West Ham United 2 (Lingard 21, Dawson 28)
Leeds United 0
Disappointing again tonight but we didn’t learn anything we didn’t already know. Every now and again Leeds get a nice win against a middling to average side in this division and we’ve done it often enough to get those 35 points we currently have. The problem though is that we are then tempted to kid ourselves that we can go on and do even better with this group of players this season. In truth, we are where we deserve to be, in mid-table, and to do any better we know in our heart of hearts we need more quality on the pitch and in pretty much all areas. We have one player of real quality, one player who will do what he is supposed to do, game-in and game-out without fail; Raphinha; and maybe another one in Kalvin Phillips. Elsewhere we have some lovely lads, fit as butchers’ dogs and with hearts of oak and well organised by Bielsa… but sadly not the quality that will get you into Europe.
So, disappointing again but not surprising if we are being true to ourselves. On another day we’d have got something tonight but, more often than not we won’t and West Ham are not the cream of the division in my opinion, regardless of where they are in the table!
Sometimes, when these players of ours are all on top of their game and the rub of the green goes with us, we may even win a game against one of the better sides, but our group, on the whole, is not good enough to regularly put in top performances. If we had that better quality I’m talking about, Luke Ayling would not have dangled a foot out against a player like Jesse Lingard, we wouldn’t have conceded yet another goal at an opposition corner kick, and we’d have put at least a couple of some very big chances away to probably leave London with at least a point.
Some people will go on about the London curse, or suggest that this was just “one of those days” when “We could play ‘til midnight and we won’t score” but I’m convinced those are just the symptoms, observations we see from a group that is stretching every sinew to even reach the standard we are getting. Some will even say it was a good performance tonight, second half in particular. But a performance encompasses all aspects of the game and that includes defending and converting chances.
Defensively we are not good enough to do any better than we are; 14 goals conceded from corners is the worst record in the division and that will not be solved with the current players unless Robin Koch proves to be that top-level player we need once we get to see him regularly enough. Would Llorente be the quality we need if he was partnered with Koch? Maybe, we just don’t know. All we do know is that the back four we played tonight will not be there next season if we are to progress higher than mid-table. Similarly, in midfield, I’d be hard-pressed to pick anyone other than Kalvin and Raphinha who can be relied on week-in week-out to shine and deliver. Up front we again saw the lack of consistency we get from Patrick Bamford.
Bamford has scored some fabulous goals this season showing that he can do it, but we make so many chances that he really should be scoring even more than he does. Twice tonight you have to think that he wasted chances that, at this level, you’d expect your number ‘9’ to bury. It’s not a criticism that he played badly tonight; it’s just an observation that he isn’t consistently clinical enough for a team wanting to be in the top echelons of the Premier League and I’m sure that is where we are aiming to be next season.
So, for now we have to carry on as we are, try to be as good as we can be and pick up a few more points to ensure that we can then trawl the market for a few more Raphinha-quality players in other areas of the pitch. We know those players cost big money and demand big wages but that’s the name of the game and everything suggests the club know this perfectly well. Another year of Premier League money will help us find a few more pieces of the ultimate jigsaw.
No criticism of the players on show tonight, they played their hearts out and, as I say, on another day may even have got a point but, long term, we know we will have to say thank you for what you’ve done but goodbye to several of them.
West Ham Utd Leeds Utd
Possession 35% 65%
Shots 16 17
On Target 5 2
Corners 6 6
Fouls Committed 9 9