An escape from Alcatraz would be a simpler task! Published 02/04/18 on Moore Than Just A Club
Who would have thought that just two years into a new adventure, that West Ham would be staring relegation in the face…a showdown just three hours past noon, that would largely decide the fate of friend and foe. But this was the realisation endowed upon those who braved tumultuous escapades, bromidic battles and dire fights of dogs. For if there was ever a time for the manager and players to stand tall and be counted, then that hour had arrived and all watching were expecting and hopeful of success.
Many would whisper to the gods to seek favour, to welcome fortune upon unfortunate sons…however there are others who would shun such rhetoric in preference of some hard, cold facts. The team and managers have underperformed and have left it too late for a survival in the Premier League to be anything but a stroke of luck. The remaining games are the testiest of engagements with little profit in hope however much to gain if mere draws could be secured.
The result on Saturday was another chapter in this continuing saga on the field, however the tortuous parades off the field give little for fans to be thankful for, nor for any to burst into melodic song of ‘Amazing Grace’. Whilst the two are inextricably linked, there can only be division for the remainder of the season. Fans and those charged with acts of Houdini-isms must only focus on each here and now, for every tackle, each shot and save until the vital points are earned to reach a Nirvana.
So it began and as soon as the whistle blew…on the front foot and down the throats of a stunned Southampton. If only the team had played with such vigour in this marathon season, if only they had converted chances…if only Moyes had been more adventurous, then nerves would not jangle with such a crescendo on any match day.
Hernandez was omitted from the starting line up and off the bench too…for some mystery illness, whilst Lanzini and Collins had not been passed fit either. The ranks were transparent…but there was hope that a bullish Antonio and Arnautovic could cause havoc if called upon to do so. Most would have to agree that Kouyate has been the abandoned sheep of the flock this season but he has also demonstrated adventure and success when asked to push forward…and this is the Kouyate that was only display on Saturday. With every minute that went by, so his confidence grew…as did for the rest of the team.
Masuaku returned to give virility on the left hand side, whilst injecting some pace and endeavour into forward offences…the crowd responded, the London Stadium rocked and swayed with metronomic wave…in anticipation of an early goal.
This is the team West Ham fans have yearned to see all season long. Noble; general in chief and not afraid to get down and dirty too in the middle of the park, Ogbonna; a man mountain in front of Hart who was thankfully kept quiet for most of the match but solid for the most part too. A veritable fight with honour in every man in claret and blue whilst the opposition shrivelled under a mournful Mark Hughes eye.
Moyes had played most of the matches this season too afraid to let the horses run wild, however in the first half…he did just that. When Antonio was injured early in the first half and was noticeably upset on leaving the pitch…on came Fernandes who was up to speed tout suite, injected and sustained vim in midfield. Mario increasingly made in roads in play, provided quality crosses and provided assist for an Arnautovic goal too after scoring a glorious opener himself.
This swagger is what the fans needed to see, this is what the West Ham universe had to watch and it filled everyone with confidence for the remainder of the match. As injury time ran down in the first half, another great cross from Masuaku to find Arnautovic who finished with a sublime right foot half volley into the net…the crowd were ecstatic and the stadium erupted jubilant in appreciation of returning heroes who had been away at sea for far too long.
The second half was a more mature display of containment rather than going for the jugular, although most fans would have wished to see more goals, after all entertainment is the name of the game but Moyes remained cautious and preferred to secure the three points already in the bag rather than risk further injury to players chasing a better goal difference. Much of the rest was relatively mundane as each player fulfilled their duties, changed down a gear and ensured that the scoreline remained the same and Hart was not tested too much.
The manager has his eye on this season’s prize…to remain in the league but hardly enthusing with an adventurous spirit that the fans and players would wish to see. Possibly this is the crux of the issue for many fans when Bilic was sacked with 27 more games to go in the season. Although the rot needed to be treated, it did not necessarily warrant such pessimistic approach, there was opportunity then to go for a manager who might deliver the fantasy football that many could only dream of.
The result was emphatic, the first half was glorious, the second was quintessential Moyes…and the games ahead will be tough encounters that may lead to haemorrhage of goals and spirit, but there is hope for today and a dream that the salvation is still on the cards.
The players stepped up, stood tall and ran riot whilst they were also able to adopt tactical stances in the second 45mins. Their charge now is of duty to themselves and the fans, who were right by their side the whole time, urging, encouraging and enthralling. The fight is not over…nowhere near, however fortune may find its way to settle on the east end for a few more games at least. An escape from Alcatraz would be a simpler task…but West Ham have Arnatutovic, Masuaku, Mario…and even Kouyate to thank for at least a glimmer of hope.