The GoatyGav Column

The Culture Of The Outside Of The Boot

I’ve had the idea in my head to write this article for quite some time. The current global situation, added to the fact that I’m officially on a week and a day’s holiday, have meant that the time to put it together and post has been in abundance.

Before a ball was kicked this Premier League season the West Ham squad got together and trained, in Switzerland, along with some of the new signings. One triple training session, or I should say one particular aspect of one of the triple training sessions, grabbed my attention in particular. Rather than talk through it I thought I’d share the youtube footage of the moment with you instead: -

There’s something very cultured about the use of the outside of the boot. I liked to try and attempt to use it myself when I played, at school and in Sunday League, as I felt the ball could be ‘guided’ in to the path of team-mates making runs and, often, away from defenders at the same time – handing the advantage to the recipient of the pass. This method to finding angles on the pitch is one that I used to coach the kids I used to manage. Earlier this season Dan put a video on his pre-match article for the Sheffield United game which featured footage of the late, great Bobby Moore making one such pass : -

One of my favourite players in world football, Isco, bends the ball with the outside of the boot beautifully in the following video. The touch and finish from Benzema is pretty decent too. If it were only with the outside of the boot as well : -

There are several other advantages to the use of the outside of the foot. Not all are for sublime passes. Striking a shot with that area of the boot can generate more curve on the ball. Those who’ve seen it couldn’t possibly forget Roberto Carlos’ outrageous free kick from thirty-five yards against France in 1997. To this day scientists are still impressed by the amount of bend that Carlos generated and, specifically, physicists believe that the feat will never again be repeated. Often referred to as “The Impossible Kick,” the aerodynamics of the strike have been studied at great length. When you look at Fabien Barthez he’s completely rooted to the spot as he doesn’t believe it could hit the target in a month of Sundays however the shot clips the inside of the post on it’s way to the back of the net: -

The amount of curve that Carlos managed to generate with that free kick, and the subsequent rippling of the back of the net, is right up there with some of the greatest goals of all time however it certainly wasn’t the first. The following footage of a goal scored by Eder for Gremio, against fierce rivals, Internacional, in a Campeonato Gaucho match in November 1978, shows, what appears to be a similar amount of, outside of the boot, curve but with the ball hitting the underside of the bar to the keeper’s right. In this instance the curve takes the ball away from the keeper, rather than around the wall and back inside the post like in the Carlos example, which is another benefit of the swerve that can be generated in this manner : -

Eder’s goal for Gremio was a bomb, from distance, that contained a similar length of run up to Carlos’. In fact his run was so long that the cameraman had to move from right to left just to keep up with the entire shot. Could the distance of the run up have anything to do with the amount of turn achieved? Perhaps one for the scientists to consider.

Another form of the pass, the cross, is also skill where exponents of users of the smaller toes have shown their creativity. Not, generally, known for his cultured feet Romelu Lukaku hits an absolute beaut of a centre, for Inter, with his left peg in the following video. At first viewing the finish looks like it might have come from the same area of the foot but, on closer inspection, Lautaro Martinez’s volley is hit with the laces – and to great effect : -

Despite the phrase originating with spin bowlers in cricket there have also been football players who have “made the ball talk,” down the years. So many of those “visions spectacular,” have come from the outside of the boot of those richly talented legends of the game. For me it’s the moments of sublime skill, or artistry if, like me, you prefer, that invoke the admiration and pure love of the game more than anything else. Once we return to watching live football I hope to witness many more of these magical moments of footballing history. With any luck the majority coming from our heroes in Claret and Blue.

Meantime keep safe, be kind to, and look after one another.

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

The Way Forward For Professional Football

With key players in world football getting together on a video conference later today (tomorrow as I write) there appears to be several options open to the professional game.

Despite the fact it’s been discussed at length I believe that there’s real value in gaining a consensus. Perhaps a survey could be compiled on this very site to give an indication of popular opinion. With that in mind I wanted to float some of the current ideas, that are kicking around, past you wise and knowledgeable lot.

It looks like it could be some time before games can begin again. There are all manner of contracts to satisfy, honours, qualifying and relegation all to be decided and knock on effects on other competitions to be put to bed by Premier and Champion’s league fixture completion. So what to do?

Personally I would like to see the current season completed when possible. There is the option to scrap it and start again however my heartfelt opinion is that it would be grossly unfair, and litigiously questionable, to do so. The only positive that I could draw would be the potential for Bury to be re-instated if they could prove they were capable of completing their fixtures under the league’s stipulations.

So what to do if the current season is to be completed? To add to the difficulty in achieving the closing out of the various campaigns you have the uncertainty of when it might be safe to begin playing games again. This article won’t list every conceivable option and, no doubt, many alternative solutions will be put forward. I certainly hope that’s the case anyway.

To outline some of the options I’ve numbered them as follows: -

1. Increase the frequency of fixtures, played behind closed doors, or in open stadia, when safely possible, to bring the season to a conclusion on time (target final game Sunday 17th May).

2. Complete this season at the normal game frequency and make next season shorter or less time pressed by

a. Cancelling 2020-21 season cup competitions

b. Reducing 2020-21 season cup competitions to one round only

c. Each team playing each other team only once during 2020-21

d. Cancelling International football (including all tournaments and European Nations League qualifying matches)

e. Postponing International football (eg. Euros to be moved to Jan 2021 – which may have the added benefit of being a dry run for the Qatar World Cup)

f. A combination, or all, of the above

3. Restart the season in 2020-21 with all league leaders on zero points and those behind starting on minus points in line with current league status (eg. Man City on -22 or -25, Leicester on -29, Chelsea on -34 etc) once all teams reach 29 games completion this season.

4. Begin the immediate playing of domestic matches again, without team personnel who have contracted Covid-19, within the current fixture schedule with a catch up schedule for games already postponed (unfair on Arsenal and Chelsea for sure). Europa and Champions League matches to be re-scheduled when possible.

5. Some kind of ‘Duckworth-Lewis’ style, variable stipulated, calculation to predict the outcomes of the remaining games of the season and points awarded accordingly.

6. Mini-tournament, played as soon and as safely as possible, for the top eight and bottom eight teams to decide final league positions.

7. Other forms of mini-leagues to shorten next season.

As fee paying customers, or fans if you, like I, prefer, the prospect of the leagues being completed by matches being played behind closed doors provides other challenges. For those who have paid TV subscription fees, and those who have paid for Season Tickets, could be joined by others on a pay per view basis with the Season Ticket holders catered for by their respective clubs for all their remaining games to be aired live. It will certainly be weird. Those who remember the ‘Ghost’ match played at Upton Park, against Castilla, in the Cup Winner’s Cup on 1st October 1980, might have got a taste of the atmosphere of a match played in an empty stadium – albeit broadcasted on the radio and not on TV. Others might have watched U23 games played in the Bowl attended by much smaller numbers however the prospect of first class matches in empty stadia is another thing altogether.

Clearly far more important events are upon us. By comparison to how lives potentially could be, and are being, affected football really should be a lower priority. This being a football based blog, however, potential solutions to this season’s fixture pile ups are front and centre. I’d be very interested to hear what you lot think about the above and your opinions or ideas.

Stay safe and healthy and take care of each other all.


The GoatyGav Column

Our Jeroboam, Jarrod Bowen, Doesn’t Like Champagne

My cousin, John, came with me to the match on Saturday. Living in Exeter, and having looked after his dad for many years, it was the first game that he’d been to for quite some time. He certainly chose a good one to return to. As well as being overjoyed with the result I was extremely pleased for him as he’s had a genuinely tough run of it over the last couple of years and thoroughly deserved the joy that the win brought. A few of you might remember my dedication to ‘Uncle Dave’ in November and John’s brother, Alan, before that. Both were with us in spirit as we shouted the boys on from our seats on Saturday afternoon.

When Jarrod scored his goal I was so caught up in the moment I completely forgot to try and get the “Champagne Supernova” song that I wanted to sing going. It was a great moment for Jarrod, the team, the gaffer and us fans which made a significant contribution to him getting the, deserved, man of the match Champagne on the day. Unfortunately for us Jarrod, during his post match interview, let us know that he doesn’t even like bubbly.

According to my cousin he saw someone post on social media that our defending was shaky. Not too sure I concur considering we faced nine Southampton corners during the game and defended every one superbly. Added to that fact was the speed at which we got ourselves back in shape when Southampton countered, apart from their goal, I, personally, thought we looked solid with Og and Diop. For me they are the strongest Centre Back partnership that we have and now that the defence are putting David Moyes’ coaching in to practice the benefits are starting to show.

The phrase “A win works wonders for confidence,” couldn’t be more apt than when applied to the West Ham squad at the moment. As well as a shot in the arm I also noticed how the players seem to have bonded when celebrating the three goals on Saturday. Many perceive Seb Haller as a lazy player. Whatever your opinion you have to admit that he played extremely well against Southampton as well as having the team’s best interests at heart. He looked genuinely pleased for his team-mates after their goals and was first to congratulate them. His relationship with Rebic and Jovic at Frankfurt was a genuine ‘in it together’ combined effort and you get the feeling that the same is being cultivated at West Ham.
Going in to the game I felt quietly confident that we’d see a fully committed effort from our team. Southampton have been on good form, so I wasn’t sure if we were going to bag the points, however once kick off arrived and our Claret & Blue heroes got stuck in that quiet confidence grew. For years we’ve hoped for a striker capable of bagging twenty goals a season. Perhaps it was always more important to have a front line that struck up a good understanding and played to each other’s strengths. All of a sudden it appears that we have a good balance up top and genuine optimism is returning. Arsenal next Saturday will be a tough game however I think that we’re, at least, in with a shout of getting something out of it. If the boys can take that work-rate, and continue to improve, then, who knows, it could even be all three points. Fingers crossed.

Since I last posted the West Ham Women have recorded a much needed four-two win over Liverpool. Adriana Leon opened the West Ham scoring with a great goal following a swift breakaway. Martha Thomas slotted home our second when Alisha Lehmann, who was running riot down the right, squared across the eighteen yard box. Thomas got her second, and West Ham’s third, after a brilliant turn and shot across the Liverpool keeper in to the far corner before Leon also bagged her brace, in similar fashion to Jarrod Bowen’s goal, to put the game beyond Liverpool at four-nil. The Merseysiders did close the gap following a mix up in West Ham’s defence, and another scrappy goal, to complete the scoring. The ladies go up to, second from bottom, Birmingham City for their next match with confidence boosted and a further three points up for grabs. Best of luck to the Ironesses in that one.

Tonight the U23, Premier League 2, team faced second bottom Norwich City at Victoria Road. The first of the remaining five fixtures of the season was hugely important with Manchester Untied breathing down their necks while trailing three points behind, with a game in hand and a six goal inferior difference before the kick off. After a competitive first half the Hammers found themselves one up when Afolayan steered home a clever Fabian Balbuena through ball. The boys doubled their lead in the second half with a Diallo goal before putting the game beyond Norwich’s reach on seventy four mins when substitute, Adiempo Odubiko, scored on his debut after replacing Afolayan just three minutes earlier. Xande Silva added another on eighty two with a great touch and finish from Sanchez’s ball over the top to make it four-nil to the Cockney Boys before the final whistle. Stoke City ran Manchester United close but the Red Devils kept the pressure up on Halajko’s boys. Four more to go starting at home to a Swansea side, in a fortnight’s time, who’ve come off two consecutive losses that have seen them drop down to eighth place. Exciting stuff.

Have a great week all.

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

To Break Or Not To Break?

Whether the extra break benefits West Ham players or not remains to be seen. The overwhelming weight of opinion tends towards the ‘rest is always best’ for Premier League footballers, with many campaigning for a Winter break for some time, but I hold the opposite view. Full match practice gets players fit and firing and, while it takes a lot out of them physically, they keep an ‘edge’ which, I believe, is needed to compete. Don’t believe that? Well the evidence suggests otherwise.

When you consider how English teams have performed against their mainland European counterparts over the years there is definitely a clear pattern that’s to be observed. For some teams, before a ball has been kicked in the Premier League, Europa and Champion’s League qualifiers have been played. Some would consider those teams unfortunate however the undoubted trend is that those teams tend to get off to flyers in the league. Full, competitive, match practice provides the advantage over those having had a pre-season of ‘friendlies’. Further to this there are European (I guess I can now say this without the ‘mainland’ stipulation) sides who are well in to their season when playing in the European qualifying rounds who have proven stern tests for our, supposedly superior, Premier league teams because they are more up to competitive match speed.

The other evidence to back up my point above is what generally happens in European competition after other countries have taken their Winter break. British teams who haven’t taken any time out perform far better than those who’ve been rested. Again I put this down to the ‘Match Speed’ element with French, Italian, German and Spanish teams often struggling to overcome the Brits during February and March.

It’s not all to British teams’ advantage however. The benefits of the Winter break become more apparent towards the end of seasons. These advantages can, I believe, also be evidenced by the performance of the English national team at major tournaments. I strongly believe that both injuries and stamina affect the Three Lions far more than other nations when it comes to World Cups, Euros and, in the case of the most recent example, the UEFA Nation’s League.

Back to West Ham I fear that, apart from the ridiculous level of inconvenience that our fans were handed by the Manchester officials who called off the game on Sunday, our first team will also suffer. Next up is an incredibly tough match which won’t be played until the 24th Feb. Considering our last match beforehand will have been played on the 1st Feb, and our opponents will have played the week before, it looks like the trip to Liverpool will prove an even bigger mountain to climb than it may have otherwise done. Five days afterwards we are at home to a, hugely improved, Southampton team who will have faced Aston Villa and Burnley at home the previous two weeks, and who may well find themselves going in to the game with us, not only far more match sharp but also full of confidence.

My normally optimistic tone has certainly been affected this season by the tough breaks that don’t seem to be showing any sign of letting up. I sincerely hope that David Moyes, and his newly assembled coaching team, can utilise the break to the best of their advantage but I fear for the forthcoming games bearing in mind the lack of match sharpness compared to our opponents.

Not only did our men’s first team have their game postponed but the Women’s game against Manchester City was also a casualty of the bad weather. A tough trip away to Reading awaits tomorrow night so I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing the Ironesses all the best for that.

The U23s have slightly less time to wait to play than the men’s first team with a home fixture against fourth placed Stoke City next Monday. With Mesaque Dju and Xande Silva returning to the squad after injury the team has a much needed boost following the recent loan departures. It will be a very exciting run in to see if Dan Halajko’s boys can keep their top spot. Fingers crossed they do the business against the Stokies on the 17th.

Have a good week all.

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

Tidy In The Middle With Issues Up Top And At The Back

No! Don’t worry! You haven’t wandered on to a Katie Price blog site. I’ll be sticking with West Ham for the duration this morning.

Ahead of the game against Brighton I felt quite chipper. The club had signed Jarrod Bowen at the eleventh hour the evening before. Pre match he made an appearance in front of the crowd to a warm reception. I couldn’t make out the chants directed towards him, from below us in 114, but I’m sure we’ll find a good one for him before too long. Someone whose name sounds like Jeroboam really is duty bound to have us cracking open the Champagne after all. Perhaps a theme there? More of that later on.

It was the other signing, however, that delivered on the day. Tomas Soucek is the final piece in our midfield jigsaw – the one who will bring balance to the force that sits between our defence and attack (bet you weren’t expecting Jordan AND Star Wars references in the same article were you?). For me a combative central midfielder was the biggest element missing from the squad. With Rice, Noble and Soucek in the middle, all of a sudden, it’s looking competitive, harmonised and energetic. The opposition were finding less time and became ineffective as they were closed down and challenged quicker. Many may attribute our first half dominance to Michail Antonio on Saturday but that was just part of the reason we went in well ahead at the break. Frankly it could, and should, have been more at half time and the game made out of sight. How on earth the ball didn’t end up in the back of the net, from a Mark Noble free kick with four West Ham attackers, and no defenders, in front of Matt Ryan? It was nearly as frustrating as the referee’s hand ball decision that VAR overturned for Brighton’s equaliser. I was indignant at the injustice of that decision. From our angle we clearly saw the arm away from Murray’s body and the ball strike it. Plain as day. Interestingly VAR had nothing to say about Glenn Murray blatantly holding Fabianski when the corner was taken for Brighton’s first.

I was a big supporter of VAR at the start of this season. I’m now of the opinion that it’s lost all credibility due to the poor judgment of those sitting at Stockley Park and the method of the technology usage. Insofar as Saturday was concerned, however, the third Brighton goal was the ideal opportunity for the pitch-side monitor to be used by the referee and, once again, it was ignored. Rather than make things fairer and helping the officials on the pitch to make the right decisions it’s failing miserably.

The fact that Brighton were still in it coming out for the second half owed a lot to the lack of clinical finishing by West Ham. The fact that the game ended up three all, apart from VAR, owed a lot more to our defensive frailties. From where we were sat Snodders’ second, and our third, looked an absolute worldie. The replay showed a deflection that we did not originally see however the number eleven’s body shape, and strike, were sublime.

Between the two the more worrying aspect lies in attack, than defence, for me. The reason for my view is that, with Super Fabianski between the sticks again, I believe confidence will return at the back whereas serious questions have arisen about whether we are going to be able to get the best out of Seb Haller or not. I genuinely hope that we can but, right now, he’s a shadow of the player who joined us from Frankfurt. Will he get a strike partner in Bowen without upsetting the balance of the side too much? Moyes has hinted that Bowen won’t be thrown in rather that he’ll have a managed introduction to the Premier League in the same way that many of his players, like Lescott and Baines, did at Everton. How’s it all going to work? No doubt we’ll find out in the coming weeks.

Another result to put behind us this weekend was the Ironesses eight-nil loss to Chelsea. The top three in the division are in a league of their own so the only thing for our ladies to do is to take learning from the match, watched by an attendance of just over three thousand three hundred, and prepare as well as possible for the visit of Manchester City next Sunday. Good luck to the ladies for that one

Loan watch is fast becoming a full time occupation at West Ham. At 5.00 last night the club announced Anthony Scully has been loaned to Lincoln City to add to Conor Coventry, Nathan Holland, Nathan Trott, Aji Alese and Dan Kemp. Friday night may see Scully make his debut for the Imps in a baptism of fire against league leaders Rotherham. Good luck to him. Hope he takes his amazing scoring run to League One.

Despite losing several key players it’s not all bad news for Dan Halajko’s available squad. Xande Silva and Mesaque Dju both returned, to great effect, from long term spells out. Their introduction helped the under twenty threes turn around a two one losing score line to a four two win. The three second half goals came on the eightieth, eighty second and eighty fourth minutes to secure the win against bottom of the table Sunderland. The run in to the end of the season looks a tough one. Five out of the six remaining league games are against top seven clubs with Manchester United snapping at their heels just two points below the Hammers’ youth.

So to sign off with some lyrics this week. “Jarrod Bowen banging goals in, Jeraboam corks a’ flyin’, in a Champagne Supernova, A Champagne Supernova in the Bowl!”

COYI!


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