West Ham ignore the World Cup as they kick-off pre-season

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Sam-Allardyce2Apparently there’s some sort of major footballing tournament this weekend, but for me, the only game on my radar was getting to see West Ham play again, as their pre-season tour headed to Stevenage. It was very much a game of two halves, both with curious team selections and positioning. The first team were divided into two teams, and each played during one half. The first half saw a more defensive West Ham team, whereas the second was more about passing and moving (slightly) forward.

In the first half, we saw both left back Aaron Cresswell and right back Joey O’Brien pushed far wide as wingers. It sounds like the stuff of nightmares, but it was actually an effective way of moving forward, although it didn’t give a strong indication as to how Cresswell will work as a full back when playing with wingers. Winston Reid and Leo Chambers (improved vastly from last pre-season, but still not ready for first team football) rounded out the defence.

In midfield, Kevin Nolan was pushed far up which allowed Mark Noble to have complete control of the midfield—and it suited him well. He was completely running the game from a defensive midfield position and looked at his best doing it. Diego Poyet also featured, and whilst he looked lively and well-positioned, his way of playing reminded me a bit of Noble, and I couldn’t help thinking their roles overlapped rather than suited each other.

Where it got weird was up front. There wasn’t so much a plan of attack as a lack of acknowledgement of attacking in general, suggesting we are maybe not making good use of new attacking coach Teddy Sheringham. There was no Andy Carroll, no Mauro Zarate— not even a token Carlton Cole— so it must be said that West Ham did not arrive at Lamex Stadium looking for a game of goals.

Reportedly, our entire strike force have knocks, which really bodes well for the upcoming season. Fortunately, youth striker Elliot Lee came on in the second half and showed impressive pace, but was taken off before the half was out— which was a shame, as it would have been good to see a full 45 minutes of what he had to offer.

Also fortunately, the second-half was far livelier than the first. The team that came out included Matt Jarvis, Stewart Downing, new signing Cheikhou Kouyate (picture a skinnier and more active Mohamed Diame who’s not that keen to go forward, but clever with a ball nonetheless) and was a team who passed well, and moved at a very quick pace. This was a more attacking team, and towards the end of the game West Ham popped in two goals just to remind Stevenage that when we want to score, we’ll do just that.

Where we were let down, shockingly, was by the goalkeeping. Crowd-pleaser Adrian looked shaky and, I’m sorry to say, sloppy. After making a second messy save in which he couldn’t prevent the ball from going out, over came Nolan to give him one hell of a bollocking for not taking the game seriously; right in front of the away fans. It was awkward.

It wasn’t a great game by any stretch of the imagination, but there were bright sparks. The three new signings seemed promising, and Ra’vel Morrison was a dream to watch again in a West Ham shirt.

I was very impressed by Dan Potts – I worry often that he hasn’t got the stature for first team football, but today he was very good at defending and was perhaps even better at moving the ball forward. He looked comfortable and confident, and would have been the surprise of the game had it not been for our mysterious number 30, who may or may not be a former Peterborough player named Gordan. He came on at the end of the game, and couldn’t have been more than 12 years old, but the kid could play.

There were good and bad bits yesterday, but both need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Also to be remembered is that Stevenage were taking this game seriously, including their fouls, and Jarvis was unlucky to be on the end of an unnoticed elbow in the face at the end of the game.

Last year we did well in our pre-season, and didn’t repeat the fluidity of those games in the league. I’m reminded of the ‘bad dress rehearsal, great opening night’ saying, and hoping that we use this period for experimentation, but nail the best combination by the time we ‘welcome’ Spurs to Upton Park.

Did you go to the Stevenage game? What did you think of the odd teams? Let us know below, or tweet me @makingthemarrow.

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1 comment

  • john says:

    Clearly the game was just an extended training session in a slightly competitive situation. Nothing should be read into the result.

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