Valon Behrami has come out today and stated that West Ham’s problems on the pitch are due mainly to the psychological pressures that face the side which languishes at the bottom of the Premier League table. The Kosovo-born Swiss international has also claimed that;
“When the team starts to play, they play very well. Sometimes, we are not doing our job for just five minutes, when we are not concentrating, and we lose everything in 45 minutes… We just need positivity, passion and I think we can get out of this situation.”
The psychological problems Behrami refers to were in evidence during the 2-1 home defeat to Newcastle last Saturday, and it seemed as though the Hammers would continue to feel the effects of the weekend’s hangover when they went a goal down inside 6 minutes against Stoke on Wednesday evening. The side from east London did, however, manage to show the steely determination they are going to need if they are to get out of the mess they are currently in, with only 6 points from 9 games in the league, by eventually running out 3-1 winners after extra time against the Potters.
When the Irons took the lead against Newcastle on 11 minutes after a promising start, they retreated back into their shells and never came out again, allowing Newcastle to control the game and eventually win the match. This shows how fragile the confidence throughout the team is, and perhaps Behrami has a point.
After a run of five consecutive games unbeaten, anyone would have thought West Ham had turned a corner, but having seen last Saturday’s showing, it seems the Hammers are back to square one. So are the problems all psychological?
West Ham have not got the best squad in the Premier League, far from it. But have they got one of the three worst squads? On paper perhaps not, but with the side struggling to score goals and leaking them at the other end, their position is a fair reflection of the way they have played thus far this season.
In a front line of Frédéric Piquionne, Victor Obinna, Carlton Cole and Benni McCarthy, West Ham have some very dangerous, if very goal-shy strikers, and some which thrive off not only personal confidence, but also their team’s collective confidence. Goals for Cole and Obinna in the past week will hopefully have increased their confidence, but it remains to be seen whether they are good enough to help to launch an east London revival.
The West Ham defence, man for man, is not too bad, in Matthew Upson and Manuel da Costa, they have solid centre-backs, but the problem for the side is the way they defend as a team. Against Newcastle the Hammers sat behind the ball for almost the entire match but very rarely actually pressured the ball, allowing Newcastle to launch balls into the box for the dangerous Andy Carroll. To get out of trouble West Ham have to amend this, and the signs are good, with the team pressuring the ball high up the pitch against Stoke in the latter stages.
So the Irons are capable of playing well, as Behrami says. But with the east London outfit inevitably going to be embroiled in a relegation dog-fight come May next year, and a squad more than capable of performing well, West Ham will have to increase in confidence greatly, and fast, if they are going to remain a Premier League side.
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