Match Report

After the Leicester defeat Blind Hammer looks for answers for how West Ham could resurrect their season.

It has been a pretty miserable season for West Ham as we endured our 7th defeat at home against Leicester. We all know now that we have one of the worst defences in the league which concedes an alarming 2 goals a game but it was still a shock to be 2 -0 down after 6 minutes. The sad fact is that our defensive performance is providing a mountain for our offensive players to climb most games.

I was hampered in my insights by the club failing to provide a commentary headset. Luckily Radio London covered the game though I seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time listening to reports from games against Rotherham etc. .

Despite this several things seemed obvious. The first is that the energy levels of Leicester were superior to West Ham for between two thirds to three quarters of the game. It was only in the last quarter of the game that Leicester started to look like the team which had played an emotionally and physically draining performance in mid-week. West Ham looked the team with the lower energy levels for the majority of the match despite their having the whole week to prepare. In the first half in particular Leicester outfought West Ham for possession and was more aggressive, though Drinkwater was treated particularly leniently by the referee.

This inevitably draws attention to the level and intensity of preparation our team is receiving before games. Many have noted that the squad has to perform on a larger pitch. One of the insights of the BBC Commentary was that we seemed to have few players who have the athleticism to cover the pitch properly. Antonio and Fernandez when he came on being honourable exceptions.

Last week heated media words were exchanged between Bilic and Japp Stam at Reading. Stam had explained that young prospect Oxford was not getting game time at Reading because he was not fit enough and that he had found the intensity of training at Oxford a shock compared to what he was used to at West Ham. Bilic flatly denied this was an issue but questions linger and to a certain extent his defence sounds hollow.

The problem for Bilic repudiation of Stam’s current claims is that he has actually already admitted it. Bilic himself claimed after the December humiliation of a 5-1 home defeat against Arsenal that the team lacked intensity, not just in performing on the pitch, but in training also. Apart from this admission there is other evidence. Zazar in his reflections on his calamitous West Ham loan specifically pointed out how the lack of intensity in training compared to what he was used to at Juventus made it difficult for him to adjust to the physical rigours of the Premiership. Valencia also has commented on how much fitter he has had to become in order to compete for a place in the Everton squad.

It may just be that in our efforts to repair what an inordinately high injury record with key players such as Carrol and Sacko, a more kid’s glove approach to training has reduced the overall fitness and effectiveness of the squad. The larger pitch would certainly expose any drop off in performance. There is no doubt that coaching nowadays is a science. Players need intense preparation for games, whilst avoiding being injured in this intense preparation. There is little evidence that the coaching setup is performing at the correct standard. The recent higher exposure of the squad to the coaching team in the Dubai trip seems to have set the squad back rather than advance it.

So who are the men behind the scenes responsible for managing this difficult balancing act? The personnel available to Bilic are Nikola Jurcevic who appears to be his right hand man. Edin Terzic is our First Team Coach whilst Miljenko Rak seems to have a key role as First Team Head of Performance. Julian Dicks has a role described as First Team Coaching Assistant and Chris Woods completed the team as Goal Keeping Coach.

Whilst Julian Dicks is the name most familiar to us it seems unlikely, given his job description as “Assistant” and as previous coaching experience in Women’s football or lower league football that he has a genuine leadership role in technical coaching at the club.

So apart from Bilic himself this leave the following coaches who in my view have some questions to answer. Nikola Jurcevic may or may not from his job description have a fundamental coaching role. From job descriptions alone Edin Terzic has the main responsibility as our First Team Coach whilst Miljenko Rak is required to take responsibility for fitness levels as First Team Head of Performance.

Whatever the qualities of these men in general are, they are not producing in the heat of competitive cauldron of the Premier League. In the light of evidence of poor defensive organisation, obvious to all, in the light of poor fitness intensity, obvious to most, a review of the coaching infrastructure seems strongly indicated. This is something which can be addressed now. We have to an extent been here before. When under Allardyce, we were having the opposite problem, struggling to score goals; we recruited in Teddy Sheringham to good effect. Fresh blood recruitment into the Coaching setup may well be advantageous now, especially doing the international break.

Only insiders at the club will know if any of these coaches are not up to it and need to go. Part of the judgement in my view would relate to how adaptable they would be to others suggesting solutions and accepting what is currently offered is not enough. They need to be open to correcting what appears to be the current technical coaching deficit. It may just be time to start driving and if necessary firing ups the Coaches behind the scenes.


David Griffith

Julian Dicks
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