Falling like Reggie and rising like a hippo! Published 02/04/18 on Irons United
For the better part of two years the West Ham faithful had lost all confidence in a player that once ruled the centre ground and had become a shadow of his former self. Much had been the fall from grace that for many fans there could only be one course of action come the summer…and that would be a transfer out to another unsuspecting club who might see his fortunes turned around.
“To admit you want to have a comeback means you have to admit you weren’t what you were supposed to be. You dropped below your own standard.” – Marilyn Manson
Kouyate had become the bane of my life in virtually every game I had seen him play in since moving into the London Stadium. The once gazelle like athlete had transformed into a lolling trollop that would only be good for cannon fodder in future battles…and I had lost all sense of goodwill toward the Senegalese international. However, I may have spoken too soon as I may have sensed that something was in the offing last week. Perhaps it was post the Burnley match and the little holiday to Miami but I thought that things could not get any lower. The fans and the team had hit rock bottom and there only appeared one direction for each of the fallen heroes to travel…upwards and onwards!
Of course no evil is ever completely so, no amount of apathy is ever fully moulded and no bad form can ever last forever. Under Moyes, Kouyate has been a constant companion but a consistent underachiever! So much so that most would question his inclusion in any starting line up, but Moyes persisted…probably due to necessity rather than favour, and he finally gave an outstanding performance. On Saturday against Southampton he was directly involved in
the first two goals and played his midfield part masterfully until he was substituted towards the end of the game…he had done his duty for the day…very well indeed!
Not since the Huddersfield and Bournemouth back to back league games had I seen Kouyate put in any kind of performance that would justify his weekly wage, in fact some of his languid motion was tantamount to criminal activity as opponents easily ran past him on their way to scoring against our helpless keeper.
Kouyate seems to be in transition and has been for a long time. There were rumours that his lethargy was related to the behind the scenes shenanigans with his good friend and compatriot; Diafra Sakho. He had been noticeably upset by the way the club had treated him, but Kouyate was impotent to help…and this internal conflict is reputed to be the source of his poor form and lack of enthusiasm shown over the last few months.
His midfield role does not appear to suit his serenity these days especially where Moyes has asked him to hold the last line in front of the vulnerable West Ham defence. Many would question his defensive capabilities, however when played in a strictly defender’s role…he has performed well…as much as he has performed well when allowed to attack from his midfield post.
This latterly, seems to be where he now favours his role within the team and feels most confident…going forward and on the front foot. On Saturday…he was the storm that sent shockwaves through the Southampton midfield and defence with his tenacity and lunging runs on the right hand wing. Of course, he was ably assisted by every member of the team who all decided to turn up and perform out of their skins, however the biggest contrast in form was from Kouyate.
How performances can change when confidence grows and lady luck plays its part? From the offset, Noble was a man mammoth alongside Kouyate, whilst Masuaku gave balance on the left hand side and Mario began to show touches of class that may make his potential of a permanent move worth looking at again in the summer.
In the lead up to the game most fans were filled with nervous tension and rightly so as this encounter was to be the lynchpin to the season. Anything but a win would be catastrophic in the minds of many supporters and a draw would be barely acceptable. A loss might be the catalyst for reoccurrences of the Burnley game…which nobody wanted, although the new stewarding arrangements may have given many pause for thought in their day glow yellow and orange, new football boots and lab goggles…the new world order was indeed a frightful sight.
“Your complaints about late delay are not only completely unjustified, but also ungrammatical. The fault lies in your inability to fill in an order form correctly. You are, in effect, a pompous, illiterate baboon.” – The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin
Perhaps I have been unjustly critical of Kouyate in the past…and perhaps not too. Most fans remember all too well what kind of a player he was and what affect he could have on a game. So it became an infuriating oddity that he has not been able to perform to those standards for some time whilst not having sustained notable injuries that would lend rhyme and reason.
However, whilst it was great to see the great gazelle leap and hop around the pitch on Saturday, causing havoc and enticing the Southampton players into many unforced errors with his, and the rest of the West Ham player’s high pressing game in the first half…it is still just one good game in a season of so many bad ones.
He has to build on this confidence, as do the rest of the team. He has to shed all notions of doubt and believe that the fans are behind him every step of the way…as long as he demonstrates the level of endeavour he showed on Saturday. He needs to give false hope to opponents in the next few games, lull them into thinking he is spent and of inconsequence, but with alarming ferocity he must strike on unsuspecting souls who would venture too close to coo and stroke as a pet. He has fallen and hidden from the West Ham society for too long, he disrobed on the beach and went missing like Reggie Perrin, but now rises like the hippo…uncompromising, unabashed and to the unworldly…very, utterly and most sincerely dangerous.