West Ham get embarrassed and bounced from FA Cup by AFC Wimbledon

KINGSTON UPON THAMES, ENGLAND - JANUARY 26: Mark Noble of West Ham United shows his dejection during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between AFC Wimbledon and West Ham United at The Cherry Red Records Stadium on January 26, 2019 in Kingston upon Thames, United Kingdom. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
KINGSTON UPON THAMES, ENGLAND - JANUARY 26: Mark Noble of West Ham United shows his dejection during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between AFC Wimbledon and West Ham United at The Cherry Red Records Stadium on January 26, 2019 in Kingston upon Thames, United Kingdom. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images) /

Two words come to mind after West Ham’s sickening loss to AFC Wimbledon in the fourth round of the FA Cup: dead wood. Many bench players who got a chance to impress in the first team failed to seize their opportunity and got exposed as passenger players. It’s the key reason West Ham lost and clarifies who Pellegrini needs to get out of the club.

Before we dive any deeper into this embarrassing assessment, one thing needs to be stated. The team from Wimbledon played incredibly well today and earned the win and the place in the next round of the FA Cup. They pressed hard, took their chances and never relented in their game plan.

Dead Wood

For anyone unfamiliar with what dead wood is, it’s something that is attached to a living being, drawing resources and attracting attention while contributing nothing in exchange. In footballing terms, it’s what passenger players are.

Adrian – Let’s start where it is most glaringly obvious. West Ham have maybe the biggest skill gap in the Premier League between their starter and backup keeper. The drop in quality between Lukasz Fabianski and Adrian contributed (greatly) in the loss today as West Ham had zero leadership in their back line.

Fabianski comes off his line, claims balls into the box, and organizes his defenders to keep a tight back line and force the opposition into offside positions. Adrian does none of this. His best attribute is his pure shot-stopping abilities, however, he failed to react quickly enough on the first goal, didn’t communicate to his defenders on the third goal, and jumped and whiffed at a looping cross for the fourth.

Don’t get me wrong, Adrian was not helped but his team today, but the problems started and ended with him in net.

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Angelo Ogbonna – He’s old, he’s tired, and quite simply he’s passed it at this point. Maybe that’s too harsh as he performed well in Premier League matches in recent weeks, but there is just nothing to get excited about when Ogbonna is playing. His reactions are too slow on set pieces and the connection between his brain and appendages is delayed at best.

Ogbonna is a stop-gap until Fabian Balbuena is back, so fine, he struggled, but against any sort of pressure, he consistently falls apart. West Ham need a leader like Balbuena to coach Diop and communicate with him, Ogbonna can’t provide this anymore and thus cannot be relied on for long periods of time.

Arthur Masuaku – Few batted an eye with this selection as Aaron Cresswell has deserved a rest having seized the starting left-back position, but boy was it the usual unreliable Masuaku at LB today. I guess I should start taking him at his word and believe that he’s not a left-back but if he isn’t I’m afraid he’s not got a space in my West Ham team.

Defensively Masuaku is a ball watcher, so when something happens away from him, he gets drawn into his own box, then when the ball is sent out wide the man he’s supposed to be marking has massive space to play the ball. It was apparent on the fourth goal today, and so was his inability to stop a winger from crossing or dribbling into the box.

Pedro Obiang – I genuinely think Pellegrini needs to move on from him ASAP, and give his bench spot to someone who will play hard when they get an opportunity. Obiang has done nothing but hurt his own transfer stock this season with poor performance after poor performance. The once thought of integral defensive midfielder looks unmotivated and unworthy of his position in the squad.

He completely hung Adrian out to dry today, too, giving away the ball in the midfield (while Angelo Ogbonna was nowhere to be seen) and sending in Wagstaff on goal. There are better options for his role in the U23 team, so cash in now before he starts missing squad selections when Wilshere and Lanzini are back.

Chicharito/Carroll – Either/or on this one as both strikers, in what looked like an attacking formation, looked detached, unmotivated, and ineffective for the 45 minutes they were together. To Andy Carroll’s defense, he won every header sent his way in the first half, laying them off where he could, but was ineffective due to lack of service. We know we’re not going to get a full pitch performance from him, but he at the minimum needs aerial service.

Chicharito, on the other hand, looked like he hasn’t played in weeks. He is a luxury player that cut his teeth as a late-game sub on superb teams and that seems to be forgotten. He doesn’t appear to have the physicality or the clinicalness to play a full 90 minutes and be effective. With Valencia interested it could be time to cash in on a discounted transfer for Chicharito, clear his wages, and promote from within.

Other players also failed to impress but not on the level that these selected few did. It was an unforgivable performance from the team and the half time subs proved this. Felipe Anderson, Lucas Perez, and Ryan Fredericks all looked more up for it that the players listed above and had an immediate impact on the game.

From a positive perspective, we can focus on these three for a minute. Perez was moving quite well atop the formation and eclipsed anything Hernandez did all match long. He cleaned up a scuffed mess in the penalty area to get West Ham back in the match, proving Mark Noble right – he’s clinical in close.

Felipe Anderson looked like a man amongst boys when he entered the game, too. We all know that Anderson has game-breaking abilities and he showed it by taking control of a leaderless attack and making it look Premier League quality. He was rewarded with an amazing free kick goal from a bad angle that curled near post against a helpless keeper.

Ryan Fredericks’ performance made it 3/3 for successful substitutions. He got up and down the pitch with ease after returning from two months off with a shin injury and impressed in the oppositions end. His overlap play with Michail Antonio and Felipe Anderson was awesome and so was his passing/crossing into the box. This was really, really promising.

Next. A thought on West Ham’s quiet January transfer window. dark

I guess there’s nothing left for West Ham to do but focus on the league and try to climb as high as possible. Oh, and celebrate the new Arnautovic contract… right?