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Effort Vs Reward: West Ham United v Manchester City Review

17 January 2014 by

So, West Ham fans – what a week!

A 5-0 drubbing in the cup, followed by a 6-0 mauling in the other cup, followed by a 2-0 victory in the Premier League. What’s going on?

I was at the Etihad on Wednesday night and witnessed one of the most disappointing, inept and truly lame performances I’ve ever seen. I mean, Man City were good, they were slick, they moved the ball quickly, they were in tune with each other, they were basically brilliant. But they’re supposed to be, right? West Ham were shocking. I’m not talking about ability here. Obviously the two teams are a gulf apart in that category but you have to be able to bridge that gap in class by excelling in other areas. You have to be tactically ready. You have to be willing to work for each other, tirelessly. You have to be mentally ready, as well as physically but most importantly you have to give 100% effort 100% of the time. In my opinion there weren’t enough West Ham players who did this.

On the way to the game a radio phone-in show called into question the West Ham fans’ mentality after the majority were quoted as “hoping for a one or two goal loss”. This pessimism was put down to West Ham’s injury-hit squad (and because of the 5-0 drubbing they received at Notts Forest just three days earlier). But I think the problem runs a lot deeper than a few injuries. The problem is effort. On Wednesday night I saw 10 players (Adrian, in goal, didn’t have a bad game believe it or not!) who did not want to be there. They gave City time on the ball, they let them make runs in behind the defence, they gave them space, they gave them respect – and too much of it. Stewart Downing was doing his bird of prey impression again, I call it the ‘Peregrine Pounce’ – it’s hilarious, check it out – he literally runs up to an opposition player (with no intention of making a challenge for the ball) with his arms down by his side, flaps his bird of prey wings, lets the opposition player pass the ball wherever he wants then repeats this process until he can’t be bothered to run anymore – sometimes, although this is just a rumour, he actually squawks. Joe Cole has a similar thing going on only his is called the Flatley Flounce. He Irish dances towards an opposition, hands on hips, kicks his leg out so it looks like he’s tried then quickly retracts it and dances away. Maiga’s ‘Corpse Crawl’ was on show for all to see as well, he basically… does nothing.

After the match Allardyce said, “However hard they tried today – and they did – it wasn’t good enough to stop the talent and ability that Man City have bought”. Sorry Sam, but I don’t buy that. I think it’s a cheap shot and way too easy to blame City’s financial prowess for your own team’s lack of effort.  Historically, Allardyce has been one of the few managers who has been able to get the best out of a group of players who are less-able than the opposition. His teams have always had fight, grit, determination andeffort. Ugly performances have been his trademark.

“Our players could not cope with that talent”. Well make them believe that they can! You’re the manager! That’s your job! You used to know you’d been in a game with one of Allardyce’s teams. In the past Bolton, Newcastle and Blackburn with players such as Kevin Nolan, Gary Speed, Kevin Davies and Ryan Nelson used to upset the big teams with their more physical performances. The odd late challenge would have unsettled a Nasri or a Silva. But we didn’t even witness any of that. It seems the club as a whole is suffering from a severe lack of self-belief. The Hammers fans spent the entire 90 minutes ignoring the scary truth on the pitch by creating a party atmosphere in the stands. “You’re nothing special, we lose every week” they sang, then proceeded to ‘do the Poznan’ followed by a chorus of “Let’s pretend that we have have scored!” – cue the fake cheers. But on Thursday morning I’m pretty sure that the harsh reality set in. These are worrying times for Hammers fans.

Having said all that, they go and beat Cardiff 2-0! Yes, Cardiff came close and it could have quite easily ended up in a Cardiff victory (Cardiff had 19 attempts on goal compared with West Ham’s 10) but there was effort! And lots of it. The captain, Noble, stepped up to the plate at exactly the time you would want your captain to. He lead by example and the others followed.

So I guess the question is: Why? How can you be so lacking ineffort on Wednesday (I’m not counting the Forest humiliation because there were a lot of youth teamers out there) yet so full of it on Saturday? Allardyce needs to take a long, hard look at last week and ask himself and his team how they allowed this to happen. We, as fans, should expect, as a bare minimum, effort.Anything after that is a bonus. I’ve walked away from games that my team have lost (but put plenty of effort in) thinking ‘You know what? We were unlucky there’, or ‘we got beat by the better team today but at least the lads tried’. As football fans we’re happy with that. All we want is for the players to wear the shirt with pride and have some respect for the club and its fans. These footballers are professional athletes. That means they are paid a lot of money to be professional and compete to the best of their ability at all times. Too many players who are on big money contracts are allowed to disappear in games and every now and then it’s not just one or two players, it’s the whole team, and that’s when it gets seriously worrying. I hope Big Sam can sort them out because I don’t like the managerial merry-go-round anymore than the next fan. Newcastle, Man City and Chelsea up next… good luck with that!

Written by: Game of Two Halves Football Blog. Blog updated every Monday at http://gameoftwohalvesfootball.wordpress.com/

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