West Ham Review: Architects Of Our Own Downfall

West Ham United 1 – 0 Arsenal

Arsenal took exactly what they deserved from this match: nothing. Not a goal, not a point. There’s no arguing with West Ham meriting victory; they worked harder and more creatively. Fair play to them; in old footballing parlance, they ‘wanted it’ more. And ‘it’ covers a multiple of sins.

Unai Emery must feel like one of Henry VIII’s wives; there are as many calls for a divorce as there are for his head. Never forget the wife which avoided those fates was Spanish.

Not that Emery is above criticism. His team selection was wrong from the outset. It was the same XI which beat Fulham with Emery obviously forgetting it wasn’t a convincing win despite the scoreline.

The inclusion of Bellerin and Monreal on the bench but not at kick-off baffled. As much as Maitland-Niles is versatile, he’s not a natural right-back. Monreal is better defensively than Kolasinac. It’s a marginal argument in attack for that matter.

With the formation chosen, we needed more support going forward. The absence of a playmaker – even one played out of position – left a functional team desperate for attacking inspiration.

I like Guendouzi but expecting a 19-year-old to make the leap from Ligue 2 to the Premier League and boss things is madness. The sort of madness which overwhelmed Granit Xhaka for the game’s only goal.

You could see what the Swiss wanted to achieve with his cushioned header and why; the fly in the ointment was Samir ‘Mr Popular’ Nasri. His pass was gleefully smashed home by Declan Rice. As per usual, we were architects of our own downfall.

To err is human but with Mustafi, Xhaka’s mistakes are frequent and costly. It’s part of his psyche and you end up hoping what the midfielder brings to the party outweighs that particular negative.

Thin Resources

It’s natural to question the omission of Mesut Ozil from the matchday squad. That is such a frequent question that a parting of the ways this summer is inevitable.

The German ought to be the solution when we need a playmaker but his form is such that we can’t rely on it. There’s enough evidence since he joined that underlines he isn’t the answer when the team is playing badly. Ozil isn’t a player to drag team-mates out of a slough; he’s the icing on the cake.

Introducing Ramsey and Torreira brought some balance and energy to the team. Alex Iwobi works hard and sporadically provides attacking impetus but he isn’t going to carry a whole team.

I found it baffling that Torreira was benched. I understand the need for rest, particularly with Chelsea, United and City in the next four games. The Uruguayan is used to having a couple of weeks off, as well as adjusting to the intensity of the English game. Not Arsenal’s intensity, of course; we just don’t do that.

The reality is that we have a squad of some very good players and some who are mediocre at best. Emery’s talk of loan-only deals haunts us after performances like this one. Not that you can’t find value in that market and I’m sure we will but our need for reinforcements is such that the club must find funds from somewhere. And no, it isn’t coming from KSE.

We must pick ourselves up quickly. Lacazette and Aubameyang were sporadic threats yesterday with the latter having one glaring miss in particular. Despite being under pressure from the defender and running away from goal, it’s the sort of chance we expect world-class strikers to take.

Count Your Blessings But Don’t Forget The Curses

The pressure is one Unai Emery and will only grow in coming weeks. At home to Chelsea and United with respite coming from the visit of Cardiff. Three games we have got to win. The dreaded ‘must-win’ scenario but recent weeks make that outcome seem unlikely.

Should we be expecting any different? The 22-match unbeaten run was as much a blessing as a curse, it seems. Expectations were raised, even though we knew from the performances that results were masking problems. And so it’s proving.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and this squad isn’t rebuilt in one summer. We need more; loans paper over cracks unless there is an option to buy. Even then, that pushes the problem down the line. If we take two or three loans to buy this winter, will there be any money in the summer? It seems implausible that we’ve magically found £40m to spend on the tick and the same amount for other players.

There’s a lot of hard work to do in what is becoming a fiery atmosphere. Emery will be given time but whether the tools are there is another matter.

’til Tomorrow.

44 thoughts on “West Ham Review: Architects Of Our Own Downfall

  1. Please don’t classify Auba as a world class player, he is nowhere near world class. We have only had one world class player in years, and that was Cesc.

  2. Afternoon All (or Morning to our friends out West).

    Good balanced post YW. At the moment without serious investment papering over cracks is all we can do. Sure the line up wasn’t ideal but then again very few players have made themselves irreplaceable based on their performances either. Yes we needed more creativity but there is no guarantee we’d have got it no matter who we put on the pitch.

    Just how much rebuilding is needed becomes obvious when you realise that some of the nearest things to fixtures in the side are the very players who’ve shown time and again that they’re not up to it (Xhaka, Mustafi for example). With the exception of our strikers it’s difficult to pick many players (maybe Bellerin and Torreira) who we would actually miss if they were offloaded. Emery has a tough job on his hands, let’s hope that he really is the man who can do it.

  3. Awesome post yogi

    I suspect most of us have gotten past the idea that we have a strong squad which only Arsene was holding us back and all we needed was a different manager who magically can make players better. The reality is we are what we are which is a 5th -6th place team. 5th place teams sometimes go on strong unbeaten runs of form but they balance that by going thru stretches where they get blown up away at Liverpool and they sometimes play poorly and lose away games to teams like west Ham. None of what is happening should be a surprise to anyone who has watched us for the last 10 years. We can ponder what might have happened if Mesut Özil had played but anyone who has watched us the last couple years knows we have been exactly the same team and had many many games just like yesterday when he is in the lineup. The Ozil situation certainly is distracting and has to be dealt with but the idea that Emery’s stubbornness on the Ozil issue is the reason we are struggling now is completely ignoring what has actually been happening for 2 years.

    Bottom line is we may not like it may not like it but we need to accept the reality of our situation and what is happening should have been the realist expectation. Fingers crossed that Emery can somehow win another Europa league first place trophy.

  4. Excellent, balanced post, YW – thanks.

    I agree with Bill and others who argue that we simply have the player resources to get us to the fringes of top four but no further. I also think that during the run of unbeaten games the spirit of exuberance in the first post-Wenger period, with a new, young, energetic manager on the training ground and yelling on the touchline, carried those players to perform at their best on many occasions.

    Now, however, one can just imagine how morale must have slumped, not only after the ‘Pool drubbing but also with the Ozil issue unresolved and rumours – none of them encouraging – being batted all over social media, where these young guys spend their lives when their boots are off. I also wonder how much it affects players when there is clearly no set 1st XI and each match is approached with a level of uncertainty about who will play, what the formation will be, etc. That’s how it appears from the outside. It’s possible, I suppose, that on the inside everyone’s working to a well-understood plan, but I doubt it.

    Though I felt lousy during and after yesterday’s game, today I’m a shade less gloomy. The team morale will bounce – it always does at some point. I’m confident that Sven, Raul and others around Emery are too smart to have lost the plot to the extent of fans’ worst fears, and on the Stan Kroenke front, for all that I deeply wish us another owner, I can’t believe he is so short-sighted that he would allow his newly-appointed and skilfully assembled team of directors+coach to fail because of chronic cash starvation.

    Call me an optimist, and you’d be right. It’s something I reckon is, in good measure, a conscious choice and one that helps me keep the dreaded Gooner Gloom at bay.

  5. The equation for how Emery or any manager deals with an over paid malcontent would be different depending on how important the player is to your teams results. I hope it would be different if Ozil had been productive over the last couple years. Emery dealt with Neymar differently last season because he was producing world class goal and assist numbers.

  6. The lack of a settled style of play, the confusion asto what we are trying to achieve and the failure to make more of this aquad than Wenger did are all bothering me. Optimism was a marvellous feeling. The change from a stagnant era to a fresh man togther with the new management team made us all feel better.

    However, a few months on and where are we? I don’t know at all. I can’t see any real improvement in how we play or in our results. Nor do I see improvements in individual players. I am still seeing a reliance on young players being thrown into the deep end.

    And now we have no money. Yet have you ever seen a squad more in need of a major overhaul and clearout? This really is not looking that good. I know, it is early days but this squad looks as disinterested now as it did a year ago. That also bothers me.

    None of us know what is going on, of course. Maybe money is being earmarked for substantial summer buys. Maybe when Ramsey and Ozil leave morale will improve.

    The odds though seem to be stacked against any mayor resurgence anytime soon.

  7. Bob

    It’s a bit harsh to say none of them have improved. Bellerin certainly has and Iwobi as well. However, I’d agree that none of the other main players have. There are some key reasons for that, I think.

    Lacazette and Aubameyang aren’t a partnership. Playing one out wide isn’t working in the way Cavani fitted into the PSG line-up. The other is individuals. Cech, Koscielny: too long in the tooth to expect improvement. Mustafi, Kolasinac, Xhaka: decision-making is a problem for them – changing mental habits is a slow process and TBH, all three could do with being moved on.

    Emery is trying to change the playing philosophy and it’s heavy going. That tells you more about the abilities of the players we have than anything else. It’s poorly constructed squad to try and carry out that change; we’ve seen that with the central defensive issues. I wonder if UE needs to amend his thinking more until the balance is better?

  8. What CB said.

    Great post.

    I went out of my way to watch the game – 50 yards to a pub and £.50 for an orange and lemonade to be exact.

    One moment that captured the ‘we are still where we were’ mood for me was when Iwobi played Kolasinac through free in yards of space in the area – a confident player smashes it past Flappyhandski and into the net – Kalshnikov tried a pointless cut back and we fizzled out.

    Everything was slow, lethargic and there was no cutting edge.

    There’s players in there I wanted to like, and hoped would step up – but it isn’t happening.

    There’s others I don’t think have it.

    On a positive note I thought we kept Arnautovic quiet – the pundits thought he’d have a field day….

    Not a MoTD I wanted to watch

  9. and the elephants in the room – I don’t see many points in the next month – and possibly a few more drubbings.

    Dry January indeed

  10. YW,

    I disagree a bit about Sead, I think we all knew that defensively his decision making is inconsistent but I think attacking wise he has been superb.

    I also think that Aubameyang and Lacazette can be part of a front 3 as opposed to a forced partnership of 2. Lacazette likes to drop and play almost like Firmino whereas Aubameyang loves to run into the space ala Salah. Iwobi has most certainly improved but I also think because he is still finding his end product, he doesn’t always bring balance.

    For me, its all about midfield, when we have gotten it right, we have looked a side certainly capable of top 4, but when we don’t, well it looks like yesterday. Xhaka looks a much better player next to Torriera and I wonder if the Emery envisions a Suarez/Torriera pivot moving forward should we get Denis Suarez in.

  11. I keep seeing people talk about Emery’s handling of Ozil and the Neymar situation and me and my mate were chatting this morning and he sent me this quote from Emery when he left PSG:

    “I know when I am the principal person in the group and when I am not. At PSG, the leader is Neymar. At Manchester City, it’s Pep Guardiola.

    “My priority was to make Neymar happy, it didn’t matter how. Neymar arrived at PSG in order to be the leader, to live the necessary process to become number one in the world. At Man City, Pep is the leader. At PSG, Neymar needs to be the leader.

    “I had a lot of discussions with Neymar about this. Sometimes the talks did not work, other times they were very successful.”

    “During one of them, we spoke for 45 minutes heart-to-heart. It was a magnificent moment. He listened to me and I convinced him of certain things but it is a process, one that will make him the best.”

  12. YW,

    I will concede on Bellerin but Iwobe still looks like a lightweight with potential, like he always has.

    What is the palying style that he is trying to adapt us to. Your list of playes that need to be moved on points up the lack of finance needed to replace them. I just do not see extra resources being found.

    Much of this is undoubtedly down to the mismanagement over the last ten years. It is tough on any incoming manager to put right. No assets, no warchest.

    I just do not see what he is trying to acheive. We are conceding as many goals and I foubt that we are scoring more. We do not look more robust and West Ham, I’ll say that again, West Ham, bullied us.

  13. Yogi

    I agree with Cbob. Suggesting that Bellerin has improved because of Emery seems a bit of stretch when no one else has really improved. If there something Emery had done then you would think it would happen more often. I have always thought the idea that a manager can improve individual players is heavily over thought and over rated.

    I am not really disappointed in Emery’s results because this is what I had expected. He is not a miracle worker and can’t change who his players are. I am also not bothered by his handling of the Ozil situation. The one thing that really worries me is the fact that he has not improved our defense. I really thought the number of goals we conceded would go down.

  14. I think Klopp is an excellent manager and it took him a few years. He certainly did not improve his players or his teams results instantly and hoping that emery would do that was never realistic.

  15. I guess we would have hoped to see something coherent/consistent going on by now

    and some players shipped out/brought in

    whatever we were looking for – loan or buy – we’ve had 4 or 5 months to be eyeing up and identifying potential upgrades

    we are paying a hell of a lot for a variety of much heralded back room staff to source players and sort contracts and whilst we wouldn’t see it happening – we’d see some output ??

  16. Losing was bad enough but doing so without energy or enthusiasm was depressing. It was all reminiscent of the Wenger years. WH aren’t a great side but they played with speed and desire and they deserved their win.
    Arsenal, on the other hand, played in slow-motion. Their continually trying to slip narrow passes through a ruck of players was as baffling as it was unsuccessful.
    WH showed that playing with enthusiasm and quickness can achieve a lot. Guendouzi has shown that but few of his teammates seem to want to follow suit. And enthusiasm is one of those characteristics that you can’t teach.

  17. Solskjaer the latest to benefit from new manager syndrome. Good to see the Spuds’ latest title ‘challenge’ evaporating before it ever began.

  18. consolsbob,

    I was thinking that the other day CB. If there’s one thing that Bouldy should be able to have an impact on it’s our defending, if he can’t do that I’m not sure what the point is in having him in post.

  19. andy1886,

    Been wondering that for some time, andy. We used to blame Wenger but I was never confinced of that. Not sure what he brings to the table.

  20. Cbob.

    The one thing you would think the manager who followed arsene should be able to do is improve the defense even without new players. Yet we have 4 new players and we are conceding more. That is concerning

  21. A few issues stand out:

    Emery’s just getting used to the EPL. Also, I think if we had a solid defence and midfield, you can throw on both strikers and expect them to play, but the lack of structure and fluency plus our weak display killed the zeal in Lacazette yesterday.

    Emery is dealing with the injuries wrongly and he needs to take a calculated risk. Some of our academy players can string better passes as a team, why not play a 4-2-3-1 and have Eddie on the right of Lacazette and Iwobi on the left, that way you can change the game in the 2nd 45 minutes.

    The calls yesterday were wrong and we are nowhere near the gains of the first part of the season, thanks to the loss of Welbeck and Holding to injury.

    I can stand Õzil being insipid, it’s the mediocrity of Xhaka and Mustafi that kills the spirit. I think the club will play better with Maitland Niles in the middle or even Elneny instead of Xhaka.

  22. > We are conceding as many goals

    But scoring more. We’ve let in four more than at this stage last season but scored six more.

    > I just do not see what he is trying to achieve

    We aren’t more robust when he leaves out Torreira. But that shouldn’t be a surprise since we’re looking at essentially the same set of players. He’s trying to get the 3-4-3 working with width but we don’t have natural wide players hence the interest in Carrasco. that may be the game-changer we need. But until he clears out the dross, we are stuck in 5th or 6th.

  23. YW,

    The 3-4-3 can’t work because of the current squad. You can bet either of Xhaka or Mustafi has one brain fart per game.

  24. YW,

    Well, then be consistent. Don’t keep switching systems. A plus two goal difference over last season isn’t statistically an improvement. You are guilding the lily, methinks.

    Who replaces the dross?

  25. Agree completely about xhaka… Can’t believe Wenger tried to justify we gotta better deal with him than kante for the same money. I do admit he has played a bit better in the unbeaten run and given time and space he does have an eye for a pass and a good shot on him but if there’s one thing that we definitely trying to do is play out from the back. To do this though you need players who can collect on the half turn already knowing what’s around em and what their next pass is going to be and for me this is xhaka’s biggest weakness. He just doesn’t have the intelligence nor the trust on his right peg… Add to that the inevitable mistake… We definitely need an upgrade… Ps suarez does this exceptionally well so maybe that’s the end of him

  26. Yogi

    I think the reason we are scoring more this season after 22 games is this year we have PEA and last season we didn’t get him until late January.

    I can’t think of a reasonable explanation for conceding more.

  27. I actually feel Emery doesn’t want to or likes to play with a back 3 but he just doesn’t trust the current lot and he probably knows we are conceding way too much hence the change to a back 3 but if you don’t have players who can soak up pressure and always have chuckle moment in them it doesn’t matter what formation you play

  28. Bill

    That’s a swings and roundabouts kind of situation. Sanchez, Ozil, Giroud chipped in the 10-15 by this time so what we’ve gained in one player we’ve lost in multiple scorers.

  29. Bob

    > Don’t keep switching systems

    Can’t have it both ways. Arsene was criticised for being beholden to one way of playing and being too slow to react. Emery is getting pelters for flexibility. I’d agree with the comment that Emery is only in with the back three because this lot are pony defensively. They are and until we ship the chaff out, this is going to be a continuing theme.

    > plus two goal difference over last season isn’t statistically an improvement.

    It is. We’re not going to start a ’28 until you’re 29′ argument, are we?

  30. Yogi

    Fair point. I hadn’t thought of Sanchez and Giroud. I do seem to remember our scoring pace improved in the last 1/3 of last season after we got rid of Sanchez and Giroud and brought in pea and Lacazette started scoring more often.

  31. I would like to see next

    Leno

    Bell – Sok – Koscielny – Nacho – Kol

    Xhaka- Torr

    Ozil

    Lac – Auba

    Width comes from wing backs

  32. Although the game was reminiscent of a Wenger team of the last 10yrs the positive for me is that Wenger wasn’t there. Most people accepted that a season or 2 mid table would be better than another Wenger contract extension. The squad is laden with players either past it or not up to it. Attracting new players is going to be difficult if we’re not competitive in the league or not winning trophies elsewhere.
    I for one are prepared for further pain.

  33. Yogi

    I just checked and Giroud, Sanchez and Ozil scored a total of 14 goals in the first 20 games last season so you were basically spot on.

    Interesting fact. No team with the leagues golden boot winner on their squad has missed the top 4 in the 21st century. Pea has not won the golden boot but he is tied for the lead right now. I think it indicates how historically bad our defense has been so far and I think it also suggests how weak the squad is after pea.

    I agree with something Andy posted earlier and the only players on this squad that we might miss if they left are pea, Lacazette, Torriera and perhaps Bellerin.

  34. Emery needs time and above all investment….we are one of the richest clubs in the world how can
    we not have money to invest in the most important part of the football club, the players ?! Beggars belief Stan gets away with this endlessly. When will Arsenal fans say enough is enough ?
    Glad we have been exposed after our unbeaten run so as to force the issue. We beat Spurs and the players celebrate like they’ve won the Champions League as Poch pointed out. Since then we’ve been largely total crap. And that is why Emery needs time and investment because a lot of the players from the Wenger era are simply mentally just not there, not champions in the making and are soft, soft, soft and apparently headless. Either we invest properly or we can wave goodbye to CL for the next ten/fifteen years. Laughable really.

  35. Absurd that Ozil was given 350k a week ! Absolutely mental club management. Either he plays or he leaves, make one or the other happen AFC. Shambolic to have him doing neither.

  36. Jonnygunner,

    Not sure if that’s good or bad.
    Be good if it’s true, but just as likely someone spouted some shit over a Sunday pint, and the red tops do what they do best.

  37. Buffalo

    Yes we celebrated beating the Spuds -0who wouldn’t ?? On the day we went behind and came back and spanked them….Very, very nice.

    Bear in mind it was on top of a long unbeaten rune that had NOT been at all convincing.

    And I do get that we have false dawns regularly

  38. Özil is going nowhere. Who would have him on that kind of money? In order for him to leave, he would need to be offered a better contract than he currently has. Which says to me, that we won’t even be able to offload him in the summer. And that’s the crux of the matter. It unbalances the dressing room, when every player in that dressing room knows how much Özil is on and they think to themselves – “He’s not that much better than me on the training ground, yet he gets £350,000 a week!” Add to this, the manager is not a defensive coach and defending is not part of his philosophy. The result at WH came as no surprise to me. We’re not going to get anything from the Chelsea game either. UE needs to learn how to organise a team to defend as a unit. To manage the game, so that we give our opponents nothing in the first 20-35 mins of a game. Keep it tight and bide our time. Figure out our opponent. This is what I expect from a coach. Game management. It’s true we don’t have the personnel. But if you aren’t going to play Torreira from the start, then have AMN and Guendouzi as a midfield anchor rather than brain fart Xhaka. In fact he could have used Xhaka further up the pitch as the creative player. We all know he has a pass on him. Relieve him of the defences duties (he’s shit at it any way) and let him make the opportunities. The younger legs of AMN and Guendouzi behind him for when he makes a mistake. UE has as much to blame as the personnel on the pitch. And I agree what is the point of Bouldy!

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