Despite finding ourselves in the top half after the opening four Premier League games, and on what seems a respectable total of 5 points, you get the feeling that there’s no longer the optimistic attitude around at West Ham as there was at the start of the year. Whether it be the lengthy injury list, or the fact we haven’t scored a league goal since Kevin Nolan put away the 2nd against Cardiff on the opening day, we haven’t got off to the start some fans were expecting, and all the pre-season hype seems to all have been a fuss over nothing. But should we now be worried for the season, or are we just in the process of a slow start?
Well, I’ll allow you to draw your own conclusions, but here’s my view on it all. We have a fantastic striker in Andy Carroll, a player we shelled out on over summer, but justifiably after his fantastic performances while on loan last year. You would struggle to find another striker in the Premier League that would suit our style of football as much as him. The one big problem, however, on buying Carroll, is his undoubtedly injury prone nature. This is the first problem we have, in that we only did half a job in the transfer market. Carroll is a tremendous player, but with an injury history like his, it’s essential to get like for like back-up, someone who can play the same type of style, and we failed to get that. After that, we are left with Modibo Maiga. Now, as much as he is on the wrong end of some heavy stick at the moment, I don’t believe it’s all down to him. Just mostly. The problem with Maiga is that we are playing the same system as when we have Carroll up top, decent football which often ends up with a ball upfield for Carroll to hold up and we play from there.
Maiga is a different type of player. He doesn’t have the strength or presence of Carroll, so continually pumping these long balls into Maiga as if he is Andy Carroll just won’t work, and that was painfully evident on Sunday. I was down at the game on Sunday, and we just looked out of ideas when we got anywhere near the final third. Maiga, even aside from not being able to hold a ball up, was useless, the midfield weren’t really getting up and supporting him when he did on the rare occasion get the ball down, and when someone like Noble got on the ball in midfield, there was no movement in front of him, and invariably he had to turn back and give it to the centre backs or even the keeper. We didn’t look like scoring at all after about the first 10 minutes. Oh, and when James Collins, an established Premier League footballer, managed to miss the target from 10 yards out. Except for that, we never looked like scoring. And that has been the case at Newcastle and then again in the defeat to Stoke. So, as Carroll just gets himself on the treatment table over and over again, and we are left with Maiga over and over again throughout the season, we might just be in big trouble. We have to either get Carroll fit, and keep him fit, but mainly learn to play a different system for Maiga.
At the end of the day, how was he ever going to win aerial battles against players like Shawcross and Huth when we played Stoke? We can’t be as one dimensional as we currently are, otherwise we could massively struggle to score goals, and in turn struggle this season. Of course, we have brought in Croatian forward Mladen Petric on a free, but will he solve this problem? Sure, he’s a good player, but again, not quite like Carroll. And you ask yourself, why did Fulham let him go on a free in the first place?
And then you have the mounting injury list. Currently, as well as treatment table regular Carroll, we also have Downing, Joey Cole, and now even Reid and Collins with short term injuries. Luckily, the last two should be ok again for the weekend, but arguably five first team players being injured after only four games is ridiculous. You could just put it down to bad luck, but when you get the amount of injuries like this, you ask yourself if it’s something we’re doing wrong. My grandad, at least, swears it’s a problem within the club rather than bad luck.
And finally, I’m getting a bit scared looking at the other clubs around us. Southampton battered us on Sunday and you fancy them to beat more teams than us, based on that game at least, and then other clubs down there seem to be shaping up pretty well for the season too. You can see where their goals will be coming from, they have stand out players who can win them games, and we don’t really seem to have that with our squad currently. I hope I’m wrong, but I get the feeling if Carroll stays injured for a while, we could be in big, big trouble. It may even be a case of just hoping there are three teams worse than us this year. As I say, I hope I’m very badly wrong, but I can’t see where goals are coming from at the moment. If Carroll returns, the team should tick again like it did last season, and we should be fine with any luck, but you can’t rely on him to stay fit.
It seems strange that this summer I was talking to my mate, and he said to me, and I quote here, ‘I’ve never felt so confident with a West Ham team going into a season’, and I was inclined to agree with him, and we’ve both had season tickets now for about half of our lives, probably more. But a couple of injuries later, and I would say we should really be worrying, because we’re relying on an injury prone striker to stay fit, which isn’t a situation you really want to be in. It all sounds quite depressing, but you never know I guess. I hope I’m wrong.