Dancing in the dark!

West Ham Opinion

Do you ever get the impression that the players crossing the white line for West Ham haven’t read the rule book or decided not to check the instructions before trying to build the Swedish white ash chest of drawers, irrespective of whether it turns out swell in the end?

We seem empowered when playing the better teams, like gladiators in the Coliseum facing off to the Praetorian Guard but when it comes to teams that we should be competing with or dare I say it, even beating, then we struggle to be consistent…performances vary and results come from left field.

We put on heroic performances against the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and even Tottenham but then we get taught a worthwhile lesson by fellow languishers; Newcastle…even Shrewsbury Town wanted to take us to school to teach us the fundamentals…and they reside in League One!

Of course we have had to deal with injuries to key players and a busy game schedule, but name me a team that doesn’t suffer the same afflictions during the season. Once again, when our deficiencies surface through the muddying waters of heroism, we have to acknowledge the lack of quality in depth within our squad…which doesn’t look like being addressed anytime soon.

Tactically, we are playing in the shadows of our formative years and mostly appear to be one dimensional when moving forward. We lack the presence of mind to retain possession, bereft of ideas to link up the defensive line and the striking force through a dysfunctional midfield that would rather sit deep or struggle to pass a ball with any degree of accuracy. We have drastically improved our defensive displays but have struggled to find consistency in midfield and attack that enables us to approach every match with confidence.

At times, we are truly abysmal in all areas of the pitch, lacklustre individual performances or a body language that conveys a message that the colour is greener on another team’s lawn. At other times, we are poetry in motion, a finely oiled machine with linked components operating at optimum, skilful, threatening and glorious.

Whilst Moyes and his coaching team have improved certain aspects of our performances, we still lack a regular clarity of forethought when on the offensive. We lack direction, we lack quality and we look like 12yr old boys at the school disco hoping to snog Susie Phillips when the lights go out but end up holding hands with Jimmy Jenkins…the nit boy! We’re startled and embarrassed when the lights come on and everyone is looking at us wondering what the bloody hell are we doing!

Whether sitting in the stands or viewing streams from around the world, our fans seem to be in unison that our biggest problems right now are cemented in middle earth with the Orcs winning the battles against our Hobbits, whilst our Dwarfs up front get bullied and our defensive Elves are endlessly pressured when facing a near constant barrage of probing arrows.

We are starting to see some of the players handing in homework, getting an A+ for their efforts, whilst others are improving but yet to reach their full potential…and others still seem content to wear the dunce’s cap.

Whilst it is refreshing to hear Moyes in post-match interviews acknowledging our successes or our poor displays or lacklustre individual performances, there is a growing chorus wondering whether this conductor is capable of harmonising the team and if certain starting positions should be reviewed with greater scrutiny and authority.

Of course, we can all point to the club’s sloth-like release of transfer funds or ambitious myopia but the here and now consistency issues have to be managed, team selection has to reflect those players with a B+ average and not those with an F minus! There has to be greater analysis during the game of what is working and what isn’t, then make changes accordingly and much earlier wherever appropriate. If we’re winning comfortably then, introduce some youth to gain worthwhile experience…if we’re losing or drawing without any prospect of changing the status quo, then make the tweaks that can prove influential…easier said than done I grant you!

Already, Moyes has faced growing criticism that his substitutions have come too late in games where we struggle to gain a foothold but we also need to look at our employed methods which seem so remote from the kind of football that we hope we can play…in our way.

Whilst there is a certain defensive fortitude that Moyes likes to instil, he had not been shy in letting his early teams show a willingness to get forward with width and implement a progressive passing game. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet, with any regularity, at West Ham under his tenure and one might question why that has not been the case.

The changing of the head guard has come all too late for some fans and whilst there is sympathy for the lack of creative playing cards in Moyes’s deck, that doesn’t excuse some of the woeful passing displays by some individuals or even the urgency to fire long-range aimless missiles to our front line which are largely isolated or inept at diverting them towards the goal.

This offensive tactic simply doesn’t work and rarely is it successful especially when the front men are so feebly supported by would be forward running midfielders. When Mark Noble returned into favour with the manager, there was an immediate change to the quality of our midfield play.

He alone seems to have leadership qualities and the skillset to play the defensive game but also command link-up play from defence to attack…and he’s the only one who seems able to find a successful pass to a teammate. On the recent occasions when Noble has not played, then we’re back to playing without ideas and idly prancing about with the blindfolds on…we just look awful to watch. When Noble plays with Obiang, Lanzini and Arnautovic…we then become an attacking force with guile and composure we so yearn for in games where we play the second team.

If all of our injured players miraculously return to the fold, we will surely see an improvement in performances against any team that poses any kind of threat to us, but without our current in form players, we are still passengers in a midfield airliner that is circling to land and waiting for clear direction to touch down on terra firma.

That direction is clearly not being received by some of our players at the moment or they are failing to understand and act upon it. Either way, we are struggling to find a solution that gives us confidence until the end of the season. We have pulled the wool over the naysayer’s eyes when delivering a great defensive display or beating poor teams, such as Huddersfield at the weekend but for the most part we are showing adolescent attacking midfield tendencies and a naivety to do anything about it.

As for Moyes, well the challenge ahead looms large and the long-term solution may be beyond his capability given the resources at his disposal. However, a poor tradesman will always blame his tools, whereas a good one will construct an amphitheatre for our dreams with little more than a toothpick, duck tape and a bit of glue…or so we’d like to think.

As for the players, they may discover greater riches yet unearthed and dance their way to glory. With a bit more feeling rather than fumbling in the dark and those dance steps may get them a lot closer to Susie Phillips’ lips than they ever dreamed possible.

About the Author

Alf Gasparro
Life long West Ham United fan, football purist, love motorcycles & soaring with the birds, usually to be found with my head in the clouds...sometimes known as RevelatorAlf