Whilst congratulatory hugs and kisses were reserved for Liverpool advances on Saturday which afforded them with a victory dance whilst our defences were left embarrassed and red faced…West Ham had little to complain about but much to fear for the season remaining.
“If the whole of mankind is to be united into one brotherhood, all obstacles must be removed so that men, all over the surface of the globe, should be as children playing in a garden” – Maria Montessori
Many would come away from the encounter with a wry smile, a shrug of the shoulders and an attitude of acceptance. The players showed heart, they had a few chances to capitalise on arisen opportunities and Antonio showed how a burst of energy might pierce a defence and singe a net.
However, many were expecting a defensive deportment that would battle hard, resist the invading hordes and shut up any Anfield verses and rhymes. The formation would have us believe that was the intention but player selection afforded us a much more ambitious attacking capacity…and it almost worked in the first half.
I am torn between criticising Moyes for his starting line up and tactical meanderings…and his adventurous spirit that tried to take the game to Liverpool on more than one occasion. In the end there was little comparison between the two teams, as Liverpool showed increasing confidence and class…especially in their passing and moving game. However, I thought there lacked some urgency and togetherness all over the field that may have served us better when in consideration of the final verdict.
It was a fabulous call from the town crier that informed us of Lanzini’s return but in truth it would have been more glorious if we had reserved his talents for the substitute’s bench until absolutely required. Like many times, this season and last…he has had bursts of energy with performances to match, however he has also demonstrated a desire needing and industry wanting on far too many occasions…and this is what we received on Saturday.
Possibly this was a game too soon to return, perhaps mentally he was still nursing his injury and maybe he would shy away from inflicting pain upon would be masters? Surely Not! Although my suspicions may yet be founded upon any evidence, my paranoiac mind would seek justification during any summer transfer dealings.
Wearing an Ox’s heart on one’s sleeve and launching toe to toe would be to everyones’ delight if only there was purpose and stamina to last the duration of the race. It was hardly clandestine, their potency was well versed and deserving of reputation however did West Ham give the Liverpool players too much room to play and paid them too much respect? It would be easy to criticise against poorer opposition but this was always a tall order for a group of players that have struggled to find consistency and vigour in attacking displays.
For Moyes has to be given much credit for not allowing the might of the Reds to shrink our desires before kick off, however there were periods in the game where some more conservative play may have triumphed over liberal persuasions. Just as when toiling against Man City…there was purpose to give their last breath to the cause and to stifle play as best they could…in this game there lacked that final act of defiance that may have rattled the cage enough to let errors seep in and for opportunities to present themselves.
The Hammers, whilst noble in quest were infantile in comparative terms and were taught valuable lessons in ball retention, fluid movement and crisp passing. The defensive three battled hard but were overwhelmed by relentless attacks until concentration lapses opened the gates to let in ruthless sharks to shred our nets and rip our aspirations to pieces.
Noble continued to deliver a stellar performance, committed, resolute…and the leader who would be emperor of men if only served by capable subjects. Arnautovic proved he is our key player to make things happen and to lead our dreams in hard fought battles and rescuing our season. However, whilst I continue to be patient with Joao Mario, he did not perform as I hoped he might, he appeared rushed off the ball too many times and still looks like a teenager playing with stronger and older men.
In many aspects, the West Ham performance demonstrated there is some fight and ability left in the tanks but this has to be replicated again when facing those other teams in and around the same positions. The Liverpool game may indeed have been a testing ground for our defence, but it was also a trial on our midfield and attack. The question now remains whether those examinations will benefit the team in games to come, where defences are supposedly weaker and attackers are less ardent.
For Moyes, I assumed he was trying to accommodate the desperate pleas for a Lanzini return and to take the game to Liverpool but was also fighting against his default position to be defensive and shut up shop. Unfortunately his arrows fell in no man’s land, where he neither packed the defence or pressed high up the field. I had called for the No104 bus to be commandeered for resilience purpose and for ongoing improvements in counter attacking play.
The formation appeared flawed and the team were floored by knock out blows that may not have dented pride but may have severely impacted on final league standings. The Lanzini and Mario combination did not put fire in the bellies, whilst a wide playing Arnautovic may have given greater service to a selected Hernandez. Antonio gave heart and delivered pace, so retrospective clarity would have seen him in the starting line up.
Moyes has been perplexed to find a consistent and fluid aspect to our attacking game…whether on the counter attack or when on full out assault. The general passing has improved but overall the composure in midfield hasn’t, whilst there still remains an imbalance to the side and to the way the game is played.
Any defeat will expose weaknesses that fans hope can be fixed before the next encounter, however there have been recurring themes throughout the whole season that would give caution regardless of any current league position. Moyes came into town with a mission statement which has born fruit…but not as often as he would’ve liked. The absolute defensive fortitude has been left wanting in recent games and the attacking forays should have been reserved for lesser embattlements but with greater rewards.
Moyes can be critical of himself for some tactical inadequacies, selections and late substitutions which have cursed his tenureship but also take heart that the players still demonstrate application and ambition, although there still lacks a brotherhood of man on the pitch and kisses should be saved for ‘plain Janes’ where our advances may be met with fortunes and smiles.
By Alf Gasparro