Dragons in the Dungeons and the Monopoly Stash Published 20/03/18 on Irons United
Once I have exhaled and dismissed all dismay that surrounds the club…I came to the realisation that my optimism for better days had not vanished but had merely been hiding as had my fortunes. Whilst there is much to bemoan about both on and off the field, I still believe there is enough quality within the West Ham squad to prevent the spectre of relegation becoming a reality.
“The problem with elves is they ain’t got no meat on their bones. You gotta get yourself a nice 250 pound dwarf, with hair on her chin you can hang on to!” Elwood – Dungeons and Dragons
For much of the last two seasons, there hasn’t been enough meat on the bones in the West Ham performances to give anyone any long term hope that any dreams and ambitions, that the fanbase was initially and repeatedly sold, would come to fruition.
Although there have been dour days recently in the three abject losses to Liverpool, Swansea and Burnley…there were also some positive results that many of the faithful may have readily forgotten in their haste to condemn all within the rank and file. That is not to say that every positive result was an overwhelming victory nor a dominant display, however it did prove that in certain games, there has been good movement and passage of play…and even some ground out results from mediocre performances.
One of the biggest hurdles that has impacted the Hammers fluid running style this season has been the ridiculously large and long injury list that has condemned the team to bit part performances and stuttering motion.
When Moyes took over, there was the International break that hampered initial traction but as soon as he had all the squad together, he started to make hay whilst the sun shone and pulled off three very impressive performances against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal as well as another against Tottenham. There were also well fought victories against Huddersfield, West Bromwich Albion and of course Watford which also have been overshadowed by many of the recent woes.
Under Bilic, the players looked like languid dogs ready for the long sleep at the vets but under Moyes, there were obvious improvements…not only in fitness but also in cohesion and defensive organisation. It wasn’t always pretty and fluid football, however it was effective and it did earn the team valuable points.
Many would have wished for or even expected the team to deliver this season on those promises from up above, but in truth I was expecting much of the same as last season. Another mid table finish with many average performances along the way. Of course I had high hopes at the start of the season considering the club signings of Arnautovic, Zabaleta, Hart and Hernandez…but I soon woke up to the realisation that our midfield was the weakest link in our squad…we desperately needed a holding midfielder to form the link from defence to attack and the summer signings would never be able to compensate.
Now, many would blame the club owners for this gap in the squad and rightly so, for not demonstrating enough ambition and loosening the purse strings to go that extra mile to get the William Carvalho deal sorted, however you would think there was enough within the squad to compensate in the short term.
The season started terribly with the string of away fixtures and defeats but also because Bilic had introduced a new nucleus to the team that had not gelled as yet and would struggle to do so for much of his tenure. This stop-start season never had the chance to get into high gear and the performances and results suffered as a consequence. The inevitable change in management occurred and many looked to the January transfer window as an opportunity to put things right and at least finish the season on a high…but that did not happen and there was little for the fans to become enthused about.
Many would look to the names in the squad and in the starting eleven and wager good performances and positive results would be virtually guaranteed, however fate is rarely so kind. As well as the injuries and the lack of momentum gained or the wasted prospects from the pathetic cup encounters…the overwhelming issues with this season and the last have been that too many individual players have been underperforming or have not had the match fitness to make any significant impacts in the duration of the match.
Since Moyes’ arrival, possibly the only player who has arisen from his slumber to display committed performances in every appearance, has been Arnautovic…but even he has started to struggle when missing support of other players in any of his attacking wanderings.
This three week break from competitive matches should be a time to galvanise the squad and bring back the cohesion and fluidity that has only been witnessed in a couple of games this season…but the potential is always there for it to shine in any future game. All that is required is for individuals to raise their game by only small margins and collectively the team will get more goals and produce the necessary results to avoid relegation.
If we look back at many of the games where the team have drawn or narrowly lost, there were indeed many opportunities to score and ultimately it was these misses that cost the team the points in the end. Even if we look to the Liverpool game…Arnautovic had a wonderful strike that nearly paid off…and that maybe could have put a different complexion on the rest of the game. Even the awful Swansea game, there were still glimpses that with marginal improvements…those battles all over the pitch may have been won rather than lost.
If we look back to the most recent loss to Burnley, it would be simplistic to say that Burnley thrashed the team. In fact the first half was definitely dominated by West Ham and had two or three glorious chances to put the game to bed…but these were once again failed opportunities.
On paper every fan knows there are sleeping giants that can turn the club’s fortunes around and all that is required are small improvements to individual and team performances…it can be done but each and everyone must have confidence in every challenge and each passage of play…but notably must remain focussed for the full ninety minutes and not give up at the first sign of disadvantage.
The players and the fans must rise up in coordinated hum to beckon the sleeping dragons in the dungeons and let them breathe fire into their games…this is no longer about the failing masters and the monopoly stash that was never spent…this is about one fight at a time, one purpose and one drive to get the points needed…I hope…nay…I’m confident they can do it