Irons have major midfield issues


By Rich Sprent

songactNow the euphoria of the Cup win over Everton is beginning to settle its time to look at how the team actually played.

The game was a barometer for  Premier League outfits outside the top four and while many will look at the first signs of a partnership developing between Carroll and Valencia I believe it is the midfield that again attracts worrying glances.

It was glaringly obvious that Song was not fully match fit and his substitution was inevitable. Noble got about a fair bit in the first half but once the Cameroonian left the field he and Nolan looked sluggish and made things difficult. The lack of back four protection the team having to drop deeper and deeper to compensate.
Jarvis looks lost having to receive the ball and pass it around. Nolan provides experience and makes a fair number of interceptions but his lack of pace is exposed with only Noble beside him.
With both of them together it promotes deeper defending to compensate for their lack of pace and movement. It also promotes longer passing from the defence to relieve the pressure.
Imagine how good it must look to see Andy Carroll up there when you have the ball as a centre half. That the pass needs to be of quality and have good support from a pedestrian centre midfield is the issue.
Amalfitano provides a good touch and has desire to go past players. He requires movement around him however. Having 50 per cent of the midfield unable to provide agile support makes his workload very difficult. It cannot always be left to Downing to pick up the ball and make something happen. 
Sakho and Valencia provided a very different outlet as a partnership. Both are pacy and make unselfish channel runs. With Carroll however, it needs quicker support from the midfield. Make no bones about it, Carroll IS devastating to play against.
That Jagielka left the field wearing practically a camouflage jersey is testament to the times he had to pick himself up of the Boleyn turf.
Valencia began wide left and made good connecting runs from play off of Carroll. The partnership is a work in progress and will require help from the engine room to flourish.
Hull will provide a very different test tomorrow. With a fully fit midfield we should prevail.
But life without a Song looks very pedestrian

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Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!"

Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon


  • MerryMichaelW says:

    Yes …

    The problem is not as you described. The problem is Nolan. Pass completion way below 75%. Successful tackles 6 in 6 matches. The man is now, and has always been, a complete liability.

    Noble, on the other hand, is our best player. By a considerable distance. I do hope that he is challenged by Song, Downing and Amalfitano. Or even Kouyate.

    We also have a problem with Collins, who is running at 3 major errors a match. So far, thank the Lord, only a few have led to goals.

    • Hammerman6 says:

      Sorry Chap,
      but Collins has been outstanding this season, he blocks more shots, clears more crosses, and makes more tackles than Reid & Tomkins put together. (I mean the ones that don’t carry a yellow !)
      Nolan’s legs have gone sadly, but he has not always been a liability, his goals got us promoted, and he scored 4 goals last February that kept us up.
      The problem is when you have a big man up front the natural consideration is to get the ball up to him. We have a problem of playing two styles in one team. The wing backs get forward wide, and the midfield is confused as to what balls to play forward, wide or hit Carroll. This is causing us to give non descript balls and lose possession.

    • spidergk says:

      I used to agree with you about Collins. I only saw him as a liability, however credit where credit is due, I would say he is arguably our best defender at the mo. Tomkins is well….just Tomkins really…a liability,. After his argument with Nolan and Noble the other day, his head just went to pot, Strictly speaking it went before that, which is why he found himself on the wrong end of a Mark Noble wagging finger in his face. Reid has his mind elsewhere and has not been the player of the last couple of seasons(although still remaining professional). He’s probably already playing for Arsenal in his mind….Whereas Collins this season, has put his head and body where it hurts time and time again. He has featured for the European Team of the week more than any other West Ham player too. I do agree however about Nolan. When is BFS going to realise that when we play with Downing at the tip, we play well, when Nolan is played there, we are crap. He probably is fully aware of that, so why for the love of god does he keep playing him only to change it halfway through the game. His goals have dried up and his legs have gone. Very frustrating. In fact I do not think the BFS OUT brigade have left the building, they have just been placated by the improved footie of late(due to Dave and Dave’s signings), something Sam I’m sure will put right after his comment about tippy tappy football. Well BFS we like Tippy tappy football, well a combination at least. Start playing non stop long ball footie again and you will have us on your back again before you can say Route one!

  • philtheiron says:

    A very thought provoking piece Hugh.
    I believe that nolan is only playing because Kauyate is away but you are right the toffee’s game highlighted just how much we don’t have that strength in depth in midfield that we all imagined.
    Having said that both noble and song were coming back after injuries and illness respectively and they will not only benefit from the game time but be back to their classy best sooner rather than later.
    There is no doubt though we are missing the attacking midfielder that is Kauyate! And that pace is a problem with noble and nolan in the side.
    But having said that we still should have to much for hull, especially now the partnership between carroll and Valencia is taking shape. Imo Downing will again be key.
    Hard fought but ultimately comfortable/regulation 2-0 win! COYI!

  • Not my piece Phil…Rich Sprent. knows his stuff

  • bubs says:

    Why Kouyte is away we should give Poyet a run in midfield he is younger and this is the area in which we brought him to play,no he is not to young he can give extra cover for Noble and song leaving Downing to play where he has been a revalation this year not stuck back out on the wing,we can use Nolan and Jarvis if needed in the last 20 and change things with Alfitano if Poyet can not cut it,when did we last have a squad where you can look at so many different options,what Collins loses by his mistakes he makes up with non stop effort last ditch tackles and blocks he 100% every game.

  • LAIRON says:

    Completely agree bubs, Diego should get a shout. Not sure I agree with MerryM, I thought Collins was immense last week!!!

    • philtheiron says:

      Good shout mate!
      Agree totally that poyet and amil should be gettin max game time during the ACON. I also thought ginge was imence, despite the odd blunder but that’s what you get from a 100% wholehearted player!

  • tony says:

    when all fit our midfield of Kouyate, Noble, Song and Downing is the best we have had in years. In this system Downing is relieved of many of the defensive duties which suits him because he tends to bottle a lot of tackles anyway. Amalfatino has been effective when asked to play right side of the midfield, ie when Kouyate is out, but has looked all at sea when asked to play on the left side.
    The whole diamond system does not suit Nolan at all who’s best position was always playing behind AC in a more traditional 4-4-2 system. Nolan does not lack effort by any means but is completely devoid of pace which is found out more and more when we play the better teams. I agree with Rich Sprent in that to compensate this we look to defend deeper and deeper. Every time Noble and Nolan play together poor Noble is absolutely knackered by 60 minutes.
    It is a pity Sam won’t play Poyet together with Noble when we can’t play our best midfield because when he has the two have complimented each other very well IMO.

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