Counting Sheep – 1 – The Letter B

Difficulty Sleeping These Warm Nights?

Counting SheepIt has been a really good summer this year. Despite a slightly late start we’ve had lots of very warm sunny days, followed by lots of warm nights. Do you ever have trouble going off to sleep when the night temperatures are high? If so, ditch those counting sheep theories and try to select a West Ham team of players that you have seen whose surnames all start with the same letter.

Trust me it really works. After a few minutes you’ll be fast asleep and dreaming of great West Ham experiences that you’ve had. I started with the letter “A” but soon gave up and put that one aside temporarily as I couldn’t think of a whole team. I may have to combine some letters together. You’d be hard pushed to come up with a team of players beginning with, for example E or I, or U. So that gave me an idea. I’ll come up with a team whose surnames begin with vowels.

But, to begin with I thought of a team beginning with the letter “B”. I knew that this would be a good starting point. For anyone old enough to remember, the 1964 West Ham FA Cup winning team had 7 “B”s in the line-up. I can still recall them now, Bond, Burkett, Bovington, Brown, Brabrook, Boyce and Byrne. The team was of course made up with Standen, Moore, Hurst and Sissons.

So here is my all-time West Ham “B” Team in a 4-4-2 formation:

Bywater
Bond
Bilic
Brown
Burkett
Bonds
Boyce
Brady
Brooking
Bellamy
Byrne

And what other players did I consider but decided to leave out? I couldn’t think of any other keepers, but in defence I omitted Burke, Breacker, Brown (the young Ken), Breen and Brush. Midfielders I left out (some contentiously) included Berkovich, Bishop, Benayoun, Boa Morte, Bennett, Bowyer and Bovington, and strikers were Ba, Brabrook and Clyde Best.

Have I forgotten someone really good? Can you pick a team of “B”s to rival mine? Do you agree with my selections?

And who would manage the “B”s? Bilic, Bonds, Boyce and Brooking all had a go at the manager’s job, two permanently and two as caretakers. All have been selected as players in my team. At this moment I’ll go for Bonds, but if Bilic continues as well as he did last season then he might take over.

Shut That Window

The closing of the transfer window sees the culmination of months of speculation. Will anything interesting happen?

Transfer WindowSomewhere in the depths of the FA Headquarters there is a room where every single piece of transfer paperwork is processed. In the room there are two middle- aged men (Kevin and Malcolm) both dressed in sleeveless jumpers and FA ties whose job it is to stamp ‘APPROVED’ on the transfer forms when they are happy that everything is in order. All relevant papers are placed in a buff folder before being passed through a glass partition to a lady called Sonia who enters details into the ‘system’. At 11 pm on 31 August, Sonia will leave her seat for the final time and slide the partition closed representing the metaphorical slamming shut of the window for another summer. Our sources close to the matter understand that this is what actually happens.

With a day to go in the window West Ham have spent a net £43 million on transfers and loan fees made up of 10 incoming players at a cost of £53 million and the departure of James Tomkins for close on £10 million. The players in includes the permanent transfer of Manuel Lanzini at the end of his original loan spell. The complete list of new players is:

Andre Ayew
Manuel Lanzini
Arthur Masuaku
Edimilson Fernandes
Simone Zaza
Jonathan Calleri
Gokhan Tore
Sofiane Feghouli
Ashely Fletcher
Havard Nordtveit

Despite the large number of new arrivals already competing for locker space at Rush Green it has done nothing to dampen the ever increasing number of names to be linked with a move to the East End. It was also revealed today (albeit by The Sun) that at one point during the window we had actually offered £43 million to bring Alexandre Lacazette to the London Stadium. It is difficult to envisage any further big money deals taking place and the latest links are generally of the loan variety and include Wilfred Bony, Calum Chambers and Jack Wilshere; all surplus to requirements at their current clubs or else seen to meet the Hammer’s predilection for injured players.

On the subject on injured Gunners I read at the weekend that forgotten man Carl Jenkinson is still in the process of being rebuilt by the Arsenal surgeons. Not content to just repair the cruciate ligament that he damaged playing for us against Manchester City last January, they have also operated on both of his shoulders – presumably to remove those rather large chips.

No doubt the last hours of the transfer window will bring the usual hysteria as clubs finally realise that time is running out; despite having known the deadline for months beforehand. Sky Sports will have the rolling ticker-tape on hyper speed with reporters roaming the nation for the latest news; managers will drive in and out of training grounds; players will be spotted at airports and service stations; and Chairman’s sons will be tweeting furiously well past their bedtime.

Even though Sky make a big deal of it I don’t think that the commercial possibilities of Window Closing Day have yet to be fully exploited. A Friday evening red-nose day type event hosted by James Corden or similar would be a sure fire ratings winner. There could be audience participation phone in polls as 3 players display their free-style ball skills to decide which one signs for Arsenal. Or perhaps David Gold could come on ask us to “Give us your f*ck*ng money!” in an attempt to fund the purchase of a new right back. As a finale an X Factor or Big Brother winner could countdown the slamming of the window to the chiming of Big Ben. Big potential missed in my opinion.

I’m not expecting will be much business done by West Ham so no need to stay up late. It could possibly be farewell Pedro Obiang and some outgoing loans but that’s about all folks!  All said and done it has been a good window.

5 Things Learned From MatchWeek 3

Our collection of random observations from Premier League Matchweek3

Five Things EPLThe Super Sunday Contractual Obligation Match

It is difficult to believe that some high powered TV people actually sat around in a meeting room with white boards, flip charts and Powerpoint presentations and selected WBA versus Middlesbrough to be a live televised match. Ordinarily the only purpose of such clubs on TV is as opposition for one of the big boys to dispatch with ease except, on rare occasions, where they met each other in an end-of-season relegation six pointer.

The Premier League still has a number of these underwhelming contests but they are normally buried among the left over Saturday 3 pm kick-offs. The game certainly delivered what it said on the tin and even the referee seemed reluctant to tag on any added time.

You Don’t Always see them Given

Last year I watched a Development Squad game where Shay Given was between the sticks for Stoke City in front of a few hundred supporters. This week he was back in the big-time of the Premier League where his notable contribution was heading in Leighton Baines penalty after it had come back off the post.

The Baines penalty was one of those awarded under the new Grappling interpretation of Law 12. As usual there is much inconsistency between different referees in how the rule is interpreted causing apparent confusion with players, pundits and supporters alike. In some situations a penalty is awarded straight away while in others players have escaped punishment and let off with a warning. Personally I have always taken a possibly naive view that a foul is a foul no matter where it is committed and that there should be some form of intent, bad timing or negligence involved. It seems nowadays a simple collision, expecting a tackle or tripping over your own feet is sufficient justification.

Last year there were 91 Premier League penalties awarded (equal to an average of 2.4 each week).  The first 3 rounds this season has seen 13 penalties (or 4.3 per week).

Terry and the Pace Setters

With just 3 games gone and we are already into an enforced international break in which the latest new dawn of English football will rise from the mixed metaphor ashes of Roy’s Euro disaster. After the first 3 games what can we deduce about the destination of the Premier League title?

There are 3 teams remaining on maximum points and each will expect to be in the running next Spring. The two Manchester clubs are the most likely champions in my view and it is difficult to choose which is now the lesser evil. Prepare for the over the top build up to their derby meeting immediately after the international break. Chelsea are only level on points due to cheating but with Hazard looking on top of his game and no European distraction they are probable candidates for 3rd or 4th.

Of the other teams Tottenham have been the most encouraging in how flat and uninspiring they look as if they haven’t recovered from last season’s blow-out. Liverpool look very workmanlike which is what you would expect from a midfield that includes Milner, Henderson and Lallana. Koeman’s Everton are undefeated and will be unspectacularly efficient in picking up points. Arsenal are like every other Arsenal team of the last decade only increasingly less-good; they may even miss out on a top 4 finish this time. We need to start getting players back and getting our act together. Losing away at two of the top three is no disgrace in itself but performances need to be far better.

Relegation or The HSmell of Success

History tells us that in all probability 2 of the promoted clubs will be relegated. Despite Hull’s promising start I can’t see them keeping this up given the turmoil that the club is in. I also expect Burnley to struggle massively whereas Boro might do enough to bore the opposition into surrender. The other suspects include Watford, Bournemouth, Sunderland and Swansea. I am relying on Eddie Howe to do enough to keep Bournemouth afloat and, although Watford looked very poor in the first half against Arsenal, they brightened up considerably after introducing new signings Isaac Success & Roberto Pereyra – two players we will need to keep an eye on when we meet them in 2 weeks.

Isaac Success is one of the best footballer names since Danny Invincible

A Substitute for Another Guy

Finally, a very strange occurrence in the Tottenham versus Liverpool game at White Hart Lane where in the very last of 3 added minutes at the end of the second half both teams brought on a substitute for their league debuts. I didn’t spot whether the respective number 2’s had given the players detailed instructions from the notepads as to what to do for the remaining 10 seconds.

5 Things From West Ham at Citeh

Observations and talking points from our defeat at the Etihad.

5 Things WHUThe Half Time Pep Talk

Managers and coaches do their best to bellow and point out instructions from their technical areas during as the game progresses but it is questionable how much of that actually gets through to the players. Half-time is generally the best opportunity to throw things around the dressing room to get the player’s attention. At half time on Sunday we were on the ropes and a crushing defeat was on the cards. City were playing well and at a high tempo and we seemed to be doing everything possible to help them out.
After the break some Slavic wisdom and a minor rearrangement of personnel and it was a different game. We started to compete and City were no longer free to strut their billion pound stuff. We couldn’t quite do enough to snatch an unlikely point but the performance was far more encouraging.

Unnatural Formations

In the Under The Hammers Match report Richard Bennett provides an excellent summary of the shortcomings in our line-up, formation and first half performance. Whether it was 3 or 5 at the back or some form of hybrid the tactic misfired badly with City’s mobile and pacey forward players allowed all the space and ball that they could want. The task wasn’t made easy due to injuries but the selected side lacked balance and we far too often conceded unforced possession. If Lanzini was unable to last a full game then why not play him first half rather than second? He would have been a better option than Tore who has a lot to do to prove himself.

Once we changed to two proper full backs we looked far more compact and threatening and Antonio’s goal came early enough to strive for a second. The momentum was lost after Aguero’s Costa moment caused Reid to leave the pitch and we went 4 at the back. I have read since that Slaven Bilic was about to make the change anyway which I find puzzling.
There are differences of opinion but I am certain that Aguero deserved a red card. The unfortunate thing with retrospective punishment is that it is other teams that benefit. Better if he was banned for the next 3 times that we play against him.

In that Round Mr Collins you have No Passes

I am sure we all love Ginge’s commitment to the cause and that the way that he is prepared to throw his body in the way regardless of the consequences. From a defensive point of view these qualities allow me to overlook his occasional rushes of blood and bloopers. However, he has to be one of the worse passers of the ball that I have ever seen from a professional footballer. This would not be such a problem if it didn’t seem to part of our game plan to use him as a major distribution outlet every time he plays.

There was one occasion in the first half where we had a free-kick inside the City half and, let’s face it, an industrial route one goal was the best we could hope for at that point. Yet rather than lump it forward Noble decided to play it backwards to Ginge; from where it probably found its way back to keeper or out of play. I really don’t understand what the players expected to happen. A defenders prime responsibility is to defend (and Ginge does this well enough) but when he has the ball he should play it short to someone who knows what to do with it. Whether we have the right players with right attributes to make themselves available as an outlet then becomes the issue.

Arthur Masuaku ‘E’s Alright

I like Arthur Masuaku. Over the course of the whole game he was our best player against Manchester City. I love his energy, his dribbles, his beard and his thousand yard stare. On these early performances he looks an excellent signing and will be stiff competition when Cresswell is fit again. He did exceptionally well in creating the goal for Antonio.

His battle with Sterling was one of the high points of the match and a less lenient referee may well have given him a second yellow (even though I thought the first rather harsh). Mr Mariner made amends by calling over Mark Noble to tell him it was Arthur’s last warning and then booking the captain for dissent instead.

Pay-et Forward?

The Payet situation is a strange one. His continued absence with little explanation has fuelled a host of non-specific transfer speculation which even Paul Merson sobered up long enough to posit upon. The club through ace tweeter dg have strenuously denied any ulterior motives for Payet’s non appearance.

Now it appears that he is off to join up with France squad for their friendly against Italy. If his ‘knock’ is so serious that we didn’t want to rush him back how is it wise for him to join the national squad? Have we made a secret deal with him to give him a longer rest in return for staying put?

I Wouldn’t Bet On It 6 – Lets Do the Vanarama

A cheeky August Bank holiday accumulator on the Vanarama National League.

Fancy A BetOur accumulator bet at the weekend was unsuccessful with just two of our five selections, Everton and Doncaster winning. Our attempt at selecting three matches to end in draws was much better, with two of the games being drawn. The treble would have really boosted our balance, but it was not to be, although we still made another small profit overall.

The winning games were:

1 point on West Brom to draw with Middlesbrough @21/10 (3.1)

1 point on Brentford to draw with Sheffield Wednesday @21/10 (3.1)

 Our cumulative balance is now 95.6 + 6.2 = 101.8.

When trying to predict the results of football matches, do you study the form or do you expect long running sequences to come to an end? Do you look at various divisions and expect the results to be more predictable? Many people believe that the Championship has tougher games to predict, and that there is greater equality throughout the division. So does it have the most drawn games? Well not this season so far. No team in the Championship has drawn more than two of its five games.

League 1 and League 2 have so far had a much greater proportion of drawn games. So if you think you can predict drawn games these may be the divisions to follow. Some teams in each of these two leagues have drawn at least three of their five games, with Northampton standing out as having drawn all of their five matches! So when they next play, is a drawn game a certainty, or will the sequence be broken?

Today there is a fairly extensive Vanarama National League programme (the old Conference) and some teams have started the season particularly well. There have been a much lower percentage of drawn games when compared to Leagues 1 and 2. We’ll have another go at the five game accumulator, with the guarantee of money back if one lets us down, plus five single bets of one point on each of the games, making a total spend of six points, reducing our balance to 95.8.

1 point on each of the following:

Tranmere to beat Guiseley @1/3 (1.3)

Dagenham & Redbridge to beat Sutton @15/8 (2.9)

Forest Green to beat Southport @4/11 (1.4)

Lincoln to beat Gateshead @10/11 (1.9)

Chester to beat Woking @15/8 (2.9)

5 game accumulator at 28.7/1 (29.7)

 The figures in brackets show the potential return from a 1 point stake.

Report: Manchester City 3 V 1 West Ham

Disappointment in the Taxpayer Funded Stadium Derby

mcfc v whufcWe all think we are experts at selecting the West Ham team that should play in any particular match. A quick look at social media would tell you why selection by committee doesn’t work. It has been tried for various sports teams and has rarely been successful. We have to trust the appointed person, in our case Slaven Bilic, to make his selections based upon a much more intimate knowledge of the personnel under consideration than we will ever have. We also have to trust that he and his staff have worked upon formations and systems and styles of play appropriate to the game about to be played. I would always trust Super Slav ahead of the current England manager, for example.

However, prior to today’s game, upon seeing our team and formation, and in anticipation of writing this article, I made the following notes.

  1. Disappointed to see us trying a 3-5-2 formation today with three centre backs. I think Slav has got this horribly wrong – I just hope he proves it to be a tactical masterstroke, but I fear not.
  2. The formation and selection mean that Antonio will once again be wasted at right wing back, which against a team of the attacking calibre of City will effectively mean he is playing at right back again!
  3. If Lanzini is fit enough to be on the bench then why not start him? We desperately need his creative flair, and even if he doesn’t last a full game, better to have a go from the start rather than waiting until we have potentially fallen behind.
  4. Disappointed to see Byram only on the bench. This lad could be our right back for years to come. OK, he made a mistake in the Astra game. He looks the type to learn from it. I would have liked to have seen a back four of Byram, Masuaku (who looks to have fitted in well), and two of our centre backs, either Collins and Reid or Collins and Ogbonna. I am always concerned by the Reid / Ogbonna partnership. I don’t think it works.
  5. With Nordveidt out, I would have loved to see Obiang in the side (who I prefer anyway) or Oxford as a defensive midfielder. Has Slav ever played Oxford again as a defensive midfielder since the opening game of last season when he kept the Arsenal midfield in his pocket?
  6. Valencia = blind alleys = total waste of time. Has he scored since we drew with City at Upton Park in January?
  7. Tore = I’m not convinced yet.
  8. My back four has been selected in number 4 above. In front of them I would have Obiang or Oxford as defensive midfield, Noble and Kouyate, Lanzini and Antonio, with Fletcher leading the line.

Matchday: Man City v West Ham

Pre-match tension as West Ham look to pull off another shock at the Etihad Stadium.

Man City AwayThey used to say that lightning never strikes the same place twice.  Although our friends from Giurgiu have already dispelled that particular myth there is little confidence that the same repeat performance will apply to our game against Manchester City this afternoon.

When we visited the Etihad last September, City had won all 5 league games that season without conceding a single goal.  Against all odds and expectations goals from Moses and Sakho saw the Hammers take a splendid 2 goal lead and despite City pulling one back in first half added time, through debutant Kevin De Bruyne, we were able to hang on doggedly adding one more away-day scalp to those already collected at Arsenal and Liverpool.  I didn’t expect victory then and I don’t expect it again today.  Hope, on the other hand, is always a constant companion.

Head to Head

We have won 11 times in 50 away fixtures to Manchester City and just once since their move to the Etihad.  The overall record between the two clubs was fairly equal until the injection of Abu Dhabi money tilted the balance firmly in City’s favour.  We have won just 2 of the last 12 encounters as the one time working man’s club from Manchester became a Middle Eastern money pit.  Having invested a further £100 million + during the current transfer window to mould the team in Pep’s image, the total spending since the  takeover is now nudging towards £1 billion.  City could most likely field a complete team who individually cost more than our new record signing.

The full head to head record is as follows:

P W D L F A Sequence
Home 48 24 12 12 81 52 LDLLWD
Away 50 11 7 32 64 102 LLLLLW
98 35 19 44 145 154

Team News

Definitely sitting this one out are Sakho, Cresswell, Carroll, Ayew, Feghouli and Nordtvelt who are all injured.  Mark Noble is expected to return while it is reported that the fitness of Payet and Lanzini are yet to be assessed.  With an extra week for an international break on the horizon I doubt either will start with only one on the bench.  There are unconfirmed rumours that Payet has not travelled which is likely to raise speculation once more about his future.

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t do it this season. We know it’s a big challenge, not only regarding our injury situation, but we are hoping and our whole plan is to have a good game and to get something out of it.”

– Super Slav

The signing of Simone Zaza was too late for today’s match but it will be interesting to see whether Edimilson Fernandes features or is regarded merely as one for the future.  Fortunately Zaza has been omitted from the Italy squad and so will not be able to pick up an injury while on international duty.

With no proven striker available and the creative players still missing it is difficult to see how we could possibly surprise City again today.  My own suggested would include starts for both Oxford and Fletcher:

Team Man City

The Man in the Middle

Today’s referee is Andre Mariner from Birmingham.  Mariner officiated in two of our home games last season; the goalless draw with Stoke in December and the derailing of Spurs title aspirations in March.  We should hope that he has a quiet game and does not feel he has to get in on the dubious penalty award at a corner bandwagon.