Wednesday, April 18

How did we miss out?

In some ways West Ham have been a little unlucky in that 84 points took Norwich up in second place last season and we could yet make 86 points if we win the next two. While in a division where everyone was beating everyone else Reading suddenly couldn't stop winning.

But it's fair to say we should have made the top two with the players we signed last summer. Most of them were proven Premier League performers like Taylor, Nolan, Faye and McCartney, there was a solid existing core in Green, Tomkins, Noble, Collison and Cole and we also signed relatively expensive strikers in Maynard and Baldock. The advantage Reading and Southampton have had is they've been building teams over several seasons. In mitigation Sam Allardyce did have to rebuild nearly an entire squad over one summer and gave us a record number of away wins.

We defended well for most the season but in crucial games against Reading and Birmingham we made some catastrophic errors. But the biggest problem has been a lack of imagination in breaking down teams at home. We're hard to beat, having lost only one in 16, but can't win that many either. Allardyce seems to think that Plan B is an old record by Dexys Midnight Runners. When desperate, as at Bristol City, we lump the ball towards a big man in the form of Cole - who has worked hard but has lost his pace, can't play twice in a week and never scores 20 goals a season - or Carew, who has signed for a club too far and looks finished at the top level.

The strategy of playing a big man might have worked better if Baldock hadn't got injured when he had scored five goals early on. As it is we've had to rely on Vaz Te, a shrewd signing, who's scored ten while playing as a half winger/half striker. And we don't appear able to devise a formation where Maynard and Baldock can play together either. 

There has been some good passing in midfield at times from Noble, Nolan and O'Neil in recent weeks, but we lack that creativity you might get from a Berkovic or Benayoun during their better seasons with us and also a winger who can beat players. Ravel Morrison might be the long-term answer next season if he's as good as people say.  Do we have the quality to win the play-offs? Yes. Will we do so? Erm, remember this is West Ham. Momentum is crucial as they say, so it's important now we win our last two games. And on the small compensations front at least Blackpool away would be a new ground.


James Hunt said...

I take full responsibility. Due to a lack of funds since returning to University in October I had to be a bit more selective about how many games I attended this season. Apart from Barnsley at home in December the seven other games I've been to ended up as draws so it's my fault.

Don't blame BFS for bringing on Carew late on when we were in need of a winner, or destroying Baldock's confidence by not playing him, or over playing Cole when he's clearly been carrying an injury for half the season, or starting home games against supposedly inferior opponents with only one up front.

If I'd stayed at home we'd be 14 points better off and going up as champions. Apologies everyone.

Anyway I've just ordered my ticket for Hull in the hope that I'll get a ticket for the final should we make it so put a bet on 1-1 after extra time and Carew to score the winning penalty.

Pete May said...

Yes, it is all your fault James... Big Sam will presumably name you as the guilty man in his next Standard column.