I think that history will probably view Saturday’s encounter as a typically hard-fought close London derby which could have gone either way, a true one-nil which was settled just before the break- after an enforced substitution. I also think that looking at the game as a whole there were many missed opportunities and on the whole there was very little to choose between the two sides and its just one of those results you have to put up with. However, looking at the last two games together we begin to unfold a worrying pattern. We have ceased to be able to grind out results, if we ignore the fact we haven’t been terribly proficient in the old result grinding business in the last few seasons and concentrate purely on the outcomes and nature of outcomes from the last two matches only, we must ask the question what could have caused this?
Our fortunes have plateaued
I would argue three key reasons for this.
We have genuinely been unlucky and are likely to respond and make our own luck at some point, in addition to this the performances of Gross for Brighton and the opposition keeper Saturday were outstanding and cost us goals pure and simple.
Secondly Obiang not playing had an adverse effect on the midfield. In an attempt to remedy this the option was either give Obiang 20 Leeches Friday night and hope he recovers or order Snodgrass to do exactly what he was brought to the club to do and run around wildly, occasionally winning corners and generally being an ineffective replacement for a decent player. This certainly affected us and the lack of coherence caused Noble to be robbed for the first although by then the Yarmolenko crisis had unfolded which certainly didn’t help.
The third reason is the most important in my view. For the second game in a row we were out thought, out planned and out psyched by a shrewd manager who had done his homework thoroughly. This was made all the worse by facing a team of first-team fringers desperate enough to follow it to the last detail rather than be side-tracked by their own ego’s. Last week at Brighton Hughton told them to clatter Yarmolenko and Obiang to shut down our creativity. Saturday the opposition midfield were onto Anderson immediately. They were so badly all over him the geezer just basically fell apart and had to be taken off. I will say its one of the few off days he’s had and creative geniuses hate clever bullies so maybe against nicer teams, once he’s practised a few corners Anderson should live to fight another day.
You’ve gotta know how to hold’em… Know how to fold’em!
Would we have lost both of those games under Moyes? Under Billic almost certainly, under Allardyce almost certainly not but it wouldn’t have mattered as we probably wouldn’t have watched it. Under Moyes I think we may well have grabbed a few points. Go back to the Bournemouth and Wolves games I think Moyes would have got at least a couple more. Pellegrini has proven in some games he has the know-how and the talent required to make us a great side. As much as I moan about the opposition Saturday they have one of the best records in the league and a wealth of international players. Pellegrini’s style and tactics made them look like Brighton or Wolves but still they nicked one and turned us over. It seems Pellegrini needs to address the mental side of the set-up, possibly himself included. We need to be harder, tougher, more streetwise. Pellegrini needs to go out for beers with Danny Dyer or something. More Phil Mitchell less Billy. Leicester away is the perfect place and the type of game for us to instigate another revival (and to go out for beers with Danny Dyer). We can do it but we need to bring in a bit of support for Arnie who is looking stretched and stressed in the lone striker role. Hopefully Hernandez will return to form and Carroll should be back giving us some options. Four or even six points from the next two matches is now the clear expectation and is rapidly becoming a necessity as winnable games are being crossed off the list quickly.
Pellegrini does do the difficult things well
A major positive in Manuel’s book of tactical niceties is his willingness to give players a chance. Bringing on Diangana was like a breath of fresh air in managerial terms, Allardyce and Billic too often opted for the experienced yet boring replacement and more often than not in the case of the former actually wanted them to fail to prove a point. I’ve always been a great believer in baptism of fire, sink or swim: it maketh a person. Diop is continuing to look good and I thought Rice did have a good game on Saturday and his current role is another MP masterstroke as he creates immense havoc in nomansland breaking up play and restarting moves. If Declan Rice was a machine he would be the thing which picks up the skittles after bowling and sorts them out again, you have to look closely but he is always influencing the game and this bodes well.
White elephant for sale?
On a completely separate note there have been murmurs in the press about us buying the stadium blah blah. All I’ve heard from the media footballing community and rival fans are stories of the London Stadium not being built to watch football. When I purchased my band 4 season ticket I feared the worst and expected most of the game to be relayed back via telescope so far I would be from the action. Well its not great at Stratford but it is certainly not terrible. I say this because I went to Wembley for the NFL game between the Chargers and Titans. Now i admit not ever going to the New Wembley which is a bit of a poor show, last time I went I saw Roger Millar lose to a Robbie Fowler inspired England. However the views from the upper tier astounded me, far worse than Stratford, green overlay which is apparently dangerous!? Although we would have to knock at least half of the existing ground down the Upper Tier views at Stratford are better than Wembley and the only real change is reducing the distance from the pitch. I’m no engineer and I know the chances of that sort of money being spent are fanciful but maybe one day the London Legacy Olympic people, Seb Coe and his mates will all go out for a run and just keep going allowing us to turn a mediocre football stadium into a much better one. Until then lets get the Hammers winning again and hope our injury crisis doesn’t turn out to be as bad as first feared. COYI!
Update 4PM Monday: oh god, looking like Stig’s gonna be down in the dumps. Was Sakho’s supercar parked on Gypsy land or something? Now Yarmolenko and Sanchez not back until at least Easter more likely next season. Lost for words.