The following article was written by Max Kellar.
Cardiff: The Positives and Negatives we can draw
Two brilliant goals from Kevin Nolan and George McCartney gave West Ham a much-needed victory away at promotion rivals Cardiff this afternoon.
Firstly, I want to start by praising our returning captain Kevin Nolan. Now, I will not overreact to the degree that some Hammers have done today by stating that the criticism he has received this season has been unjust because, in my opinion, he was not criticised enough. He retained his place in the starting 11 week in, week out despite countless effortless performances as Mark Noble was putting in a double shift to cover for his fellow central midfielder. However, his performance today was typical of the form he showed last season as he became Newcastle’s player of the season. His goal showed a great deal of composure, but he also chased every pass and was looking so much more like the player we believed we signed (stole) from Newcastle in the summer.
I would also like to praise Nicky Maynard who ran non-stop for the time he was on before being ridiculously replaced by Carlton Cole. He is without a doubt one of the, if not the quickest player we have and I can see him scoring a lot of goals in our promotion push with the positions he is getting himself into. He is a nightmare for defenders to deal with and Sam really did get it right tactically playing him against a very tired Cardiff defence who just could not deal with him. I think Carlton Cole looked woeful when he came on. Every time he held the ball up, he would give an extremely heavy touch and lose the ball. Replacing Nicky Maynard with him showed just how much of a difference there is between the two players, the most noticeable of which is the gulf in effort given as Carlton chases next to nothing, whereas Maynard does quite the opposite.
I can’t analyse our performance without mentioning the ‘tank’, ‘wall’, ‘beast’ and many other things that is Abdoulaye Faye. Despite Cardiff being extremely poor going forward, he tackled extremely strongly and won every header he competed for. The only threats to our goal were the Peter Whittingham free kick at 1-0 and the header which Rob Green superbly tipped onto the bar on the stroke of the final whistle. I personally would have awarded Faye man of the match because I felt he was the main reason Cardiff weren’t able to get into our final third and create any chances.
Now it would not be a West Ham match analysis without the negatives and this match did not bring solely positive reports. Apart from the Nolan goal, the first half was appalling and we barely created a chance. It lacked creativity and we gave a terrible Cardiff side a lot of respect. Cardiff was clearly never going to trouble us because of their lack of energy from their Carling Cup final against Liverpool. However, we showed exactly what happens when you attack a lethargic side in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, personally it was the best football I have seen us play all season.
We did not have the excuse of hoisting the ball long to Cole up front and therefore were forced to play the ball on the floor and that style of play suite us so much better with the players we had on than the ‘hit and hope’ strategy with which we have become synonymous under Big Sam. Apart from the result, the huge collection of chances we created for ourselves through the quick interplay along the ground.
However, one moan which must be made is our slightly less spectacular ability to convert the chances that we created. During the 15 minute period of excellent football at the beginning of the second period, we could easily have scored 5 or 6 against what I think is the least organised defence we have played against so far this season. Although the win is the most important thing, Big Sam cannot escape the fact that our finishing today was just not good enough and we will be punished for it in other games if we are to continue wasting chances like we did today. Our creation of chances is absolutely useless if we cannot provide a clinical edge to our finishing, but let’s just hope that today was an anomaly for Maynard & Co.
All in all, today we showed just how boring and unimaginative we can play, but also how much quality we have in our team. We really do need to push on from this win which is a massive victory on paper. We have Watford and Doncaster coming up in our next 2 games which simply have to bring 6 points. We showed a lot of class at points today and if we can perform for the rest of the season in the manner we did at the beginning of the second half today, we will win this league no doubt.
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