Sunday, 30 October 2011

3-2 against Leicester. As many questions as answers!

OK, so we could take the "Get in there" approach. It was a win. It's another 3 points. It's back to back victories. A few weeks back, consecutive games against Brighton away and Leicester at home looked threatening so 6 points is an excellent return for the last 6 days. We are second. There is a 3 point gap between us and the third team. There is clear Claret and Blue water between West Ham and the teams outside a play off place - until games in hand are played at least. If we maintain our current return of points per game, we will finish on 88 or 89 points, enough to secure promotion. Our goal difference is the second best in the division. And this has all been achieved with a heavily depleted squad. So why aren't we all celebrating?

Well some of us are, of course. Some of us think that this blog is intent on seeing the negatives. Some of us will groan when they see this thread and complain, here we go again. But I'm still going to suggest that yesterday's game, and the Brighton match before it, asked as many questions as they answered.

Look at that second half performance. We were coasting. Two goals up and with Leicester manager-less, it should have been a comfortable victory. But as soon as Leicester got a foot in the game - and that was before they scored - we panicked. Once Leicester scored, the whole team turned into Corporal Jones, yelling "Don't panic! Don't panic!" until Rob Green remembered "They don't like it up 'em" and went long ball. No complaints from me about that goal, Piquionne's flick and Baldock's finish were class, but had that goal not been scored at that exact time, I fancy we would have lost the game. But why? We were still a goal ahead for pity's sake, we were the home team, we were above Leicester in the table, we had the experienced manager - but the team looked clueless and terrified regardless.

The problem still roots back to a lack of balance. Noble got man of the match yesterday because of what he offered offensively - and the quality of his passing was head and shoulders above anything else on show - but he is not a holding midfielder; and that shows when we find ourselves on the back foot. He couldn't play alongside Parker, with both doing exactly the same job, and he can't partner Nolan who wants to sit at the apex of the midfield diamond, requiring his partner to sit deep and hold. Give Noble a partner who holds and I suspect we will see him at his best, but ask him to be that holding man, and we will always be vulnerable at the back.

The solution to accommodating Noble and Nolan? You go 4-5-1. But then you can't play Baldock on the shoulder of the big striker and his performance yesterday showed that, home or away, he should be the first name on the team sheet. Baldock is good, very good. That finish for the third goal was special. True it was long ball, but the finish was sublime - and the shot that hit the bar shows he can make something from very little too. When you have a finisher like that at the club, you have to start him.

So now you are trying to fit together a jigsaw whose parts don't fit again. We want Noble's passing range, we want Nolan's leadership and goal scoring threat in and around the box, and we want Baldock's finishing. But we also want a holding midfielder to protect a back four that looks vulnerable whenever the opposition press, and a big man for Baldock to play off. If we could start with 12 players there wouldn't be an issue, but the bastard FA insist you can only have 11 guys on the pitch at any one time!

What does Allardyce do? Well it will be no change on Tuesday, and we should be able to beat Bristol City even with square pegs in round holes, but what happens against the better teams? I really don't know! Who is the misfit in this conundrum? Noble or Nolan or Baldock? At Brighton, Baldock was sacrificed but the Blackpool and Leicester games highlighted the folly of leaving out a player who has "Tony Cottee" stamped all over him. Yes we kept a clean sheet at Brighton, but only because we offered absolutely nothing going forward.

Noble, Nolan and Baldock. It's a case of two's company but three's a crowd; and I would hate to nominate the player to drop out.

15 comments:

darrenharry said...

Spot on summary, my thoughts exactly. Hopefully Mr A will find the right balance, unless further injuries force his hand, which is a very high possibility at our club still. Still think there should be a Govt inquiry into our Physio room....

Sav said...

Drop the "man of the match". Simple! He is the only one out of the three that we can afford to be without.

Baldock is hot and we need his Tony Cottee 6th sense up front. Nolan is the captain and he will come good sooner or later. And don't forget Matty and Lansbury when they are fit and available to play.

fred149 said...

Well i still don't see why we signed lansbury as he offers nothing more then what we already have. And I think we could sacrifice Nolan in home games

fred149 said...

Well i still don't see why we signed lansbury as he offers nothing more then what we already have. And I think we could sacrifice Nolan in home games

Col said...

we were defensively good in the first half which you don't mention at all so what changed in the second with the same players on the pitch (bar Carew of course)so it isn't about those three being on the pitch and I don't believe that there is something more deeply underlying. I think Leicester just came out a better team than they were in the first half and made it more difficult for us....it happens, it's football so stop trying to find a reason all the time, it's pointless.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha I love Sav's comment of drop man of the match, because Nolan will become good sooner or later, makes perfect sense, drop inform and keep out of form.

There is a simple and affect way of playing this. 4-3-1-2. Such a good formation. Lets face it we offer noting out wide, collison is better in the middle and with both our full backs liking to get forward it makes sense. You'd play the standard back 4. You have noble and nolan interchanging going forward, you have a holding midfielder and you can keep little and big upfront. it would be a great idea to try something like this against City on Tuesday. But we all know thats too daring and Sam will play 4-5-1.

Hammersfan said...

I like your thinking 1156, and with Diop holding, we could, in effect, play our full backs as wing backs. Interesting idea. No place for Faubert presumably?

Fully fit squad we would go:

Green; O'Brien (or Faubert?) Tomkins, Faye (or Reid), McCartney; Diop; Noble, Nolan, Taylor; Carew, Baldock.

That works for me and may see us through the puzzle. Interstingly, Wales have used Collison as a holding midfielder so perhaps he could do the job if Diop is injured?

Sav, your reply was soooooo predictable!

Hammersfan said...

Col, Leicester only turned up 40 minutes into the game! Anybody can defend against a shambles!

Anonymous said...

On the 4-3-1-2 front, I'd drop O'Brein and play Julian at right back, he can play there. I wouldn't play Taylor either, other than set piece's he offers us nothing. Collison will be a fantastic player and this league is a great place to redevelop after a long spell out. I really should be on the coaching staff!

Komodo said...

"Had that goal not been scored we would have lost" - but we did score, and we won. Pointless article.

Hammersfan said...

You may think so Komodo but others disagree. So why are you right and darrenharry is wrong, for example?

Mike said...

I don't know. I think Big Sam's getting the best out of Faubert at right wing. He seemed wasted playing at right back under previous managers.

And certainly a fit Matt Taylor is better when he's out wide.

4-3-1-2 is nice in principle, but I'm just not sure Mccartney and O'Brien have the legs to do it for 90 minutes.

I think that, despite 4 goals to his name already this season, Nolan is the underperforming of the three you mention. But we also know that as captain and Big Sam's right hand goon, there is no way Nolan will be dropped.

Thus, we can but hope that injury does indeed force his hand on this issue, otherwise I fear we might well be discussing this for many matches to come.

Essexhammer said...

Good post HF.The fact is if we had a stronger back four there would be no need to have a holding midfielder,the two centre midfielders could have freedom to attack as well as play that holding role.Many of the great teams of the past played that system (the great ARSENAL side with ADAMS as captain)an example.CHELSEA were the ones who really introduced the classic "holding player" into the premier league with MAKALELE who executed that position superbly.Unfortunately WESTHAM do not have that quality a player: NOBLE(tends to roam and not as solid as DIOP) and DIOP(solid in his defending role but lacks the vision of NOBLE to set up an attack) .Two options for ALLARDYCE go all-out to improve the defence to to enable NOBLE to play in his normal midfield role OR drop NOBLE for a better quality holding player...probably the cheaper option.

Anonymous said...

kevin in manchester writes..

yes a good post and some interesting solutions .. I think Collinson could convert nicely into a defensive midfielder; he has better ball control than Noble (ususally). As for our predilictionm for shipping goals in the second half at home: every team in the championship knows about it and will go hell for leather to unsettle us (and the crowd)in the last 20 minutes .. we just have to cope and banish the memory

Anonymous said...

You're too sophisticated for me HF... I have no idea what your point is COYI!!!!!