Oh What Fun It Is To See West Ham Win Away

Hoping that the bells will be jingling as the Hammers head south to Bournemouth

It’s a Boxing Day six-pointer at the Vitality Stadium this afternoon as West Ham look to bounce back from a poor performance and result against Newcastle while Bournemouth seek to put an end to a run of three straight defeats. At least one of these two sides is likely to be starting the new year in the relegation places.

West Ham continue to struggle with the dilemma of keeping it tight at the back while looking to be more adventurous going forward – the result of obvious deficiencies in the centre of midfield and the absence of effective lone striker. Pedro Obiang can do a decent job in breaking up play but neither Mark Noble (who is probably missing anyway) or Cheikhou Kouyate are capable of providing the link between defence and attack. Up front Michail Antonio is great at being a nuisance to ball playing defenders but he does not have the positional sense to add consistent goal threat to his game. Of the other attacking options it is Diafra Sakho who is the best fit for the system played but there are persistent doubts over his attitude.

At least Manuel Lanzini is set to return to add creativity and with Marko Arnautovic suddenly looking a very good player there should be enough quality to upset a Bournemouth defence that often looks rather accident prone.

I am a big fan of Eddie Howe but he has limited resources to play with at the best of times and at the moment he has a growing injured list. Both of his former Hammers, Jermaine Defoe and Junior Stanislas, are reported to be missing out this afternoon.

Today’s referee is Stuart Atwell from Warwickshire last seen at a West Ham game at Burnley where he sent off Andy Carroll. In thirteen games he has shown just that one red card and forty-one yellow ones.

Merson is predicting a 2-1 home win while Lawro sees yet another 1-1 draw. I am confident of a late Christmas present with a 2-0 West Ham win.

West Ham Aim For Mid-Table With Victory Over Newcastle

West Ham seek to consolidate their recent improvements under David Moyes with victory over struggling Newcastle United.

A new challenge for David Moyes new look West Ham as they face a Newcastle side on the slide that should and must be beaten in order to put some daylight between ourselves and the other relegation threatened clubs. The bonus points earned against Chelsea and Arsenal and the decision to take it easy in the EFL cup quarter final will count for nothing if the Hammers are not able to see off one of our fellow strugglers on home turf.

Earlier in the season confidence was high for the visit to St James Park but in one of  many poor performances West Ham were easily brushed aside by a Matt Ritchie inspired Newcastle. Rafael Bernitez’s side then embarked on something of a mini purple patch only to fall back badly more recently to currently sit firmly in the relegation danger zone, where many predicted is their rightful place given the current squad.

The test for West Ham is to take the newly discovered defensive resilience and add in sufficient goal threat to break down a visiting team who are also likely to defend in numbers – and to do this without the main creative force in the shape of the suspended Manuel Lanzini. It has been a rare occurrence in recent seasons for the Hammers to deliver a dominant home performance, whether at Upton Park or the London Stadium, and today would be an ideal opportunity to put that right.

Head to Head

Despite the overall record against Newcastle falling in our visitor’s favour West Ham have dominated the games in London, winning thirty-one and losing sixteen out of sixty-four encounters. In the last twelve home games the Hammers have won five, lost four and drawn three.

Of the last twelve meetings, home and away, Newcastle have won six to West Ham’s three.

Team News

Lanzini’s suspension adds to the selection problems in midfield where there are also doubts about Michail Antonio, Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate and Edmilson Fernandes. If both Noble and Kouyate are out then it could mean another midfield run-out for Declan Rice although I am still not convince by him as a midfield option. My suspicion is that both Antonio and Kouyate will be available.

With Diafra Sakho continuing to be experiencing reported manager conflicts there could well be a start for Javier Hernandez today to prove he can perform in a Moyes set-up.

For Newcastle, Shelvey is suspended and Mitrovic is absent through injury.

Man in the Middle

Lee Mason from Lancashire is today’s referee. Mason was in charge for the game against Southampton at St Mary’s earlier in the season where he (rightly) sent off Marko Arnautovic and awarded a last minute penalty for a foul by Pablo Zabaleta.
In his twelve games this season he has thirty-three yellow and two red cards to his name.

Predictions

In a rare alignment both Lawro and Merson say 2-0 to the Hammers. It will be interesting to see the shape and game-plan that Moyes employs in these types of games and there is sure to be an element of caution underpinning whatever creativity we can muster without Lanzini. I am hopeful that we have too much for Newcastle to deal with and will plump for three more points in a 2-1 home win.

West Ham versus Newcastle Preview

Can the return fixture against the Barcodes deliver the first of many yuletide presents for West Ham?

West Ham haven’t played all the other teams yet (i.e. Bournemouth) and yet here we are playing the return fixture against the Geordies

Well well well. It’s the 23rd December, Santa is due tomorrow night, and here we are playing a game of football at home in the London Stadium which kicks off at 3.00 pm. This is only the second time we kick off at this traditional time in what will be our ninth home league game of the season. Of course we have already played ten times away from home so the end of this game denotes the half way point of the season. Normally (at least in recent times) this would mean that we have played every other team in the Premier League once. This time it is not the case as we have yet to face Bournemouth, but this is the return fixture against Newcastle.

I don’t believe that at any stage this season the number of home games played has equalled the number of games played away, and it will not be the case until the end of March when, after three consecutive home games in that month, we will have played 32 games split equally between home and away matches. In fact after our away game against Swansea on 3 March the home matches played will once again be three in deficit to the away ones, a situation we found ourselves in at the end of August.

The London Stadium detractors will say that this does not put us at a disadvantage, but the fact remains we have picked up 11 points from the 8 home games played to date, whereas the ten games on our travels have brought us just six points, with last weekend’s win at Stoke our first this season on another ground. Perhaps if the balance had been more equal we might have found ourselves in a healthier position in the league than we hold at the moment? But it cannot be changed now, and if we are still in a relegation fight towards the end of the season, then at least we have the consolation of six out of the final nine fixtures at home.

The 3-0 win at Stoke was another excellent performance to follow up the games at City and at home to London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal. Seven points in a week is a fine haul after our indifferent start to the season, and if we can defeat an out of form Newcastle team this weekend then the table will look even better, and hopefully we can then begin to look upwards as opposed to downwards. After they had played five games this season, losing the first two and then winning three in a row, the Geordies found themselves in an early season Champions League position of fourth. But since then they have won just one of their last thirteen games, and only picked up just six points, with nine defeats. Their poor run has brought them just one point from their last nine games, and leaves them occupying the third relegation slot. But of course we know what sometimes happens when we face a team that hasn’t won a game for so long.

Our upturn in fortunes has coincided with a change of manager and coaching staff, who must take a lot of the credit. Our players are starting to perform with the quality that we know they have, and especially in a defensive sense are looking more organised than we have seen for some time. Players like Arnie, who some are beginning to be compared to Paolo, and Arthur, are almost becoming cult figures in a short space of time. Let’s not get too carried away, but the signs are looking good.

The game at Stoke provided a controversial moment and Lanzini has been charged with diving to deceive the referee to gain a penalty. Perhaps there was an element of truth in this, and he has history, but I agree with our manager who doesn’t believe it was clear cut. Anybody who has seen Jesus of Manchester City with his outrageous dive in the Manchester derby, and also Dele Alli and Zaha on occasions this season, will surely believe that the Lanzini “dive” was not in the same league. But have any of those been charged? Frankly it is scandalous that we are being penalised when they are not. Ironically I thought that Lanzini was not having the best of times even in our recent good run, but his performance at Stoke showed him coming back to his best, and it is unfortunate that he now has to miss out for a couple of matches.

Based upon recent form, the 11/10 odds on us to beat Newcastle looks like a licence to print money. But of course betting on West Ham can be a precarious business and you never know for sure. However I am confident that we can continue our recent excellent league form and push further up the table with a comfortable victory. And now we are out of the Carabao Cup we can concentrate on the league and the FA Cup!

West Ham To Add To Weary Wenger’s Woes

Who wants it most as West Ham swagger into EFL Cup against the jittery Gunners?

A comfortable league position topped with the occasional exciting cup run is often cited as the extent of many West Ham supporter’s hopes and expectations. If the current league position was just a little more healthy then perhaps we could expect to go into this game all guns blazing, in the hope of securing a semi final berth in this season’s EFL cup competition. As it is, with the hoped for revival in its infancy and with a run of league games that we would hope to win coming thick and fast during the festive season, then there is likely to be a hint of caution in the air.

On the other hand, something similar might be said for tonight’s hosts and opponents Arsenal. In terms of their own season this competition is a relatively low priority, well behind scrambling a customary (but increasingly difficult and hotly contested) fourth place finish and winning the Europa League final; a feat which is arguably their best route into next season’s Champion’s League. Arsene Wenger will have already scribbled a reminder onto his post match excuse pad that his side have to play again, against Liverpool, on Friday night as one of the potential reasons for a tame and lack-lustre display against the Hammers.

However, if Wenger fires up his spreadsheet showing the time since each team’s last match he will notice that the Hammer’s have had one hour less to prepare for tonight’s clash due to the power failure at Stoke on Saturday night. Such small margins have always been critical in his eyes. The unconfirmed reports of the Frenchman scuttling away from the Britannia Stadium before kick-off with a pair of wire cutters may be true after all.

Today’s game will be just the third meeting between the two clubs in the League Cup’s fifty year plus history with the honours standing even at one apiece. West Ham won 3-1 (Hurst 2, Peters) at Highbury in a third round tie in 1966 while the Gunners got the better of West Ham by 2-1 (Abou) in a fifth round clash at Upton Park in 1998.

There are sure to be a raft of changes by both sides for the game with the usual bench-warmers getting a rare start. The one West Ham player probably in need of a decent rest is Pablo Zabaleta although options in the right back/ wing back position remain limited.  For the other side the moody Walcott has often proved a thorn in the Hammer’s side in an otherwise disappointing career.

It would be nice to think that David Moyes and his team will go all out for the win. There is nothing formidable about the current Arsenal side even though our display against them in the league fixture, where we showed them an unnecessary level of respect, was the least impressive in our recent run. I am banking on the game meaning more to us than it does to Arsenal giving just the right level of impetus to put the Hammers through to the next round.

West Ham Wizard To Spell Disaster For Potters?

Revitalised West Ham attempt to build on recent momentum by seeing off struggling Stoke. Can the resurgent Marko Arnautovic get one over on his former employers?

It is difficult to believe that the West Ham team we have seen over the course of the last three games is made up of the same players that were stumbling around the park during the earlier part of the season.  This applies to no-one more than Marko Arnautovic who returns to his old Potteries stomping ground on Saturday to face Stoke City.  That Arnautovic arrived at the London Stadium as West Ham’s record signing (with a certain level of enthusiasm and something to prove I imagine) and so quickly fell into the malaise surrounding the club  says much about the previous regime.  To see him still putting in the yards and chasing down the ball in the closing stages of Wednesday’s game against Arsenal was eye-opening.  A player returning to his old club often proves to be influential and Arnie will be keen to show his former supporters that as far as performances are concerned that he is definitely back!

Having come out of Premier League equivalent of the group of death with four more points than expected, we are nicely positioned use the new found confidence as a springboard to challenge Manchester City’s record of fifteen consecutive wins.  On a more realistic note, what is now required is to preserve this defensive resilience while at the same time overlaying better ball retention and greater goal threat.  In a run of games where West Ham come up against teams that they should, and must, be capable of beating it is crucial  to collect the points that will secure a more comfortable league position.  The next six or so matches will be very revealing as to where the club’s medium term fortunes lie!

Stoke City are one of a group of ten Premier League clubs who will be looking downwards rather than up.  They have had the look of doom about them in recent weeks and it would be no surprise if Mark Hughes receives a P45 in his Christmas stocking to become the latest in the line of managerial casualties.

Head to Head

This has been an evenly contested fixture in history with West Ham leading the victory stakes by thirty-four to thirty-three with twenty-five draws.  Recent form, however, favours Stoke who have won four of the last twelve to West Ham’s two.

On the road, Stoke is just edging close enough to the north-west for West Ham’s travel sickness curse to kick in.  The Hammers can only boast thirteen victories in forty-six visits although five of these have these have come in the last twelve with the last success in March 2013 when Jack Collison scored the only goal of the game.

Team News

Winston Reid is suspended and it will be a choice between James Collins and Declan Rice as his replacement.  I can see Collins getting the nod against a side who still rely significantly on height in terms of goal threat.

There must be a strong argument to otherwise stick with the side that started against Arsenal even though it may be limiting in the desire to impose greater attacking intent into the game.  Assuming the keeper, back five (apart from Reid) and Pedro Obiang, as defensive shield, remain the same then Moyes has to craft an offensive threat out of the Arsenal starters plus Javier Hernandez and Cheikhou Kouyate (if fit). Moyes seemed to favour the look of Kouyate as nuisance value before his injury but this responsibility may now have passed to Michail Antonio and Arnautovic.  Getting Manuel Lanzinin into more useful possession will be vital and the attacking four will need to work on  improving both with and without the ball.

Stoke may be without Kurt Zouma but probably have another donkey waiting in reserve. Martins Indi remains sidelined but former Hammer Glen Johnson could return.

Man in The Middle

A rare sighting at a West Ham game of referee Graham Scott from Oxfordshire.    Scott was last seen at the away win against Southampton in February 2017.  This season he has taken charge of twelve games awarding twenty-six yellow cards and one red.

Predictions

The two TV pundits are sticking to form for this one with Merson betting against West Ham with a 1-0 defeat and Lawro staying firmly on the fence with his third 1-1 prediction in a row.  This game is going to provide a lot of pointers as to how West Ham will approach these can-win games under Moyes and I will keep the faith and back him to pick up his first away League points in an Arnautovic inspired 2-0 win.

Matchday: West Ham Too Hot For Gunners To Handle?

Can West Ham build on recent momentum against Wenger’s wobblers to pull off another derby victory?

With the race for Premier League title now down to a one-horse race, all the excitement (at least in the media) will be focused on the thrilling battle for fourth place.  Today’s visitors, formerly Woolwich Arsenal, subsequently changed to just plain Arsenal could easily re-brand themselves as Fourth Placed Arsenal given their record over recent seasons.  The one-time “Invincibles” are without a title since 2004 and for all of Wenger’s astuteness in the transfer market and his attack minded credentials has never been able to reproduce the defensive efficiency provided by the bulldog backbone of Tony Adams and Co.

As things stand there is a bigger gap between Arsenal and Manchester City than there is between ourselves and the Gunners; and West Ham will be looking to build on their recent upturn in fortunes to close that gap even further.  It will be no surprise if tonight’s game follows a similar pattern to the one against Chelsea as Arsenal attempt to weave intricate patterns through the middle of a hopefully disciplined Hammers backline – but without any real menace until they bring on Giroud for the final ten minutes.  My biggest concern for a breach, however, is how well pirouetting Arthur Masuaku deals with the forward runs of Bellerin.

The Arsenal defence was all Keystone Cops against Southampton at the weekend and they looked so vulnerable that is was a surprise that the Saints did not have the match sewn up by half-time.  The dilemma for Moyes will be how to put the visitors under pressure and exploit that vulnerability while at the same time protecting against Arsenal’s quick breaks, something they continue to excel at.  Recent West Ham performances have given supporters a great deal of encouragement but it is difficult to know whether the new found character would stay strong if an early goal were conceded.  For that reason, I suspect that caution will be the watchword as the Hammers go in search of more bonus points in support of their survival plan.

Head to Head

The record against Arsenal is not one of West Ham’s better returns.  Of the 137 games played the Hammers have won thirty four but lost sixty three.  Of the last twelve encounters, the 2-0 victory in August 2015 is the only West Ham win to Arsenal’s ten.

Strangely the Hammers have won more games away against Arsenal than they have at home.  The last West Ham win was in November 2006 courtesy of a Marlon Harewood strike.  That was the only success in the last twelve home games to go with eight defeats and three draws.  West Ham have only won fourteen of sixty-eight home fixtures against the Gunners.

Team News

It would be a huge surprise if Moyes made any changes from the side that started so well against Chelsea, relying again on Michail Antonio and Marko Arnautovic to unsettle the visitor’s defence (at least until they tire!)

Arsenal are without Ramsey, Mustafi and Cazorla and Wenger may be tempted to shuffle his dodgy defensive pack.  Whatever else happens there will always be threat potential if Sanchez, Ozil and Lacazette are at the top of their game.

Man in The Middle

Another first of the season as we welcome Jonathan Moss from West Yorkshire to the London Stadium.  West Ham came across Moss twice last term in a home defeat by Southampton and an away draw at Old Trafford.  In fourteen matches this season he has shown forty-two yellows and one red card.

Predictions

Former Gunner Paul Merson is repeating his weekend forecast of a 1-3 defeat for the Hammers while Lawro is once again playing safe with a 1-1 draw.  Personally I think there is another perfect opportunity to pull off a surprise tonight and leave Wenger moaning about how his players were tired and cold.  In a patient and stealthy game I can see West Ham nabbing a 2-1 win.

West Ham v Arsenal Preview 13 December 2017

Can West Ham use the unexpected victory over the champions as a springboard for another win against a top six side when Arsenal visit the London Stadium tonight?

Once again I am able to use my analogy from Forrest Gump that West Ham are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. The win against champions Chelsea on Saturday was unexpected and gave us a much-needed three points in our efforts to climb the table. Nevertheless we are still in the bottom three, and need to continue to demonstrate a consistency of effort and performance to retain the excellent backing from the fans. The atmosphere generated in the London Stadium once again disproved the nonsensical argument that the venue can be compared to a library. All football grounds can be like that at times when the home team are not doing well. Yes, it is not an ideal stadium at the present time and we can hope that structural changes at some stage in the future can make it better. For the time being we have to live with it and not keep harping back to Upton Park. We are not going back. For the record I love the stadium and speak to many others who feel likewise, but until we win more games at home then there will always be doubters.

With three points for a win and just one for a draw, then even if we remained unbeaten and managed a draw in each of the Chelsea and Arsenal games this week, we wouldn’t have been in as good a position as winning one and losing one. And having won the first then hopefully we can do it again in the second against the odds.

Recent history of this fixture suggests that it won’t be an easy task to say the least. Of course we won on their ground in the opening game of the 2015-16 season when Reece Oxford famously kept Ozil in his pocket, but that followed ten consecutive defeats at the hands of the Gunners. The last time we beat them at home was when Marlon Harewood scored a late winner in 2006 which sparked an interesting confrontation between Pardew and Wenger. The Arsenal manager seemed to take offence at our manager’s celebrations, a situation which has reared its head this week following accusations of over-celebration by City players when they won the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Sunday.

We now have 13 points from 16 games, which means that even a win tonight would still not bring us up to the one point per game average that is the absolute minimum needed to keep us in with a chance of avoiding the drop. But I am looking forward to more than that.

I will repeat the run of 10 league games following Arsenal tonight to highlight the opportunity that we have to significantly improve our position by 10 February. It would be good if we could collect an average of somewhere between 1.5 and 2 points a game in these fixtures. If we could achieve this we will be going a long way towards allaying relegation fears.  (A) v Stoke, (H) v Newcastle, (A) v Bournemouth, (H) v West Brom, (A) v Tottenham, (A) v Huddersfield, (H) v Bournemouth, (H) v Palace, (A) v Brighton, and (H) v Watford, presents a realistic opportunity (on paper) to start to climb the table. Failure to do so will bring a nervous run-in to the season.

It is pleasing to see that the way-over-the-top negative reaction to the appointment of David Moyes has died down considerably. There is still a long way to go of course, but the work ethic and organisation he (and his staff) has introduced are clearly evident in recent games. He has a good record and must be given the opportunity to make an impact. Rome wasn’t built in a day and I believe that he realises the task ahead and is prioritising what is necessary to achieve improvement. One small criticism I would level against him in the Chelsea game was his inability to realise that Antonio was out on his feet long before he was substituted.

Once again the bookmakers have virtually written off our chances but if you believe that there is a chance that we will cause another upset you can get around 9/2 on a West Ham win. Personally I would take a draw from this game, but hope of course for a second victory in five days. Despite being a top six side, Arsenal are not quite the team that they once were, and are eminently beatable. One statistic that surprised me was that the Gunners are fourth in the table of goals conceded in 2017, showing that their once renowned defence can be breached. We certainly don’t want a repeat of the 5-1 defeat that we suffered here last season.

The much under-rated Pedro Obiang was in my opinion one of the reasons that we kept a world class player like Hazard quiet at the weekend, and I don’t believe that he gets the credit he deserves for this unfashionable role. I would expect him to be deployed in similar fashion against Ozil, or perhaps Sanchez tonight. Arnautavic and Masuaku were rightly singled out for excellent games, but it really was a whole team performance. Masuaku is really becoming a bit a bit of a revelation in an attacking sense, and providing he doesn’t try his wonderful tricks in vulnerable areas of the pitch then he can become a major creator for us going forward. I would expect Hernandez to play a part now that he appears to have recovered, and Carroll does have a very good record of scoring against Arsenal as witnessed in the 3-3 draw a couple of seasons ago, and even in his Newcastle days.

Adrian deserves his chance to continue between the sticks, but I cannot agree with the vilification of Hart that I read. Hopefully the competition between the two keepers will spur them both on to produce top class performances. Cresswell had one of his best games for ages at the weekend, and the unlikely threesome when he combined with Reid and Ogbonna, who both performed excellently, is likely to be the selection for this game. Noble performed admirably, and Lanzini, whilst not being at the top of his game at the moment, is still our best hope of unlocking opposition defences. But whoever is selected (and I don’t expect many changes) let us hope for another stirring game and three more points.