4-3-3 has been the curse of West Ham for two seasons now. Zola was obsessed with it and dispensed with the services of Etherington because he didn't fit the shape, bringing in Jimenez and Diamanti who didn't fit the Prem. Time and again, Zola reached for the formation and time and again it failed, so he reverted to 4-4-2 but with square pegs in round holes, which failed too.
Cue Grant and I expected better; I expected common sense and pragmatism; I expected a manager who looked at his available resources and picked a team accordingly, rather than start with a formation and force players into it, regardless of suitability. Sadly, that's not what we've got.
The team selected to play Bolton wasn't just poor it was stupid. Bolton attack down the flanks, so you have to protect your full backs. Protect them? Grant didn't even pick a specialist right back, instead he went 4-3-3 using Piquionne and Ba to "screen" Bridge and Tomkins. I saw the team and accepted defeat immediately; there was no way in a million years that the selected team could win at Bolton. Add in the fact that Keane has NEVER fitted successfully into a 4-3-3 formation and you end up concluding that Grant's "thinking" was crass.
Now regular readers of this blog will know that I have been reluctant to condemn Grant. You can't change managers every season and you can't judge a guy too early after he has inherited a mess - as Grant unquestionably did. I gave Zola until December of his second season before I started the campaign to get him sacked - and at the time I was something of a lone voice! The trouble with Grant is that he is almost certainly going at the end of the season anyway, with a nice little number at Chelsea on the back burner. And, like Zola, he seems to have become obsessed with 4-3-3, the formation of the gods but a formation that tests mere mortals beyond their point of endurance.
If we play 4-3-3 today against Young and Downing, I fear we will be murdered. Our first priority must be to contain these two and try to cut off the supply to Bent. If we give them space and time, they will hurt us. Remember back to August? We were cut to ribbons and Villa literally could have scored ten. Who played right back that day? Reid! If Grant starts a centre back at right back today, he should be shot. Literally.
4-4-2 is the only answer and the formation should be conservative, with Boa ahead of Obinna in my opinion. And then there is the problem of who plays up front. I suspect Ba has now been found out. It was a great start but how good is he? Like Obinna, maybe not as good as we believed at first. I would go with Keane and one of Cole and Piquionne personally. Not the most exciting of combinations, I accept, but functional.
To win, we have to grind out a result today and not winning is close to unthinkable. Blackpool v Wigan is a nightmare fixture, promising one or both of the relegation "certainties" a point or points. If we lose today, the mountain becomes Everest like in proportions. We then HAVE to beat Blackburn, Sunderland and Wigan to survive.
It aint looking good. If I see 4-3-3 as a formation at 2.30, I may have to accept that Grant is as big a cnut as Zola!
My team for today:
Jacobsen, Tomkins, Upson, Bridge
O'Neil, Noble, Hitz, Boa (or Dyer)