A case for the defence
Author: ExWHUEmployee. Published: 11 April 2018 at 9:34am
Written by David Hardie @baldyh77
As the summer approaches, thoughts naturally turn to which players and positions the club will strengthen in. Regardless of the budget available and boy do we hope it’s substantial, the focus needs to be on the defence.
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the quote mentioning ‘lies, damn lies and statistics’ so what better way to make my point than by adopting my glasses and dressing gown (Fantasy Football reference for you youngsters!).
Last season we conceded 64 goals in 38 league games, and in 11 we conceded 3 or more. That’s just under a third of our games we gave ourselves a mountain to climb to gain any points. With 7 games to go this season and with Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City & Man Utd still to play, it’s a safe bet that we’ll surpass last season’s dubious tally. Well, as safe a bet as Carroll being unable to stay fit for 10 consecutive games or Ex being unveiled as David Sullivan at the next West Ham Way event by Wardy in a Scooby Doo-esq way!
This season we’ve conceded 57 goals in 31 games and in 13 games conceded 3 or more – for those not great at maths – that’s gone up! Compare that with the likes of Burnley who have conceded 27 goals all season. Now, I’m no genius (I wouldn’t have made the life style choice of going to watch West Ham if I was!) but it seems to me this is where our problems lie. We have no other problems obviously!
Whilst playing 3 at the back has helped paper over the cracks at times, I think it’s time we concentrated on getting some quality defenders and a top quality defensive midfielder. Full-backs have been a concern for awhile, with Creswell not reaching previous performance levels, Arthur being more interested in attacking and doing drag backs than defending, and Zabaleta performing well but not a long term solution. I’m encouraged that Ex has strongly linked us with Fredericks from Fulham who is a good right back and a good start. I think another left back is needed to allow Arthur to concentrate on being a wide left player. Whilst many may look to Fulham again to solve our full-back issues in the shape of Sessegnon, his best performances have been as a left midfielder/winger, and he has struggled when up against a pacey winger like Traore at Middlesbrough (another player I like).
With Fonte being sold to China, Collins likely to be let go and Reid constantly injured, this leaves us short in a key area. Burke does not seem like the answer, the jury is out on Oxford, and Rice (who has been excellent) cannot be expected to play 38 games at such a young age. This leaves us with just Ogbonna, who I think deserves the runner up spot in the Hammer of the Year. So a couple of quality centre backs are needed, ideally with some pace to allow us to squeeze the opposition like successful teams at the top of the league – Liverpool (only 35 conceded despite the perception of a poor defence), Tottscum and City.
The other key signing, as Bilic tried to identify last summer, is a quality holding midfielder. Obiang has not been able to grasp his opportunity with his inconsistent displays, and we’ve lacked this player since we had an on song Song. Whether this player be the infamous Carvalho or whoever, it is vital our defence have a screen to protect them and stop us conceding so many goals.
With a solid base in place, I believe this will allow our flair players like Arnie, Lanzini and Antonio the freedom to go win games rather than trying to salvage them.