By Rich Sprent
On balance both sides have legitimate concerns following the Palace debacle. The best XI was on show but the the front six couldn’t control their own bladders let alone the football.
Instead of keeping the ball they tried to force things.
Amazingly, Palace had been set up by Alan Pardew in precisely the same way as Allardyce had done in his Bolton era!
Yet here was Song trying Hollywood passes when an easy square ball was on, Downing, choked of space became more and more marginalised. He looked bereft of ideas. His game is running at a player, not a whole team.
Kouyate and Noble toiled well but continually ran into the South Londoner’s cloying midfield led ably by Jedinek. That he and Jason Puncheon looked so much more effective against our best four in the midfield is testament to a mid market squad competing up with the big boys.
When you begin to do well, teams like Palace will shut up shop on you. The game was crying out for one of two plans: either be patient and creative and work the opportunity or out-bully the opposition to earn the right to play.
West Ham did neither and pigheadedly tried to impose the plan that worked so often this season- get the ball for the front two to create all the space behind the back four. But there wasn’t any space.
Trying to force passes through Pard’s well marshalled team didn’t work. Neither Sakho or Valencia dropped off to create space or allow the midfield to get in front of them. The full backs were frustrated but still looked the best bet.
However with a Palace back four made up from the Land of Giants it was unlikely that anything but a perfect cross would do. It didn’t materialise.
The three set piece goals conceded were dreadful. Yes, that Murray was on FIVE fouls before being booked can be complained about. Yes, Jedinek assaulted Sakho. But collectively the team simply did not have the patience or guile to unlock the Eagles.
And with no adequate option to challenge their strength by battering them, it was patience and guile that was required.
This is where both sides of the manager fence can throw their stones: the only options on the books with twinkle toes are Amalfitano and Zarate. The Frenchman was obviously suspended. That the South American is unavailable for selection can be looked at two ways: a/ he’s not good enough and we should have got someone better or b/ the manager failed to integrate him into the squad and use him effectively.
Either way, we have a mid market squad size and the options off the bench are sparse. Our best starters flopped to a determined Palace side. That the manager could not get get the team to slow it down and work an opening is damning.
It however makes little difference if he is seen to be jumping up and down like a moronic monkey on jungle juice or not. There are ways to convey messages onto the field without being a Martin O’Neill or Paolo Di Canio.
The team now has two of the best sides up next to prove that they are worthy of the fight to reach Europe. Both sides will allow West Ham to try to play their best.
After that, the run-in will be full of teams wanting to stop the Hammers first. The team will need to shoe some patience and show some guile to make their mark on the remaining games.