As I start to write this blog, we have just lost 1-0 to Cardiff at home. There are a lot of people already shouting on Twitter about how it's the same sh*t different day (league). I on the other hand do not think that at all. Here is my view of the game.
We started brightly, dominated possesion and never really looked like having any difficulty defending. Set pieces against us we were brilliant, they didn't really have any proper chances on goal, a promising sign from last season when we could defend these to save our lives. A big improvement, showing exactly why Sam Alladyce was chosen as manager. We looked good on the ball but the major problem we had was creating clear chances, Piquionne had one decent attempt, but in the first half there wasn't much else. Sears needs to work on getting to the by line and crossing, otherwise I can't see him playing much in the future unless we resort to a 4-4-2 and have him playing off of Cole/Carew/Piquionne, personally not the latter, I feel he dropped off the attack far too much for a lone striker and was never threatening in the air despite his height. I was on the other hand impressed with Reid, Tomkins, O'Brien and Taylor, the first three defended brilliantly and O'Brien also looked good going forward, this continued for the whole game, Taylor was a constant threat for us which was pleasing but he had no one to deliver to as Piquionne was never really a goal threat until later on in the second half where he hit the woodwork, but 2 chances from a striker just isn't good enough in 70 minutes. The first half ended 0-0 with West Ham being the far better side.
A little more equal at the start, Cardiff looked more of a threat but again never really had a clear cut chance on goal like ourselves, as the game got closer to finishing we had one really good chance from Taylors cross to Piquionne where he hit the woodwork as I said earlier, but shortly after he was replaced with Cole, who I personally felt did okay, he was more of a nuisance to the centre backs of Cardiff and despite coming on and slipping on the ball, he was up quickly and through to run, but the referee had already called for a free kick, which is a big shame as I felt he could have created something, Barrera also came on for Sears. Barrera did well also for me, his delivery is much sharper than Sears, but I don't think Sears is a completed wide man. Barrera also had a decent header for someone of his size but unfortunately the Cardiff keeper was equal to it, as he had through out the whole game and I felt he was probably deserving of a man of the match award. Then the dreaded moment, Ilunga had the ball, in plenty of space and rather than playing it quickly, he tried to turn on the ball, alerting a Cardiff player who charged at him and so Ilunga tried turning again and fell to the ground, a potential foul but nothing was given and he should have never ended up in that situation, then the Cardiff player was through, delivered a quick pass to Miller who turned away from goal but hit it very well and it went in through Greens hands and thus West Ham looked at an opening day of defeat. Green maybe could have been better there but if you think about it, the ball should never have ended up there, had Ilunga just played the ball early when he was safe.
Overall I feel we played very well and dominated the game, partly because of our midfield, but we defended well for 90 minutes, if it hadn't been for Ilunga forgetting what to do we probably would have had a well worked 0-0 draw, with a little question mark over our attacking play. Taylor was superb, O'Brien did well, Nolan had an okay debut and Reid looked much better for us. I feel Piquionne shouldn't be getting a look in this season, he was never the main threat like a lone striker should be, it's either Cole or Carew if we are playing the 4-5-1, Barrera should be given the nod ahead of Sears on the right too as his crossing along with Taylors should be threatening. I would personally like us to try a 4-4-2, which is tough as it means 2 of Nolan, Parker, Noble and Collison have to sit out but if any Premiership club has a brain they will go for Parker which means a rotation of Nolan and Noble/Collison. I would probably opt for Noble against a tougher side and Collison against teams we'd expect to win against, with Taylor on the left and Barrera on the right we have enough wide quality. Then up front I would probably opt for Carew but I feel Cole can do just as well, to partner them is the big problem, I wouldn't want to see them together as they are exactly the same, which brings the question of do we try Sears there or even risk Hines, if not then we need to sign a quicker striker and use the big man and little man tactic to full effect. The defence for me shouldn't change apart from Ilunga, he didn't have the best game, there were parts where he looked okay but he did slice a lot of passes, I would either play Spence when he is back but get another player in for now and as cover. 4-5-1 will be perfect for tough away games though as we defended pretty well as a unit for the majority of the game.
Could the lack of threat be a relegation hangover? I think not, I just feel we haven't looked dangerous in front of goal for the past 2 seasons (other than Ilan who we let go). So hopefully 2 more major signings and we will be fine, I'm still predicting us to reach the play-offs, but we need a little work up front!