Filed: Wednesday, 28th September 2011
By: Paul Walker
I suppose we always knew it would be Lee Bowyer who was going to score againÖfor a West Ham fan he has an unhealthy desire to make us look stupid.
That's three times now Lee, enough is enough. It is beyond a joke Almost as big a joke as watching our now mechanical team fail to adapt to the flow of a game, and to concentrate and defend properly in the last few minutes of matches.
But it is not really funny any more. Big Sam says the same thing, the team continue to do the same things wrong again and again, and there is no Plan B. Maybe we should invite Ben Drew and Russell Brand onto the board, the music and the comedy would be top rate off the pitch - rather than just being comical and the same old song on it!
But all is not lost, even if - as Sam says - we cannot afford to lose more than eight games in the league if we want go up. Two down, six to go after the bitterly disappointing defeat by Ipswich, who are without doubt the best side we have faced so far this campaign in the Championship.
The key now, to coin a phrase, is Keep CalmÖ and keep going. Thereís no option now the window is closed and the manager says we canít even think about loans because the squad is "full up".
Forced to tinker with the system because Matt Taylor and Winston Reid were injured - and to give those who chant "442, 442" their way, big Sam went for little Sam Baldock up front alongside Carlton Cole, and gave David Bentley his full debut on the flank, with Henri Lansbury on the other with just Mark Noble and Kevin Nolan in the centre.
What that showed is just why Sam prefers a five-man midfield when Nolan is around. A 442 formation exposes our captainís lack of pace, and maybe explains why Newcastle were not going to give him the extended contract he wanted ahead of his move to the Boleyn.
I doubt he has the pace and mobility now for the Premier League, despite all his other laudable leadership qualities. Iím not in the camp of those who are chipping away at Nolan already over his overall contribution.
Obviously, heís never going to be a Billy Bonds-style leader - happy birthday to the 65-year-old last week - but Nolan leads, covers, works and keeps the effort going. Heís Samís man in the dressing room and there is clearly a much better spirit there these days.
And Iím not going to start chipping away at the manager like some already. I was accused after a recently article of 'glorifying' him. A strange interpretation considering Iíd accused him of being arrogant and opinionated.
What I wanted from a new manager was professionalism, strength, organisation, a better fitness regime, a proper system and everyone pulling in the right direction after a root and branch overhaul of the club's playing strength. Weíve certainly had that.
But what we donít always get from Sam's teams is adaptability. And with this stripped-down squad, we donít have the creativity to change a game.
We started so well, but opponents now know what to expect, and are finding it easier to defend against us. The ball inevitably gets spun out to Joey OíBrien who runs ten yards and then thumps over an angled ball from the flank for Cole to contest.
Big lumps like Sonko, and Danny Collins - the Welsh international brought up on the rollerball style of Stoke, will battle it out in the air all game. Thatís what happened against Ipswich and the only alteration was to take off Cole and send on John Carew.
From then on everything was pumped forward. Every set piece was hurled into the box. Collins and Sonko were more than happy to take the battering from Carew and Faye with a referee more likely to penalise the attacking player who is running in, rather than the defender who is standing his ground and jumping into opponents.
Baldock worked his socks off, but it was a step up in class for him. He did, though, adapt better than most. His one surging run down the right and fierce low cross deserved better, and he was inches away from getting on the end of Nolanís only genuine pass of quality into the box all night.
We now know a little more as to why Lansbury has not made the sort of breakthrough yet at Arsenal that, say, Aaron Ramsey has. He fades from the game to often, and does have trouble staying on his feet. Something referees do not like much and heís being found out for it.
Of course he has to show a competitive edge, but he was lucky to stay on against Ipswich - particularly with the posse of opponents led by the annoying, finger pointing Keith Andrews - trying to get him sent off. Already booked, he produced another nasty foul and got a long warning from the referee. Sam took the hint and brought on Jack Collison, who deserves another crack in the side after such a good start to the campaign.
Lansbury also seemed to get sucked into central midfield too often, or maybe that is what he was told to do. But that left OĎ Brien initially unprotected down the right flank and Carlos Edwards had acres of space to run into.
Bentley, too, does little when not in possession. And I hope I never see him pull out of a tackle again the way he did late in the second-half in front of the East Stand. If he had done that in the good old days when the Chicken Run was in the same county as the rest of the stadium, it would have been an enlightening experience for him.
The Chicken Run used to scare the life out of Harry Redknapp and my old man used to tell me how Stan Foxall was terrorised into action by the fans back before the War. But that was in the days when the Chicken Run fans were breathing down players' necks. Bentley would only have pulled out of a tackle once in those days!
But on Tuesday, Sam must have been as perturbed as the rest of us, with the way his side spectacularly came apart at the seams in the final half-hour. Nothing went right and cohesion and concentrating disintegrated.
The signs were there against Peterborough. But we got away with a win. Fans will tolerate off-days from players if they keep winning, or at least donít lose, but Sam needs to get the team back on track quickly at home, or the atmosphere will change dramatically.
There are many who want to see us play like Barcelona who will continue to boo and moan. I believe they are living in a dream world the current players cannot match up to.
We should learn from Barcelona, I was told after my last article, which leaves me wondering if people realise exactly where we are. What could we learn? That the best players in the world, with the best skills, brains and technique can play sublime passing football.
Easier said than done when you have a Championship side made up of players who could not hack it in the Premier League.
What we could learn is how Barcelona cope when they havenít got the ball, which is not often. They hunt in packs, swarming round the man in possession and get the ball back very, very quickly. But play like Barcelona, I donít think so.
We are where we are, and Samís brief is to get us out of this division come what may. But to many more nights of disorganisation like we witnessed against Ipswich will certainly scupper that plan.
Samís brief is to get us out of this division come what may. But too many more nights of disorganisation like we witnessed against Ipswich will certainly scupper that plan.
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.
01:47PM 29th Sep 2011
''The reason the 4-4-2 didn't work was because we used three central midfielders and a 'winger' who went walkabout.
Nolan and Noble never really knew where they were supposed to be, Lansbury played through the middle more often than not and Bentley just swanned about where he felt like it. Left wing, right wing, middle, wherever the ball wasn't that's where you'd find Bentley. Once Baldock was switched to right wing we started to get some shape as the three in the middle are used to operating like that, but Bentley still went walkabout and Baldock really wanted to be pushing on and scoring (which is what we bought him for).
A midfield four of Taylor, Noble, Nolan and Faubert would have been able to hold a line and a formation and thus influence the game in a meaningful way. Make no mistake, we lost this game in the midfield because we played an unfamiliar system with the wrong personnel.
On a side note, Faubert has played his arse off for us this year. Maybe he was being rested, not dropped, but it looked more like dropped to me. With him on we have pace, we have someone who is always going to be on the right. Now ok, against Peterborough he couldn't buy a cross (apart from the one that could have gone in off Cole's head) but he for me has been the difference for us this year. We take him off and stick on Bentley and we have no counter attack any more, no pace, no ideas, just milling about in the middle.
When he was introduced after Ipswich's goal I couldn't help but shout 'would've been a good sub 10 minutes ago Sam'. I still think that, actually it would have been good if he started. If you must play Bentley (not a fan in case you haven't noticed) then you could drop Lansbury, who isn't a winger for, shock horror, someone who bloody well is!
I'll leave this rant with this thought - if you want to play like that and win, you'll win few friends but plenty of people who will say "ok, it's what we need to do to get back to the big time" - play like that and lose... the bile on here says it all. I think Sam has plenty to give to West Ham, organisation, commitment, balls (we've not played with those since Pards left barring the 'Great Escape') but how long will we wait for those whilst watching dross?''
07:51AM 29th Sep 2011
''Good article. But since when was hard work in closing down the opposition the exclusive right of Barcelona?
Watch the likes of Bellamy or Tevez close down from the front and how that helps the midfield and defence regain possession. Actually isn't Tevez refusing to play for Man Citeh? C'mon Davids, get on the phone!''
by g portugal
04:02PM 28th Sep 2011
''I agree completely with your assessments of Baldock (positive) and Nolan and Bentley (negative) on the night. Also agree that this performance shows why we must play five across the midfield at the moment, especially with a less than agile Nolan on the pitch.
As the response from Sammy B suggests it did seem like we were actually playing a a diamond type midfield formation as opposed to a normal 4-4-2. But whatever the formation was, it certainly did not suit us. As promising as Baldock looks, it is probably best to wait til Piquionne is back before attempting to play two up front. It was a big ask to give Baldock his first start against such good opposition.''
by Sammy B
12:26PM 28th Sep 2011
''I like what you've written but he never played a flat 442 at any time.He went with a diamond midfield with Noble holding, Bentley and Lansbury in the centre and Nolan at the tip of the very blunt diamond. Why can't anyone play an ordinary, boring 442?
Maybe he feels he has to play so called 'key players' such as Noble every game, but after that performance surely he can't start saturday.
I know Carew is a donkey, but at least he is more direct and actually has better footballing skill then Cole! This is what I hope to read on Saturday afternoon: Green; O'Brien, Faye, Tomkins Mccartney; Taylor, Collison, Nolan, Bentley; Baldock, Piquonne.''
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