Still a lot of work to do

Author: . Published: at 8:01pm

Written by : Nick Moore

It looks like we may waiting at home for some time.

How will the stewards impose appropriate social distancing with those silly stop/go signs on the way back to Stratford station to delay you catching your train and making sure you miss your connection? It’s going to fun at night games. It won’t just be the away fans who can’t get home.

London Transport could provide more trains I suppose… probably unwise to hold your breath. It’s all part of the London Stadium game day experience – but if/when we do resume football there is still an awful lot of work to do.

If the season is to be completed we will be straight back into a relegation battle. Fans have taken encouragement from better performances in the last few games. However we are still bottom of the form table (last 8 games). We have lost our last 6 away games. We are in the bottom three of the season’s home form table. We concede at least one goal in 79% of our home games. We have conceded at least one goal in our last nine games.

With nine games to go we will need to come out of the traps fast. And that is not a phrase often linked with West Ham’s name this season. One of the concerns for fans has been how leggy and unfit our players have looked.  West Ham players will have no problem with social distancing as they have been doing it all season after giving the ball away. And it’s not as if we’ve been playing that many games with no cup runs and no Europe. That was the dream at the beginning of the season. We will need to keep Soucek and Bowen fit and Fabianski of course.

Relegation will be a disaster. We have lots of players on high wages. Coming out of this lockdown there are lots of clubs with cash flow shortages including us. This will not be the time be trying to offload some dodgy expensive Wilshire or other similar players who will never get as good a contract again. And it’s certainly not the time to be keeping expensive players in the championship.

Fortunately Sanchez and Zabeleta will leave at the end of their contracts. Unfortunately if we do get relegated Soucek will not come to the club permanently.

If we don’t get relegated either because of a scintillating run of wins (that would be nice) or by the season being voided, we still need to work out a way to improve for next season.

We will need to use any resources available with more care than previously. Perhaps it would not be wise to buy anymore wide players. Currently we have (apologies if I miss anyone) Diangana, Holland, Anderson, Snodgrass, Antonio, Yarmolenko, Bowen Xande Silva, Lanzini and Fornals. Some of these can play elsewhere but there really are only two slots for wide players – less if we play two up.

Compare this to the engine room in midfield. We have looked better with Soucek added to Noble and Rice. But if one of them is injured and Wilshire is unavailable as ever it’s over to Carlos bleedin’ Sanchez. We need more in there. Cullen? Coventry?

In defence, one injury at centre back or left back gets us into difficulty. Cardoso on the bench – is he ready? Do we have anyone else? Reid – much as he was great – has not played in the first team for two years. If Cresswell doesn’t play then we have Masuaku to come on and show Pepe on to his left foot to break his goal drought.

The squad is terribly unbalanced. We will almost certainly try for a striker, we always do. But midfield (box to box) and defence need attention. We need more pace in midfield and a younger squad. We get out run and we’re very easy to play against. If we want to improve we need to defend better – even a little better – we would find it so much easier to win games.

But with little money to spend we will mainly have what we had this year. So the real change has to be in coaching and training. The number of injuries remains high. It’s not just the established first team squad crocks either. Diangana, Holland (twice) Ben Johnson and Jeremy Ngakia have all had significant absences through injury this year. Cullen and Silva too have had sickness and a dislocated shoulder. Some of that is unavoidable but some is not.

The players coming through look more promising than for many years. They could save us a lot of money. Good decisions will need to be made about giving them opportunity as well as not over exposing them.

We have players who have played in all the best leagues in the world. As fans we always ask players to take more responsibility when we see one of those limp, don’t turn up, no drive losses. They could be asked to contribute as an alternative to the change the manager/the new star signing will sort it out philosophy.

The most important thing now is to stay safe. But when we do get back to football we need to see lots of improvement in lots of areas if we are not going to sink without trace. We used to be innovative and smart, with Greenwood and Lyall. We need to be again.