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Just brilliant as Hammers find a new playmaker

We welcome new blogger Max Willow to ClaretandHugh. Max is based in Australia and has been a fantatical Hammer since the early 1960s. He is a regular contributor to the CandH forum and also writes for West Ham World. In his first blog he puts the spotlight on Pedro Obiang as he looks back at the 1-1 draw against Burnley. Welcome Max!

By Max Willow

obiang1The dust has now settled, following our well-deserved 1-1 draw against Burnley at Turf Moor. After an exciting and very turbulent first half, which saw us reduced to 10 men,

Slaven Bilic decided to replace Marko Arnautovic with the ever-reliable, Pedro Obiang which made good sense given Obiang’s considerable abilities as a defensive holding midfielder, and an excellent partner with the West Ham ‘powerhouse’, Cheikhou Kouyate.

Sometimes, we easily fall into the trap of confining a particular player to a certain position/role, which seemed to be the case when Pedro first arrived from Genoa, in 2015.

Upon resumption of play, nobody could have expected to witness what must have been the most brilliant display of Obiang’s footballing life? A solid, dependable performance, yes; but nothing quite as breathtaking as this. 

On that restart  West Ham played like a team possessed. For the first 10-15 minutes, I was mesmerised by our display; I could have easily been mistaken by believing that this was a Brazilian team, playing in their irresistible, improvised best.

For many years, I had hoped that one day, we could play like the brilliant 1970 World Cup winning Brazilians, when they thrashed Italy 4-1, in one of the most memorable finals of all time. Yet we did, albeit for a short period!

Within a few minutes, Manu Lanzini fired in a superb cross from the right flank, which only just failed to find Michail Antonio’s desperate lunge. Oh, so close…

It was only minutes later, when we witnessed, arguably, the ‘move of the match’. It began with Pedro Obiang taking possession with a well-timed tackle on a Burnley defender about 45 meters from the Burnley goal.

He was quick to spot a small opening to his right, and ran with the ball before using a clever back-pass onto a following team-mate. Lanzini and Chicharito combined to put together a series of quick short diagonal passes which tore the Burnley defence to shreds. The ball slipped through to Antonio, who just failed to make perfect contact with his shot, but still requiring a fine save from Nick Pope. The passing sequence may have resembled a well-rehearsed training tactic, but Obiang’s integral part suggested that this was vision and creativity at its very best.

This second piece of footballing magic deserved a goal and make no mistake, about Obiang’s role in orchestrating what occurred. As the game continued, it appeared that Antonio, Lanzini, and Chicharito were starting to show signs of tiring, yet Obiang seemed to fill in the void, with the consummate ease of an established playmaker. In addition he showed great enterprise with two well-struck shots from outside the penalty box.

 After repeated reviewing of that second half, I am convinced that in Obiang we have another playmaker in addition to  Lanzini.  I am very reticent to assign that very important title, given how much it is over-used these days. So let’s remind ourselves of what we understand by the term playmaker..

 In general, a playmaker is a person who controls the flow and momentum of a team’s offensive play; often involved in passing movements which lead to goals, through their vision, technique, ball control, creativity and passing ability.

Many deep-lying playmakers (also commonly known as the ‘regista’ in the Italian football vernacular), are also known for their ability to switch the play, or provide long passes that pick out players making attacking runs, as well as their striking ability form long distance.

It was only barely a month ago, playing against WBA, when we witnessed Obiang’s stunning 45-yard strike cannon off the cross bar, with the WBA goal-keeper, Ben Foster, only slightly off his goal-line!

 Pundits may be quick to remark that Obiang is not a particularly fast sprinter. That said, his decision-making/reflexes are lightning fast, and he has good acceleration over 15-20 yards.

Hopefully, Obiang would have received sufficient positive feedback for his fabulous contribution. Let us hope that Slav and friends can see these play-making attributes and make optimal use of them. So assuming that I am correct, how did Obiang reach this lofty and rarely seen ability?

As a young boy, where he excelled at RD Alcala (a club from the ‘community of Madrid’), he learned the importance of technical ability in the context of Spanish football. His subsequent move to Sampdoria, in 2008, presented him with a new challenge, with a requirement to develop a well-tuned, tactical sense, to his existing kitbag of skills.

A very revealing, albeit short interview question which was put to Manu Lanzini, last year, was “who would be your first team-mate chosen, in a team that you would theoretically put together”. Without hesitation-he named Pedro Obiang, and his reasoning was consistent with the characteristics discussed above.




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About Hugh5outhon1895

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

12 comments on “Just brilliant as Hammers find a new playmaker

  1. Good post Max, many of us are Obiang fans, I have always wanted to see him played in the position he played for Sampdoria, he is a good reader of the game, make a lot of interceptions and has very good pass completion rate, I haven’t seen him make many mistakes leading to a loss of posession unlike many of our midfielders including Lanzini, if he plays in a 442 for me that means Kouyate loses his place and we lose a bit of physicality in the midfield as well as some goal threat from midfield but on the upside we lose little if any defensively and perhaps increase the potency of the two strikers because we have someone to feed them.

    • Thanks mate, much appreciated!
      yes, it would be a shame to break up that strong Obiang-Kouyate partnership;perhaps needs some further thought on the best formation to allow both of them to start;maybe a 3-5-2, but then what happens to Cressie and/or Arthur?

  2. Delighted with it Maxie – great addition to the CandH team…proper job mate

  3. Nice Post Max look fwd to more!
    To think we almost sold Obiang the summer before last bc never got a chance and last season he was brilliant. Hope he keeps taking chances like that 45 yarder. I think he would be brilliant in a 4-3-3 w Lanzini on left & Kouyate on right.

    • Thanks JRS!
      I’d like to see us playing a 4-3-3, although I think Lanzini is better suited in the middle, and its so hard to deny Antonio on the right. Tell you what though, big Arnie bet get going, since young Masuaku could make a superb left-winger?!

  4. Yes we did JRS lol! In favour of captain slower !!!!
    You little blogger max 😂😂 Brazil ! Not yet mate , but get you’re drift as its been such a long time since we saw passing like that ,that its easy to get carried away 😀 , Moore , Peters , ticker. Brabrook , Sissons , byrne, youll remember them past pass masters , the west ham way !! Brooking.paddon , Dev. Berkovitch. Benayoon ! We need to get back to the old way of passing and get rid of the hoof and get a manager who can promote it , coach it , insist on pass and move with pace and add to that one and two touch and bingo were all happy again!
    Nice blog mate 👍😀

    • Thanks Lax/Salmon!
      I do tend to get a bit carried away, but heck, we all have to dream..
      Totally agree with you about getting back to the passing game.
      I agree with the problem of who do we get and who promotes..
      Plenty of tactically-wise gaffers out there, but it seems that Dave and Dave will probably keep Slav till the end of the season.
      Its probably too late, but I wish that someone had convinced Slav to make an appeal on Andy’s 2nd yellow card, and insist that it should have been a straight red, with a 3 week holiday for Andy, and better chances for Sakhs (LOL)

  5. 😂😂 what the ponytailed god ??
    Wishful thinking mate ! But , yes, if only bilic ate more carrots and see through those headlights !! 😂

  6. Good post, Max. Being a stickler for grammar, spelling and reviewing before pressing ‘post’ – it seems people just want to get it out there these days, come what may – I’m pleased to read such a nicely-flowing typo-less post!

    Personally, I think both Obiang and Kouyate have struggled so far this season. I don’t think it’s their fault – there has been a lot of change with Ayew and Noble having to fill in (and now consigned to the bench) and injuries to most of our influential players.

    I agree that Obiang is great though. Personally, I think too much is put on Kouyate’s shoulders and he should be dropped against Brighton in favour of Obiang starting alongside Lanzini in a 4-1-3-2 formation:

    Zaba, Fonte, Reid, Masuaku
    Antonio, Lanzini, Antonio
    Hernandez, Sakho

    …with Kouyate and Cresswell on the bench. If Arnie struggles again and we’re chasing the game, I’d bring Cresswell on and push Arthur up. If we’re defending, I’d bring Kouyate on (for Arnie), push Lanzini out left and revert to a 4-4-2.

    All the best!

  7. Now I would be very happy if we had 2 Antonio’s buddy but we ain’t 😂😂
    Arnie ? 😉
    Playing at home we only need to play 3 at the back IMO which gives us the added player in m/f in a 3-5-2 with lanzini pulling the strings for the wing backs and playing in sakho and the pea through the middle ! With aiding and abetting by obiang and kouyate gives us umpf going forward and defensive cover as well and by playing wingbacks shores up the defence as well!
    I want to see some football played instead of hoofing and watching players struggling in alien positions !!! 😉

  8. Common sense is beginning to show through but let us not forget Rice and Sakho . Get rid of Carroll in January and give Sakho a chance . Give Noble a job outside of the first team with the juniors or in the hospitality lounge and make way for Rice and a couple of other youngsters. Noble has had his day as every dog does but it is time to move on from captain very slow . COYI

  9. Good piece there Max and all the correct skills attributed to one of our best midfielders who is conveniently overlooked most matches. It’s not just on the ball but (if he starts next game) watch him off the ball too. Pulling opposition out of position to make gaps, covering opponents in positions who could be a threat given the right ball. the guy has a fantastic football brain and would like to see it put to the test more often.
    I agree in the middle with Antonio and Lanzini in a 3-5-2. Arthur on the left WB and Zab RWB. Chico and Sakho or Martinez in front of him.
    Keep it going Max. Very insightful.

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