Anyone not making Romelu Lukaku their Fantasy League captain in the week he plays against West Ham is not trying.
Yes, we were really marking him this closely
2. As You Like It
In 1990, I was struggling in that musical hinterland between being 11 years old, thinking that Jason Donovan and Technotronic were worth listening to, and discovering the music that would sustain me through my teenage years.
The year before, The Stone Roses had arrived but I wouldn't properly appreciate their impact for a few months and I was far too young to understand the acid house scene that was hugely prevalent at the time. Imagine my delight then, when I stumbled across a brilliant song called Strawberry Fields Forever.
I waited all day to hear it again on the radio and taped it for my Dad to listen to when he got home from work. And when he did, I corralled him and played him.....this
Why I am regaling you with this tale, and forcing you to watch a man visibly off his nut on drugs murdering a Beatles classic while his mate smashes a violin for no obvious purpose? Because I want you to think about duality and nuance.
I shall never forget my Dad trying to explain to me that this thing I was in love with had it's origins in genius but wasn't really any good. I probably never really understood that point until I watched Jordi Cruyff play football, but it would be a valuable life lesson. It is possible to hold two opinions about the same thing at once. Nuance is important.
Bear with me, I'm going to be returning to that point.
3. A Comedy Of Errors
I'm still struggling to figure out exactly how we ended up losing this game quite so comprehensively. For the first twenty minutes our 3-4-1-2 system worked it's magic and Payet and Lanzini were able to get on the ball with regularity and purpose.
In that opening period we carved out two great chances for Obiang and Lanzini, but neither were taken and Everton gradually came into the game. The miss from Obiang was especially egregious as I can't figure out how he managed to blaze it quite so high and wide without wearing a pair of skis.
Sadly, Ross Barkley - living proof that if you're from Liverpool you get a hairstyle at the age of 11 and by God you stick to it - became more influential and we never quite managed to regain a proper foothold in the game.
The Everton goal when it came, was an absolute masterclass in terrible defending. Seamus Coleman was somehow allowed to get a shot on goal despite having about as much room as I do in the shoe cupboard I share with my wife, and then the rebound was pounced upon by Bolasie whilst our back four did......absolutely nothing.
Seriously, watch that goal back. It's like when Zack Morris used to freeze episodes of Saved By The Bell so he could break the fourth wall and speak to the camera. Our back four just stand there with the honourable exception of Winston Reid who did that weird knee slide thing he does, which didn't stop the cross to Lukaku who was stood unmarked about 2 yards from goal because why would anyone from West Ham ever bother to mark Romelu Lukaku.
4. Love's Labours Lost
I went on a "Disco Boat" once when I was younger, at the invite of a family friend. It was for his cousins 18th birthday party, and the idea was that everybody boarded at Embankment and the boat then sailed up and down the Thames for four hours while everyone got drunk.
On this particular occasion the boyfriend of the birthday girl decided to split up with her, just as the boat was leaving the dock. He thus trapped himself with his tearful (now ex) girlfriend and her severely pissed off family for four hours.
So, anyway, talking of dreadful decision making I feel I need to comment upon our attacking threat at Goodison Park. I can't even get annoyed that we missed lots of great chances, because we missed the opportunity to actually create any great chances. Whenever we got within sniffing distance of a dangerous position it seemed like we took the wrong choice.
The best example might have been the second half passage of play when Antonio turned Ashley Williams inside out only to squander the chance to pick out Ayew inside the box. The ball then broke free to Lanzini with the chance still very much alive, at which point he decided to try and rabona the ball into the goal, from outside the box. I mean, Christ I'm no Troy Deeney, but there's a time and a place.
We actually looked pretty dangerous when we broke, largely due to the pace of Antonio, but if we can't do a better job of generating scoring opportunities from good possession then we're in for a long season.
Perhaps our lack of cutting edge today can be best embodied by the weird formations we deployed. We started with 3-4-2-1, moved to 3-4-3 when Obiang went off before progressing to "Do whatever you want lads we're screwed anyway" by the time Zaza appeared.
5. Two Gentlemen Of Verona
Just a quick word on Dimitri Payet. I love him, but he was fairly crap today, and worryingly disengaged as we notionally launched a second half fightback.
We forced 8 corners today and Payet put 3 of them out of play and smashed another one at Edimilson Fernandes who was about 20 yards outside of the box and understandably perplexed to receive the ball. He capped that off by taking the worst free kick I've seen since this thing:
Not a great day at the office then. It happens, he's still great. We can cope with that little bit of duality. Strikingly, he was far more present in the corresponding fixture last year, when we were also 2-0 down with 12 minutes to go. Then he drove us forward to an unlikely 3-2 victory that was possibly our maddest win of the season.
The truth is, we had a roughly 7% chance of winning that game from where we were. As I've written before we lose about 70% of games where concede first so even with Payet off colour we were struggling here as soon as we decided not to bother marking Romelu Lukaku when he was stood two yards from our goal.
6. A Midsummer Night's Dream
Over the course of this pre-season the board exercised their customary discretion and announced to the world their intention to pursue a list of top European strikers. They obtained none of them, eventually settling on a seemingly desperate £20m deal for Andre Ayew and this oddly structured loan deal for Simone Zaza.
I feel like I'm talking about the latter every week, but that's largely because our strikers are currently being outscored by our defenders, and it's not even close.
As well as I thought Antonio foraged today, it's pretty clear that his best attributes are his power running that he uses to great effect wide on the pitch, and his gift for ghosting in at the back post to score goals. Neither of these really scream "centre forward" although who the hell knows these days given that Bilic seems to think they do scream "right back".
I don't think Simone Zaza is the answer, but just one last comment on that. We feel like we know footballers these days. They're constantly present as they tweet us about their dinner, post thanks to their sponsors on Instagram and do Q&A's on Facebook. We feel like we know them intimately.
But we know nothing. We have no idea who is trying to cope with a death in the family, or the fact their marriage is breaking down, or who is sitting alone in a luxury flat unable to venture out due to their lack of English, or who has huge money worries because they invested their fortune in a crazy project in their home country or indeed anything about them at all.
Zaza is a good player, but it's not working out. I don't know why not, but right now we are playing without a recognised striker and it's killing us. Ayew might be the answer, he might not, but without a striker who carries a goal scoring threat it's going to be a constant struggle this season.
I know I'm not alone in suggesting that we just go ahead and buy Lukaku, which has a bit more duality given that he could no longer score against us but would also lose most of his value without being able to play West Ham.
The H List - An Addendum
7. The Tempest
I haven't done this before, but I feel like the events on Wednesday against Chelsea need revisiting. When I got home from the stadium I thought that I'd seen a bit of misbehaving, but that a "sort of" successful security operation had just about kept fans apart, with most of what transpired being largely posturing. Dan Silver reflected my thoughts pretty well here.
It's fairly clear however, that things went a bit further than that, with the fall out for the Club being serious enough that apparently a naming rights deal fell through, presumably leaving the way clear for Stone Island to fill the gap.
There were some reasonable commentary pieces written about events, although these were mostly by West Ham fans in the media such as Jacob Steinberg of The Guardian and Martin Samuel of The Mail. These were, rightly, far from uncritical of our supporters, but at least attempted to redress the balance by providing some context.
8. Much Ado About Nothing
There were also efforts like this from Paul Hayward, a journalist I have always admired but who should be embarrassed to put his name to such indolent writing. He suggests that West Ham play behind closed doors as a result of these crowd disturbances, a punishment totally unprecedented in the Premier League era.
Paul might argue that these crowd troubles are equally unprecedented but even 5 minutes of research would show that to be untrue. HERE is footage of Hull and Salford rugby league fans fighting on the pitch at the start of this month, and HERE is a clip of Liverpool fans openly fighting with Sevilla fans at the Europa League final in May. Inside the ground, at a prestige event, with the eyes of the world upon them.
By almost any reckoning, both of these events were far worse than what occurred at the Chelsea game and yet I'm struggling to find the equivalent articles that Paul wrote about them.
And that's where I lose my faith in our current journalistic population - there seems to be no nuance in the reporting about West Ham anymore. We've got a good deal for a stadium being funded by "taxpayers" - as though West Ham fans don't pay taxes - and therefore it's open season.
Owned by pornographers, watched by scum, in a pristine stadium that belongs to the country. Nuance can take a fucking hike.
This guy is a Chelsea fan, not that you'd ever know it from how it was reported
So look, the coverage that the game received was ludicrous. The events were serious, but the reporting wildly overblown. Nuance. Duality. It's possible to hold those two views at once.
9. Measure For Measure
But here's something we all need to face up to - what happened on Wednesday was totally unacceptable. And not in a "Donald Trump apologising" kind of way, but in the actual sense of the word. Look at what's it's done to the Club. MP's are suggesting we need to play behind closed doors, sponsors are falling away and everywhere you look there is negative publicity about West Ham. Don't kid yourself that this is a media agenda or a false construct. There has been trouble at all of our home games this year - I even described the Watford game as the worst football watching experience of my life.
So you need to ask yourself something - do you secretly approve of this stuff? I ask, because so much of what I see and hear from West Ham fans when they talk about our hooligan element is wrapped up in this odd sense of satisfaction. Do you take a visceral, vicarious pride in the fact that we have plenty of fans who want to fight the opposition? That we smash up opposition buses and sing anti-semitic songs when we play Spurs?
Do you quietly like the fact that other fans are scared to come to our stadium? If you are, that's your choice - there is something tribal about following a football team after all - but surely we've got to be better than this. Why on earth would we want to be associated with these things? We might need to be careful that Karren doesn't try and attract the MMA demographic by getting rid of those pesky crossed hammers from our badge altogether and replace them with two fighting supporters.
On Wednesday, those seats by the away end were empty until West Ham fans went flooding into them looking to goad the Chelsea supporters. There were undeniably coins and bottles and seats thrown by our fans into the away section. Maybe they were thrown first and maybe not, but are we really all alright with that either way? I'm not sure I see why it matters.
Did you see somebody lob coins indiscriminately into a group of other human beings? Why would you think that's OK? Coins cut peoples heads open and damage peoples eyes and faces, including children. As much as I think the reporting of all this was shameful, I'm pretty certain that some of our fans acted shamefully too. Nuance. Duality.
It almost doesn't really matter anymore what we think of the fighting around the ground or the standing or the cost of the corner flags - it's all grist to the mill. But maybe we, as a fan base, need to change our tone a little. Perhaps we need to speak out more on our forums, and on our websites and, yes, our tiny insignificant blogs, against the thuggish element of our support.
Ask yourself in your best Jack Nicholson tone - what sort of West Ham do you want? Do you want the hooligans on that concourse? Do you need them on that concourse? If you don't then perhaps we need to start saying so.
I'm pretty sure we're better than this. Pretty sure.
10. A Winter's Tale
Here's one thing we could do without though. Chelsea fans parading their progeny in front of TV reporters making questionable statements about their experiences.
That Chelsea fan with his two kids
This guy claims that his daughter was hit by seven coins. SEVEN. Is she fucking magnetic? He should concentrate less on trying to get himself on television and more on seeing whether he can get her into Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Children.
There are only really three explanations for this:
- his daughter was hit by seven coins simultaneously. This is not possible.
- his daughter was hit by seven consecutive coins. This is wildly improbable but possible, I suppose, except that no parent in the world would let their child be hit by seven coins without attempting to move them; or
- it never happened.
And his daughter rather contradicts him on the clip by pointing out that it was impossible for them to tell where the coins were coming from. And yet this story was carried, uncritically, on Page 11 of Friday's Metro.
Not round here, pal. This is West Ham.