West Ham: The Cardiff Win Only Papered Over The Cracks, We Need Reinforcements And Fast
Defeat against Newcastle this afternoon saw West Ham slip back to 18th in the Premier League.
That leaves them behind Crystal Palace, a team handicapped by having Ian Holloway in charge for the first eight games of the season. They also find themselves behind Stoke, whose top scorer is Charlie Adam, and Fulham, who somehow managed to concede six goals against Hull. The worst thing about this? West Ham deserve to be there.
West Ham’s dire form throughout December and early January is no secret, but for once there was an air of optimism before today’s match. Victory at Cardiff last weekend had lifted the side out of the bottom three and – while today’s opponents had been unfortunate to lose to Manchester City last time out – they came into the tie off the back of three straight league defeats during which they failed to score.
The obvious thing to do in such a situation would be to avoid giving the opposition an clear weakness to target. However there are surely more sensible ways to achieve this than giving them two clear weaknesses. Part of this was self-inflicted – James Tomkins’ suspension forcing the club to persist with Roger Johnson at centre-back – however the decision to play Matt Taylor on the right of the back four is mystifying.
When Irons fans called upon manager Sam Allardyce to blood some youth players earlier in the season, they meant one or two at a time, not all at once. With Guy Demel and Joey O’Brien injured, today would have been a perfect opportunity to use actual right-back Leo Chambers at right-back. That was clearly too easy an option for Allardyce.
Instead, in an attempt to keep up his image as a tactical maverick, the manager deployed Taylor as the world’s first inverted fullback. The former Portsmouth and Bolton man has dropped further and further back over the course of his career – think Roger Johnson defending against Yaya Touré, only spread over the course of about 10 years – that few would be surprised if he ended up in goal before long.
In the first half hour of the game, West Ham allowed the opposing midfielders a worrying amount of time and space around their own box, and the manner of Newcastle’s opener was telling. To suggest Yohan Cabaye saw off the challenge of Răzvan Raț would be giving too much credit to the defender, and it would be fairer to say that the Frenchman was allowed to walk next to the challenge before slotting home.
Loïc Rémy’s second carried that same air of inevitability, and the deficit-halving own goal from Mike Williamson was about as deserved as Bradley Cooper’s Oscar nomination earlier in the week.
That West Ham go into the third week of January with only one addition to their squad is insulting to the fans, considering the impact of August’s decision to rely on last-minute deals which failed to materialize. Limp in midfield, lacking in defence and with Andy Carroll hardly likely to remain injury-free up front. Very few of the names linked with the club thus far wouldn’t constitute an improvement on the current squad.
This manifested itself in the huff-and-puff approach in the second half, which confusingly was attempted without the presence of the club’s best huff-and-puff merchants Collison and Diamé. Chances came the home side’s way, but this can largely be attributed to Newcastle sitting back when continued pressure would surely have allowed them to extend their lead with little resistance long before Cabaye notched his second in stoppage time.
Before the season West Ham would have hoped to consolidate on last year’s mid-table finish, however a lack of quality additions – coupled with a number of players (some more predictably than others) failing to replicate last season’s form – means even the most positive of supporters are hoping to scramble to safety before ripping everything up and starting again next season. Here’s hoping they can at least get the first part right.
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