West Ham now have their blueprint following victory

Image for West Ham now have their blueprint following victory

Mauro Zarate 2Get enough men in forward positions, deliver enough balls into dangerous areas, and select players who can actually finish and you have a recipe for success. Just about every West Ham supporter who has been forced to watch the dire defence-prioritised performances of recent times has been chanting this mantra, in my case bellowing it directly at Sam Allardyce from my seat behind the dug out, for match after match after match. The plea has fallen on deaf, obstinate and narrow-minded ears.

Big Sam’s defence is his pride and joy, his ‘signature dish’ to use a gastronomic metaphor, his comfort blanket if you like. Concede no goals, never lose a game…great in theory, but not so clever if you are unable to create and score goals, and it’s those last two elements of the jig-saw that have been missing.

Creativity and goals don’t come cheap, we all know that. Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool have forked out hugely on top line strikers and ball playing magicians who do all the damage, and players of this calibre are beyond the proverbial wallet of most Premier League clubs, not just the Hammers. However, and this is where I have always taken issue with my gum chewing mate from the West Midlands, set up to defend and contain and kiss goodbye to not only goals, but also the opportunity to score the goals in the first place. The old lottery saying “in it to win it” can be tweaked a little to show football teams that possession maintained deep in your own territory may look great in the following days stats that so many love to read and digest, but when all is said and done, is having 450 completed passes of any worth if these were played entirely in your own half, and if these stats also showed no shots, no corners and no threat?

West Ham have to date huffed and puffed. Not only have they failed to blow the house down. They have also failed to alert the three pigs inside that a potential claret and blue threat was anywhere in the bloody neighbourhood.

The guile was non-existent, and West Ham’s best passer and ball player was generally seen deep, manfully keeping the ball moving and cleverly probing all sectors of the pitch. Believe me, Mark Noble would have been desperate to do his stuff thirty yards out from the opposition net, but a lack of midfield support has always seen him penned back in a defensive rather than attacking role. We were presented with the chatty but ineffective Kevin Nolan as our link-man when in essence he was no more than a playground goal-hanger, never seeming to know if he was striking, defending, linking or advancing.

Yesterday, the busy and tricky Mauro Zarate showed in technicolour exactly what we had been missing; a forward thinking player blessed with pace, quick feet, an eye for goal and energy. Sam’s bromance with Nolan has been a major factor in the teams lack of forward momentum. Zarate cured this weakness at a stroke, and add in the ever impressive Stewart Downing raiding down the right, Aaron Cresswell delivering some ammunition from the left, the strong tackling and forward minded running of Cheikhou Kouyate , and the dependable fulcrum that is Mark Noble having an open play starting position some 20 yards higher up the pitch, then the attacking element of our play seemed so much more focused, evident and almost tangible. It’s not often we have celebrated going two up, but against Palace, the threat was clear, and importantly the mind set just seemed to be that much more positive. How can you gauge a team’s defence unless it is tested and pressured? We saw that once the first goal hit the net, Palace looked uncomfortable, sat back and for once, we took advantage and went for a second. It came in further style, and even at 2-1, there was no intent to sit back and soak things up. Good numbers in and around the box gave us a welcome third goal and it was game set and match. Was this three goal haul and attack minder performance by accident or design? I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s time we cut the manager a little slack after a welcome win and give him the benefit of the doubt.

Carlton Cole scored our third. No cheap shots here from me. I’ve said for so long there is only so much a lone striker can do, and even the world’s best are up against it fighting two or three defenders. There was however more support for Cole than usual, and to see at times four and five Hammers men in and around the box looking for lay backs and knock downs was a truly welcome sight.

For me, the Palace performance and set up must form a new and attack minded template. We have more youth and energy in the side, the strikers bought in clearly know the way to goal and must be given starting places ahead of the old guard who in all fairness have had more than a fair chance to perform but haven’t. There are times, especially at home where Enner Valencia and Mauro Zarate must form the attacking spear head with a playmaker behind, possibly in the shape of Diego Poyet or Ravel Morrison. The workhorse Kouyate covers ground and tackles well, and him and Noble can form a good holding alliance in the centre.

The big worry is that Allardyce will revert straight back to his knee-jerk Nolan at-all-costs selection policy. Let’s hope that some of Teddy Sheringham’s coaching and influence are beginning to pay dividends! I’ve just seen the future (for the time being) and it’s Zarate-based!

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Plaistow born Spencer is a lifelong Hammer and having spent half-a century plus, enduring this lifelong obsession, along with every other West Ham supporter, knows exactly what it takes and what it means to wrap that Claret & Blue scarf round your neck every other Saturday and head off for the Boleyn !

A Chartered Surveyor by profession, Spencer, now 58, has played, coached and managed at semi-pro level within Essex for a number of clubs, and, simply unable to give up playing, currently turns out for the Iron Maiden Over 35’s side when he is not watching the Hammers, playing guitar in his Classic Rock covers band Gunrunner, or more probably, injured yet again!


  • ian says:

    Zarate is a quality player,imagine him and Valencia in attack,its a mouthwatering prospect.Nolan is past it and looks knackered after 15 mins,Allardyce can no longer persist with him after what we saw yesterday.We can play good football and win games.I must also add Downing has been superb in these first 2 games and Kouyate,Cresswell are quality players.COYI

  • notanyoldiron says:

    Agreed. I think the whole team were lifted by Nolan’s absence. There were improved performaces all over the pitch. Zarate brought his football playing skills to the team. Downing responded. Va Te looked better even though still out of position. Long may it continue. If bfs can’t see the difference yesterday’s change made then there’s no hope!

  • Dave says:

    Come on, Palace were incredibly bad, probably a cert for going down with 2 or 3 others.
    You can’t play like that every week, against a top team we would have been to open, but lets hope that against the bottom 14 teams we give it a go like that.
    Palace were very bad though.
    I think the main positive is that we had a few missing and still had a few game changers on the bench. Just shows the squad is getting stronger. Another new centre back and maybe still move a couple on and we’ll look ok for the season.

    • Spence55 says:

      Dave, Totally agree that you need to pick and choose your games, but at home against the lesser sides, lets forget the lone striker nonsense and have a go eh ??

  • stevet says:

    That is the best article i have read about west ham for so long its not true,its as if every line i was agreeing with.Had to share it with a couple of season ticket pals.Well done and lets hope he will get the season right.

    • Spence55 says:

      Thanks Steve… fingers crossed mate COYI !!!

      • Simon says:

        Loved the article, and yes, i believe we have seen a gameplan that will work against most teams and gives opportunity for a variety of attacking options – it wasnt just the selections and positions they played, it was the whole package, CP were awful no doubt, but we actually played to our strengths and put them away very convincingly – we played with a confidence we rarely see unless Caroll is playing, and imo created by Kouyate with his high energy and tempo, Zarate brought final third quality and creativity, from there it just went thru the whole team, we attacked as a team, with players running everywhere, creating space for others and took our chances with the quality they deserved – went awol for 10 mins, hammers all over, but got a third that saw the game out – however, i may sound like a broken record here, but imo Vaz Te is out of his depth regardless of what position he is gifted in this team, and he proved again at CP he cant do it on the left, certainly no replacement for Diame, but even then the left side is our weakest attacking option and needs a lift, Jarvis is inconsistent – CCole scored and is better with 2 up front, but lets be honest, we have tolerated him for years, we are still waiting for the potential to show itself, hes now 30yo, its time we moved him and Vaz Te onto pastures new, and the last position that gives me issues is RB, neither Obrien or Demel are good or consistent enough, we have Jenkinson out injured but he is only a loan option anyway, we badly need to put that position to bed with better quality and we are light in CD obviously – overall i think we are seeing the best looking squad for years, new players in Kouyate, Zarate, Valencia and Cresswell fantastic, Sakho looking very good, and creating a nucleus within the squad to achieve greater things for the club, but we still need Sam to be brave, not to resort to the reliance on things we know are safe but not always for the best, and make the selections and play the tactics that the team will thrive on, as opposed to tolerate to try and meet a desired outcome – i think you know what i mean – anyway – things are looking exciting, and in stark contrast to last week against Spurs when Sam needed to grow some groin danglers – one could almost thank Nolan for getting injured, it seems the universe forced Sam to make the decisions that, if this continues, will save his job, and with a week still to go in the window theres still time to bring in reinforcements, LW, RB, CD – loan deals if necessary. COYI

  • Ron says:

    Could not disagree with any of the points made and just hope that this could herald a new dawn of positive football incorporating our new signings. Not suggesting gung-ho attacking but a cohesive,joined-up style in the manner always associated with our club. I know bfs scorns the fact that our Academy style and reputation produced little silverware but our financial position and restricted ground capacity over the years did not realistically enable us to challenge the big boys but win or lose we exited,entertained and created a set of supporters envied throughout the world. We now have the opportunity to make the next step up with the move to Stratford but to encourage more supporters a sea- change is required now from the board and management. I feel that the David’s know this but is bfs the man to lead us into a new era?

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