Zaman Siddiqui's Match Review

Nothing languid from Lanzini

We haven’t had it easy this season moving into our new home with relegation a possibility. Just when 2017 was starting to look brighter, Payet requested a move elsewhere. With our star man out, we had to show everyone that we are not a one-man team. We needed something going into this match and we got it: a gem was unearthed and polished ready for the game.

Enter Manuel Lanzini. The Jewel had a reputation to uphold of scoring in crucial matches. In May 2013, he scored in the Superclásico derby after just 43 seconds against the Boca Juniors. He is still remembered by the River Plate fans for that moment of magic. No stranger to a difficult climate having played for al-Jazira with Summer temperatures of 45C, he delivered in the way only an Argentinean legend could.

Having scored into an open net, he went and jumped into the crowd who embraced the new legend in the making. What a way it was to assert his position at the top! Manu has scored a goal in each of his four PL appearances against Crystal Palace; double the amount he’s scored against any other PL club. It was reminiscent of Tevez scoring his first goal against Tottenham, as yet another Argentine ran into the crowd scoring in a derby.

He has been left out of the starting XI on a few occasions, however Lanzini knew the importance of playing, regardless of whether it was his preferred position or not, as he took on more defensive roles. Even Antonio got the message, as he has been directly involved in more Premier League goals than any other West Ham player this season – 11 (eight goals, three assists). It is important that our current players take initiative in light of recent events.

Slaven has the full support of the club and fans alike, as he has handled the situation terrifically. When Payet revealed his true intentions of leaving, it was seen as a sign of betrayal. Why was he not upfront when Slav had asked him a few days before when he had the chance? The manager has handled the situation very well. Despite what was happening, he even invited Sam for “a glass of wine after the game whatever the result.” He probably didn’t want to appear disrespectful, so didn’t say pint of wine, though that’s probably what Big Sam ordered. That’s our Slav! He can read the situation well.

Bilic was right to have a meeting to discuss things with Payet. You don’t even need to have any affiliations with the club or watch the matches to know that Payet is unhappy. His last Instagram post of him in a West Ham shirt was back in October! It is no surprise that Payet wants to leave. He hasn’t even seemed that bothered this season. In 2010, while with Saint-Etienne, he was accused of showing a lack of aggression by teammate Yohan Benalouane. When team captain Blaise Matuidi suggested the same thing, the pair had to be separated.

The following year, when his club said he could not move to PSG, he refused to turn up for training and was demoted to the reserves. The Frenchman hasn’t changed at all. He may have the talent, but that is the only reason why he has been tolerated. I’m afraid it will take a lot more than a free kick for his standing at the club to change. At the moment, Payet says he has a bad back to avoid being docked wages. With a move to the wealthy Chinese Super League the second-likeliest transfer according to the bookies, it is clear what Payet has his heart set on.

The first half was very nervy with both sides struggling to get a foothold of the match. Even though we have more than enough quality to beat Palace, we were under a bit of a malaise as we hadn’t played without Payet for quite some time. The expectation was immense. But some of our players were really up for it. Carroll’s passing was simply unreal, and he also did well in the air. Lanzini was getting constantly fouled whenever he was looking dangerous. So far, we didn’t look too different without Payet, as Lanzini stepped up. We didn’t pose much of an attacking threat, but neither did Palace.

Tomkins had the best chance of the game so far, but dragged his shot wide from close range. It reminded me of when we comfortably scored against Rob Green when we played for QPR a few seasons ago or like when Paul Koschesky’s poor backpass was intercepted by Carroll who scored. Wins on those days was a good sign watching this match. At HT, it was goalless.

Now, Slav must have had an awful lot of pressure on him during that HT team talk. We will never know what was said, but it was the unheard harbinger that massively eased everyone around the club. It has given us tremendous belief that we can turn it around. I think Carroll says it best: “No player is bigger than the club. We showed that today and came together as a team to get a result.” Truer words were never spoken. If it’s Dimitri, then just make the la-la sound. Turn it into a sing-song tune to annoy him as well. Our enhanced Dimi chant is catching up as well.

There were several good performances out there. Given that most of us were closely examining the attacking players (as we played without one of our top creators – had to be said), it is wonderful to see our most attacking players all play a part in those goals. For all three of them to score (Carroll, Feghouli, and Lanzini) showed that they wanted to desperately win this. Even when we were 1-0 up, we still put a bit of emphasis on attacking… and it worked! The big man Andy Carroll could have headed the goal in. But what’s the fun in that? Palace have conceded too many worldies. Dele Alli, Andy Carroll, a move with over 20 passes with Lanzini scoring, and a good free-kick from a garcon mauvais (that’s French for “bad boy”) have scored them. We went from losing 5-0 at home to winning 3-0! That is easier said than done.

A special mention has to go to Michail Antonio. He deserved to show off another 90’s celebration, but got three assists instead. He is the first West Ham player to provide three assists in a Premier League game since Paolo Di Canio vs Coventry in April 2000. Cult hero. Now just don’t go all political like Paolo did with his fascism, and turn into Mikhail Gorbachev. Then, we’ll have no reason to doubt you. At the moment, he is quickly turning into Mr. West Ham. Sure, he came from Tooting & Mitcham in South London, but he rejected Spurs. That’s our man!

Finally, we have to sign a striker sooner or later. It is worth keeping in mind that spending a lot of money is not necessarily the answer. Palace spent £32.5M to get Benteke, but he was missing in the match. He even missed a penalty against us in the reverse fixture. At the time, we thought that it was a good buy from them. But given the fact that he has only scored eight goals in the league so far this season, you have to be smarter then that. Given our record of Championship purchases has been good, we need to keep spending there until one of them flops, Then we’ll know that our luck has changed. We can expect a draw at the very least against Boro given that they have failed to score in five of their last seven Premier League games, recording just one win in that period. But it is all about the three points to be quite frank.

Click here to view the leaderboard

Zaman Siddiqui's Match Review

West Ham 0 - Officials 2

UPDATE: We end the matchweek in 13th following Stoke’s 2-0 win over Watford. Also, Mike Phelan has been sacked as Head Coach of Hull, and Paul Clement has been appointed manager of Swansea.

A red card and a goal given that was offside: these are two decisions that the officials made that cost us the match. Man United are currently on a run of seven straight wins, so beating them was going to be a Herculean task. Suffice to say we failed to score, as an attacking player was sent off in the opening quarter of an hour. But this isn’t about which team should have won on balance. This is about officiating the game in the right manner, so that both teams have control over their own destinies.

If it was just Mike Dean who made a mistake, then it wouldn’t be much of an issue. But given that the linesman gave United a 2-0 lead with not one, not two, but three players offside is just unspeakable! The officials were struggling to get a grip over the match to such an extent that they were more like the unofficials. Gary Neville alluded to it early on in the second half when the referee was a bit hesitant on a few decisions.

I have honestly never seen a referee lose that much control of a match that he has to say: “Don’t look at me again, otherwise you won’t be playing again.”! The player he was speaking to was Pedro Obiang. Despite what he said, I bet there was an inner part of Mike Dean hoping for stares and glares from the highest attendance our club has ever had. After all, it was the Mike Dean show! He gave the last red card of 2016, and now has the honour of giving away the first red card of 2017. Yep, he was lucky, that’s all. Nothing dodgy going on there.

You know we have been undone when the Match of the Day pundits are siding with us. The referee will be at the front of various sporting newspaper columns following his atrocious display at the London Stadium. I know – an official has out-done us! Dean is the poster boy looking forward to his new-found notoriety. Prior to his meet-up with the refs, his nickname was Deano. Now, he’s going to have to tell them that it’s now Beano. Who else could glorify immoral behaviour better than him? He’s the front runner this calendar year.

Fair play to our team for not losing their temper over the ref’s shoddy performance. Obiang, Ogbonna, Cresswell, and Nordtveit went over and shook Mike Dean’s hand at full time. Additionally, Slav kept his cool in his post-match interview. Imagine if Mourinho was in Slav’s boots? He would have been given a touchline ban, that’s for sure.

Now, it is too easy to put down the loss to poor officiating decisions. Given the chances we had, we should have scored. Then again, it all boils down to the matter of the month – signing a striker. Antonio had two great chances including a one-on-one with de Gea. Instead of taking his time with the latter opportunity dribbling further like a proper striker would do in his position, he took his shot straight away. If that wasn’t infuriating enough, he shot it right at the keeper!

As good as Antonio’s goal tally is, there is simply no way that he can play up front. He doesn’t have the instincts of a striker, as we have witnessed before. Sure he gets a lot of headed goals much like Carroll does, but that does not make him a striker. We need to sign a top striker, otherwise we will struggle to score. We have been very fortunate with contributions from Payet and Antonio, but they won’t last. Antonio is a better creative outlet than a striker, and once we put him back in his native position, we can expect to see more goals. This is the first time we have lost consecutive PL matches without scoring for the first time under Slaven Bilic, so now is as good a time as any to sign a striker.

Lanzini played very well for us getting forward leading the team well in a more advanced attacking role. He orchestrated many attacks, and wasn’t afraid to change it around by going it on his own. He has certainly stepped up for us playing in a central midfield role when needed. We lost the midfield battle in this match, though things could have been very different had Feghouli not been sent off.

At the end of the day, we can’t be too downhearted with the defeat, but we also can’t take this match as a one-off. Just because we were on the wrong end of a decision doesn’t mean we couldn’t have scored first. With two-thirds of regulation time played out, we had more shots on target than our opponents. We should have capitalised when we had the chances. Man United were 1-0 down to Boro in their previous match, yet scored two late goals in the 85th and 86th minutes to win – a tribute to the Sir Alex style of play. We should follow their example by trying to play with a bit of attacking flair like we did last season, and try and replicate our earlier successes.

Click here to view the leaderboard

Zaman Siddiqui's Match Review

Special year comes to an end

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all readers a Happy New Year!

Both teams have had magical seasons to remember. Leicester won the title, despite being underdogs at 5000/1, and we finished 7th. Oh, and Millwall are still in League 1. Whilst we didn’t get the end-of-the-year finish we wanted with a place in the top half, both teams will see this year as a turning point in their clubs’ respective histories. The duo have witnessed sporting spectacles with Premier League football finally back on the cards for the Foxes, and a new vision of the club for us with the move to the London Stadium.

Last season, Gary Lineker said that he would present the first episode of the new series of MOTD in his undies. As his disciplinary record on the pitch suggests, he was true to his word. That said, he may struggle to keep his new promise if Leicester end up retaining the title. He has delved into politics on Twitter, but this may be the most questionable thing he has ever tweeted: Lineker vowed he would do the first episode of next season naked, standing on his head, while Shearer and Wright beat him with a stick! If Leicester somehow end up winning the title again, it will definitely be another 1990 moment for the presenter.

Both managers know that in order to continually improve on their teams’ successes, they need to finish well within the top half. Like players, managers learn from experience. Bilic made the severe mistake of not signing a proper striker; Ranieri sold Kanté to Chelsea, and did not get a midfield replacement. They’ve had to learn the hard way that they can’t put too much pressure on just a single aspect of play.

By contrast, Southampton and Everton have done a better job with their transition periods. They have sold players they can afford to sell. Both of them have a good balance of youth, and know that you have to finish in the top 7 if you are to challenge the top teams. Stoke have finished 9th for the past three seasons, yet are currently below us in 14th. You simply can’t rely on a win at the end of the season in order to narrowly finish in the top half. Southampton didn’t make a good start to the previous season lagging behind in 16th after their first six games, but they turned it around finishing in 6th. Even this season, they had to wait until the fifth match to get their first win – the Saints are currently 9th. That is the sort of resilience both we and Leicester need to develop going into the new year.

With four goals scored in our previous match against Swansea, you would be forgiven for thinking that we were going to score again. We had scored in our last eight matches, whilst Leicester had failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 11 matches. They sound like stats a bookie would use to convince you to bet on West Ham scoring. To be fair, I certainly would have taken a punt on that. The likelihood of the Foxes keeping a clean sheet were as likely as Leicester’s favourite son Gary Lineker keeping one! Joking aside, whatever view you may have of Gary, he is still an influential ex-footballer with a lot of passion. His interview with the FT is definitely worth a read.

Last season, we failed to win four consecutive league matches, so if we were to do so with a win against Leicester, it would have been huge. Something that I feel we are going to have to try and replicate this season is to play counter-attacking football. Our defence is rock solid with Reid at the heart of it, but we need to be able to absorb some pressure from the opponents and then exert it back on them by creating opportunities for each other. Our creative outlets are good with Payet and Lanzini, with the latter getting an inch-perfect lofted ball for Carroll only a few minutes after being subbed on. However, in spite of more urgency going forward, we are too stagnant in defence at times, failing to clear our lines.

Leicester had far too much time and space on the ball in the first half. Slimani hit the post in the fourth minute with a header – that was a huge let-off. Four of Leicester’s last five league goals on home soil have come in the 20th minute or earlier. Soon after, we should have been defending with much improved marking. Unfortunately, Payet didn’t mark Albrighton whatsoever, who got the assist. It shouldn’t have been particularly difficult either. There was nothing sly about the Foxes’ goal. Slimani hit the post earlier, so it would’ve made sense if we were marking him. The Algerian striker got a second heading chance, and he took it with a massive thumping header that Randolph couldn’t deal with. 15 of his last 33 league goals have now come from headers.

The post was the MOTM against Hull City, however it didn’t look upon us too favourably this time round. Sure, it stopped Slimani once, but Antonio should have got yet another headed goal in this match. Him and Tim Cahill now both hold the record for the most amount of headed goals in a calendar year with 11. Shame his effort wasn’t helped on by the post.

We had a whopping 25 shots, and only had five on target. By comparison, Leicester had a dozen shots with four on target. In the second half, we were pressing well, but we didn’t get into areas where we could have scored often enough. Leicester blocked 10 of our shots, as well as making several clearances. This is evocative of some of our most recent wins. The teams that we beat had no cutting edge, and as such, were easier to defend against. In our match against Swansea, both sides had 14 shots and seven on target, yet we won 4-1. That is partly down to Swansea failing to create enough clear-cut chances relative to their shots. We couldn’t even create a single clear-cut chance, despite dominating possession and having more than double the number of shots of Leicester City.

This season, we desperately need to spend big bucks on a new striker. The January transfer window is renown for being over-priced, but that is the risk the board took when they allowed the signing of Ayew. In fact, they had a heavy influence on it. We can’t play hoofball with Carroll as our only attacking style. At the moment, most of our strikers are either very inexperienced or unfit. If we don’t improve our current attacking options, we could end the season in mid-table.

Click here to view the leaderboard

Zaman Siddiqui's Match Review

Antoniho ho ho ho!

We have struggled to reach the lofty heights of last season, but are recovering well during the festive period. Christmas is a time to spend with family members and reminisce about the good ol’ days. Back in 1986, we finished 3rd with Tony Cottee scoring 20 goals in the league, as well as Phil Parkes playing in every single match of that momentous season. He had the awareness of me holding onto a dozen mince pies (“For the love of God, please don’t drop!”). The players were at their physical peak, as were the fans (it was Summer after all!).

Surely we were going to buy some new players and improve on last season? Nope. One season you play well, the next you become complacent. Like us during Winter overindulging on the Yuletide treats, the players were out of shape. We went from being just four points short of the first division title to finishing in 15th the season after.

This season, however, we seem to have turned it around at the last minute. We could end the calendar year in the top half! 1986 was a strange year. Something that I will take away from it is that we can’t cling onto the successes of last season. Oh, and the song Candy, which Antonio danced to, as part of his goal celebration.

Another week, another mediocre opponent. We have won three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since March. That eight point gap between us and the relegation zone might seem big, but I don’t think we are done just yet. If we fail to build on our form, we might just end up where we started, Our next opponents are Leicester. We need to continue our run, as if we are trying to win the title like they did, in order to make up for our early-season malaise. We lost 4-1 to Swansea last season, now we’ve won with the same scoreline.

It was no surprise that we took the lead early on, given that Swansea have conceded the first goal in 13 Premier League games this season – only Hull have done so more often. With reports of player unrest, I have absolutely no idea why the bookies put Swansea favourite to win this match. They have lost their last three matches conceding three goals in each and every one of them. Given the space their players gave us on the ball, I feel that Swansea are going to be bottom in no time. Hull have conceded early this season on numerous occasions, but they pushed us well in our last match.

This was one of the most complete performances I have seen all season. This was our first win, which did not end with a 1-0 scoreline, so it isn’t hard to see why this game was the best all season in the league. Both teams had 14 shots with seven on target, but our defence was virtually impenetrable. We made 35 clearances, and 20 headed clearances preventing the Swans from creating a single clear-cut chance. By comparison, we had four. Swansea will be ruing a few of the chances they had, but they should also keep in mind that they rushed them. They only have themselves to blame for the shift they put in.

Taking a look at the league table, I wanted to hurl in disgust. Then again, that may be the extra portions I had. The usual suspects occupy the top six, but the teams directly below are Everton and Southampton. It is as if you have to have good finances in order to push for a spot in the top six. Either that or sell some of your best players. There have been reports that Red Bull have been looking to buy our club. Jack Sullivan has tweeted his response to it down below.

Having read HamburgHammer’s post early (being a contributor rocks!), it is evident that he holds the view that Red Bull are mainly interested in exploiting to club to grow their own brand. The majority of German fans agree with him. Whilst I do agree with HH on this, I feel that it simply won’t happen in the ways he suggested. For instance, there is absolutely no chance that we would be renamed RB West Ham. For instance, Hull City couldn’t change their name to the Hull City Tigers. A PL spokesman said the name will remain the same back in 2013 when the initial application was sent. A couple of years later, the Football Supporters Federation voted against the name change by 70/30. Tigers has nothing to do with branding whatsoever, but the FSF, nevertheless, voted against it. They just didn’t like the name – harsh in my opinion.

Given that Jack Sullivan tweeted that Red Bull put in a £650M bid in August, I feel that the same company could have made a second bid a few months after. Now, given that HH doesn’t really support Red Bull and places more emphasis on the community aspect of football, I feel that I should give a rebuttal, given that I am more interested in the football on show, and am an economist who likes the work of Milton Friedman (who is very right-wing).

Man City didn’t have much going for them as they finished 9th,14th,15th, and 8th before the City Football Group took over. They were acquired for £210M back in 2008. The club has since done very well for itself in the league, as we know all too well. But, the development in place is why they are now revered. In addition to spending mega bucks on talented players such as 20 year old Leroy Sane for a reported £37M, they want to improve on these prodigies like him. Man City have a good balance where they aren’t too reliant on their youngsters to make an impact, but also don’t mollycoddle them. There is a lot of training ahead. The construction cost of their Academy Stadium was £200M. Only us and Stoke have cheaper season tickets than them. To be fair, that seems like good value!

But, it isn’t just clubs like Man City and Chelsea who have done well recently. In February this year, Farhad Moshiri bought a 49.9% stake in the club. The club still have chairman Bill Kenwright, who was elected to the board in 1989. To finish it off, Southampton are owned by Katharina Liebherr, who is very unknown.

Some of the benefits that clubs like RB Leipzig, Everton, and Southampton now have is better youth. We were once the “Academy of Football.” Surely if we are to maintain that status, we should let Red Bull buy us? Also, RB Leipzig are one of few East German clubs to do well. Perhaps a move East of London would be a match made in heaven?

Click here to view the leaderboard

Zaman Siddiqui's Match Review

Cull the Hull Tigers

POSITION UPDATE: We end the matchweek in 13th following Tottenham’s 2-1 win over Burnley.

Life started out well for the Hull City Tigers, as they pounced on the Foxes with a shock 2-1 win on the opening day of the season. Soon after, they got a 2-0 victory over the Swans. Following on from their bright start, they have only won once in 14 matches, and as such will be spending Christmas at the bottom of the table. In these icy conditions, they face extinction with a lack of resources available.

The January transfer window is not far away, but the Tigers are unlikely to receive any new ammunition. Quite rightly, the management of the Tigers has been brought into disrepute. I truly wish this was all about their proposals to market the team as “Hull City Tigers” instead of “Hull City AFC”, but the situation is far more convoluted than that!

Hull have the lowest net spend of any promoted side this season, which is roughly at £15M. In fact, the Hull City Supporters Trust (HCST) have taken out a month-long advertisement highlighting the rise in ticket prices, despite the club’s vice-chairman stating: “we do not believe that constantly raising prices is a viable long-term option.” The HCST don’t even see the point in staging a matchday protest, because so many disenfranchised fans are staying away, as is evident by the dropping attendances. But it isn’t just the fans who are unhappy.

Captain Curtis Davies said that the team “need someone who can put the ball in the net.” There are a number of former PL teams that are struggling financially in lower divisions, and it is difficult to see Hull buck the trend at the moment. The Hull team can’t improve with the squad they have. There is no point in yo-yoing between the top two tiers, as promotion isn’t as easy as Big Sam made it look for us. Norwich City have been promoted to the big time and relegated to the Championship on a regular basis, and currently find themselves 10th in the Championship. They have struggled to build on their successes, and Hull City cannot afford to go down this passage. Both teams have had Mbokani in the Premier League. He is worthless. He missed a gift of a chance from Cresswell! Christmas isn’t the time to be missing those.

Hull will be disheartened by this defeat, but they shouldn’t. By extension, I would say that we should remain positive, and not belittle our team’s performance too much (yet I will, nevertheless), because we are quickly turning into Hull’s bogey team. We won the match, despite our frame of the goal being hit on three separate occasions. In our last match against the Tigers, Collins made a last man tackle with James Tomkins also putting in a strong performance to avoid conceding first, though we definitely should have. The scoreline? A 3-0 win for us. In this match, Kouyaté also made a last man tackle with Reid also doing well at the back. Fernandes and the post also saved us! We win 1-0 through a soft penalty. I could draw parallels with the 2-1 victory in which our fans booed Big Sam, despite winning, but you get the picture.

The point I’m trying to make is that we can’t take any huge negatives with us into the next match. I read the WhoScored match report, which said our team had no significant weaknesses (I kid you not!) As for the Tigers, they are on a run of seven successive away defeats in the PL, so can’t afford to put too much of it down to luck. Mike Phelan was right in saying that his team “should have been out of sight.”

This Hull side should have been beaten rather comfortably judging by their away form and overall position. We certainly didn’t play to the best of our ability. But, I personally believe that the lack of attacking options will do this. The formation we are playing in means our wingbacks need to be smart, and hold the ball. Antonio was a shining example playing in several roles throughout the match. Even Carroll did well in midfield. The players were helping each other out when called upon.

However, our constant changing of roles meant that we couldn’t do what was required of us at the right time. Something that was made abundantly clear in this match is that our players are lacking their native instincts. There were many occasions in which Carroll had the opportunity to run forward when Payet or another player had the ball, but didn’t make the runs when needed. Likewise, Antonio didn’t do much of this either, and Ayew didn’t create many running opportunities. Problems at both ends. David Bowie’s Hunky Dory and Andre Ayew may both share birthdays, but that does not mean Ayew can be described as the former!

Antonio had a great chance on the run receiving the ball from Payet to go one-on-one, but his second touch of the ball let him down, and Clucas stopped him in his tracks. This single event speaks volumes about our current attacking ability. The fact that we are playing with a striker who either has to play in midfield to win the ball in the air or make clearances back in defence means we lack the counter-attacking ability of last season. Believe me, we need it! Like Hull City, we may also need to invest in a striker. We are an attacking team, so getting another forward will help. Only Southampton and Everton have stopped us from scoring this season.

We have won consecutive Premier League games at the London Stadium for the first time, and are beginning to show signs of the sort of dominant play we had last season. One problem I identified in my previous match reviews was that we weren’t having enough shots on target. However, we seem to have turned a corner getting six and seven shots on target in our last two matches. I think this is the case, as we are forward-thinking… in the literal sense! We have seen a lot of back-passes from Noble amongst others, but we haven’t seen much of it recently. 70% of our passes were in the final third this match, so we are seeing more of the West Ham of last season. Still not convinced? We have dominated possession with 58% on average in our previous two matches.

The reason we finished the day in 13th is down to the flexibility of our players. Slav seems to have masterminded this formation very well. Perhaps he was willing to take a punt, given that we have many players who are capable of playing elsewhere on the pitch. Antonio, Kouyaté, Cresswell, Lanzini and Carroll are a few examples.

We could potentially get into the top half before the end of the calendar year. I’m far too optimistic for some reason. Perhaps I’m, like many, hoping for a Christmas miracle. With Bob Bradley’s Swansea losing 3-0 to Boro, we can certainly hope for a win. I sincerely hope all trains through Swansea haven’t been cancelled due to a massive points failure, though!

Click here to view the leaderboard

Copyright © 2017 Iain Dale Limited. Terms and conditions. Cookies.
Website by Russell Brown.