Things have certainly changed at West Ham this summer, but one thing appears to have stayed exactly the same – the atrocious defending.
I would have loved to have got this new column off to a positive start but, after Saturday’s performance, that simply isn’t going to be possible. It all looked so good for 45 minutes, the Hammers, while not threatening Asmir Begovic’s goal too much, were on top for the majority of the first half. There was a good feeling around the ground, one full of hope and optimism, but a shambolic second half display completely ruined all the Irons’ good work.
Did Pellegrini get the lineup right?
I was really surprised by the lineup today. Although the changes were needed after Liverpool, I wasn’t sure before the game if Manuel Pellegrini had got it right. Turns out that he didn’t. Ryan Fredericks struggled at Anfield, but today could have been different for the right-back – against a Bournemouth team with far less attacking ability than the Reds. Instead, Zabaleta got the nod and did alright on the whole, but should have done a lot better for Callum Wilson’s equaliser.
It was the right decision to take Declan Rice out of midfield; he is a much better central defender for me. However, West Ham definitely needed a body in front of the defence, as Noble doesn’t have the pace anymore and Wilshere wants to push on and, therefore, leaves space for the opposition to exploit. Those two were never going to be enough against a Cherries side that love to get the ball down and play, were they?
Then there was the introduction of Snodgrass to the starting lineup. I didn’t get it. Whilst you are always going to get effort from the winger, he isn’t good enough for this level and never really has a big enough impact. I had no qualms about bringing Chicharito into the lineup, though, to give Arnautovic a bit of support. I’m just not sure the formation really suited the Mexican, given that he had to drop into a number ten position a lot of the time – and that is not where you want him.
Analysing the defence
Well, can you really call it a defence at the moment in time? They look like conceding every time the opposition comes forward. After the shambles at Anfield, I would have done more than just bring in Zabaleta for Fredericks. Firstly, Arthur Masuaku is not a left-back. I had a bit of a rant last week about him and he did nothing to change my opinion on Saturday. The lad simply cannot defend and switches off far too often. A half-fit Cresswell would do a much better job.
I can’t believe Ogbonna and Balbuena both managed to maintain their places either. The pair were all over the place at Liverpool and it didn’t get any better on Saturday. Although I like that Balbuena looks to play out from the back and move the ball quickly, he hasn’t shown me anything to suggest that he should be starting over Issa Diop. You can’t just pluck a guy out of the Brazilian league and put him straight into your starting lineup at this level – it’s a massive step up.
As for Ogbonna, he really isn’t showing his experience at the moment. He looks shaky on the ball and he made a huge mistake for Bournemouth’s second goal. Like I said previously, Zabaleta did alright, but he should have either put a proper tackle in on Wilson or brought him down. That was where it all went wrong. If I was in Pellegrini’s shoes and had Fredericks, Diop and Cresswell all fit and available – I would probably start them over members Saturday’s defence.
I wasn’t too worried about how the players performed offensively, to be honest. The first half was very good in spells. The Hammers manoeuvred the ball well around the box and looked threating, without forcing Begovic into too many saves. The goal had been coming, Arnautovic, Chicharito and Anderson were linking up well, with Wilshere probing from a bit deeper. If a couple of passes had come off, then the Irons would have had more clearcut chances. A bit more time to gel and those things will start coming off. It was more the defence that let the team down on Saturday.
After the break was a bit different though. Bournemouth committed themselves a bit more and it worked. Whilst it is still very early days for Anderson, his second half display was extremely poor. The club have paid a lot of money for the Brazilian and he showed very little, as he gave the ball away left, right and centre. Although, he could be better with Cresswell bombing on to the left of him – something Masuaku didn’t do enough of.
I didn’t really understand why Chicharito was taken off, especially after the Cherries had just gone 2-1 up. Surely the striker is the kind of player you would want on the pitch when you are chasing a goal, right? On a positive note, while Arnautovic struggled to make too much of an impact in the second half, at least he looked sharp at times and showed that he is ready to have another great season. Looks like he can take a good penalty, too.
The defence is a real worry and I see no sign of that changing any time soon. It looks like it could one of those seasons where the Hammers have to score three or four goals just to win a game. But, with a change in personnel at the back and a more organised formation, then maybe things could be different. It looks bleak right now, but there is no lack of ability in this squad and, hopefully, that will shine through in the coming weeks. Keep the faith.