The HamburgHammer Column
As far as goalless draws go, this was one of the more entertaining ones. I have to admit, I was half expecting us to conjure up a silly way to snatch defeat from the jaws of draw late on in the game, as on numerous previous occasions in our history, but we stood firm. As against Everton the weekend before, this was a consummate team performance – we clearly had a plan against Chelsea and every single player worked his socks off to give us a result.
Let’s not forget that Chelsea came into this game as serious title challengers, having won all league games so far this season with a frightening goal tally. To keep a clean sheet against them was no mean feat and for me this goalless draw is like gold dust to us. It keeps morale and confidence high in the dressing room and it should set us up nicely for the upcoming tasks, especially against a Manchester United team that ain’t been firing on all cylinders so far this season.
Going through the performances in a bit more detail, I can’t give any player marks below 7 to be honest. Starting with our goalkeeper who finally rewarded himself with a clean sheet after not really putting a foot wrong either in his previous games for us.
This time around he literally took one for the team, right in his boat to be precise. I wouldn’t call it the most graceful or textbook save you’re ever gonna see, he probably didn’t choose deliberately to block the shot with his precious mug, but in my book it exemplified what Lukasz Fabianski is about as a custodian. He’d rather lose a tooth or two than a clean sheet or a game of football, and I doff my cap to him for his commanding presence and courage in a West Ham shirt.
Indeed it’s been a long time since I’ve been this relaxed watching a cross fly into our box or a shot drilled towards our goal. Make no mistake: Fabianski is a very good goalkeeper (maybe it’s unfortunate for him he hasn’t got a gig at a real big club so far, well, apart from West Ham, obviously!).
He appears to be developing a nice understanding with his defenders too, creating an environment where he is boosting the confidence of his defenders while they are making him look very solid in return by doing a decent job of, well, defending, you know, the thing that’s right at the top of page 1 in their job description.
There can be no denying that Chelsea kept and moved the ball extremly well, for any neutral football fan out there they must be a joy to behold and it says a lot about our own performance that they failed to find the net with their team of superstars against our brave little West Ham United Nations Mark II team of players.
I reckon our back four have now very much cemented their starting berths for the time being, there is no reason, injury permitting, why you would want to rotate any defenders for the next few league games (the Cup game against lowly Macclesfield is a different matter though).
Successful teams tend to be those that have the luxury to field the same defenders for consecutive games. Decent performances start from the back and if our defenders continue their fine run of recent performances we will get very hard to beat. Let’s keep in mind that we have had to endure probably the toughest set of opening fixtures in the entire league. We are still in that tough opening run.
Once we start to play the more average clubs, the Huddersfields, Cardiffs and Newcastles of this world, we should see our lads climbing the table consistently.
Our midfield showed a good mixture of solidity, pace and no-nonsense tactical discipline, not always beautiful to watch, but effective. It can only be a matter of time until Declan Rice gets a much deserved contract extension which will mirror his value to our team.
Also Anderson keeps improving, maybe he just needs his first league goal to boost his confidence further.
What I liked about him was the way he was tracking back, trying to win balls and making it difficult for Chelsea to just play their way into our box.
I won’t praise Mark Noble again because frankly by now every fan should have grasped the concept that we are a better side when Nobes is in it. He is by no stretch of the imagination our best player, but he makes things a lot easier for us, allowing his teammates to do their thing, keeping focus and effort levels up in every minute he is out there on the pitch.
As for Yarmolenko I cannot fault his effort in the game, but missing that header late on was reckless and painful to watch.
With the goal gaping wide, this should have been our Golden Ticket to nick all three points and I would expect any Premier League striker worth his salt to hit the target from that kind of distance.
But let’s not get too greedy here, a point under the circumstances was a good haul. I was fearing the worst when Arnautovic didn’t even make the bench, so to see us getting that result without our Austrian good-luck charm on the pitch was a relief of epic proportions.
Kudos to Manuel Pellegrini, looks like those training sessions are beginning to rub off on the players, long may it continue. Things are certainly looking up for the Hammers now and watching our team no longer feels like a waste of time or an exercise in masochism, like it used to do far too often in recent times.
The journey for sure has become a lot more interesting again.
Hamburg football update: A pretty crap weekend from a local perspective. At least St.Pauli got a win, 1:0 away at Ingolstadt. Hamburg SV got absolutely walloped at home against lowly Regensburg, losing 0:5 (FIVE) !!!
To put this in perspective, Hamburg had started the game at the top of the league table and there were just under 45.000 fans inside the stadium watching a Bundesliga 2 fixture here. Embarrassing!
Not the fact they lost, but the way they did it.
On Friday Concordia’s first team lost their league game by a 1:2 scoreline away at Süderelbe under the lights (on the wrong side of the river, at the league’s Millwall equivalent, so to speak) while the U23s were unexpectedly off on Sunday as the opposition team unfortunately couldn’t find eleven players to take the pitch for them (Welcome to the glamourous world of lower league Hamburg football!).
At least the Cordi youngsters invited their most loyal fans into the home dressing room for some sarnies, softdrinks and beer to make amends for the cancellation of the game.
Nice gesture, lads! (And before you ask, no, I didn’t eat all the sandwiches by myself, I restrained myself and had just the one egg and mayo sandwich, washed down with one bottle of beer and that was it. Honest!)