Overly long writings about West Ham United FC. This is the kind of thing you might like, if you like this kind of thing.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Arsenal 0 - 1 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. The Omens

There are many of you out there who felt that we were destined to become the first team to win at the Emirates stadium, on account of how we were the last team to win at Highbury. I can't quite say I shared your optimism - we were the last team to win at Upton Park and I'm not sure that means we will be the next team to win there either.

However, sporting statistics do often tend to fly in the face of reason. For instance, having gone 14 successive away games without a win we have now won two in a row. Two less deserved victories it would hard to imagine but I can honestly say that I have stopped shedding tears for the Gooners.

2. From Leonidas To Robert Green

Who knew? There I was thinking that if I wanted to watch the over matched good guys try and stave off repeated attacks by dodgy foreigners commanded by a blinkered tyrant I could just go and watch 300, the cinematic adaptation of the Battle of Thermopylae. Little did I realise that I could just pay thousands and wander up to North London instead.

Obviously, the main difference between and us and the Greeks was that we had Robert Green in goal. In your face Sparta!

Green is quite a literate fellow. I have no doubt that he is well aware that whilst the Battle of Thermopylae was an important feature in deifying the legend of the Spartan warrior, the real power that emerged from Xerxes' ill judged invasion of Greece was Athens. The subsequent creation of the Delian League cemented the Athenian position as the first Greek superpower.

The reason that I know Green is aware of this? When he was asked to pick a book for his team mates to read he chose Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

3. Blasphemy

Following on from that, it's probably not the right day for an Irish Catholic lad to be saying it but if there are any of you out there not worshipping at the altar of Robert Green, get on your knees right now.

Of course if he wants to continue starring in front of a nationwide television audience he'll need to sort his barnet out.

4. The Statistics

Arsenal obviously came for a draw and boy, didn't it show? They managed a mere 27 attempts on goal and had the ball for only 64% of the time. On the other hand we managed 4 attempts at goal and forced one whole corner.

Actually, those figures do bely the fact that we had a very decent passage of play in the minutes leading up to the goal but I'm not going to try and argue that our players were anything other than strategically placed cones for most of this game.

If I was going to be churlish I might point out that Arsenal ripped us apart without the late Thierry Henry, the odious Robin van Persie and whilst playing only one striker. But I'm not.

5. The Opposition

Watching Arsenal play is still a treat for a purist. Comparing them to the dull functionality of Chelsea is enough to make a man yearn for the Gilles Grimandi (*) era.

However, if you have 27 shots at goal and don't score from a single one of them then you cannot complain about it. That didn't stop Wenger of course, but that is the Arsenal way.

It's quite saying something, however, when Bobby Zamora looks like a KGB assassin next to your finishers.

* French (v) - meaning "allergic to football" (also used as medical slang for rare condition where a person is born with both knees melded together causing paralysis like symptoms)


6. The Referee

When I saw that Graham Poll was refeereing this game my immediate instinct was to top myself. Thankfully I'm not given to overblown displays of grandiosity so instead I simply knelt down in the middle of Romford shopping centre and yelled "Why God, why?" at the top of my voice (To which God replied "3 for a pahnd mate", curiously).

In the event he didn't do too badly (Poll, not God - although if you ask Poll they're one and the same). He booked only one player, James Collins for time wasting, which was reasonable given that we weren't getting close enough to foul them and Arsenal don't do tackling. He also wasn't intimidated by the 60,000 crowd.... - wait, stop laughing. Actually, don't.

My 16 month old daughter wouldn't be intimidated by 57,000 Arsenal fans sitting in comfortable seats and eating £5 hot dogs, but you know what I mean. He didn't book anybody three times or take part in a well worked free kick routine with Arsenal, and for Graham Poll that counts as a good performance.

7. He's Better Than Jermain

League goals scored by Bobby Zamora - 10
League goals scored by Jermain Defoe - 8
League goals scored by Dimitar Berbatov - 8
League goals scored by Robbie Keane - 5

I'm just saying.

By the way, on the day that we signed Zamora I received an email from my Arsenal supporting friend -

When you're hit on the head
And your sat in Row Z
That's Zamora!

Two great finishes later and I'm left to reflect that sometimes, it's nice to be the guy sat stroking the cat and holding James Bond hostage, mulling over the wonderful nature of life.

8. He's Morte Than Enough

Curbishley's team selections have got ever more interesting over recent weeks. And by 'interesting' I mean 'less likely to make me try and pummel myself unconscious with a pair of oven gloves'.

What is truly noteworthy is that Luis Boa Morte appears to have leapfrogged over Harewood, Cole and Sheringham into the coveted position of "player Curbishley likes to bring on 5 minutes from the end to waste time'. Which is arguably the most athletic thing he has done since joining us.

He had one very noticeable impact on the game when he ran on to a fantastic through ball from Noble, briefly channelled the spirit of the recently deceased Thierry Henry and skipped round Lehmann, before reverting to type and inexplicably screwing his shot wide when it would have been easier to have got down on his knees and headed it in.

All of which kept my heart rate at a steady 212 bpm.

9. We're Only Making Plans For Nigel

What a performance by Nigel Reo-Coker and Mark Noble. There are those who would say that it's no surprise to see a less Nigellic, and reduced Haydenian midfield succeed but few could have envisaged a day like this. In what he no doubt viewed as a 90 minute job interview, Reo-Coker covered just about every blade of grass on the Emirates pitch.

Noble's almost psychotic desire to do well for us is endearing him more and more to me. I have come to the conclusion that this is because he plays for West Ham in the fashion that I would like to if I had any footballing talent and I didn't have to wear specially made shorts from China.

10. Well Nice

At my school I hung around with a group of guys who were urbane, good looking, modest sorts. In addition, we were really quite the masters at witty pathos.

With that in mind let me tell you about a little tradition in our school that sprang up any time a player missed a good or great chance. The nearest person was required to shout "Nice finish Dave. Yeah, well nice" (You see - a rich seam of comedy gold).

This reached legendary proportions on the day that Matthew Yallop found himself six yards from an empty net and managed the not inconsiderable feat of volleying the ball directly into his own face. (Yallop apparently later emerged from exile to post a profile on FriendsReunited saying "Living in New York - booting birds out all over the place" so you should feel absolutely no compunction about guffawing loudly at the above).

So anyway, with that in mind - "Nice finish Gilberto. Yeah, well nice".

11. Opening Sentences I Never Thought I'd Type - Vol 203

Should we manage the impossible and finish above Charlton and Sheffield United this match will be a valuable pointer towards the vast gulf that exists between us and the Champions League teams. If Magnusson and Curbishley are serious about getting West Ham into Europe on a regular basis then they might want to take a look at Arsenal.

A feature that is often overlooked about the Gooners is that their players are amazingly athletic. A player like Emmanuel Eboue could not possibly be compared with a willing trier like George McCartney. Despite being a seismic twat, Wenger has got an amazing group of players there and I shudder to think at the cost, both financially and to the Britshness of the club, in bridging that gap.

12. Credit Where It's Due Department

Common belief is that the suicide rate increases at Christmas/New Year because the holiday period exacerbates the feelings of loneliness. I would say that the following sequence of events would challenge that theory slightly -

Dec 26 - lose 2-1 to Portsmouth : Dec 30 - lose 1-0 to Man City : Jan 1 - lose 6-0 to Reading : Jan 2 - spend £5m on Luis Boa Morte.

Ahem.

So, hats off to Alan Curbishley. I have been a critic and I remain a critic, particularly whilst Javier Mascherano continues to shine at Liverpool, but the last month has been little short of miraculous.

If we win at Sheffield United it would be fly in the face of pretty much every big game performance by West Ham in the last ten years. Don't fail me now Alan.

Token Michael Dawson Slaughtering

In the shock of a home victory last week I forgot to slaughter Big 'Ol Useless Mike. I don't know how Mike felt about this. Apparently he doesn't find this part of The H List all that funny. What can I say Mike? If you can't laugh at yourself, we'll all be happy to do it or you.

3 comments:

  1. Dot Cotton2:39 PM

    The all important run in.......


    CHARLTON

    Sun, 15th A Everton
    Sat, 21st H Sheff Utd
    Sat, 28th A Blackburn
    May
    Mon, 7th H Tottenham
    Sun, 13th A Liverpool

    FULHAM

    Sat, 14th A Reading
    Sat, 21st H Blackburn
    Sun, 29th A Arsenal
    May
    Sat, 5th H Liverpool
    Sun, 13th A Middlesbro

    WIGAN

    Sun, 15th H Tottenham
    Sat, 21st A Liverpool
    Sat, 28th H West Ham
    May
    Sat, 5th H Middlesbro
    Sun, 13th A Sheff Utd
    SHEFFIELD UTD

    Sat, 14th H West Ham
    Tue, 17th A Man Utd
    Sat, 21st A Charlton
    Sat, 28th H Watford
    May
    Sat, 5th A Aston Villa
    Sun, 13th H Wigan

    WEST HAM

    Sat, 14th A Sheff Utd
    Wed, 18th H Chelsea
    Sat, 21st H Everton
    Sat, 28th A Wigan
    May
    Sat, 5th H Bolton
    Sun, 13th A Man Utd

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dot Cotton2:50 PM

    As the captain of the Titanic, Edward John Smith once said to his chief officer, Henry Wilde, 'Don't panic, trust me we'll stay up'..........

    ReplyDelete
  3. Those run in's aren't funny at all and it's a particular problem that Charlton and Wigan both play Sheffield United as well, but one team I wouldn't discount are Fulham.

    I didn't think it was humanly possible to go 3 down at home to Man City.

    ReplyDelete