I guess I always knew it was a overly optimistic prediction, but I was probably just yearning for those long ago days when we could earn a good, comfortable win and not have games on a knife edge until the 89th minute! Although it was a abject overall performance in every sense of the word, there is something particularly satisfying about a late winner. I was so pleased for Sakho, in scoring the winning goal, and I still maintain that he should be starting more regularly. Something that will now hopefully happen in the aftermath of Saturday’s dramatic turn of events.
For me, it was not that Bilic made the substitution, but that it took so long for it to happen. The match really was not going well, we were being out passed by Swansea and could not seem to string two passes together ourselves for most of the match, something that only noticeably improved with the introduction of Lanzini. Antonio looked out of sorts, Noble struggled in midfield and Ayew had an awful match. Plus the Carroll-Hernandez striking combination was misfiring, with most of the balls literally going way over the Mexican International’s head. No, for me, Bilic, should have gone with a Sakho-Hernandez combination on Saturday and should definitely start with it in the next match away at Burnley. Why? Because, I just feel that these two strikers compliment each other better, with Sakho leading the line and Hernandez tucking in just behind and playing off of him. Also, with Sakho in the team, there is more football played on the ground and less of a temptation to go for the long ball up field, which invariably cuts the Mexican out of the game.
Readers will recall that I tackled the issue of where best to play Hernandez last week and concluded that he would be better suited to playing a advanced role in the centre of a three in a 4-3-2-1. And I was pleased to see Bilic select a team which contrived to give Hernandez a more central striking role. However, it was the choice of Carroll as the main striker that probably ultimately undermined him in my opinion. Still, it is a system that is well worth testing again and with Sakho replacing Carroll and Arnautovic selected over Ayew, hopefully it will play out much better next time. At least we obtained a clean sheet whilst playing the dreaded flat back four. Indeed, our best performers were probably defenders, with Zabaletta, Fonte and Reid all having good games. I would certainly have picked any one of those three over supposed MoTM, Andy Carroll.
Anyway, ‘three points is three points,’ no matter how unconvincing the overall performance. We really did need that win going in to the international break and hopefully we will pick up some more victories over the next three or four matches. It is true that ‘winning becomes a habit’ in football and to emerge victorious after such a weak performance is a good sign of sorts. And in all honesty Bilic needs all the positive ‘habits’ and signs he can muster at the moment. I have said it before and I will say it again, I like Bilic as an individual. He is honest, has integrity and genuinely has a pride in managing the club. When he joined I really thought he was the real deal, as his side put together some great performances in his first season. Yet, last season was very ‘up and down’ and it raised some doubts about whether Bilic was the manager to lead us to the fabled ‘next level.’ This season, young as it still is, has only served to deepen those reservations. I would love to see Bilic turn it around, win the club a trophy this season and sign a new contract. However, failing a dramatic transformation of our situation, you do get the impression that he will be moving on at the end of the season when his contract expires. If it happens that way, it will be very disappointing, but that is football I am afraid!
I see that some social media football sites have taken to monitoring Zaza’s goal scoring achievements in La Liga and using it as a stick to beat West Ham and Bilic. They write articles to the effect of, ‘if only West Ham still had Zaza,’ the striker who has scored more goals than the whole Hammers forward line! It is all mischief, but this Hammer supporter does not have any such regrets. it was clear from the beginning that Zaza lacked the physicality to excel in the PL. And I believe that was the reason for his failure, not Bilic, nor the tactics/system that he employed. He is performing better in Spanish football because he is better suited to it. It was the best move for the club and player himself, full stop! The same websites will no doubt be arguing that we should have kept Calleri as well if he scores a few goals. Now that would be stretching that type of argument a bit too far.
It has been announced that the Hammers seat allocation for the 4th round of the Carabou Cup is 4,800. That is a smaller allocation than most thought and it seems the 50,000 limit capacity at Wembley could see the club lose out financially from the tie. Oh well, we will just have to beat them then and make up the money in the 5th round! Do not write us off completely, Spurs are not comfortable playing their matches at Wembley and we have been known to raise our game for a cup match or two over the years. It would certainly be sweet revenge after the recent 2-3 defeat at the LS.
Finally, the U-23s are hosting Villareal’s B side, at Dagenham & Redbridge tonight, Wednesday 4th October 2017, in the PL International Cup. Kick off is at 7:00 pm. There are likely to be a few first teamers around the fixture, especially those who lack match fitness due to injury absence. Season ticket holders get in free, so why not go along and check it out. I am sure the U-23s will appreciate the support, for what could be a challenging fixture after the 7-2 disaster in the last round.