How have West Ham become so good? And more mails…

Date published: Saturday 30th October 2021 2:28 - Editor F365

West Ham players celebrate

Send your thoughts on West Ham and anything else to theeditor@football365.com

 

How have West Ham become so good?
To break up the wall to wall Solskjaer coverage in the mailbox
I figured I’d have a belated stab at answering Mike (WHU)’s excellent mail from Wednesday afternoon, questioning why West Ham’s meteoric rise over the past 12 months isn’t gathering more column inches. My own personal theory is because few people have any idea why or how it’s happened, meaning we can’t dissect the reasons behind it. Basically, with the greatest respect, West Ham being this good just doesn’t make sense.

Let’s cast our minds back to the start of last season. West Ham went into the new season with no new players to add to a side that had stumbled into 16th the year before. With a smaller preseason between 19/20 & 20/21 they kept David Moyes on seemingly out of necessity rather than choice, a manager who at the time was viewed as in decline (especially as West Ham themselves had fired 2 years before). Their captain had taken to social media to lambast the club for selling a promising young player to a Premier League rival on the cheap. Their only striker was a converted winger with a history of Injury problems. This led to several pundits (and me) tipping them as relegation candidates…yet they just seemed to click. The loan signing of Jesse Lingaard in January was meant to be “typical West Ham” picking up the top clubs leftovers, only for the player to reward the consistency in his selection with an superb performances. The strangest thing of all was that this wasn’t some flash in pan, like Newcastle’s 5th placed finish in 2012 and Burnley’s 7th in 2018. West Ham’s goal difference & xG were all consistent with a team in the European spots and didn’t point to any kind of overperformance. For them to be keeping it up this season even blows away the remaining theory that last year was a perfect storm. Instead it’s only just dawning on a number of us that their performances this decade are a true reflection of a talented squad and good manager pulling in the same direction.

This is where I think the lack of recognition comes from, a feeling that by conventional wisdom everything West Ham have been doing lately feels geared towards failure and is producing the exact opposite effect. In Brentford’s case this year and Leeds beforehand we’d seen them building towards those performance levels over a number of years, with armchair fans such as the mailbox to pick up on this. After Leicester’s title win they immediately dropped back to a relegation battle then built upwards from there. Every team to hurtle up the table normally slide right back down before long, and for a number of us it’s hard to shake the feeling that it’ll all come crashing down any moment no matter how well they’ve been performing for so long. It’d be refreshing to see some more analysis of them to put armchair critics such as myself back in our place and shed some light into not just how this meteoric rise occurred, but how it’s being sustained.
Kevin, Nottingham

 

Another day, another 2 full mailboxes with only 2 letters not relating to the boring mid-table mess that is Man Utd. Back in the real football world, there was actual footy played this week. It didn’t involve mid-table also-rans Man United, because they lost to West Ham in the last round. For those still watching football, West Ham (currently fourth in the premier league and top of their Euro group) beat the other team in Manchester whilst resting their captain, both first choice center backs, their goalkeeper and their only striker. Whilst the last 20 minutes was a bit of a real guard action, the victory was deserved, as Pep graciously accepted post match.

Whilst I will not hold my breath for a 16 Conclusions involving the Hammers any time soon (we play Liverpool on 7 November, what about that F365??), I’d like to report on happy times in Stratford. For anyone who cares to take a look, Pablo Fornals, Jared Bowen and Said Benhrama are an absolute pleasure to watch buzzing around the final third. If Antonio is not every neutral’s favourite player I would be shocked. Soucek would walk into any other EPL side and Rice is now an invaluable England stalwart with so much energy it’s obscene. Cresswell on the left of defense is a regular in most fantasy teams whilst you wouldn’t mess with Coufal at right back unless you were mental. Ogbonna has been one of the best center backs in the league for 2 years and I’m confident Zouma will prove to be an astute buy.

Most importantly, everyone on the pitch (whoever is playing) is having a bloody good time. The team spirit is ridiculously good and everyone has a smile on their face. As a fan it is fantastic to see, acknowledging that it is an experience we have rarely enjoyed over the last 30 years.

Funny that the manager of a mid table basket case who has sprayed an obscene amount of cash to little or no effect gets so many column inches whilst our own David Moyes quietly goes about his business of transforming a once yo-yo club into, we hope, a permanent fixture in the upper reaches of the sport. Long may it continue.
Mike WHU

 

The managerial path to the top
Jack Cavan.(I would of stuck with José) asks a great question in the morning mailbox around the right path to the top jobs in management. I was thinking about this recently with regard to Neil Critchley. Critchley was under-23 coach at Liverpool and ended up taking charge of two first time matches in Klopp’s absence (one in the FA Cup and one in the Coca Cola). He left Liverpool to take charge at Blackpool. They finished 13th in League One the season before he arrived and in his first season he got them promoted to the Championship. They now sit level on points with 5th in the Championship and right in the play off chase.

So, Critchley has experience of actually managing the Liverpool first team and he has taken a club from 13th in League One to the playoff chase in the Championship in 18 months. But would be get a shot at the Liverpool job if Klopp left? I can’t see it. The step from managing a team like Blackpool to managing Liverpool is too much.

Steven Gerrard then? He was part of the Liverpool youth set up as well, he managed the under 18s. The Rangers job came up and he won the league to stop Celtic at 9 in a row. Does that get his foot in the door if Klopp were to leave? Maybe, but that would be on the basis of his playing career. Liverpool wouldn’t usually look to Rangers for their next manager.

So what is the route for a young manager? Eddie Howe took Bournemouth from minus 17 points in League Two to 5 years in the Premier League and he is still unemployed. And yet Marco Silva was relegated at Hull and then bombed at Watford and Everton and still gets employed at Fulham.

I can only ever see the biggest clubs looking to those who have managed in Europe (with Frank Lampard and OGS reinforcing why) which is a shame as it creates an automatic ceiling on managers coming up through the English game.
Micki Attridge

 

Ronald Koeman
So Koeman has just become available and I’m sure he’ll play Donny.

He also had the balls to sell Suarez (mistake in hindsight) and bench Messi, so he could probably handle Ronaldo as well.

Conte to Barca then?

Also, fun fact, after 9 games Chelsea, Ajax, Bayern and PSG all sit (or sat) on 22 points.
Stijn, Amsterdam

 

Standards
I must be missing something but where has the recent narrative developed that Arsenal are a top 5 team? I have read a few different outlets claiming this weekends fixture against Leicester is a chance for both to extend their CL/top 5 credentials.

It’s also a chance for Arsenal to lose and find themselves in the bottom half of the table, where they have been for most of the season.

Meanwhile Spurs, correctly, are labelled a crisis team, a shambles and yet we’re one result away from being fourth. Now I’m not saying that Spurs will be fourth just that the standards one is held to compared to the other seem at odds with where both teams are.

Both seem to be a parody of themselves – one win and it’s all looking up, one loss and it’s all shit. Maybe both are exactly where they ought to be, muddling along making life a joy sucking misery for their fans.
Dan M

Emile Smith Rowe celebrates scoring a goal

Two questions…
After the Ole In/Out debate fatigue, two different questions:

Do the performances / troubles of Sancho and Werner suggest that the Bundesliga is maybe not the toughest place to score goals and thus raise questions about the wisdom of paying Erling Haaland the 500k per week quoted? I’m not saying he isn’t good (and have only seen bits of his play) just suggesting that he could struggle to replicate his stats in Prem/La Liga under the added pressure of huge wages and fee. Again – I’m just asking – I don’t need a load of examples of players from Germany performing here or reasons why Sancho isn’t being given a fair chance (down the right etc).

Secondly, is it a given that Newcastle will make it to champions league / title challenger status soon? Everyone seems to think Newcastle will follow in Man City and Chelsea footsteps… but will they? City (the more recent example) got their cash injection at a point when Arsenal were paying for the Emirates and were effectively in decline, leaving a spot in the top 4 (and also allowing City to lure several players). There is currently a strong top 4 and strong competition to get into the top 8. With the current TV deal it isn’t so easy to prise the best players from around the league and there is also the (toothless?) financial fairplay rules which limit spending. My club Everton have demonstrated that it’s possible to pour millions into poor transfers (Iwobi, Kean, Bolasie, Klaassen, Tosun, Walcott) and high wages (Ramirez, Rooney, Delph, Bernard, Rodriguez) without much noticeable improvement on field. I think we’ve failed by chasing instant success – with poor managerial appointments bringing high player churn and constant lost player value. We seem to have a director of football who isn’t in charge of the recruitment choices or playing style.

In terms of recruitment – with City I think players could see it was only a matter of time before they won the league – and certainly possible within their contract length (took 3 years to secure champions league football and another to win the league). As an example of the issue Newcastle face – would any of Arsenals signings (White, Ramsdale, Odegaard, Lokonga, Tomiyasu – the level of players Newcastle might look at) have chosen Newcastle instead? Would any of the Villa signings
Chris EFC London

 

Come on United!
I am starting to get a bit worried now.  After the obvious knee jerk instant reaction to last weeks mauling there are some green roots of sanity peeping through.

As a Liverpool fan I (and most others) know that if names such as Origi, Phillips, Oxlade Chamberlain or Minamino etc appear on the team sheet, then the level of performance is going to reduce, as does the expectancy.  It’s why last years 3rd place and 6 home defeats including a derby day are banished to the back of the mind and we hold our breath every time one of our first choice X1 stays on the ground.

Till now the majority of Utd fans have sang from the same song sheet, “Ole needs a bit more time, this squad is good enough to challenge for major titles”.  But in he last few days, the Emporers ‘ new clothes are being seen, more and more are commenting that AW(OL)B, Maguire, Shaw etc etc are just not good enough, fans of other teams are saying this without retribution!  The penny has dropped for many and if it continues then Solskjaers days are truly numbered, this is the last thing we want!!!

So I hope United thrash Spurs, lose to Atalanta, obviously,  but then defeat Man City, the crazies and delusional will be out again and normal (?) service resumed.  I hope they qualify in second place of the Champions League group before being knocked out in the last 16 (removes any chance of Europa League glory, or the second chance losers cup as it should be known, I don’t care if they finish forth (20 odds points behind the other 3) as this will allow the cycle to continue, Ronaldo and Pogba leave and another 250 million is thrown away on Haaland and Upamecano as Ole continues to find new jigsaw pieces without any knowledge of what the picture looks like.
Howard (hope Ole is at the wheel of a car on a carousel) Jones

 

Does anyone else think Ole should adopt the ‘Lads, it’s Tottenham’ approach for tomorrow’s match?
Robert, Birmingham

 

Managers make players better
I agree to a point with Greg about a combined Liverpool/United XI, although he is probably being a bit unfair on United. Fernandes would get into our midfield and Varane would probably partner Van Dijk in defence. At the moment though, that would be it.

However, it’s important to note that managers make players better. Pretty much every Liverpool player, with the exception of maybe Thiago & Keita, has played the best football of their career since they joined the club. That’s not a coincidence and it’s not down to the magic of Anfield. It’s because of Jurgen Klopp and the rest of the coaching staff. So while it’s easy to look at the United team and say the players need upgraded, a huge reason for that is they are playing under a very average (at best) manager.

Look at the defence. At the moment, free transfer Matip is miles better than most-expensive-defender-in-the-word Maguire. Is he really a superior player though? If you put Maguire in the Liverpool defence and Matip in United’s, who do you think would be playing better? I’ve a fairly good idea.

Players like Mane, Salah, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Matip, Firmino etc. were not elite level players when they signed. They became elite level players under Jurgen Klopp. So it’s very easy to say that United players are no good, but if you swapped managers, and with both sets of players being fully fit, I am absolutely convinced the United squad with Klopp would finish above the Liverpool squad with Solskjaer.
Mike, LFC, London

 

Response to Shehzad & Niall
Shehzad,

Please read Niall’s email at the bottom.

Any numbered listings MUST include as the last one ‘Phil Neville’Those are the rules, Janet & John, Book One, as my old lecturer used to say…

Please refer him to the England Ladder F365.

Much obliged.

Have a great weekend everyone, it’s a crazy world out there…
Hong Kong Ian (still bouncing) LFC

 

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