After West Ham’s very surprising win against Spurs at the weekend, things have all gone a little crazy. True, it was great to get a win, and Ravel Morrison’s goal was sublime, but the hyperbole that followed was surely mind bogglng. Not only has Sam Allardyce become an Italian tactical maestro all of a sudden, but Ravel Morrison is also a genius who walks on hallowed ground.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Ravel is a serious talent and we are fortunate that he seems to have turned his life around and is realising his potential while at West Ham. But heaping such praise so soon on such a young, precocious talent is asking for trouble. Considering his past, I can only hope that the manager and fellow players manage to keep his feet firmly on the ground and don’t let things go to his head. If they can do this, and Ravel can keep working hard and learning, then we are in for some exciting times ahead. One gripe though – it grates with me that the person who has done most to get Ravel’s head sorted out is not getting any of the credit. Step up Lee Clark, who was Ravel’s manager while he was on loan at Birmingham. It would be nice if Allardyce publicly credited him for his part in turning the boy around, but so far there has been nothing. Shame on you, Mr Allardyce.
Now on to Big Sam and his tactical masterstroke. What exactly did he change? We have known that without Andy Carroll we have no decent strikers, yet Big Sam has persisted with Maiga up front on his own in the Andy Carroll role, week after week. Against Spurs the penny finally dropped, and we started with …no strikers. The tactics were generally the same though – defend in numbers and try and hit them on the break. This time, with no “big” man up front to hit, the midfield became the front line. And it kind of worked. We got a set piece goal from Reid, a flukey goal courtesy of a break from midfield from Vaz Te, and Morrison’s goal. We defended well, but Spurs could have had a couple of goals, and they played quite poorly overall. A hangover from their midweek trip to Europe? Who knows. But what I am saying here is this. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We had a good day, a fair sized portion of good fortune, a great goal from Ravel and a strong all-round performance. We have the visit of Man City up next, no Andy Carroll again, and the likelihood of a repeat of the formation and tactics. If we get beaten at home by City playing 4-6-0 again and trying to just hit them on the break, I’m sure that that will be the last we will hear of Big Sam Allardicci.
What was anticipated to be a match full of passion, physicality and goals turned out to be a tame affair, and one that will not live long in the memory.
It was evident even before the kick-off that there was something missing from the atmosphere. Maybe it was the downpour that soaked the ground prior to the start of the match, but an out-take from Braveheart it certainly wasn’t. West Ham started slowly, happy to sit back and watch Newcastle play the ball around, a far cry from their usual positive home form. The return of Ben-Arfa for Newcastle gave them more scope, and Fabricio Coloccini was back giving the defence a well-needed boost. In terms of shots on goal, Cisse had an effort cleared off the line by Winston Reid, but the first half remained goalless, although Newcastle were ahead on points.
The Hammers improved after the break and Rob Elliot in goal for Newcastle had to make saves from Nolan, Jarvis and Carroll, and Nolan had a fair shout for a penalty. But the game drifted to its inevitable conclusion, and despite the obligatory positive noises from the management teams, it was definitely a day to forget. Wigan’s win means that Newcastle bums are getting progressively squeakier, and West Ham are still not mathematically safe. Let’s hope that the Hammers’s next game away at Everton will be a tad more entertaining.
West Ham’s 5 game unbeaten run came to an end against Manchester City on Saturday, when goals from Aguero and Yaya Toure were enough to seal the points, despite a late consolation goal from Andy Carroll.
It was another one of West Ham’s typical “away” performances, where solid defence was the priority and attacking options were limited. In truth, Manchester City could have had 5 or 6 were it not for some bad luck and some great saves from Jussi Jaaskelainen, who continued his fine run of form. City were by far the better attacking side, and maybe the best that can be said of West Ham is that they again proved hard to beat.
Carroll was again the Hammers best outlet, and if they fail to land his signature in the summer then they would be wise to have an alternative lined up as it is hard to see goals coming from anywhere else. Vitesse Arnhem’s Wilfried Bony would be a good choice, but now all sundry are after his services it is hard to see West Ham being his destination of choice.
At least it seems that there will be no sentiment getting in the way of hard-nosed business decisions, as Sam Allardyce was quoted today as saying that “To improve we just need to add better players, it’s a simple as that. If we get better players then we improve. If we can do that then we get better and we become an established Barclays Premier League side.” So hopefully there will be a sufficient transfer kitty available in the summer for Big Sam to get the players he needs. The Carroll situation will apparently be dealt with first, but things are looking a bit less optimistic on that front after reports in the Mirror that the striker has recently bought a house in Southport. It would be a shame to see him go as he has done a great job and is a firm favourite with the fans.
Finally, now the season is drawing to a close and survival is relatively assured, a lot people’s minds are focussing on the Hammer of the Year award. It’s going to be tough this year as there is no stand-out contender, but Diame, Reid, Collins, and Jaaskelainen have got to be contenders. In a year dominated by the defence, my two are Reid and Jaaskelainen, and at the moment I can’t decide between them. Both have been consistently outstanding, and I think I’ll have to flip a coin in the end! Please let me know who your HOTY is and why 🙂
West Ham travel to Manchester City on Saturday in the hope of obtaining the points needed to make them mathematically safe from relegation. It would take a miracle for anyone to catch them now, however, so the team should be relaxed and confident. Manchester City have little to play for now that Manchester United have sealed the Premiership title, and it remains to be seen how the City players will respond to this relatively meaningless fixture. For Man City, James Milner, Sergio Agüero and David Silva are fit again and come into the reckoning, and for West Ham everyone is fit bar Tomkins and McCartney. In midfield, Big Sam may be tempted to rest either Diame or O’Neill with Mark Noble pressing for a recall. Up front Joe Cole could replace Vaz Te. The defence should remain unchanged.
If Manchester City were still vying for the title, I would have gone for a home win here, but the mercenary nature of the City squad and the greater team spirit and work ethic of the Hammers gives me hope that they could pull off a shock here and take all 3 points back to London. There is no doubting the quality of the Man City squad, but Sam Allardyce has got the defence very organised and solid, and I take them to repel the City front line that could include old boy Carlos Tevez who, if he plays, is sure to receive a adoring welcome from the away support. Andy Carroll should continue his fine form and is fancied to score again, and Winston Reid is also due another goal in what has been an outstanding season from him.
Look out for a round of applause tomorrow in memory of Marc-Vivien Foe who played for both Man City and West Ham, and who tragically died in 2003 playing for Cameroon. His shirt number for Man City was 23, and they retired the shirt after his death. The tribute to him is due to start on 23 minutes.
In other news, Barry Hearn has been defeated in his attempt to seek yet another judicial review of the process to award the Olympic Stadium to West Ham. If true to his word, he should finally give up his battle to share the stadium with the Hammers. Despite his claims that he was fighting for the survival of his club Leyton Orient, his actions smack of those of an opportunist riding coattails on the back of the West Ham bid, hoping for a ride on the OS gravy train. The ironic thing is, because of his actions, West Ham now have to pay far less for the Olympic Stadium than they would have had to originally.
David Gold confirmed today that Winston Reid and Mark Noble have both been passed fit for the visit of Man Utd on Wednesday night. James Tomkins is unfortunately still injured, so the expected changes to the team will be Reid in for Tomkins and Noble in for O’Neil, with Pogatetz back on the bench.