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West Ham Player Assessment


John Simkin
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Football fans have an opinion on every player. As the various football forums show, fans disagree with great intensity about individual performances. This is reflected when people pick their team for the next match.

Is it possible to rate players in an objective way? I don’t think so. Judgement on players is emotional as well as intellectual. I know that I give some players the benefit of the doubt whereas others find it difficult to convince me of their merits. This is partly because of the way they play the game. I have always liked players who give their all in games. Another important factor concerns individual skill. I always favour players who look up and make accurate passes. This is why I always had difficulty giving Reo-Coker the benefit of the doubt.

I believe it is impossible for any one individual to assess players completely objectively. However, it is possible to get a fair estimation of someone’s performance by taking into account a reasonable number of assessments. Therefore, this season, I will be collecting together comments and rankings of every player’s performance in every match. This will enable people to use this data to make judgements on the performance of individual players.

Currently I am using the assessment of 12 different websites and newspapers. If you watch every West Ham game and are willing to join in this experiment, contact me via the forum.

There is no doubt that there was general agreement about individual performances against Man City. Green was rated as the top performer with an average of 7.1. It was also clear who had the two worse ratings: Boa Morte (4.1) and Bowyer (4.4).

Some players had a wide variety of different ratings. For example, Anton Ferdinand obtained scores that went from 3 to 7. Zamora also divided the commentators with a range from 3 to 6. Anyway, you can see the full list here:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2007WHsquad.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHashton.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHbellamy.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHmorte.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHbowyer.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHetherington.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHferdinand.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHgreen.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHljungberg.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHmccartney.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHmullins.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHnoble.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHspector.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHupton.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHzamora.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHcurbishley.htm

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I think the most interesting aspect of the various newspaper/website articles on the Manchester City game concerned the performance of Alan Curbishley. You can see a collection of these comments here:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHcurbishley.htm

Several commentators pointed to the strange decision in the 62 minute to switch Etherington to full-back. This not only severely reduced the crosses from the left but also allowed Onuoha, Man City’s right-back, to join in attacks and this resulted in the second goal with both Etherington and Zamora, failing to get in a tackle against him.

As Martin Samuel said in The Times, “Eriksson out-thought everybody on Saturday, including, most importantly, Alan Curbishley, his opposite number. From the start, West Ham struggled to get to grips with the breadth of the Swede’s game plan and by the second half Curbishley was so confused that he moved his best player, Matthew Etherington, to left back to accommodate Dean Ashton, negating his only chance of winning the match.”

What was even more revealing was Curbishley’s response to questions about his tactics after the game: “I didn’t do anything about the way they were going to shape up before the game and I moved too many people around in the second half. Etherington went from wide left to left back, Bobby Zamora started up front and went left, Freddie Ljungberg started on the right then went left and Craig Bellamy started in the middle then went right. I was just trying to get a spark and perhaps it would have been best left alone.”

Curbishley comes close to admitting to his tactical ineptitude but he can’t quite go the whole way. This is significant because it is only when you are willing to fully accept your mistakes that you can really improve as a manager. (The same is true of whatever job that you do.) To do that you need to be confident in your true abilities. I suspect that at the current time Curbishley is unable to do that and that is going to be a serious problem for West Ham over the coming months.

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Mark Noble was clearly the highest rated player for Saturday’s game (8.9). Upson also did well with 7.9. Every player except for Jonathan Spector got a rating over 6. He suffered from a very low score from the Observer which uses a club fan to do the ratings. Indra Morris is clearly not a fan of Spector.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/MRbirmA.htm

The average rankings definitely appear to be a guide to team selection. In the first game against Manchester City the two lowest ranked players, Boa Morte and Bowyer were dropped for the second game against Birmingham City.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/MRmanc.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHmorte.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHbowyer.htm

It would seem that the lowest ranked player for the Birmingham game, Jonathan Spector will be replaced for the game against Wigan.

The other one in danger is Bobby Zamora. Over the two games he has a average rating of 5.7. The only other team member who has played in both games and has a lower rating than Zamora is Spector with 5.5. There must be a very good chance that Dean Ashton will replace Zamora for Saturday’s game.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHzamora.htm

The journalists seem to be united in their assessment of the players and the team against Birmingham. Everyone seemed to agree that Mark Noble was the best player on the pitch. Upson was the second best according to 10 of the 11 assessors.

The vast majority agreed with the referee’s decision to give a penalty. Everyone accepted that West Ham clearly outclassed Birmingham. The only worry is that this says more about Birmingham than it does about West Ham.

Unfortunately, few reporters spent much on the game preferring to concentrate on Curbishley’s comments about the bad press the club had been getting.

I think the most important thing to take from the game was that it was achieved without Fredrik Ljungberg, Scott Parker, Dean Ashton and Julien Faubert. What is more, Kieron Dyer, and to a lesser extent, Craig Bellamy, are not yet 100% fit.

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  • 2 weeks later...

You can find the West Ham player ratings against Reading here:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/MRreadingA.htm

It is no real surprise that Bellamy had the highest rating (8.4). The other goalscorer, Etherington, was second-best with 7.9. The ratings were fairly consistent. However, Ashton got 4 from the Times whereas the Observer rating was 8. The Observer correspondent, Indra Morris, seems especially eccentric, as she also gave Neill a rating of 9.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Most of the first-team squad now have over 500 match-ratings. Rob Green is top with an average rating of 7.0. He is followed by Etherington (6.7), Bellamy (6.6), Upson (6.6) and Ashton (6.6).

Few would have predicted before the season that Etherington would have been in the first-team, yet he clearly deserves his top three ranking. Two other players who were expected to be in the reserves: Mullins (6.4) and Bowyer (6.3), have also done well.

The ratings suggest that only Cole (5.8) is in danger of not starting against Newcastle.

The average rankings for the team performances (based on over 6,000 individual ratings) in rank order.

Reading (7.0)

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/MRreadingA.htm

Birmingham (6.6)

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/MRbirmA.htm

Middlesbrough (6.4)

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/MRmiidleH.htm

Wigan (6.2)

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/MRwiganH.htm

Manchester City (5.7)

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/MRmanc.htm

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Guest Gary Loughran

Lucas Neil should not get a positive, i.e. higher than zero, rating for his 'performance' (in quotes to avoid trade description dispute) against Newcastle. He was the difference between the teams in an extremely even game. Even if it was more like watching Bolton V Charlton in it's entertainment value. When Charles N'Zogbia is viewed as MOM for his great skill etc. then there's no more to say about the skill level on display.

Two workmanlike teams, with no guile, slogging it out on a Sunday lunchtime - Hackney marshes anyone? or Charlton v Bolton...(sorry for repeating this but it was eerie).

This is why I dislike the rating system in general. No rating can properly describe the fact that Lucas Neil cost West Ham the game and made N'Zogbia look like Overmars in his heyday.

First goal - Neil thinks he's Cafu. Get's dispossessed. Strolls into 'position'. 1-0

Second goal - Neil is no-where to be seen at right back as he leaves Bowyer and Ferdinand to do his job for him while he watches safely. Hoping no-one would notice that the Captain of West Ham is hiding somewhere between being a 3rd centre half and an idle spectator!!!!

Third goal - Just watch Neil - out of position, leaving his job to others (maybe Bowyer again I forget) - walking...really walking, totally doing nothing that right back or footballer should do.

Did Neill really think no-one would notice. Curbs obviously didn't, he brought on Spector and I truly thought he was going to rocket Neill by taking him off (a strong message when this happens to a Captain especially in a like for like swap). But no!!!!

I like Lucas Neill as a player; but that performance has made me want to study his future play; especially against awesome left wingers like N'Zogbia (I'm laughing even typing those last 5 words). Does he always hide by tucking in and leaving midfielders and centre halfs to do his job???

Another thing about ratings ( and I hope your work proves/disproves this) is that irrespective of performance, nearly anyone could pick WHUFC's next starting 11 if given enough injury and fitness information. I just don't think a poor rating one week suggests changes the next.

More specifically why I dislike performance ratings - they are determined by the result - vis 'Boro - a generally OK performance helped by shocking naivete at the back by Boro. Net result rave reviews about WHU's pace throughout the team yada, yada.

I think you get the picture!!!

Watched Benayoun last night for L'Pool. Shocking again - which lead me to the following conclusion. It seems West Ham teams have an inability to really work hard for each other OUT OF POSSESSION. I think this is why when we are on form we look awesome, and when we're off form we look so bad. Eamon Dunphy's quotes about West Ham still stand today over 20 years later. Nothing has really changed, and probably never will. It's why we love them - we dream they can produce awesome performances all season and win a title. Reality bites. No-one has ever done this. Arsenal, Madrid, Barca, Ajax, Utd have all come close, but they know how to work hard and grind results out when things just aren't happening. At West Ham we get beat 3 and 4 on those days.

And still I really do love the Hammers

Edited by Gary Loughran
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Another thing about ratings ( and I hope your work proves/disproves this) is that irrespective of performance, nearly anyone could pick WHUFC's next starting 11 if given enough injury and fitness information. I just don't think a poor rating one week suggests changes the next.

More specifically why I dislike performance ratings - they are determined by the result - vis 'Boro - a generally OK performance helped by shocking naivete at the back by Boro. Net result rave reviews about WHU's pace throughout the team yada, yada.

I disagree about the use of ratings. If you take out the factor of injuries, ratings have been a good prediction of team selection. For example, Bowyer and Boa Morte both got very poor ratings for the first game against Manchester City and deservedly got dropped. Whereas others like Mullins and Etherington, who would have expected to have been short-term replacements, have cemented their positions because of regular high-rating performances.

Curbishley went against the ratings to bring back Bowyer during the Wigan game. However, his ratings since then have helped him retain his place.

According to the average season ratings, Ferdinand (5.9) and Neill (6.1) are the ones most at risk of losing their place for the game against Arsenal on Saturday.

Collins got a rating of 6.2 in his only game this season and could be in line for a recall. Neill is safer as his likely replacement, Spector, only has a rating of 5.5.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2007WHsquad.htm

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Guest Gary Loughran
Another thing about ratings ( and I hope your work proves/disproves this) is that irrespective of performance, nearly anyone could pick WHUFC's next starting 11 if given enough injury and fitness information. I just don't think a poor rating one week suggests changes the next.

More specifically why I dislike performance ratings - they are determined by the result - vis 'Boro - a generally OK performance helped by shocking naivete at the back by Boro. Net result rave reviews about WHU's pace throughout the team yada, yada.

I disagree about the use of ratings. If you take out the factor of injuries, ratings have been a good prediction of team selection. For example, Bowyer and Boa Morte both got very poor ratings for the first game against Manchester City and deservedly got dropped. Whereas others like Mullins and Etherington, who would have expected to have been short-term replacements, have cemented their positions because of regular high-rating performances.

Curbishley went against the ratings to bring back Bowyer during the Wigan game. However, his ratings since then have helped him retain his place.

According to the average season ratings, Ferdinand (5.9) and Neill (6.1) are the ones most at risk of losing their place for the game against Arsenal on Saturday.

Collins got a rating of 6.2 in his only game this season and could be in line for a recall. Neill is safer as his likely replacement, Spector, only has a rating of 5.5.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2007WHsquad.htm

As far as I can tell the only player to really suffer from bad performance has been Boa Morte (I wouldn't be surprised if he joined Callum Davison in January transfers) - who has been below, below average. Other omissions/additions have been expected due to injury or return from injury.

Mullins will soon be dropped [could be Noble, but I think the original idea was Mullins] once Parker gets fit and this will happen irrespective of performance - and I've always liked Mullins as well. Likewise, Ashton was coming in for Zamora once he was fit. Ashton/Bellamy is Curbs front 2 when available. He may occassionally shake this up with Zamora/Camara; one of whom may come in, but this happens every so often anyway to keep things fresh.

Faubert once fit will replace Etherington/Boa Morte/Bowyer or whomever is playing left midfield and irrespective of performance. Let's be honest none of these guys are consisitent enough anyway. When fit Dyer/Ljunberg will give Curbs a selection headache in right midfield. The chances of both being fit enough to actually do this is anyones guess.

Ferdinand/Upson seems to be his preferred Centre half partnership. Collins is knocking at the door (literally according to some reports). I imagine Curbs wouldn't want to break up a partnership and risk making a player unhappy - especially if they have to come back in once Upson/Collins gets injured (usually after 2-3 months).

It's not like West Ham have a good enough squad to rotate frequently, though it is improving. Given a fully fit squad there would be the choices and decisions to make as a result of performance. As things stand, it makes dropping players difficult - Curb's can't say rotation because a. it's not true and b. it's not true.

I think it's a superb feature you have, make no mistake. I just think ratings are far too often dictated by the result amongst other things subjective. Agreement is usual only on the teams 1-2 best players. The rest is pretty arbitrary, in my opinion. Though KUMB and the others you have providing stats will be far more precious and accurate about ratings throughout the team and this could be the difference in the validity of the averages which could elevate your performance ratings process.

Edited by Gary Loughran
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Curbishley has a couple of decisions to make today. For example, will he play Anton Ferdinand or James Collins?

Ferdinand has played five games this season with an average rating of 5.9.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHferdinand.htm

James Collins on the other hand has played only one game and has an average rating of 6.2.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHcollins.htm

I prefer Collins because he makes fewer mistakes than Ferdinand. He is also a major threat with his head at corners and free kicks. However, a partnership of Collins and Upson lacks pace. My choice would be Collins and Gabbidon. However, I suspect Curbishley will go with Ferdinand and Upson.

Will Curbishley play Fredrik Ljungberg or Lee Bowyer on the right-side of midfield?

At the beginning of the season this would have been a “no contest”. However, after a disastrous start, Bowyer has gradually improved and has scored two important goals.

Man City (4.5)

Wigan (6.7)

Reading (6.9)

Middlesbrough (7.1)

Newcastle United (6.2)

Average: 6.3

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHbowyer.htm

Ljungberg on the other hand has only played in two games and has an average of 5.5.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/07WHljungberg.htm

Therefore, I suspect Bowyer will start the game but would not be surprised if Ljungberg replaces him. The timing of this will depend on how well West Ham do against Arsenal.

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Guest Gary Loughran

A couple of posts ago I mentioned Callum Davison, apologies to Mr Davenport ;)

It seems that Mullins, as predicted, got the shepherds hook to be replaced by now fit (now injured, same knee tweaked) Parker.

Etherington must be injured, Bowyer and Ljungberg started. Which probably explains why the death snake (Boa Morte, geddit :D) was on the bench - he looks increasingly heavy and sluggish, though he has a great football brain, he no longer is a direct threat to the opposition.

Collins must be injured, Gabbidon replaced, hamstring victim, Ferdinand shortly after HT. Does the fact Collins might be hurt suggest that's why he didn't replace Ferdinand in the starting XI? Interestingly, after Newcastle, Curbs said there would be defensive changes for the Arsenal game. Child psychology or true statement of intent???? - as we know there were no defensive changes for the start of the Arsenal game.

I like Upson, I like Collins, not a fan of Gabbidon.

Upson and Ferdinand are the two best footballers. Collins and Upson are the two best defenders. Upson should start all the time; I agree totally that the dilemma is who to partner - Collins and Upson seems flat - though Collins wouldn't have been bullied by Viduka.

When Ashton is fit, we have on our hands a perfect blend of Shearer and Sheringham and the best English striker in the Premiership. If he stays fit can we keep him, beyond his obligation to the club for his injured year out?

And here's my point about ratings - you said "Therefore, I suspect Bowyer will start the game but would not be surprised if Ljungberg replaces him. The timing of this will depend on how well West Ham do against Arsenal. "

If we lose, no matter how well Bowyer plays, you believe Ljungberg comes in. If we win, no matter how Bowyer plays, you suspect Ljungberg will remain a sub. Likewise, Parker replaces Mullins. No rating system can deal with the subjectivity of the one man who matters - the manager, and unlike England managers club managers shouldn't base their team selection on the ratings given by a hack in a red top who hasn't even seen the game (as he was enjoying some 'corporate hospitality) and most likely bases his ratings on the 909 full time report. Hence why only the top 1-2 players are represented properly as they were the only ones normally mentioned by 909. Only half in jest :D

Edited by Gary Loughran
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