Terrible signs for West Ham
Its an amazing thing to see that the bottom eleven clubs in the Premier League are only separated by three points and the speculation has begun as to who among them will ultimately find themselves facing relegation. My strong feeling is that West Ham will be one of the three.
At the start of this season, Alan Curbishley was being pressured from above and left the club after securing two wins in three matches. Gianfranco Zola was picked with nil management experience to take over from a man who had neraly twenty years managerial experience - and the signs since then have not been good, to put it lightly.
In the last couple of months West Ham have experienced the following woes:
- lost their club sponsors;
- their chairman is closely caught up in the Icelandic banking system collapse;
- found out they are likely to have to pay huge multi-million pound compensation to Sheff Utd;
- sold Anton Ferdinand;
- Dean Ashton has picked up another long-term injury;
- their run of matches without keeping a clean-sheet has risen to 24 matches;
- they have only picked up one point in the last six matches;
- in their last match they conceded three goals in seven minutes to lose at home in dismal style.
The image of a great club like West Ham playing with a shirt that has numbers sewn on the front like they are an amateur side is reflective of a club that looks to be caught in a spiralling downturn. And to have a rookie trying to manage in these circumstances is looking a recipe for trouble.
Its difficult to think how Zola can change things round. If Curbishley was still in charge he would look to stabilize matters by getting the team organised to keep clean sheets. I think this is the right way to go - a failure to keep a clean sheet for twenty plus matches is a significant problem, let alone for a team that is struggling to score.
This means getting the defence working better - and for me that means not playing Faubert at right-back. I don't understand why Faubert is being played there? He was bought as a right winger and from what I have seen of the player he doesn't strike me as a defensive player. For me, Lucas Neill and even Behrami would be better picks at RB. I would also drop Ilunga if possible. He is good going forward but West Ham needs a stronger defensive presence at LB at the moment. McCartney would be a much better player there - Curbishley was right to question his sale to Sunderland.
I would also be regularly starting Etherington, especially over Luis Boa Morte. The Portugese international does not look anywhere near the same explosive player that he was at Fulham - while Etherington always looks threatening and positive and he (I'm probably the only one) continues to remind me of Jose Antonio Reyes.
Aside from these small changes, its difficult to think what else can be done by Zola to reverse things for the better. For me, the signs demonstrate that they look badly-equipped to battle with their fellow relegation candidates and I unfortunately see them falling into the bottom three as the season unwinds.