Sunday, August 31

Schneiderlin's Saints shatter slumbering Hammers

West Ham 1 Southampton 3

There’s plenty of kids-for-a quid activity in Ken’s café. I’m with my daughter Nell awaiting isotonic egg, chips and beans while DC is taking his son Finn to his first game and is also taking his missus Clare on another hot date, having previously taken her to Ken’s Cafe for a Valentine’s Day fixture. Our team is completed by Michael the Renaissance Man (and Whovian), Nigel, Fraser and Matt.

On the pitch the club announce a new signing — Alex Song has joined on a season-long loan from Barcelona. Not sure if he can cope with such a step up… presumably this could mean that Diame is departing. “We’ve only got one Song!” sings the crowd.

Worryingly, Southampton start off well, and don’t look much different to the neat-passing team of last season despite selling five top players. Tadic looks to have skill and Schneiderlin, Ward-Prowse and co knock it about nicely.

Cresswell has to clear the ball off the line, but West Ham improve a little and Zarate starts to win a few free kicks. We take the lead when Mark Noble scores with a long-range deflected shot after Zarate’s lay-off.

The ball fizzes across goal as Vaz Te fails to connect. But then we appear to settle for 1-0 at the break and invite more Saints’ pressure. Right on half-time Southampton win a free kick , O’Brien blocks and Schneiderlin shoots home the rebound.

A rare moment of half-time optimism
At half-time the consensus is that West Ham didn’t really deserve to be ahead.

The second half is dire. West Ham never get going and as one twitter user says, it seems like Southampton have three more players than us. We don’t close down their back four, don’t compete in midfield

Morrison comes on (“Is he the one in jail?” asks Nell) and at least looks confortable on the ball, though his fellow sub Diame seems to misjudge all his lay-offs. It’s too late though, and Southampton carry on passing WHU to death.

Schneiderlin puts the Saints ahead on 68 minutes after we fail to mark properly from a short corner that shouldn't have been given (Ramirez clearly heads it over). Then Pelle (who looks good for a bloke who starred in the 1970 World Cup) settles the game firing home after Adrian saves on 83 minutes.

What’s most worrying is the lack of leadership. No-one seems able to win a few tackles, get stuck in and fire up both crowd and team. Kouyate doesn’t look anything like the player he was at Palace last week and Valencia only gets 11 minutes.

“West Ham can’t lose!” says Nell.

“I’m afraid they can. Don’t worry, it will be good for our character,” I suggest.

Let’s hope DC’s son hasn’t emerged an avid Southampton fan.

We’re cheered up slightly by a visit to the Who Shop and then Peter Capaldi’s performance on Doctor Who later that evening. Am I supporting a good team? I don’t know anymore.

The only good thing is we have two weeks to regroup, get Valencia and Song fit and integrate the new players. Hopefully this was a one-off and the new signings will learn from it. But if we fail on the basics such as work-rate and passing then a struggle lies ahead.

TEAM RATINGS: Adrian 6; O'Brien 5, Tomkins 5, Reid 5, Creswell 6; Downing 5, Kouyate 5, Noble 6, Zarate 6 (Morrison 5), Vaz Te 4 (Diame 4), Cole 4 (Valencia 5).

No comments: