West Bromwich Albion 4 West Ham United 0
Saturday, 14th February 2015
So the FA Cup was now our focus for the season, was it? It won't be for any longer. We were not at the races today, and were duly dumped out of the competition.When you're thumped 4-0, an immediate reaction is to want to point the finger at someone. Nolan would be an easy target. He contributed little today. On the other hand, it isn't his fault that he is on the pitch. Therefore, it must be Sam's fault, right?
Well, half right. I'm sure Sam had a plan, but what it was was not discernable from the way we played. The manager sets the team up, but the players also have to play. Today, they didn't.
Last Sunday, the performance was more than the sum of its parts. No individual stood out, but the team were magnificent. On Wednesday, we visited Dullsville Central. That is not a slander on the city of Southampton, simply an acknowledgement that it was a bloody awful game. Today? Oh dear...
Today, the performance was less than the sum of its parts. Since too many of the parts were below average, the final score was hardly undeserved. Kouyate's inexperience as a centre back was exposed, Cresswell had his worst game in a claret shirt. None of our midfield could make any positive impact on proceedings. And then there was abject stupidity from Amalfitano...
Nolan will try his best, but his best isn't good enough any more, if it ever was. Certainly, it is not good enough in a side that does not include a big man for him to feed off, which has always been his primary role with us.
Downing has, mostly, been terrific at the point of a midfield diamond this season. When Nolan has played at point, Downing has been shoved out wide and been far less effective. If Downing is at point... then what is Nolan supposed to be doing?
He can't go box to box, he's certainly no winger. He does do useful work in the midfield, but surely someone else should be starting? There are two things I said several games ago. First, that he leaves our midfield disjointed; second, that we're back to Undroppable Nolan.
I have never been a fan, but I'm not criticising him either. Not this time, anyway, despite the number of words spent. You can't blame the man for wanting to play & trying his best.
Only Sam, seemingly, cannot see that he should not be starting, even if he did sub him (Shock! Horror!) on the hour. But then blaming Sam for the whole of today would also be unfair - the players let him down, let us down.
The stats make awful reading. We apparently had 55% of the possession, yet the Baggies had twice the number of shots. It took us more than an hour to get one on target, by which time we were three down.
There's really not much point in attempting a blow-by-blow review of the match. It's difficult to know whether West Brom were actually any good today. No disrespect to our hosts intended; we were crap.
The only time we've played anything like that badly this season was against Southampton at home. Did West Brom make us look bad, or did we make them look good? Sam is already making excuses about fatigue, but that is bullshine.
They have played as many games in as short a space of time. We've been in some sort of form where they've been struggling.
They wanted it more than we did. They were better drilled. We had plenty of possession, but every time we went forward, we found two banks of four in the way, and we had no idea how to get through.
Their players outplayed our's; their manager out-thought our's. So much for Sophisticated Sam; it's not the first time the Pulis has mugged him since Allardyce has been our manager.
And that really is that! Do you want me to describe their four goals? Or our only chance worth mentioning? Sakho headed back across Foster, who got a big hand on it to deflect & take any pace out of it; the covering Macauley cleared the remainder easily.
It was a poor performance, all the more disappointing for the form we showed before the year turned. There isn't that much alteration between the team now and the team that was turning out in October - November - December.
Kouyate as emergency centre back & Nolan starting are really the only changes. Surely, they cannot make that much difference? I hope not. I'm inclined to blame a bad day at the office. It wasn't Sam, it wasn't the ref, it wasn't fatigue, injuries, or a makeshift defence. We had the players to do well... And we didn't.
As for Man of the Match, I shall stand up, for once, to that awful bully, The Editor. I decline to name one. Against Man Utd, I thought no-one deserved it, because it was such an all round terrific team performance that no individual should have been singled out.
Here, simply, there was no MotM. It was dire. Those who managed to swim against the tide still came out mired. If you need a photo for just under the headline, Mr Editor, use one of the ref. He did a better job than any of our players.
And that's it for the season, really, isn't it? However much, however much a phantasm... Up until the uninspiring selection & insipid performance against Chelsea, the unlucky defeat to Arsenal, we all harboured hopes, didn't we? We dared to dream that European qualification might be something we could chase to the end of the season.
Now, we have nothing. We've had our Cup run - for the first time under Sam, we've gone beyond the 3rd round. Enjoyable whilst it lasted, albeit disappointing how it's ended. We've dropped too many points to challenge the top, have too many points to be dragged into the bottom.
In the century anniversary of the Great War, we are in No Man's Land, neither one side nor the other. The only thing to do now is to keep our hands down & wait for everything to pass over... Or is it?
Surely in the next 13 league matches; all that is left to us; the only thing now is to experiment? League position does still matter; there is not insignificant prize money; as do form & morale. I am not suggesting change for the sake of change.
However, let us examine 3 players. Carroll is out for the season again; Reid is off at the end of the season, I'm sure we'd all agree; Nolan is a known quantity - no Carroll, Cole (bless 'im) a bit part player; where is the big man he needs to play off?
So no throwing youth (whatever we still have) to the wolves. But surely there is a case for the two Reece's, or Doneil Henry, to be given game time toward the end of matches; a quarter hour in place of... Dan Potts, who did so well when he played before, Poyet or Lletget. Surely there can be no point in starting Nolan or O'Brien if other younger players can be given time to develop alongside their colleagues in a competitive environment with little at risk?
I fear that what we will get is Sam picking all the obvious candidates; Reid, Nolan et al; as he always does. I'll accept it for the next game, our Dearly Beloathed away. But if he does it for the rest of the season... I will go back to actively & avidly looking forward to his departure, rather than passively!
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Player RatingsAdrian San Miguel del Castillo
The sort of day that goalkeepers hate - sod all chance to look good, sod all chance at stopping any of the goals...
One of our better players on the day, which is not saying much.
Defended badly today. Caught out several times.
Tidy enough, but might be wondering what he's let himself in for in signing a new contract after this!
As a temporary DC, got found out today.
Didn't offer enough today. He tries, but he simply shouldn't be starting.
Imperfect, but playing better than during January.
Still looking for form. Missed too many tackles, didn't push us forwards. Primary culprit for their spectacular second.
Didn't get into the game.
Worked hard off of little decent service.
Guess what? Worked hard off of very little service...
(Replaced tbc) Idiot. You want more? Complete idiot! He did add some attacking threat in the ten minutes he managed to last & that's why he doesn't get a 1...
(Replaced tbc) Didn't impress, but wasn't likely to in the circumstances.
(Replaced tbc) As with Joey, little chance to do anything useful on all-round off day.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Cresswell, James Tomkins, Cheikhou Kouyate, Kevin Nolan, Alex Song, Mark Noble, Stewart Downing, Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia.
Goals: Kevin Nolan 35 James Tomkins 45 .
Booked: James Tomkins 18 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
West Bromwich Albion: .
Subs not used: .
Sent off: None.
Referee: Mike Jones.
Man of the Match: Adrian San Miguel del Castillo.