Sunday, 1 December 2013

West Ham 3 Fulham 0 - Breathing Space!

Well, looking back after the event, it was all very comfortable wasn't it? Based on that showing, Fulham are in deep, deep, deep trouble and we look too good to go down. But let's take a deep breath and look at things honestly.

The team that started the game had scored just two goals between them all season. Some leapt on my negative half time report, in which I made Fulham favourites to run out 1-0 winners, based on the fact that they had goal scorers in their team and we didn't, but they failed to take note of the fact that our opening goal was incredibly lucky - Diame's shot was grubbing into the keeper's waiting hands until it took a deflection - and our second and third were netted by players not on the pitch in the first 45 minutes. Had that "Diame goal" not gone in, I suspect we would have huffed and puffed all afternoon without blowing the Fulham cottage of straw down.

Listen to Les Ferdinand on Match of the Day and you would think Maiga had a good game, but nothing could be further from the truth. The guy was his usual incompetent self. Yes he hit the post and forced a good save, but time and again his appalling decision making and poor control let him down. He struck the woodwork from two yards, deflecting Noble's perfect free kick with his shoulder, when it was far easier to score. Time and again he rose high and headed the ball on, even though there were no players goal side of him. Twice he was through on goal and failed to work the keeper. And his poor thinking skills were perfectly illustrated when caught offside when literally standing on the touchline next to the linesman and then when he played a pass to Joe Cole who was obviously five yards off himself and so had to allow the ball to roll behind for a goal kick. If Maiga is the answer, it really is a bloody silly question!

Ferdinand's point, of course, was that a striker - any bloody striker, even Maiga - gives us shape and when Jarvis and Downing start, there is an obvious need for a target man. But why wasn't that man Carlton Cole who scores goals against Fulham for fun? If Carlton had played every game of his career against Fulham, he would now be hailed as the Jimmy Greaves of the C21st! And sure enough, when Carlton came on, we looked so much more incisive. Ferdinand felt Maiga was unlucky not to be on the pitch to receive Downing's inch perfect cross, but he fails to appreciate that Maiga would still have been on his heels as Downing rounded the full back, and would only have reacted when Downing put in the cross - and so would have arrived that crucial half a second too late. He doesn't read the game and doesn't gamble, that's his problem.

The other liability in the team going forward was Jarvis. How many opportunities did he get to cross the ball and how few times did he find a player in claret and blue? The guy put in more crosses than any other player in the Prem last season, but wasn't credited with a single assist. That is a frightening stat, and if you want to know how that's possible, just watch back this game. True he almost set up Nolan, but even that pass was just behind Nolan and slightly too high, making the volley all but impossible to execute.

In contrast, Downing was superb. Time and again he skinned Richardson, and time and again he got into the box, to the by-line, worked the keeper or played in dangerous crosses. This was his best game for West Ham so far.

The other star of the show, until the substitutions, was Noble. His range of passing is now superb and whilst his critics will seize on his occasional misplaced passes, they must surely concede that when one man plays so many passes over the course of a game, some will inevitably go astray; not even Brooking or Hoddle had a 100% completion rate! Look at that Maiga header against the post. The freekick was won because Noble played a delicious pass inside Richardson for Downing, forcing the Sunderland man to bring down his flying opponent. Then Noble stepped up and planted that freekick onto Maiga's shoulder! Had Carroll been on the pitch, the back of the net would have been ripped out because of the pace on the cross - it only needed contact with a forehead and not even Banks at his very best could have kept the ball out. Then there was that time when we were boxed in close to our by-line. Noble made himself available, played a couple of one-two passes and then, having engineered a yard of space, looked up and swept the ball out onto the opposite flank where Demel awaited. Had Gerrard done that for Liverpool, the ITV commentary team would have creamed their pants; because it is Noble, it barely warrants a mention and doesn't feature on the MOD highlights! Add in his closing, covering, surging runs, energy, interceptions and tackles, and Noble is looking more and more like an England player to me. Just compare his performance with Parker's!

Defensively, we were secure enough but four grannies recruited from the local geriatric ward could have kept out this Fulham team. Going forward, they were truly, truly dire once Taarabt lost interest.

Then, of course, there's Morrison and Joe Cole to discuss. What a difference they made! The third goal was brilliantly worked between the two of them. Unlike Jarvis, Joe Cole has the intelligence to move inside, swapping positions with Ravel, and unlike Nolan, Morrison has the skill and pace to move out onto the flank and terrorise a full back. Ravel's weaving run was brilliant, JC took up the perfect position, Morrison had the time and composure to spot him, and the finish was perfect. It was a great goal. As was Carlton's finish from Downing's wonderful cross. And neither would have been scored with Maiga, Nolan and Jarvis on the pitch. Great substitutions or poor team selection in the first place?

Anyway, the monkey of poor home form is off our back for now, but we must not get carried away, this game has just given us some breathing space. To be on target for survival, we need 20 points at the half way mark, and that means 7 points from the next 6 games, six games that include fixtures against Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. There's not much of a margin of error is there?

Player Ratings: Jussi (Nothing to do!); Demel 6, Tomkins 5 (He should have been sent off in the first half!), Collins 6, McCartney 6 (But imagine him against Arsenal!); Noble 9, Diame 7; Jarvis 4, Downing 8, Nolan 6, Maiga 5 Subs: Carlton 7, JC 7, Morrison 8

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

#chump #noidea #clueless #embarrassing