Fortunately I went out last night, so I didn’t watch or listen to the drubbing that West Ham got at the Emirates. It mostly happened in a ten minute spell just after half time, when Arsenal rapidly scored four goals. Things got worse later on when young Dan Potts went off with a serious head injury. Hope he’ll be OK.
West Ham v Arsenal is always a bit of an event in our house. My son is an Arsenal supporter. So when they thrash us, as they usually do, the pain is tempered by the fact that Kieran will be happy. Likewise, if we win, I just can’t gloat. It causes too much upset. And but for those two games in the season, I’m a bit of a Gooner myself, really. Strongly my second team. And so they should be. My Dad supports Arsenal, as well as my son, brother-in-law and father-in-law. I’m the renegade. The result of the 1966 World Cup final, when I decided that Geoff Hurst, hat-trick hero in the 4-2 defeat of West Germany, was my favourite player. He like Bobby Moore and Martin Peters, was a West Ham man. It had to be the Hammers for me. I was seven at the time. I’ve paid for that decision ever since!
Anyway, I expected something like this 5-1 defeat. West Ham can be quite obliging to teams in a bit of a rut. Always a chance to recover your form. Arsenal, of course, aren’t doing that badly, but to listen to their moaning fans you’d think it was the end of the world. And there is something very brittle about the team at the moment. They are capable of great things – witness that ten minutes last night – but there is something weak at the core of the team, in the spine. A lack of leadership, of passion. And so they’ve lost games they should have won and are staring at a first season in aeons when they don’t make the top four and Champions League qualification. If that happens, could it be the end of Arsene Wenger’s reign?
As for West Ham, I’m getting a little worried. The natural state of the football fan is pessimism, and I’m beginning to look at the bottom of the table rather than the top ten. The relegation zone. We are still eight points above the 18th placed team, Reading. Only 13 more points to reach the magic 40, which usually means safety. Objectively, we should be OK, but there’s a nagging doubt. We have history. Implosion is always a possibility.
I’m sure Big Sam has it sussed. And my suspicion is that he even wrote last night’s game off, with a view to winning the next one, away to Fulham. Why else did Joe Cole and Mo Diame both start on the bench? Why didn’t Joey even come on?
I don’t like all this pragmatism. Might keep us up in the end, but it’s not the West Ham way. Just as booting it long to Carlton Cole all the time isn’t either. It’s an ambiguous time for West Ham fans at the moment. We’re delighted to be back in the Premier League, but the Allardyce approach to the game, admirable though it is in its attention to detail, and its defensive solidity in most games, still grates. It’s hard to love. There are no pretty bubbles in the air.
Fingers crossed, we’ll be alright.
In the meantime, no wonder my focus is on Harlequins. The best English rugby team playing the best rugby. A new experience for me, supporting the best. #COYQ!
(Well, and #COYI too – I will always love the happy Hammers, the Irons).