West Ham’s Not Yet Settled Squad and the Homegrown Player Dilemma

With the season starting before the transfer window closes, West Ham have a few extra weeks to get their squad in order.

It seems an oddity to me that the transfer window stays open for a further two weeks after the season has started.  It would be far tidier if they slammed it shut on the eve of the new season so that all of our predictions could be based on the precise knowledge of which players are in each particular team’s squad.  A last minute sensational rabbit out of the hat signing or a bewildering ‘too good an offer to refuse’ departure could well define the season for some clubs, including our own.

As it is, clubs have until the day after the window closes on 31 August to name their twenty five man squads, which, of course, must include eight homegrown players; or to put it another way can only have seventeen foreign players.  The make-up of the actual West Ham squad for the start of the 2017/18 remains pure speculation but, for the sake of argument, I will use that currently listed on Wikipedia (as at 7 August 2017) with the names of the homegrown players underlined:

Reid, Cresswell, Zabaleta, Feghouli, Kouyaté, Carroll, Lanzini, Snodgrass, Adrián, Obiang, Sakho, Noble, Hernández, Collins, Ayew, Ogbonna, Byram, Fonte, Hart, Masuaku, Antonio, Fernandes, Arnautović and Hakšabanović

The Homegrown rule is an odd one as for a player to be qualify he must, regardless of nationality have been registered with any club affiliated to the Football Association or the Welsh FA for a period of three seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday.  According to my interpretation of the rule the above squad (which, by the way, only includes twenty four players) has just seven that qualify as homegrown.  More interestingly, many supporters preferred starting eleven would probably include just one or two homegrown players.

We can reasonably expect there to be changes to the squad before the end of the month with the potential (fingers crossed) departures of Feghouli and Snodgrass, leaving a few extra places available in a squad that remains thin in all key areas; striker, central midfield and centre back.  There have been a few potential recruits linked (Gray, Wilshire) that would qualify as homegrown but the majority of the names mentioned continue to be johnny foreigners. Any shortfall would need to be made up by including at least one qualifying academy player in the named squad, even though technically any number of players under twenty one can be included in the squad without actually being part of the named twenty five.


The signing of Sead Hakšabanović was a surprise addition to the ranks this week and has all the hallmarks of a Tony Henry signing.  Hakšabanović has only recently turned eighteen but has almost fifty appearances under his belt in the top tier of the Swedish league, as well as being a full international for Montenegro.  An attacking midfielder he could, in theory, provide backup to Manuel Lanzini but time will tell whether his youth will once again prove a barrier to selection by manager Slaven Bilic.


Just a few days to go before the 26th Premier League season gets underway.  For the first time there will be three south coast clubs in the competition (it is probably the first time ever in the top flight).  There will be five London clubs, three from the Midlands, five from the North West, one each from Wales and the North East plus two others (Watford and Huddersfield).  In total only nine of the twenty teams are from north of Watford (Professor Google assures me that Swansea is slightly south of Watford) and so the need to travel well to cold and desolate northern wastelands is not as acute as it has been in previous seasons.

For amusement only, here is a selection of cumulative all-time statistics from West Ham’s previous twenty one seasons in the Premier League.

10th in Number of Victories (265; 1st = Manchester United, 604)
3rd in Number of Defeats (332; Everton, 336)
8th in Number of Draws (209; Everton, 277)
10th in Goals Scored (964; Manchester United, 1856)
4th in Goals Conceded (1004; Tottenham, 1231)
12th in Number of Own Goals (32; Everton, 47)
6th in Number of Red Cards (69; Everton, 86)
7th in Number of Yellow Cards (1321; Chelsea, 1536)
10th in Number of Clean Sheets (216; Manchester United, 418)
1st in Number of Penalties Saved (13)
2nd in Clearances Off The Line (63; Sunderland, 66)

West Ham: Friendly Mis-Fire and the Debt Smokescreen

West Ham fail to impress in what turns out to be an attack versus defence friendly in Iceland.

Is the gulf in class between West Ham and Manchester City greater or less than that between ourselves and FC Altona 93?  This thought occurred to me while watching the Hammer’s struggle in their final pre-season friendly yesterday.  Whereas the German fourth division side had been able to produce a spirited display to make a game of it in Hamburg our attempts to compete against City in Reykjavik were disturbingly feeble in comparison.

While I can understand the argument that results do not matter in these friendly matches surely there is some expectation or benefit required from them; or else what is the point?  In what turned out to be an exhibition of attack versus defence what did we learn other than confirmation that there is a tower block of next levels between West Ham and the Premier League elite clubs?   Was the game an essential step in building fitness?  Did we witness tactical experimentation or fine tuning in readiness for next week’s main event?  From what I saw I don’t believe so!

To me our performance had all the hallmarks of so many of last season’s disappointments.  An inability to keep possession for more than two or three passes, minimal movement off the ball, a first instinct to go sideways or backwards, a side that neither attacks nor defends as a unit and players prone to individual errors.

I may be paraphrasing manager Slaven Bilic but I got the impression from his comments that were it not for individual errors then everything would have been alright.  If nothing else changes I think we are in for a mostly unremarkable season, not necessarily a struggle, but where scraping into the top ten would be a reasonable achievement.  There may be an upgrade on personnel in the squad but in terms of the basics of formation, fitness and tactics there continues to be cause for concern.

In mitigation the team was without such influential players as Manuel Lanzini, Michail Antonio and Winston Reid and we were up against a side that traditionally has a storming start to the season.  There was even a harshly disallowed goal from Andre Ayew and, at the final whistle, we had fared no worse than Real Madrid or Tottenham against the same opposition.

If there were positives to be taken it was in the second half performances of Javier Hernandez and Declan Rice.  Hernandez gave an enthusiastic display and looks to have energy, pace and mobility.  We can only hope that Little Pea doesn’t eventually get a little pee’d off by a lack of service and support from his team-mates.  Rice looks a very assured player for one so young but I’m not convinced of the wisdom of using him in midfield; better to see how he would have acquitted himself in his preferred central defensive position.  It could be construed as typical Bilic thinking that centre back and defensive midfield are inter-changeable activities.

An honourable mention also to Joe Hart, not only for some smart saves but also for not shutting up during the whole game in an attempt to organise the wayward defenders in front of him.

It was strange to see two players brought on as 85th minute substitutes in a friendly game but at least wasting a little time may have contributed to keeping the score almost respectable.


There was a spirited defence of the Board and the debt position in some quarters during the last week.  I do not doubt that the debt exists but the club’s position on it seems to be rather selective depending on what point they are trying make at the time.  It reminds me of  those unfathomable logic problems with two doors (one leading to certain death and one to freedom) that are protected by two guards; one who can only tell the truth and one who always lies.  You are only allowed to ask one question.

So, David is it true that you have done a magnificent job in eliminating external debt by replacing it with loans from yourselves while the underlying value of the club appreciates spectacularly?  Or is the fact that you have been unable to reduce the debt (which there is no incentive to do in any case) a reason why the club cannot invest more into new players?

I’m not particularly a Board basher but there has tended to be a disconnect between words and actions from the Chairmen that has led to a sense of mistrust or disbelief on their ambitions for the club.  In a period of extreme revenue growth there is an understandable sense of frustration that our transfer activity, although widely acclaimed (over hyped even), has been relatively modest.  Clearly there is more to football club finances than headline grabbing transfer fees but supporters have yet to see a level of  investment action that matches the fine words of next level ambitions.

10 Man West Ham und die Bananen-skinnen friendly

If goals equal entertainment then an entertaining yet pointless run out against fourth tier German minnows.

A mandatory clause in the Headline Writer’s Code states that whenever a team has a player sent-off then a reference has to be made ’10 Man’ in the article’s heading; even if that dismissal occurs in the third minute of added time or in a meaningless friendly.

It is, of course, highly unusual for anyone to receive a red card in a friendly game where standard practice is to ask the respective manager to replace the offending player.   It requires a particularly officious and over-sensitive referee mit einem sehr kleinen bratwurst to disrupt a friendly game simply for a spot of perceived dissent.  Mind you, it did seem rather out of character for Winston and hopefully it was not a symptom of any deeper attitude problem as a result of recent transfer speculation.

It would be interesting to know the background to how and why this game was arranged as it all seemed somewhat unnecessary with the attitude and effort of the West Ham players suggesting that they weren’t really very bothered.  It offered no contribution to building fitness and there was no cunning tactical experimentation from what I could tell.

The game saw a typically slow start by the Hammers and all three of the conceded goals were sloppy and would have been easily preventable with better organisation.  There were good strikes by Toni Martinez and Andre Ayew even though both were the result of long balls played hopefully forward.  There was, however, a little late encouragement with a lively cameo from Javier Hernandez who really should have scored at least once.

That Altona 93 are twinned with Dulwich Hamlet FC says a lot about their pedigree and aspirations.  They are a regional fourth tier club in the German league system which presents a much tougher road to the top flight than for an equivalent League 2 side in England.  A friendly game or not, a Premier League side should easily have enough of the basic skills and nous to ease past such opposition.  If there was no intention to try why play the game in the first place?  The club have even erased all evidence of the game from the first team fixtures list on the official website.

It was disappointing to learn that two of the young players who had featured prominently in pre-season had been packed off on loan to Bolton Wanderers.  Reece Burke and Josh Cullen will now embark on their third season of loan spells away from the club.  Both have performed well in previous loans as regular starters which is not a common an occurrence for many of the youngsters that West Ham loan out, most of whom end up with bench warming duties and putting the cones out in training.  At least these are not season long loans which means, I believe, that they can be recalled at any time; or in the extreme would be available to return in the January window.    The pattern of using young players in pre-season games and then farming them out is a repeat from previous seasons and a strategy that I really don’t understand.

The pre-season jamboree now moves on to Iceland and will be interesting to look out for Björgólfur Guðmundsson and Eggy Magnússon in the crowd at the Laugardalsvöllur stadium on Friday; that is if they aren’t in prison and can afford a ticket.  My hope is that Manchester City take it easy on us and that we can avoid a confidence sapping drubbing before the real business gets underway the following weekend.

Betting on a West Ham Title Win: What Are The Chances?

Can West Ham win the Premier League? What are the chances? We take a look at some of the bets being offered by bookmakers for the forthcoming season.

Despite our chairman’s belief that anything can happen we all know that the chances of West Ham winning the Premier League are very close to non-existent. Despite being an optimist when it comes to our team, I know that it would take a miracle for us to emulate the feat of Leicester the season before last. That was a one-off 5000-1 unbelievable occurrence that is never likely to be repeated.

Bookmakers don’t get a lot wrong, and I’ve been looking through the odds quoted by a couple of dozen leading firms as to who will win the title this season. Despite some small variations there is a great deal of consistency in what is being offered. After Leicester’s unlikely success the quoted odds are not really very realistic for the teams outside the elite six, and the generosity of years gone by has been replaced by some ridiculously short figures, when we all know that there are only six teams that can possibly come out on top. I’m surprised that they don’t try to tempt punters to waste their money with figures of at least 10,000/1 or more, which would reflect the likely chances of the “bottom” 13 or 14 teams winning the league.

Manchester City are the clear favourites with every single firm that I looked at. The odds quoted are shorter than 2/1 in every case, which, for a competition of 38 matches is a very short price. Chelsea and Manchester United are vying for second favouritism with both being offered between 3/1 and 4/1 to win. Tottenham come next at much longer odds of between 8/1 and 10/1, with Arsenal and Liverpool each being quoted between 11/1 and 14/1.

Not surprisingly, these are the only six teams given any realistic chance of lifting the title by the bookmakers. Everton are seventh favourites at odds of around 80/1, and then we are in a band of four clubs (along with Leicester, Southampton and Newcastle) being offered at anything between 200/1 and 500/1. The shortest odds I saw for West Ham were 250/1, although if you want to have a fun bet on our team you can shop around and get around 500/1 from a number of firms. Even at those odds, not very realistic!

You can get odds of 1000/1 upwards for the remaining nine teams in the league, with the longest prices that I saw being Burnley and Huddersfield at 3000/1.

If you believe that we can finish in the top four (we did come fairly close the season before last, after all), the odds vary between 25/1 and 80/1, so once again, shop around if you want to place a bet. The elite six are all quoted at around evens or much shorter for a top four place. The odds on us finishing in the top six are generally around 10/1 to 12/1, although I have seen 20/1 quoted, and if you want to bet on us finishing in the top half of the table (top 10), the odds vary between even money and 6/4. Betway quote odds on finishing top of the Premier League if the “big 7” teams are excluded, of 5/1, and this is perhaps the best bet I’ve seen offered.

You can get up to 200/1 on us finishing as the top London club, and up to 500/1 on us topping the Premier League on Christmas Day. Our new signing, Chicarito, is quoted at odds up to 40/1 to finish as the Premier League’s leading goalscorer.

For any real pessimists out there (and you do see some on various social media sites) you can get odds of 10/1 on us being relegated, or even up to 50/1 on us finishing at the very bottom of the league!

Of course, as all of us long standing West Ham fans know, you never really know what to expect of our team, so betting on them can be a precarious business because of their unpredictability. But if you like a bet on a one-off match, which is my personal preference when betting on West Ham, then you can get up to 12/1 on us winning our opening day fixture at Old Trafford, or 4/1 on a draw. For me, these are value bets in comparison to those on offer for the season as a whole.