Preview: West Ham v Manchester United

Previewing the Manchester United game plus a look back at the 1-0 defeat at Leicester.

Reid v Man UtdThe second half of our 2016-17 Premier League campaign begins with the visit of Manchester United. Nobody who was there will ever forget their last visit on that warm May evening eight months ago, when we came from behind to record that famous 3-2 victory in our final game at Upton Park. We will be hoping to achieve a similar points haul against United to that attained last season, when we drew at Old Trafford before beating them at home.

When you consider that they are the most successful club in the history of English football, with 20 league titles and 11 FA Cups, we have a good record against them in competitive matches on our own ground. In over 60 meetings we have won 26 to their 15, although in the 21st century we have only beaten them three times in the league at Upton Park. In addition to last season’s win, we beat them in two consecutive seasons; 2006-07, when a Reo-Coker goal was the only goal of the game, and the following year when Anton Ferdinand and Upson were our scorers in a 2-1 victory. In that game we were trailing to an early Ronaldo goal when United were awarded a penalty midway through the second half. However Ronaldo pulled the penalty kick wide of the post, and our two central defenders each scored with late headers in a memorable finale to the game. Of course it was a similar tale last season when two late headers won the game for us.

Embed from Getty Images

United go into this game in sixth place in the table, although I guess their fans would have expected them to be closer to the top and challenging for the title, especially with the appointment of Mourinho this season. They have had a good run of results recently, and remain unbeaten since a heavy defeat at Stamford Bridge in October. This included a 1-1 draw against us, when Sakho’s early goal was cancelled out by Ibrahimovic. Mkhitaryan scored a spectacular goal for them in a recent victory over Sunderland, although this was well offside. I fail to understand how a trained assistant referee failed to spot this, or was it just another of those occasions when a “big club” get fortunate with decisions in their favour, especially when playing at home?

Our 1-0 defeat at Leicester on Saturday meant that we reached the mid-point of the season with 22 points from our nineteen games, which is 7 fewer than last time, but more than we might have expected just one month ago. We rose a place to twelfth position thanks to Tottenham beating Watford 4-1 on Sunday, meaning that our goal difference is now better than that of the Hornets. Mark Noble picked up an injury at Leicester and I believe is likely to be missing for this game. This might be a blessing in disguise for us enabling Pedro Obiang to return in the defensive midfield role.

Geoff reviewed the game at Leicester admirably. I have only seen highlights but from what I saw we were unlucky to not get a point, but we seemed to start slowly once again. We must really get out of this bad habit of starting lethargically, and be up for a fast start to the game, especially against United. We need to be at them from the start in a similar way to how they started against us in the EFL cup game. The bookies don’t fancy us at all and I’ve seen odds of up to 5/1 for us to win the game. I’ll have some of that and will be looking for a win by the odd goal, perhaps 2-1 or 3-2. What are the chances?

The Lawro Challenge – Week 20

The bid to out predictor the BBC prediction guru enters the second half of the season.

Xmas LawroNineteen rounds of games in the Premier League have now been completed. That means we have now predicted the results of 190 matches. We have now reached the halfway stage in the Premier League season.

Normal service was resumed In Week 19 where Rich scored a commendable 10 points, Geoff an underwhelming 4 points, and Lawro also weighed in with 10 points of his own . In this challenge we award one point for a correct result, and a further two points (making three in total) if the score prediction is spot on.

We now move on to week 20 and the return set of fixtures between clubs.

 

Rich

Geoff

Lawro

Total after 18 weeks

152

116

143

Score in week 19

10

4

10

Total after 19 weeks

162

120

153

 

 

 

 

Predictions – Week 20

 

 

 

 

Rich

Geoff

Lawro

Monday

 

 

 

Middlesbrough v Leicester

1-0

1-1

0-2

Everton v Southampton

2-1

2-0

2-0

Man City v Burnley

3-0

3-1

3-0

Sunderland v Liverpool

0-3

1-3

0-2

WBA v Hull

2-0

3-0

2-0

West Ham v Man Utd

2-1

2-2

1-2

Tuesday

 

 

 

Bournemouth v Arsenal

2-2

1-2

0-2

Palace v Swansea

2-0

1-0

2-0

Stoke v Watford

3-1

3-0

2-0

Wednesday

 

 

 

Tottenham v Chelsea

2-2

1-1

2-1

5 Observations From Defeat at Leicester

Both the year and West Ham’s latest winning streak are brought to a halt in an entertaining defeat at Leicester.

5 Things WHUA Good Game for the Neutral

All in all an entertaining game with plenty to satisfy the neutral spectator if any were inclined to watch this game featuring two of the worst defences in the Premier League this season.  For those with a more emotional investment in the outcome Leicester supporters will have been satisfied with three points and a clean sheet; West Ham fans will be disappointed at the absence of any return for territorial dominance and seeing our winning streak monitor reset to zero.  Despite the entertainment the standard of football could easily have passed for a division or two lower; the game plagued by mistakes, little real quality and littered with examples of agricultural tackling that wouldn’t have been out of place on Hackney Marshes.

Magic Moment

The one real moment of quality was the Leicester goal.  The hosts had started with the wind in their sails and there were a number of near misses before Slimani struck with the only goal of the game.  The goal was quick, clinical and effective; an excellent cross from the right by Albrighton and great movement by Slimani to lose his markers and head home.  The postmortem suggested a lack of tracking back by Dimitri Payet was partly to blame but should we really be expecting our main creative force to be doing that?  It is the unfortunate consequence of stationing him wide on the left that it will always leave Cresswell with little cover.  The argument is that playing Payet wide allows him to cut in and provide the angles where he can weave his magic; I question whether that trade off is necessarily profitable?    After the goal the concern was that many more could follow but taking the lead seemed to panic Leicester and the Hammers were able to get back into the game.  Our own best moment was the move where Payet fed Cresswell whose cross was thumped onto the crossbar by Michail Antonio with the ball rebounding to safety.

Never Mind the Quality Where’s the Width?

During the summer transfer window one could be forgiven for assuming that top of Slaven’s shopping list was “Must Buy Some Wingers” as Feghouli, Tore and Ayew all signed on to compete for a vacant wide berth with Antonio.  The cunning plan was that send in enough quality crosses and Big Andy would be nodding them in for fun.  Strange then that, yet again, we failed to provide any real width yesterday, rarely got behind the Leicester defence and managed to put only one on Andy’s head in a threatening position during the whole game (at least that’s my memory of events).  With Payet on one flank and mainly cutting in, Antonio unable to get the better of Chilwell and Feghouli also reluctant to go down the line little service was provided to the big man.  According to the stats West Ham had 25 shots (5 on target) but most of these were free kicks and speculative long shots.  Bilic said “We were just missing that final touch” but in reality we created next to nothing despite having the lion’s share of possession.   I never had the opportunity to watch Andre Ayew at Swansea so was unsure what type of player to expect; having now watched him in several games I am still bemused by his attributes other than getting in the way, falling over and trying to play first time passes of any part of his body as often as possible.

Playing to our Weaknesses

When I saw the lineups I was staggered that Pedro Obiang was on the bench and even more baffled that he didn’t get on at any time during the match.  He has been our best player by far this season and I do not go along with the ‘it was good management’ mantra that Bilic was right to start with the same team that played at Swansea simply because we had secured an unconvincing victory against a very poor side in that game.  The Noble – Kouyate partnership has rarely impressed and playing Kouyate in the holding role (that Obiang has been performing so brilliantly) inhibits the surging runs that Cheikhou can offer in midfield.  For a team that is so poor at passing it is puzzling that our game-plan is predicated on a slow, patient build-up with its ponderous sideways and backwards momentum.  The introduction of Lanzini did inject some pace but attacks continued to flounder due to a lack of ideas.  The West Ham get out of jail card is often the set piece but although there were plenty of opportunities during the course of the game delivery was poor with Cresswell’s deflected free-kick (yes, he was allowed to take one) the nearest we came to scoring.

The Twelfth Man

It is said that a passionate crowd can be the twelfth man for a team and that this was one of Leicester’s secret weapons in last year’s successful championship winning season.  The King Power crowd is a mix of seasoned supporters supplemented with clapper (the modern day football rattle?) wielding newbies.  Together they generate a lot of noise and are collectively convinced that every refereeing decision should go in their favour.  Now maybe I can be accused of watching games through claret and blue spectacles but I thought Anthony Taylor did a decent job overall even if he was rather little lenient in not showing straight red cards to Amartey of Leicester and Nordtveit for over enthusiastic tackling and later for not issuing a second yellow to Ogbonna.  The most laughable moment with the crowd was their booing of Mark Noble for getting injured as a result of Amartey’s reckless studs high assault on his knee.  Fingers crossed that Noble’s injury is not too serious at a time that others are away at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Ratings: Randolph (7), Nordtveit (5), Reid (6), Ogbonna (5), Cresswell (7), Antonio (5), Kouyate (4), Noble (4), Payet (5), Ayew (3), Carroll (6). Subs: Lanzini (7), Feghouli (5), Fernandes (5)