Filed: Friday, 10th February 2017
By: Adam Smith
Three whistles sound and West Ham United net three crucial points in a 3-1 victory at Southampton. A dominant effort due to a well executed game plan can hardly be attributed to one man, but let me plead my case.
Nabbing any Premier League team's best player is a move that can rarely be criticised, and Robert Snodgrass had been just that for an abysmal Hull City squad in the 2016-17 Season. This move is made all more important by the Dimitri Payet saga that has been overshadowing the West Ham club for more than a month now.
With the exodus of the once beloved Frenchman the Hammers’ midfield had a hole to fill. Bringing with him seven goals and three assists in 20 appearances, Snodgrass is a statistical improvement over Payet in this campaign. With a squad galvanized by recent events, a little bit of grit could inspire an exciting end of the season.
With his substitution in amidst a brutal 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Manchester City, the West Ham atmosphere seemingly changed on the pitch. The pace Snodgrass provided to a lacklustre offensive performance was not only noticed, but contagious. While the scoresheet would remain empty on the West Ham side, the brief overlap between Snodgrass’ entrance and currently unstoppable striker Andy Carroll’s exit had Irons fans eyes widen at the future possibilities.
In his first start as a Hammer, Snodgrass impressed with his offensive pressure - a result of his pace and intelligence. While providing offence in the form of two shots on goal, Snodgrass also suffered four fouls while committing three.
He undoubtedly impacted his new club, most noticeably in the first half when his curling corner found its way to Pedro Obiang for one of the most deserving goals for the Hammers of the Year front-runner. Then on a hardnosed run into the Southampton area, which resulted in a Noble free kick that sealed the game on an own goal tip.
Now that the Snodgrass era has officially begun in the East end of London, the midfield takes new form. Varied in approach, the West Ham midfield now adds the aggressive pressuring playstyle of Snodgrass. Currently holding down the midfield is the elusive and creative Manuel Lanzini, captain and Mr. West Ham Mark Noble, the tackling Obiang, and the explosive and versatile Cheikhou Kouyaté.
And while Snodgrass’ impending collaboration with these lads over the next three-and-a-half years is exciting, his most important effect could come in the role as a mentor for the young players awaiting their opportunity, most notably attacking midfielder Edimilson Fernandes. Only early in their relationship as teammates, the pace and pressure Snodgrass habitually brings on the pitch is an aspect the Swiss international should fully embrace.
Early reports tell of an instant meshing of Snodgrass with his new teammates and of him taking on a leadership role amidst a club that is searching for a new age identity. His desire to come play for West Ham in pursuit of winning as he expressed in the media after his signing not only shows commitment to his club, but also to his new fan base.
However, the West Ham faithful are at a crucial crossroads in regards to the team’s identity as well, as the club have moved from the sacred Boleyn Ground at Upton Park after a residency spanning 1904 – 2016. The move was sold as inevitable and necessary, as ownership sought to house the team in a championship building. What is certain is that if the fans are to turn the London Stadium into a fortress, as the Boleyn Ground was, the effort must improve from team and management. Snodgrass is a good start.
With Snodgrass and Jose Fonte brought in during the January transfer window manager Slaven Bilic had addressed issues within his squad, but there were also visible misses by West Ham management. The shallow depth at right back currently headed up by ailing youngster Sam Byram desperately needed bolstering.
It is also argued that the team could have used a striker to supplement the oft-injured Andy Carroll. While rumours poured in for both positions, it appears Bilic and the Board looked internally for their reinforcements. With the impending returns of striker Diafra Sakho, and defenders Arthur Masuaku and Havard Nordtveit in the coming weeks, the holes could be temporarily filled for Bilic’s squad.
Bilic should be lauded for his response to the issues that required an immediate response. The Fonte signing added defensive, veteran leadership and allowed Italian international Angelo Ogbonna to undergo season-ending surgery. Likewise, the fleeing Frenchman had his set piece and playmaking spot filled by Snodgrass.
It appears Bilic remained true to his belief that the summer transfer window provides more value in signing, keeping his winter wallet closed after Fonte and Snodgrass signed. The newly added Snodgrass’ ability to push opposing defenders on their heels, his set-piece skills, and his desire to relentlessly run wherever the ball goes – including into physical areas – is an aspect West Ham United had been lacking, and can mould its team around moving forward.
His early and inevitable offensive impact, compacted with his gracious attitude toward joining the club will propel his own trajectory. Fanfare and fame from the West Ham faithful will continue to grow and will inspire the crowd chanting, Do you remember the time before Robert Snodgra-a-a-ass?
The grit in his game which he ceremoniously manifests in a rugged beard is something West Ham United had been unknowingly searching for in their attacking midfield: another playmaker who will dawn the claret and blue for pride and team, over self. One in an ensemble, one step forward, one of many.
Quite simply, the Snodgrass Effect.
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.
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