West Ham 0-3 Southampton: Is it time to panic yet?

After a last gasp free kick from the incomparable Dimitri Payet, West Ham came away with a rather pathetic 1-0 win against Accrington Stanley in the EFL cup on Wednesday night. Despite taking 96 minutes to break down a League Two side, it would be foolish of Bilic not to take every ounce of much needed confidence from the victory and move forwards into our crucial home fixture against Southampton. I don’t know what it is about home fixtures, but there is always a feeling of unrelenting optimism. Whether it be the excitement of the unknown, buzz of what could be, or that huge echo of ‘bubbles’ around our new stadium, I always had the sense that the slate was wiped clean ready for an entertaining and enjoyable afternoon despite our poor start. There was however, absolutely zero hope of any ‘enjoyment’ being taken from today’s game. We were (once again) utterly embarrassing. I am honestly shocked at the fact that I am running out of words to describe how disastrous our defence is. ‘Shambolic’ and ‘laughable’ spring to mind. But that’s not even the worst part. What was even more catastrophic was the ENTIRE team performance.

Many could be forgiven for expecting the teams to be going in 0-0 at half time. A distinct lack of build up play left an unenergetic West Ham team desperately trying to keep hold of possession, with long balls being played into both Zaza and Antonio who were unable to deal with the strength and commanding presence of Southampton’s defence, especially Van Dijk. Individual defensive errors and a poor lack of cover have been our main issues this season, and today was another brutal example. From the middle of the pitch, Southampton players were not closed down properly, allowing Tadic to plough through, completely ignored by Nordveit, slotting it through to Redmond who found Austin with ease. Reid and Ogbonna once again highlighting their inability to communicate, both allowing Austin to drop off for a comfortable finish. In the second half, it didn’t get much better. West Ham seemed to lack any form of attacking awareness, constantly playing the ball back to the defenders instead of roaming forwards and in desperation began launching the ball forward to no avail. This shocking ability to carry the ball was soon punished in the 62nd minute, first lost by Reid with a poor clearance, then Kouyate in a dangerous area, allowing Austin to play a cute pass, taking Ogbonna and Arbeloa out of the game, giving Tadic a tidy one on one against Adrian to tuck away Southampton’s second and write the game off. By this point the game was dead and buried. The fans were on the players backs and despite an average appeal for a penalty and a scrappy attempt that was almost cleared off the line, West Ham possessed no real attacking threat going forwards. With tired legs and an confirmed knowledge that the game was finished, West Ham’s defence easily let Steven Davis slip through their line, almost ignoring to pick him up and giving James Ward-Prowse a tap in from a weak Ogbonna clearance. 0-3 to the away team and another embarrassing performance in front of the home fans. Mark Noble’s face said it all as he slumped down the tunnel. The signs are worrying, and the fairytale of last season is already a long and distant memory. 

 For me, these were the key talking points after the game:

  1. Our defence is doomed: With Masuaka becoming the next casualty in our extravagant injury list, Arbeloa was forced into the left back position, with Nordveit continuing in at right back. Despite his experience and much needed calmness in possession, Arbeloa could not keep up with Redmond and it made for a tough afternoon for the former Madrid man. I am sure he will be far more comfortable when he returns to his favoured right back position, but he never really seemed in control today. His lack of pace also really affected both Antonio & Payet who were constantly having to pass back due to his lack of attacking intent. Nordveit, once again, had another shocker. Despite many saying he can do a job at right back, I just do not see it. So many of Southampton’s chances came from the left hand side, and the space he left for the attacking wingers was quite frankly frightening. Similarly to Arbeloa, he just does not have the attacking instinct to get forward when necessary, limiting any form of creativity for the wingers.  I know Byram hasn’t had the best of times this season, but at least he understands the role and has the knowledge to cover the attacker when not in possession. Bilic really doesn’t seem to trust him, but with limited reinforcements on offer, I would certainly give Byram the starting spot against Boro. Reid and Ogbonna once again showed that they still have glimpses of their old season self, but it still isn’t good enough. I can’t count the number of times they lost the ball in dangerous areas, and some of their decision making when clearing was deluded. With his contract up next year, and his patience for first team opportunities wearing thin, I would most certainly give Reece Oxford a start against Boro next week. I was surprised that he wasn’t selected against Accrington Stanley in mid-week, and there is only so much time before he begins questioning what he has to do to get a chance despite everyone crumbling around him. A mix up in the defence is NEEDED.
  2. Last chance for Zaza: In my last column I mentioned that Zaza really needed to start proving his value, and personally I felt it was another average performance. Fans may feel it was his best performance so far in a West Ham shirt due to his aggression in the air, but don’t be fooled. He didn’t press from the front, won nothing in the air and is never looking to create space for a killer pass or through ball. The trouble is that he doesn’t seem to possess a specific skill set for Bilic to exploit. He has no real pace to get in behind defenders, yet he also seems unable to head a ball, as plenty of crosses were made to him yesterday that constantly went over his head. You could argue he was very isolated yesterday, but due to his lack of awareness and graft, it is partly his fault with his refusal to drop back and make runs. We are desperate to have Carroll and Sakho back, with both offering something different up front. But for now, Zaza or Fletcher are our only options, and personally i’d go for the later against Boro. Fletcher is strong and pacey and due to his youth will be eager to impress Bilic, so should put in a huge shift. Zaza’s time is running out.
  3. Lanzini disappeared: For a man who West Ham fans have always championed as one of our best players and finest players with the ball, Lanzini was a mere shadow of himself yesterday. The guy could not string a pass together. Despite constantly dropping back to help Noble out deep in midfield, he looked so out of touch with the rest of the team. On many occasions he continued to pass back to the defenders, and I don’t think I saw him attempt to take anyone on and use his skill to get past players. I wasn’t surprised to see him go off at half time, as he was way below par by his usual standards, but what was most concerning was his lack of effort and care when we went 1-0 down. He genuinely looked lost, and we need both him and Payet to get back to their short and sharp link up play to build some confidence and get the whole team playing as a unit.
  4. Adrian only saving grace: For a man who has had possibly the worst start to season in his career, I was surprised to see Adrian in the starting line up. With many fans calling for Randolph to start, Adrian had to put in a good performance and personally I thought he did fantastically. Yes, he conceded three goals, but if it wasn’t for him it could have easily been 7 or 8-0. Two of which were special saves. Having watched him, I can’t help but feel sorry for him at times. No doubt, some of the goals in previous games have been his fault, but with a  constantly changing back line, and no organisation in sight, I really feel he is occasionally taking the criticism for the defenders poor set up. This was clearly highlighted yesterday, after making a brilliant stop Adrian came to collect the loose ball, only for Nordveit to practically kick it out of his hands and put even more pressure on the defence. Nonetheless, Adrian should take a lot of confidence from his performance, and I hope he takes that attitude into helping organise and structure his defence during the game against Boro. God knows they need it!
  5. No Plan B: I would argue that every game this season we have started second best, and yesterday was no exception. At times we looked like we could make something happen during the first half, but there was no spark or cutting edge chance for the fans to get behind at all and it seemed like it would be a dull 0-0 by half time. However, as soon as our poor defence let Southampton slip through and give Austin his goal on the 40th minute, we lost all sense of structure and plan. With that in mind, Bilic took it upon himself to mix it up, removing the lacklustre Lanzini and bringing on the exciting prospect of Feghouli to give width to the midfield. The issue is, however, that when going behind we have absolutely no idea how to break down a team’s defence. Countless times yesterday, we would pass it back to the defence from midfield as the wingers and Zaza were too high up the field, and if that didn’t work, boot it up to Zaza or Antonio (who seems like our new target man?!) lose the ball and repeat. After the second goal went in, the players seemed desperate. Trying to make ludicrous passes to get the crowd going, they are completely drained of any creative influence and the days of quick, tiki taka like passes around the edge of the box seem dead and gone. Bilic’s changes however; which included Fernandes for Noble (came too late) and Fletcher for Nordveit, (Pushing our top scorer Antonio back to the dreaded right back position) showed he really is running out of ideas and does not have a clear Plan B to resort to when things are going wrong. It needs to be sorted quickly if we are to see any comebacks this season. I guess we can only hope that we actually start well at some point this season.

 

So the West Ham faithful will inevitably be asking themselves, ‘is this it?!’ After an unforgettable season, saying goodbye to the Boleyn, welcoming the exciting prospect of a new home and spending over £60 million on reinforcements, have we really thrown in the towel already? After only six games are we already inclined to expect a season of mid table obscurity or worse… a relegation battle?! What is clear, however, is that some fans are already running out of patience. For a club that promised so much at the start of the season, it is only so long before the spotlight of the team’s failures moves from the scapegoat of the London Stadium to the man in charge himself. It is easy to sweep these concerns under the carpet, but let’s not be naive, the booing has begun and calls for Bilic to be removed have already strengthened in numbers. Never have I seen so many West Ham fans leave early, let alone at the 65th minute. As soon as Tadic’s shot hit the back of the net, hundreds of infuriated fans rose from their seats and began leaving the stands, full well knowing that even with 25 minutes left, their team had nothing left to give. It is desperate times for the Hammers, but personally, I think sacking Bilic is the last thing we should be considering. Yes his tactics haven’t been clear, but last season he produced one of our highest ever League positions simply because he got West Ham doing the basics correctly. At present, this is not happening, but the vast majority of our goals have come from individual errors and sacking our manager is not going to solve that instantly. There is a deep rooted issue here, infected with a lack of communication and understanding within our defence and I believe it is only with consistency and a slow build of confidence that is going to resolve it. Again, something a new manager would not be able to solve instantly. But what is even more crucial, is that Slaven Bilic, regardless of whether he is favoured or not at present, is the closest thing ‘West Ham United London’ have to ‘West Ham United.’ In a period where change is rife, and dissatisfaction continues at every corner of West Ham’s new identity, Bilic is an immovable memory of the past, an icon of everything good that West Ham fans hold dear. Removing him would not solve the problem, but see the legacy of our club completely fall from beneath it’s feet. Now is the time to back him.

Let’s hope our road to recovery begins against Middlesborough next week.

My team against Boro (4-2-3-1): Adrian, Byram, Oxford, Reid, Arbeloa, Noble, Obieng, Antonio, Payet, Feghouli, Fletcher.

Thanks for reading. COYI.

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West Brom 4-2 West Ham: The cracks are beginning to show.

After a surprising home collapse to Watford, an away trip to West Bromwich Albion was a welcomed fixture. After winning comfortably last season, travelling Hammers fans were hopeful of a similar result. With Bilic having highlighted in his pre match interview that ‘extended meetings’ had taken place, it was only natural for the West Ham faithful to assume that we had learnt from our mistakes, and last week’s horror show was a minor blip in our hopes of improving on last year. We were, of course, absolutely wrong. Again. West Brom started the brighter side from kick off, and were unrelenting in their attacking intent. Individual mistakes cost us dearly last week, and it seemed nothing would be changing this week. If Masuaka’s first handball to give away the free kick wasn’t bad enough, his second handball seconds later inside the box was utterly embarrassing in front of the home support. With no challenge in sight, the former Olympiakos left back managed to totally miss the clearing header, allowing his flailing arm to collide with the ball, gifting a penalty to West Brom within 8 minutes. Chadli cooly slotted home. 1-0. Many fans, including myself, were delighted with the return of Ogbonna to the starting line up, however, his horrendous clearance fell straight into the path of Chadli, passing it straight back to Rondon, who buried it into the bottom corner. Once again questions will be asked of James Collins, who should have closed down Rondon far quicker, shutting down any hope of getting a shot away. Any hope travelling fans had of getting a result was quickly dealt it’s final blow, when 7 minutes later, a corner kick shockingly cleared by Collins fell into the path of Chadli, who’s controlled effort was drilled low, ricocheting  of James McClean and giving West Brom a surprising but fully deserved 3-0 lead going into half time.

For a man who is known for his collected nature and lack of rash decisions, Bilic was in need of a desperate reshape. Breaking the mould of his conventional approach, he decided to remove captain Mark Noble and ‘marquee’ signing Zaza in favour of the unproven Calleri and Premier league new boy Sofiane Feghouli. For the most part, it seemed to be working. West Ham’s dominant possession was starting to pay off, and confident runs from Feghouli, were allowing the likes of Lanzini and Payet to link up, creating gaps in the West Brom defence, giving West Ham an increasing chance of scoring. However, this desperation to score quickly saw our entire defence press too high up the field, only to allow a terrible Masuaka cross to find Chadli, setting up an clear runway for Rondon to roam unchallenged between the half way line and Adrian’s goal. It was a good finish from the big man, but once again individual mistakes cost West Ham dearly. However, this imminent defeat did not stop the magician that is Dimitri Payet trying to upset the party. After having another free kick rattle of the bar, his patience paid off, when an inch perfect cross found the head of Antonio, who thumped the ball into the back of the net for a consolation goal. Feghouli once again was making things happen down the right hand side, and another cute piece of link up play with Payet, allowed him to cut inside, clearly being fouled along the way by James McClean and winning the penalty for West Ham. With Mark Noble being substituted, Lanzini took over the responsibility, calmly slotting the ball into the keeper’s right hand corner bringing the score to 4-2 on 65 minutes. Sadly though, it seemed little too late for the players. Other opportunities came, the best of the bunch coming from James Collins who latched on to a fantastic Antonio cross, but Ben Foster was equal to it. If that had gone in, it would have been a very interesting last 10 minutes but sadly it wasn’t to be, and West Brom saw out the game comfortably despite West Ham having 70% possession in the game, and 23 shots on goal. It is very much back to the drawing board for Slaven Bilic and his players, but the fans will no doubt continue to question the players’ intent after that performance, with the biggest query being: Where has it all gone wrong?

For me, these were the key talking points after the game: 

  1. Individual defensive errors cost us again: Last week Bilic was incredibly critical of our defence and this week was no different. In his post match interview, he used words like ’embarrassing’ and ‘amateur’ to describe his side’s defending and I 100% agree with him. Masuaka no doubt had his worst game in a Hammers shirt by a mile, and I have no clue what he was doing for the first or fourth goal. Ogbonna, although certainly our best defender, should have put the ball into row z but instead gifted West Brom their second goal. I never enjoy criticising him, but James Collins looks a shadow of the player he was last season, and it really does beg the question that he can still cut it at this level. For a defence that looked so organised and determined last season, you can’t help but feel complacency or lack of preparation has caused this incredibly frustrating start. I hope they wake up and put the work in soon before it’s too late.
  2. Feghouli must start: There is no question that after a fantastic game against Domzale, everyone was keen to see how he would adapt the Premier League, and he did not disappoint. Full of pace, skill and desire to run at defenders he showed exactly what he is capable of, and a front three of Antonio, Payet and Feghouli could be a devastating prospect for opposition defences. I don’t know who Bilic would drop, but he has definitely done enough to highlight his value to the team and I hope he continues to impress. One of the very few positives from the game.
  3. Nordveit still not up to it: After being tested at both Centre Back and Defensive Midfield, a late injury to Byram meant Nordveit was asked to slot in at Right Back and do a job. At first, I was incredibly worried, but after reading that he had covered that position in Germany I was keen to see how he would get on. The conclusion however, is that you would never have guessed he’d covered it before. Constantly out of position, nervous on the ball and lacking any form of ability to pass seem constant descriptions of his performances since joining, and I’m starting to feel that he just does not have the ability to cut it in English football. I really hope I am wrong, but the other worrying thing is that Bilic’s desire to keep experimenting with his position can only show that he was brought in as a cheap option to cover all of those positions and he hasn’t succeeded in any of them.
  4. Zaza signs are worrying: Despite a nice bit of hold up play here and there, Zaza has looked almost invisible during both games. Despite being totally isolated at times, which I know isn’t always his fault, I definitely felt that Calleri, (who I haven’t rated since he signed), gave a much better account of himself in this game and really got stuck in and worked hard. I know it is early days, and people have been saying to get off his back, but let’s not forget that if we continue to play him for 13 more games we’re going to have to buy him and for a substantial amount of money. Therefore, he needs to start showing something to give justification to his price tag. It’s all well and good showing some very decent finishes in training videos, but if he can’t produce it on the field when it matters then we are in big trouble. I hope he can turn it around for the next game.
  5. Dominating possession does not equal a win: With 70% possession many would be forgiven for thinking it was a typo. But no, we dominated the possession. Yes, there were a lot of cautious balls being held by the back four, but equally, with 23 shots on goal, you’d expect us to win this comfortably. However, it is the 5 shots on target that is the concerning statistic. Especially when comparing that to West Brom’s 8 shots on goal with 6 being on target, scoring 4 of them. Quite simply, there is a distinct lack of clinical finishing from our side and it needs to addressed immediately. Last season, we played an expansive and open game and it worked, especially when hitting teams on the counter, however this year we look lazy, and lacking any hunger or desire to start the game on the front foot. I’d even goes as far as saying that we have started second best in all of our games this season, and the majority we have been trying to play catch up from the moment the second half kicks off. If we’d of started how we ended this game, we’d have won it, comfortably.

 

So, where do we go from here? This morning I read an interview on West Ham’s official website with Michail Antonio saying ‘Our season starts against Southampton.’ But I have definitely heard this sentence regurgitated over the last 2-3 games. Yes, it is early days, but there is no ignoring the fact that we cannot keep delaying the ‘start of our season’ when it suits us. It sounds like that friend you have who; half way through a game of FIFA, suddenly decides he’s “going to start playing properly now.” It’s ludicrous, because like we all know with our ignorant friend on FIFA, they don’t improve, they just say they do. Ignoring this season’s previous mistakes is denying our ability to move forward as a football club. Ignoring the lack of discipline at the back, and the lack of creativity when going forwards on the training ground is not going to help us get better. We need to accept it, correct it and then move forward.

Speaking of accepting mistakes, I could not help but applaud yet grimace at Tomkins scoring yesterday. Despite accepting that Bilic didn’t see him as a first choice, there is no doubt that in hindsight, it was a terrible decision to sell him on. Not only a solid centre back but also a very versatile right back when needed, and my god could we have used him this season. But even when we did sell him, for what I would consider a very decent amount of money at £12 million, we didn’t even reinvest. With much of our attention being focused on the attacking side of the market, we completely missed opportunities for players such as Ashley Williams and Daryl Janmaat. Despite lacklustre bids they slipped through our fingers and it is a real shame. With some players deemed as too much money or others being considered not up to Bilic’s standards, we will soon see how well our use of the loan market and foreign investments will shape up, but for now it is not looking great.

With a 3rd round tie in the League Cup against Stanley tomorrow, I hope Bilic experiments with the likes of Arbeloa, Oxford and Fletcher, and if proven, could see them slot into the team for the home game against Southampton.

We are in desperate need of a mix up, motivation and drive to see this team back to winning ways. If our season starts now lads, then bloody get a move on.

Thanks for reading. COYI.

West Ham 2-4 Watford: Where has it all gone wrong?

With only one win from the opening three fixtures, a quick exit from the Europa League and a bunch of underwhelming performances, the International break came at a much needed time for the West Ham faithful. With the late additions of Fernandes, Arbeloa and the highly anticipated Zaza, not to mention the likes of Lanzini, Feghouli and Payet returning from injury, it was very clear that the unified understanding going into the Watford game was this: Our season starts now.

Unfortunately, West Ham never make it that easy for themselves. A solid 40 minutes saw the much needed Dimitri Payet back to his best, controlling the midfield, and providing two wonderful assists for our in-form man of the moment Michail Antonio. In fairness, at that point the game looked done. Despite some sparks of attacking intent, West Ham looked as if they would go on to win the game comfortably. But then, of course, came the mistakes. A refusal from Byram to show Ighalo the outside allowed him to get a shot off, deflecting off Collins and bringing them back into the game. Going into half time at 2-1 wouldn’t have looked too bad, but an misunderstanding between Adrian and Collins, allowed Troy Deeney to capitalise on the loose ball, and cutely placed the ball passed a scrambling defensive line. Shocked and frustrated, West Ham went into the half time break having given away a two goal lead to simple individual errors. Surely the second half could only get better? Of course not. In an interview after the game, Troy Deeney had said that at half time; “There were some harsh words said to each other and everyone had that fire in their belly again.” This resurged Watford team was clear to see, and in the 52nd minute, a deep cross, poorly unchallenged by our defence, fell to the in-form Capoue who volleyed high into the net. Despite the good connection, I am sure Adrian will feel he could have dealt with the effort better. Same could definitely be said for Watford’s fourth goal. Another Ighalo run down the wing resulted in Byram, Noble and Kouyate all being sucked in, giving the unlikely Jose Holebas enough time and space to get a shot off. His strike was solid, but again, Adrian should feel incredibly aggrieved at not saving it. From then, the game was gone. Despite some half hearted efforts towards the end of the game, nothing seemed to cause Watford any real trouble. An incredibly infuriating afternoon.

For me, these were the key talking points after the game: 

1. Our attacking options are back: I’ll start with a positive! With the return of Payet and Lanzini, I was extremely excited to see how our front four would perform and we weren’t disappointed. With Antonio’s ability to tear defences apart with his pace, added to the creative flair and comfort on the ball from Payet and Lanzini, it is clear to see that we will be a real threat this season going forwards. There was some lovely link up play in the final third, and Zaza seems to posses the ability to hold up the ball and create space for our wingers. Something we have been so desperately craving over the last few games. I will admit, there were times when easy balls were rolled into Zaza and he was unable to control them, but with it being his first game in English football, I feel it is only a matter of time before he grows in confidence and is able to get amongst the goals. Also a special mention has to go to Dimitri Payet for that ‘disgusting’ rabona assist for the second goal. It was a thing of beauty, and he already looks back to his best if we can ignore the average free kicks by his standard. I hope he can continue where he left off.

2. Back four look lost: Despite our front four looking sharp, our back four looked unorganised, disinterested and quite frankly lost. All four goals came from individual errors which is incredibly frustrating to take, especially when we looked so in control going into the break. Byram’s lack of defensive awareness can be worrying at times, especially for the first goal when he should have shown Ighalo the outside, pressing him wide and denying him the opportunity to shoot. The addition of Arbeloa is a welcomed one, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go straight into the team after Byram’s performance. If not, I hope Arbeloa passes on his defensive expertise as it is clear to see that Byram is far from the finished product. Despite my love for James Collins, it is also hard to see where his form from last season has gone. His age was never a factor last year, but this season he has looked sluggish and unfocused at times leading to mix up’s like Watford’s second goal. I also believe Winston Reid’s appearance alongside him hasn’t helped matters, who in all seriousness goes missing in games and can be very hit and miss at the best of times. I was confused to not see Ogbonna start yesterday and hope he returns for the next fixture,as I genuinely believe he is our best defender by a mile. There is a real sense of complacency in our defence this season, and I think a call up for Reece Oxford against West Brom next week may be the wake up call our defensive reinforcements need to really highlight that your position is never safe unless you are playing well.

3. Adrian starting spot under scrutiny?: For someone so consistent for us since signing, Adrian looked a mere shadow of his normal self. Usually so cool and calm under pressure, he looked careless and sloppy between the sticks. No doubt he was at fault for the second goal, giving no call to James Collins and then equally did not clatter into him and deal with the situation either. His reaction to the third and fourth goal said it all, and for a keeper of his ability, he should be looking to save those all day long. I don’t know whether the Spain call up has gone to his head a little bit or it was just an off day, but we cannot afford to let that happen again. Maybe similar treatment could be used in giving Randolph a call up just to ensure Adrian remains firmly on his toes.

4.  No Plan B/fire power off the bench: Yes it was a disaster having conceded four goals to make it 4-2, but let’s remember the game was not dead. It was the 62nd minute and I was really hoping to see us give it a good fight back to try and get a draw. But no. Noble came off for Calleri, Zaza for Fletcher and Byram for Tore throughout the remainder of the match and nothing seemed to work. Calleri seemed to play off of Zaza and then Fletcher but again, there was no cutting edge. It infuriated me when Byram came off for Tore, which saw Antonio, who had  scored 2 already be expected to drop back to defence. This is a joke, and it highlights our lack of ability to create when on the back foot and to utilise another plan of action when the original is not working. We need Zaza to get himself turning in on goal and getting shots away, and we need it fast. I have no doubt that when Carroll and Ayew return we will have various high quality options to use from the bench but until then it seems we need to have a back up plan when things are not going our way.

5. Noble/Kouyate leave the defence exposed: Although I have reservations about his overall ability, there is no doubt that playing Nordveit gives you that much needed cover in front of the back four. For some reason, this seems to completely deteriorate when playing with Noble and Kouyate. For all his strength and ability in controlling the game in the middle of the field, Kouyate has lost that defensive instinct which was so prominent in his game last season. Similarly, Noble who’s passing ability and work rate are unquestionable, but when both push forward as part of the attacking force, they are left too high up the field to assist in any defensive cover when possession switches or we are countered. This is definitely something that needs to be worked on if we are to get the most out of our players when on the back foot.

So where did it all go wrong? This was supposed to be the game that got us back on track, as with only Cresswell, Carroll and Ayew to come back, we are now closing in on a fully fit squad. Or is there a bigger issue here? Despite insisting in my last article that I hope we do not use the Stadium as scapegoat, it is very difficult to ignore the connections between the incidents that occurred throughout the ground yesterday and the events that unfolded on the pitch.

Although I am very much behind our owners and Karen Brady’s vision for our club, there is no question that we are currently in a very alarming period of our club’s history. Promises that were made regarding the ground (for example: the distance from the pitch e.t.c) have not been totally reliable and there seems to be an extreme lack of care taken into consideration surrounding ticketing, standing and stewarding. This was clearly highlighted yesterday, when stories of fans being ejected from their seats for standing took place, creating a huge divide between the fans and the staff of West Ham, and ended in unwanted aggression and animosity sparking unnecessary violence and disrepute within the stadium. There is no doubt in my mind that these incidents had an psychological effect on the players. Like any encouraging and supportive fanbase can lift teams to produce comebacks, this negativity and unrelenting pressure that echoed around the ground must have certainly have done the opposite to our players alike. From the moment the cameras were panning to report on the disruption taking place in the stands, the next we were level at 2-2 going into half time. Coincidence? I think not.

Another shocking element that has not been addressed, is the lack of divide between the home and away fans. With no police in sight, and young/inexperienced stewards trying to to assert some authority, the end results are frightening. With Watford fans mockingly standing after taking the lead, it was only a matter of time before fights broke out and upset children were being taken home by their parents more out of protection than disappointment. In an ideal world, there would be no fighting in football, but let’s not be naive. It happens and unless Brady and co wake up to the fact that it is dangerous at present then the London Stadium will never be family friendly and it certainly won’t be ‘home.’ I mean, yesterday fights broke out against Watford! Imagine what is going to happen when the likes of Chelsea or Spurs come to visit?! It needs sorting immediately to ensure that fans not only get behind the team, but also, and most importantly, feel safe. This period of transition is still extremely fragile, and Gold, Sullivan and Brady must all be seriously open and honest when addressing our fans, especially when discussing the opportunity of ‘safe standing’. At present, they want the stadium to contain the heart and soul of West Ham United, but what they are forgetting is that ignoring these issues is getting away from the one thing that matters to the fans most, and that is enjoying watching their team play.

Only when these issues are dealt with, can we get back to truly supporting our team with no excuses, distractions or safety fears. Once this is rectified we will be back to total unity and support of our club, and should get us back to winning ways.

A relief that our next game is away to West Brom and I hope we will be looking at a much more positive result heading into our next home game.

 

Thanks for reading. COYI