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

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

West Ham 0 - 2 Arsenal (And Other Ramblings)

1. We Were Believers Once, And Young

We're not so different, Martin Luther King and I. We both had a dream , you see. His involved buses I think, whilst mine revolved around a world where West Ham could beat Arsenal.

In my 29 years on this plane, we have played Arsenal more times than I care to remember and beaten them so rarely that it is possible to memorise the victories in a Henry VIII style rhyme ("Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Leroy, Bobby, Offside!").

I despise playing them, because no matter what happens, we will always play pluckily but without luck. Whether it's Trevor Morley being brought down when clean through by David Seaman, or Trevor Sinclair hitting a post, or Kanoute having a goal disallowed when clearly over the line, or Julian missing a penalty while concussed, or Emmanuel Petit managing a last minute winner involving a handball and an enormous deflection, or Bergkamp elbowing Lee Bowyer in the face, or Julien Faubert channelling Titus Bramble on Sunday - it doesn't matter, we will find a way to lose. (Aaand breathe out - note to self : punctuation is your friend).

Only Pardew era West Ham managed to overcome this, and right now that seems a long time ago.

And before any Gooners leave a post saying this comment made you splutter up your oysters, let me confirm that I'm not saying Arsenal were fortunate to win on Sunday, but simply that they seem to get an unholy amount of luck in the games they play against us.

Which, in my head at least, is a slightly different thing, although I'll accept that this may very well be a Sarah Palin style mauling of the English language.

2. Everything Is Illuminated

Manuel Almunia's hair should be illegal. My corneas have only just stopped bleeding.

3. The Statistics

Per The ESPN GameCast we were second best in a lot of areas on Sunday. Certainly this won't be a surprise to anyone with a functioning set of retinas (i.e: those who didn't stare directly at Almunia's hair) but it does underpin that we are very much the apprentices in this particular match up.

The indisputable turning point was the introduction of Emmanuel Adebayor in the 68th minute as he marched on to the pitch and immediately began running the show. He mustered no less than 6 shots himself during this period, more than any other player managed all day, and was the "creator" of the fatal first goal.

As for us we had the ball for just 42% of the time and managed 4 efforts on target to the visitors 6. This is a polite way of saying that they were better than us. Of course it's not the fact that Arsenal are better than us that disturbs me, it's when Bolton can say the same thing that I get alarmed.

4. The Opposition Striker

I'm not saying that Emmanuel Adebayor is big, but here he is celebrating his last minute goal with the other Arsenal players.

5. The Opposition

Myopic manager aside, there is much to admire about Arsenal. They are clearly the team we aspire to be, perhaps without the croutons, and they play football in a way which is aesthetically pleasing for any fan.

That said, there is the other side of the coin : the whinging, the diving, the unhealthy hatred I have for Cesc Fabregas and the cloying sense of entitlement that runs right through their side and supporters. In fact, if there is a more punchable person than Robin van Persie outside of the Big Brother house, then I demand to know who it is so I can whack them right now with a skirting board.

What was noticeable was the superior technique on display for keeping hold of the ball. We deployed with the touted 4-3-3 system that warps my brain, and spent much of the second half coughing up the ball under pressure. The determination to pass our way out of trouble is admirable, but there will be plenty of days ahead when we will face superior teams who are able to do it much more adroitly than we can.

This does not include Hull though, for fucks sake.

6. The Referee

In a fit of pomposity last week I wrote the following : "It's always a waste of time to blame referees for anything, because I refuse to accept that over 90 minutes a football team cannot do enough on their own to win a game".

Admirable stuff for sure, but tested somewhat by Phil Dowd's performance. I still don't think that we lost because of the referee, but it could be said that he wasn't a huge help.

The wide variety of handball shouts were a bit desperate, but the constant blowing for fouls, lack of advantages and the nonsensical sending off all grated. I don't really know how you referee that game and give out 5 yellow and one red card.

7. Green Fingers

After a rocky couple of weeks featuring a Bobby Mimms impersonation at home to Bolton, and a sudden bout of inertia at Hull, it was a welcome return to form for Robert Green. Indeed he was so good that his performance drew the admiration of Arsene Wenger, which is akin to getting a good annual appraisal from Darth Vader.

The save from Walcott in particular, was outstanding, and there was a sense of dominance missing from his recent performances. The cynical part of me always views Green's performances against the Gunners as being 90% job interview, and Wengers comments haven't eased my mind at all.

I could mention the fact that Adebayor's goal came whilst Green went a wanderin' late on, but I choose to view this as an accurate homage to David James, rather than the desperate act of a madman.

8. Formation Blues

I cannot quite comprehend a tactical system that includes Julien Faubert and Hayden Mullins as our tandem down the right hand side. Furthermore, it vexes me how exactly Mullins has ended up as the attacking half of that duo, whilst Faubert is left to slip on his curly green wig, hop on the unicycle and get down to some good old fashioned clowning in lieu of actual defensive work.

The own goal was easily avoidable in hindsight, but I have sympathy for any defender facing his own goal, with an attacker immediately behind him and a dangerous cross to deal with. Throw in the custard pie he was balancing at the time and it's easy to see how it happened.

My biggest gripe with Faubert is not the square peg/round holeism of his defending but more the utter lack of incisiveness he is providing from right back in an attacking sense. I mean, I know we gave up a little defensively to get him into the side, but weren't we supposed to be gaining something at the same time?

I'm not anti-Faubert - far from it, if we spend €9m on a player I'm very much pro that guy showing me he's worth it, but right now I'm looking at a winger being shoe horned into the back 4 and giving the ball away at an alarming rate.

9. Missing

Mark Noble was absent from today's game

At this point I am willing to consider that he has been eaten by Lucas Neill.

10. Kudos

Welcome back James Collins, who looked for all the world like he was fully fit, which seems utterly impossible when one considers that he will have been treated at the Boleyn Royal Infirmary - motto: "Circumcurso pru aveho " or "Run It Off" in English.

He and Upson looked mighty impressive there, and my boy Lucas will have a job to regain his place, although the bright red nose and large shoes of our current right back might indicate the route back.

A word too for Bowyer, Mullins and Parker who battled manfully against the all conquering evilness of the Arsenal midfield and did well for an hour or so before the forces of evil came swarming through the barricades.

Herita Ilunga remains my favourite Congolese blogging left back in the world. My advice for the return game at The Emirates would be to shoot Theo Walcott early doors.

11. Cole Patrol

Undeniably the worst part of the day was the late red card dished out to Carlton Cole. Weird decision or not, I demand that Cole has a CAT scan or a test of his occipital lobe or something to tell me if there is any kind of brain functionality whatsoever going on here.

It's the 94th minute, you've lost the game and the referee has already shown you that he won't be applying any common sense to his decision making. Why are you making this tackle? Are you in the midst of a brain aneurysm? Is there no blood flow to your cranium?

Ay carumba. Whilst Ashton is being treated by the Florence Nightingale Society medical team, we now have no striker capable of playing the central striker role bar Cole, and with his suspension looming we now face the prospect of starting Sears or Tristan or possibly a reality show winner at Old Trafford on Wednesday. Be still my beating heart.....

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