5 Cruel Lessons From Defeat @ Arsenal

The customary defeat to Arsenal as a slow and static West Ham show few ideas in the quest for Premier League survival.

5 Things WHUNo Surprise: Defeat by Arsenal

Considering the game in isolation, a defeat away at Arsenal (any defeat by Arsenal) is nothing unusual.  It is what happens most of the time when we play them.  In the context of the season, however, five Premier League reverses on the bounce and a growing realisation that we are feasible relegation candidates, another three points surrendered is a major concern.  At one point it looked like the night could turn out a whole lot worse as Hull, Palace, Bournemouth and Swansea all took the lead.  In fact we should give thanks to our friends from White Hart Lane for their late, late come-back in South Wales (hopefully denting Swansea’s confidence for the weekend) that our plight is not even more desperate.

Banking on a Clean Sheet?

Plan A at the Emirates, as far as it went, was to choke all life out of the game by defending in numbers and having Antonio and Ayew protecting the full-backs.  There seemed little pretence that we would do anything with the ball when we got it; those very moments that Slaven had described as being when Arsenal were at their most vulnerable.  In terms of its limited aspirations the first half worked reasonably well but it was all change after the interval when Antonio was withdrawn due to injury and replaced with Snodgrass.  Arsenal raised the tempo after the break but still did not look convincing until the gift of a goal relieved the pressure, from whence onwards it was men against boys.  The opening goal was a sloppy all-round effort by West Ham; Fonte failing to clear and Randolph allowing the feeblest of attempts by Ozil to elude him and nestle in the back of the net.  Complaints about offside merely intended to hide the embarrassment of another Randolph blooper.

Anyone Got a Plan B?

The tactical switch after the goal was to replace Carroll with Sakho, exchanging one man receiving no service with another, but with no discernible variation to shape or formation.  It was pretty much ‘shit or bust’ after the Arsenal goal went in and so was probably worth 30 minutes or so of Carroll and Sakho together to see how it worked.  From the opening of the second half had begun it seemed that the wide players had given up on tracking back and, for the most part, the ball was given away quickly and cheaply those few times we won possession.  The goal galvanised the Gunners and it became a case of how many they would score; and with a different referee they could have added a few penalties to the haul of three scored from open play.  We did manage two shots on target in the closing stages; decent strikes from Lanzini and Fernandes but both comfortably saved by an otherwise redundant Martinez.

Slow and Static Doesn’t Win The Race

When you look through a team-sheet that includes players such as Fonte, Collins, Noble, Snodgrass and (probably) Ayew you will find some of the slowest players currently operating in the Premier League.  I’ve not yet decided whether Ayew is simply slow or merely lazy!  Who thought it a good idea to fill a side with players so lacking in pace (and movement it has to be said)?  Occasionally a player of sublime skill can overcome a lack of pace but, in the modern athleticism of Premier League, pace has become a prerequisite for almost any player.  How can you play a game relying on breakaways when the team is so collectively slow?  Why are other teams always on the move, creating space and anticipating the pass while our players remain static until they receive the ball?  Despite significant expenditure on the squad we are largely back to a position where a major overhaul is required, not just the odd tweak.  We are nowhere near one or two players away from a great team and the notion of signing players close to or over 30 is horrendously short-sighted.

What Next?

We now have two defining fixtures, home to Swansea and away at Sunderland, where a minimum of four points are required, preferably six.  We are on our worst run since Avram Grant took us to the next level in 2011.  Can we do it?  Difficult to say based on the evidence of the manager’s poor decision making and selections of the past and the questionable pace and fitness of the players.  We do have enough potential to see off both Swansea and Sunderland, subject to Antonio’s fitness.  Antonio and Lanzini are our best hopes for survival and more game time for Fernandes would make sense.  I am hoping that Swansea’s failure to beat Middlesbrough and their late capitulation to Tottenham will work to our advantage.  I will spend the next few days looking for other straws worth clutching at.

Matchday: West Ham in the Arsenal Firing Line

Uncomfortably close to the relegation scrap West Ham face a difficult trip to The Emirates.

Arsenal West HamAfter last night’s results, West Ham travel to The Emirates having dropped to 15th place in the Premier League table.  By the end of the day it is not unthinkable that we will have fallen further in the standings as we have become one of a handful of clubs competing to avoid the third relegation place.  A few weeks back the spectre of relegation was viewed as a mathematical rather than a realistic possibility.  With key players unavailable and with a dispirited and largely disorganised side on the slide after a run of four consecutive defeats it is surprising that there the alarm bells are not ringing even more loudly.  As relegation rivals knuckle down to scramble clear through hard work we appear to be meandering dangerously and obliviously towards the drop.  Whether Slaven Bilic can conjure up a cunning escape plan that does not rely on other club’s performing even worse remains to be seen.

Fellow under-fire manager Arsene Wenger must have uttered a silent “magnifique” when he spotted that his next opponents were the obliging eastenders.  Although Arsenal’s record this season is identical to the same stage last time around they are further off the pace for their customary Champion’s League qualification.  Having seen off the Hammers with aplomb at the London Stadium in December today’s encounter will be seen as a perfect opportunity to set off on a strong finish to the season.

Arsenal have their problems, but they are still a team with a lot of pace, a team you can’t afford to lose the ball against in your own half because the transition and pace they have up front is unbelievable.  When they lose the ball they are very vulnerable because they leave a big space behind which you can use.

– Slaven Bilic

I was equally pessimistic going in to the corresponding fixture last year as West Ham, fresh from their tame Europa Cup exit, kicked off their Premier League campaign at The Emirates.  As we know it turned out to be the first in a number of surprise results as a relatively unknown Dimitri Payet and a young Reece Oxford helped plot a shock 2-0 win for the Hammers.  The future looked bright as the dark days of Fat Sam were replaced with the fresh air of an apparently bright and tactically astute new manager.  How quickly football can change!

Head to Head

Last year’s victory was the solitary Hammer’s win in the last fifteen meetings against the Gunners, which otherwise have seen eleven defeats and just three draws.  Both teams are on a sorry run of form with West Ham having taken just two points from the last six games and Arsenal slightly better with four.

There have, however, been a few memorable and unlikely successes away to Arsenal over the years including that permanent record of being the last away team to win at Highbury and the first to win at The Emirates. Getting a result tonight would rank alongside both events and could even go down in history as a minor great-escape for both the club and Slaven Bilic.

Team News

West Ham welcome back Michail Antonio for tonight’s game with his place in the treatment room being taken by Aaron Cresswell.  There is much speculation about the return of Diafra Sakho with the player claiming he is raring to go while board and manager are voicing a more cautious stance with talk of a place on the bench.  I wonder what Sakho is like at left back?

The major problem for West Ham is how their ageing central defenders and largely plodding midfield will contain an Arsenal side that attack with pace and movement.  In terms of style Arsenal and Manchester City have much in common and both have a tendency to open up our defence with ease.  To have any hope West Ham have to deny space in the central areas and to break quickly when in possession.  I doubt we have the players or level of fitness to do either over the course of 90 minutes.

If we show the same spirit we showed against City, we will win football games. We have played 20 games unbeaten this season, and I think it’s a good opportunity to remind people we are not fighting to not go down – we are fighting to have a positive end to the season.

– Arsene Wenger

Arthur Masuaku coming in for Cresswell does not weaken the team but how the remaining spare part players (Ayew, Snodgrass, Feghouli) are scattered into the line-up will be revealing.

Arsenal are without Laurent Koscielny and have a problem in the keeper position with Cech out and Ospina doubtful; perhaps a recall for Pat Jennings or David Seaman would be enough on the night.  Otherwise the Gunners are at full strength.

Man in the Middle

The referee is Martin Atkinson form West Yorkshire.  Atkinson has refereed three previous West Ham games this season, a home defeat to Watford and away wins at Palace (where he sent off Cresswell) and Middlesbrough.  In 33 games this season his record is 114 Yellow cards but just the two reds.

Hull 2 West Ham 1 – now we face a visit to the Emirates!

Another good game from Post, but this time he couldn’t save us. Little over 72 hours after our fourth successive Premier League defeat we now visit Arsenal!

Hull Review

Four consecutive defeats in a row. Two points from the last six league games. Tough statistics to look at, so we now need an easy fixture to turn the tide. And what could be better than a visit to the Emirates where we comfortably won last season, 2-0?

But first, back to the Hull game. Once again my belief in statistics often having little bearing on the outcome of a game was proved to be a sound one in a number of areas. We took the lead, and most teams that do this go on to win the game. A quick look back through the season, and I reckon that we have dropped around 20 points from a winning position. Without checking on all teams in the league, I think it would be safe to assume that no club has a worse record than that.

I haven’t counted up how many goals we have conceded from set pieces, but the Hull winner was headed in direct from a corner. In our recent winless run it happened twice against Leicester, once against both West Brom and Bournemouth, and again in this game. Why can we not defend set pieces? Time and time again this happens. Do we practice defending set pieces, especially corners at training sessions? Who is responsible for our defence coaching? Why can’t we learn from our mistakes? Rumour has it that Rio Ferdinand offered his services to assist with our defence coaching and was turned down. If that is true, then I find it amazing that we could reject such an offer with the state of our defending. Or are our players just not good enough? If we are not top of the league in conceding goals from set pieces then I’ll bet we are at least in a Champions League position.

Once again we conceded a relatively late goal. How many times have we conceded goals in the last few minutes of games? How many teams have let in more goals in the last ten minutes? I don’t have the figures but I reckon we will be close to the top of this league too. We have now conceded 54 league goals. That puts us in the top 3 of that statistic too. Even Sunderland and Middlesbrough, the two favourites for the drop with the bookies, have let in fewer goals than we have.

OK, so we had more possession than Hull, completed more passes, had more shots, and more shots on target. It doesn’t matter. We lost the game. By all accounts it was arguably Hull’s worst performance in recent games. But it didn’t matter did it? They are now just 6 points behind us. And it could conceivably be just 3 after this midweek round of games. We now have just six clubs beneath us in the table, and it could possibly be 4 before we face Swansea next weekend in a game that is now taking on massive importance for us. A few weeks ago we surely couldn’t have envisaged this game as a “six pointer”. And we all remember what happened when they visited “fortress Upton Park” in our penultimate game there last season, don’t we?

But we won’t go down. Just consider the bookies odds. The bottom three are all odds-on to be relegated, and Swansea are just a shade better than evens. We are quoted as seventh favourites to go down at around 20-1. Bookies never get it wrong do they? They knew Trump would win in America, and the result of the referendum on Brexit would be Leave, and that the Tories would win the last election with an overall majority, didn’t they? Mmmmm!

I’m afraid I’ve lost my optimistic hat, and fear for us against Arsenal. Ignoring last season, they often give us a bit of a hammering at their place, and I noticed they withdrew Theo Walcott before the end of their game against Manchester City last weekend to keep him fresh for his usual goal or two against us. Can we match his pace with our defence? I’m surprised they didn’t try to buy back Podolski in the last transfer window to save him for the West Ham fixture where he frequently did well.

All season I’ve been predicting victories for us, often without any real evidence other than my support of the team, and my trusty optimistic hat, to back it up. This time I think we could be on the end of a big defeat. Arsenal haven’t had a good season themselves, but still retain a chance, albeit a receding one, of finishing in the top four for the 21st season in a row, or whatever the number is. It is looking extremely likely that they will finish fifth or sixth. Their fans are not happy and want the manager out. Or at least quite a number of them do according to various polls. Our manager still retains a good level of support considering the season we’ve had, but increasingly some fans are turning. And this week he received a vote of confidence from the board. And we all know what frequently happens shortly after that, don’t we?

I am hoping for an unlikely win, but fear that we will do well to keep Arsenal down to three. Perhaps my hope can overcome my fear? What are the chances? The bookies give us around an 8-1 chance of winning the game. That’s not very generous based on our recent form. But who knows? Perhaps we will keep a clean sheet and Carroll will add to his 50 Premier League goals tally? Carroll to score the first goal and a repeat of last season’s 2-0 win is 275-1. Worth a few bob?

The Lawro Challenge – Week 31

More daylight between Lawro and his pursuers as the prediction challenge enters the final lap.

Lawro Crystal BallWeek 30 was another triumph for Lawro as his 8 points eclipsed both Rich and Geoff who could only muster a meagre 3 points each.

We have midweek matches to predict this time, with teams having played just over 72 hours earlier. Will Lawro hold on to his lead until the end of the season or will a Steven Gerrard style slip allow Rich to race through to claim gold? Lawro extended his lead last weekend, and with less than a quarter of the season to go it is getting ominously close to the point where the fat lady is getting ready to sing.

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 proceed to week 31.

 

Rich

Geoff

Lawro

Total after 29 weeks

230

181

239

Score in week 30

3

3

8

Total after 30 weeks

233

184

247

 

 

 

 

Predictions – Week 31

 

 

 

 

Rich

Geoff

Lawro

Tuesday

 

 

 

Burnley v Stoke

0-0

1-2

1-1

Leicester v Sunderland

3-0

2-0

2-0

Watford v West Brom

0-1

1-1

2-0

Man U v Everton

1-1

0-1

2-0

Wednesday

 

 

 

Arsenal v West Ham

3-0

3-1

2-1

Hull v Middlesbrough

1-0

0-0

2-0

Southampton v Palace

1-0

2-1

1-1

Swansea v Tottenham

1-1

1-2

0-1

Chelsea v Man City

2-2

1-2

1-1

Liverpool v Bournemouth

2-0

3-1

2-0

This Week in Hammer’s History

Semi-final action in successive Cup Winner’s Cup campaigns and a twice played affair with Ipswich in the week 3 – 9 April in Hammer’s History.

This Week Hammers HistoryIt was semi-final time in the European Cup Winner’s Cup campaign of 1965 and having had a relatively easy draw beforehand West Ham now faced formidable opposition in the shape of Spanish side Real Zaragoza. In the first leg at Upton Park West Ham raced into a 2-0 interval lead. Brian Dear scored the first heading home from a John Sissons cross and Johnny Byrne added the second when Sissons touched on a cross from centre-half Ken Brown. The Hammers were unable to keep up the momentum in the second period and came under increasing pressure from the Spaniards who got their reward with an away goal ten minutes after the break. That was the end of the scoring allowing West Ham to take a slender lead into the return leg.

Standen, Kirkup, Burkett, Peters, Brown, Moore, Boyce, Dear, Byrne, Hurst, Sissons

A year later it was again the same stage of the same competition with West Ham avoiding Liverpool and Celtic in the semi-final draw to earn a tie against West Germany’s Borussia Dortmund. Ron Greenwood stripped transfer seeking Bobby Moore of the captaincy prior to the first leg match at Upton Park which nonetheless was a thrilling affair. Martin Peters put the Hammers ahead early in the second half and looked like holding on to their lead until conceding twice in the last five minutes to end the night with a 2-1 deficit. It would now be an uphill task for West Ham to keep their hands on the trophy that they had won the previous year.

Standen, Brown, Charles, Peters, Boyce, Moore, Brabrook, Bloomfield, Byrne, Hurst, Dear

In 1975 West Ham had reached the FA Cup semi-final for the first time since 1964 and faced a strong Ipswich Town side at Villa Park. In a largely uneventful game Ipswich dominated play but were unable to breakthrough the Hammers defence with the game ending goal-less. The replay took place four days later at an icy Stamford Bridge. Continuing his fine FA Cup form Alan Taylor put the Hammers a goal up before Billy Jennings sliced a spectacular own goal to level the score. Ipswich had two goals disallowed for offside by referee Clive Thomas but it was that man Taylor once more who struck from the edge of the area to put West Ham through to Wembley.

Day, McDowell, Lampard, Bonds, Taylor, Lock, Jennings, Paddon, Taylor, Brooking, Gould (Holland)

Day, McDowell, Lampard, Bonds, Taylor, Lock, Jennings (Holland), Paddon, Taylor, Brooking, Gould

In league action this week has witnessed two 4-1 away victories at White Hart Lane; in 1966 (Redknapp, Boyce, Byrne and Hurst) and then again in 1994 (Morley 2, Marsh and Jones). Finally a potential omen was the 2007 victory over Arsenal at The Emirates; Bobby Zamora scoring the only goal of the game.

5 Observations as West Ham go down to Hull

A fourth successive defeat leaves the Premier League trapdoor too close for comfort.

5 Things WHUThe Next Level

There has been a lot of talk about the club moving to the next level but not many have until now considered that the new level could be downwards into the Championship.  Yet another abject performance and the surrender of a further three points from a winning position leaves West Ham just six points away from the last relegation place.  By Wednesday the gap may well have narrowed to three.  With Leicester and Palace on an upward trajectory the number of teams that we now need to outperform are becoming fewer.  Although another three or four points may be enough for survival, current form makes it difficult to see where these might be coming from.

Another Fine Mess

Once again there was scant evidence of shape, tactics, organisation effort and fitness from the boys in claret and blue.  Hull were not much better but they had spirit, work-rate and determination, particularly in the second half.  Even with the injury situation the team selection was difficult to understand.  A lack of pace throughout the team and little protection in midfield for the ageing centre back pairing was an open invitation to the opposition.  One assumes that Bilic has had a falling out with Nordtveit who despite failing to impress seemed to be the obvious choice for a defensive midfield role, particularly if Noble was deemed not ready to return.  Missing three weeks with a dead leg appears curious and suggests our treatment room is on a par with the training ground for effectiveness.  Expect Manuel Lanzini to be ruled out for the season with a paper cut next.

Bits and Pieces Players

While other teams in the lower reaches of the Premier League rely on cohesion and hard work it feels like we expect to coast through games in the mistaken belief that we have better players who don’t really need to try too hard.  The squad is being filled with an assortment of players of ordinary ability who fail to complement each other in any way.  Feghouli is definitely not a Premier League footballer; he has no powers of anticipation and simply reacts should the ball come in his direction.  Snodgrass is a luxury free-kick specialist who has now lost that spark of enthusiasm that he first arrived with.  Ayew has managed to get in good scoring positions but makes little contribution in all-round play; whatever his best position is we have yet to find it.  Randolph is not a Premier League Number 1.  Even now we are being linked with even more players aged 30 and over which, if true, suggests a very worrying limited and short term view.

Can We Fix It?

There are different schools of thought as to where the blame lies for what has turned out to be a dreadful season.  It is either the fault of the Board, the Stadium, the Manager, the Players or it is merely the West Ham way to be average, disappointing and under-performing.  Of the above there is limited short term room for manoeuvre.  The Boleyn has gone and, like it or not, the London Stadium is home for the foreseeable future.  I can accept that moving to a new ground can dissipate home advantage but it doesn’t explain poor performance.  The Board are the owners of the club and are going nowhere soon.  The Daves have their faults but it is wrong to suggest that they have not backed their managers in the transfer market.  At this stage of the season there is no quick fix to the playing staff and may, in fact, require several windows to shift out the latest collection of recently acquired dead wood.  That leaves the choice of doing nothing (because it is fate) or replacing the manager.

Goodbye Slav (and thanks for some great results last season)

I think we can all agree that Slaven Bilic is a great bloke and has oodles of passion.  He may even ‘get us’ whatever that means.  I cannot, however, think of any footballing reasons why he should be kept on as manager.  We have become a team that lacks a clear style of play or formation; that is short on tactics, fitness, pace and mobility; and that is stumbling from one disaster to another.  There is no vision, plan or strategy to build for the future.  A good manager makes the best of the resources that he has and Bilic has been unable to create a team unit that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Past results unfortunately mean nothing as has been demonstrated by the situation at the resurgent Leicester.  Even assuming we do manage to stay up with Bilic in charge then I can only see a repeat next season.  The club needs a manager with ideas and with tactical and organisational excellence.  This is not unfortunately Slaven Bilic.  As much as I would have loved to see him succeed the wise decision now is to dispense with his services now rather than having a dead man walking until the end of the season.

Matchday: West Ham on the road to Hull

It’s no early April joke as an injury hit and out of form West Ham take the road to Hull.

Hull West HamSo where were we before that unwelcome international break came along? Oh yes, that’s right, a club in turmoil; just one win in six, three defeats on the bounce, one clean sheet in the last fourteen, Bilic in, Bilic out, sack the Board and supporters wishing for the season to end. Not only that but now we are a club in turmoil going into a game without our three best players, all injured last time out.

Any team desperate for relegation saving points would be eagerly scanning the fixture list for an encounter with a lacklustre, formless, shapeless and complacent mid-table West Ham.  Hull will be no exception and will be confidently targeting a full complement of points from the game. They are a hard-working side who enjoyed an upturn in fortunes following the appointment of Marco Silva but come into this game off the back of 4-0 hammering by Everton and still sitting in the last of relegation places.  It is three years since a Marco Silva side lost a home game.

I just concentrate on my job. I am totally focused on the next game. The speculation does not worry me. I am not reading it or making phone calls or whatever.  We are in a position where we can have a good finish to the season. We have a lot of games to play and there is a lot to play for.

– Slaven Bilic

The home match against Hull was one of several lucky wins that played its part in putting the thinnest veneer of gloss on the season allowing the Hammers to scramble briefly into the top of half of the table. The man-of-the-match performance of the post has now joined Fat Sam’s ear-cupping into the annals of West Ham – Hull folklore. Slaven Bilic might want to consider putting a few extra posts on the bench today given that it wouldn’t noticeably weaken the squad.

Head to Head

A West Ham win today would be a first ever Premier League victory away to Hull and would also be the first time that this fixture has been won by the away side in the Premier League. I don’t imagine too much work for the record book writers this afternoon, however. West Ham have recorded a total of four away victories outside of the Premier League at Hull; the last of these a 2-0 success in 2011 with goals from Jack Collison and Sam Baldock.

Team News

With Winston Reid, Pedro Obiang and Michail Antonio absent through injury the greatest conundrum for Slaven Bilic would seem to be where to play Cheikhou Kouyate. Does he play in central midfield and allow the Dad’s Army pairing of Fonte and Collins to play at the back or does he play him as a central defender and combine Mark Noble (back from his holidays) with either Edmilson Fernandes or Havard Nordtviet in the centre of midfield. Although I would like to see Fernandes given more opportunity he is not really a defensive minded player and so maybe we will see a return for Nordtviet (who apparently did well for Norway during the break). Fonte and Collins can only work if Hull guarantee only to play high balls into the box. I’m not sure they will oblige and the idea of them facing pacey players without the covering of Obiang would be of great concern to an already leaky defence.

We have done well at home of late and we want to win again. The secret to our home form is work – hard work.

– Marco Silva

Further up-field we have Andy Carroll, still on his 49 Premier League goals mark, and Andre Ayew who is on a light mauve (if not full blown purple) patch of goal-scoring of late. Robert Snodgrass remains Hull’s leading scorer this season but has yet to pull the trigger (!) for his new club. We will remain lop-sided in attack without an effective left sided player given that both Ayew and Snodgrass prefer to play on the right or simply go walk-about.

Hull have a number of injuries including Mbokani and Mason but Michael Dawson may be fit enough to feature. Tom Huddleston begins a three match suspension following his dismissal at Everton.

The Man in the Middle

Today’s referee is Mike Jones from Chester (are there any southern based referees?). He is another of the occasional visitors to Premier League officialdom and the only previous encounter this season was in the EFL Cup defeat at Old Trafford. Jones was in charge of two West Ham league games last season; away trips to Norwich and Stoke.

In his 25 games this term he has awarded 97 Yellow and 4 Red cards.

West Ham v Hull Preview

This weekend West Ham visit the 2017 city of culture, the home to Britain’s oldest living man (who was 109 this week); a city with three professional football teams, although two use the oval ball. We are the only Premier League team without a point in the last three games, and need to reverse our recent form to ensure we don’t get dragged into the end of season relegation dogfight.

Noble Hull

At last the Premier League is back. OK I know it is only a fortnight since our last game, but it seems like an age, especially when you have sat through the tedium of England trying to break down the world-renowned defence of Lithuania. Fortunately, one of our ex-players, Jermaine Defoe, knows how to put the ball in the net.

And talking of tedium I am well and truly brassed off by the continual coverage on TV of the forthcoming (in about two years time at least) UK exit from the EU. I know this may well be momentous in our history, but I get very bored by news programmes showing the letter from our Prime Minister making its way to Brussels via the Channel Tunnel, and the continual speculation of how the negotiations might go. Let us just wait and see. And the jargon! Hard Brexit, soft Brexit, extreme Brexit, trigger, Article 50. I think I’ve heard the word “trigger” more times in the last few weeks than if I watched a whole box set of all the Only Fools and Horses episodes, or a re-run of all the Roy Rogers western films (ask an oldie!).

So what is the connection between our visit to Hull and Brexit? Although we only began the formal process of withdrawal from the EU with the triggering of Article 50 last Wednesday, one of the issues that will need to be resolved and agreed as part of the negotiations is the right of EU nationals to live and work in the UK. Some Premier League clubs might be affected more than others if we end up with a “hard Brexit”.

To date this season, 38% of Premier League appearances have been by non-UK EU nationals. But there is a massive variation by club. Chelsea top the list with 74%, followed by Manchester City with 59%, and then ourselves with 57%. On the face of it, when I look at our squad I find it hard to reconcile these figures, but according to http://www.football.london, that is the case. On the other hand, our opponents this weekend, Hull, would potentially be the least affected, as, along with Burnley, only 5% of appearances have been by non-UK EU nationals. The numbers may appear higher than one might expect, but a number of players have EU dual nationality e.g. Luiz (Chelsea) Brazilian / Portuguese, and in time these may be affected. To be honest, I can’t see it being an issue, but some believe it might. Again, we’ll just have to wait and see.

With just nine games of the season to go Hull are in trouble. They have won just six of their 29 games, and are currently three points adrift of safety. In addition they have the worst goal difference in the league (-32). It all looked so different for them with victories in their first two games of the season (against defending champions Leicester, and then away at Swansea), meaning they were joint top of the league at that early stage. But since then they have only recorded four further wins, all at home (to Southampton, Bournemouth, Liverpool and Swansea). Like ourselves they have drawn 6 games, so the only difference between West Ham and Hull this season is that we have won three more games than them, and lost three fewer. So, if we had lost three of the games that we won (think back, it could have easily happened!), then we would be where they are now!

Some say we have enough points in the bag already, but defeat in this game would leave us just six points (two wins) ahead of Hull who will still be in the bottom three. With games running out, we probably are OK already, but we need a win or two to be absolutely certain, and victory would be a timely boost. Defeat would mean four losses in a row, and no win for more than two months, hardly good news for the manager in discussions with the board regarding his future.

And finally, as a long term advocate of video assistant referees, I was pleased with the successful use of technology (as part of the official trial of its use), in the Spain victory over France in the international friendly in Paris this week. Firstly, Griezmann scored a goal for France which was offside, but the linesman didn’t raise his flag. The goal was disallowed by the video assistant who could see clearly that he was offside. Secondly, the reverse happened, as Spain’s second goal was flagged for offside (wrongly as seen on video), and the goal was awarded quite correctly. Video technology detractors are worried about the potential effect on the flow of the game, but both decisions were made in an instant and didn’t affect the flow whatsoever. What is more, two incorrect decisions which would have had an important effect on the result of the game were overturned. FIFA are considering the introduction of video technology in time for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. It can’t come soon enough in the Premier League in my opinion. How many additional points might we have gained in the last two or three seasons if it had been in use?