West Ham manager Big Sam will be happier blowing out the candles rather than blowing bubbles on his birthday weekend after a gallant but flat performance against a classy Man City. We looked massively out of our depth against City’s star studded line-up, which most fans expected, but it was lazy defending which cost us dear. I was actually quite optimistic going into the game after our trouncing of the Y**s (a West Ham fan’s optimism is more “I fancy us to get a draw today you know” than thinking we had a chance to grab all 3 points) but Aguero and co. brought us crashing back down to Earth after a brief period in football dreamland.
I did expect “Allardici” to opt for the “False 9” after it served us so well at White Hart Lane but that tactic relies on the opposition to attack for it to work so it’s vital not to concede early and, when Aguero capitalised after Fernandinho’s pass caught Tomkins and Reid napping within the first 20 minutes, it was always going to be an uphill struggle. City’s improvised back four did a great job of not over committing after the goal which nullified our tactics; I would have liked to have seen Petric hauled on a lot earlier to at least show some intention of getting back into the game but realistically going 2-0 down five minutes after half time ensured the game was effectively over.
I do want to talk about Kevin Nolan though. I will start by saying I think he is a great captain and probably the best captain we have had (in my lifetime) since Julian Dicks but I think moving forward we need to experiment without him. Kevin has had a very underwhelming start to the season and by past seasons’ standards he’s been quite goal shy and with the impending return of Andy Carroll the big question will be: which midfielder drops to the bench to accommodate our target man? Stats don’t lie, and Nolan and Carroll’s stats when playing together are impressive; not to mention Nolan’s stats in general which are superb. He has consistently scored 10+ goals a season for Newcastle and West Ham; for a midfield player outside teams from the “Big Four” that is a tremendous achievement but I can’t help but feel we might benefit from having a more industrious and creative player behind the Big Man.
Presuming Diame, Downing and Jarvis will be on the teamsheet as soon as Andy is back there are two midfield gaps that need filling and with Nolan, Noble, Morrison, Cole (Joe… obviously) and Vaz Te recently proving he should be in for a shout we’ve got a few options to consider. In my opinion, I don’t think we can play Nolan and Morrison together with a striker and dropping either one of them is going to be a difficult decision; do you opt for youth or experience? I would like to see us give a midfield five of Noble, Diame, Downing, Jarvis and Morrison a go but Big Sam would sooner drop his Cholesterol than drop Nolan from his starting 11.
Now I think what I’m about to say is going to shock a lot of fans… What if I was to suggest that Modibo Maiga is not as bad as we think? Outrageous to think that any player who causes a team to turn to re-sign Carlton Cole is nothing more than the next Marco Boogers but please hear me out.
It was no secret that West Ham were trying to offload Maiga during the transfer window and being at West Ham for only a year it’s clearly going to unsettle him and massively dent his confidence and commitment to the Claret and Blue. Then, unsurprisingly, our injury prone star man goes and gets crocked and he gets the nod; we put all our eggs in one basket then gave that basket to Andy Carroll’s namesake Roy and he’s dropped it. Now, Maiga knows, Big Sam knows, the bloke selling OLAS outside the ground knows and even Savio Nsereko knows the only reason he is on that pitch is because we have no one else, so his heart is not going to be in it (which shows so clearly on the pitch) and can you blame him? I think Modibo is another player who would benefit from a team Nolan free; between the both of them they have as much energy as a bed-bound Nelson Mandela or worse, his fellow countryman Benni McCarthy. If we were to play more lively players for example Noble, Diame and Morrison behind him he could still serve a purpose at the Boleyn. Maiga has shown glimpses of his talent (a great goal against Southampton last season springs to mind) and I think it would be unfair to judge him based on recent performances.
West Ham’s priority this season is going to be survival and perhaps it would be idiotic to drop a player of Nolan’s proven goal-scoring prowess, but we have the perfect chance with high flying Burnley next week in the League Cup to mix it up a bit. Let’s give Maiga another chance, give Winny the armband and see how we fare without Kevin Nolan.
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