Hammers are saturated with class but struggling for rhythm.
West Ham started the season full of hope and optimism and due to a terrible run of fixtures and a few new faces we found ourselves pointless with a small number of games gone. Then it all picked up and performances against Chelsea, Everton and Man Utd showed how much quality and aspiration we really have. But entwined within this has been some puzzling off performances. These non-performances also happened against Brighton and to a certain extent in the double header London derby albeit against a top four side currently.
This really is not intended as a bitter Monday moan as all of the prerequisites for brilliance in the team are already evident albeit some more evident than others. Now I think the team in itself has improved rapidly as the games have gone on. Arnie is one of the leading scorers in the Prem, Anderson is starting to germinate and Diangana has been discovered. Diop and Balbuena are actually very proficient and the keeper is outstanding. Therefore we need to really analyse the mechanism by which our form seems to oscillate. I would suggest the main reason is that Pellegrini’s model is not yet complete. It’s clear we don’t quite have a full set of first team players who can provide the reliability and consistency in performance we need. January may be a possibility but our chairman are often cautious of this window so any additions are likely to be on loan or moderately priced at best. Therefore we are looking at next season until we can strengthen the areas we need to. Full backs, another centre forward and an industrious centre mid who can tackle and pass.
Despite such annoyances, looking at our best performances the team we have got are still capable of better showings than the first half at Huddersfield. I think to a certain extent this has been due to pressures and strains on the centre of midfield. Noble’s suspension and Obiang’s continual state of semi-fitness has put immense pressure on Rice who has been superb this season but we are over reliant on him to pick up misplaced passes and generally win the ball in the middle. Against Huddersfield he made a rare individual error and was unlucky to be punished but was. Balbuena and Fabianski also made similar errors but got away with them so it was one of those games where only conceding one goal was actually no mean feat considering the way they came at us. I think we should be more concerned at only scoring one. At times we seem to overplay the ball or run wide when a better ball inside is waiting. We need to be more efficient and clinical, Hernandez immediately made an impact when he came on and should really have done better but fair enough. However that was basically it from him. I’m not convinced taking Diangana off helped anyone and despite Hernandez’s record how much longer can we afford him ghosting about contributing only for very small parts of the game.
Another reason we have not managed to break into a better rhythm is our lack of options from the bench. Antonio continues with a general ineptness which has not been seen in previous seasons and his decision making is still very questionable. Fredericks appears to have sustained an injury to his ankle and certainly looked crocked when last seen gingerly hopping across the field. This is a shame for him and hopefully it is just a sprain, he hadn’t completely settled in the game and with Zab not getting any younger and rumours circulating about this being his last season Fredericks can really capitalise if he ups his game. So what should we be expecting from the rest of this season and from the next couple of seasons? Continued improvement and a few winning runs could see us as high as 6th-8th with being happy with 10th a likely realistic target. The only problem with this is Pellegrini and the whole Board cash input for signings hasn’t been done to finish 10th or even 8th. Pellegrini is a manager who wins things, the board have brought him in to win things, should we expect a major restructuring with maybe Obiang, Antonio, Noble and Carrol being sold to facilitate more ‘major’ signings? Or have we basically got the team we need bar a couple of fullbacks and we just need to carry on gelling and improving? Time will tell, after the break will come a tough test which could boost our season or provide another mini dip in morale but we must come through that and be ready to put together a decent run up to and beyond the New Year.
At times it seems like we have got it cracked. Anderson beating the player on Saturday and then taking another two out with the angled ball was pure genius as was his finish. Arnie seems to dictate whole phases of games with an invincible glow to his presence as he out battles opponents and finds pockets from which he can pounce, and Diop and Balbuena look comfortable as a pairing which is crucial. The positives all outweigh the negatives and as frustratingly disappointing it is to watch us only score one goal when three or four could have easily been had I still think it was always going to be a tough game and one which we have continued our accrual of points. Lets hope Pellegrini has some ideas for when his old boys come to town as well as looking forward to a few more tough away games. If he gets it right the class of our team will show through and the rhythm will be back in the West Ham dream. COYI!