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

Saturday, August 21, 2010

West Ham 1 - 3 Bolton Wanderers (And Other Ramblings)

1. Sympathy For The Author

Apropos of absolutely nothing. Here is a discussion I had with Mrs Shark last night as I spent 3 hours moving bricks from one part of our garden to another during a Biblical rainstorm. I was doing this because we have workmen coming today to lay some decking:

Me: "God, I'm tired"
Mrs Shark: "Why"
Me: "Well, I just moved about 200 hundred heavy bricks. In the rain"
Mrs Shark: "You shouldn't have left it until the night before then should you?"

Because, obviously, bricks get heavier the longer you leave them in the garden.

Why, I hear you wondering, for the love of God, are you telling us this?

Well, dear reader, because it is either this or write about another home defeat to Bolton. I'm only thinking of your sanity.

2. Is It A Bird

"AKA - Kevin Davies. Alright, go on then YOU explain it"

3. The Opposition

I hate Bolton. "Hate" is a strong word but seriously, I hate them. The footballing equivalent of the Flat Earth Society arrived at Upton Park with confidence flowing, largely at the sight of our trembling back 4, and proceeded to beat us in exactly the same way as they have for the previous 5 years.

I would argue that Owen Coyle's greatest achievement is nothing he has done on the pitch but rather the way he appears to have convinced the nations media that he has substantially altered Bolton's style. The three goals in this game were so obviously Boltonian that they may aswell just copyright them and prevent Blackburn attempting to imitate them when they visit us.

Coyle's drug addled claim that Bolton played some good stuff in this game makes no sense to me at all. The first goal was a traditional hoof, which culminated in Kevin Davies planting a "Bolton kiss" on Matthew Upson and spreading his nose all over his face as he haplessly headed past Green. The second and third goals were scored by Johan Elmander, which in itself suggests a Faustian interference. His first was a thumping unmarked header from a cross and the second was from another long ball and some typically hallucinogenic defending and that lead to a straightforward tap in.

I am not saying that Bolton didn't deserve to win this game. Of course they did, in fact, they always do. But Owen - don't piss on our legs and tell us it's raining. Your team is as uniformly awful as ever and the fact that you once had Jack Wilshere on loan doesn't make you the second coming of Honved.

I mean, seriously, Paul Robinson. No further evidence M'lud.

4. The Opposition Donkey

Johan Elmander has scored 12 (twelve!) goals for Bolton in the 3 years he has been there. Of that enormous total, 3 have come against us, making us one quarter of his victims. As Russell Brand might say : "My eyes! My eyes! Take my eyes but don't let Elmander score against us!".

How difficult is it to concede a goal to Johan Elmander? Incredibly. The only feasible explanation is as follows:

25 mins - your full backs are savaged by a pride of lions
45 mins - your centre halves finally give in to temptation and elope to Gretna Green
60 minutes - your defensive midfielder turns out to be little more than a theory devised by a crazy Russian physicist.

Even then I would be wondering how it would be possible given that the goalkeeper is still there.

Worse still is the fact that Elmander actually should have scored a hat trick but squandered a very early chance, hindered by the dual problem that it was early in the game and that he is Johan Fucking Elmander.

5. The Statistics

Per ESPN the possession was split evenly at 50% although we mustered a heftier 22 goal attempts to the visitors 13. Sadly, of Bolton's 5 goal bound attempts they scored from 3, rendering all other statistical analysis moot.

Perhaps more pertinently, Mark Noble opened our scoring for the season for the third year in a row, which does rather suggest that our strikers haven't been tremendously prolific.

6. Cole Patrol

Poor old Carlton was meekly booed from the pitch after a truly Elmanderian performance that included a horribly scuffed penalty that Jaaskelainen saved by moving all of about 3 muscles.

Quite why he took the penalty is really beyond me given that Noble was on the pitch. More than any other Hammer, Cole is a confidence player, and more than any other keeper Jaaskelainen plays brilliantly against us. Cole hasn't looked overly impressive so far this season and his penalty subsequently resembled nothing so much as Fredi Kanoute's hopeless effort against Arsenal in our relegation season.

I have only ever seen Cole take one penalty, against Burnley last year, which he side footed straight down the middle in a thoroughly unimpressive matter. Mark Noble, by contrast, is confident enough to have taken plenty of spot kicks for both West Ham and England and been largely successful. Most importantly, he is strong enough to survive missing them which Cole clearly isn't, having seen his woeful performance after the miss.

I simply do not believe we should be endorsing a penalty taking policy of "He who earns it, spurns it".

7. Not So Dyer After All

Not too much on this point, as I have had my fingers burned by Kieron Dyer before, but it was somewhat exciting to see Dyer buzzing about on the left hand side. His direct predecessor was Luis Boa Morte, who had looked as effective as ever, so Dyer's direct running and clever passing was a welcome relief. He very nearly opened the scoring but was denied by a marvellous Jaaskelainen save, and faded soon after.

On the opposite side, Pablo Barrera was equally lively, even as his legs were being scythed away by Paul Robinson. In home games against lesser opposition these two are a decent option but I would be fairly concerned if we were relying on them away from Upton Park, what with our defence currently attempting to redefine the word "porous".

8. The Myth Of Our Difficult Early Start

All I hear about these days is how unkind the fixture list has been to us this year. Bear in mind that at this juncture we have played only Aston Villa (a) and Bolton (h). In last years Premier League season only three teams (Birmingham, Stoke, Portsmouth) didn't gain at least a point from those same fixtures.

Now our next two games are Man Utd (a) and Chelsea (h) which are, of course, incredibly tough and rather obvious looking defeats, but I think it is rather putting the horse before the cart to suggest that our first two games were all that tricky.

Of course, having lost those games with some largely insipid play to blame, we now look forward to run of games that takes in the aforementioned defeats and then Stoke (a) followed by spurs (h). Perhaps the worst part about this is that by the time we play Fulham it is entirely possible we will already be well adrift at the bottom of the league without a point (as opposed to being pointless, like Fulham).

And on that cheery note...

9. Department Of It Could Be Worse

"Ladies and gentleman, please welcome your new West Ham manager...Phil Brown!"

10. Ciao Alessandro

Unusually we had to wait for quite a while before our first sale of the summer as mercurial sort Alessandro Diamanti was sold to Brescia for £1.8m. A lot of people, my illustrious writing partner included, have been most put out by this, claiming it represents a loss of £4.8m on the original £6m outlay.

It strikes me that anyone who thinks we actually paid that much for Diamanti is largely insane. Seriously, you think we sold Collins for £5m and then paid £6m for Diamanti. As in, a net loss on a player? How long have you people been following West Ham! When have we ever done this? Don't you remember the whole "Oh look we sold Craig Bellamy for £15m but we're spending £9m on Savio. Well, when I say £9m I really mean £3m plus a further £6m if he turns out to be half dolphin."

West Ham were owned by asset stripping creditors when Diamanti was brought in. I have no doubt that the actual figure was significantly lower than £6m, but that the Club was perfectly happy for you to think it was that high because it made you think they were still investing in the team rather than paying off debt.

As for his value to the team, pfft. I don't particularly feel that fussed at losing a one paced, one footed player with no real position and questionable fitness. There was a certain renegade aspect to Diamanti's play that I quite enjoyed, but his departure will have next to no bearing on the outcome of our season.

Worrying about Diamanti's departure would be like the captain of the Titanic turning to his First Mate and saying "Tell you what Bill, I'm just not sure whether the paint on this boat is water resistant enough..."

And besides..... Kieron Dyer abides.

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