Thursday, 13 August 2009
On The Cusp Of Triumph And Disaster. How West Ham could pip Tottenham, Villa, Arsenal, Man City and Everton for 4th place.
Just ahead of the big kick off last season I posted how we could be genuine contenders for the top 4. I did not perceive any threat of relegation and called for a fairly basic but pragmatic approach given our then squad - using Faubert and Etherington down the flanks to deliver the ammunition for Ashton and Cole to bully home the goals. I called set pieces as a vital key to success, using the aerial threat of Upson, Collins, Ashton and Cole at corners and free kicks. To improve on our previous mediocre season, we had to beat every team outside the top 4 at Upton Park and create a sense of fortress West Ham.
And the season started well. Apart from that thumping at Man City, we looked good. Remember the victories over Wigan, Blackburn and Newcastle? And who was the key? One Julian Faubert who had a hand in five of the first six goals we scored. What were our weaknesses? No cover at left back and a slow right back - otherwise we looked in pretty good shape.
That is not the case this season. In truth, the squad as it stands, is weaker than at the equivalent stage last year. We have lost Bellamy and not many of us hold out much hope of seeing Ashton as an effective contributor. We still lack cover at left back and we do not have a right back worthy of the name, slow or not. Meanwhile, I do not see any strategy that would enable us to push for the top 4 with our present squad. In fact, I perceive a relegation threat if the squad is not improved. We are on the brink, looking into a very deep abyss.
However, two or three signings could change everything. Zola needs to abandon the 4-5-1 formation in my opinion. The brutal truth is that we do not have the personnel to make it work. Our midfielders do not score enough goals and Cole is not a 16 to 20 goal a season striker. Jimenez is a creator, not a finisher. We desperately need two strikers and I would now be happy if one of them was Eider G - he could play up top alongside Cole and perhaps swap positions with Jimenez to unsettle the opposition defenders. We then need another striker to cover for injuries. Add Neill to the equation and suddenly I would feel optimistic again.
The Top 4 monopoly will be broken this year. Arsenal are weaker than last year and the Premiership in general is weaker too. Man City apart, which team is significantly stronger? Tottenham perhaps. There is an opportunity here for a club to slip through an opening door to the Champions League and that team could be West Ham.
My preferred line up would be: Green: Neill, Upson, Collins, Ilunga; Behrami, Parker, Jimenez, Dyer; Cole, Eider G with the team playing 4-4-2 at home and 4-5-1 away from home. With Noble, Tomkins, Collison, Faubert, Spector, Savio, Kovac, A.N Other Striker and Stanislas on the bench, we would be equipped to mount a serious challenge for a top 4 position, with reasonable cover for every position. Add in a fit Ashton and we could really be a powerful outfit.
However, the season starts on Saturday and, as things stand, we only have Cole to play up front. Imagine if Cole had been injured on England duty just as Ashton was two years ago! The clock isn't just ticking for Zola to sign these strikers, the alarm bells are ringing! We are on the cusp - and this season could spell death or glory!
Posted by Hammersfan at 17:08