Hammer Fan Blog: Relegation a certainty if West Ham don’t improve
Where there’s life, there’s hope, but anyone who was present at Upton Park on Saturday will be hard-pressed to make a convincing case for West Ham’s survival in the Premiership.
From the manager to the players, this was a performance that had ‘relegation’ written all over it; and if, at the end of the season the Hammers are indeed relegated, there can be few complaints on the strength of this showing.
Avram Grant can hide behind Scott Parker’s unfortunate injury, or the penalty he believes his side should have won, or any number of mitigating factors in his little black book of excuses; but the team he selected was second best for the vast majority of this game against a distinctly average Aston Villa side.
Quite what goes on in the Israeli’s mind is anyone’s guess. Here, Hammers found themselves up against a Villa back four of Kyle Walker, James Collins, Richard Dunne and Luke Young. An inexperienced right back, a right-footed left back with no pace, and two of the slowest centre halves in the division.
This chronic lack of pace in the back line has, in itself, been one of the principal reasons for the Midlanders’ own struggles this term.
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Confronted with this vulnerability to pace, but a confidence and assurance defending balls in the air; Grant elected to use the two slowest forwards at the club as his front-line pairing.
His primary tactic? To hit the ball long to Carlton Cole and hope for Robbie Keane to feed off the knockdowns. It was genuinely excruciating to witness, and an embarrassing error.
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Surely someone at the club has seen Villa play this season? Any sort of scouting report would have indicated that it’s imperative to keep the ball on the deck and hit them with pace, or has scouting opponents been ruled out as part of cost-cutting exercises?
Even when he attempted to address the lack of pace in his own side, Grant introduced Zavon Hines rather than Demba Ba or Fredderic Piquionne.
Hines is a young player who needs and deserves time, but who has done little this term to suggest that he should be ahead of Freddie Sears, let alone Ba and Picquionne.
It’s still not too late to remove Grant with five games remaining, and even reserve team manager Steve Lomas would surely make a better fist of the job than Grant is at present.
He certainly would not have stood for the pathetic on-field capitulation that occurred. Again.
For, in spite of Grant’s whimsical team selection, Hammers found themselves in front. Again. What happened for Villa’s equaliser was a personal horror-story for Mark Noble. He knows it, the supporters know it, and there’s little point dwelling on it.
From setbacks such as this, good sides - and more importantly good professionals - dust themselves down, get back to the job in hand, and double their efforts.
Not so, this sorry band. The team retreated into their shells at a rate of knots, seemed afraid of the ball, and surrendered total control of the game for the remaining hour to the point that there was an air of inevitability about the late winner.
This West Ham side have become the Audley Harrison of the Premier League; trading on their reputation, rarely living up to their billing, talking the talk, before ultimately cowering at the feet of all and sundry; and it may not be long before the knockout blow is delivered to their Premiership status.
There’s time for redemption yet, but the hope amongst the hardiest supporters in the land is waning. When that happens, you know it’s bad.
It’s easy to say that the manager and the players owe the supporters a performance after this. They don’t. They owe them five.
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