Who Exactly Is The Best Player Outside The Premier League Top Six?

Usually an argument reserved for mid-table supporters trying to vie for dominance of the mediocre or, for relegation rivals trying to find solace in a failed season. So with the season winding down and points at an all time high, its the perfect time for the yearly debate: Who is the best player outside of the top six?

There are a few players who have made strong bids this season. The intensity of the table has only magnified the importance of marquee players, as 19th and 10th place are only separated by nine points. So, who’s in the running? I’ve narrowed my list to five.

 

Ryan Bertrand:

The Southampton fullback has had the eyes of the upper echelon Premier League teams upon him, and a possible relegation of the Saints could make a transfer inevitable. With Chelsea owning his playing rights for years, Bertrand was sent out on multiple loans throughout England, before securing a permanent move (following a loan) to Southampton. With three assists this season Bertrand has been chipping in offensively for a side that hasn’t had much to fill the box score with.

Bertrand earned a call up to England’s pre-World Cup squad and will likely serve as Danny Rose’s backup or replacement should he get injured again. With the world’s eyes upon him, it seems that Manchester City’s eyes could be focused on him most intently. Left back options Benjamin Mendy and Danilo have been less than impressive this season for City, so a strong showing from Bertrand would likely see him head north to Manchester.

Wilfred Zaha:

The main man in Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace squad. Zaha is on this list more from peer pressure than me believing he would see regular starting time at any club in the top six. What he does provide is game breaking speed, and seems to have the clutch gene in his game. This season he has managed only three goals and three assists in 21 matches played. But, he seems to score when it matters most (see extra time tying goal vs. West Ham).

His abilities have seen him a popular pick for this prestigious, imaginary designation, but his injury record has hampered any chances for him to maximize his potential. Let’s face it the old adage is true – the best ability is availability, and Zaha has been anything but available this season. He has the skills to impact a top six side but more so as a squad player rather than instant plug-and-play player. He may be the most likely to move to an elite team but is he really the BEST player outside those teams?

Abdoulaye Doucoure:

This ball moving midfielder has garnered a strong amount of attention from elite Premier League teams. The 25 year old French midfielder impressed under Marco Silva at Watford this season and has continued to put forward strong, albeit now individual performances under new boss Javi Garcia. Doucoure has gone cold in recent games, but has still managed seven goals and three assists this season.

Manchester United are linked with him this summer, with Tottenham and Arsenal also looming. With Spurs’ midfield likely full for the foreseeable future, that leaves the Red Devils and Gunners to battle it out for his services should he want to leave. Fellaini’s departure could see a squad space open for him in Manchester, while Arsenal losing Jack Wilshere could open a space in the London squad. His potential is very high and compacted with his age, Doucoure could be the most prized player for top six teams.

Marko Arnautovic: 

The previous pouty passer of Stoke City exchanged his playmaking boots for finisher foot-ware in an offseason move to West Ham United. Originally recruited by the now former manager of the Hammers, Slaven Bilic, Arnautovic was a mess under his management but has been reborn with David Moyes as his boss. Having missed two games for red card suspension, and four for separate illness and injuries, Arnautovic has still managed seven goals and three assists this season.

Originally thought to be a £25 million flop Arnautovic scored his first goal for West Ham against Chelsea in a 1-0 win and hasn’t looked back. His form has been so unrelenting it earned him the prestigious consideration of “Chelsea transfer target” in the January window… after Andy Carroll and Peter Crouch of course. Regardless, if West Ham survive relegation it’ll be on the back of their new main man. Striker, winger, attacking midfielder, he does it all for West Ham and could for the elite, too.

Jamie Vardy:

And the winner is… Jamie Vardy. I mean, is there really any other choice? The main man in the most unlikely championship win in sports history, Vardy’s contributions to Leicester City’s Premier League winning season got him the attention he deserves. Vardy has kept ahold of this attention by continuing his impressive offensive numbers rolling, thirteen goals and six assists last season and fourteen goals (already) this season.

Vardy’s speed is neck-and-neck with his clinical goal scoring abilities for marketable talents. He is a master centre forward for counter attacking football, as well as a true fox in the box when possession stats favour Leicester. Tailor made for Chelsea or Manchester United, Vardy should have been poached coming off of the unlikely win by Leicester City in 2015/16, and again last season. Now at 31 and the face of the franchise it seems unlikely Vardy will depart any time soon. He is the champion of perseverance, coming from leagues distant to the Premier League and has become a star under the big league lights.

 

So there it is, my views on who are the best players outside the top six. Vardy is the crowning jewel, but Zaha a perennial favourite and Arnautovic a newcomer to the conversation. I also only included one defender (Bertrand) and thats on purpose. It’s hard to justify saying defenders on teams that are at least -15 on goal differential are next level players. Gun to my head I’d give my honours to Alfie Mawson of Swansea. He’s hardnosed, tough, and a real bastard to play against. If he had a better squad to play with he could be a game changer. Regardless, my list is as mentioned above!

Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

Frederik Andersen Gets Visit To The Dark Room, Needed Rest A Bonus

After a chorus of boo’s fell upon Alex Radulov for his tenure at the Montreal Canadiens, the rambunctious Ruski delivered his revenge on the Leaf’s MVP. With some physical encouragement from Roman Polak, Radulov dropped onto Frederik Andersen’s head and drove it into the ice. Awesome. This is why we can’t have nice things. Andersen left the game and did not return as Curtis McElhinney, the most nerve racking goaltender in the league, sealed off the victory.

Now, Anderson has had a very checkered injury history in regards to concussions, or as Babcock likes to call them “upper body injuries.” So there is reason to be a little nervous. I’ll take up the profession of spin doctor here to try and calm myself down about the prospect of Andersen missing any long stretch of time.

First and foremost, he isn’t on Injured Reserve. He was tagged as day-to-day, which to Babcock is usually 10-14 days of time off. IR designation would mean a minimum of seven days off, but likely more as its usage is reserved for longer term issues. As fallout, Garrett Sparks has been recalled on an emergency move from the Marlies. Sparks, who may be the best American Hockey League goalie this season will only serve as a back up, unless Curt proverbially shits the bed in Buffalo – so I wouldn’t count on seeing him.

The positive from this situation is it gives Lou, Babs, Shanny, and the rest of Leaf’s nation the right to tell Andersen to take a load off. Kick back, relax, have a drink, put your feet up, just…just don’t play hockey for a little bit. But get one thing straight, I don’t buy into this “he’s tired” narrative that seems to be following him around this season.

He is a professional hockey player, and at 6′ 4″, 230lbs, he is a pure ginger, adonis too. He is a PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE which means his only marketable skill is literally playing hockey. That simple piece of information should be enough to deflate any argument about the perfectly conditioned, pro hockey player, “seeing too many pucks,” but context helps too.

So then, let’s give this some context shall we? The late, great Johnny Bower, the ambassador to everyone who knows the Maple Leafs can shed some light on being tired. Bower enlisted underage in the Army pre-WWII and served for four years before being discharged due to rheumatoid arthritis – then went on to play professional hockey from 1945-1970 WITHOUT a god damn face mask.

Anderson got a bonk on his head, and it’s serious seeing as his passed history with concussions and UBI’s and the information we have about CTE now. Let’s just embrace the 14 point lead Toronto has on Florida for their play off position, ride out the season and get off Freddy’s back.

Sure he’s seen some rubber, but thats his job. He’s seen tape on Jake Gardiner too i’m sure, so he knew what he was signing up for (see every clip of Gardiner handling a puck at the offensive blue line). Let him rest, stop saying he’s tired and let’s all collectively hold our breath as McElhinney refuses to go into his butterfly and yet somehow continues to make saves

You Like That!? Vikings Sign Best Available QB, Swap With Broncos

Not since the blue jean wearing, colour swapping patriot Brett Favre traded his Packers green for Minnesota purple have the Vikings seen such a successful year, as far as quarterbacks are concerned. Case Keenum and Sam Bradford combined for an unlikely duo to take Minnesota to the Divisional Championship round, and gave the fans something to cheer for outside of Adrian Peterson for a while now – so why change it up?

The change is revolving around all three Viking’s quarterbacks – Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, and beloved Teddy Bridgewater.

Bradford is set to sign with the Arizona Cardinals after not getting extended by the Vikings. He had two games under his belt before getting injured this season, in maybe the most unsurprising news of all time. Bradford was a panic buy after Bridgewater’s offseason injury two years ago (now), but the team is right to move on. He is too unpredictable, even with his high upside.

Bridgewater, after exploding his knee in a non-contact injury so bad he had his teammates crying and asking “God Why??” Bridgewater played in his first game in nearly two seasons for Minnesota. It was garbage time in a 34-7 win over Cincinnati and despite his stat line reading 0-2, 1 INT the Vikings faithful were collectively cutting onions, seeing their ‘QB of the future” under center again. Now likely to join the New York Giants, Bridgewater has been passed by from teammates and coaching staff and has lost out on two major years in his career. Ah, what could have been.

Case Keenum, a likely candidate for the franchise tag in Minnesota is also not going to be moving forward with the Vik’s after the most surprising performance in the 2017/18 season. He was sensational and most importantly consistent for the entire year. After rookie running back Dalvin Cook dropped with a season ending injury in week 4 many thought Keenum would come back down to earth – wrongo.

Keenum peppered receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen down field, while feeding the running back duo of Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray at a steady pace. Despite the unforgettable season, including The Miracle in Minneapolis, I think the Vikings are right to move on from him. It seemed like the bubble would pop all season, and it took until the divisional championship game to do so, but his success seemed so unlikely I’m still not convinced he could do it again.

So who is going to replace this entire QB staff? How about the most prized free agent in the 2018 off season.

With the first fully guaranteed contract in NFL history, former Wsahington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins will lead the Vikings onto the field in 2018. With the deal reported to be near $90 million over three years, Cousins is cashing in on his gun-slinging QB style and I am FIRED UP.

With a 27/13 TD to INT ratio, Cousins lives and dies on his arm. Minnesota is a strong pick simply because of their team construction. They are elite on defense, have two all star receivers, a dynamic young running back, and are looking to improve on an already improved offensive line. Cousins will thrive in purple and improve an already strong favourite to go deep in the playoffs again next season.

Oh yeah, Minnesota is also “finalizing” a trade with Denver to pick up Trevor Siemian as  a backup quarterback. Unless injury strikes Siemian is nothing more than a backup, but I won’t hold his lackluster 2017 season in Denver against him. After a good start to the season the entire Broncos team fell off a cliff and into the bottom of their division.

Regardless of last year’s success I love the attitude of the Viking’s front office – if you can get better, do it. Rick Spielman, GM of the Viking’s is all in, and it about damn time for Minnesota to win something.

A Script Fit For Hollywood: A Bold Prematch Prediction

With almost nothing going right for West Ham at the moment, why not mix things up? It has been no secret that keeper Adrian’s play has had many calling for a replacement but is there just cause? For West Ham, and David Moyes, absolutely.

The timeline fits perfectly for a Joe Hart resurgence: Hart steps in, saves West Ham’s season, actively helps Jack Butland and Stoke City get relegated, and aids in West Ham leapfrogging Jordan Pickford and Everton in the Premier League table. Easy as you’d like. In reality, West Ham play top-6 teams in four of their last nine games.

An uncomfortable reality for Joe Hart is that should he be given an opportunity to be West Ham’s number 1 again, he needs to relish it at the London Stadium this weekend with Burnley in town. Burnley, who started the season with a remarkable run, have given themselves enough breathing room to end their season in the top of the table. However, recent form has seen Burnley struggle to score, netting more than one goal only once in 2018 against a ten-men Everton side last week.

Hart should be given a chance simply because Adrian has dropped the ball in his most recent matches. Allowing four goals in back to back games, Adrian can be forgiven for the Liverpool match, but the Swansea game was an unmitigated disaster for the Spanish keeper. With Swansea midfielder Ki Sung-yueng scoring maybe the slowest goal of the season, and a string of goals built off of indecision and slow decision making coming off his line Adrian has earned a sit on the bench.

Both keepers have less than desirable stats, with Joe Hart averaging just over 2 goals a game (2.14 gpg), and Adrian slightly better at 1.6 goals per game. The only stand out performances for either keeper came form Adrian when he replaced Hart against Manchester City, plus the following win and draw with Chelsea and Arsenal. Since, the form has dropped and it points to Hart getting another opportunity.

Much like the urgency that hangs over Moyes’ success at West Ham, Joe Hart’s top-flight professional career could be over should he fail with another opportunity this season. So the motivation is there, but is the physical ability. He’ll surely be rested, but the issues for Hart came with slow reaction time more than anything, as he was often late to reachable goals.

Why not give “England’s number 1” another opportunity? It will light a fire under both keepers and perhaps capture lightning in a bottle for Hart, who is actively fighting for his Premier League and International career. And imagine the story lines, something positive for West Ham: “Former League Champion lifts Hammers to Premier League Survival, Grasps International Starting Job.” sheesh, I like the sound of that.

 

Come On You Irons!
-Adam

Abandon The Diamond, Moyes Needs a New Formation To End The Season

Ole Mediocre Moyes has wearing thin on my patience as of late, most notibly for his unwillingness to tailor his diamond formation against opposition. Do we need five defenders against Swansea? Shallow thinking would say no, but when you look a little bit deeper… nope, its still a no. It didn’t fucking help anyways, did it Moyesy? It’s application was understandable against Liverpool, Man City, and Chelsea, but the games West Ham have win are in spite of the dysfunctional diamond he trots out there ever week.

There are two glaring issues with the diamond: it makes the team too narrow, and it hamstrings team selection.

Wingbacks are awesome when you have Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso. Two young, stud defenders that play both sides of the ball well – they add huge support on the attacking wings and provide defensive coverage on the backend as well. Can someone please tell Moyes that Pablo Zabaleta and Patrice scissor-kickin’ Evra are not elite wingbacks? No one gives a shit about the combined age of them, because if they could play in that system they could. But they cant.

Zabaleta is an all time defender in the Premier League, cutting his teeth at Manchester United. Under Slaven Bilic he was THE only candidate for Hammer of the Year. He was a defender, played as a defender, and thrived as as defender. So what is the natural progression of where he should play? As the only rightside players, responsible for defending, attacking, supporting midfield, and shutting down the likes of Zaha, Salah, and whoever else the Premier League can throw at him. Solid man managing, Moyes. Move to a flat four and he becomes a defensive beast again, it’s as simple as that.

Evra seems to be the only person who has benefitted from Masuaku deciding to spit on a Wigan player. Thank the LORD the next match will be the last of his 6-match ban because no one can play the left side like him. Tops in the league in successful dribbles, he was a game changer for the creativeness of the team. I don’t even want Evra near the training facility. Oh, he loves this game? Maybe he should try training for it then because he looked like an old gas bag who’s career has passed him by…. wait, that may just be what he is.

Moyes who has committed to playing him over Michail Antonio for some ungodly reason has now stuck with him at left wingback for two consecutive 4-1 losses. I know injuries are a bitch, but excuses work better when you actually try to improve your team before failing. No one cares that your team has injuries if you’re unwilling to change anything to accommodate your player selection.

As for team selection, Moyes has made it simple: Chicharito will be dropped even though he is in form, and Mario cannot play alongside Lanzini. Both are WILD decisions. Its been a few weeks now where West Ham fans have had to take the hard pill that is Moyes’ team selection with clear omissions to its best players. For instance – Michail Antonio.

This powerful “play me wherever the fuck you want” player can be outrun by few, and out muscled by less. He is a game changer for West Ham simply because he is the perfect mix of pace and strength, and seeing him play makes me feel some kind of way. It’s a World Cup year and England looks as soft as ever, so Antonio has a real opportunity to make the team, the only inhibitor as it stands now is Moyes deciding a 35 year old French “defender” is better for his team.

Another asinine team selection for Moyes is the constant use of Cheikhou Kouyate in midfield. Maybe, the most remarkable player on West Ham for all the wrong reasons, Kouyate has legs like a gazelle, long and lean, perfect for running – yet he seems unable. The only time he won a tackle in the last month was when he then fed Antonio on a through ball that ended up in Liverpool’s net. As well, he is 6’3″ tall but cannot win a header. Seriously, he cant win an aerial ball. Its unbelievable to watch. He assisted a Marco Arnautovic goal after a lobbed ball down the field hit his back, unbeknownst to him, and landed at his forwards feet. He adds nothing, while Joao Mario sits on the bench, probably shining his European Cup championship trophy.

Moyes’ ineptitude is more indicative of a league that has passed him by. Wingbacks and three defenders, is high risk football that often won’t favour the team that have contextual senior citizens on the wings. His unwillingness to change is showing of his desire to be right, which is blocking his actual ability to succeed. As it stands now he is as successful as Bilic was in his last string of games and is trending in the wrong direction.

If I were Moyes I would fill the midfield and release the attack. A 4-3-3 formation with Cresswell and Zabaleta as fullbacks surrounding whoever the hell is fit at centre back would benefit from a defensive mid, like Noble, being responsible for covering back. Lanzini and Mario above Noble would fill out the midfield with wider space available to roam. They would feed a front three of Arnautovic, Chicharito, and Antonio – literally the attack EVERYONE has been crying out for all season. It is a predictable side, but it is West Ham’s best side.

As far as I’m concerned tinkering with player selection and formation decides the order of the top-6 team. Playing your best players in their most promising positions is how you stay alive in the Premier League. Moyes needs to swallow his pride and put his team in a better position to win. Scotland’s job has been filled so your escape route is closed Moyesy – now buck up and win or your future as a football manager will be as screwed as West Ham’s Premier League lives.

Reluctantly, Come On You Irons.
-Adam

David Gold Sends Strong Message To Twitter Troll

Coming off of a fan related incident following a horrific loss at Swansea, Board man and co-owner of West Ham United, David Gold snaps back at a twitter question about his club.

Clearly in no mood to patronize a fan who has checked out on West Ham, Gold simply suggested ‘Mark’ not renew his season tickets if hes not all in on his team.

For all of the trash Gold tweets out that seems to pour gasoline on the fire, this was not an example of that. Its quick, sharp, and poignant, and I can’t disagree.

This response comes after the Swansea game where pregame Gold was seen contributing, literally out of his own wallet to the Isla collection bucket run by Baz Cox and post game appealing to out of line fans.

Whether you believe him or not that is up to you, but for me Gold has never been the problem with West Ham. He talks to fans, he is often visible, and he is a West Ham fan.

Bottom line, this tweet is awesome. Mark, if you’re not with West Ham 100%, there is a line of people who will take your season tickets. Just don’t come rushing back should the team turn it around.

Come On You Irons!

-Adam

Should West Ham Stay Up, These Are The Three Positions They Need To Strengthen

With a defensive minded manager, and five defenders on the pitch West Ham still managed to allow multiple goals from set pieces and defensive meltdowns. It seems that tactics, training, and formation are not the issue so it clearly is the quality of players. Swansea’s offensive masterclass was merely a microcosm of the player woes West Ham have had to deal with all year.

Goalkeeper

Adrian earned his time in net over Joe Hart this season. Taking his one opportunity against Manchester City, Adrian provided a performance that gave his defenders confidence. Slowly but surely this has faded since then.

As a Cup keeper on a team with depth and skill to challenge for both League Cup and FA Cup, Adrian would thrive. He would get plenty of game action early in these tournaments, and would then swap game time for game intensity.

Of course, the threat of a quality keeper is always important to keep your starter sharp and looking over his shoulder as well. Adrian could provide that in spades… if his pride would allow it.

A possible suitor as a new starter? There are two trains of thought: a veteran who can take the reigns and settle the squad with his experience (a la Begovic). Maybe Ben Foster of likely relegated West Brom or Fraser Forster of Southampton- both are great shot stoppers with Premier League experience.

Or, a young up-and-comer who is playing to legitimize there career. Should Stoke City get relegated West Ham should go all in on Jack Butland. He will have World Cup experience and is a class player. He can command a backline and is brace when coming out. That would be a next level signing for West Ham.

*honourable mention: Neil Etheridge of Cardiff City

Center back

West Ham are in desperate need of a stud on their backline. Angelo Ogbonna has been a revelation for Moyes but if he is West Ham’s best defender they will struggle to move up the table.

Highly touted free agent Stefan de Vrij of Lazio would be other worldly. He is a Dutch international, and a breakout star of Serie A. He would walk into West Ham’s team and add legitimacy too.

Another player who would challenge to start for the team would be Ahmed Hegazi of West Brom. Another player plucked from the corpse of a relegated team, Hegazi is a hard-nosed defender who man marks really well.

Defensive Midfield

The most predictable of the three needed players, the quarterback of the team has been missing. An every game player who control the transition between offence and defence is in dire need.

Whether it is William Carvalho or Leander Dendoncker, both will be playing in the World Cup and would bring invaluable experience to the team. A strong defensive midfielder relieves the defence while releasing the offence simultaneously.

Look at the top Premier League teams: Chelsea have Kante, Manchester United have Matic, Liverpool have Henderson, Manchester City have Fernandinho. They may not all play the specific CDM role, but they provide the services of a two-way midfielder.

The biggest If with all of these needs is IF West Ham stays up. It’ll take a remarkable finish to the season for the Hammers to remain. If they do, it should be a summer with tonnes of movement.

West Ham Travel To Swansea In The First Must Win Of The Season

With Liverpool behind them, West Ham will travel to Liberty Stadium home of Swansea in what is the first must win game of the season. It’s a term thrown around an awful lot throughout a season, but hear me out on my explanation.

The schedule dictates the severity of matches and escalates their importance. There are only ten games left for West Ham, so the end in in sight. The amount of games left, and the fact that there are seven team lower than them in the table (albeit within three points) means that West Ham are still the masters of their own fate. Win the games you should, make the tough match-ups hard, and try to eek out some points from the top six.

Of their ten games left, four of these come against top six opponents. Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City all are awaiting West Ham in their final weeks. This daunting 40% of the schedule inherently makes the remaining games necessary to win for West Ham.

There you go, Swansea away is a must win. Boom!

What intensifies this, is the fact that Swansea are very much a relegation rival for West Ham, sitting just three points back of the Hammers. A lopsided win could see West Ham drop into the relegation zone, should there be an excess of four goals for Swansea. As well, under the new management of Carlos Carvalhal the Swans have been in impeccable form.

Something else to not forget is that Swansea added Andre Ayew…FROM WEST HAM in the January transfer window. To be honest, I didn’t hate the move as Ayew was not very impressive in his tenure at the Olympic Stadium. A part from a few flashes he could never string together good performances and wasn’t Bilic’s or Moyes preferred player at Striker, attacking mid, or either wing.

Of course this match is probably when he breaks out and smashes his own side, you know, the West Ham Way. But, unless he switches jerseys with his brother Jordan, also on Swansea, I doubt he makes an impact.

Despite being outclassed against Liverpool I think the players felt how close that game was up until they collapsed in the second half, and have something to prove. The Hammers should take the opportunity to separate themselves from the bottom, and further put Swansea’s Premier League hopes in doubt. If they should lose, the term ‘Must Win’ will be evermore prevalent when looking back.

Moyes Faux Pas, With Managerial No-No’s

Liverpool dismantled West Ham, in what many predicted could be a sloppy loss for the East London club. The impressive offensive line of Firmino, Salah, and Mane was a constant threat, while the revitalized defence with the addition of Virgil van Dijk shut down the West Ham attack. But, with the predicable better team winning, how did West Ham’s manager, David Moyes, contribute to the teams loss. With these three football managerial adages:

Don’t Change a Winning Line Up

West Ham secured three massive points against Watford before lining up against Liverpool, in what was a convincing win. The hornets were buzzing, coming off of a 4-1 win against defending champions Chelsea resulting in high team moral and confident players. West Ham executed a game play that saw the use of a two pronged striker duo of Marko Arnautovic and Chicharito, while Michail Antonio made his starting return as a left wingback.

This team used Antonio’s speed up the wing, and Arnautovic’s physicality up front to create offensively. Supported by Joao Mario in an attacking midfield role, the West Ham attack was able to hold onto the ball and sustain pressure on the Watford defence.

For the defence, the attack was kept on the outside. Having netted a penalty goal Watford captain Troy Deeney terrorized the Chelsea back line by shielding the ball behind his body and smashing into the penalty area. For West Ham, Zabaleta and Antonio limited Richarlison and Deulofeu to the perimeter, while the back three of Cresswell, Collins and Ogbonna deflected away any aerial attacks.

Moyes opted to remove in form Chicharito for Manuel Lanzini who was returning from injury. As well, Antonio was moved to the bench to give Patrice Evra his first start for West Ham. Both players were underwhelming and did not factor into the limited success West Ham saw, unless you give credit to Lanzini for being subbed for Antonio who scored. Moyes missed the point here, and in the process he deflated his marquee striker and newly fit forward.

Play Your Best Players

Similar to the first issue, Moyes opted to nitpick rather than let his team play. In doing so he stranded his two midfield maestros, Lanzini and Mario. When playing “alongside” Arnautovic, Lanzini realistically was sitting below him and acted as a linkup man who would join in the offensive rush. No one watching them play together would say they lined up parallel. Now, since Lanzini had been out with injury Joao Mario too that position of midfield link up man, while Chicharito stepped up as a striker, matching Arnautovic’s advanced position.

This was abandoned with Lanzini coming back. Lanzini stepped into his old role, while Mario also remained higher than Kouyate and Noble in centre mid. So, if we look at how the players played, West Ham lined up 5-2-1-1-1. Absolutely revolutionary football management from Moyes! I am not privy to the backroom discussions of Moyes’ managerial team, but the emphasis was clearly “get Lanzini back on the pitch at any cost” when it really didn’t need to be.

Don’t Over-manage Your Squad

Again, linked to the previous issues with Moyes’ strategy, over-management was very apparent. It factored into the sloppy team selection and opened the door for the Liverpool attack. Essentially, Chicharito was dropped when in form for a player who may be the most important person on the squad. It was clearly an effort to recapture the team that saw success against Chelsea earlier in Moyes’ reign, but the team had since changed. Chicharito was gaining momentum playing alongside Arnautovic and that was overlooked by Moyes.

Lanzini is a must start for West Ham, sure, but only when he is fully fit. As well, he isn’t a damn striker! Let him play offensive, let him roam, but don’t think he is a striker. Chicharito’s pedigree and current success should have guaranteed him his spot, with Lanzini as either a sub (as he was coming off injury) or a replacement for Kouyate.

Over-management was again present in Patrice Evra’s first start for West Ham. A centrepiece in an alleged racist event with Liverpool’s Suarez, Evra is a polarizing figure in Merseyside. He was constantly booed, and had Suarez’s name chanted at him, even though he was the victim in that alleged event. Regardless of passed transgressions, Evra is 36 years old and was implemented in his first team action since November 2017 as a wingback against Mohammad Salah.

West Ham could have used Antonio’s speed on the wing to at least match Salah on his runs, while adding something offensively. As well, against Watford Antonio didn’t seem out of his depth in a new position, sticking to the wing and moving up and down the pitch on the outside. Evra often wandered, and as the play would build on the right side he would overlap his defenders in the middle of the pitch.

Moyes seemed to fall victim to what every fantasy sports manager often succumbs too, too much tinkering. To be fair West Ham has needed over coaching for much of this season in order to minimize mistakes but in this instance the faux pas’ of the managerial world seemed to have overwhelmed Moyes at Merseyside.

Come On You Irons!
-Adam

 

 

 

Red In The Face

A carbon copy of the stat line that saw Slaven Bilic sacked, West Ham lost 4-1 to Liverpool. The game was similar, speed and skill in Liverpool’s front three dictated the play and poked too many holes in an already shaky defensive line for West Ham. With goals from Emre Can, Mohammad Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane, West Ham were merely another victim to the Liverpool machine. Frustrating for fans, frustrating for players and frustrating for the manager, this match left every West Ham supporter red in the face.

Lets look for positives first, of which there were few. As predicted, Marko Arnautovic kept his form up as West Ham’s lone offensive threat in the first half. He spun a terrific shot at keeper Loris Karius who managed a terrific save on a looping chip that was deflected off the ball. As well, he scorched in a shot that was curling into the net before Karius again foiled the opportunity. He is absolutely impressive with his work rate and his ability to mix power with a delicate, fine touch. A mainstay in the first team, without a doubt.

Now for the negative, of which there was plenty. Specifically Patrice Evra, Cheikhou Kouyate, James Collins, and Joao Mario were atrocious. Evra, who saw his first game action and start for West Ham looked his age completely. Often drifting out of position and not marking his man along the wing, Evra getting the start was a gamble that did not pay off. Personally I think it was a terrible spot to start him for a multitude of reasons. He was involved in a racial incident with Luis Suarez in a Man Utd vs Liverpool match, which saw Evra get booed whenever he touched the ball. As well, 36 years of age, in first team action for months, and he is tasked with marking Mo Salah – it didn’t make sense.

Kouyate looked like his old self again. Recently having returned to form, Kouyate was a mess in the midfield against Liverpool. Outmatched with pace and touch Kouyate could not hang with the likes of Can,  Milner, and Oxlade-Chamberlain. With the ball on his foot he often coughed it up far too easily, or slung it downfield in a panic. He also picked up an early yellow card in the match that dictated a reduced physical role he could play for the rest of the match. He is purely surviving on a lack of options, but Josh Cullen deserves starts over him at this moment.

James Collins is an unusual name to see in the negative column, but Liverpool picked on him at will in this match. The problem is that he is playing far too many minutes, and in consecutive games than he is capable to. His position moving forward should be a depth option or late game sub, which is why another year extension makes sense for him. His speed is not high enough to catch the likes of Salah and Mane, and it was well on display. Then, out of fatigue or panic he would launch the ball back to the halfway line and give up possession with better options around him. If anything, Collins was a victim of team selection more than anything, but he did not impress at all in this match.

Finally, the last name in the (overly) bad column is new loanee, Joao Mario. This match was really his first bad game for West Ham, but there were silver linings within it. He started in an in between role under Lanzini but above Noble and Kouyate, with Arnautovic above everyone else. His touch was bad, often giving the ball away in what should have been promising positions. What was positive about his game was the amount of touches he had and how often he seemed to find himself with the ball on his foot. I’ll chalk this performance up as a one time flop, but realistically Lanzini should be in the outlet attacking mid role, with Mario and Noble in central midfield.

West Ham just need to brush off the performance. They were out matched skill wise, out managed, and out paced throughout the game. What they would have needed was had defensive structure, but too many mistakes allowed for Liverpool to capitalize offensively. This should be taken as a wake up call as West Ham face off against Swansea next week, a matchup that is a must win for West Ham.

Come On You Irons!
-Adam