Pressing issues

It could only be West Ham. We win superbly at our biggest rivals and the vast range of reactions from our fans just underlines what a bunch of mixed-up kids we really are.

We actually outplayed a team in the Champions League semi-finals and our supporters are torn between unadulterated joy, tears (afraid that was me, sorry), delirium, frustration and downright anger - that last one reserved, with some justification, for those that have had to endure Cardiff, Burnley, Bournemouth, Wolves and Wimbledon.

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Not just a happy, clappy weekend, where we all bask in the moment, but days of painful self-indulgent analysis. Just why can't we do that every week? How can our mood, temperament and performance levels swing so alarmingly from one end of the scale to the other?

Why do we look as if we don't understand the system or tactics one week, but get it pretty much perfect away to Spurs, who quite clearly thought that if Cardiff can outplay us, they would have no trouble?

It's not that we are so inconstant, it's that we sometimes look so professionally incompetent. Everybody loses, it's just the way we lose. Let's face it, Burnley are miles away from Manchester City's quality, but on Sunday they had their own system, they worked hard at it, they knew what they were doing. So often with us, the system collapses, everything breaks down.

Maybe we should be grateful for small mercies. Happily grasp at so-called records like being the first club to win and score at the new home of the mighty Spurs. Forgive me for not being in the slightest interested in such meaningless, fabricated statistics, it just allows folk to underline our supposed inferiority.

Does anyone know who were the first side to beat West Ham at Upton Park, or who were the first side to defeat us at the then Olympic Stadium? Thought not, just not important. For the record it was QPR in 1904, September 10 to be precise, and (competitively) Astra Giurgiu, the Romanians, on 25th August 2016.

It's the same sort of thinking that sees the club send out an email after the Spurs win imploring fans to renew their seasons tickets, because West Ham have taken points from five of the top six, so don't forget to renew your season ticket for all the action next season.

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Even so, Saturday's win at Spurs was something pretty special. Not a weak link in our side, everyone did their job, everybody worked, ran and covered. We concentrated for the whole match, and more importantly, we pressed right across midfield consistently.

Declan Rice, Mark Noble and Robert Snodgrass were outstanding. Felipe Anderson got back and got his foot in, Michail Antonio likewise, and he scared the life out of them with his power and pace.

And Issa Diop showed he has benefited from a couple of weeks' rest, while Ryan Fredericks was excellent too. He showed he really must be given a good run in the side now, for certain these last two league games, and right through pre-season.

Diop was amazing. He's still a kid and has probably found the demands and intensity of the Premier League testing, hence the two-week break. But he has the ability and timing to step into midfield, win the ball, and set moves going. He is much better with Fabian Balbuena behind him, an out-and-out defender who does not wander up field like Angelo Ogbonna does, which allows Diop the security to press forward more.

It was just a really good all round team performance, Manuel Pellegrini called it 'near perfect' and that all comes from working hard.

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Pellegrini keeps banging on about believing we are a big team, when the problem is we do not have that many genuine big players. But if you work as hard as we did at Spurs, collectively, you can achieve a lot.

I have become a bit obsessed with the NFL and New England Patriots in recent years. Their motto seems to be 'Do Your Job', which is really how we should approach things. The collective system that makes them one of the best, if not the best, sports team in the world totally depends on every cog in the wheel doing the job they have been given. That should apply to any sports team, us included.

Which brings me to a key point here. There is an excellent article on the pressing game written by Ken Early in the Irish Times. It carefully lists the merits of a pressing system involving the whole team, and explains just how good Liverpool and Manchester City are at it.

I must admit it's not my favourite way of watching football. You see players hounded into mistakes in their own final third, and everybody jeers, but it's the way of the world now and we must embrace it. What we saw on Saturday was a move in the right direction.

For too long we have not handled this well. Slav always seemed to be very anti the style, as if it was beneath him to play that way. Big Sam and David Moyes are predominantly defensive coaches and opt for the long ball counter. That is not how the game is played now, and the quicker we sign and/or coach players to perform in this system the better, because it is not going away.

So let's see if we can repeat the same level of intensity and work ethic next weekend against Southampton that we saw at Spurs.


WHUISA elections


I must admit I was surprised at the furore my piece last week caused about the ongoing saga between the OSB and WHUISA, and I can assure all those who slagged off the article as ' garbage' and worse, that I have been back to my sources and am more than satisfied with the piece.

One particular gentleman was vitriolic about the piece, and he is entitled to his opinion. A bit disappointing because I have long admired his own work on YouTube and social media, as well as the amount of his own time he has put into membership of various supporters' groups.

Anyway, lets wait and see what happens at Saturday's WHUISA annual general meeting. There will be a motion that, if passed, will ban any move to join the OSB unless it is put to the full membership first.

And also another motion that again, if it is passed, will bar any sitting member of the OSB from being allowed to serve on WHUISA's committee or hold a senior post without a full membership vote.

I am also whispered that a significant, important, figure has recently joined WHUISA, and it will be interesting to see if he takes part in the AGM. Again, let's wait and see what the outcome will be.

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