Thursday, April 27, 2006


It's happened again...

For the third time this season West Ham have been defeated in the league by a team they are about to play in the FA Cup, thanks to a Djibril Cisse brace. The last couple of times, of course, we went on to progress in the cup. So let's hope it's an omen..

However, this time the Irons gave a good account of themselves and could have come away with something. It was certainly great to see Elliot Ward given another chance, although I wasn't able to see how well he did. Unfortunately I didn't know it was televised so I missed most of the first half and only saw patches of the second half, as I was flicking between it and the Champions League match and getting ready for work at the same time. I'll probably watch the replay tonight, but from what little I saw it seemed West Ham played very well. Walker could have done better for the second (I didn't see the first) but he was left exposed by Ferdinand. It looked like Zamora, Sheringham and Benayoun all played well, and of course Nigel Reo-Coker who got our consolation goal for his 100th appearance for the Hammers.


I expect Liverpool will play Cisse and Crouch for the final. Fowler and Morientes are the kind of players that our defence can handle, pretty much, but the height and speed of Crouch and Cisse would likely give us problems. At the back, obviously Carragher is a very difficult man to get around. I think the best form of attack for us would be to head down the wings or inside a little bit, and cut the ball in on the ground. It's difficult to say who we should play up front. Harewood and Ashton seems obvious, particularly if we allow Harewood to make diagonal runs into the path of our wingers, and to slot low balls into the area. Ashton would win us some headers. But then so would Zamora and he seems hungry, and he might take the Scousers by surprise. He is also a good support player. But I don't think Bobby and Marlon play particularly well together. Sheringham, given the opportunity, can really hurt defences but he needs to be surrounded by fit players to draw the opposition off him a little to allow for his lack of pace. Basically we're spoilt for choice up there and if Pardew does his homework, and if we play well, we could really hurt them.

We will really need NRC to have a good day. I've no doubt he'll be really up for it as he loves the big stage and will relish the challenge against such a brilliant player as Gerrard. Nigel is our key player for the day and I'm counting on him to have a big one to supply the wingers and take control of the ball in the centre of our attack. If Garcia's ban is reduced, then we may have some trouble in the centre of the park.

I'm concerned also about our right side. Kewell's form is scintillating of late. Yossi likes to drift inside a lot, as it is his natural position, and this will allow (presumably) Riise and Kewell the space to play off each other and advance against our right back. If it's Scaloni we're in a world of hurt. If it's Ferdinand we might just get by. But Pardew needs to hold back their left side if we're to get anything from the game, and I think he may do that by playing the hard-working Harewood on the wing in order to keep Riise deep and prevent the direct supply to Kewell. Harewood has the hunger and fitness to do a lot of work wherever he plays so maybe it would be best if he does play on the right wing. If so, then it seems that the next natural move would be to bring Yossi into the middle and let NRC be our midfield steel. But who would be up front? I think we need Ashton to win headers and provide that knock-down support that proved so valuable against Middlesbrough. As to whether he's supported by Sheringham or Zamora, I could really be convinced either way. Sheringham is slow, but he has a fantastic brain and could really pick apart a defence with a single moment of genius, like he did against Liverpool this morning. Zamora is an excellent and hardworking player who can score some fantastic goals. I think I'd go for Zamora, but it's a close call.

Now, if Pardew can keep Konchesky out of Etherington's turf, we should stand a good chance...

So for me, at this moment, our final squad should be:

Shaka/Walker (whoever is in form)
Ferdinand - Collins - Gabbidon - Konchesky
Harewood - Reo-Coker - Benayoun - Etherington
Ashton - Zamora

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