After two failed attempts to write a match report last night, I just gave up, such was the depression I felt, and in honesty, my inability to get to grips with what I had just witnessed. Rather than trying to piece together what was a shambolic performance from West Ham, I think I’ll just reflect instead.
A few days ago, I felt somewhat confident as the Leicester match approached. From memory, we often do fairly well against Leicester and I’d seen enough from Moyes’ first few games to suggest we may leave the King Power Stadium with at least a point.
As the match drew closer, any optimism I had faded and I’m not exactly sure why. After hearing the line ups last night, I had no optimism left. It was very hard to believe we’d do anything other than lose and probably by more than one goal. Not only was the system an issue, it was also the personnel. Man for man, Leicester look better in every department, and it seems almost crazy that in the summer, fans and pundits alike were looking at the two clubs as being on a similar level. Of course form plays a part, but it has become abundantly clear this season that West Ham are a team of bang average players with a few sprinkles of glitter that make us look better than we are. This season, not even the glitter can disguise the fragility of the squad. There hasn’t been much glitter about to be fair.
The clubs poor infrastructure has been much discussed recently, but it’s impossible to ignore how lopsided and ill thought out our current crop of players are. Too many number 10’s, not enough central midfielders, no real wingers, no pace. A lack of quality at full back, no suitable back up keeper. It’s hard to believe all these issues would be occurring had we a professional system in place with footballing people taking care of the running of the club.
Last nights game was a tough watch. The first half was painful. At around the 15 minute mark, West Ham had managed 17% possession. Moyes said in his very first press conference that after studying the game for several years, he’d noticed that possession aint all that and long balls are the way to go. Of course, he didn’t quite phrase in that way, but any fantasies of playing attractive football were out the window. Last night we saw in the first half particularly, exactly why we didn’t want David Moyes the first time around. We barely had a kick in the first half, I don’t remember Kasper Schmeichel even making a save.
In the second half, Moyes actually made a proactive decision, making two substitutes. Arthur Masuaku (who despite dribbling has very little to his game) was replaced by Pablo Fornals who really should be starting every game at the moment. Robert Snodgrass who looked to be injured after 25 minutes was eventually replaced by a returning Michail Antonio as we switched to a 4-4-2. The formation we should have started with. Moyes’ home and away tactics aren’t working!
Quite why Robert Snodgrass was left on the field for 20 minutes after the injury is a question in itself. It looked as if Pablo Fornals was about to replace him and I’ll admit to being rather happy about that. We had clearly set up wrong in the first place and Pablo Fornals could have made a difference. We all know Moyes is at pains to make a decision, so I was delighted a change would be forced on him. It was necessary.
Unfortunately Snodgrass decided he could continue and hobbled about for the rest of the half. Would we have gone in at half time 2 behind if we’d had 11 fit players? Probably, but we’ll never know. Certainly Fornals would have had some job preventing the second. Leicester had the freedom of the pitch as the entire West Ham side had gravitated towards the ball leaving Ricardo Periera totally free to put the foxes comfortably ahead. Who knows where Arthur Masuaku was. Probably practicing step overs on the half way line.
West Ham were immediately more threatening after the break with Antonio very nearly making an instant impact. Unfortunately he lashed his shot well over the bar. Shooting isn’t really Michail’s strongest attribute but at least he does it, teammates take note. In every other regard, Antonio’s presence is invaluable. Pace, power, work rate, desire. If only the rest of our team had a tenth of Antonio’s work rate, we probably wouldn’t be worrying about relegation.
Soon after, West Ham were awarded a soft penalty, Sebastien Haller doing his best Bambi on Ice impression as Wilfred Ndidi grazed his boot. It wasn’t a penalty, the referee was poor all night for both sides. Kasper Schmeichel seemed happy to tell him as much, which I really enjoyed. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a bit of bite from our players? Even our captain looks spaced out these days.
That said, you can still rely on him to put away a penalty and that he did.
Leicester looked nervous at 2-1 and for 10-15 minutes West Ham put a bit of pressure on as they looked for an equaliser. It had more than a whiff of the three little pigs about it. Despite our huffing and puffing, we were never going to blow their house down. Leicester are smart. They built some foundations.
Leicester extended their lead in the 81st minute after Angelo Ogbonna brought down Kelechi Iheanacho for a penalty. There was no doubting this penalty, the defence were poor all night. After an encouraging start under Moyes, the defence regressed throughout the 90+ minutes. I’m at pains to criticise Angelo because he’s been brilliant this season. It wasn’t his best night, but the same could be said of the whole team bar a select few.
Ayoze Perez put away the resulting penalty and would go on to get his second 7 minutes later after some very lacklustre defending gave him a free hit, which he made count.
West Ham’s defending was reminiscent of some of the displays under Pellegrini. It didn’t take much for heads to drop and the inevitable collapse. I watched the second half in a bit of a daze. Despite some early promise, I knew we wouldn’t get anything from the game and after such a turgid first half, I think it dawned on me that we probably will get relegated this season.
At the start of the season I would never have imagined it. Even when David Moyes arrived, I still thought we’d have enough. But seeing how we performed last night, I just can’t see any fight in that group of players, not even from our captain who at times seems to be going through the motions. We have a group of underachievers who look like they can’t wait to get out after West Ham’s fate is sealed. I don’t see any pain in their faces. I don’t see anybody who is really hurting like the fans are.
But what’s even more worrying. I don’t see enough quality there to keep us up.
There is just over a week left of the transfer window and it’s sink or swim for the board. If they want any chance of Premier League survival, it’s time to panic buy. They simply must throw money at it and hope we can bring in three or four players who can really impact the team.
It doesn’t look like that will happen. Whether the board have lost interest or just don’t care, who knows. But this current set of players are going only one way and that’s down. With Liverpool coming up twice in the next couple of weeks and Man City too, we’ll be bottom of the table in no time, possibly with a very poor goal difference, and once we get there, we may not claw our way out of it.
Sure the Championship is fun, but without a stadium to call our own, a half empty athletics bowl that teams will love coming to, I have very little hope that we’ll bounce back straight away. As many have suggested, we could even do a Sunderland and achieve successive relegations.
It worked out well for Wolves I guess. An eventual take over would see them race back up the football pyramid. But Gold & Sullivan won’t be getting 600m for a club in the Championship with no stadium. And even if they did decide to sell up. Who are they going to sell it to… Carson Yeung?
David Moyes – Wrong formation and line up, rectified it at half time but it was too late. 3
Darren Randolph – Didn’t deserve to concede 4 goals. Made some fantastic stops and one world-class save. 7.5
Pablo Zabaleta – Struggled throughout, more confident switching to a back 4, but his lack of pace is becoming a liability. 4
Issa Diop – Looked uncertain . Also struggles in a back 3. Hit a lot of long balls with differing results. 4
Angelo Ogbonna – One of his worst performances of the season but looked like he was trying to make up for everybody else’s shortcomings. Conceded the penalty. 4
Aaron Cresswell – Was OK going forward and was one of the better defenders in the box, where was he for the Perierra’s goal? 5
Robert Snodgrass – Was barely involved, tried to buy a number of fouls without success, should have gone off sooner. 3
Declan Rice – Looked off the pace all game, his positioning which is usually excellent was off too. 4
Mark Noble – Scored a penalty. Conceded possession, at one point nearly played a killer ball for Leicester to score. 4
Arthur Masuaku – What does this guy bring? Can’t defend, won’t cross. Likes to think he’s Messi. 2
Manuel Lanzini – I actually thought he was one of the better players first half but faded in to obscurity once again in the second half. 5
Sebastien Haller – The token running around is fooling nobody. Apart from flick ons, defenders have a free ride with this guy. 4
Pablo Fornals – One of the few players in the team with heart. Comfortable on the ball and not all that bad defensively. 6
Michail Antonio – Pace, POWER, desire and heart make up for a lack of technique. 7