Zola’s misfits are not hungry like the Wolves
West Ham United 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 WITH SECONDS to go in this humiliating match, the Sky TV steadycam moved closer and closer to the forlorn, diminutive figure of manager Gianfranco Zola on the touchline – it was certainly better than watching th
West Ham United 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 3
WITH SECONDS to go in this humiliating match, the Sky TV steadycam moved closer and closer to the forlorn, diminutive figure of manager Gianfranco Zola on the touchline - it was certainly better than watching the game, writes DAVE EVANS.
Fair play to Wolves, they came with a gameplan, finished sublimely and thoroughly deserved their three points, but this match was about West Ham. It was about a team so utterly bereft of ideas, of inspiration and of footballing skills that it was an embarrassment to watch.
There were exceptions of course. Scott Parker was superb once again. By the end he had run himself into the ground and you can only hope that he will be fit for Saturday's clash with Stoke, because who knows how bad the Hammers will be without him.
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Guillermo Franco surprised everyone by coming off the bench and doing more in his 19 minutes on the pitch than he has done in his last three appearances combined.
But for the rest of the team, this was a shambles. They looked underprepared; they were a yard short of pace all over the pitch; they hardly won a header all night; and they just looked like they didn't want it.
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They were not a team, and Mick McCarthy's Wolves certainly were.
"They were certainly better than us," admitted Zola. "Whether they were more up for it than us I don't know."
The West Ham fans know. They expected fireworks from the players, but they watched a team whose heads went down the moment James Tomkins had made his horrendous mistake and Kevin Doyle's run into the box ended with an exquisite finish.
"It is not that they didn't try, they tried, but they tried in a disorganised way and that is very, very painful for me," admitted Zola. "Obviously it is my duty to correct it and I take full responsibility for that."
Zola must take part of that responsibility, but others must hold their hands up too.
Skipper Matty Upson had a terrible night against Doyle, but just as importantly he failed to rouse his players and you have to wonder whether Parker would be a better bet as an inspirational captain.
Radoslav Kovac had a nightmare game. He constantly lost the ball, ran around like a headless chicken, while the only saving grace in comparison for Valon Behrami, is that he did try and get the ball back once he had lost it.
Shall I go on? Alessandro Diamanti is so predictable that a five-year-old would be able to suss out his modus operandi after a few minutes. The Wolves defence took even less time.
Carlton Cole looked unable to twist and turn on his knee, Benni McCarthy unable to do anything much, though neither received any semblance of service, while Junior Stanislas might as well have not bothered to come off the bench for all the contribution he made in the second half.
Perhaps I am going over the top, perhaps it was Wolves who were top class on the night. Better than Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal? Maybe not.
The warning signs were there as early as the ninth minute when Kevin Foley latched on to Doyle's flick and thumped a shot against the underside of the bar.
Parker looked to rally the team. He shot straight at Marcus Hahnemann, and then found McCarthy with a pass that culminated in Cole failing to get in a decent shot, while Julien Faubert swept past two defenders, but then pulled his shot wide.
On 28 minutes, disaster struck. Tomkins was caught in two minds and Doyle took full advantage, stealing the ball and rushing forward to open the scoring.
It was a savage blow for Tomkins, but Zola insisted it was injury that forced him off at the break.
"He came off because he had a pain in the foot," said the boss. "Obviously he was upset. Can you imagine, he is a 20-years boy and he has made a mistake that has been very costly.
"But he has to learn, he has to become stronger if he wants to survive in this competitive world."
You could say that about most of the West Ham team.
Parker went so close to levelling matter right on half time when his clever shot beat the keeper, but hit the inside of the post. The rebound came to the little midfielder and from a tight angle his attempt was grabbed by Hahnemann.
Perhaps things would be better after the break. Kovac was replaced by Stanislas; Tomkins by Spector, but no, it got so much worse.
A poor clearance on 58 minutes allowed David Jones to feed Ronald Zubar and he finished with class from the right edge of the box, while three minutes later a lovely move ended with Jones slipping a pass to Matthew Jarvis, who drilled a shot past the helpless Robert Green.
So many West Ham supporters were leaving by that point, you might have thought there was a fire drill, but there was no such excitement.
Franco did provide some entertaining moments. He jinked past two defenders to force a fine save from the keeper, then latched on to Behrami's pass to lift the ball over Hahnemann and into the net.
It was scant consolation on a night where the wheels came off West Ham's season.
Has Zola the ability to turn this team round? We shall see on Saturday. Will the Hammers go down? Surely not with Portsmouth, Hull and Burnley about. Too good to go down? Definitely and categorically not.
West Ham: Green, Faubert, Daprela, Upson, Tomkins (Spector h/t), Diamanti, Kovac (Stanislas h/t), Parker, Behrami, McCarthy (Franco 71), Cole. Unused subs: Stech, Ilan, Mido, Noble.
Attendance: 33,988. Referee: Phil Dowd (6).