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 23, 2009

West Ham United vs Chelsea: Match Preview - 25/04/2009

1. To The Manor Born

Before we start, congratulations to HeadHammer Shark are once again in order on the recent birth of his third daughter.

As he flaunts his virility like a devout Catholic porn star, we can assume that his recent dearth of publication is due to pure animalistic breeding.

My excuse is far less endearing, more closely linked with Guinness, baked goods and the absence of a keyboard sufficiently large to accommodate my chubby digits.

2. The Opposition

Chelsea. *swallows bile*

At the business end of the season Chelsea have managed to find themselves in with a shout of varying degrees in the holy trinity of club football competitions. This may not seem unusual, but appears a little surprising given their unspectacular season.

After the headline grabbing appointment of ‘Big’ Phil Scolari in the summer, Chelsea flattered to deceive and never possessed the imposing inevitability of previous years.

The loss of their unbeaten home record and a series of underwhelming home displays prompted the equally headline grabbing sacking of Scolari, to eventually be replaced by Guus ‘watch-me-turn-this-water-into-wine’ Hiddink as manager.

Hiddink has continually insisted that he will return to his full-time role as manager of the Russian national side at the end of this season.

No bad thing, as any man who can guide South Korea to a World Cup semi-final and produce an Australian national side capable of taking World Champions-elect Italy to the wire, (but for our own cumbersome captain), has talent.

3. Picture Book

The Curly-Wurly's from Lampard's locker just kept coming.

4. From Small Acorns

We find ourselves at a peculiar point in West Ham’s recent history - largely positive and consistent performances on the pitch, turmoil off it.

Are we on the brink of a new era of successful, traditionally pleasing football, or teetering on the precipice?

We get more than enough doom and gloom from Headhammer Shark, so let’s align ourselves with positivity.

Ever-positive cheeky monkey Gianfranco Zola said recently: “Please stop it, Mr Duxbury. You’re hurting me.”

But that’s beside the point. He followed up with:

“I believe we are building up a reputation because we try to play good football and there is a good atmosphere. That could be an attractive thing for good players to come. I wouldn't be surprised to see a good player come to play for West Ham in the summer.”

While it is Zola’s job to accentuate the positive, his presence at the helm no doubt makes us a more attractive proposition to potential recruits.

Should we be able to steer our way out of these choppy off-field waters and tie down Zola and Steve Clarke on long term deals, then there is every reason for optimism.

Not the kind of optimism that followed our promotion, or 9th place under Pardew, or our FA Cup Final appearance, or the news that we finally had money to spend, or the propspect of big signings returning from injury - but optimism built on a sound foundation and garnered step by step.

5. History

This same fixture last season constitutes a particularly ugly scar on my psyche. On a glorious Saturday afternoon, with supporters in fine voice and fettle, West Ham conspired to concede three times within the opening 20-minutes.

A scuffed penalty from the Pillsbury Dough Boy and a low angled drive from Joe Cole were followed by a fine half-volley from Michael Ballack after some good approach play, to thoroughly douse any hopes of a famous victory.

And all this prior to Nicolas Anelka incorrectly having a goal ruled out for offside. Not even the dismissal of Lampard, (thanks to yet more Boa Morte genius), could negate the deflation.

Ashley Cole added a fourth before the sweet release of the final whistle to make it the third time in five games that we had conceded four against Chelsea.

A massive anti-climax all round, and what did tactical supremo Alan Curbishley have to say in response?

"My players have done fantastically well this season. We have had major injury problems. I'm not going to criticise them."

Grrr, indeed. This was justifiably the beginning of the end for Curbishley, not to mention the first of our three consecutive 4-0 drubbings.

A rosier view of history would tell you that our overall record against Chelsea remains a positive one with 52 wins to 47 losses.

A Machiavellian use of statistics, no doubt, but at this blog we choose to spurn painful realism. It is this same approach that informs you that both Headhammer Shark and I are fine figures of men.

6. Picture Book

The shame of that penalty miss eventually proved too much. John Terry decided to start a new life elsewhere...

7. Makeshift Make-Up

Injuries continue to affect our season and that is not going to change between now and mid-May.

While Kieron Dyer makes ever-increasing steps to a starting berth and therefore the treatment room, we remain without Cole, Collins, Collison, Behrami and Parker. Not to mention the more regular patrons of our shaman’s tepee.

Chelsea have leaked their fair share of goals in recent games, but it is hard to see us giving them too much trouble at the back.

Last weekend’s equaliser against Villa does not excuse Diego Tristan’s lamentable contribution since his loan signing and he is yet to appreciate that a lack of work-rate will not wash, particularly when compounded by a lack of attacking threat.

David DiMichele does have that work-rate, but the writing would appear to be on the wall. The club were only too keen to make Herita Ilunga’s loan deal a permanent one, but no such move has been touted for the Italian forward.

Our biggest omission will be Scott Parker, particularly with the recent return of Michael Essien to the Chelsea midfield. For all the plaudits hurled at Lampard, it is Essien who adds strength and resilience to the centre of the park for The Blues and makes the difference.

Mark Noble is too slight to combat the Nigerian and while an out-of-position Lucas Neill has the requisite bulk in abundance, Essien has the added advantage of mobility, allowing him to pogo around Lucas at will.

8. The Big Picture

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I think we can all be satisfied with this season, all things considered.

Back in October, had we been offered a guarantee of Premiership survival, we would’ve jumped at it. Anything above and beyond that has been a bonus in another tumultuous term at Upton Park.

Our tentative grasp on 7th spot and a place in next season’s inaugural Europa League (read ‘UEFA Cup with more money-spinning sideshows'), looks increasingly insecure given our threadbare squad and tricky run-in.

Guus ‘The Alchemist’ Hiddink has confessed that Chelsea’s quest for the League title is at an end and that they must now focus on the FA Cup Final against Everton and Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final against Barcelona.

We can expect some big names to be rested on Saturday as a result, although Chelsea have enough depth to beat our current transient line-up with little trouble.

Still, this is supposed to be a cheerful post, so 4-2 to West Ham with Boa Morte scoring the perfect hat-trick.

9. Picture Book

"Think about it - with your teeth and my appetite, we can become destroyers of men..."

No comments:

Post a Comment