A little while ago I opined that the Premier league was fractured and had turned into a series of games of Attack v Defence, more and more you see teams in the middle and lower end of the table spend 95% of a game with 10 or even 11 men behind the ball and the top 6 sides throwing everything but the kitchen sink at them to try and break them down.
I cannot recall such negative tactics being the new norm since the inception of the Premier league, but as this defence v attack bandwagon continues to roll the ultimate victim is what fans pay for, entertainment.
As we saw last night it’s not always possible for the attacking footballing passing side to crack open a packed defence, sometimes the defence just gets lucky or the ref is blindsided to an obvious decision, or not brave enough to give it.
Last night we saw a bit of everything.
To Poch’s credit he didn’t whine on about how poor the ref’s decision making was and the two penalty shouts; the one for Harry which I thought was nailed on, which could have been a catalyst for a different result, even a different game – or at least what was left of it.
So kudos to Poch he doesn’t whine about refs and I like that, alot.
West Ham were defensively negatively magnificent, they did the best impression of anti-football and had the defence of the Great Wall of China.
They went back to celebrate in their pie mash shops doing the knees up Mother Brown whilst blowing bubbles from their collective backsides secure in the knowledge that they have played their Cup Final and not lost.
Yesterday in the forum, I argued for once again a plan ‘c’ – we do have a plan ‘b’ and that’s hoiking the ball long and diagonally to either Llorente and or Kane, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, there are times when what looks like three at the back is just two and five in the middle, last night was one of them.
The plan ‘c’ has to do with attackers that can attack at pace, that pushes defences onto their heels and gets them to commit to tackles in uncomfortable places; our play is based on dynamic non-stop movement that is supposed to ‘distress’ the opposition. The problem with this philosophy is that there is not a coach in the Premier League that has not figured it out and all that now want to play boring, negative anti-football have drilled their teams in the art of frustration against us. How or why their fans pay to watch this mind numbing horror and mockery of the game is beyond my understanding.
The combination of Dier and So-so-Sissoko was clearly picked to counter what we had seen Carrol do against West Brom a couple of days ago – I have no issue with that; but Moyes being the old wise head he is, countered by leaving the fragile beanpole on the bench – and that’s where I do have an issue with Poch and his timidity last night.
Poch screwed up, his game management was poor, once he knew Carrol was out of the front line, we knew how they intended to play and thats is exactly what they did.
In my view he then waited far too long and only reacted when we had gone behind to an incredible shot and goal that firstly had me blaming Lloris for not getting to it, then watching it again and realising that it was one of those rare 1:100 shots that were unstoppable from a player that has not shown he can hit a ball like that in all the time he has been with the Spam. That’s life.
But given our dominance, given our pressure why oh why didn’t Poch change it around before then? I get slow patient build up intended to try and draw out the opposition, I get relying on clockwise movement in front of the oppositions goal with only the occasional overlap – but when it doesn’t work – change it!
He should have had the strength of belief to make the changes at half-time, there was no margin in waiting any longer, their stall was set-out and they would have found it impossible to change the way they were playing and the way they were set-up.
Poch saw everything we saw and at half-time should have changed it up and hauled the ineffective combo of Dier and So-So off. Of course, he’d run the risk of them countering with Carrol – but that was an acceptable risk given our complete and utter dominance against a team that had not shown the slightest inclination to play anything other than ‘block that ball’.
Poch claims he likes to be Brave and is not afraid (read that Book), but what I saw last night was a timid broken thought process and weak management based on what I can only surmise was the fear of being caught out by a team who had done exactly that to us not so long ago.
If we are to recover and get back into the top 4 he is going to have to start taking risks again, the sort that were getting us some magnificent results against teams like these.
Credit where credit is due, Poch has guided us through a tricky period and a difficult Xmas fixture list exceptionally well, but last night he gets a C minus from me for no other reason he forgot our motto; To Dare is to Do and sometimes that means doing just that.
West Ham’s ‘motto’ is laughingly ‘The Academy of Football’ – if some of the great players that have played for them saw them now, they’d turn in their graves – their current motto really is nothing more than ‘we park the bus and play anti-football’.
Of course, I’m not bitter.
p.s. Poch – find your bravery again or this season will be an entirely wasted one.
The curse strikes again, Poch was nominated yesterday for Manager of the Month – that explains it.