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West Ham V Aston Villa


Guest Gary Loughran
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Guest Gary Loughran

Another game just like Everton where things just haven't went our way - is one way of looking at this.

Were we unlucky to lose? Yes. No one could legislate for a cross looping in off, the unfortunate Neill, in the way that it did. Especially after such a great display.

Were we unlucky not to win? No. Carlton Cole must shoulder a lot of blame for this loss - this is not luck related. Whilst his all round play has improved dramatically, his primary function is to score goals. For the second consecutice week, he missed the chances that would otherwise have given us victories. His limp attempt at a point blank header and general unease when faced with instinctive scoring opportunities isn't a pleasant sight. Dean Ashton would have had 2-3 goals on Saturday, I'd imagine.

The only other notably bad performance was Parker who had a nightmare. His passing was all over the place and he seemed to be forcing his game somewhat.

Everyone else was excellent. Noble has energised the midfield and Collison has been a revelation. His energy and good technique are impressing me more and more with each passing game. Davenport, too, is making me reconsider him

Green - 8 - Could do nothing about the goal. Handled everything else well.

Neill - 8 - Unlucky with goal. Looks so much fitter and athletic these days. Definitely his best game in a while

Davenport - 7 - Vastly improving player.

Upson - 7 - Steady, done everything well

Ilunga - 7 - The biggest compliment I can give him is that he didn't stick out as being poor. A more blended performance

Behrami - 7 - Inspired by Collison and Noble to be more energetic. Probably best game for us and he was substituted/

Parker - 6 - Poor passing game.

Noble - 8 - Great display.

Collison - 8 - Another great display. Unlucky not to score.

Cole - 6 - Good all round display. Worrying inability to score.

Bellamy - 8 - always available for an 'out' ball. Good game

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After watching West Ham play against Chelsea and Aston Villa I no longer feel they will be relegated (as long as they do not sell their best players).

The main reason for this is Zola has eventually grasped the idea that Faubert is not up to Premiership standard. I am just amazed that it took him so long to discover this point. However, he still plays Neill and Cole. Although he has been better over the last couple of games, Neill is a disaster waiting to happen. He nearly gave away a penalty in the first-half and in the second-half he showed Ashley Young inside and allowed him to shoot at goal (luckily he was off-target).

I also think Zola should have played Sears instead of Cole against Chelsea and Aston Villa. Playing Bellamy and Sears together worked well against Middlesbrough and Everton. Most premiership teams use two tall centre-backs to deal with the ball in the air. This was also true of Chelsea and Aston Villa and considering Cole's poor form, it might have been a strategy that was worth trying. I hope they try it against Portsmouth who also play with two tall centre-backs.

The midfield of Behrami, Parker/Mullins, Noble and Collison worked well defensively in the last two games. However, we do not pose much of a threat on the wings with this line-up. This is one of the reasons we have not been scoring. It is also an argument for replacing Neill and Illunga with two overlapping full-backs.

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Guest Gary Loughran
Neill is a disaster waiting to happen. He nearly gave away a penalty in the first-half and in the second-half he showed Ashley Young inside and allowed him to shoot at goal (luckily he was off-target)...

...and considering Cole's poor form, it might have been a strategy that was worth trying. I hope they try it against Portsmouth who also play with two tall centre-backs.

The midfield of Behrami, Parker/Mullins, Noble and Collison worked well defensively in the last two games. However, we do not pose much of a threat on the wings with this line-up. This is one of the reasons we have not been scoring. It is also an argument for replacing Neill and Illunga with two overlapping full-backs.

Taking the above in order, I think that is a little harsh on Neill. If, and that's a big if, he was able to perform at that level consistently he would be easily Premiership standard and useful in our team.

Cole is not displaying bad form. I have argued this since we signed him and I am well aware that a lot of fans seem unable to bring themselves to criticise a player for trying hard (when he bothers to try hard). Cole is simply not good enough for the Premiership - never has been - ever. The last two performances are absolutely the best he can do. It is a matter of fact that he will not score with anything approaching an acceptable standard. He is a short term squad player, a player to bring on when you're playing kitchen sink football in the last 10 minutes. He is not good enough to start consistently for any team in the Premier League. Zola is now promising to give shooting lessons to a player he thought worthy of a five year contract. That's is either lunacy or twisted genius. I personally think it is the craziest thing I've ever heard. I mean it's hardly like he has lost an ability to score goals - an ability he has never ever had in any abundance to start with. As Cole said when he signed his lucrative new deal - "I'll have to knuckle down now, looks like I'll be here for a while". What was the idiot thinking???

It was noticeable in the last couple of games that there is a gap between the midfield and forwards. Too often Bellamy had to go wide and, too often no-one was in the middle for him to aim at. Evidenced by the cross shot spilled by Friedel with no West Ham shirts in the same TV shot as 4 Villa defenders. Overlapping full backs would be nice, but more pertinent for us we need wide midfielders. Someone to get crosses in. But let us walk before we can run. Tightening up the team first then adding some firepower.

When the midfield pressed higher in the second half, closing the gap, we were far superior to Villa and gave one of the better performances against a top side.

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Cole is not displaying bad form. I have argued this since we signed him and I am well aware that a lot of fans seem unable to bring themselves to criticise a player for trying hard (when he bothers to try hard). Cole is simply not good enough for the Premiership - never has been - ever. The last two performances are absolutely the best he can do.

I tend to agree with Zola. I think he has the potential to be a top-class striker. However, he will need a lot of coaching. He currently lacks the ability to take-up the right positions in the penalty area. There was an incident in the first-half when Bellamy broke through on the wing. It was clear that Bellamy would cut-in and try a shot at goal. Cole needed to get into the penalty area in case the goalkeeper spilled it. He did this but far too late to take advantage of the ball coming back off the goalkeeper. It is one of the main ways strikers like Owen get a large number of their goals. Can it be taught? I would have thought it can and obviously that is what Zola is trying to do.

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Guest Gary Loughran
Cole is not displaying bad form. I have argued this since we signed him and I am well aware that a lot of fans seem unable to bring themselves to criticise a player for trying hard (when he bothers to try hard). Cole is simply not good enough for the Premiership - never has been - ever. The last two performances are absolutely the best he can do.

I tend to agree with Zola. I think he has the potential to be a top-class striker. However, he will need a lot of coaching. He currently lacks the ability to take-up the right positions in the penalty area. There was an incident in the first-half when Bellamy broke through on the wing. It was clear that Bellamy would cut-in and try a shot at goal. Cole needed to get into the penalty area in case the goalkeeper spilled it. He did this but far too late to take advantage of the ball coming back off the goalkeeper. It is one of the main ways strikers like Owen get a large number of their goals. Can it be taught? I would have thought it can and obviously that is what Zola is trying to do.

I think only time will tell. I'd be amazed, shocked, stunned and delighted if Cole became top-class. I mentioned the incident earlier that you spoke of, ideally Bellamy would have been in there as well (instead of shooting) and at least one centre and the opposite wide midfielder in the vicinity also. That is the problem with the large separation between midfield and forwards rather than Cole's fault per se...back to Cole...how can Zola teach what he himself didn't have? Zola was not a great goalscorer and his goals tended to be free kicks or special finishes - not the Owen, Rush type goals that require instinctive positioning. Zola was 1 in 4 for free kicks in Italy, remarkable. I wouldn't even say Zola was a great finisher, certainly not in the Brazilian Ronaldo, Shearer, Romario class. Think more Zidane, Hoddle, Le Tissier...a creator, a link player.

All Zola will do is have him perform shooting practice with some typical movements thrown in - think about there isn't alot more than can be taught. I would suggest, in fact, the Greaves, sense of positioning and finishing can't be taught. Some better positions will occur through mechanical rote learning and perhaps be beneficial if he has the cognitive processes to translate it naturally to the field.

Like I said time will tell, but I would be stunned if Cole became, by any measurement, a top striker. I hope he does. As a person he seems decent and nothing I am saying is from a dislike of Carlton Cole the person.

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