The Blind Hammer Column
Blind Hammer gives credit where credit is due.
What a difference 90 minutes make. As my Guide Dog Nyle pulled me up to the London Stadium I was pensive. West Ham had conceded 16 goals in our last 4 outings against Liverpool. Our form and injuries made it less than the ideal time to meet the Reds.
To add to my uncertaintly my Guide Dog Instructor was observing Nyle at work, as well as the excellent access services at West Ham. I was ultimately relieved that on the night Nyle was flawless.
Incidentally you can see me and Nyle on the West Ham website. Some of the members of the Disabled Supporters Advisory Board feature here: I believe I am the first voice you will here “here”:https://www.whufc.com/news/articles/2019/january/29-january/meet-your-disabled-supporters-board
My Guide Dog Instructor, a Liverpool fan, keenly anticipated the match. In the event he was impressed not just by the Stadium, the headset commentary service, but also the performance of West Ham. He conceded West Ham were the more dangerous team.
The one comic moment came when Nyle attempted to celebrate West Ham’s goal in his normal tail wagging fashion. He raced across me to encourage my instructor to share the joy . Nyle was slightly mystified by his lack of enthusiasm. He did receive a polite pat.
Last week I was angry at Pellegrini’s failure to prioritise the FA Cup. He should have reversed team selections. Players should have been rested against Wolves and not Wimbledon . The team selected against Wolves had more chance of achieving at least a replay .
It is only fair now to acknowledge Pellegrini’s response. There is absolutely no doubt that the improved performance against Liverpool was born out of his tactical preparation. A stream of players have paid tribute.
For example, Fredericks explained.
“We’d been watching clips of them all week and we knew what they would do, did our best to try and nullify them and I think it worked.”
Ogbonna also praise preparation
“We prepared well and were organised for the game. … we closed the lines. We worked so cleverly and with Felipe Anderson one side and Michail Antonio the other…”
Antonio provided further insight
““We worked on the free-kick in training. We saw the space they leave behind them because they keep a high line. So we worked on that this week and it managed to work out for us.
“We know that they like to play through the middle and that when they cross they want to cross it along the ground.
“What we wanted to do was showing them wide and counters attack on them.”
Most importantly Rice explained how Pellegrini’s coaching helped his dominant
“At the start of the season, when I was playing holding midfield, I was vacating my space, I wasn’t defending properly,
I was running out of the middle and letting them play.
“I think you could see that Firmino and Salah were frustrated because they couldn’t go through the middle. They kept going wide and they obviously haven’t got a target man to play up to, so we frustrated their game plan .”
All these quotes are testament to Pellegrini’s development of the squad. .
In recent months top six sides have faltered at the London Stadium. An easy 3 points is no longer guaranteed.
Against not just Liverpool, but also against Chelsea, West Ham were unlucky to emerge only with a point. In these games Pellegrini frustrated the ambitions of Maurizio Sarri’s and most obviously Jürgen Klopp. Klopp’s frustration and excuses were ridiculous, and showed a complete lack of dignity.
Pellegrini also plotted successfully against Arsenal’s Unai Emery, and completely flummoxed the admittedly fading force of Manchester United’s José Mourinho. Pellegrini shows evidence that he is still a world class tactician.
Reverses against Manchester City and Tottenham revealed our relative lack of squad depth. This has also undermined our consistency.
Despite this, with each successive positive result, a visit to the London Stadium becomes psychologically tougher for our opponents.
Someday we may be lucky enough not to have a squad decimated by injuries. We may just then see something special .