JT has taken over from Lampard as West Ham fans’ main hate figure — they sung songs about his mum and Mourinho’s wife and JT made them pay for it. Then went to their end to make sure they knew how happy he was about it.
It was yet again another game where a 2-0 scoreline didn’t really give you the story of the game. West Ham never looked like they were going to win the game for a moment — we were like a machine dispatching them efficiently and with the minimum effort.
In fact they owe a real debt of gratitude to their keeper who kept the score decent despite Hazard absolutely running riot.
Both Stoke and West Ham were must win games yet both had the potential to be major stumbling blocks. The Stoke game in particular was a marker to demonstrate that we cannot be kicked off the park. Many drew the comparison between this game and the Blackburn game in Mourinho’s first Chelsea campaign — where team and manager proved that they had the wherewithal to fight for the title no matter what was thrown at them.
Unsurprisingly Hazard is being targeted more than most yet the referees are giving him little protection. That’s fine to a degree, as this type of player will always invite fouls but they do seem to be escalating with Bardsley’s brutal challenge being the latest which could have caused a serious injury to our talisman.
City are still uncomfortably close and I imagine that the players must be just as aware as the fans of the pressure of facing top half of the table opposition as opposed to City’s relatively easy timetable over the festive period. Of course all of this evens itself out over the season, and there is a lot of football still to be played and it would not surprised if the lead changes at least a couple more times before the gongs are eventually given out at the end of the season.
I have to admit to being a little worried by City’s squad. In terms of comparing our first 11 to theirs, I think we more than hold our own in almost every position, but how would we cope if we had no Hazard,or Matic or Terry?
Matic especially is becoming indispensable — never did I think we would see another player the quality of Makelele as our midfield rock but Matic has taken on the mantle and is growing in stature and presence game on game. Physically they are very different but Matic seems to possess many of the traits which Makelele utilised to make himself the quintessential defensive midfielder — single-minded, strong, intelligent and unflappable.
Whoever decided to bring him back to the Bridge needs a big bonus.
Some of course will scornfully remind anyone that cares to listen that we let him go. True, but I would suggest that he would never have become the player he is now had he remained.
Matic doing what he does, to the standard he does it, allows the rest of the team to do their thing safe in the knowledge that the Serbian is keeping watch. As much as I am not part of the Mikel hate mob, we just are simply not the same team when he plays and I am getting a little worried how over-reliant we are becoming on Matic.
But let’s worry about that when/if that happens. So a day’s rest then on to the league’s surprise package, Southampton.
If we have Premier League winning aspirations we need to be putting teams like this to the sword. And of course this would be a huge boost before coming up against traditionally our biggest rivals Tottenham.
As the season progresses the usual suspects are now beginning to get into their stride so Jose needs to find another gear as we are consistently good, efficient and do enough to win but we need to start putting out some markers.
We need teams to fear us and I don’t think we are quite at that stage yet — many think that if they line up defensively against us that they may nick something — and given an off day, a weak referee, a slip in concentration, they might just do that so we need to start scoring more goals, handing out a few thrashings — then, who knows what we can achieve...