Apparently Allardyce thinks we were unlucky not to beat Villa. Well on that basis, he was watching a different game from me! How many genuine saves did Guzan have to make? Two, if we count the Jarvis scuff and Joe Cole's effort from a near impossible angle. And Villa? Well Jussi made two brilliant saves (from Wiemann in the first half and Benteke in the second) and the Villain's Belgian also hit the underside of the bar from a position you would even back Carlton Cole to score from. We were not unlucky not to win, we were bloody lucky to draw!
Allardyce again quotes stats and suggests that sooner or later it will come right, but if you don't have goal scorers in the team, how are you going to score goals, exactly? I have given the alarming goal scoring stats for this team before - these players aren't just goal shy, they are goal comatose! Did anybody think Jarvis would score when Nolan played him through? Did anybody expect Downing to hit the back of the net when he twice cut inside? Did anybody expect Noble to bury that free kick? Dear God, unless we are awarded a penalty, this bunch have no idea where the back of the net is!
How desperate is it when the fans stand to applaud the introduction of Carlton Cole, a player who couldn't find a club after we released him? Now I'm not having a go at the guy here, but when you NEED A GOAL, who is the last man you turn to? The Upton Park faithful stood as one man to encourage Carlton on his introduction, but it was an act of kindness, not an expression of expectation. And following his introduction, we looked more stretched and Villa should have scored twice whilst we created that solitary half chance for Joe Cole.
The six man midfield can work, if the personnel are right. Jarvis, for one, is a waste of space. Allardyce quotes the 38 crosses we put into the box, but Villa had three tall centre backs parked in there and we had Nolan on his own. Now Captain Kev is great when he ghosts in unnoticed, but when he is the target man, his effectiveness inside the penalty area is lost. And who else broke into the box? Morrison a couple of times, Collison maybe twice, Jarvis himself, and Downing, but never in a central position - until Joe Cole came on.
The formation surprised me. When I saw the team, I expected Collison to be at the front of the six, possibly swapping places with Morrison and Nolan. Instead, Allardyce changed a fluid six into a rigid five plus one. Jarvis and Downing played like Redknapp and Sissons in their prime, only without Hurst and Byrne to hit in the box. Time and again, Villa's full-backs were beaten but when the ball came over, it hit a West Ham No Man's Land because we had nobody in the box. I could have been at the centre of Villa's defence and the Midlanders would still have kept a clean sheet!
So where do we go from here? Well unless Petric is up to it, I suspect we have to persist with the "false number 9", but then we simply have to get as many goal scorers into the team as we can. That means no place for Jarvis and a start for Joe Cole, irrespective of his defensive liabilities.
The start point must be Noble and Diame at the base of the six. They are the best defensive midfielders in the squad and Diame is a beast when on form, whilst Noble increasingly controls the midfield. The other four players then have to be used in a fluid way, interchanging with each other so that the opposition defenders don't know who to pick up. My four would be Morrison, Nolan, Downing and Joe Cole, with Collison introduced for the last twenty minutes when Nolan's legs tire. Like Nolan, Joe Cole instinctively breaks into the box, and runs at clever angles. He came on and had two shots on goal, and might well have scored the winner had Noble's attempted pass not been intercepted as he broke behind the Villa centre backs.
One thing's for sure, there's no point setting up to feed Carroll when Carroll isn't on the pitch! Yes he might have scored three on Saturday given those 38 crosses, but he can't score when he's sat in the bloody stands! Allardyce needs to stop harking on about luck and start working out genuine solutions. He was the twat who opted for Downing whilst Remy was allowed to join Newcastle. The need for a striker was obvious to everybody else because everybody else understands that 38 crosses to nobody are absolutely bloody pointless!
Player Ratings: Jussi 9; Demel 7, Tomkins 6, Reid 6, Rat 5; Noble 8, Collison 6; Jarvis 6, Morrison 6, Downing 7, Nolan 7 Subs Carlton Cole 5, Joe Cole 6, Diame (not on long enough).