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, December 11, 2008

Chelsea vs West Ham United: Match Preview - 14/12/2008

1. Dictionary Corner

Futility (n) - uselessness as a consequence of having no practical result.

Make of that what you will.

2. Post-Mortem

Monday night’s lamentable affair at home to tottenham can be summed up thusly:

Two shit teams, we sat back.

There was nothing on offer in the way of quality. Why we played Parker and Mullins at home against a defensively suspect side is beyond me. Collison is the only midfielder this season who has regularly launched forward with purpose and yet he has found himself marginalised since his home debut against Everton.

The day Faubert puts in a cross that beats the first man is the day Frank Lampard declines a bowl of clarified butter.

I am still wounded by the gutless nature of our display against tottenham and the fact that a win on Monday would have meant 9th place, clear daylight between us and the bottom three and the opportunity to really go for it against Chelsea with little expectation or anxiety.

But I suppose we wouldn’t be proper West Ham fans without the stunted enthusiasm and Valium dependence.

3. Obviously

4. History

Last year we lost 1-0 at Stamford Bridge having put in a bellicose performance only to fall to Joe Cole’s late winner, a well taken goal which survived a decent offside shout.

Cole’s ultra-enthusiastic celebration lost him a place in more than a few of the more temperate West Ham hearts, a place still frequented by ex-players such as Carrick, Rio, Tevez and Pike.

Our recent record against Chelsea has been nothing but negative in terms of results and we have conceded 17 goals in our last six encounters. Not since we did the double over them in the 2002-’03 season (wallop) have we had a point out of them.

There’s not much good news here, so we’ll move on.

5. Transfer window

As the New Year draws ever closer, so headlines pertaining to the fire-sale of West Ham talent appear with increasing regularity.

If it’s not Craig Bellamy for £6million, it’s Upson and Green for a combined 16. Or Davenport, Bowyer, Quashie, Boa Morte, Mullins, Faubert, Cole, Ashton or Gabbidon – two for a tenner.

It is not only apparent but also right that a few names will be jettisoned this January to lighten not only the considerable financial burden on the club but also the deadwood of the squad.

The answer must be to get rid of more than a few peripheral players to lesser sides whilst simultaneously resisting the larger offers sure to come in for our better players - most probably from Redknapp funded by his 30 pieces of silver.

If we sell Green and Upson in January, we may as well all pack up and go home now.

6. Fading Fortress

This season saw the end of Chelsea’s formidable home record with losses to both Liverpool and Arsenal ending their unbeaten run of 86 games.

Big Phil Scolari’s arrival at Stamford Bridge has coincided with a new inability to grind out results. Whilst this has made for a closer Championship race, it has its roots in the absence of some key players, most notably Didier Drogba.

Despite the arrival of Portuguese playmaker Deco from Barcelona after an impressive Euro 2008, Chelsea have struggled to conjure the requisite incisiveness to open up teams who are content to sit back at the Bridge. They are not helped by having Anelka upfront and starved of space.

‘Le Sulk’ provides Chelsea with a potent attacking outlet away from home, at his best sitting on the shoulder of the last defender and exploiting the space behind on the counter. His talents are largely nullified at home and against teams where more brute force is required.

Drogba is the man to win games for Chelsea when they are up against obdurate teams, as most of their opposition will be at Stamford Bridge. His strength, link-up play and ability to play with his back to goal should provide Chelsea with the necessary tactical flexibility to ensure that the blips of the last few months do not become more commonplace.

After a lengthy absence, and with all the predictability of a Jerry Bruckheimer production, Drogba is of course available for selection this weekend, free of injury and suspension.

7. Opposition

Chelsea’s spending this summer failed to match their levels of expenditure in previous years, largely thanks to the gazumping of Robinho by Manchester City.

Even having missed out on their primary target, The Blues were still able to swell their ranks with the acquisition of Portuguese right-back Jose Boswinga from Porto and Deco from Barcelona for a combined £23.2million.

Their squad was decreased overall following the release of Steve Sidwell, Hernan Crespo and Claude Makelele, among others. Even the bewildered Tal Ben Haim was pointed towards Manchester and told to keep walking.

Despite suffering their fair share of injuries this season, Chelsea’s available squad is still formidable and the return of Drogba, Joe Cole, Michael Essien and Ray ‘Butch’ Wilkins will further bolster their reserves in the second half of a season in which they remain well placed to claim both Premiership and Champions League.

8. Callous Captain

If the following reports are to be believed then HeadHammer Shark will no doubt be petitioning for divorce from his fictitious if zealously-desired marriage to our club captain.

It has been reported this week that Lucas Neill, having finally been granted a meeting to discuss an extension to his current deal, demanded a pay rise, taking his wages above that of their already preposterous level.

If this is true, I am flabbergasted. Not only at the gall of the man in light of both the financial state of the club and the economy in general, but also how he has drawn the conclusion that his form and leadership over the past two years warrants anything more than a Chinese burn.

I can only hope that this is another example of imaginative journalism targeted at West Ham and not an accurate reflection of our captain’s mindset in the current climate.

Perhaps we should arrange a 'Neill vs Lampard Chow-Down Face-Off' on Sunday. Lampard would no doubt ingest Neill in a matter of seconds, but our portly captain is sufficiently voracious to take a limb on his way down. From our perspective, a win-win.

9. Christmas Hampered

It’s finally happened. After many months of cooperation with HeadHammer Shark on these pages, his terminal pessimism has tainted my usual cheery/naive disposition.

Sunday’s game sees us approach the traditional end of year run which can so often shape a season. After Chelsea away we have the arduous prospect of Villa at home who, judging by the tottenham match and Villa’s win at Goodison Park, could well rip us to pieces.

After that we have Stoke City at home on the 28th (a match we should win but could so easily lose) and it’s a short respite before a trip to St James’s Park in January for a game versus the side against whom Zola’s regime began so promisingly three months ago.

It’s not inconceivable that we could find ourselves waist deep in the relegation quagmire come mid-January unless we begin scoring.

No such thing as Christmas cheer this week.

10. I Think I’m Coming Down With Something

As we all know, there are lots of airborne germs around at this time of year, but in recent weeks I appear to have contracted something I was quite unprepared for: a growing admiration of Luis Boa Morte.

Perhaps it’s his insistence on playing in Cuban heels or the natural affiliation felt by the British for plucky triers who aren’t particularly accomplished, I don’t know.

Whatever the cause, this is a phenomenon that has been increasing by the week. During our halftime analysis conference on Monday, I was moved to telling HeadHammer Shark of my certainty that LBM would come on and get the winner, but now we'll never know.

I think this all began towards the back end of last season once I had decided to not get so riled at Boa Morte’s ineptness and to instead enjoy the chaotic nature of his approach to the game. Yes, he has missed literally thousands of gilt-edged chances, but I have never had the sense that he doesn’t give it his all.

My newfound support of him is only bolstered by the many simpletons who boo before he has even completed his touchline warm-up, let alone touched the ball, and some of his unpopularity stems from his status as Curbs first overpriced signing with all that money he spunked.

At the very least, Boa Morte is responsible for getting Fat Frank undeservedly sent off last year and also for forcing nearly his whole hand into John Terry’s mouth. For that alone he should be applauded.

I personally can’t wait ‘til he scores (meaning he has until January) and hope that he goes ballistic, then runs straight up to the pubescent gobshite sitting in front of my brother and his mates thinking he's ICF, and smashes his teeth in.

11. One For The Road

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