I thought we played well against Stoke and Andy Carroll’s goal was top drawer. He may have had his injury problems this season but he’s arguably scored the three most vital goals of the season for us, the one on Monday and two against West Brom.
At this stage of the season, with five games to go and with him just back from injury, making an impact is his role just now and he’s aware of that but he would see himself as more of a regular in the future, injuries permitting.
He is always a threat to the opposition in the same way as Peter Crouch. People, like Andy, who have demonstrated they can score big goals at important times, are invaluable. His equaliser earned us a point and while, of course, we would have preferred all three a draw was nowhere near a disaster, considering how the game went.
I thought we played well and the players had the same opinion. It was always going to be a tight game but I believe we showed some improved passing and control at times.
Their goal changed things obviously. I thought we were building momentum at the time but when they scored, that ‘upped the ante’ so to speak and we had to change things.
Joe Hart made a mistake for Stoke’s goal and now I have a decision to make. Adrian was left out following a slight dip in form and I have good competition in the goalkeeping department.
Joe played really well at Chelsea a couple of weeks ago and that inclines me to think that yes, we can all make mistakes. We have to try and win the games, though, and I have to ensure I am picking the right players.
I’ve not made a decision on it yet. I’ll have a look at everyone in the remaining two training sessions before Sunday’s match at Arsenal and then decide.
There were some good performances, particularly from the boys at the back while the two in midfield also did well. Without Pedro Obiang we haven’t had that natural balance of someone who is happy with being a defensive midfielder. Cheikhou Kouyate and Mark Noble want to join in but recently they’ve demonstrated more discipline and that has helped us protect the players at the back.
Joao Mario had one of his best games. There has been a gradual improvement in his performances as a result of him being a bit more settled, getting to know the culture of our football and what is required in the games. We want him to improve in his assists and score more and that would be the only criticism of him against Stoke.
Some people have asked me why I did not start with Chicharito and Marko Arnautovic up front against Stoke.
My answer is that our form in the previous two games, against Southampton and then Chelsea, had been good with one striker and my concern was that we needed creative players to make the chances.
On the night also, Stoke did a pretty effective job on Marko and Arthur Masuaku and that nullified what we were trying to do a bit. When Chicharito did come on he looked lively while Andy and Manuel Lanzini also made a positive difference when they were introduced.
We are feeling more confident generally and I think that is showing on the pitch. The spirit among the players is better but we will be tested again at the Emirates on Sunday, as we were for long periods at Chelsea.
Arsenal have a huge Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid next Thursday and I know from experience they have bags of energy and discipline and it will take a good Arsenal performance to get the better of them.
We are in good shape regarding our squad for the game. Angelo Ogbonna has had a bit of tendonitis in his knee but we’re hoping he will be okay while James Collins was undergoing an epidural procedure in an effort to cure a hamstring problem.
The good news also is that Obiang could just be back before the end of the season. We thought initially, following his knee operation, that he would be out for the rest of the campaign but he has responded very well.
I can’t say any more about my future... nothing is settled
Nothing has changed regarding my position at the club — I’m here until the end of the season when, hopefully, West Ham will still be a Premier League club. Beyond that, nothing is settled.
While I’ve been here, I’ve looked at various aspects of the club, including player recruitment.
When David Sullivan announced he would take a step back, there were reports the club would appoint a director of football but I don’t believe they ever made that commitment. We are looking for a new head of recruitment, though, and determined to find the right man.
I’ve always firmly believed recruitment is vital to the success of a club. All managers live — or die — as a result of their club’s recruitment policy. If it’s not good, you won’t stay in the job. In my opinion, the manager should take responsibility for the players and the results and he should be judged on that.
That was the case at Everton, where they had unbelievable success in bringing through young players from the local area. As far as I recall I gave four players aged 16 their debuts in Wayne Rooney (above), Jose Baxter, Ross Barkley and Jack Rodwell.
It’s more difficult now. In those days I would go and watch emerging players a dozen times before making a decision but clubs now want to snap up the talent very quickly.
The fee for this column will go to the MS Society, helping people living with Multiple Sclerosis — mssociety.org.uk