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

Friday, March 26, 2010

West Ham United vs Stoke City: Match Preview - 27/03/2010

1. Dictionary Corner

Despondent: (adj) feeling or showing profound hopelessness, dejection, discouragement or gloom.

This edition is going to be pretty glum, and we all know the reasons for that.

2. I’ll Huff And I’ll Puff And I’ll Blow Your House Down

Not only were we beaten at home by Wolves, not only were we beaten 3-1 at home by Wolves, we were comprehensively outplayed at home by Wolves.

There was nothing there on Tuesday night, many players looking as if they were already looking to next season, concerned only with where else they’ll be playing their football.

Wolves were industrious and composed in midfield, organised in defence and capitalised on poor errors with fine finishing. We couldn’t take advantage of an Essex girl on her third bottle of Lambrini.

Our movement upfront is confused and ineffective and we have achieved the considerable feat of becoming a side lesser than the sum of its parts. We are simply too easy to play against.

Stick two players on Parker, get physical with our ‘attacking midfielders’, and let Kovac, Upson, Tomkins and the full-backs have the ball as much as they want, cos they’ll do nothing with it. Job done.

Our only outside chance at scoring is either from a penalty or on the counter, so if we break, the opposition merely has to foul someone, reassemble their troops and watch us ineffectively try to forge an opening.

None of the players can have any complaints about a backlash. What everyone knew to be a vital game produced a performance as toothless as a jellyfish with gum disease. Few turned up, and those who did played like strangers.

They should’ve been read the riot act after that performance, but are more likely to have got a consoling pat on the back from Zola and a plea for a reaction against Stoke City.

Pardew paid the price of being too matey with what were effectively his employees, and Zola is creeping closer to the same fate.

Every team in the league looks at us as a good chance for three points, home or away. Even a draw on Tuesday would’ve further dejected Burnley and Hull, but now they’ll have renewed belief.

The fans relationship with the team is currently a loveless marriage: passing each other on our way downstairs to the Championship, staying together for the sake of the kids as we cast furtive glances at fans whose teams can string more than two results together.

Stoke, Sunderland, Wigan and Man City at home. It’s all too easy to see defeats coming there, and then we’re doomed.

3. Opposition

This week’s victors are Stoke City – Orcs of the Premier League who bludgeon and batter their way to survival, but they’re six places and nine points ahead of us.

What better tonic for our midweek dirge than seeing us steamrollered by anti-football?

Stoke will shape our season significantly in these last few weeks. After this weekend, they face Hull at home and Wolves away in their following two games. They also play Bolton before the end of the season.

They are not in great form, having picked up two points in their last five matches, but that’s two more than we've managed.

Their main attacking threat is from a throw-in, something they actually celebrate and commercially exploit up in the wastelands of Stoke, and they are largely comprised of big burly men, whippets and assault charges.

They should be beaten. They should be despatched from whence they came with a hiding and a moral crisis, but there’s every chance they’ll get the measure of our ‘better’ players.

The would have taken nothing but confidence from Tuesday night’s abomination and feel that all they have to do is turn up and put themselves about, and we’ll fold.

4. History

Earlier this season we lost 2-1 at The Brittania Stadium, never really getting to grips with the game, the concept of ‘football’, or the falsehood that the home crowd wield the mightiest roar in the land.

Matthew Upson scored from a corner to level things at 1-1, before having his face punched across The Potteries by Robert Huth.

Stoke went on to win, and I can’t even be bothered to finish this sentenfrgjy[pyi[jyet…..

5. Picture Book

A clearly punch-drunk Sugar Ray Leonard wonders ‘how the hell did this happen?’

6. Tale From The Top

Vampiric smut baron, David Sullivan, took the characteristic yet uncommon step this week of issuing a fierce public broadside to his staff.

In an open letter he rightly described Tuesday night as "shambolic" and "pathetic", derided the imbalance of the squad and declared "nobody at the club should delude themselves we are a good team."

Sullivan is obviously hoping to provoke a reaction for the Stoke game similar to that which followed his pay-cut threat prior to the win over Birmingham City.
If the desired response is not forthcoming, he can cite candour and his wish to forge a relationship with the fans.

Combined with a plea for both clemency and renewed support for Saturday, this is a canny move all-round from one half of our chairmanship.

He obviously hopes to stir a reaction as virulent as my aversion to Vegemite, which let me tell you is pretty violent.

7. Upson Downs

Further down the pecking order, club captain, Matthew Upson, has labelled Sullivan’s outburst “irrelevant” and spoken of the obvious need to regain some, any, semblance of teamwork.

Upson’s leadership on Tuesday night was nonexistent. Simple acts like reassuring young James Tomkins after his error for the first goal, were not forthcoming, and he looked as uninterested as any when it is his role to address player apathy.

Upson has confessed of his need to work on leadership, rightly observing that these things take time, but he is a senior player and time is short.

He needs to prove that we did not sell the wrong central defender in January. He needs to prove he has what it takes to be a leader of men. And Junior Stanislas.

Whatever his leadership style may be (vocal, by example, Marxist), he has to show it in spades and quickly.

8. Picture Book

‘I tol’ you, Carlton – you get any jip from-a di fans, you just give them di back-hander. Like-a dis – Eh-MEEHHH!!’

Friday, March 19, 2010

Arsenal vs West Ham United: Match Preview - 20/03/2010

1. Opposition

Arsenal away this week, as we attempt to keep our cumulative concessions against a member of the top three to less than five goals.

The Gunners appear to be coming into form at just the right time. They have weathered a few storms this season, most notably the lengthy absence of Robin van Persie; as well as a merry-go-round of goalkeepers, the audible groans from Sol Campbell’s knees and the traditional broken leg inflicted by the proletariat.

The fact that they remain in the title race at all is more indicative of Man United and Chelsea’s inability to consolidate in the manner they have in previous seasons.

Arsenal’s proximity to the league leaders belies a lack of depth in certain areas and their squad doesn’t match those of the top two. The quality is certainly there, but it is thin on the ground, as brittle as a porcelain doll with post-traumatic stress disorder taking the witness stand.

The fops at The Emirates will hardly care if they win their first title in six seasons, but it can no longer be said that they are a team in transition.

With the rumoured departure of William Gallas and persistent injuries to Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky, Eduardo and van Persie, it is the familiar story of a full-strength Arsenal being formidable, but the predominant theme remaining ‘same old Arsenal, legs are creaking’.

2. Damage Limitation

Last week I proffered the opinion that a hard-fought drubbing will do us more good than a pliant narrow defeat.

This week I am inclined to think that back-to-back heavy losses could irreparably damage our confidence as we clamber up the lifeline cast by an imminent run of home fixtures.

It was noticeable how the team deflated after Chelsea’s second goal last weekend, having competed for the first hour. A similar result on Saturday, regardless of the performance, would leave morale tenuously shaky in the run-up to a crucial spell.

3. History

Earlier this season, a 2-2 draw at The Boleyn threatened to herald a turning point after a poor run of home form. A subsequent spluttering run of results is now a matter of public record – although not on this blog. Ahem.

The score draw was all the more notable as we came from two goals down to nick a point. Arsenal were 2-0 up and cruising courtesy of van Persie and Gallas, before Carlton Cole capitalised on a howler from their fifth stand-in substitute first choice ‘keeper, Vito Mannone. Alessandro Diamante then opened his account with a well-taken penalty to claim a point.

Arsenal will look back on that game as one of a few missed opportunities this season, which could ultimately scupper their title ambitions.

Last year’s trip to The Emirates garnered a point during a good run of form for us. We all would have taken a draw pre-game, but a lack of cohesion in the home side combined with mild panic from us whenever we ventured into their half, resulted in leaving the ground with a point in the bag allied to a strange sense of missed opportunity.

However, any mild irritation was banished by the memory of the halftime canap├ęs, which were excellent, matched by a full-bodied Pinot Noir of fine vintage.

4. Danish Patsy

Nicklas Bendtner is one of those professional footballers whom I reckon I could give a run for his money.

Some of his failings would see any schoolboy rightly booed from the playground, yet Arsene Wenger has kept faith with the big Dane and he has scored some important goals against Porto and Burnley recently.

Bendtner’s goal tally is only respectable thanks to the sheer amount of chances his teammates lay on for him. His 'goals scored' vs 'sitters skied' ratio would make for interesting reading, but I’m happy for him to score just enough to remain employed if it keeps Wenger’s predatory gaze from Big Carlton.

5. Picture Book

‘Barcelona? Down here, straight over the roundabout and left at the lights.’

6. Zo Selecta!

Zola’s team selection last week was surprising, with both Mido and Ilan preferred to the exclusion of Diamante and Cole.

If the strike partnership was unexpected, Kieron Dyer’s inclusion in midfield was astounding. I haven’t been so taken aback since I found out Simon Cowell was straight.

Dyer surely wouldn’t be first choice if Collison was fit, and I’m surprised he ousted Diamante, although I expect that decision to be reversed this week.

Young Swiss, Fabio Daprela, looked decent at right back. He can’t be any worse than Faubert defensively and so probably warrants a run in the side. Actual defenders playing in defensive positions often help in games like this.

With Calum Davenport now free to appear on the Jeremy Kyle special ‘Warring Siblings Stab Out Reconciliation’, Danny Gabbidon will have more opportunity to try and reclaim the form of a few years ago

His brief appearances this season have been average (skinned by Giggs at Upton Park, underwhelming against Chelsea), but that is to be expected after such a long time out.

He may have to adapt his game to a more all-purpose defender, as James Tomkins has superceded him in the centre of defence.

I imagine we’ll line up in a similar incarnation to last week, with Cole starting, Diamante reinstated on the wing, and one of several striking options partnering Big Carlton upfront.

We have to get in at halftime no more than a goal adrift. Our comeback from two-down at The Boleyn was unlikely, at The Emirates it would be impossible.

7. Altitude Sickness

The arrival of huge investment and/or debt at the league’s biggest clubs has come at the expense of grassroots atmosphere.

Manchester United can generate volume, but only thanks to their huge capacity. The Glazers ownership has spawned a yellow and green coloured resistance among pockets of die-hard fans, but they are vastly outnumbered by largely inconspicuous glory-hunters and tourists.

Chelsea have become a joke. I am reliably informed that their latest attempt to breathe life into the fetid corpse of Stamford Bridge revolves around synchronised flag-waving, part of a policy to one day oust singing with semaphore.

You’d almost feel sorry for them if you didn’t hate them so much.

United and Chelsea have been blighted in the crowd credibility stakes by an influx of pretenders, but Arsenal are a curious case in that their support has remained consistent in make-up but seldom vocal.

The board, staff and fans at The Emirates are predominantly all powdered wigs and pantaloons. Content to register their disappointment with an aristocratic sneer or a strongly-worded email, years of boarding school has tempered any instinct for jovial camaraderie.

Perhaps success, generations of inbreeding and birthright entitlement has led to an unshakable, emotionally staid repression (a theory which would explain why we are such a rabble-rousing bunch of bi-polar bin men), or perhaps I just enjoy goading my gooner mates too much.

David Seaman? A poor man’s Alan McKnight.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Chelsea vs West Ham United: Match Preview - 13/03/2010

1. Science Fiction

You may have noticed that previews have been absent these last few weeks. Initially due to unforseen circumstances, this prolonged absence evolved into a social experiment.

Our Caligula-esque self-regard combined with an innate lethargy has led us here at The H List to believe our convoluted musings somehow influence reality.

I am personally convinced that the frequency of blog postings are inversely proportionate to West Ham results.

As evidence, I offer the following:

(i) the last preview was for Burnley away, which we duly lost 2-1

(ii) the ensuing divorce from cyberspace 'coincided' with home wins against Birmingham and Hull City

(iii) we scored five unanswered goals and recorded back-to-back wins for the first and only time this season.

An away trip to Man United ended with us on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline, but I maintain that we played pretty well, with a good attitude and there was much to be taken from the game. Most notably Mark Noble, who should be taken as far away from the first team as possible.

Saturday's loss to Bolton was an irreconcilable anomaly and one that can have no bearing on sound scientific experimentation such as this.

Our continual defeats to Bolton are demonstrable absolutes akin to Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, and the reasoning behind why Kerry Katona must be spayed.

So there you have it: four missed previews, back-to-back wins, a decent performance at Old Trafford and the aberration of Bolton Wanderers. Utterly conclusive.

So, why am I posting another preview if it will directly lead to a further loss and/or underwhelming performance? Well, it's Chelsea this week so I figure we're on a hiding to nothing.

That said, we can fare reasonably well at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea are not in the red hot form of a few months ago.

2. Picture Book

FF: 'Don't worry about the penalty, JT - I'll always be there for you.'

3. History

Last season saw us claim a deserved 1-1 draw, Celtic goblin Craig Bellamy putting us one up before Nicolas Anelka redressed the balance.

We even had chances to win it with Carlton Cole clean through at the death, only to scuff his shot, allowing Petr Cech to cradle the ball as gently as you would a newborn child forged from Kinder Eggs.

I’m not saying we will claim as much as a point on Saturday, and a defeat will warrant no more dejection than a resigned shrug of the shoulders, but I am perversely more confident of taking something from this game than from Bolton’s visit last weekend.

And there’s something very wrong with that scenario.

4. You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two

It’s clear that our season will be largely determined by our home form. With fixtures against Stoke City, Wolves, Sunderland and Wigan remaining, it is at Upton Park that the embers of hope will burn brightest.

As we all know, however, home games against the likes of Wigan and Wolves are by no means a sure thing, and I think that nabbing a point at places like Stamford Bridge this week or The Emirates the next, will play as vital a role in the tale of our survival.

Four of our five remaining away games involve visits to Chelsea, Arsenal, Anfield, Goodison Park and Manchester City. All of these teams still have something to play for and if we could nick four points or more from these games, it would lessen the pressure on home ties and thereby produce more composed performances at The Boleyn.

Alternately, if these away matches are largely written off in terms of genuine opportunity, they should then be employed as exercises in abandon, pitting our attacking instincts against the better teams so that we are equipped to despatch the lesser teams.

5. Picture Book

FF: 'I can't believe you'd cheat on me with that bint.'

JT: 'Babes, I swear, I'll make it up to you...'

FF: 'Don't..... It's still too raw...'

6. Captain Marvel

Saturday provides our travelling support the first opportunity to reacquaint themselves with John ‘I Have The Morality Of A Crackhead Weasel’ Terry.

Terry is bound to come in for some proper stick, and deservedly so. The vitriol spewed his way may even eclipse that directed at Lampard, the one time Corpulent Francis will ever be eclipsed by anything smaller than St. Pancras Station.

John ‘I Make Judas Iscariot Look Like June Whitfield‘ Terry has scored a couple of goals of late and has undoubtedly found solace among his home support - a support so principled they saw fit to boo former player Wayne Bridge for having the temerity not to shake the hand of the man who slept with the mother of his child.

A crass lack of intellect affords Terry a resilient and confident nature, which only reinforces the view that he deserves to be continually reminded of this devious indiscretion for the rest of his career.

John ‘Keep Your Thirty Pieces Of Silver, I’ll Do It For Free’ Terry has never been popular with Hammers fans, and he has foolishly given the already well-equipped vocal support yet more ammunition with which to deride him. Stand back and enjoy the show.

7. Truth Or Dare

We can’t afford any more lacklustre displays this season. We’ve been made to sit through our fair share of dross and the well of excuses has run dry.

Everyone knows now what is at stake and going 2-0 down to Bolton after just fifteen minutes is unacceptable.

A tricky Champions League tie at home to Inter Milan on Tuesday night will do nothing to divert Chelsea from Saturday afternoon, neither in terms of concentration nor team selection – particularly after their most recent loss at home to Man City and with City’s neighbours reclaiming top spot.

Chelsea are as physical as Bolton in their own way, but have the added bonus of boasting actual professional footballers. If, deep down, we’re expecting to lose, then I say go for the throat from the outset.

A 2-0 or 3-1 defeat suffered in the manner of our recent trip to Old Trafford will serve us better than a 1-0 loss sustained under 90+minutes of utter bombardment, a stunted lack of ambition swinging from our necks like a fudge-coated albatross.

Carlton Cole will be up for it and while he is not yet back to 100%, he can certainly ruffle the preened feathers of Portuguese Peacock, Ricardo Carvalho, or John ‘I’d Bang Your Wife In The Blink Of An Eye’ Terry.

The defence certainly need to step up. They hinted at form a couple of weeks ago and need to regain that thrifty cohesion quickly.

In midfield, this is probably an instance where Kovac and Parker will be required in tandem, despite my previous protestations at the validity of this axis. Get Noble out of the line-up as he provides neither attacking purpose nor defensive steel.

Behrami needs to be full of running and Diamanti full of swagger, tempered with a touch of reason – killer through balls should not be attempted every single time one is in possession, Alessandro.

Finally, wire up Luis Boa Morte to an IV solution of barbiturates, grizzly bear protoplasm and Irn-Bru, and send him on for the last 20-minutes. I guarantee he’ll score. Guarantee it.