Saturday, 2nd November 2013
The Irons showed plenty of endeavour for no reward as the now infamous 4-6-0 formation reared its head once more. The instructions clearly were to get the ball down and play and on a number of occasions, West Ham were able to cut through their opponents at will. Sadly, however the final ball was often lacking and as such there were very few clear cut chances for the home side.
In fact, one could argue that the best chances of the first half fell to Aston Villa on the break where Weimann broke dangerously but could only fire the ball at Jaaskelainen, under pressure from James Tomkins. the wily Villa frontman broke again shortly after but he was chased back by Ravel Morrison, whose challenge just outside the box caused Weimann to tumble to the floor.
Cue mass gesticulation from the Villa fans, but Howard Webb was unmoved. It was a tricky one, there was definite contact but it appeared that it was a 50/50 which Ravel managed to win.
After that the half was dominated by the Hammers and some slick build up play. We passed and moved well, getting the ball out wide to Jarvis and Downing who often managed to get balls in the box that were met by Villa defenders. A seemingly good plan, if we played with a striker. But it did seem quite unbelievable that this was the gameplan, when we once again started with no recognised frontman.
Kevin Nolan huffed and puffed, Jack Collison (drafted in after an impressive second half at Burnley) had a shot that hit the side netting, but all in all we looked a little toothless despite dominating possession.
The second half started brighter for the visitors, who looked the more likely to nick it as the game wore on. West Ham persisted with the passing/crossing style, Aston Villa continued to defend with relative ease.
The best chance of the game came from a Villa break which saw Christian Benteke get on the end of a pinpoint cross, only to head mercifully against the West Ham bar.
A double change came and the two Coles were introduced. Carlton gave us a much needed target to aim at in the middle but again found himself frustrated for opportunities. Joe Cole hustled and bustled and had one of only four West Ham shots on target towards the end of the game. Kevin Nolan continued his barren run and was clear through from a sneaky Downing ball but was unable to find the target.
So, it was one of those days at the Boleyn Ground. It didn’t seem like we would score if we had another 90 minutes to play. On the positive side, it is yet another clean sheet, however there were some bemusing occurrences in selection and style of play.
If the 4-6-0 is used for counter attacking, why use it in a game we would dominate at home? If we start with no striker, why persist in banging balls into the box time and time again? I don’t know if Big Sam was hoping for second balls to drop kindly and live off scraps, but either way it did not seem like the way we should be trying to play in a must win home game.
We desperately missed the dominance in midfield of Mo Diame who made a belated substitute appearance in the 88th minute. Surely he is the ideal candidate up top for the ‘False nine’ system? Kevin Nolan tried hard once again, but in a midfield required to score, as the most advanced player he once again failed. Again, it does beg the question, why not start with Joe Cole in these barren goal scoring times? He is consistently one of our best performers in front of goal and certainly not short of passion for the shirt.
Next week sees an away trip to Norwich City, fresh from a 7-0 drubbing at the Etihad and possibly with a point to prove. Will Hughton still be at the helm? Difficult to tell. Then we have the international break followed by Chelsea and Fulham at home. December 3rd sees the short trip to Crystal Palace.
You get the impression these next four games will be pivotal to our season. If we come out of it with seven to nine points, game on. Five points or less and we will be somewhere near the relegation zone and struggling for confidence. Still we have an away day at White Hart Lane in December to boost morale come what may.
Here’s hoping for a few wins under the belt and the long-awaited return of Big Andy Carroll much before then.
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Some fine stops.
Some endeavour shown.
Tried to link up well with Jarvis – still needs to improve.
Solid and dominant as always.
A good game – dealt with Benteke well generally.
A masterclass of tackling and passing once again.
One good shot and linked up well.
Not his best game despite a goal-saving challenge.
Getting back to form with some good runs.
Played well – beat players and crossed well.
Huffed and puffed – nothing to show for it.
No clear cut chances.
Played some good football but needs more game time.
Showed what he can do in the 3 minutes he was given.
Did not play.
Joey O Brien
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Howard Webb.
Man of the Match: Mark Noble.
West Ham United
Jussi Jaaskelainen, Guy Demel, Razvan Rat, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Jack Collison, Ravel Morrison, Matt Jarvis, Stewart Downing, Kevin Nolan.
Booked: None booked. .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Brad Guzan, Ron Vlaar, Nathan Baker, Ciaran Clark, Matthew Lowton, Yacouba Sylla, Ashley Westwood, Karim El Ahmadi, Leandro Bacuna, Andreas Weimann, Christian Benteke.
Substitutes: Libor Kozak (Andreas Weimann 57).
Subs not used: Nicklas Helenius, Jed Steer, Chris Herd, Jordan Bowery, Aleksandar Tonev, Daniel Johnson.
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..