How many times have you as a supporter shouted from the stands for that manager to do something? Often it seems that many of us in the crowd can see that something needs to change but those that can actually make the change, seem to be oblivious to what is occurring on the field of play. Often we can see a player getting ‘burned’ but the manager doesn’t make a change.
At West Ham, we have seen us in a losing position but a player that may make a difference sits on the bench twiddling his thumbs. It can often be a Nero complex, you know the one Nero fiddling as Rome burned.
For those of you who may not know the origin and meaning of such a statement, this goes back to July in 64 A.D, when a fire ravaged Rome destroying 70 percent of the city and leaving half its population homeless. According to a well-known expression, Rome’s emperor at the time, Nero ‘fiddled while Rome burned’.
The expression has a double meaning. Not only did Nero play music while his people suffered, but he was an ineffectual leader in a time of crisis. Sound like anyone we know? Maybe a certain Scottish-born manager?
Yep our David could be called David the Ditherer when it comes to substitutions. He sees us suffer, does nothing then leaves substitutions so late that they are ineffective. That’s how it seems to me. But it’s worse than that.
It seems our substitution policy goes something like this. Despite a player struggling in the first half, we very rarely make a half time substitution. Then when the game plan is still clearly not working, at around 50 minutes, he calls the possible substitution over and informs the fourth official of a change.
But that change doesn’t happen straight away. It can take up to 10 minutes for the substitution to happen. The substitute stands waiting on the sideline, while the opposing manager sees the change and has time to change his tactics to nullify any possible advantage we may have from the substitution.
This results in the substitution being ineffective. It’s therefore not only the delay in making a change but the time it actually takes. Add to that the fact that those on the field see the impending change, and for the next 10 minutes go through a process of wondering if it’s them who will be having an early bath.
This leads to indecision on the pitch too. Dithering Dave strikes again and it costs us, often costs us badly. And there’s more. It also appears that certain players never get substituted unless injured.
Soucek and Paqueta rarely get an early bath while Said Benrahma is first to use the showers on a regular basis. Then what about those substitutions? Well it’s a pretty good bet that Pablo Fornals will come on and if Antonio starts, it’s odds on that Danny Ings will replace him with about 15 minutes to go. And with five minutes to go, expect to see Divin Mubama get his appearance money.
The thing is though that it’s nothing new. David Moyes has always been the same, hence the nickname Dithering Dave. The problem now is that if it’s all predictable to us the fans, it’s a sure bet that the opposition will see it too.
It’s nailed on that the opposite manager will actually plan for all this too and with the added delay in making those substitutions as the replacements wait patiently to enter the field of play, it also gives the other team’s manager time to flick through his play book and find the existing plan for Dithering Dave’s master stroke. Maybe though all this is in my imagination and maybe David Moyes is not so predictable.
What do the statistics say? Cup games are different as quite often these days the team is mixed up to give the real starters a rest so let’s look at the Premier League, where we will get a better view of our substitution policy. In our first nine games Michail Antonio has started every one but has never been on the field at the end; yep he’s been subbed off every game.
How about Pablo Fornals? Well he’s started just one game but never finished it as he was subbed off. His six other appearances were all as a second half substitute, including an additional minute stint at Villa Park. Said Benrahma has started three games, only finishing one and has been a second half substitute four times.
Danny Ings has yet to start a league game but has appeared six times, all as a second half substitute. And what of our big signing Mohammed Kudus? No league starts but six substitute appearances.
Add into the mix Thilo Kehrer as the regular defensive substitute and we have David Moyes’ Premier League game plan. It’s fair game that if Antonio starts, Ings will replace him later in the game and if Said and Pablo start on the bench, they will feature at some point in the second half.
Dithering Dave did mix it up slightly at Villa Park where both Paqueta and Soucek were substituted but guess what? Ings, Kudus and Fornals all came on as second half substitutes and yes Antonio was still substituted, albeit in the 90th minute, after what was a smoky awful performance. Predictable? I think so.
Has it always been the case? Well, yes. Replace Ings for Scamacca and you have Moyes’ master plan of last year when Antonio needed a breather. The difference now though is that it’s not just us the fans who are realising it.
This predictability is going to cost us throughout the season. When we see the team needs fresh blood, why does David Dither? And why does it take Dithering Dave 10 minutes to make the change?
By the time the change occurs, the player needs to warm up again but this time in the field of play. And why warm up, or indeed bring all those other substitutes, when only Benrahma, Fornals, Ings and Kudus get used? And yes Kehrer if there is an injury to one of our starting defenders. The others may as well stay at home. It’s all so predictable.