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Q: 2023/24 Hopes & aspirations for this season
a. As Champions of Europe there's no reason we shouldn't be pushing for a top 7 spot & a run in the Cups
24%
  
b. Last season was a trophy winning one and there's only one way to go after that, I expect a dull mid table bore fest of a season
17%
  
c. Buy some f***ing players or we're in a battle to stay up & that's as good as it gets
20%
  
d. Moyes out
37%
  
e. New season you say, woohoo time to get the new kit and wear it it to the pub for all the big games, the wags down there call me Mr West Ham
3%
  



Wils 3:12 Tue Nov 14
James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
https://www.theguardian.com/football/2023/nov/14/james-ward-prowse-set-piece-mastery-football-west-ham


Everyone knows what the West Ham midfielder can do from a dead ball but virtually nobody seems to know how he does it.

The ritual is almost religious in its precision. He bounces the ball twice on the spot. Spins it around in his hands so the Nike swoosh faces upwards. Places it lightly on the ground. Four steps back at a 45-degree angle. A little shuffle to set his feet. A little wipe of the nose on his sleeve. One last look at the target. And then the tiniest pause, the pause that all great art requires. The fractional instant when the picture is already painted, but James Ward-Prowse is the only one who can see it.

The first movement is actually backwards: a little quarter-step, the recoil that will give him the momentum for what follows. And then the explosion: four lightning-fast strides, the last of which ends with the left foot planted tight and the right leg sprung so far back that the calf is touching the hamstring.

If you freeze the tape at the moment of contact, then Ward-Prowse essentially looks like a man in the process of painfully falling over. His body is the shape of a capital J, bent violently at the hip with both legs splayed forward at different angles. The gaze is fixed downwards on the ball and will not lift until it is well into its flight. The force of the swing lifts him clean into the air. There is no earthly way a human body should be able to do this, let alone identically, for days and years on end, without serious injury.

All of which is a roundabout way of suggesting that even in a sport where every data point is logged, every movement is registered and every action is infinitely debated, there are some things in football that remain largely inscrutable. A decade into his Premier League career, Ward-Prowse is still a kind of mystery in plain sight. Everyone knows what he does. Virtually nobody seems to know how he does it. How is it possible to elevate the simple act of kicking a football – something everybody has done and to which thousands of people devote their lives – into something this distinctive and exemplary and beautiful?

Take West Ham’s 3-2 win against Nottingham Forest on Sunday, the latest in a series of Ward-Prowse tutorials. After a couple of sighters, he delivered the two corners from which Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek overturned a 2-1 deficit. And yet even to describe them as “deliveries”, with the emphasis on the outcome rather than the process, understates the intrinsic artistry of a Ward-Prowse set piece, not just the accuracy but the vicious dip and epic swerve, an artistry that no other footballer on the planet – not Lionel Messi, not Trent Alexander-Arnold, not Dani Parejo, not Alexia Putellas – can currently match.

Why did it feel ridiculous typing that sentence? Why does it feel so parodic describing James Ward-Prowse, the guy who plays centre-midfield for West Ham, who doesn’t play for England and will never be nominated for the Ballon d’Or, as one of the sport’s true artists? Partly, perhaps, because of the offhand way in which set-piece talent is often regarded in this country: as a largely mundane talent, a known known, almost something adjacent to the game rather than an intrinsic part of the game itself.

We also see this phenomenon, curiously enough, with one of England’s most famous footballers. David Beckham inhabits many roles in the popular imagination – celebrity, icon, businessman, brand – but very few of them have very much to do with how he struck a football. And Beckham really was a genius as a ball-striker, in many ways the antithesis of the classic English midfielder. He didn’t tackle or like being tackled. He didn’t aspire to get bloodied or cover every blade of grass. He rarely tried to beat his man. And so English football has always felt more comfortable discussing him in the abstract than trying to understand what made him so devastatingly effective with a ball at his feet.

Related to this is the long-standing reluctance in most coverage of the game to analyse basic technique. Tactics and systems, space and shape, little arrows on a touchscreen: this stuff we can do. Meanwhile Sunday’s Match of the Day 2 spent three minutes discussing Ward-Prowse without ever threatening to demystify his craft. “The delivery is just too good,” Mark Chapman posited. “He’s just world-class,” Alan Shearer agreed over endless replays of Ward-Prowse hitting set pieces into a shaded electronic box. “Put it into an area, you’ll get on the end of it, and you’ve got a right good chance of scoring goals.”

Certainly the technology exists to produce a finer analysis, and we know this because we see it being used every week to replay fouls and handball decisions in eyeball-straining detail. We see it being used to analyse golf swings and spin bowling and tennis serves. But what makes Ward-Prowse so consistently accurate? How does he generate so many more revs on the ball? Why can nobody else do this? And why does it look so good?

Perhaps nobody knows. Far easier, perhaps, to gush and coo, to pore over stats and serve up an opinion about whether he could do a job in midfield for Gareth Southgate next summer. We don’t talk about beauty enough in football. We don’t talk enough about form. And perhaps this makes no odds to Ward-Prowse, a man who already knows those four perfect strides so intimately that he could take them in his sleep. It is the rest of us, you feel, who are being kept out of the secret.

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

Hammer and Pickle 7:10 Wed Nov 15
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
Oh goodness me no. JWP is a technician who makes the poor players around him good enough and the good ones even better. And Noble enjoyed a fine career playing along side both the likes of Payet and Kouyate.

Jaan Kenbrovin 7:09 Wed Nov 15
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
Westside 6:49 Wed Nov 15

Yeah set pieces has always been a big focus for Moyes as I was saying on the Bowen thread.

Difference between us and Southampton over that period is they scored a lot less goals than us overall, so JWP contribution was key. Hence Moyes desire to bring him in, and why he has as many assists for us this season as anyone got last season.

The Fonz 6:59 Wed Nov 15
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
Good player and a bit like Noble in the sense that I think he needs better players around him to fulfil his potential. He should have had a call up for England given the dross that has been called up over the years. Henderson's inclusion in the squad is embarrassing.

I was sceptical when I saw we were linked with him but he has been a great addition for us and long may it continue.

The one moan I have is sometimes he can go missing in games.

Westside 6:49 Wed Nov 15
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
Westside 12:13 Wed Nov 15

In those 3 seasons JWP scored 11 free kicks in comparison to our 1.

So in those 3 seasons we scored 40 goals from corners and free kicks (not direct shot) and Southampton 30? Our deliveries must have been pretty special.

fraser 3:09 Wed Nov 15
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
We have two more than competent dead ball takers at least in Trippier and TAA.. though TAA shouldn't be there for his shit defending.

Jaan Kenbrovin 2:54 Wed Nov 15
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
Westside 12:13 Wed Nov 15

In those 3 seasons JWP scored 11 free kicks in comparison to our 1.

Vexed 2:52 Wed Nov 15
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
You'd have to think that having arguably the best dead ball specialist in the world would be of use to any international side, even just as an option to bring on with ten to go chasing a goal. But not Southgate! I'll pick a load of identical players because they play or have played for a big club and are under 23 years old. Lewis and Palmer will no doubt go on to be good. But are they going to displace the heap of talent we have in those areas? Not for a few years. Do we have a competent dead ball taker in that squad? Nope. Seems strange to me. But Southgate has proven time and time again he is the Moyes of international football. Wasting a golden generation of talent.

CanningTownWA 2:42 Wed Nov 15
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
Balto predictive text

CanningTownWA 2:35 Wed Nov 15
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
Very good point Baltic
We have been caught out too many times like that with our slow defenders

Westside 12:13 Wed Nov 15
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
In the last 3 full seasons, West Ham scored 41 league goals from set pieces.

In the same 3 seasons, a James Ward Prowse inspired Southampton, scored 41 goals from set pieces.

Balto 11:34 Tue Nov 14
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
A fact the journalist has missed, is that opposing teams are forced to defend the corners and free kicks en masse.

When the corner/free-kick taker is mediocre many teams set themselves up for an attack on the break. They can't do that against a JWP team because they need all hands on deck.

El Scorchio 8:39 Tue Nov 14
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
Yup have to agree with that. Palmer is the future for England and those are the players who need to be getting into the squads so they can gain experience and gel with the likes of Rice, Bellingham (i know he's not in this one) and Foden.

On current form JWP probably merits a place over Henderson and Phillips but is there really any point long term? Maybe his attributes make him an option from the bench if we are chasing a game but at 29 he's not a long term player. Just like at 33 and in a joke league Henderson shouldn't be either.

fraser 8:13 Tue Nov 14
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
Decent player who takes brilliant free kicks.

If Palmer had signed for us and JWP hasn't there would be moaning on here that Southgate had picked a free kick specialist over a young exciting player. I'd much rather see Palmer and Lewis picked for England at their young age..

Capitol Man 6:37 Tue Nov 14
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
All this and we've still not seen him get a free kick in a decent position around the box.

ludo21 6:28 Tue Nov 14
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
Read an article yesterday that said Jordan Henderson played in front of a crowd of 610 last weekend.

Southgate is clearly a stubborn fool.... JWP and Sterling are playing at the top of their game yet he promotes Palmer and Lewis. Palmer 'cos he can score a penalty. 20-21 year olds are not going to win England the Euros next year.

If England are 0-1 down in the final of a major tournament with a corner in injury time I know who I would want in my squad... you could even bring JWP off the bench in that situation and be pretty confident he would deliver.

El Scorchio 5:09 Tue Nov 14
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
Agree. I think a lot of other PL sides have missed a trick with him to be honest. Only possible knock I have on him is his age but he's the sort of player who should be able to go on and keep adding value into his mid 30s.

Between him, Alvarez and Kudus, we spent the Rice money pretty wisely.

Nutsin 4:46 Tue Nov 14
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
A great signing and a great player. Humble always puts in a real shift. His passing is first class, rarely gives the ball away, he is comfortable on the ball and has helped our link up play, his set pieces are world class.

What’s not to like.

I think we stole him. One of the first names on the team sheet each week. Glad we got him, He’ll improve too. Seems to be flourishing under Moyes system as does Kudus and Bowen.

We are a left winger and a Dominant center half away from being a top 6 side.

Manuel 4:05 Tue Nov 14
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
Tidy player yes, but I'm not too convinced of his ability besides set pieces, and let's not forgot we seemed to be about the only club in the summer who wanted him, but his set pieces are a huge asset and not just for a Moyes side, but for any side, that free kick he put in that Soucek headed was incredible, you can't defend it.

BRANDED 3:49 Tue Nov 14
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
Westside 3:46 Tue Nov 14

truth hurts

Westside 3:46 Tue Nov 14
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
It puts him right in the limelight seeing it's the only way we can score

Rubbish. Only 4 of our 21 league goals have come from set pieces this season (and a penalty). A lower ratio than Man City's , Arsenal's and Manchester United's.

Lee Trundle 3:33 Tue Nov 14
Re: James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight
Ward-Prowse is perfect for Moyesball. It puts him right in the limelight seeing it's the only way we can score.

I still think he'd be a decent player for a footballing side though.

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