing their composure. Don’t get me wrong: We battled back, we took the lead with only a few minutes to go and we failed to hang on and bring the points home. That is the responsibility of our players who simply need to show better focus and professionalism. Then again we shouldn’t have been behind in the first place, their player clearly fouling Feghouli in the buildup to their goal in my opinion, you see those given quite regularly.
A first half equaliser for us was waived off by way of a controversial offside call (watching the replay it was still a pretty close call, but maybe the right one actually, still harsh on us) and even their second goal came from a dubious throw in decision a few moments earlier.
Thankfully video referees will eventually arrive and it won’t be a moment too soon and I’ll leave it at that. As for our team I cannot name a single player who didn’t put in a shift and performance. I will write the same now as I would have done if we had indeed won the game as for me that draw was undeserved on West Brom’s part, I very much see West Ham as the morale winners here which doesn’t give us th three points of course but at least we can all be proud of a very decent performance under testing circumstances.
In terms of defending Reid was, as usual, the rock we could depend on, it wasn’t a perfect performance, but a very creditable one again. Noble was my personal MotM.
For all his detractors he was in the middle of everything, covering every blade of grass, driving the team on and without bothering to look up the official stats there can’t have been another player out there touching the ball more often than he did.
Feghouli seems to lack a fanclub at West Ham for the time being, but I reckon he is slowly beginning to win the Hammers faithful over. He did a lot of things against West Brom, and he did a lot of things right, being a constant nuisance to West Brom.
And Lanzini is stepping up beautifully and wearing those Payet boots very well indeed – and I mean that purely in footballing terms. Another class goal. He is our creative outlet and we will hopefully see a lot more from Manuel in the next few years, preferably in a West Ham shirt.
An honourable mention goes to Calleri who showed a lot of effort but looks decidedly lightweight and is unlikely to be a long term fix for us anyway.
Which brings me to the headline of my column. We need some balance here – and not just in terms of calling for Bilic’s head (in some quarters at least) or calling West Ham players mingers after one or two underwhelming performances. No, we definitely need some balance to our squad and that will need to be addressed and sorted out in the summer. No more deluded hoping that our players will not suffer injuries next season. No resting easy in the knowledge that certain players may fill in at RB or upfront for half a season or so.
Right now we have a plethora of midfielders, jostling for gametime in various positions, DM, winger, wingback, attacking midfielder, makeshift striker, but not enough reliable experienced strikers. We have Carroll who is a monster of a forward when he plays, but as we all know he cannot be relied upon staying fit and he cannot even train regularly for fear of straining his delicate bones and muscles. Ankle issues, groin niggles, thigh strains, you name it, he gets it. So we cannot and shouldn’t build our team around Carroll next season.
Same goes for the defending positions, especially the RB spot. Yes, we have players who can fill in there like Kouyate or Nordtveit. But when you consider injuries and off-field issues, we only have Byram who himself is injury prone. At LB Masuaku is only just coming back (from injury, what else?) providing some welcome competition for Cresswell who just hasn’t been the same confident player ever since being kicked heavily into the new season in that summer “friendly” against Karlsruhe.
So I would just like to ask our board to make sure we have all positions in our squad covered adequately next season. Even if that costs money. Proper RBs playing at RB for starters.
Proper strikers who can convert the opportunities we create and who can also stay fit for the vast majority of the season. Preferably players who can grow and develop with the club, not stop gaps filling in for a season or two before retiring.
If we had started the West Brom game with a proper striker, I am convinced we would have won. Our season is now drifting further towards midtable insignificance.
We are too far away to catch the likes of Everton and we won’t be involved in a relegation dogfight. 10th or 9th is where we will finish which, on paper, is fine for a team moving to a new home stadium and losing their superstar creative player midseason in the process as well.
But the question is: Have our board seriously done enough on their part to give our team the best chance and a conducive environment to succeed this season?
I’m really not sure…
Finally, for those of you interested, the Concordia game, kicking off the second half of the season after the end of the winter break, was unfortunately another scissor kick in the guts for yours truly. The lads could have earned themselves a significant cushion at the top of the Oberliga Hamburg table with a win or at least a draw as our fiercest promotion rival unexpectedly lost to a so called lesser side on Friday.
Cordi, however, subsequently failed to do their bit yesterday, losing 2:1 to a lesser side as well, after taking a one goal lead late in the second half, only to see the home team score two late goals in heartbreaking fashion, pouncing on some shocking defensive and goalkeeping blunders on Concordia’s part.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, are Concordia West Ham in disguise ? At least Hamburg SV and St.Pauli won their games, so it’s not all bad…COYI!