Tuesday, April 11, 2006
How to react, Knee-Jerkingly
West Ham needs a shake up, and soon. The fantastic performances and self-belief shown by the boys in claret & blue at the start of the season are all but gone.
Not that they were truly sublime. We played above our station for a while, for sure. We had good luck and bad luck, but we did better than we'd all hoped. Best of all we knew that we could improve in seasons to come, building on the talent within to become a true force in the league.
But not this way. Once again, as in seasons past, the belief and hunger seems to have gone from the squad. A goal up in 10 minutes, and a man ahead in another 7, against one of West Ham's biggest rivals and the one club in the Premiership that all fans (of any club) would dearly love to defeat. What an opportunity. But no - we weren't up for it. We pissed it away.
As I've said before, the players are tired. Pardew hasn't rotated enough throughout the season and that policy is really starting to hurt. Players need resting. Others just need a size 10 up the crack.
Here's my knee-jerk plan of action for the remainder of the season. Obviously you don't want to change everything at once but I'd recommend a slow drip-feed of several changes.
Goal - Well, Shaka's generally OK, but I don't see why old reliable Jimmy can't come back. He played well in his Premiership debut despite the farce that was going on around him. Shaka's positioning is getting worse, and I've seen him argue with Danny G more than once.
Fullbacks - Scaloni is a liability. His performance against Chelsea was dismal. He is slow (in both senses) and just gets skinned all the time. Occasionally he does good things but mostly he is awful. Clive Clarke played well there, I thought - give him another go. Konchesky started the season well but he's slid alarmingly. His game against Chelsea was probably his worst so far. One of our best players, Etherington, is almost entirely taken out of the game by Konchesky's ridiculous hunger for the ball. He's here, he's there, he's every fucking where - but not in a good way. Matty just doesn't know where to go. Konchy's crosses are poor, his passing is poor, and his positioning is sometimes really off. Pardew needs to reign him in and get him to do his job: defend. Only once that is taken care of should he be allowed to go forward. Etherington is seeing less and less ball and I blame Pardew and Konchesky. Matty's crosses and passing are much better than Konchy's. Did I mention Clive Clarke yet? Once again, poor planning - I said at the start of the season that it was a mistake to let Powell go back to Charlton and I still think he'd have done a job for us. Konchesky has started every game and never been subbed. For a player of his, err, quality, that's not a good sign. Play Anton at right-back (or Newton if Anton's injured), and sub Clarke for Konchy at left-back at half time, just to see what he can do. If he does as well as in his debut then keep him there.
Central defence - Generally these guys do OK. Concentration is lacking from Danny G at times but usually his positional sense is superb. Anton, when he plays there, does a great job. He is our best defender and I hope he recovers soon. Collins... Plays very well but at times looks like the Premiership rookie that he is. He will come good, I'm sure. I'd be happy enough leaving Gabbers and Bloodnut in the middle. But what's happened to Ward? The lad who, with Anton, formed that brilliant partnership that virtually brought us through to the top division? His display in an impossibly difficult match should not be taken as read - he was given no support at all. He was a damn fine defender, and I'd like to know why he hasn't been given a chance.
Wingers - Marlon is our best right winger, but he's better off up front as we all know. Yossi is no winger, he comes inside too much and never, ever aims for the byline. Too predictable - he's been found out. We need to find a right-sided Etherington. In the meantime, there's not much we can do. I would hate to stick Marlon there and waste all his good work. Y'know, I'd put Yossi in the middle and stick 10K Newton on the right... mostly because of the central midfield problems, see below. As for the left side, Etherington has been one of our best players so I'd keep him there, unless he needs a rest, in which case I'd try Zamora at left wing. I've always thought he'd make a good goalscoring support player so give him a shot at it - and he's left footed too. I think he'd make a better winger than striker.
Central midfield - here's where the core of our problems lie. I know many people will disagree but Mullins and Reo-Coker have had it. Early in the season they dominated the middle of the park. Now you hardly even notice they're there. We need muscle and bite here. Both Mullins and Reo-Coker need a boot - more so Mullins IMO. Where is the hunger? Are they tired? Reo-Coker tries hard but he is making no impact. Yossi isn't exactly bite but he is creative. I really don't know what to do about this area, but I'd seriously consider dropping Muggers and putting Yossi in his place, and let Reo-Coker do the mopping up. His attacking runs have vanished anyway. Let him tap the heels of a few players, get him hungry again.
Forward - Ashton is rapidly becoming lazy, either that or he is really tired. Either way, Zamora deserves a start ahead of him. I don't care how much he cost - he ain't delivering. His touch has gone to pot as I've said before. Marlon is tired, but he's still running his big ole heart out. Let him come on as a sub and start Sheringham. Even Katan has looked quite good to me at times, why not let him run off Zamora or Marlon? He reminds me slightly of Milan Baros.
Basically what we need most is to stop the rot, and to start taking chances (not just goals, but opportunities to win the ball or to keep it). We are going long ball too much. We have nobody in central midfield to pass to. All our passing is going out to the wings. Oh, how predictable. Let's mix it up. Get the ball on the ground, and knock it about... it ain't that hard, we were doing it early in the season.
There's an FA Cup to be won, and league positions up for grabs, don'cha know.