Club Focus – West Ham – Defensive problems a worry for Hammers and Grant

West Ham slumped to a disappointing 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa, in what could be the start of a tough season. The Hammers fresh hopes of opportunism were dashed early on when Villa took a two-goal advantage heading into half time. The home side added one more after the break in what turned out to be a poor debut for new manager Avram Grant.

They were guilty of some poor defending throughout the game. A number of errors by James Tomkins could of gifted the home side an early lead. Tomkins’ slack back pass allowed John Carew through on goal, where his shot came back off the defender and onto the post. The Hammers struggled with crosses all afternoon, failing to clear their lines, which eventually lead to Villa scoring the opening goal. Rob Green’s attempt of punching the ball clear only fell to the feet of Marc Albrighton, whose shot was parried to the path of Stewart Downing who tapped in the opener. Stiliyan Petrov doubled the lead with a header from an Ashley Young cross, after he found space to run into. West Ham’s best chance came in the second half when Julien Faubert shot wide from a Carlton Cole lay off. James Milner finished the scoring to round off a disastrous start to the new campaign for the Irons. They could of easily lost by a bigger margin, but thanks to some decent saves by Robert Green, he kept the score to a three-goal margin.

Grant opted to play a 4-5-1 formation in his first game in charge. Despite the number of players in the midfield, the Hammers struggled to keep hold of the ball and failed to make any impact in the attacking department. New striker Frederic Piquionne was brought on at half time to add more options up front, but little changed as the damage had already been done. Several players made their debuts, including Winston Reid, who started the match at right-back. Pablo Barrera, also making his debut, came on as a second-half substitute but he did not make any sort of impact. Defending was a problem last year for the Irons, and the signs from their opening game suggest there are still issues to deal with. Grant was not denying this and stated his team will do well to survive this season. He did add that his players will need to learn from their mistakes from the game, which is a must if they are to live up to their expectations.

Despite holding talks with Stoke City over a possible transfer, Radoslav Kovac started Saturday’s game. The midfielder was expected to finalise his move to the Britannia Stadium before the game against Villa. However, it was decided by the club that he was to play for them instead, but a deal could still take place before the window closes. His involvement was most likely due to the fact that Thomas Hitzlsperger was injured for the game. The German midfielder suffered an injury during a friendly against Denmark. If Kovac is sold, numbers will be low in the midfield, especially if Valon Behrami gets his wish for a move away to a bigger club. More signings are expected to arrive at Upton Park, with another striker probably high on the list. Felipe Caicedo is one of many forwards to have been linked with a move in that last couple of weeks. It was obvious that Cole needed help up front in the first half and a new strike partner could help him score more goals.

Next up for West Ham is a home game against Bolton Wanderers. Neither side picked up a win or even scored a goal in their first league game of the campaign. It is also a fixture that Hammers fans will be expecting to win at home, considering Bolton finished just above them in the league table last season. If Grant can secure a positive result it could kick start his era as manager. If they lose, it will be an uphill struggle already, as games against Manchester United and Chelsea follow the Bolton game.

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