Saturday, 24th September 2005
Still, maybe we are spoilt, because our style of fluent, passing football has got me riveted. It’s compulsive viewing - so much so, I can honestly say that I have not been able to take my eyes off a match for one moment this season.
I don’t have a second team in the Premiership and wouldn’t dream of having one, but I have admired the style of play of today’s visitors for several seasons now. What is exciting me is that New West Ham (it’s a bit like New Labour really, but without the political parasites) has taken on board some of key ingredients in Arsenal’s past success. Pace in particular – ask yourself when you have seen a quicker West Ham team in recent memory.
Our renaissance team lined up as expected, with the opposition looking a bit depleted with the absence of Henry, D’Artagnan and the elbow flailing Dutchman who doesn’t have shares in Easyjet.
Arsenal looked menacing from the outset and Freddie Ljungberg in particular looked somewhat supercharged. It was his flick in the 2nd minute which set up a Van Persie shot which went mercifully wide.
Confused? You will be
Four minutes later, Hayden Mullins – a Renaissance Man in a reborn team – stroked a beautiful ball out wide to find Yossi. He went off on a brilliant weaving run which confused the f*ck out of Ashley Cole, but the eventual final ball was sent over too high.
On 7 minutes, the Swede was off again at pace down the Arsenal right, and he fed a nice ball through to Van Persie who got in a low shot which Carroll did well to grab off the turf to his right.
Sheringham, the old head in New West Ham delivered a sublime flick on 10 minutes which released Matty. He went forward rapidly and Gilberto decided to foul him rather than let him get into the box. It merited a yellow, but no card was shown. Teddy stood up to take the kick and he managed to beat the wall with a low curling shot. Lehmann must have been sure of the wall’s positioning as he stood rooted to the spot as the ball went round his right hand post.
It was at this point that I began to feel Marlon’s pain. He didn’t have a shout in any of a number of aerial battles with Sol Campbell, who was sheer power personified in central defence.
New West Ham has completeness about it and the defence has looked fantastically solid. The reason for this is the clear value added by Gabbers and Konch, and the latter was alert and quick on 14 minutes to make a telling intervention on the edge of the box.
There was a lovely exchange of deft passes between Teddy and Matty on 20 minutes which allowed the veteran to get a shot in from just outside the D, but he was off target.
Gott in himmel, vere is ze ball?
Lehmann went into a Teutonic rage not long after this as he was having trouble finding a ball. Cue a loud chorus of ‘Engerland, Engerland, Engerland’ aimed at the German from the Bobby Moore Lower. It appeared that Pardew’s tactics extended to using the ‘one ball rule’ rather than the usual practice of providing the ball boys with a number to supply the teams. It’s the first time I’ve seen that at Upton Park, but if it did nothing more than wind up the Bosche, then it worked for me.
Reyes, who’d been pretty ineffectual up to this point, caused many a heart to flutter when he tried a curler from just outside the box on 28 minutes. Carroll looked beaten as he scrambled across in desperation, but the ball ended up hitting the side netting.
Yossi made a deceptive change in direction from a short corner on the half hour to outwit Hleb (or ‘phlegm’ as I call him), but he was closed down before he could get a telling shot away. It was then Yossi, five minutes later who launched a throw Tomwards. Tom hit a great first time cross low into the box, but a diving Teddy couldn’t get a boot on it.
Mullins the playmaker hit another 30 yard crossfield pass to find Tom again on 38 minutes, but the Czech with the scary eyes ballooned it a mile into the air. Five minutes later, Teddy showed his guile again as he lifted a ball sweetly into the box. Yossi challenged and the ball rebounded off Cole, but the Israeli could only slice a spinning volley wide of the goal.
With a minute of ordinary time left, Arsenal’s player of the half, Ljungberg picked up a loose ball in his own half and then made a superb pass to Reyes, but the chance was wasted with a poor shot.
Hollywood East Stand
That was the last notable move of an absorbing half’s football. Just how well New West Ham play as a unit is filling me with great hope and everybody else in the East Stand Upper who looked collectively as pleased as punch. We’re not the prettiest lot, but we do look like film stars when we’ve got a smile on our faces.
No changes in either team at half time and New West Ham looked brimming full of confidence from the outset. On 48 minutes, Mullins the playmaker sent over a quality ball to Teddy in the far right hand side of the Arsenal box. For a moment, it looked like a Van Basten moment, but Teddy elected instead to bring the ball down and win a corner. From the corner, Yossi managed to get a bouncing half volley on target, but he was adjudged to have handled the ball.
Smallest bloke throws the longest
Six minutes later, Yossi the long throw specialist put a high one into the box, which Lehmann punched poorly. Reo Coker picked up the scraps and got a shot away which appeared to hit an Arsenal hand. The ref wasn’t interested and this led to handbags between a group of players during the next lull in play. Teddy was complaining the loudest and he ended up being booked for dissent.
The controversy led to further bad decisions by the officials. A throw in for the Hammers that everybody in the stadium saw was given instead to Arsenal and a clear foul on Marlon by Campbell was equally ignored.
Tom also ended up in the book on the hour and this led to the Bobby Moore Lower giving a loud rendition of ‘Super Tom’. This unnerved me, as at times when the East European red mist descends, it feels like he needs a soothing lullaby, not further winding up.
Wenger swapped Gilberto for Flamini on 70 minutes and two minutes later the poor Reyes was replaced by a guy with a an unpronounceable double-barrelled name, who was announced as ‘Quincy’. One thing this guy has clearly got is blistering pace as he went off down the left wing like a train from his first touch. Fortunately he was so quick that there were no Arsenal players in the box to receive his cross.
On 79 minutes, Tom appeared to have sufficiently calmed down to deliver an incisive pass to release Reo Coker down the right. He went speeding into the box but got forced wide and his cross was easily gathered by Lehmann.
Teddy went off to a standing ovation on 80 minutes and Z-man came on. Wenger’s response immediately afterwards was to replace Van Persie with Clichy.
Sh*t is that a ball coming my way?
The best chance of the half for West Ham then came with around 7 minutes of ordinary time left. A quality ball was sent into the box from the left and there was Zamora standing on his own eight yards out. He seemed either surprised or scared, because he failed to get a header of any substance on it and tamely glanced the ball wide of the post, much to the relief of Lehmann.
Matty was then replaced by Shaun Newton.
The best opportunity for the Hammers was followed by a real chance for Ljungberg two minutes later. A quality ball bisected the central defence and Freddie looked certain to latch onto it but his first touch was uncharacteristically poor, allowing Carroll to gather the ball.
Tom was lucky to stay on the pitch on 86 minutes as he exploded into some angry words at the ref down in the corner nearest the East Stand. Tom got his head together sufficiently to get over a good cross from the right which Z man headed back across goal to Marlon. He had his back to the goal, but he swivelled quickly to shoot just wide.
The final opportunity of the match fell to the Irons as a free kick won by Zamora down the left allowed Yossi to try a shot on goal, but Lehmann was able to punch it out without too much trouble.
No bore draw
0-0 bore draw this was not and quite frankly we matched Arsenal in every department. For me, the defence was absolutely awesome. Konch was sensational; Anton just grows in stature; Gabbers looks like he’s been a Premiership player for years; and Tom, although still temperamental (with the emphasis on mental) is playing very solid indeed.
Pardew is continuing to get the tactics absolutely right and we can go up to Sunderland next week without the press trailing it as a six pointer. 3rd in the table (at least until the Bolton result) and almost totally untroubled by Arsenal – who would have Adam and Eved it?
(Player ratings by Graeme Howlett)
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A surprisingly quiet afternoon for the Ulsterman who coped with what little Arsenal threw at him admirably.
A good performance from the Czech who kept a tight ship in defence whilst adding weight to the Hammers attacking options on the flank.
An excellent effort from the former Charlton man in front of a watching Sven Goran Erikkson who can't have failed to take note.
Growing in stature at the weeks go by and on current form is probably the more valuable of the two Ferdinand brothers.
Alan Pardew said at the start of the season that he expects Gabbidon to be in the running for Hammer of the Year come next May - and it was clear to see why going by today's performance. Yet to put a foot wrong since making the move to East London.
Worked hard to nullify the threat from Flamini and Gilberto - and did so effectively. The only criticism of Mullins would be his passing (although in fairness he pulled off one or two fabulous 50-yard deliveries).
Like his midfield partner Hayden Mullins he worked extremely hard but unlike in recent weeks, was lacking the killer touch. However his partnership with Mullins made Arsenal look very ordinary indeed.
One or two wonderful cameos drew applause from the home crowd, whilst the long throws into the box almost proved decisive. Lost the ball a little too easily on occasions and could do with a touch of the Joe Cole steak diet.
Rarely got at his full back in the manner to which we have become accustomed and again faded towards the end.
Not one of Marlon's better days but he can be forgiven that bearing in mind the contribution he has made to the side in recent games.
A quiet day at the office for the team's elder statesman; having played for Spurs and Manchester United (prior to moving to a big club a year or so ago) one would perhaps have expected him to more effective today.
(Replaced Sheringham, 80) Bobby muffed West Ham's best chance of the game having been on the field for a couple of minutes but showed how desperate he is to be more involved.
(Replaced Etherington, 84) Brought on to replace the tiring Etherington and helped shore things up at the back in order to protect the point.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Danny Gabbidon.
West Ham United
Roy Carroll, Tomas Repka, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood, Teddy Sheringham.
Booked: Teddy Sheringham 55 Tomas Repka 61 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Lehmann, Toure, Cole, Campbell, Lauren, Gilberto, Fabregas, Ljungberg, Hleb, Reyes, Van Persie.
Substitutes: Flamini (Gilberto 71), Abeyie (Reyes 73), Cliche (Van Persie 82).
Subs not used: Almunia, Cygan.
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..