Text  Larger | Smaller | Default

NewsNow

West Ham may be a club for turning


Filed: Thursday, 6th December 2018
By: Paul Walker


Now I have been warned not to use the words 'turning point'. Something about not tempting fate and having to buy the half-time booze if I dared. A fate worse that death that, in the Bobby Moore lower concourse.

Have you noticed they always seem to be training some poor soul, the ones when you ask for red wine and they come back with rose. (I know, Iím sorry, Iím a snowflake leftie and proud of it.)

Anyway, when youíve been around as long as me, you tend not to expect too much anyway, from West Ham. I mean, back to back wins for the first time in nearly two years is almost cause for an open top bus ride around Stratford, we can borrow the one Spurs use when they qualify from a Champions League group.

Embed from Getty Images


So no turning point, then. Maybe just a gentle change of direction. As Mark Noble claimed this week, the players are at last Ďgettingí what Manuel Pellegrini wants. He always aims to win, no half measures, he has changed the whole staff, lots of new players and a totally different style of play.

Noble admits they are training all the time in Pelleís style of play.

Yes, itís dangerous to be experimenting with so much money at stake, and I hate the idea we are someoneís project, but itís starting to look promising. We are defending differently, attacking differently . We have lost one in six in the league and that to Manchester City, and collected 11 points in that run. Slowly we are getting somewhere.

And maybe these last three games over 11 days have emphasised the point. I was horrified when I first saw the team selected to play the champions, a side now so far ahead of us in every aspect it is hard to believe we beat them at the Boleyn in 2014 and then again at the Etihad the following season. Absolutely no chance of that now such is the might of the oil money.

We actually used six attacking players during the 4-0 defeat at the LS last month, the manager clearly having no truck with the idea of defending in depth and hoping for a miracle. They donít come these days playing City like that.

The only teams who have worried City this season are Wolves, surprisingly Huddersfield and--always --Liverpool. All three press ferociously, hounding City in their final third and forcing mistakes. We do not have that sort of player, so you might as well give it a crack.

And Pelle is a cute customer. He knew, like we all did, that there was zilch chance of us winning that game, so why not give the players some licence to attack. City picked us apart with ease when they needed to, but Michail Antonio could have had a couple and relished the chance to use his strength and pace to run at defenders.

Heís had a terrible time for much of this season, looking unfit, even heavy, and struggling to put behind him a string of injuries. But that game gave him a bit of hope and confidence. Heís been used at full back, midfield and up front now and thereís not been a hint of all that moaning last season about being played out of position.

Now we have all seen him play full back before, in Slaven Bilicís time. The first season he was an overlapping menace, the next time around he was a disaster.

Embed from Getty Images


On Tuesday against Cardiff he showed intelligence, defended competently when he had to and got forward with some of his old vengeance. And he scored. He looked a different player to a couple of months ago, and has zero chance of being sold now, what with our ever-changing injury list. Pelle values his versatility, clearly.

In the end that City game was a lot better than I feared. I canít recall a match when so many West Ham fans were selling on their tickets, it seemed everyone was not bothered about seeing the expected hammering. You couldnít move on social media and fansí sites with folk trying to off-load their tickets, early Christmas shopping seemed less painful.

Then we had the outstanding win at Newcastle. Javier Hernandez, who had been grizzling to anyone who would listen that he wanted out, was stuck up front and told to terrorise the most ponderous Newcastle back line I have seen in years. And that says something.

Noble was back , enough said really. Robert Snodgrass, what a different player he is now, returned from suspension and we hit Newcastle on the break over and over again. Felipe Anderson was outstanding and deserved the plaudits. Again we always tried to be on the front foot and won in Newcastle for only the second time in 20 years.

I am so pleased for Anderson. When he was getting slaughtered as a waste of money a few weeks back, I pleaded for some time and patience. He had such obvious skills, pace, first touch, exceptional eye for a clever pass . Actually he had to succeed with us, or the whole policy of spending that sort of summer money would have been called into question.

But he has learned how to play in this league, and as Pelle said, knows now what he must not do and what he can do. He has also got fitter and stronger. A few weeks back he was being hounded in possession and easily knocked off the ball.

But that goal he scored at St. Jamesí Park, when he virtually ran straight through a defender trying to knock him over, said it all. Against Cardiff he was quieter, double marked and contained. But he is beginning to frighten teams to death when he gets the ball, with a talent to play in colleagues with exceptional, clever, neat passes around the face of the box.

Now Cardiff. And I was surprised by the amount of stick handed out by some observers when I had time on the train home to look at the stuff that had poured into my phone. Not sure they were watching the same game as me.

Neil Warnock was going to send out his team to sit deep, frustrate and stay in shape. You could see in that first-half that Cardiffís defence rarely came out of their half and stayed almost locked together in a defensive system. It has been a serious problem already this season for Spurs, Everton, Arsenal and Leicester, while beating Wolves and Brighton of late, two sides who have turned us over this term.

Embed from Getty Images


So they are not quit the mugs some thought, they just have the smallest wages budget and a lot of Championship players.

We, in turn, had to change three of our back four and lost Arnie after 40 minutes. Oh, and we conceded a penalty. In days gone by, recently, we would have lost that match or been battling to save the game.

But under Pelleís control we seem to be able to overcome adversity now. Lukasz Fabianski saved the spot kick--what a íkeeper he is turning out to be--and the reshuffled defence coped well, with even Angelo Ogbonna managing to get through without his customary silly half hour.

And when Arnautovic went off before the break, on came Lucas Perez to score two decent goals. He has barely been seen with us, but he has actually played 379 first team minutes and scored four goals, that as near as one ever 90 minutes as you can get. Thatís what you want from a squad player.

You donít get signed by Arsene Wenger unless you have technical ability, and maybe we should give him some support now. He pointed to his name after both goals, making a point, I am sure.

As for Arnie, he looks to be out until after Christmas. But this has been an injury waiting to happen. He has carried a problem all season, and it has started to take its toll. He has completed only seven of 18 appearance this term, has been taken off six times and left out on four occasions. And he has scored just one in his last eight games.

The theory is that without him we are in trouble. But we have been without him for longer than most people think already this season. We have Perez, Antonio, Hernandez and Andy Carroll who came play up front, let's see how that goes, and thereís always Grady Diangana to throw on to cause trouble.

I saw a tweet from Manuel Lanzini this week, supporting the manager's decisions to use Hernandez at Newcastle when everyone was shouting for Carroll to play, and for sending on Perez against Cardiff when we all expected Carroll to replace Arnie.

And for once I felt we looked like a team playing within ourselves, and coping well with the variety of forced changes to the team. Pelle has already shown that he punishes stupidity on the pitch very swiftly, and that even produced a performance of match-long concentration from Arthur Masuaku against Cardiff, and I never thought I would be writing that.

Embed from Getty Images


So, no, not a turning point (and I want red win not rose, lads, just saying, at half time). But we are seeing a move in the right direction. We are already nine points off the relegation zone, and that takes a lot for teams to make up, so a few more decent results over the holiday break even without Arnie and a nice Cup run would be appreciated.

The last time we were in the FA Cup Final, I had stupidly booked a holiday in Malta for the family, not expecting a Second Division side to reach the final. It wasnít until half way back from Leeds after that wonderful semi-final replay victory in 1980 that I realised my folly, and that I would miss the final.

Next summerís holidays have been booked leaving May 18 clear. Just saying.


Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.







Your Comments


comments powered by Disqus