When two tribes go to war! Published 22/03/18 on Irons United
Yes, it’s that time of year when the Premier League fixtures are placed on hold for the international friendlies…where teammates may be pitted against each for national glories. If ever West Ham needed a break, then it certainly wasn’t now! If ever there was a time to grind in, take stock and build momentum…then that time is now! You may have surmised that I am not the greatest fan of international breaks and certainly not for friendlies, although I concede they are a necessary evil in terms of national team development.
As the West Ham squad returned from their Miami training trip, a few were in turn whisked off to join their countrymen in friendly firing exercises, but for some it would be an opportunity to claim position and place in this year’s World Cup in Russia.
This week, Angelo Ogbonna has been recalled to the Italian national team as they prepare to face Argentina on Friday and England next Tuesday. Although this is not his first call up for the Azzurri, it will be the first time in a while and initially it is only as understudy to great Chiellini who is awaiting to be cleared fit for duty.
If Angelo does make the full squad for the Argentina game, then he will likely square up to Lanzini, who has also been recalled to the Argentina national side in the last two weeks. The two obviously know each other well and whilst Ogbonna has improved tremendously since Moyes took over as West Ham manager and warrants his recall…Lanzini’s call up rationale is not as clear cut.
Of course as West Ham fans we know of his quality but fear he hasn’t reached the dizzying heights we would have hoped he would this season…however he does not stand alone in that regard.
As for the two nations, they have had some mighty battles over the years with Italy gaining favour in most encounters but Argentina are the team who are going to the World Cup, whilst Italy will be forced to look from afar…this being the first time in their history too.
There has been good reason for Italy’s regression and mostly it has to do with a generational gap in quality they have had to contend with, although there are many youth players that are making big waves in the Italian leagues and in the junior national teams too. These are names that West Ham should certainly be watching out for in the future and grab a bargain soon if they had the foresight to be so bold.
Of course the world will look upon Lionel Messi to offer the entertainment and goals, however Argentina have struggled in the qualifying campaign and Messi always looks more comfortable in a Barcelona shirt than his national colours. So there might be an opportunity for Ogbonna and his countrymen to put one over on the boys from Buenos Aires.
As for West Ham, all are hoping that those called away on international duties can remain fit and uninjured as well as not take a step backwards in terms of intensity. Herein lies my problem with the international friendlies in particular…whilst they give us all an opportunity to see foreign players in action and whether they could ever be considered as summer targets for West Ham, they remain mere non competitive-‘competitive’ matches.
West Ham are in the fight of their lives, careers are on the line, the fortunes of the club are sitting precariously on the edge and there is a fanbase ready to revolt against the club and with each other too…so the last thing anyone needed was for players to jet off to play in friendlies or even just away training under other mentors.
This period is always a distraction as the Premier League teams enter a crucial phase of the season. West Ham have struggled all year to gain momentum and this is just another poke in the eyes for the claret and blue army. All eyes should be focussed on the Southampton game, in which they have just got off the blocks with a win under Mark Hughes too…so there is much to consider and prepare for as they will put up stiffer opposition than many would have thought possible given their poor season thus far.
However, the counter argument to the focus debate, is that players need a change of scenery which in itself will refresh the bodies and minds. This was the justification, in part, for the Miami trip…and it may serve just as well now. Fortunately West Ham are not blessed with many Internationals at the moment so Moyes can still work effectively in the interim period. All eyes will be on the players when they return to full training with the rest of the squad and even greater scrutiny will be invested once the game is underway at the end of the month.
The run into the end of the season will provide two six point games, and the first being against Southampton, whilst the second will be against Stoke City. Both will be tough encounters and these lowly teams should not be underestimated under any circumstances. They will be fighting for their league standing too, so it is imperative that Moyes gets his tactics absolutely correct and urges the players to deliver performances all over the field.
The returning players from international adventures must be ready to pick up the pace and arise to the intense atmosphere of each game. The fans expect, as do the whole club…there will be little left to feed off if they fail against Southampton…however knowing the unpredictability of the season, it would not be a surprise if valuable points were claimed off both Manchester Clubs, Chelsea and Arsenal.
When Italy and Argentina face off against each other on Friday, it will be as two long lost brothers will come together to settle old scores but neither showing teeth…whilst each remaining game in the league will be as if two tribes were going to war…and there can be only one who steals the victory flag. Let it be West Ham, let it be glorious and victorious!