The S J Chandos Column
The Hammers scored a much needed 2-0 victory over Huddersfield Town on Monday evening. However, the victory owed much to power and intensity (and a rare slice of luck for Obiang’s opener), but little in the way of guile/creativity. Do not get me wrong, a ‘win is a win,’ and it was self-evident that we badly needed the victory to improve confidence and get those initial three points on the board. So, it is mission accomplished and some of those ‘positives’ that I discussed in a recent article came to the fore. Namely, the power and pace of Antonio, the goal scoring of Ayew and realising some of the potential of our strike force (in the form of a strong display by Andy Carroll). In addition, Bilic also addressed the problematic issues associated with our defending, putting out a back three, with Cresswell and Zabaletta pushing forward down the flanks.
A back three really does seem to suit West Ham and they appear solid and convincing, in a way that they never seem to be with a flat back four. All three centre-backs played well and I thought Fonte had by far his best game in a West Ham shirt. While Cresswell looked stylish down the left and Zabaletta finally looked the class act that we all know him to be. Similarly, I thought Obiang and Kouyate were very competitive in midfield and gave us an edge with their industry and willingness to battle for the cause. This certainly looked like a very different proposition to the abject Hammers team that tamely surrendered at St James Park. Here, they defended well, won the key tackles and played with an intensity and purpose that has hitherto been missing this season.
In contrast, although Hernandez was undoubtedly willing and worked hard, it was to prove to be a evening of frustration for him. I feel that part of the problem was that Bilic’s game plan was to use Carroll’s height and physical strength up front and this saw much of the play pass-by Hernandez. His best chance of scoring was to get on the end of a second ball or a defensive mistake, especially in the almost complete absence of the skilled and ‘killer’ balls that he might expect to feed on from the likes of Lanzini. The truth is that we have too few creative midfielders in the senior squad and that places an enormous importance upon Lanzini’s quick return to fitness. It may have been a disappointing night, personally, for Hernandez, but I am sure that he knows that he will do far better in the upcoming matches, and that getting the result for the team was the all-important thing. The challenge now is to retain the defensive solidarity and intensity/power and combine it successfully with a bit more guile and creativity in the final third. If we can get that right, then results will definitely take an upturn in the coming weeks.
The other important thing up until January 2018, is that we keep injuries to a bare minimum. We only have a senior squad of 22 players. That means that there are three unfilled places, which is a lot to carry. There is an obvious danger that an injury crisis could massively over-stretch us in key positions and impact on results. So, lets hope that we have a bit of luck, for once, in that area, and we get to avoid that particular pit fall. If not then, then we will just have to battle through and rectify the situation in the winter transfer window. There is talk on Hammers social media that William Carvalho is still keen on a move to the club in January and Bilic obviously still wants the player. The question is whether sufficient bridges can be re-built with Sporting Lisbon to make a deal happen. Regardless, the winter window is a difficult time to recruit players and one hopes that results up to January are sufficiently good to ensure that we go into that window without too much added pressure to deliver incoming deals.
I see that Sakho got a bit of a mixed reception when he came on as a late substitute. The truth is that the fans need to be bigger than to engage in a vendetta. He is still a Hammers player and his good form could prove vital to our cause. So, lets just forget the Rennes incident and get behind him. Bilic allegedly spelt it out clearly for Sakho after the window closed. He is a Hammers player until at least January and it is in his own personal self-interest to knuckle down, improve his form and score some goals. It is only by doing that that he will earn a new Hammers contract or a possible move. Hopefully, those points have been taken on board by Mr Sakho and West Ham will start reaping the rewards before too long.
So, it is WBA away next in the PL. Hopefully we can secure at least a draw at the Hawthorns and set ourselves up nicely for a run of PL home fixtures. There is also the League Cup (or whatever they are calling it this season?) 3rd Round tie against Bolton Wanderers at the LS. It would be nice to think that we can get some ‘kinder’ draws this season and make progress in the competition. Who knows, we might even see a youngster or two get a run out from the substitutes bench. COYI!