Reasons to be cheerful?
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 10 December 2018 at 9:35pm
Written by: Nick Moore
Last season was a relegation battle. We looked set to go down under Slaven, and still looked troubled at times under Moyes. This season, with just over a third of the season gone, we sit 11th in the league – but are we looking up or looking down? Have we improved, or is this the same old same old?
So far this season, with a new manager and considerable – by our standards – expenditure we are level to last year’s final league position (although I should note we were lower in the league at this time last season.)
When we beat Burnley, we got to the heady level of a point a game for the first time this season – when we lost to City, it left us below a point a game. We’ve got a series of more achievable fixtures now, but would a season ending on 36 to 38 points be seen as progress? Probably not.
However, a boost in results against Newcastle, Cardiff and Crystal Palace mean we’ve grabbed 21 points in sixteen games, having played very few teams around and below us – and if we continue having a good run, we should get enough points by May to get us into the top half of the table and avoid a relegation battle all together.
Of course, there are still plenty of areas for improvement. We don’t often keep clean sheets, and it’s just so much easier to win football matches if you don’t concede. Our most common error is that we don’t track runners from midfield. Some people have moaned about Anderson’s tracking back. It’s not his strength but the problem is in midfield. For the Spud’s goal in the league game against us, Lamela ran on to head home with neither Rice nor Noble (two strong players) picking him up though either could have. Obiang continues to be frustrating. Having played a couple of good games when he got back in the first team, he’s seemed to knock off against Spurs in the league cup. He is often the wrong side of the ball when he should get back into defensive position; and it is absolutely his job to get back there.
Further more, the left back position is still one causing problems. Cresswell doesn’t seem to be the player he was a few years ago, and the manager seems reluctant to pick him. Masuaku, particularly away from home, is exposed as he ball watches -which at this level is not good enough.
Wilshire, Yarmolenko and Fredericks have all shown they are proper West Ham players by picking up significant injuries early in their West Ham careers. Yarmolenko at least flickered positively first. We could do with Andy Carroll available if only to terrorise some sides from the bench. He is a great option and will win us some games – but let’s not hold our breath, because we have all been here many times before.
There’s reasons to be a bit despondent this year; but for once, there’s also reasons to be cheerful.
It’s great having two players in Rice and Diangana, who are young and home grown, in the first team with the possibility of others behind them. It’s been along time since this happened. Rice continues to develop and is one of the players of the season so far. Diangana has been a complete bonus; he wasn’t even a name that was being touted as he was unlucky not to bag a goal against Cardiff.
The manager gives us another reason to be hopeful. Even though we got our usual chasing from City it’s positive that Pellegrini sets up to try to win. That is part of the West Ham way that has got lost in recent years. Pellegrini does things his own way, and his record, particularly at Malaga and Villarreal (neither of whom are big clubs), suggest he will get it right if we give him time.
Anderson shows promise, particularly with his recent goals and contributions. He does things with the ball early that no one else in the side does. He has the ability to play balls you don’t spot through the lines. He is the kind of player who will blow hot and cold but he can always create something, as he did at Huddersfield. He reminds me of Berkovic and Yossi in his quick short passing. You’re always better off with a player who can play even on his off days; and even with the off days he’s had, he’s our joint top scorer.
Lastly, there’s praise to be shared for Balbuena, who has brought calmness and a level of authority to our defence. He has been consistent and steady. Diop looks a much better defender when paired with him than in instances when he played with Ogbonna. He is the player who has most impressed me this season so far in a quiet way; and in fairness, Zaba has been great too.
Of course things can change. After all, at this point last season Arnie would not have been winning Hammer of the year as he had only just started to score for us – meaning there’s still time for someone to step forward and up their game in the way Arnie did last year.
I am cheerful – just about.