As HeadHammer Shark stagnates in his recliner, responding to his good lady wife’s pleas for a little help with the kids with a ‘whatever’-style gesture, never once taking his eyes from Wrestlemania on the Plasma, it has been left to me to post our bi-monthly article.
Yes, I missed the Bolton and Man City previews, but in hindsight can you blame me?
Sunday afternoon sees us take on Fulham at Upton Park in what has arguably become a must-win game so early in the season.
Fulham have had marginally better start than us after an exceptional year where they snatched 7th place (their highest ever finish) and the final Europa League spot from under the noses of several other clubs whom many thought a safer bet.
Woy Hodgson has done a fantastic job since arriving at Cwaven Cottage, staving off near-imminent welegation in his first season before qualifying for Euwope the next.
Hist team are altogether a sterner test than in recent years and by no means a banker at home. Aussie international Mark Schwarzer is a competent ‘keeper, veteran Danny Murphy keeps things ticking over in midfield, they have two mobile full-backs (one of them a genius) and Bobby Zamora just does well to stay on his feet with Andy Johnson diving all over the place.
Saying that, they too are in the midst of a poor run, arriving on the back of three consecutive defeats to Arsenal, Man City and Wolves.
Another recent similarity is that they have their fair share of injury worries, with new signing Damien Duff recently joining Simon Davies and Brede Hangeland on the injury list.
I’ve heard rumours that King Paintsil plans on exposing Derren Brown’s devilry at halftime before zooming off in a jet-pack from the centre circle, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
3. Case For The Defence
Monday night’s defeat to Man City highlighted a few areas at the root of our current plight, the most stark of which was the shocking defending on display for both goals from Pope Tevez.
We’ve conceded three goals in each of our last three matches. Cripes.
There were some shocking lapses, not least when our entire defence were simultaneously struck by a bout of narcolepsy as Tevez nodded in City’s third, one of three City players free at the far post.
Tomkins is the real deal, but he is only seven years old and a lack of positional experience was evident when he tried to both mark a player and cover the ball simultaneously, resulting in him doing neither and leaving Tevez with a tap-in.
Da Costa had a decent debut, but Matthew Upson’s absence was clear. Upson’s injury lay-off and the news that Danny Gabbidon has picked up another injury again throws the wisdom of selling James Collins into question.
Fullback’s Ilunga and Faubert both appear a little off the pace, be that fitness-wise or positionally, but I expect better to come from both.
The prospect of Faubert at right-back is not as bone-chilling as it once was, and for that he deserves credit. While there are obvious deficiencies, I think he’s done pretty well so far this year and could yet make the unlikely transition from pantomime villain to back-end-of-a-pantomime-horse.
4. Picture Book
'World Cup winner? Two time FIFA World Player Of The Year? But can you handle this?!'
Last season saw us beat Fulham 3-1 at the Boleyn.
Gentleman John Paintsil graciously put one on a plate for David DiMichele after a couple of minutes, having cunningly disguised his genius for total defensive incompetence.
This was followed by an absolute scorcher from another former Hammer, Paul Konchesky, who drilled an unstoppable shot past Green from somewhere near Leyton. It was reminiscent of Konchesky’s goal in the 2006 FA Cup Final, except this time he meant it.
Finally, Carlton Cole was brought down for a penalty, converted by Noble, before scoring himself.
In recent times Fulham have been our bitches, with us recording seven wins and a draw from our last eight encounters.
6. Picture Book
'£80million? What does that buy you? Does it buy you this?!'
5. Form and Function
During Zola’s post-match interview on Monday, it appeared as if the penny had dropped that passing endeavour is not enough when you’ve got four points from six games.
He has described Sunday’s match as “a cup final” and Scott Duxbury has sacrificed a couple of goats to his pagan gods on top of the usual kindergarten playgroup.
For all our neat passing in midfield, this admirable approach rarely makes it into the final third nor translates into a meaningful shot on goal.
Invariably, we are able to pass our way out of tight situations in and around our own penalty area, competently resisting the temptation to hoof it clear. This then creates the illusion of the beginnings of a fluid attack, only for a pass to go astray soon after we cross into opposition territory.
Another issue is our chronic lack of width. No-one’s consistently getting down the wings and no-one’s getting crosses into one of the bigger aerial threats in the league.
What we’re left with is restricted space combined with overly intricate passing moves, which more often than not flounder upon midfield congestion.
I’m all for our style of play, which demonstrates a sea-change in comparison to the Curbishley-era when we all cried ourselves to sleep. I’m merely highlighting that our inability to mix things up means that once we’ve been figured out, we’re largely nullified.