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

Monday, August 17, 2009

Wolves 0 - 2 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Welcome Back

I considered writing a season preview - Hell, I might even still do it - but I didn't want to overwhelm you with more than one post during a summer.

As such, we pick up where we left off, under a sweltering sun playing against a team who don't appear to be good enough for this division. Which is not to say that I really expected us to win this game, but merely to emphasise that things don't really seem all that different to last year to me.

2. Doom! And Gloom!

This was painted by the media as a decidedly tricky game to begin with. Away to a promoted side, who would be revelling in their Premiership experience and boosted by a boisterous home crowd. Now, I'm really not sure that a crowd can ever have that much impact on a game of football, and certainly not enough to make Jody Craddock into a Premiership footballer. He is after all, intrinsically still Jody Craddockian.

So while I'm not denying that the atmosphere at a football game can be inspirational, I simply can't agree that the basic skills of the participants can be altered by singing "Hi Ho Silver Lining".

There is no doubt, however, that promoted sides can be tricky to face on opening day, as evidenced by their record over the past 4 years - 5 wins, 4 draws, 3 losses - in their opening home fixtures. So, yes, this was a valuable win, but it won't look quite so flash after everyone else has won at Molineux by next May.

3. The Statistics

On another day this game could have ended up differently. Certainly we were the better team but I am not sure that we were dominant, so much as comfortable. As is often the case for newly promoted teams, our attacking play had a sharper edge to it, and the goal from Noble, especially, was evidence of the higher class of player available to us.

Overall, we shaded possession at 53% and crucially had twice as many efforts on target as the home side with 10 to their 5. We also managed to get caught offside 7 times which, frankly, hurts my spleen.

Robert Green was called into action early in the second half by Nenad Milijas, Wolves new signing, who astutely realised that most of his team mates were pretty crap and therefore that he was going channel Martin Petrov, and shoot at every opportunity no matter where he was on the pitch. Apart from this 5 minute shooting gallery, there was little to perturb our back four, even allowing for the mysterious presence of Julien Faubert at right back.

4. The Opposition

Yes, it's early, and yes they had a few injuries but Wolves weren't especially impressive here. Both Kightly and Doyle were out with injuries, thus depriving them of arguably their two best players for all I know, although admittedly if forced to write all I know about Wolves I would need only a HB pencil and the back of a postage stamp.

Doubtless for Wolves, they would have viewed this as an eminently winnable game given our historic propensity to travel with all the strength of the Zimbabwean dollar. Sadly for them, this is a different West Ham, and apart from the aforementioned little flurry after half time, there wasn't much to see here.

Of course, since then they have won at Wigan which should encourage them that the League is filled with quite a lot of dross, and if I were them I wouldn't consider it an impossible task to finish above any of Burnley, Hull, Stoke, Wigan, Blackburn, Birmingham or Bolton. I'd have to assume that less Greg Halford would be more beneficial though.

5. The Referee

Chris Foy is a referee about whom I can recall very little off the top of my head. In this game there wasn't a huge amount to get excited about, although naturally the home fans declared themselves tremendously aggrieved about most of the early decisions.

Again - less Greg Halford would help here.

6. I Love You

Gianfranco Zola appears to have mastered the "Wachoofuckinlookinat" pose.

Before we get too much further into the season I wanted to commit to print a brief discourse on the tremendous job that Zola is doing. In the face of overwhelming odds (i.e: Scott Duxbury thought it was a good idea), Zola was awarded the job last season and barring a stumble in November he has been stellar ever since.

Looked at in a vacuum, the results aren't especially wondrous, but the turnaround in the style of play, and the general resilience has been a marvellous thing to behold. As the squad has become gradually weaker, Zola has fashioned a pattern of play and a method which remains constant even as the personnel change.

Even last year he was winning at places like Stoke with only Tristan and di Michele to call upon up front, which is like successfully invading Russia with a boy scout troop.

It was exactly that kind of fortitude that showed here again. Cole up front with Jiminez and Dyer behind definitely smacked of being too lightweight for this game, but in the end we were very worthy winners.

Zola's greatest challenge may very well be off the pitch, as he struggles to preserve his squad in the face of the potential asset stripping ahead, but whatever it is that he is doing is working and he deserves huge praise for the job currently being done.

(Beating tottenham would be, like totally alright though Franco).

7. I Hate You

Phil Brown appears to have mastered the "I'mafuckintwat" pose.

Apropos of nothing much at all but Phil Brown appeared on national television dressed like this at the weekend. Even if you disagree with the points made at No. 6, then you'd have to agree that things could certainly be worse.

(Many thanks to loyalish reader Liam for the heads up on this crime against Jean Paul Gaultier)

8. Kudos

Mark Noble's opener was beautifully taken and certainly the first of it's type that I can recall us scoring for quite a while. My suspicion is that had it not gone in he would have been denied a place at Kieron and Carlton's Family Poker game on the bus ride home as both were better placed. great strike though, big season for Noble, World Cup blah blah blah *blows head off*.

9. Slightly Less Kudos

Jonathan Spector came on for a somewhat dazed Herita Ilunga, and proceeded to have three touches of the ball that were not so much "good" as "totally egregious". No harm came of it, and I still like Spector's attitude, versatility and haircut, but Christ he could only have started this season worse if he'd somehow impaled Robert Green.

10. Welcome Back!

Glad to have you all back reading again. Beluga and I have sat down and really analysed our output last season and decided that, yes, we really are quite lazy. So now you know...

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