West Ham’s embarrassingly poor performance against Everton on Saturday afternoon slightly soured what was a fantastic week from a personal point of view. While Pellegrini was preparing the team for what resulted in a very poor display on Merseyside, I was down in Winchester for the week celebrating graduating with a 2:1 in English Literature.
Me and a friend had to check out of our hotel by midday, we then headed into town and I went to a pub opposite my first year accommodation to watch the football. I missed the opening 8 minutes of the game as the bloke behind the bar took a while to change the channel from the rugby to BT. I’d missed Roberto make a great stop from Tom Davies but, as the game came on the screen, I could see Everton were starting to take control.
In general I try to remain as positive and optimistic with West Ham as is possible, but surely last weekend’s performance was one of the worst under Pellegrini’s stewardship? The fact the Chilean stated after the game that if he could have done, he would have taken all 11 players off speaks volumes. Creative players we have such as Lanzini, Anderson, Yarmolenko, Fornals etc. will blow hot and cold, and in the case of the young Spaniard he still needs time to adapt and assimilate in the culture. Some of the abuse so called ‘fans’ hurl at the players is laughable; in the case of Fornals he’s not had the easiest start but we have to continue to support him and hopefully he will gain confidence and improve week on week. Anderson was extremely poor and I was not particularly surprised when he was brought off for Yarmolenko at the half time break. Lanzini was also very poor, and moving forward these players must get closer to Haller in order to support him.
After Everton’s superb finish right at the conclusion of the game, I left the pub and headed for the train station annoyed at such an abject performance and wondered what we could do to return to winning ways in the next game. Is it time to properly see what Ajeti can do and play two up front against Wilder’s organised Sheffield United? Our record signing, Sebastien Haller has proved that he can work extremely well alongside a strike partner given his fruitful partnership with Jovic who now plies his trade at Real Madrid. We need to see more of Ajeti, I think he could be quite good but given he’s been limited to league cup games and until Saturday no league minutes, perhaps Pellegrini does not rate him. Sheffield United will be extremely organised and have a great defensive record already, Haller will struggle up against three centre backs if Pellegrini opts for the same formation and the creative players do not get close enough to him. Defenders nowadays are quite rarely confronted with the task of marking two strikers as most teams play with one up top, so I’d love to see Ajeti get his first start on Saturday.
The defence generally has been ok with Ogbonna in particular playing consistently well. The only weak areas are the goal keeper and the left back position. Roberto clearly isn’t as good as Fabianski but he made some decent stops whilst also being partially at fault for Bernard’s opening goal. With the veteran keeper we have to hope with more games he gains more and more confidence, but the return of our Polish No. 1 will be a wonderful Christmas/New Year present. The chop and changing of Cresswell and Masuaku is far from ideal as well; it seems one has a string of decent games and everyone agrees they should stay in the team, then that one gets injured and the other one comes in and has a good run of games but then they get injured and so on… Whoever starts at left back on Saturday I hope can remain fit and have a solid run of games because ideally the defence should remain unchanged for as long as possible.
We definitely will need to be at our best against Sheffield United because they counter attack well and do not give up many chances. The fact we will have had a fair amount more recovery time than Wilder’s men should theoretically help but with West Ham you never know! If we can get Haller good chances you have to hope he will score, but that means players like Anderson, Lanzini and Yarmolenko need to play well and put in maximum effort from minute 1 to minute 94. After such a bad performance against Everton you have to hope that the players will want to respond with a good performance and 3 points. In my previous articles I’ve predicted whether I feel we’ll win and since doing that we’ve only beaten Norwich! I’m far less confident given how structured the newly promoted side are, and how well we will have to play to break them down, so I’ll go for a 1-1 draw in the hope of not predicting a win means we will come out victors.
Hope everyone is well, and has a good week!
My graduation ceremony for anyone interested was at Winchester cathedral on Friday and Dame Judi Dench was receiving an honorary degree. It was great to see such a legendary actor and British icon. Also got to shake Alan Titchmarsh’s hand as he was the Chancellor of the University but will no longer be as of now. As I shook the gardener’s hand I lied to him and said I had read one of his novels and really enjoyed it!