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, September 01, 2009

Blackburn Rovers 0 - 0 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Two Coins For The Boatman

If you should ever find yourself watching a game of football that is worse than this debacle, then pray that your affairs are in order, for you, my friend, are in Hades.

2. What Can You Say?

I can't pretend that this article will give you great insight into the machinations of this game. In truth, there was barely anything that could warrant being described as a "machination" unless you consider two goalkeepers whacking the ball to each other to qualify.

This game was actually a terrible indictment of the Premier League and everything it has come to represent. Here were two teams playing their third games of the season and already looking as though they were each quietly content to play out an interminable 0-0 draw. Blackburn had started slowly and were without a point, meaning that Sam Allardyce was always likely to play for a draw first, whilst we were aware from home modelling our revolutionary "one striker" system as decreed by our Icelandic creditors.

It's ridiculously idealistic of course, but you would think that someone somewhere might consider that there are actual paying CUSTOMERS at these games. I don't need to see my team win necessarily, nor do I even need to see goals to be entertained but I do like to see something approaching ambition and attacking intent. I expect nothing of Allardyce, but I am disappointed in Zola (*).

(*) - Yes, I accept that we were away from home against Allardycian spoilers, and we kept a clean sheet and that our squad is put together based upon the whims of our bankers, but still - colour me disgruntled.

3. The Statistics

As much as I would love to pin the blame for this crime against football on Blackburn, we must shoulder some of the blame. Although we had the greater possession, at 54%, we did almost nothing with it and generated just a single solitary shot at goal. One! ONE! 1 against Paul Robinson. That's negligence pure and simple.

The home side had six goalbound efforts but none that I can really recalling troubling Robert Green, and in fact both keepers could probably have set up a domino table in the corner of the pitch with no noticeable impact on the end result.

Elsewhere Carlton Cole had 6 shots and managed to get just one on target. There is a word for this and that word is Darrenbentian.

4. The Opposition

A Blackburn season ticket can cost as little as £199 which is either a steal in today's over inflated market, or daylight robbery when they serve up shit like this, depending on your view. Seriously, I feel sorry for Rovers fans if this is what they can look forward to for the rest of the year. Once upon a time they were a good team with quality players. Now, they are ... not.

Of course, everyone knows what to expect from Allardyce. Your team won't be relegated with him at the helm, but at the same time you have to be prepared to leave your principles at the door and accept the terrible football that will inevitably come your way.

Allardyce always strikes me as a man using the latest cutting edge technology, algorithms and data points in order to prove that the earth is flat. Sure, we hear all about his modern approach, and he talks a decent game in terms of how he prepares his teams but you cannot ignore that they play Stone Age football.

Watching Jason Roberts chase around on his own whilst the rest of the team made sure not to over extend themselves was an early indicator that Blackburn weren't going to spend this game being hoisted on their own overly ambitious petard.

We should be better than this, but we are not. With only one striker, and two mercurial sorts behind him (Stanislas/Dyer and Jiminez) then we always seem likely to struggle if the opposition don't over commit. Our much publicised decision not to get in another striker looks even more ludicrous in the light of this game, and not only because of the inherent danger in not having cover for Cole, but also the inflexibility. We couldn't switch to 4-4-2 even if we wanted to with our current personnel. I haven't forgotten about Hines or Nouble by the way, but teenagers who haven't started a Premier League game between them are not suitable back up, no matter what the Club's PR machine tells you.

5. Flat Earth Society Meeting Boils Over

Referee looks in weirdly broken mirror

6. Transfer Window Special

Anyway, enough of this crap. I refuse to analyse this game any further. It was terrible and I strike it from my memory.

Instead lets focus on West Ham's awesome transfer window performance, which appears to have melted the interweb in East London.

Our activity was as follows:

- James Collins sold to Aston Villa for an "Undisclosed" amount, widely believed to be £5m.
- "Record signing" Savio exchanged for Fiorentina's Portugese defender Manuel da Costa and £3m.
- Herita Ilunga signed permanently! Yes, we're still counting that one!
- Alessandro Diamanti bought from Livorno for £5m (or £1.5m depending on who you believe) after sponsors SBOBet held a raffle to raise the funds.
- Luis Jiminez signed on loan from Inter Milan with an option to make the deal permanent if we find sunken treasure between now and the end of the season.
- Various unheralded European youngsters signed to lull you into thinking we are Arsenal-lite.

Based on the above do you therefore assess West Ham United's transfer policy to be:

a) An ongoing sophisticated policy of analysing a worldwide network of young talent, evaluating their place within our revolutionary new Project using relevant and cutting edge metrics before selling them on at their maximum value to be replaced with younger, cheaper options.

b) Not a policy at all, but an ongoing exercise in very well disguised asset stripping designed to service our huge debt, whilst hoping to keep us moderately attractive enough for the mythical new buyers.

c) Insane.

d) The same as it has always been since I have followed West Ham. Cash in, and spin it to the fans.

Once upon a time I believed in the Project. I really did. Even allowing for Duxbury's inclement success with oral cuddling, I was prepared to buy into the notion that someone had at last developed a cogent business model for the Club.

I didn't think that it was worth trumpeting that from the rooftops, because it did rather strike me as something that we should have been doing years ago, but none the less I concurred with the thought process. A small club like us can only pretend to compete in the ridiculously unfair market that we operate in, if we take advantage of any market inefficiencies that exist.

As such, the Club has decided to focus on developing young players, identifying reasonably priced foreigners and then extracting maximum value for older players where we have replacements available. And good for them - that is a sensible and viable business model for a team like us. Duxbury also deserves credit for his hire of Zola, who was nobody's idea of a good choice and yet he currently occupies an almost talismanic position in view of what (hasn't) happened in this transfer window.

If you look at comparable teams in other sports, they are able to achieve success with an operating model such as this and I give them credit for realising that. We cannot compete with the lunatics at Eastlands, or even the wasters at White Hart Lane, whilst we don't get the annual subsidy from UEFA like the "Big 4" so we are making some sort of attempt to equalise things outside of simply spending a load of money we don't have, a la every promoted team of the late 90's.

The fact we play in such a deliberately uncompetitive environment is not the Club's fault, and they are doing the best they can.

But here's the rub. It's mostly proven to be bullshit hasn't it?

I don't doubt that the Club is on a reasonably sound economic footing, but the problem is that we are not a single entity anymore, wrapped up as we are in an Icelandic web of bankruptcy. We cashed in last January to the tune of £20m and another £8m or so in this window. Our outgoings in that time have been nowhere near that amount, unsurprisingly, which simply highlights that this money is being used for things other than the development of our squad.

The problem is that Duxbury gave two interviews this summer, clearly stating that we would sign two strikers, that he was really clocking up the airmiles in the process of doing this, but it didn't matter because he got to go to Franco's house for barbecues.

Now, with our much touted purchase of Savio looking fairly ill judged, and no strikers signed before the deadline it rather leaves in tatters the notion that Gianluca Nani is going to save the club with his magic address book, and does leave Duxbury looking a bit shifty at best, and a flat out liar at worst.

I doubt things are going to change much until we get new owners, but my biggest area of concern is that what little money we have seems to be being spent on some strange purchases. Alessandro Diamanti, a Serie B midfield star was brought in at some expense, at a time when we were crying out for a striker. And I mean lying prostrate on the floor, wailing like a baby.

Diamanti may well turn out to be a steal. He may also turn out to be Savio. I would rather have spent the money on a slightly surer thing. (Niko Krancjar springs to mind, although he'd spring back out again fairly quickly I imagine). It's hardly news to suggest that we are light in the striking department, but it does fairly boggle the mind that we are a Cole injury or suspension away from starting 17 year old Frank Nouble up front. On his own.

And then yesterday, James Collins departed. For £5m. When Andy Turner went for £12m. *rips out spleen*.

Certainly we are equipped to replace him with Gabbidon and Tomkins, but given that he was Zola's first choice so far this season, it is fair to suggest that in the managers eyes at least, we just got weaker for no apparent gain.

At this point, the League is probably crap enough to let us tread water until January, but the problem is that I can only foresee outgoings in that window and perhaps the odd Serie B loanee coming in to give us a boost up front.

I'm not saying I want us to mimic Stoke (ever, in any sense at all), but blimey they did spend £11m in this window. So it's not that there isn't money around English football at the moment, it's more that there isn't any around East London. And I'm not sure that projects can work without any funding at all....


  1. Anonymous11:45 PM

    I make you right terrible situation I pray to allah for help and hope we get some Arab funding soon!

  2. Anonymous9:54 PM

    Thanks H!

    i-Ron on WHO.

  3. Anonymous4:01 PM

    Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!