This article is written by Martin Johnson aka @EdwardJames
In 1975 my dear Nan took me to Wembley to watch my first ever West Ham match against Fulham in the FA Cup Final and we won 2-0.
I was a 7-year-old boy back then and I was hooked and proud to continue the family tradition of being a Hammer, mind you really had no choice because my Nan was one of eleven and her siblings were all West Ham too.
I’ve experience a lot over the last 41 years being a supporter of my beloved West Ham, from Ron Greenwood to Slaven Bilic, the joy of lifting the Cups to the pain when being relegated, from Cottee knocking the ball in the back of the net for fun to the DiCanio wonder goal, brilliant saves from Ludo to the blunders from McKnight.
From standing in the old Southbank to sitting in the Trevor Brooking, the changes through the years have been vast.
Our last season at Upton Park, as I like to call it was phenomenal, Bilic and Dicks coming back to the club in management and coaching roles, winning away to Arsenal on the first day of the 2015/16 season Kayoute and Zarate scoring one apiece for what seemed a comfortable win at the Emirates and Oxford playing a blinder.
Transfer activity saw the likes of Payet, Lanzini and Antonio come into the club and the rear guard Tomkins (Now at Palace) Reid and Collins put their lives on the line by keeping out our opponents.
We certainly had our fair share of highs in the last season at Upton Park, our spiritual home for the 112 years and what a fitting climax to that longstanding relationship which every West Ham United supporter can relate, the final game against Man Utd was one of the most emotional games that I have ever encountered due to the eventual outcome, our move to the London Stadium.
I don’t really want to go through the whole of last season, because we know what happened.
What is the real concern is this season, 2016/17 at the London Stadium, where the inquest has truly begun!!! Due to our recent form, 6 games in 5 defeats and 1 win, that in a lot of people’s eyes spells CRISIS!!!
West Ham Not UNITED?
There is something wrong at West Ham, it has been evident for the last 6 matches, which is surprising in one way, because you would have thought last season’s performances would have given our players a wave of confidence for this new season.
So what has gone wrong?
I’m no expert but there have been stories floating around about our transfer dealings, and this may be one of the areas that could be causing un-rest in the camp, who knows? Well I look at it like this, we were always told we would buy quality over quantity but maybe our Chairmen felt it necessary to get 11 new players as like us we were expecting a good run in Europe and it would be only fitting to have players who were capable of delivering progress in the Europa League but Astra had other intentions and our run came to an abrupt end, again.
2nd Season Syndrome?
It happens, a new Manager and Coaching Team come in and in the first season everything is going well for them, players are impressing and the results are positive but as we have witnessed as fans of football and with other clubs the second season can be a nightmare…and at present this is what we are experiencing, no blame can be placed on our new stadium…we have an immaculate playing surface, probably one of the best pitches in Europe. Our players have been used to playing in front of large crowds, internationally and domestically.
So I personally feel half the problem is our tactics and team selection. One thing I have noticed especially against Southampton; our opponents were excited and thrilled to be playing at a large spectacular, filled stadium, they embraced the environment and atmosphere and at times with their passing played like Brazil and with the game against Boro coming up this is something our own club has to do…play football, with passion and determination.
Remember when we played Tottenham when Sam Allardyce was at the helm and we had no Forwards, Sam mixed it up on the pitch by playing no recognised number 10…and credit to Sam as it gave us the win. He had the guts to think out of the box and it paid off.
Bilic “Mix it up”
How do we go forward?
Bilic has allowed the squad to spend a night on the town to allow the players to bond and on Saturday against Boro we will see if this is a benefit or a hindrance.
Performances and injuries have played their part, so we now have to take this into consideration when it comes to team selection and tactics.
I really think Bilic has to #mixitup on the pitch, I would personally rest Adrian for the Boro game, have Payet or Lanzini on the bench and come on as an impact sub, I think we are unbalanced in midfield when both are playing….bring in Fernandes on the right and move Antonio up front with either Fletcher or Sakho if he is available.
Play 4-4-2 interchanging midfield and forwards throughout the game…. remember how we beat Spurs without a recognised number 10, it worked. We need to be more dynamic and players need to adapt to differing systems and roles throughout the match, making us less predictable. I would even put Oxford in the back 4 too.
Our tactics have to change, the philosophy worked last season but in all honestly it has to be variable this season if we are too improve, this is just my humble opinion though.
Thanks for reading, would really appreciate your thoughts as well.
My prediction for West Ham v Boro 2-1″
This is a nice nostalgic article that many of us can identify with in our different ways. Todays problems have been gone over and over by many ,fans (Including myself),pundits, and media and there is very little that can be usefully added to put us back ontrack.There is an elements of truth in all the comments. The latest debacle is the night out sanctioned by SB which may have misfired. On the other hand it could just be a storm in a teacup. The current shock of disbelief and discontent by supporter’s has stemmed, I am afraid, from the owners promising big signings to go with our new super stadium. These promises were well meant I have no doubt but when they fail to come up to expectations and the anticipation of the new season looks seriously under threat the result is what we see now.
Without doubt we have been unlucky with injuries but our squad looks no better than last year except in numbers ,many of whom may now be dragging their heels as we are out of Europe and face a tough opponents in the League Cup.
It is also clear that our opponents have cottoned on to the way we play and have exploited weaknesses. Many Premier league clubs have strengthened their personal more successfully than us and look improved, whilst we appear to have remained the same or gone backward. Whether those teams who play high pressing energetic styles will be able to keep it going or burn out remain to be seen..
We do need, in my opinion to look at our style of play and what to do about it ,especially in defence which is where all good teams must build from. SB gave us an exciting style based on counter attack and quick movement. I do not advocate abandoning this entirely but somehow he must readjust to a more pragmatic style in certain fixtures and be prepared to take strong measures to get it right.
Finally there is the dilemma of Andy Carroll. THe big man is still the main focus of our attack ,when available, but his inability to stay fit over any small number of games remain a real problem despite all efforts . He must now be, historically our most expensive medical bill as well as being one of our highest paid players. Many fans wanted Benteke to be our marquee signing but apart from other considerations his style is too similar to Carroll’s and it can not be imagined how they could play as a partnership. In short is was one or the other. .My concern is that Carroll, given his style of play, has been injured so many times over a long period that his body may not be able to cope with the demands he seeks to put upon it.
Carroll seems a very likeable and high spirited character but the club should ask themselves; is he still an asset or a liability. If the answer is the latter they should try to move him on whilst his reputation ,such as it is, remains a temptation to a club who will take a chance on him. One thing is for sure we are unlikely to recoup the money already spent on him