A Drop of Claret and Blue: A Chance for West Ham’s Maiga?

October 27, 2012 in Features, Premier League

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Welcome to A Drop of Claret and Blue.

Firstly, an apology. Due to an unfortunate accident, the last post, which included predictions for the Southampton fixture, didn’t appear on the site until the day after the match had been played.

I was initially concerned that some of my comments in that post would have been seen as post-match inclusions, particularly my mentions of Adam Lallana and Modibo Maiga, both of whom saw their name on the score sheet. However, I assure you that the piece was written prior to kick off, as is this one, looking ahead to the away game against Wigan. But first, a quick glance back at the Southampton fixture at Upton Park.

It was a match that lacked pretty much everything in the opening forty-five minutes, but one that really came to life in the second half, with the home side striking twice in quick succession. Mark Noble’s free kick evaded everyone in the box and bounced into the net, before Kevin Nolan steered home from close range after good work from Yossi Benayoun. Southampton pulled one back courtesy of a fine strike from Adam Lallana, but West Ham restored the two-goal advantage when Noble converted from the spot, and a beautiful solo effort from late substitute Modibo Maiga wrapped things up minutes before the end. I am a big fan of the Mali international, and the way he celebrated his goal seemed to echo the question I’ve been posing a lot recently; why hasn’t he featured more often already this season? I understand with the formation we play, coupled with the importance of having Andy Carroll in the team, that if you’re a striker at West Ham, a place in the starting eleven is going to be hard to come by. Carroll has been brilliant for us in my opinion, we need Jarvis on the left wing, and Benayoun played well in the absence of Vaz Te to warrant another start at the DW Stadium if you ask me. Now, I’ve not seen the players in training, so my assessment here is based on league and cup fixtures thus far, and the firm belief that if you want to be in the starting eleven, you need to take the chance, when it is gifted to you, by the throat and not let go; you need to prove your worth, show the manager what you’re capable of, give him that selection headache.

Carlton Cole was rightly chosen to start in the Aston Villa and Swansea matches. Maiga was given a start against Crewe and scored. Andy Carroll proved he was worthy of starting against Fulham, before unfortunately limping off. In his absence, Carlton Cole failed to impress against Norwich and Sunderland. Maiga was given a start against Wigan and, despite the heavy defeat, got his name on the score sheet again and was our best player on the day by a country mile.

Still, Carlton Cole started against QPR, and the only contribution I can recall him making from the top of my head was a dreadful one-on-one miss. Maiga was an unused sub as Carroll returned from injury off the bench. Maiga would once again watch the full 90 from the sidelines as we lost to Arsenal. Having been chosen to replace Carroll against Southampton eight minutes from time, Maiga took his chance yet again. Will he feature heavily against Wigan, a team he has already found the net against this season? I wouldn’t count on it. Rant over.

Don’t get me wrong; as I’ve said, I would start with Carroll all day long. I just feel great remorse for a man who has taken his chances already this early in the season and fear he will be overlooked time and time again.

Having predicted a 2-1 victory over Southampton, I was suitably pleased to see my team win by a far greater margin; a margin that prompted one Saints fan to rue the bad luck his side have undeniably had this season, and another yearning for a “s***ty 0-0 right now.� I still think it’s too early to say what will happen to Southampton this season; some have argued that had Ricky Lambert started and not inexplicably been left on the bench until the 65th minute, this game could’ve been a lot different, and to an extent I concur. Only Nigel Adkins will be able to tell you why he didn’t play the prolific hitman from the first whistle, but the fact is Southampton were poor defensively against us, and while 4-1 perhaps flattered us a tiny bit, there’s no denying we were deserved winners. And I truly believe we will be deserved winners against Wigan Athletic too.

Playing Wigan has taken on increased significance in recent memory, with a dramatic 3-2 victory securing our top flight safety in 2010, a dramatic 3-2 loss confirming our relegation in 2011, and of course, they thumped us in the Capital One Cup this season. But their league form so far hasn’t provided much to brag about, with their sole victory coming away to Southampton. They’ve managed just two points from a possible twelve at home so far, drawing 2-2 against Stoke and Everton respectively. One positive to take though, is that Arouna Kone has impressed since signing from Levante, and statistics suggest he could be of danger to West Ham; of the five goals Wigan have scored at home, Kone has scored two of them and assisted two others. But I fancy our chances greatly here, and confidently anticipate a comfortable win, something I rarely predict, and perhaps even a clean sheet to go with it.

Prediction: 2-0 W

Optimistic to some, no doubt. But if we’re going to believe that we can get anything when Manchester City visit the Boleyn next weekend, a solid performance and victory here is a must. Anything less, and we will have let them beat us before a ball has even been kicked.

Come on you Irons!