Trevor Twohig > After a successful year for the Hammers, Monday night’s match was nothing short of a gargantuan anti-climax.
The potential ‘striker crisis’ at Manchester United left a lot of West Ham fans thinking that they were there for the taking, not to mention the fact that United eeked out an unconvincing draw against AC Milan on the previous Thursday.
So why is it that West Ham continue to flatter to deceive? Moyes and his team have got so much right this season, but unfortunately the first issue on Monday was the team selection. As much as Mark Noble is a legend of the club, this misconception that his experience will help bring a solidity to the team is sadly unfounded. Noble’s inclusion almost certainly means that a player with pace drops out. In this case, Fornals was injured, but it does mean that our counter-attacking prowess is hugely hindered. Soucek found himself pushed further up the pitch, which was fine, but against United’s speed in defence, his threat was countered at every attempt.
The approach from the manager was a real shame too. He as much as confirmed in his pre-match interview, that they were setting up to defend and limit United, which was short-sighted. We had to get at them, and let them know they were in a game, rather than let them play and sit deep. As was shown, here and indeed the two other times we have lost to them, they have the quality to find the opportunity. If it wasn’t for a man of the match performance from Fabianski, the score would have been worse.
Finally, we are beginning to see the limitations to our squad. Without Lingard and the oft-criticised Fornals, we looked toothless. Antonio is beginning to have ordinary games, and the fiery performances that typified the Soucek and Rice combo early season, seem to have cooled. Again, Bowen has looked a far cry from the impact he first had when he joined, and in all honesty, if it wasn’t thanks to goals from our defenders (and Soucek), we would not be in the position we are.
A damning verdict? Not really. We still only lost 1-0, and to an own goal. That said, Man United have had the beating of us this season, and we need to develop a more incisive way to play against the top teams, quickly. The sitting back and hoping to nick it approach, hasn’t worked against City, Liverpool, Chelsea and United now. We have Arsenal on the weekend, followed by Wolves with Chelsea in the not too distant future.
The coaching staff have done a stellar job, but against the top six we need more belief and perhaps a fresh new approach to the matches, to improve for next season.