The GoatyGav Column
Compare the sight of Felipe Anderson strolling around and Robert Snodgrass chasing everything on Monday night was like comparing chalk and cheese. Not that there was much craft on show from any of the players you could easily identify those who were fully committed to the cause and those who were, candidly speaking, passengers.
Towards the end of last season Anderson could be seen tracking back and putting in challenges with the best of them. He seemed to start to understand the concept that there is an expectation for him to defend and to attack. On Monday night that went straight out of the window. It wasn’t just that he strolled around while we were out of possession. He could be seen holding back when we had the ball with opportunities to catch, a defensively poor, Arsenal out of shape. The entire team seems incapable of quick counter attacking. The slow, patient build up, with the ball moving from one side of the pitch to the other, has been drilled in to the players to the extent that it’s become our distinct MO which many teams are finding easy to defend against with an increasing regularity.
At the start of the game Anderson seemed to take up a number ten ‘role in the hole’ which suits him much better. As the game progressed, however, he drifted out to the flanks, mainly the left, and had less and less of an influence.
Don’t get me wrong. Anderson was not alone in his low work rate but there were those few, who it was plain to identify, put in a shift and left nothing on the pitch. I’ve already mentioned Robert Snodgrass but Declan Rice and Mark Noble also worked their socks off for the team. After a slight dip in form around the time of the recent England call ups ‘Deccers’ has started to put in man of the match winning performances again. I watched the Southampton game with my nephew, Tim, who, quite correctly, observed that Rice didn’t give the ball away once but won it on numerous occasions.
Manuel Pellegrini now finds himself in new territory. He’s never experienced a relegation scrap in the top tier of English football. As many of you will know I’ve backed him as much as possible as I would really love to see him succeed at our club. His teams play nice, entertaining, football and he’s been successful with similarly positioned teams as West Ham in Malaga and Villareal. A battle for survival in the Premier League, however, is a different kettle of fish altogether.
Right now we need players with the same attitude and approach as the Snodgrasses, Rices and Nobles of this world. Battlers who will bust a gut for the cause. Come 5.30 on Saturday you can count on, an improved, Southampton being ready to go to war. If the same attitude of many of the players is brought at St Mary’s then I can’t see us coming away with anything.
Although under different circumstances than the West Ham players find themselves in the Everton team’s effort levels last weekend should be held as an example for what is needed. The pride that the Evertonians showed in the shirt was plain for all to see. The fact that ex-player, Duncan Ferguson, took charge in the manager’s seat for the game was a huge contributing factor to the performance of the home team at Goodison Park but the lessons to be drawn remain. They wanted the result more than Chelsea did and made sure they gave everything they had to try and ensure a winning outcome. Comparing the performance of the blue half of Merseyside and Manuel Pellegrini’s charges is like comparing night and day.
Away from the first team, which is where many of us would choose to be at the moment, the U23, PL2, team played out an entertaining draw with Fulham. Two nil up at half time, through goals from Amadou Diallo and Dan Kemp, the boys in Claret and Blue were well on top. After a goal from Fulham Joe Powell finished off a brilliant move by Halajko’s team to go three one up on eighty minutes. Two late strikes from Fulham, however, meant that the honours ended even and our boys left feeling they let the game slip. Despite this they still head the division but now only by a single point from an in form Mancheter United.
Elsewhere the women went one up at Liverpool on five minutes when Adriana Leon scored. The West Ham ladies continued to dominate for much of the remainder of the first half, and had opportunities to go further ahead, before Liverpool began to grow in to the game. The match ebbed and flowed in the second half before Liverpool got themselves a, slightly fortuitous, equaliser. The final whistle went and the spoils were shared in a one all draw leaving the Ironesses in eighth place. With a win and a draw, in the last two games, ending Matt Beard’s teams losing streak they go up against Bristol City next Sunday. Best of luck to the girls.
Addendum: Since writing this the ladies recorded a resounding 7-0 win against Crystal Palace in the Continental sponsored League Cup. Sadly they haven’t qualified for the knockout stages of the competition but a big congrats to Matt Beard and his team on a great final game – terrific stuff.