Friday, 30 August 2013

Food For Thought

Well so far so good for West Ham you'd think so far, 1 win and 1 draw in the league, 0 goals conceded and 1 shot on target against us. On top of this we had a 2-1 cup win against Cheltenham where we saw Vaz Te score a nice free-kick and then that man from pre-season, Ravel Morrison managed another speedy goal, 35 seconds after the restart in the second half and he managed to grab a goal. In my opinion, I really do hope he gets plenty of opportunities to shine in the Premiership this year, this guy clearly has potential and it will be very exciting if the hype that seems to gradually be building up more about him, proves to be spot on. 

Now onto the main point of my article, the other day, the man who fired us back into the Premier League, Ricardo Vaz Te has handed in a transfer request. Now this to me doesn't really bother me, I felt last season, he came across as lazy at times and I don't think he is quite ready for the top flight of English football. What has got me interested though, is his statement that has been flying around since he has done this. For those of you who haven't read it, you can see this below:

"In my 10 years as a professional footballer I have never submitted a transfer request nor issued a statement. However, I am frustrated at West Ham.
Last season I was asked to change positions for the benefit of the team even though I had just scored 24 goals.The main objective was to finish in the top 10 in the Premier League and I followed my instructions to the best of my ability as the club always comes first.
As a result even though I was injured for three months no other player made more assists than me and no other winger scored more goals.
In addition, since I joined this football club no other player has scored more goals than me in all official competitions to date.
Statistics are evident to all, despite this it has been made obvious to myself and my representatives that I am not in the manager’s plans.
Therefore it is with a heavy heart that I submit a transfer request and look to join a club where my approach to the game will be appreciated."

The reason I found this interesting is because the more I look at it the more I feel he actually makes a very good point. Don't get me wrong, out of the players I have seen leave West Ham since Big Sam's arrival, I don't think he has really made a massive mistake in letting any of them go, all for various reasons, either they aren't up to scratch, they don't suit his style or they don't want to be there. Vaz Te was one of the top goal scorers in the Championship that season, we then got promoted thanks to his goal and then for the forthcoming season, he was pushed into a wide role on the right, a completely new position to him, he had played central and he had also played on the left a lot for Barnsley, but he was given the freedom to cut inside and fire at will, which is what he basically did when he joined us too. He did as Sam asked and then it seems that we have signed players to push him down the pecking order, I would say he is now third choice on the right wing behind Downing and Joe Cole (and rightly so), while he is also probably third choice centre forward behind Carroll and Maiga (again I feel this is probably right, although I do wonder if Vaz Te knuckled down in a central role, he could have potentially been challenging Maiga as he is tall and potentially strong when he wants to be), but despite him doing what was asked of him, we just carried on with our business to improve. Now I'm not pretending I know what goes on behind closed doors, but imagine Vaz Te had constantly been asking to play up front, then he gets shoved out on the right, then the following season you are cast to the bench or completely out of the starting 11. As a player I imagine that is going to hurt a lot and I do wonder if he was ever told about it or whether he was just cast to one side. I personally feel there's lots of players who must have felt in similar situations, Baldock and Maynard spring to mind, I even recall Baldock saying he was willing to try to learn to play out wide to improve his chances, but still come when we were promoted, he was shown the door (although again I feel Sam was right with this as I don't think he is ready for the Premiership, but I will be watching Maynard closely at Cardiff, as I really felt he had potential to be a very good striker and I was a little bit gutted when he left to Cardiff but this is just my personal opinion). On top of this it makes me wonder how someone like Tomkins must feel too, he was part of a strong partnership with Reid in the Championship and even played right back and defensive midfield now and then when asked, although I did feel this really made Tomkins look poor as you could see he wasn't in a comfortable position there, but then when we came up he was dropped to the subs bench for 2 major reasons, the arrival of James Collins and also the Olympics that Tomkins decided to compete in to represent his country, leaving him out of a fair few pre-season matches. I do wonder had he not gone, could he be part of that partnership or would he still have been dropped for Collins? It is hard to say. I personally would like to see Tomkins partner Reid again a few times, just to see if they could get that strong partnership back as I feel if they could, then we could have a perfect centre back pairing for a long time. At the moment though I hope JT bides his time and grabs any chances he gets with both hands, although I could see him being a potential player to hand in a transfer request to as he seems to be seeing his first team chances slowly dwindling away from him.

My main views on this whole thing and my main point of this article is, does Sam know really how to treat players when he feels they aren't up to scratch, rather than leave, most seem to come out and say something, take Diarra last year and Vaz Te as major parts of this, they haven't hesitated in coming out and slamming him for the way they were treated. On top of this, I also feel that Sam doesn't give players a chance even if they may have earned it on the pitch, although one thing we don't see is the team in training and that could be all Sam needs to really spot a players potential. My only worry about all of this, is if these players aren't afraid to come out about it, what could happen if this happened with more players, especially while they are at the club still, could this lead to unwanted problems in and around the squad, possible distractions, basically things I wouldn't want to see happen. So I hope it's just me looking way too much into this, although, the thought does cross my mind now and then. I would really love to hear other views on this, so if you do have some, feel free to comment away as I would be intrigued to see what others think, even if they are just saying I'm far too paranoid! 

Please also take note, I am not slamming Sam in anyway in this article, I think the guy has been correct on most players he has brought in and let go, he is doing a fantastic job and we are clearly a much stronger side than we ever have been, defensively especially. 

Monday, 26 August 2013

Early Days

As of writing this, the season has seen us have 1 home and 1 away performance. I won't talk about the table as this is practically pointless at the moment and won't really come to light until another few games are played, but I do not blame any West Ham fan for having a little smile when they do see our current position, or more importantly our Goal Difference, not only is it a plus, but we also haven't conceded.

In our home game against Cardiff, we looked very comfortable, especially on the ball, although for a home game against a newly promoted team, I did still feel we let them have a little too much of the ball, luckily for us they seemed to lack the cutting edge that they had in their game against Manchester City, thus never really creating any chances. In that game Jussi faced one shot on goal. Credit where it is due, Sam really does seem to have got the best out of our defence, Demel and O'Brien look comfortable either side of the pairing of Reid and Collins, who have both started the season where they left off on the last. Winston Reid especially seems to be improving every game, I'm a big fan of his now, he battles for everything, strong on and off the ball and up for any header in his path, Collins on the other hand I'm still unconvinced, yes he is very good defensively, he will block everything, but as soon as he has the ball, he is more likely to look long than short, this is good at times, especially when Andy Carroll is in the side, as the big man just seems to get his head onto everything and the wide players and Nolan are always looking for it, but I can't help but feel, when he isn't in the side, our wide players aren't as eager to get near the front man, I noticed this with Carlton last year and Maiga this year a little but not as much. Whenever the ball last season especially went long to Carlton, the players such as Vaz Te, Jarvis & Nolan, just never got near him, so even when Carlton did win the ball, it ended up going straight back to the other side, it did seem Carroll brought a lot more confidence to our midfield going forward at least. I sometimes just wish Collins would happily knock it out wide or forward now and then before going long, but Allardyce probably likes this about him as it straight away gets the opposing team on the back foot, but I'd just like us to mix it up a little bit more. This could just be because I'm a fan of passing football, but I also feel we have the quality in midfield to mix it up and maybe play shorter a little more. I also feel sorry for Tomkins as it looks like he will be the third choice centre back from now on, it's an awful shame as this young player was once looking destined to become one of the clubs favourite home grown players in a while, but ever since that dreaded Olympics, it seems to have suffered him more than benefiting him, I do hope that he can get back his form though and maybe see him in the future develop a strong partnership with Reid like they had in the Championship at times. Time will tell, but I would like that to happen, it just means seeing him make the most of his potential. I can't complain though as this backline also happily kept Newcastle quiet at St James' Park, in a formidable display to keep consecutive clean sheets and a solid defence is always a good platform to build on, as you know if the opposing team can't score, then you can't be beaten.

Midfield wise, it seems this year we could potentially see Allardyce getting a few headaches. Good headaches that is, with the arrival of Downing, who is already looking to impress in Claret & Blue from what I've seen so far, it must be tough for Sam to see our best midfield. You can almost guarantee that Noble and Nolan will start, but Morrison could soon be pushing Diame for a starting spot, which I personally only see as a good thing, Diame is fantastic, but sometimes he does seem to try to do a little too much on the ball, when a simple pass could be the better option, also there were times last season where he seemed to run out of steam, so having Morrison pushing him could improve his all round performances and also give him a well earned break when he needs it, also the prospect of Morrison seems quite exciting. On the wings it is also tough who is the best two to have, Downing, Joe Cole and Jarvis. Jarvis and Downing are the more natural wide players, so you know they will get crosses in, but then Joe Cole has that little bit about him to create something out of nothing and pop up with the odd goal, so it could be a mixture, or maybe it could depend on who is starting up front, or who we are up against. You also still have Vaz Te, but I feel that possibly Sam and the West Ham faithful have run out of patience with him, I personally saw glimmers of hope in him last season, but not enough, I had hoped maybe with him knowing the potential arrivings, that he would have upped his performances in pre-season, but to me he still seems like the unpredictable player of last year, when you were never sure just whether he'd turn up or not.

Up front it feels we are still short. We only have Carroll and Maiga, while I have full faith in Andy when he is fit, as he does so much for the team, wins aerial battles, holds up play, creates and scores, he's the perfect striker mould for Allardyce's style. Maiga though, there are still a few questions, whilst against Newcastle, he seemed to do okay in the aerial battles, but he was offside when he managed to score and maybe could have had another chance, if he'd been a bit more determined to go for the ball after Downing's header across. I personally think Maiga is okay, but I know a lot who disagree, I feel given time playing in his natural position, he could show his worth as I do feel he can finish, but my only worry for him is that he is not comfortable as a target man in the Premier League, he might prefer balls to run onto and utilise his pace, or maybe balls to feet where he can try shaping up to shoot. It's a tough one, but I'm willing to give him a chance and see how he does. Whether the full West Ham faithful agree, will be a completely different story.

So overall, I feel defensively we look fantastic, which is great, not only for us Hammers, but I think Sam will be over the moon too as he likes a team that is hard to defeat and this year we could possibly be even harder, especially with the likes of Rat and Tomkins eager to come into play. Midfield I think we are good and have multiple options to mix our style of play too, again a very promising sign and hopefully it could create more diversity for Sam's team as I did feel last year that we struggled at times going forward due to lack of ideas, now with the players at his disposal, he can mix our play up without even changing formation. Up front, I'm still undecided, with Carroll fit I feel Maiga is a nice option to have coming off the bench when other teams are tired and we could utilise his pace, but while the big man is out, I'm not 100% sure yet, as I'm not sure he's f comfortable in that role, but Gold admitted last night that we are at our wage cap which means a player or 2 would have to go before another comes in. Personally I think Taylor and Vaz Te could definitely be leaving, both I wouldn't be too upset to see go either, Taylor is just getting on a bit and Vaz Te for me just isn't consistent enough, another couple that could go is Diarra, who had a massive bust up with Sam last season, so I wouldn't be surprised if he sees the lack of opportunities again this year and decides to go and possibly Collison, this one hurts me to admit as I love the guy, I think he's class, but he never really seems to have fully recovered from his injury so I'm not sure he would ever cement a first team place and whether we would need him with Morrison coming through. If 2 or 3 of these went then I think we could possibly see another striker come in, the only trouble is, they would have to be prepared to play second fiddle to Andy, which could make it tough to make a move seem appetising to a player. I just feel we need another target man type player and then we could see ourselves with one of the strongest squads we've had in a long time. I think there is reasons to be optimistic though, I would love to see us improve on our 10th place finish, although I'd be more impressed if we had a proper go in the cups this year too.

Looking at the squad we are building though, I think it is safe to say Sam will be around for a few more years, everyone knows by now I'm not his biggest fan but he is building a squad to suit his style of play and we do seem to be getting increasingly tough to beat, so I have to tip my hat to him and give him full credit for that, as in previous seasons we have probably been a bit too leaky in defence. What I would like to see though, is a bit more possession from our side in certain games, especially those we know we should beat. If we could manage that then I think we could be one of the hardest teams to come up against in the division, just because we would then have the options to go short and long even more than we already did, as we did see last season, there were moments when we played beautiful football, so I would like to see that encouraged a little more. Overall I think we have good reason to be optimistic about the year ahead and if we can continue to add quality to our side then who knows, maybe we could push up higher, but it will be tough with the teams who finished above us last year as they all have added quality to their sides too.