The HamburgHammer Column

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I am almost lost for words. Which is rare. This was like watching a massive pile-up-style car crash on the M4, only with fewer injured people and less actual car body damage at the end of it.

But as with a car crash, I couldn’t just go past the scene, averting my eyes and minding my own business.

I had to watch it all unfold until the bitter end when we briefly looked as if we might create the mother of all comebacks.

Our very own Toddyhammer had made the long way to the London Stadium from Prague, so even season-ticketless Iron Liddy set foot inside the bowl once more for this occasion, but I have an inkling that this performance will not have enhanced her desire to return anytime soon. I wouldn’t blame her.

I cannot give you any meticulous analysis here, nevermind conclusive answers in terms of what went wrong and what can be done to fix it.
Actually, I do have a tiny bit of analysis to deliver.

We shouldn’t have started Zabaleta against a very pacy Newcastle attacking front. Fredericks should have played from the start.
And I have to say that, despite making several good saves, our backup keeper Roberto doesn’t fill me with confidence after the way he was oozing uncertainty for long stretches of the game.
When you’re going to claim a ball as goalkeeper you need to come out all the way and try to get there first, you don’t stop halfway through your run like Roberto did just before conceding the second goal.

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There was only one player in our squad who could leave the pitch with his head held high and his conscience intact after 90 minutes:

Robert Snodgrass. Covering every blade of grass on the pitch, whipping in dangerous crosses and set pieces all game, unfortunately without his teammates making the most of those efforts. And his goal was a masterful strike, worthy of earning any team a point or three. But let’s be honest, we didn’t deserve to get ANYTHING from the game after a shambolic afternoon of lackluster and inept football.

Before this game, Newcastle had never scored more than one goal in any competitive game all season. In this one they could and maybe should have scored five or six. That’s how terrible we were. But it’s nothing new.

All too often we make teams going through a rough spell look like Barcelona as soon as they step out onto the same pitch as us. I have no idea why that is. We all know our players are better than this, most of them can actually pick a good pass, they can all run, tackle, find the top corner with a curler or belter from 25 yards out on any given day.

I know plenty of fans are beginning to feel sick and tired about Pellegrini’s role in all this. Somehow still, maybe foolishly, I am not prepared to blame him.

Yes, maybe he got the Zabaleta decision wrong. But the entire team were off the pace (again) and as a consequence all over the pitch. Conceding from two set pieces in quick succession ?

What the hell are these guys doing at Rush Green all week between Monday and Friday ? When you go into games with that low a level of application, desire and ability to carry out the footballing basics of defending, you won’t get many points in this league.

It’s a measly 2 points from a possible 15 we earned from our past five league fixtures. That’s relegation form and we can only praise the Lord that there are a number of other teams in the Premier League who have performed even worse than us. I know that ultimately the buck stops with the gaffer, however, I’m actually more angry with the players than the manager.

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Where do we go from here ? The games aren’t getting any easier, that’s for sure! I don’t know if maybe some sort of team bonding exercise is required: A visit to Alton Towers maybe. Or wild water rafting although I’d be too worried our players might lose the paddle and end up down a certain creek where the smell is apparently not very nice.

The thing is that we have pretty much everything in place to play good football. Pellegrini is a vastly experienced manager, we have a good mix of seasoned and young players, some with pace, others with tackling skills, tricks and flicks or even the ability to hold up the ball. But the chemistry just isn’t there, at all! Which is also true for confidence which is by now gone completely, maybe it is hiding in the same place where fortune is still lying in wait, in some dark and dodgy corner of Britain. Who knows ?

Or is there the need for a player or two in the dressing room getting really loud while delivering some uncomfortable home truths here ? Surely Mark Noble as the skipper would be the automatic choice for that particular task. But he had a stinker against Newcastle like the rest of the team. So any “must do better”-speech from him might sound a bit hollow and ironic at this point.

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As fans all we can do is take defeats like this on the chin and carry on supporting the team, watching the games, trying to stay positive – as irrational as that may sound after such a terrible performance.

But then again, we’ve been here before with this club. West Ham practically invented bad runs of form in football. We have also in the past gone down with a team full of quality players who were deemed, well, too good to go down.

This club can do weird and wonderful things, but also those of the weird and painful variety. Somehow we need to find the formula for a bit more wonderful again…and fast! COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Another shocking surrender from St.Pauli who only managed a 2:2 draw against Karlsruhe (Bilic’s former club), after conceding two goals in the last 15 minutes. They remain stuck in no-man’s land of the table. Hamburg SV were away at bottom club Wiesbaden, with a perfect chance to put some more daylight between themselves and the chasing pack at the top of the table. They only drew 1:1 and remain in first place for now, however, with both Stuttgart and Bielefeld in hot pursuit after winning their games respectively.
As for Concordia, the first team won a midweek encounter on Halloween/Reformation Day by a 1:0 scoreline at home against Osdorf, but the score doesn’t tell the whole story as the Cordi lads hit the woodwork SIX (!!!) times. Still, three points. Then on Sunday it was an away fixture at unbeatable table toppers Dassendorf. A 1:2 defeat didn’t come unexpected and was a decent enough result, all things considered (the Cordi keeper had to leave the pitch after fracturing his hand after colliding with an opponent).

The U23s won 6:1 at home, scoring all seven goals on the day. Promotion looks unlikely at this point, but not impossible.
The women’s team won their crucial home tie against Scala 7:3. The cushion above the non-promotion places is seven points now. Nice one!