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

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Portsmouth 1 - 4 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Merry Christmas

Well, alright then.

2. Luck Be A Hammer Tonight

Is it possible to win 4-1 away from home and be lucky? Well, even allowing for the natural pessimism of the West Ham fan, I guess you would have to say yes. Now, I'm not saying that we didn't deserve to win, or that Zola is the resurrection and the light, or that we haven't suffered a few of these ourselves, but I am saying that this game didn't really seem like a 4-1 type of affair.

Now let me be clear, I don't care if we won this game by using voodoo - we won and that is all that matters, but before anyone gets too carried away it's probably right to acknowledge that we had a few moments of fortune.

I mean, come on, Carlton Cole scored and Jermain Defoe missed a penalty. I spent most of the second half looking for swarms of locusts.

3. The Statistics

As far as the ESPN Gamecast shows, we didn't really have much of a foothold in this game. Our possession amounted to just 42%, and we allowed no fewer than 23 efforts by Portsmouth, although we replied with 16 ourselves. Interestingly, each team managed just 7 on target efforts, which effectively means that the front pairing of Crouch and Defoe were less clinical than Cole and Bellamy. Which bodes tremendously for the prospects of our international team.

In truth, our skill was in restricting the home side to long range efforts, or shots straight at the inspired Robert Green.

By the time the second half ended, we were breaking at will and using the twin superpowers of Luis Boa Morte and Diego Tristan to run riot down the left wing.

Elsewhere, we made the splendidly wise decision not to allow Calum Davenport to have the vast majority of our goal atempts, and instead shifted that responsibility further forward to Craig Bellamy who responded by doubling his seasons goal tally. Which is always an encouraging statistic from your leading goalscorer. On Boxing Day.

Other facts to capture the interest:

- This was the first time we had come from a goal down to win a game all year
- At the point that Jack Collison equalised with his second goal of the season, he had scored 50% of all our goals since November 8th
The most accurate shooter in the squad is Lucas Neill (72% on target). For reference our twin strikers Bellamy and Cole are at 30%
- Mido, who is a fungus, would be our joint top scorer if he played for us.
- Dean Ashton, who is dead, was our second top scorer before this game. He has had 3 shots on goal this season.

I think I might be unravelling the great mystery of why we don't win many games.

4. The Opposition

Far be it for me to show weakness or empathy, but a part of me felt slightly sorry for Portsmouth. As far as I could tell, this seemed to be a clash of two appalling defences, with Robert Green excelling once more. As with Ronaldo's missed penalty last year one couldn't help but suspect that it was Greens presence as much as anything that forced Defoe to skew his shot wide, although using a striking technique borrowed from Diana Ross didn't seem to help either.

The obvious difference between this side and the team who played so recently at Upton Park was the absence of ex Hammer Glen Johnson, without whom Craig Bellamy simply ran riot down the Portsmouth left. 3 of the 4 goals came via this route, with the other coming courtesy of some Wacky Races style adventures in the home back 4 as we broke from a corner.

Much like ourselves, Portsmouth seem likely to lose players in January, with Redknapp apparently determined to return and tap up a few. Survival should not be impossible with the squad they have, and the existence of West Brom and Sunderland, but it would be fair to say that they are in the dogfight now.

5. The Referee

Steve Bennett seems to referee games using a magic 8 ball to arrive at most of his decisions, but he had some unusually random thoughts even for him today. The penalty awarded for Peter Crouch's theatrical first half tumble was as soft as they come, although perhaps Bennett shares our sadistic enjoyment at watching Jermain Defoe miss penalties.

Elsewhere Scott Parker cleverly got himself booked so he could miss our inevitable home Cup defeat to Barnsley. An approach that I fancy might be taken by about 15,000 other Hammers.

6. The January Sales

With the transfer window just around the corner and Harry Redknapp rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect of spending the ENIC millions, it remains to be seen exactly how many of this team will ever play for us again. The obvious candidate to leave is Bellamy who already has been the subject of one failed tottenham bid.

Others on the likely departure list are Upson, Parker and Green which would leave the spine of the team looking decidely "Championship".

Already there are those who are trying to justify the sale of Bellamy, by pointing out that he doesn't score enough goals and whomever we buy to replace him will doubtless score more, which rather misses the spectacular point that we won't be buying anyone to replace him.

If I had my choice I would sell none of them, because the team as it is barely looks capable of staying up, but then again I am not an Icelandic international financier who is suddenly scrabbling around the back of the sofa for the money to pay off his debts.

Therefore, if we assume that one has to go then my logic would be to sell the player whose replacement is closest to him in terms of skill. For example, selling Green would be nonsense as we only have the untried Lastuvka to come in, whilst selling Bellamy would expose either Sears or Tristan to regular playing time which seems unwise for a team who cannot score.

Therefore, to my mind the obvious choice would be either Upson, who could be replaced by Davenport, or Parker who would presumably see Mullins step in.

To reiterate, this is not my grand plan for Premiership domination - selling any of the curent first XI is ludicrous, but we live in the real world and I would merely advocate a more scientific approach to any sale rather than simply saying "Get rid of Bellamy as he has only scored 2 goals...".

7. Cole Patrol

More good stuff from Carlton today. Not "good" by any typical definition, but he did score from 3 yards after the ball rebounded straight to him in front of an open goal. So that was "good".

I actually thought that of our two strikers, he was the least wasteful as Bellamy spurned at least 3 other very decent chances to score, before popping up with the late double that sunk Pompey.

I especially enjoyed his first goal as it reminded me in every way possible of our relegation season when we too employed a "rush goalie" type defensive system.

8. Luis Boa Morte Footwear Update

God bless him if our Luis didn't come out for his late substitute appearance sporting a pair of brand new Christmas winklepickers.

It worked too, as he set up Bellamy's second with a nice run and cross from the left, whilst also simultaneously proving beyond doubt that miracles do happen at Christmas.

9. Picture This

"To be honest I don't know what happened. This is how many goals we usually score away from home"

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