Filed: Wednesday, 15th February 2017
By: Sam Woodcock
Despite the heartbreak of an injury time equaliser and the torture of having to watch Tony Pulis organise an impromptu ĎWho can kick the ball out of London Stadium?í competition for his players, there were a number of positives to take away from Saturdayís draw against West Bromwich Albion.
And, ignoring the pummelling(s) we took from Manchester City, I would go as far to say things are generally looking quite promising. As I left the game on Saturday though, something dawned on me and it's been bugging me ever since.
Iím a season ticket holder in the Trevor Brooking Stand and by virtue of the teamís difficulty to settle in the new stadium I, like everyone else, have largely endured some pretty dire performances from my seat.
What Iíve realised though is how compounded this misery has been (for me anyway) by the simple fact that West Ham attack the Trevor Brooking Stand in the first half. Let this sink in for a moment: in 13 home games this season West Ham have scored the sum total of thee goals in the first half. THREE.
Even more galling is that two of these goals arrived in one game, against Watford, where we played like the Harlem Globetrotters on crack, only for the comedown to set in once Troy Deeney decided he was a bit angry with Payet and Lanziniís trigger-happy approach to rabonas. I missed that game.
Our other first-half goal came courtesy of a Mark Noble rebound from a saved penalty which was scored up the ruddy Bobby Moore end! Whoever won that coin toss must have had too much Weetabix that day.
Anyway, as you can see from the list of half-time scores, we are a particularly awful team at home in the first half. We are in fact 18th in the league when it comes to first half home performances.
Worse still, we have the very lowest number of winning positions at half time with one; even Sunderland and Crystal Palace have managed two.
And, because I like numbers so much, the average of the other 19 Premier League teams is 0.69 goals per first half at home. West Ham average 0.23. Leaving for the bar on 40 minutes has always baffled me, but perhaps at West Ham this folly all makes perfect sense?
Half Time Scores, At Home, this Season
0-0 vs Bournemouth
2-2 vs Watford
0-1 vs Southampton
0-0 vs Middlesbrough
0-0 vs Sunderland
0-0 vs Stoke
0-1 vs Arsenal
1-0 vs Burnley
0-0 vs Hull City
0-0 vs Manchester United
0-0 vs Crystal Palace
0-3 vs Manchester City
0-1 vs West Bromwich Albion
Now Iím not kidding myself, I know that games finish after 90 minutes and the team have picked themselves up in the second half on several occasions. Credit where credit is due and all that.
This miserable trend does surely tell us something about this West Ham team though. First of all, it absolutely highlights the level of trepidation that is shackling this team at home.
We all know that West Ham have struggled at London Stadium, but thirteen games and three first half home goals (sorry, just had to mention it again) is actually one of the worst records in Europe (Augsburg in the Bundesliga just pipped us, with two).
An almighty chasm in assurance and self-belief is swallowing up any notion the players have of being willing to take risks with the ball - and this is leading to next to no goalscoring chances being created early on.
I donít like doing this but it drives the point home even further, at Upton Park last season we were 5th in the half-time table at home with an average of 0.84 goals per first-half and in a winning position on nine occasions. We have not always been this slow off the mark.
The sheer lack of confidence that the team exhibits at London Stadium is contrasted by the teamís numbers away from home. West Ham are 6th(!) in the first half away table and average an impressive 0.83 goals.
The logical thing to suggest from this evidence is that we are able to play with more freedom and less pressure away from home, but it seems that the team benefits from playing away from home tactically, just as much as they do psychologically.
Home teams in the Premier League will invariably try to dominate possession in order to satisfy their supporters; this plays into West Hamís hands perfectly when playing away as we are still a very good counter attacking football team.
At home, however, I think teams visiting London Stadium have been wary. You donít almost break into the top four one season without other teams noticing you and trying to work you out the next.
Away teams to West Ham know that we are more of a reactive team than a probing and calculated one. Visitors seem happy to sit a little bit deeper and let the frustration at passing backwards and sideways build. This, combined with well timed and aggressive pressing, inevitably leads to a mistake - and this is when away teams know when to strike.
It should be of no surprise that West Ham are one of the worst culprits for conceding goals directly from individual mistakes. Time after time these arise from someone dithering on the ball and starting a game of hot potato.
De Bruyne's for City and Ozil's for Arsenal are two goals conceded that immediately spring to mind but there are certainly others.
Instilling a sense of initiative and urgency and encouraging players to take more responsibility in home fixtures should certainly be a long-term priority for Slaven then, as reacting to dour stalemates and going in at the break behind leaves us in situations such as Saturdayís all too often.
Cheikhou Kouyate being pushed back into midfield screams out to me as a potential solution to this problem as he can grab a game by the horns and bulldoze his way past deep-lying midfielders.
Our next home game is against Chelsea... we shall have to wait and see.
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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