Last night, two midfield players shone. Noble delivered two brilliant defence splitting passes for Cole's two goals; and Hitzlsperger fired home a goal of his own and delivered a delicious corner for Reid's header. And Parker? Well he played. Roll the clock back to Saturday, when Hitz wasn't available, and who hand a hand in all three goals? It wasn't Parker. But who gave away the free kick that led to West Brom's third goal? It wasn't Noble!
Here's a stat. After his goal rush in the first third of the season, Parker has returned to type and has gone 15 games without scoring. Hitz, on the other hand, started for the first time and scored immediately. In 115 starts for West Ham, Parker has scored just 10 goals, or an average of just 3 goals per 38 Premiership games. That is not good enough for a midfield player, unless he is playing the anchor role; which Parker refuses to do.
In the first half at West Brom and last night against Burnley, it was the same old story. As soon as we lost possession, the back four were utterly exposed because there was no screening offered by our midfield. Why? Because nobody accepted responsibility for sitting and holding: Parker, Noble and Hitz all wanted to play the game in the opposition half.
But why is Parker the one to hold? Simple, Noble and Hitz are better at the other jobs. Der Hammer has the potential to slam home crucial goals so you want him breaking forward as often as possible; and Noble has a far superior range of passing than Parker. Meanwhile, as he showed against Denmark, Parker is perfectly equipped to sweep up in front of the back four.
So what is going on? Basically, Parker doesn't want to do the blue collar job, he wants to be the main man, to be the midfield general and to run around like a headless chicken, like Beckham when he was pumped up against Greece all those years ago. Beckham, of course scored that glorious equaliser in the last minute, so all was forgiven, but up until that point, he played like a junior school kid, forgetting he was part of a team. And that is true of Parker too. Time and again, he surges forward with no regard for what will happen if we lose the ball.
The solution to our woes is simple. Parker needs to sit and hold. His job should be sweeping up and releasing short passes to Noble, who is our true play maker. Hitz's primary job should be to link midfield to attack, operating as much as possible in advanced positions, aka Van der Vaart at Spurs.
We still have a problem, in that Ba and Cole probably cannot be accommodated in the same team. Given Grant is fixated, like Zola before him, on 4-3-3, only one of Ba and Cole can be sensibly accommodated, with Sears and Stanislas or Obinna (when fit), the natural choices to play as the wide men.
So, we end up with a formation that reads
Jacobsen, Tomkins, Da Costa, Bridge
Sears Stanislas or Obinna
That team would be defensively sound, with Sears and Stanislas dropping back when not in possession and Parker screening the back four. There would also be plenty of attacking potential too, with Sears and Stanislas coming in off the flanks and Hitz offering goals from midfield. As the more natural goalscorer, I would go for Ba over Cole.
However, is anybody brave enough to tell Parker to do the dirty job? Somehow I doubt it!