West Ham 3-0 Fulham

The Cherhill, Wiltshire, Village Competition: Three Parsnips (no foliage) (we’re visiting my dad this weekend)

 

DON’T PANIC!

We have been losing at West Ham forever. We have been bad away from home for ages. Had we held onto Dembele and restored Dempsey and kept Murphy and signed some exciting half-Lithuanian playmakers we’d still have been perfectly capable of playing like that.

Things just didn’t go well. You go down in the first minute away from home then, generally, the match will not end with points being won. That this goal was a dreadful mess does not help supporters’ moods, either, but again, there are few concessions where we’re happy, are there? In this case Andy Carroll won a header, the ball was moved on and Kevin Nolan arrived in the vacant inside left channel to slam – slam! – home. Oh dear.

They got another with a direct header from a corner, which doesn’t happen often, does it? Winston Reid outjumped Diarra and larruped a header into the empty net, empty because Schwarzer had gone all De Gea on us and ended up neither fish nor fowl in mid air.

Then again, Matthew Taylor scorching in from the edge of the area to make it three. Game, set, match.

The second half was better but they always are when you’re behind, aren’t they? West Ham sat on the lead, Fulham grew a bit, and possibilities emerged. The great Dimitar Berbatov made his Fulham debut and showed some fantastic touches, and suggested that he might have that splendid gift of making others around him better. Hugo Rodallega went from anonymous apology to incisive build-up contributor. He and Berbatov seemed to have half an idea of how to play with one another and on another day they’d have made a goal or two.

Also relevant was Alex Kacaniklic, whose lively approach work was encouraging. He did well and deserves a season to get to grips with the league. Give him that and he might be a star.

In other news, Kieron Richardson had a good debut I thought. I liked how he moved, the way he looked to use the ball and the pockets of space he found. Again, with a bit more time with his teammates he should be more than useful, and that left foot is sure to make some good things happen sooner rather than later. As it was he had the only meaningful Fulham shot of note in the first half.

So if you look past the 3-0 scoreline and forget that our attacking play was more often than not dire, and that our defence was uncharacteristically terrible, there’s some room for hope. This team has lost two of its better players, but there are several good ones left and we’re a long way from being in danger.

14 thoughts on “West Ham 3-0 Fulham

  1. Just returned from the game and your write up is spot on. Couple of things i would like to add. We really missed a creative force in midfiled to thred through the right balls at speed. Often we went sideways and back rather than forward. Diarra was excellent but Sidwell really struggled.

  2. Thanks for the wise words Rich. I totally agree with you about laying off the panic button for the moment. I’m sure it was a rough week for everybody. Berba is still a genius and I’m really looking forward to watching him for the next two years. I’m not sure I’m seeing eye-to-eye with you on Richardson though. He looked like he thought he was going out to have a kick about with his kids in the park. Unfit and overwhelmed.

    1. Agreed, adding that I thought his defensive positioning in the first half left a lot to be desired. That said, it’s early days. I’m sure he’ll come around.

  3. (Ditching the old ‘ffcsf’ name this year, I think.)

    Berbatov impressed (and I agree, Rodallega was transformed when B. came on), and I’m basically in love with Kacaniclic at this point. I thought Richardson looked lost, but I’m happy to give him a mulligan for a few weeks until he has some vague idea of how the team moves. Ruiz doubters have yet another game to ponder carefully, as he was clearly missed. That all said, I have two concerns coming out this game:
    1) Defensively we looked confused and vulnerable. This is the last thing we need, given everything else going on — I’m not sure there’s a lot of margin for error left if this is the year that Schwarzer suddenly starts making a lot of mistakes, for example.
    2) Going forward, the “solution” to the midfield problem seems to rest entirely on unknowns — Jol said in the post-game that he didn’t see Richardson as a winger, particularly, and might try him in CM; similarly, there was a lot of deadline day discussion of trying one of the kids (Kacaniclic or Frei) in that role. Sidwell doesn’t seem entirely fit (and he got chased down from behind too many times!) — that will improve, but at he’s best I’m not sure he’s strong enough to really take the team anywhere great. There was even talk of Dejegah in that spot, although we could certainly use another right winger (although Duff seems to be holding up pretty well). I’d feel less on edge if I knew where the solution might come from. But trust in Jol’s ability to match the man to the position, I suppose.

    Still, I’ve been expecting this loss all week. Carroll played well against us last year, even when we beat Liverpool, so that wasn’t too much of a surprise. Vaz Te cut us to ribbons.

  4. I like Sidwell a lot as a guy to come off the bunch and inject the team with a little venom, but he’s not a creator and without a link-up player like Dembele, he shouldn’t be starting.

    Ruiz can not get back soon enough. Between Roddy, Petric and Berbatov, we’ve got loads of talent up front, but unless Ruiz can provide them service, we’re going nowhere. If Ruiz can’t fill Dembele’s role, I really don’t know what Jol is going to do about the midfield.

    I’m not pessimistic about the team going forward–there is still loads of talent around–but the midfield situation is certainly worrying. Fortunately, Jol has earned the fans’ patience and I’m curious to see what direction he takes.

  5. We were ponderous in possession, but at least neat and tidy. Very belatedly we were dangerous.

    The real disaster was when we lacked possession. The spine of your team needs authority, achievable in various ways — by dint of applied physique, incisive tackling, anticipation of danger, and/or sheer class. Today Brede was bossed in the air and no other defender nor anyone in midfield other than Diarra exhibited any of those traits.

    Which of them will do so on a better day? Too few are equipped to qualify in the applied physique stakes, so they are going to need to do so in other ways. Failing that we will be asking for trouble.

  6. It became clear early on we struggled against a tall physical target-man. The up-side is that very few teams possess a similar forward such as Carroll who can monster our two centre-backs. But like everyone else, I am also concerned about midfield. Sidwell is not a starter, maybe Richardson in his place as alex k is playing great on the left – or we play 4-3-1-2 The most critical part is Ruiz stepping up until January so Berbatov (who played great) and whoever his strike partner is can get some decent service. Without that linkup man, it wouldn’t make a difference if we had Rooney and van Persie up front.

  7. The saving grace is that hardly any other teams have the ability to play the Carroll way.

    Hangeland apart we are suddenly a very short team.

    Dempsey, Etuhu, McBride, Konchesky are all examples of players we’ve lost who used to help us boss our area when defending. None of yesterday’s starters are much use in that department. I suspect that Senderos, when fit, will return and I’d like to see a place for Baird who is decent in the air and, when a regular, gives us some level of authority and leadership. He can’t do that coming on for the odd 10 minute cameo.

    I’d play him in midfield ahead of Sidwell because he’ll grow into the role.

    We need guys on the pitch who will demand more of their team mates.

  8. I imagine the parsnip competiton didn’t have any great depth, the three that won second look very skinny, I’d not be happy getting them with my Sunday roast!

  9. With a team now growing in the number of creative attacking minded players I think a Baird-Diarra midfield pairing could be a way forward. We’re not going to benefit from out attacking talent if we cannot retain the ball.

  10. First half I felt a horrible hole in my stomach which I falsely entirely attributed to the void left by Dembele in the middle of the park (I had also forgotten to have lunch).

    I pondered what it meant defencively to no longer rely on his tackling and tracking back, and how much our attacking play relied on his ability to create space and draw in- and circumwent players whilest he drove our attack.

    His contribution to goals was underrated and often not acnowledged as he tended to have the 3rd or 4th last touch before ball was in the net; taking out players that were missing in the later stages of the attack, making the direkt assist and goal much easier.

    I think Sidwell is a decent all round player, and I don’t think he had a bad game. But he is going to have a tough time replacing Fulham’s greatest talent of the last couple decades.

    Our midfield/attack was playing with new players and formation (4-2-3-1) in the first half, so it was by no means a good indicator of how we will play in the future. I can’t see any reason why Jol won’t eventually be able to get us to play as well as last year, with a solid defenceve CM paring of Sidwell and Diarra, with our quality gained thurther up the field which was evident from the minute Berba came on, making up for that lost in the middle of the park.

  11. Rich, so happy to read your optimistic view. I was devastated when I saw the final score that comes after the great escape of our top players. Could Berba and Rodallega fill that gap?

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