Previewing the Millwall Derby
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 28 January 2020 at 8:44pm
Written by: Nick Moore
Walking across London Bridge station on my way home after the latest debacle at the London Stadium a group of Millwall fans spotted my colours.
“Do you follow the Championship?” one called out.
It’s what you need when your team is playing rubbish isn’t it; some smug Millwall fan? Mind you, they are out of the cup too – but there’s no doubt after our latest performances that the Millwall derby is getting closer. Do you think we would win?
To be honest, a win wasn’t expected against West Brom. With big games coming up and injuries, the priority is clear – we are going to play our best team in the league.
Having lost to Leicester’s seconds previously, now we have lost to West Brom’s seconds as well. West Ham has been knocked out of the FA Cup by a lower league side for three seasons in a row. We are the only Premier League team to achieve this coveted record – thank God we take the FA Cup seriously. What would be like if we didn’t? Don’t mention the League Cup, either.
Right now the squad looks threadbare. Zabeleta has to play every game when everyone knows he can’t. He started the game as he meant to carry on. He let their winger come inside to get off his shot. Noble, Antonio and Ogbonna had to come on at the break because we can’t play without them. Even with 20 minutes playing against ten men we couldn’t score.
After the Christmas rush we have big games coming up with kids on our bench. The Brighton game already looks massive. Feeling confident that we will stay up? No neither is anyone else. The season has collapsed like a deck chair. It’s a mess. Remember when we were aiming for the top six, for Europe? After Wednesday’s game, if we get a good tonking, we can drop in to the bottom three or even the bottom two.
And the transfer window ticks by with so far only Randolph having been signed.
We have been worked out by everybody. We get overrun in midfield despite having the best young defensive midfielder in the world.
In late November Adam Bate wrote an analysis of why it had gone wrong under Pellegrini on the Sky Sports web page. His statistics showed that all our opponents had run further than us. All of them, in every game – how does that happen? You don’t have to run further than your opponents, though it helps. But if you never do, that says something about your effort.
Moyes will be aware but it doesn’t seem the players are. Again against West Brom there was no movement to support the player on the ball. This makes passing more difficult -though not as difficult as we made it look. As ever there was no tracking of runners, and we turned the ball over as though that was the point of the game. Everyone seemed to want to give it away with Balbuena (a shadow of the player he was last year) and Sanchez to the fore.
Despite having signed busloads of strikers since these owners took control, we have somehow ended up with no striker cover. Our possession statistics improved in the second half against West Brom, but it’s the first half possession that tells you about a team. It’s possession when the score is nil- nil that counts. It’s no good having lots of the ball when you’re already behind.
Of our top ten most expensive signings only one is a defender – Issa Diop. We have tried to defend on the cheap. We have made great signings like Fabianski but sometimes you have to pay up to get quality. The great West Ham sides had great defenders Bobby, Alvin, Frank senior, Ken Brown, Billy, Ray Stewart, Tony Gale, Danny and James etc.
All the investment has been in forwards and attacking midfielders. There has been no investment in the engine room or in the defence.
We currently have some non-playing members of our 25 man squad. Reid hasn’t played for 18 months and the Wilshire saga drags on. Reid has been great defender for us, but it’s a long time since he was the man and his form had tailed off before his injury (or more accurately this injury). Sanchez should never be picked again, Lanzini is completely out of form and eleven of our squad are over 30 so it’s only going to get worse.
So Moyes has to make some signings and be backed up by the Apprentice expert judge and the chairmen. It really is time to panic. We need three or four and they need to be first team ready now.
Then we have to find ways to win some football matches. There are things we need to recognise. Our best forward at the moment is not Haller, and it’s certainly not Ajeti. It’s Antonio. He has been our best attacker for some time – remember his performance away at Spurs last year – and we should build round him. We should stop starting Lanzini.
We should think about signing a midfielder who can man mark as well as an orthodox midfielder with a bit of pace. The man marking is out of fashion but can be very effective in disrupting sides with an obvious playmaker. The fact that it is out of fashion means the player could come cheap, so this should appeal. We have to find some different ways to play. We need a right back too and we need to clear out some deadwood.
I’d love to be wrong. Winston and Jack rise from their sick beds and with a combination of strong defending and creative midfield play get us out of trouble. Manuel scores the winner against the Spuds. But if we wait for that we will be making our way to the New Den next season.