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, October 22, 2009

West Ham United vs Arsenal: Match Preview - 25/10/2009

1. Black Dog

Writing this crap can have an effect on the soul. It’s a sorry state of affairs when the highlight of the season thus far has been a riot.

There has been precious little to cheer. Any cause célèbre (Cole’s screamer against tottenham) has swiftly been negated (Cole’s mesmeric through-ball to Defoe), and the only home win, albeit against Millwall, was a defeat until the 87th minute.

Maybe you reap what you sow. Heckling for attractive football over results has got me in this pickle and the ham-fisted nature of our attacking play has forced me to take a big bite out of a stale reality-sandwich.

2. Opposition

Our Premiership coffin already nicely taking shape, aristocratic fops, Arsenal, slum it at Upton Park on Sunday afternoon, sure to buff any splintered edges with their ivory-handled emery boards.

This season’s title-race looks to be the most open for years, and Arsenal currently look as likely as any to stake a solid claim.

Belgian centre-back Thomas Vermaelen has proven another astute purchase by Arsene Wenger. Already scoring four times this season and looking capable at the back, the left-footer provides balance in the middle alongside walking tantrum, William Gallas.

Cesc Fabregas continues to pull the strings in midfield and is sure to keep on kissing his badge right up until he signs for Barcelona.

Notably this season, the departure of Emmanuel Adebayor has enabled Robin Van Persie to finally take centre stage up front, emerging from the shadow of Adebayor and Thierry Henry.

Van Persie oozes class (except with the ladies) and his Feyenoord upbringing has lead to a touch of the Bergkamp’s in his close control, as illustrated by recent goals against Birmingham and Fulham.

The Gunners remain susceptible to conceding, risking defensive solidity for aesthetic perfection. As they often commit both full-backs forward, hitting them on the break at pace is as likely a route to goal as any, so Zavon Hines could prove useful.

Scoring could also prove useful. As could having a shot on goal. Getting a cross in might get us somewhere. And making a valid substitution before second half injury time is also something to consider.

Arsenal’s weakness since the departure of their famous back four has been a brittle underbelly to their beautiful play. As the likes of Bolton have proven on a few occasions, get in amongst them and they often fold rather than risk spilling their 1945 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild.

Of course, we choose to eschew this established wisdom and take on the best footballing side in the League at actual football, for goodness sake. Inevitably, we often come off second best and I see no reason to believe that Sunday will be any different.

3. History

Last season’s corresponding fixture finished 2-0 to the Gunners, although we held our own for an hour until Julien Faubert deflected a shot into his own net.

The introduction of Emmanuel Adebayor in the second half highlighted the gulf in class and he competently put Arsenal two-up to seal the result.

Generally speaking, we haven’t done too badly against Arsenal over the years. The famous ‘last team at Highbury, first team at Emirates’ chant will always be something to cling to in these barren times, but that it takes on increasing importance tells its own story.

4. Attribute The Quote:

'One day I will be King of Europe...'

5. Ask Not For Whom The Bell Tolls

Right. The situation is dire. Which is almost as terminal as Dyer.

One win so far this season, five points from eight games, second bottom of the table and three tricky fixtures just round the corner.

At Stoke I stood among the meat pie-wielding masses to witness West Ham stroke the ball impotently from right wing to left without ever thinking to, I don’t know, run forwards?

The incessant lateral nonsense put me in mind of staring at windscreen wipers whilst driving through a torrential downpour. Right, left, right, left, right, left…. Futilely straining against the inevitable as the wheels come off and we aquaplane into oblivion.

Zola came out after the game saying that he took solace in the manner of our play, but I can’t see how. Yes, we dominated Stoke for spells, but dominating a team like Stoke is not enough.

For all the tidy play out of our own half, after a few side to sides, we often resort to a hopeful ball up to Cole. If that is always to be the ultimate result, why not lump it up there early before he’s surrounded by three defenders?

No-one is threading in neat passes, and more endemic is that no-one is finding any space when not in possession. Give the ball, stand still, get it back, pass it sideways.

If Mark Noble receives possession on the edge of the area again and turns back towards Rob Green, I’m going to loop Cheryl Cole’s new video on his TV. With the vision off and the sound up.

6. Picture Book

Arsene Wenger illustrates the need for a high-fibre diet

7. Behrami Army

Valon Behrami is West Ham’s night light – he never illuminates proceedings to a huge extent, but you’re always glad he’s there. More than most, he seems to understand what it is that endears a player to the fans.

While Junior Stanislas and Julien Faubert were lauding the former’s injury-time equaliser against a 10-man Fulham, it was Behrami dragging them back to the halfway line for the re-start.

Always full of running and never short of endeavour, he’d be one of the first names on my teamsheet – along with myself up front, a coked-up Mark Ward on the wing (imagine the pace) and HeadHammer Shark, the proverbial bus parked in front of the goal.

Although he constitutes one half of a suspect defensive axis with Faubert down our right-hand side, Behrami is arguably our most consistent performer.

The antithesis of the self-important Nigel Reo-Coker and one of the few positives from the Curbishley era, Behrami knows the score:

“I think the team has to lift the crowd. If they see that every player challenges and runs, it’s easier for the people to get behind you… it’s down to us, the players.”


  1. Wow this all makes for very happy reading ;)

  2. All that great effort in producing an excellent post and the game will end in a tonking.

    They can score from areas of the pitch and I can just see Cole up there on his own waving in desperation.

  3. Well we were all wrong

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