Whoops! Here comes another West Ham Apocalypse! Published 20/08/18 on Irons United
Saturday afternoon in Stratford was supposed to be an opportunity to brush the slate clean and regroup after the drubbing the team received the week before at the hands of a rampant Liverpool at Anfield…but it was anything but and has led to many fans pondering on the validity of Pellegrini’s tactics and even his appointment.
Prior to the game, I along with others were unreservedly optimistic that a victory was within West Ham’s grasp against the visiting Bournemouth, albeit most of us considered it might be a hard fought battle and the win would be by a narrow margin.
I took my seat as did the thousands of other dreamers…I slurped my coffee and ate my overpriced steak ’n’ ale pie…I sang as loud as my lungs would allow…bubbles wafted across the pitch as I almost threw my hot beverage over unsuspecting patrons whilst clapping and thrust my “United” arms out wide and aloft. The referee blew his whistle and I started to get a horrible feeling deep down inside…something was not right with this West Ham world!
For the first 5mins Bournemouth had the better of it. They passed and moved with relative ease, probed our defensive lines but looked comfortable whilst West Ham looked hurried and shell shocked. However, soon after, Pellegrini’s men got hold of themselves…and the ball and started take charge of the first half.
Wilshere and Noble were passing the ball about, whilst Balbuena and Ogbonna looked almost assured at the back. Snodgrass appeared frenziedly industrious whilst Masuaku was sombre and Anderson seemed unwilling to attack the left hand flank…preferring to cutback inside time and time again…almost refusing to link up effectively with any tentative advances from Masuaku.
Whilst West Ham began to dominate, it was by no means dominating, fluid or even comfortable to watch either. The play was haphazard and the opportunities were stumbled upon within the first 25minutes, however there was increasing success in the final third…and when Hernandez was brought down in the penalty area, we all stood up expecting the referee to point to the penalty spot…but his indecision and delayed reasoning may have been a forewarning for us to tighten up our defences for the onslaught that lay in wait.
Arnautovic stepped up to take the penalty instead of Noble and duly slotted it home with his usual nonchalant manner. Cheers rang out around the stadium, which had largely been subdued for most of the first half…albeit the away support were doing their best to make themselves heard.
West Ham still had the better of the possession, however Bournemouth started to look threatening on the counter attack. If their shooting had been more accurate and powerful, then Fabianski wouldn’t have been so successful in his saves and commanding the penalty area. The last 5mins were all action stations, as the visitors piled on the pressure and came very close to scoring to parry the game going into the break.
The break would do West Ham well, time to knock their heads together and come out fighting in the second half, to send the beach bums back to whence they came…but it was anything but! Bournemouth came out stronger, more organised and played as a unit, whilst West Ham looked startled, rushed and disconnected with each other. It was a poor display of football from the claret and blues and it was sending shivers and shockwaves around the stadium. The crowd was stunned into almost silence, whilst Bournemouth were growing in confidence, effectiveness and quality too. So it was unsurprising that on 59 and 65mins, they scored two goals that made all fans question the defensive fortitude of this new look team.
The crowd were frustrated as were the players. Ogbonna picked up a booking, as did Noble, who was lucky not to receive a second yellow a few minutes later. The play had become more erratic whilst Anderson feel asleep for most of the second term, Masuaku was still finding it difficult to come to terms with his defensive role and Ogbonna and Balbuena looked rattled and inevitably made mistakes which led to goals too.
However this wasn’t merely a scathing indictment on the West Ham defence either, as there were horrendous calamities all over the park. There were sprinklings of decent play from Wilshere, Zabaleta and Arnautovic…even Hernandez wasn’t awful…but the link up play going forward was not fully formed, it was slow and erratic and in no way incisive and threatening.
Pellegrini brought on Yarmolenko…who looked like he wanted to grab the game by the short and curlys, Sanchez…who seemed comfortable holding in front of the defence and Perez who did not shine but did not disgrace either. However, whilst there was obvious effort to gain an equaliser, the passage of play was rather limp wristed! It was plodding instead of plundering, it was aimless instead of targeted…and it was soul destroying rather than rousing. So much so that huge numbers of fans started to leave the stadium with minutes still left on the clock. Saddening but not surprising!
The final whistle blew and there was an uncomfortable familiarity with the conclusion to this game. West Ham never truly looked convincing whilst the opponents were able to hold their shape, work as a hive mind and threaten our defences until their waves finally broke over our bows.
Whilst many fans would be disgruntled and disappointed, there would be many who would be angered and disillusioned also. It was not a good day at the office…yet again! The sum of players are not yet a team and the manager has not yet been able to fashion a game plan that they can follow and succeed at.
Eyes are already peering down on Pellegrini, his tactics and the impotence of his players. As each game passes by there will be growing pressure for the manager to solve the puzzle. Time may be the great healer, but will the fanbase be patient enough to receive its medicine?
West Ham will play all of last season’s top six teams in the first ten games, whilst the others will not be forgone conclusive victories either, so unless there is a dramatic turnaround in fortunes there will be much head scratching wondering where the points will come from.
It has only been two games into the season, but already six points down, six goals conceded and our defensive fragility is there for all to exploit. Bournemouth was supposed to be a team who would bow before us, however they thrived whilst…whoops…it was another West Ham apocalypse!