Behrami states the obvious - but ducks the implications

Finally someone from the team stands up and admits it – we have a mental problem. For those of us watching we didn’t really need Behrami to tell us that, it has been evident, and a major point of discussion, almost since the arrival of Zola. From the very start Zola made a point of changing the players attitudes as a way toward success

“The players can’t be afraid of trying, my job is to encourage them to play
their game and not being afraid of losing… … football is all about enjoying
going out there”
Still one of the most evident features of the squad under Zola’s rein is the lack of mental stability. Countless times we have seen the game plan collapse, most strikingly when we have been two goals up on a team that gets a player sent off! The fear of losing is never far off.

What are the reasons?
When Zola came in he changed into the 433 system “a system I like and that can be very effective” he said. The response from the team was more ambiguous, at least after a few losses. Noble went on record saying "you need a couple of years to get it right".
The timing of this fundamental (?) change in game plan wasn’t the best either, as it turned out. Ashton picked up his final ankle injury in his first training session with Zola and injury plagued the squad the whole first half of the season.
So a team with several players that were not really considered starters were asked to change from the familiar 442 they were brought up with. And to make it yet a bit harder, it was more or less an “on the job training” as Zola came on after the start of the season. If a grain of doubt is planted under those circumstances there is a great risk of it getting nourished and grow. I feel we didn’t really ever have a squad able to play according to Zolas wishes, but that is maybe another issue.

We turned it around last season and that must have installed some belief in the future in the players, but the never ending (?) doubt over what players were going or staying as well as other aspects of the owner issue handed us just the start of this season we didn’t need.
Zola couldn’t do much about player trades but to minimize the damage. What I do think he could have done this season, after it was evident that the results were not going our way, was to minimize all types of insecurities he had any control over.

Quite often you hear coaches saying “at the moment it doesn’t work so we have to go back and work on the basics” We’ve heard that from Zola as well, but still he kept on experimenting with different systems (433, diamond 442 and standard 442). He has also been guilty of tampering with the starting lineup as I pointed out in THIS post about the back 4 (8?), as well as playing midfielders in all kinds of positions.
I am fully aware that it’s hard to decide to give a certain back 4, midfield, or striker duo time to settle in if it seems as if it doesn’t fully work out. It must be hard resist acting on the “maybe if we…” idea, nevertheless it’s of fundamental importance to do it as little as possible especially in times of turmoil.. Some of these changes were obviously due to injury and to a limited squad (making it tempting to make 2 changes to cover for one injury), but that can’t by far explain all the different starting lineups.
As much as I can sympathize with Zola’s urge to find the right player for the right position, constant change will be detrimental to player, no team, security. As this was one of Zola’s main issues he should have tried hard to avoid it as he knew success depended on security! It’s no coincidence that teams that start week in and week out with the same players seem to play above their player standard. When under pressure, knowing what the players next to you will do is an immense advantage and may well have solved some of the problems (in the form of conceded goals for instance) attributed to “individual mistakes”. When you know from many games together what your team mate will do, you don’t have to use valuable time to evaluate the situation and decide on a solution – you act on what may look like instinct but what is actually a result of spending time together in games in similar situations. This is something I think Zola could have provided, at least to a higher degree.

Life isn’t fair, with a better start to his managerial career in terms of available players and owners, the chance of Zola turning into a West Ham icon would have greatly increased. Unfortunately that was not to happen and I think the time to turn this around is long gone.

As much as I hate the thought of a manager coming in and playing “grave digger ball” to secure points and league survival, I can’t see Zola being successful with us. Given the right resources he can be a great manager but that will never be given to him at West Ham.

Davids! Please find us a manager that can do what Zola couldn’t and give him the funds to give it a shot! (but wait until the summer)


norm said...

Good post as usual joppe..i agree i think time is running out on zola.. if we survive this season i think it might be time for a change,for me the biggest disappointment was at half time on saturday..no subs, until faubert came off then it was forced on zola..i think most managers would have tried something straight after the break..if bolton had of taken all their chances we would have been 4..0 down..we were pretty much shot to bits..the first thing i asked the guy next to me was.. right then who's on and who's off?..no one!..i like zola he's enthusiasm is second to none..but you can't win games at this level by putting on a happy face every time we lose.

Prince H said...

I miss the energy of Hines!

TBI said...

Zola is Mr niceguy but aint no Mr motivator

RapidHammer said...

Zola's still trailing his first win against one of the "big four". Also that shows that there's something wrong with the attitude of the team. West Ham could always manage to beat the likes of Arsenal, ManU or Liverpool by some means or other in the last years under Pardew and Curbishley! But I still don't want to accept that Zola's not going to succeed. He's Mr. Niceguy, OK, but that doesn't disqualify him!

Joppe - said...

We have previously played a game we are now playing against in many games. (get my meaning?)

Playing with speed on the brake has for quite a while been the poor teams way of defeating the elephants, whether in a domestic league or on the international level.
We are now trying to "take the next step" in the sense that we try to outpass our opponents. But as we are not as good, and have refused to play wide, we allways face teams that are prepared for our attack, our one trick.

I'm not surprised that we don't beat ManU and their likes with this game plan. I am however a bit dissapointed that we have done so badly against mid table teams.

G&S don't give a sh-t about flair - they are strictly result oriented.

All we can do is hope for a manager that also likes a bit of creative football.

Again, Zola may still succeed as a manager, not with us, however, and I doubt he will be given the chance in any other PL team until he has proven his worth in a "European" team that plays attractive football. It may just be a bit easier to show that in another league.