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

Thursday, April 19, 2007

West Ham 1 - 4 Chelsea (And Other Ramblings)

1. The Beautiful Game

A victory for purists everywhere then.

The Chelsea coach was bricked (I'm not fussed), the Chelsea team conducted themselves with all the class of a drunken stag party (I'm more fussed but I'll cope) and we implemented defensive techniques taken straight from The French Border Guards Handbook - 1939 edition (I'm incredibly fussed).

2. Sing When You're Fishing

Some nice work on the pre match entertainment. Someone at the club finally made the glaringly obvious connection between West Ham and Icelandic opera, and we were thus treated to a stirring appearance by renowned tenor, Cortes. In fairness to the lad, his was the best on pitch performance of the night by a Hammer.

It was somewhat fitting that during the warm up, our players were busy peppering the stadium forecourt with their shooting, as the elegiac strains of Nessum Dorma rang around Upton Park.

I believe these are known as 'omens'.

3. The Statistics

This was not a game that lent itself easily to statistical analysis. We had just 41% possession but forced 9 corners to Chelsea's 5 and actually enjoyed a significant territorial advantage according to the Opta stats. Tellingly though, we committed an amazing 21 fouls, including a marvellous attempt at open knee surgery by Nigel Reo-Coker on Wayne Bridge.

All of which would combine to suggest that we didn't have the ball very much but when we did we got it forward relatively quickly and used it as uselessly as one might expect.

Even more interestingly we have not been caught offside against Chelsea in either game this year. Make of that what you will.

4. The Opposition

A delight, as always.

The first half was fairly even, with Wright Phillip's tremendous first goal practically screaming "Look, they haven't completely ruined my career!". Although I wouldn't say it was against the run of play, that Chelsea strike was slightly harsh on us and as such Tevez's equaliser was just reward for lots of hard work, even if was heavily reliant upon Petr Cech suddenly being struck down with a severe case of chocolate wrists.

Thereafter followed 34 seconds of ecstasy (about par for the course these days) before Wright-Phillips remembered he wasn't crap anymore and whacked in a second.

Interestingly, our first half tactics of "chasing about everywhere as fast as possible" unnerved Chelsea slightly and it was especially pleasurable to see John Terry getting the run around from the Bobby Zamora clone we currently have up front.

The second half saw Chelsea return to full functionality as they closed out the game with some good finishing, nice passing and a whole barnyard full of ridiculous dives. Ho, hum.

5. The Referee

Unusually, Mike Dean wasn't appalling and even managed a Premiership first by awarding a foul against Terry in the first half.

There was a nonsensical moment in the second period when Drogba was told to leave the pitch for treatment. He proceeded to wander over in the vague direction of the touchline, have a whinge about the obscene price of petrol in this country and then run back on to play a major part in the crucial third goal, never once leaving the playing area.

I'm not saying that it made a huge difference, but it would be nice if the teams at the top of the Premiership had the same laws applied to them as the rest of us.

6. An Inherent Nobility

I'm not quite ready to proclaim Mark Noble as "The Saviour" but I am ready to anoint him as "Not Nigel Quashie". He ran around a lot, put in a few decent challenges and generally looked promising without having any significant impact on the game.

In about 3 years he will be the lynchpin of our midfield. And probably just about to be sold.

7. The Return Of The Prodigal Sons

Our favourite ex player had a prototypical Lampardic game. He was heavily involved in two of the goals but for the rest of the time he was simply heavy.

When the going was tough for the first thirty minutes, he was absent without leave before easing himself into the fray as we took the strange decision to play "rush goalie" in the second half.

I must say I did enjoy the Bobby Moore Lower's version of "You're just a shit Steven Gerrard", however.

Joe Cole got a nice reception and wore the tightest pair of shorts this side of a Christina Aguilera video. I'm assuming that one did not have a bearing on the other.

8. You Know Things Are Bad When...

Substitution - West Ham : Nigel Reo-Coker replaced by Hayden Mullins (76)

Substitution - Chelsea : Frank Lampard replaced by Michael Ballack (78)

9. Department Of Silver Linings

I did receive an email from a Stockport supporting friend who told me to thank Carlos Tevez for preventing Chelsea from going 9 League games without conceding a goal. This means that the record stays with the men from Edgeley Park. He's a nice fella so I have decided not to make a smart remark about how good the current vintage must be for that to have been relevant.

Elsewhere it was nice to see Tevez skin Lampard in the build up to his wonder goal.

I know, I know - if I was in the Navy I would be a petty officer.

10. I'm Alright At Crosswords But...

I like to think I'm a reasonably intelligent chap but I have simply given up trying to work out what Curbishley's team selections are all about. Now don't get me wrong - I'm completely on board with replacing Anton Ferdinand with someone in possession of a functioning cerebrum, but the decision to shift the hitherto impressive Lucas Neill in to the middle and leave Davenport on the bench was a curious one.

Neill suffered, I suffered, my neighbours cat is limping, it's all connected Alan.

Likewise replacing Matthew Etherington, after three games where his only noticeable contribution was not dying whilst on the pitch, was a sound idea. Unfortunately he chose Luis Boa Morte who made the courageous, if ultimately foolhardy decision to play this game whilst stoned out of his mind.

11. Atmospheric Pressure

The fans had a great time last night. The game was fairly even for 52 minutes, after which point it turned into a half hour mockathon of the 3,000 fans dressed as mannequins that Chelsea brought with them. I'd say that was an improvement on the 5,000 that went to the FA Cup Semi Final dressed as empty seats though.

I'm not trying to insult genuine Chelsea fans, as I'm sure there are dozens out there, but it's a natural symptom of success that your support will always be diluted by the new wave of fans eager to latch on to a winning team.

Interestingly, as recently as August 2003 we attracted a crowd of 30,370 for a midweek Championship home game with Bradford City, whilst on the same night Chelsea mustered less for a Champions League match against Zilina.

I don't exactly know what my point is here but it probably involves Michael Dawson being rubbish....

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