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, May 05, 2009

Stoke City 0 - 1 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. May The Fourth Be With You

This, ladies and gentleman, was a victory for the forces of good and all that is right and holy in the Universe. Stoke are "good" for the Premiership in the same way that Coke is "good" for your teeth.

2. Shocked? I Nearly Bought My Own Drink

"West Ham score direct from a free kick. Just out of shot, Hell is freezing over"

3. The Statistics

Per the ever trusty ESPN Gamecast, Stoke had the ball for just 40% of the time, whilst we had a curious 61% share. This is remarkable not only because it's a huge number but also one that defies the basic laws of mathematics.

Now I don't know how these kinds of statistics are identified, but I'd have to hazard a guess that Stoke never have much by way of possession, purely because whenever they get the ball they launch it into the opposition box from a great height. Most of the time that results in them giving the ball away, and therefore the opposition are always likely to have a greater share of possession.

The pure numbers would show that this game was somewhat even in the sense that Stoke had more goal attempts (12 to 8) but with less on target (2 to our 3). They also had 7 corners whilst we didn't even manage one, but to counter that we had the aforementioned superiority of possession. None of these statistics illustrate particularly well that these two teams were light years removed from each other in terms of quality.

Elsewhere, Diego Tristan had all of our on target goal attempts, which seems remarkable as up until this game I didn't think his legs worked.

4. The Opposition

After our 2-1 home victory against Stoke in December I wrote this . It was posted here and perhaps unsurprisingly was not overly popular with Stoke fans. Now look - I don't much care about that, but I would like to think that despite the obviously biased starting position, I can occasionally make observations that fans on both sides of the aisle can agree with.

To that end I am going to re posit my initial thoughts about Stoke, as detailed in that first column back in December:

This. Is. (Still). Not. Football.

Getting the ball and whacking it into the corner in the hope of forcing a throw in is not football. It's rugby. It's fucking rugby.

Now, I'm all for teams maximising their resources, and being adaptable and using the tools at their disposal, but Stoke have moved far beyond those simple platitudes. This is egregiously offensive stuff. As a paying fan you are simply being told that your enjoyment is secondary to Stoke staying in the division. Now I'm not here to criticise a team for doing whatever they can to survive, but I simply asking if it has to be quite this cynical? I mean, these guys make Bolton look like an Arsene Wenger side, such is the unreconstructed nature of their play.

I don't doubt that Stoke fans will be aggrieved at this, and in some ways I don't blame them, but I couldn't watch this shit every week. We had a brief dalliance with this type of thing with Curbishley and it felt like half the fanbase were ready to turn in their season tickets in protest. The fact that Stoke fans appear to totally disagree with me, is perhaps a reflection that modern day fans will accept pretty much any kind of football so long as it gets them to the Premier League.

One can only hope that second season syndrome hits them hard, as we have quite enough of this crap in the league already.

5. The Referee

If Peter Walton was expecting a tasty game here today he was fairly mistaken. Certainly Stoke weren't shy of using their elbows to do pretty much anything, but by and large it was blood and thunder stuff without an underlying menace.

I thought Boa Morte was somewhat fortunate to get away with a late tackle on Rory Delap but Walton probably thought - "Hey it's Rory Delap - I'd kick the little shit too." As it was, Delap had a little kick back at Boa Morte's backside, which caused the Portuguese to roll around clutching his thigh, at which point Walton just booked them both for being utter tools.

He did also disallow two goals, one for each side, that weren't immediately obviously foul in their inception. Ricardo Fuller jumped into Rob Green for a cross, and I suppose that had a bit of foul play about it, but the di Michele goal appears to have been chalked off merely on the grounds that the referee assumed Tristan and di Michele couldn't possibly do anything good so why not.

Hard to argue with the logic.

6. Goooaaaaaallll!

We don't score much from free kicks. I can recall a couple from Nobby Solano, and a couple from Tevez, but before that I think you'd need to go back to the Tudor era for a West Ham goal scored direct from a set play.

So as Diego Tristan hovered over the ball, with his shaven head bowed, and his corpse rotting into the ground, I didn't expect a great deal. Instead, he strolled up and curled it right into the top corner. It was his third goal for us, and probably the first one that he's actually known anything about.

He has now scored twice against Stoke City this season, which is a sentence that ranks right up there amongst the strangest I have ever written.

7. Kudos

In a match where the sole opposition threat was only ever going to come from aerial raids, it was imperative that our keeper was up to the task. To that end I'd like to commend Rob Green, who was largely untroubled in keeping a clean sheet.

He decided that rather than cowering on his line, he would come charging out for every cross, throw in, chip packet and tsetse fly that arrived in the box. All in all a nice job.

Elsewhere, Lucas Neill was tremendous as he revelled in the chance to kick Matty Etherington up in the air with impunity, whilst single handedly driving us forward at times in the second half. It's fairly hard to say that his recent surge in form isn't related to his contract being up at the end of the season but either way it's been a welcome sight.

8. Positional Nonsense

I still don't understand why Junior Stanislas is playing on the left and Luis Boa Morte is playing on the right. In fact it makes my eyes bleed. Could we please stop it ...

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