Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

West Ham United's shambolic season reaches its nadir with Burnley thrashing

Goalkeeper Roberto Jimenez's shocking game a reflection of current state of affairs under Manuel Pellegrini

West Ham briefly entered the top four at the end of September. It feels a trick of the imagination to say so now as, five games and a solitary point later, they find themselves in the bottom six, a shambolic side hastening their own slide with the kind of insipid, incompetent display that made them perfect opponents for a team of Burnley’s ability and physicality.

The gap between expenditure and achievement at West Ham has rarely felt bigger. They have spent £180 million (Dh 844m) in 18 months. It amounts to a dereliction of duty, however, when the reserve goalkeeper is Roberto Jimenez and he provided the emblematic moment in an embarrassing afternoon.

The 15th goal he has let in during his last six games was the worst as the Spaniard contrived to push Ashley Westwood’s corner into his own net. It was everything that is wrong with West Ham – the feebleness, the poor recruitment, the set-piece problems – in an instant. A team who conceded three times from Newcastle’s free kicks last week let in two to Burnley’s corners yesterday.

“I don’t know if it was an unacceptable performance,” said Manuel Pellegrini, whose passiveness feels part of the problem. A more forthright Declan Rice knew. “We were bullied all over the pitch,” said the England international. “Burnley were winning everything. It's been like this since the Crystal Palace game. We were nowhere near good enough.”

But it amounted to a restorative, redemptive day for Burnley, who had lost their three previous games. Their decision-making on and off the field was justified. They gave Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood new contracts this week. Both struck, Barnes ending a personal drought that dated back to August, as Sean Dyche’s faith in his favoured front two was rewarded.

“People often say to me about playing two strikers but when you have two on that kind of showing, why wouldn’t you?” asked Dyche.

Meanwhile, Dwight McNeil outshone West Ham’s costly assortment of attacking midfielders, showing the trickery and terrific delivery they lacked. Among them, Manuel Lanzini and Andriy Yarmolenko were benched in a failed quest for solidity. The Argentinian came on and was stretchered off with a shoulder injury.

“He will probably be out for some time,” said a mournful Pellegrini. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian drew ironic choruses “we’ve had a shot”. It was West Ham’s first effort and it came in the second half.

By then, Burnley had exploited Roberto’s failings as West Ham missed the injured Lukasz Fabianski. The opener was a combination of the goalkeeper’s lack of conviction, his defence’s poor marking and referee Kevin Friend’s error in awarding a corner.

Declan Rice allowed James Tarkowski to meet McNeil’s deep centre and head it down for Barnes, who had evaded Fabian Balbuena, to prod it in. “When you concede so many easy goals it does not help,” said Pellegrini.

Balbuena and Roberto were doubly culpable, at fault for the second goal as well. The defender failed to control Roberto’s throw out. McNeil sprinted away and centred for Wood to steer in a shot the goalkeeper perhaps should have saved.

Wood’s celebration – putting a finger in his ear and pointing, in the manner of a referee consulting the VAR official – was telling. He had been denied a goal eight minutes earlier when he headed in McNeil’s wonderful cross, only to be subsequently adjudged fractionally offside.

Then came Westwood’s corner and the ultimate illustration Roberto is ill-equipped for English football. While Ben Mee had a goal disallowed, Roberto made subsequent saves, from Wood, Phil Bardsley, Jeff Hendrick and Jack Cork. Though they ought not to save his place, they meant the final scoreline flattered West Ham.

Updated: November 9, 2019 10:28 PM

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