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

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

West Ham 1 - 3 Everton (And Other Robberies)

1. Before We Begin

So let me get this right. Sheffield United can get compensation from us because their players are shit, but I can't sue anyone over this?

2. The Horrible Truth

On one level, I expect nothing less than this. In fact the exquisite torture of being a West Ham fan was almost perfectly encapsulated in this 90 minutes. The glorious promise, the brief flirtation with excellence, the tragic capitulation and the inevitable victory for science over aesthetics.

I know that every person in the Universe think theirs is the most solitary journey, and the only genuine example of the truly heart rending experience of being a football fan, but if you'll permit me a moment of weakness - I'm beginning to wonder who else has to suffer in quite the way that we do.

I'm being melodramatic for sure, but come on - Luis Saha? Twice? In two minutes? I thought he was dead fer cryin' out loud.

3. The Statistics

Oh, what a sorry tale this is. We had the ball for 58% of the time, which is pretty whopping in this day and age, but mustered a mere 5 shots on goal. By contrast Everton had 6 attempts on target, although they all came after the 77th minute, and mostly during the worst three minutes of my life since Kerry Katona last released a record.

Joleon Lescott had more shots on goal than any of our players, which really hurts my pancreas.

There was only one offside in this whole game, which may say quite a lot about the intelligence of the strikers on display, or may suggest that the linesman were drunk.

4. The Opposition

Total crap for 83 minutes. Total football for 3 minutes. Total crap for 4 minutes.


5. The Referee

I am always slightly wary of Mark Halsey as he seems like he enjoys notoriety which doesn't tend to be a good thing for my liver. That said, he wasn't too bad here, although the decision to award a free kick against Matthew Etherington which led indirectly to Everton's equaliser was a bit of a shocker. I mean, without an AK-47 I have no idea exactly how Etherington could possibly encumber another human being, but there you go.

He then booked Etherington which I guess would probably hark back that notoriety thing again.

6. The Case For The Defence

Here's how well we were marking up for the first Everton goal. Joleon Lescott was stood on our penalty spot and had he felt the desire, he could have stuck his arms out at a 90 degree angle, sellotaped two pole vaults to his wrist and turned in a circle without hitting a West Ham defender (An action which, curiously, I would not have objected to).

Now, I guess it's possible that our back four looked at Lescott and collectively thought, "Well he is pretty crap and he has strange hair so let's not mark him", but I have to object to this line of thinking.

Firstly, Lescott isn't very good but he scored no less than 10 times last season. Secondly, how is a man with a forehead this large not going to be good at heading a ball?

Everton defender Joleon Lescott (above) is asked to explain his 6 (six) England caps.

So another clean sheet disappears into the ether and we are left to ponder that this is the worst West Ham defence in 43 years. Just consider for a moment the players who have graced our turf in that time and wonder how the current mob - internationals all - can be worse than them.

I always hark back to Paul "Diego" Hilton when I think of our bad defence. Here was a guy who played at centre back for Bury against West Ham in a match that we won 10-0. He impressed so much in conceding those ten goals that we bought him. And, yet, he's statistically better than our current lot.

7. The Green Man

To halt a slide such as this, you really need your goalkeeper to cement himself behind a large brick wall and refuse to be beaten. Robert Green hasn't been playing badly by any stretch, but he is unquestionably slightly short of last years form and we suddenly need an urgent upturn from the keeper .

Being beaten by Louis Saha in any way is a bit embarrassing, having him to it to you twice with the wrong foot is bordering on humiliating and when the last one is from outside the box then perhaps it's time for a drink.

Hey, nitpicking over the third goal of three doesn't really have value, but it's a bit symptomatic of the recent malaise.

England coach Fabio Capello (l) and Sir Trevor Brooking (r) discuss Robert Green's chances of making the next England squad.

8. Collison Course

Enough with the gloom! This boy looks the business doesn't here?

Quite apart from the pearler of a goal, it would be fair to say that Collison is looking like our most exciting prospect for a fair while, and certainly above both Sears and Noble at the same stage based on what I have seen.

Perhaps it's because he is older than the former two when they made their debuts, but Collison simply seems to belong a little more. His movement of the ball is excellent and he has more than a touch of Michael Carrick in his gait, his passing and the obligatory fashionable barnet. It's much too early to get all of a lather, of course, but some of the early signs are promising.

I actually felt that it was a curious decision to drop the previous weeks successful central partnership of Mullins and Collison to accommodate the returning Bowyer and Parker. That said, it's hard to argue with the outcome, which was us playing Everton off the pitch for 84 minutes, and Parker certainly did enough to justify his inclusion above the unfortunate Mullins.

I would have been perfectly happy with Parker being removed with 15 minutes to go when his legs had clearly gone. Substitutions are emerging as an early Achilles heel for Zola, I would say.

9. Zola Power?

So is it time to panic? We're sliding inexorably, tottenham are rising as fast as their incredible luck will carry them, and our owner has less money than me.

Well, a win against Portsmouth and some doubts will be banished, but there has been an alarming descent into the midst of a group of not very good teams.

Truthfully though, we have played very well through this recent run. Man Utd apart, we have been competitive in all the matches and should have won both our recent games but for some finishing straight out of the Dirk Kuyt Homage Squad.

I applaud the endeavour, I love the ambition and I even can live with the continued presence of Luis Boa Morte while he works this hard, but facts are facts and Middlesbrough are above for us a reason folks. Perhaps we had tried to jump too far in one go, and the reins need to be pulled a little before we allow our desire for entertainment to swallow us whole.

I'm not overly worried just yet, as I view our current position as simply being a more true reflection of our current talent and resources than anything, but the lack of goals is a concern that looks unlikely to disappear.

Still, it's hard to imagine that the crack scientists currently reconstructing Kieron Dyer from various film props won't be done by Christmas.

10. Luis Boa Morte Footwear Update

Not the greatest day for Luis, as he was (harshly) booed from the field. I feel that his decision to eschew traditional football boots and try the arrangement being modelled below was, well, foolish.....

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