Arnie Is Different Gravy As Yorkshire Puddings Are Battered

Five Takeaways As West Ham Inflict a Heavy Home Defeat on Huddersfield Town

Current Form Resurgence

At the risk of cherry picking statistics in order to prove a particular point, West Ham’s form over the past nine games gives every reason for supporters to breathe a little easier right now.  Disregarding David Moyes’ first three games in charge, as an opportunity to get his feet under the table, the Hammers have since taken fifteen points from nine games; a return that if repeated for the remainder of the season would deliver a comfortable fifty-five points.  At the same time, the goal difference (although still in debit) is starting to look much more reasonable in comparison with the rest of the relegation threatened pack.  Three points are welcome at any time but on Saturday there was something of a recent rarity where victory was backed up with a fine dominant performance that demonstrated some of the most enterprising football witnessed for some time.

Team Selection Vindicated

It would be preposterous to question team selection following such an emphatic win but there was plenty of online negativity when the lineup was first announced; mainly centred on a defensive looking midfield and the absence of a recognised striker.  The central midfield continues to be a problem area for West Ham and putting three bodies in it was a belt and braces solution for the respective shortcomings of the three individuals involved.  In the context of the game it worked very well with Mark Noble getting more freedom and Cheikhou Kouyate being able to make himself a nuisance (Fellaini style without the elbows) in more forward positions.  The one player who was unlucky to miss out was Declan Rice but I suspect that the management are keen to manage the youngster’s game time.  I do not really see Rice as a midfield alternative and, for me, it would have been a toss-up between him and Aaron Cresswell for the final back three berth.  Cresswell is doing OK but his lack of stature is a vulnerability that more wily opponents than Huddersfield will seek to exploit.

False Strikers

There has been a lot of talk about West Ham’s strikers and their respective attributes with the probability that none of the existing crop is a good fit to the way that Moyes wants to play.  Despite stating at his press conference that he didn’t want to lose any of his four main strikers (and that he wasn’t looking for any new ones) it was interesting that he plumped for Marko Arnautovic in the striking role for Saturday’s game, just as he had previously shown a preference to use Michail Antonio for that task in earlier games.  Arnautovic revelled in his new found freedom and gave the Huddersfield defence a torrid time.  It was a match winning performance and his transformation over recent weeks has been a revelation.  He has a reputation for being moody and we must hope that he can continue to be motivated to show was a superb player he can be.  The link up play between himself and Manuel Lanzini was a joy and particularly effective when the team is looking to break quickly.  How this might translate against a team coming to the London Stadium to defend is another question altogether.

Team Effort

Understandably it was Arnautovic and Lanzini who received the plaudits following the weekend’s game but this was truly a tremendous all-round team effort.  I don’t think any player let the side down although one or two could have done better before Lolley popped up to net with his excellent equaliser. It has become fashionable in recent weeks to target the performances of Kouyate and Pedro Obiang for any deficiencies in West Ham’s play; and although neither of them has been at the top of their game they haven’t played as consistently poorly as some have claimed.  One of the many player ratings I saw over the weekend (I think it was from Claret & Hugh) singled out Kouyate as the worst performing Hammer, this despite his telling involvement in three of the Hammer’s four goals.  It is probably time to get off the bandwagon when you can no longer be objective.

The West Ham Enigma

As West Ham fans our long experience of false dawns make us suspicious and ensures that we do not get carried away too easily by a few good results.  However, we can be quietly encouraged by the improved performances that Moyes and the coaching team have managed to get from the players in a relatively short space of time.  Naysayers will still point to cup performances as a reason to criticise but as much as we all love a cup run the club will see preserving Premier League status as the much bigger (if not exclusive) priority.  Do you think that if West Ham won the FA Cup but were relegated the manager would still be in a job come the summer?   So despite the recent turnaround in form the official stance from all concerned or associated with the club is to emphasise that there is still much work to be done before we can think of ourselves as safe.  I am certain, however, that the more agreeable league position will put a different complexion on transfer window dealings, where signings can be made not just through panic but with longer term improvement in mind.

Huddersfield 1 West Ham 4

Another comfortable away win for the Hammers as we move up the table

Do you remember just a few short weeks ago when West Ham appointed David Moyes as the new manager to replace the much loved, but tactically inept Slaven Bilic? Social media sites went into overdrive even though the departing boss was not getting results, the team were performing poorly, there was no apparent plan, and the new man was the fourth most successful Premier League manager of all time. I guess it says more about social media than anything else. The win this weekend meant that Moyes became just the fourth manager to win 200 league matches (behind Ferguson, Wenger and Redknapp). And we were even the first game on Match of the Day! We are now unbeaten in five games and have moved five points away from the drop zone and sit in eleventh place.

The transformation has been astonishing in such a short space of time. I’m not getting carried away and, of course, there is still a long way to go, but with exactly the same players we are now in a much healthier position. How many people would have predicted that we would collect eight points from the last four away fixtures at Bournemouth, Stoke, Tottenham and Huddersfield? (We had only previously picked up eight points in our previous 15 fixtures on our travels!) We should have had ten but for the ridiculous refereeing of Bobby Madley that cost us two points. Even the point at Tottenham, although fortunate in some respects, could have been three if our defensive resilience had lasted just a few more minutes. How many fans would have thought that when he got sent off at Southampton, Marco Arnautavic would be such an influential player, so much so that a little over half way into the season he is already odds-on favourite to be the Hammer of the Year next May? And how pleased am I that I put him into my Fantasy Football team prior to the Huddersfield game?

The win against Huddersfield once again made nonsense of the importance of possession statistics. With little over one-third of the ball, and a poorer pass completion rate, we dominated the game in the areas where it mattered and comfortably won the match. It took a superb goal from the home side to wipe out Mark Noble’s opener, but then Arnie scored just eleven seconds into the second half, before setting up Lanzini for two further goals. The creative partnership between Arnie and our diminutive Argentinian was a delight. Huddersfield had only previously been beaten at home by Man City, Chelsea and Tottenham, which shows the difficulty that we faced and how impressive was our performance.

We now need to push on in the forthcoming games and consolidate our mid-table position, looking upwards and not downwards. Despite much speculation nothing has happened yet in the transfer window, but we still need a couple of quality players to give a better balance to the squad. It remains to be seen if the right players can be identified and persuaded to join us. And more to the point the owners need to make the finance available to ensure this happens. But I am more confident with our new managerial / coaching regime that we can move further up the table. However, there is still a long way to go to achieve the aspirations that the owners voiced when we moved into our new stadium.

Relegation Scrapping As West Ham Take On Huddersfield

Wheear ‘ast tha bin sin’ ah saw thee? West Ham’s first league visit to Huddersfield since 1971.

January has become the twilight zone of the football calendar with the league programme seeming to be an unnecessary interruption to the ongoing frenzy of transfer window speculation.  It is like an unofficial winter break but with clubs continuing to play competitive matches rather than going on a marketing tour of the Far East.  Meanwhile the window is taking its normal wide-eyed course having learned nothing from history that little of note really happens in January and that whatever panic purchases owners are compelled to make quickly transform into a case of buyer’s remorse.

Despite very few deals having been completed anywhere, it doesn’t prevent supporters being ‘appalled’ by West Ham’s apparent lack of activity in bolstering their bare bones (© H. Redknapp Esq) of a squad.  As ever, the majority stories in the media are concocted fantasy but that doesn’t stop social media resonating with reaction to any unfounded rumour that serves to reinforce an individual’s pre-conceived view of the world; whether that is the Board’s lack of ambition, the manager’s lack of imagination or both.  I still maintain that it is not a reluctance to spend money that is the club’s problem but in spending it wisely.  Transfer policy and oversight has left the club with an unbalanced squad and too many highly paid players on long contracts with little or no re-sale value. Players have been bought on reputation without any thought of how they might fit into a system or complement each other.  At least we can hope (until proven otherwise) that David Moyes will take a more targeted approach to player recruitment.

Anyway, back to the mundane matter of today’s game and the Hammers travel ‘oop north’ to take on Huddersfield Town at the Kirklees (or John Smith’s) Stadium.  Huddersfield, along with Brighton and Newcastle, were one of last season’s promoted sides.  All three made encouraging starts to their Premier League campaigns before slipping back into the swamp of the relegation melee that presently involves at least twelve teams.  Having started out with what looked a tight, well organised unit they subsequently started to ship goals badly, to the extent that they are one of only three teams in the division with an inferior goal difference to our own.  Possibly, as a disciple of Jurgen Klopp, manager David Wagner suffers the same defensive blind spot as his mentor.

Head to Head

The last away league meeting between the two clubs was in 1971 at Huddersfield’s old Leeds Road stadium; a game which ended in a 1-0 win for the hosts – The Terriers also won a 5th round FA Cup tie between the two clubs at the same stadium in the same season.  West Ham have played at the Kirklees Stadium on just one occasion when they lost a League Cup first leg tie in 1997.

You need to go back to 1952 to find West Ham’s last league win at Huddersfield when a Fred Kearns goal was enough to secure all two points, as it was at the time.  Goals from Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters did, however, earn the Hammers a fourth round FA Cup win in the relatively more recent history of the 1968/69 season.

Team News

There are fears that Michail Antonio’s injury is worse than originally expected and he joins Winston Reid and Andy Carroll on the injured and doubtful list along with long term absentees Jose Fonte, Edmilson Fernandes and Sam Byram.  More positive news is that all of Marko Arnautovic, Manuel Lanzini, Aaron Cresswell and James Collins are available for selection.

With no new recruits yet to bolster the fragile centre of midfield I expect Moyes to stick to his ‘hard to beat’ format of three/ five at the back where wing backs Pablo Zabaleta and Arthur Masuaku will be joined by three from Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Collins and Cresswell.  Defensive cover in midfield should come from Pedro Obiang and Mark Noble while Lanzini and Arnautovic will be expected to carry whatever threat can be mustered offensively.  The remaining lone striking option of Javier Hernandez or Andre Ayew doesn’t set the pulse racing but one of them will have to do; and most likely until the end of the season if Moyes’ recent comments are to be believed.

Huddersfield have two new recruits in the form of Alex Pritchard and Terence Kongolo at their disposal and either or both may get a first start today.  The Terriers also have a few other players that I have never heard of out with injury.

Man In The Middle

Today’s referee is Jonathan Moss from West Yorkshire who given the short travelling distance to the game can have a bit of a lie-in this morning.  Moss makes a quick return to West Ham duties having been in charge of the draw with Arsenal just a month earlier.  In 19 games this season Moss has shown sixty-eight yellows and three red cards.

Predictions

If there was a prediction competition to predict what Lawro would predict for West Ham games then the safest option would be to go for 1-1 and this week you would not be disappointed.  Sky’s Paul Merson is nowhere near as West Ham bullish and sees Huddersfield coming out as 2-1 victors based on having a respectable home record.  West Ham’s recent league form has been encouraging (no team outside the top five has picked up more points in the last seven games) but they go into the game off the back of a poor showing in the cup at Shrewsbury.  I imagine it will be another cautious display but if Marko and Manny can create something on the break then there is every chance of a Hammer’s win.  If we can get our noses in front then I am hoping that Huddersfield will capitulate and that a repeat of September’s 2-0 scoreline is on the cards.

West Ham Start Their FA Cup Campaign At Shrewsbury

The 2017-18 FA Cup Campaign gets underway with a first ever cup meeting with Shrewsbury Town

Are you old enough to remember Saturday May 10 1980? I remember it as if it was yesterday, not almost 38 years ago! Working as an assistant manager for a Building Society at the time, and with a less than understanding manager, I had to work on that Saturday morning in Wanstead. We closed the doors at 12.00 midday and then we had to cash up before we could leave. The tills were balanced in record time and by ten past twelve I had crossed the road to Wanstead station on the central line, and was heading off to meet fellow co-blogger Geoff at Baker Street for our visit to the twin towers of Wembley.

We were in Division Two at the time and not even close enough to be pushing for promotion. Arsenal were of course where they have always been in the top tier. We didn’t have a chance did we? But at the age of 26 I experienced West Ham’s third win of the FA Cup, a trophy that meant so much at the time, unlike in the modern era, where it is totally overshadowed for financial reasons with the need for teams to concentrate on the Premier League. It is a shame, but unfortunately a fact of life that things move on.

I was ten years old when we first won the FA Cup, beating second division Preston 3-2 in 1964. This of course led to winning a European trophy the following season when we triumphed in the European Cup Winners Cup Final again at Wembley, before the hat-trick of the World Cup at Wembley a year later.

I had to wait until I was 21 before our second FA Cup win, an unremarkable game in 1975 where we beat second division Fulham (with our very own Bobby Moore in their side). So by 1980, when we won for the third time, for West Ham to win the FA Cup it was something I could expect to experience every few years.

But of course life isn’t like that, and here I am in 2018 waiting for it to happen again. Of course we came mightily close in 2006 when we should have beaten Liverpool, and perhaps if the game had been played at Wembley rather than Cardiff then we might have done so. In my lifetime we are unbeaten at Wembley in what I would call important games like FA Cup finals, League Cup finals, Play-Off finals, league games, and league cup ties. I will conveniently ignore the Charity Shield games against Derby (1975) and Liverpool (1980) which act as a curtain raiser to each new season. That unbeaten record was continued on Thursday evening with the magnificent rearguard action in the 1-1 draw against a Tottenham team who everybody expected to beat us comfortably.

Before I finish I’ll go back to 1980. Just two weeks before the FA Cup Final, Geoff and I took our seats at Upton Park in B Block in the old West Stand with less than 20,000 others to watch a league game, which was against Shrewsbury. It was the first time I’d ever seen us play against these opponents as we had never before been in the same division. In the first meeting that season just before Christmas they had given us a 3-0 drubbing at the wonderfully named Gay Meadow Stadium, and they did the same at Upton Park, although this time we did at least have a Trevor Brooking goal as consolation to the three we conceded.

We did the double over them in our record breaking promotion season the next year and we have never played them since. Of course the FA Cup doesn’t have the romance or glamour that it had in my youth, but I would still like us to win it again one day. This season we are battling with a dozen other teams to avoid relegation, and our injuries are mounting up too, so our team today is likely to include a number of our promising youngsters who are rarely given a chance in league games. It wouldn’t be as big a shock as it was in yesteryear if we were to be eliminated from the competition by a third tier side, but as West Ham fans we have experienced it enough times in the cup competitions, and I hope it doesn’t happen today.

Perhaps we can beat Shrewsbury comfortably, then go on a winning run in the league to remove all fears of relegation, and then field a strong side in the latter rounds of the FA Cup before going on to win the trophy next May. We are entitled to dream aren’t we?

All Around The Wrekin: Can West Ham Avoid The Shrewsbury Banana Skin

Can West Ham dodge the banana skin and avoid another early exit from the FA Cup in this 3rd round tie at Shrewsbury.

One of the reasons (apart from the absence of skill, pace, determination and stamina) that I ascribe to never making it as a professional footballer was  the sudden departure of my secondary school PE teacher to run a pub near The Wrekin, a notable landmark on the road to Shrewsbury.  If I had been asked “Which country is Shrewsbury in?” on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and the computer had cleverly left in ‘England’ and ‘Wales’ from my 50:50 lifeline then it would still have been enough to make me sweat even if it was only £2,000 question.  Shrewsbury is, of course, in the English county of Shropshire (a region that most people spend their lives bypassing on the M6 never getting to experience one of England’s finest medieval market towns); it is, however, just a short afternoon’s stroll from the Welsh border.

Shrewsbury Town were elected to Division Three (North) in 1950 when the football league was expanded to ninety-two clubs and have spent most of the intervening period bouncing around in the lower tiers including a brief return to the Conference at the start of the millennium. This year they are riding high in League One and seeking a rare promotion to the second tier which they have visited just the once for a ten year stay between 1979 and 1989.  During that time the paths of West Ham United and Shrewsbury Town met on four occasions in the old Division One, with The Shrews completing a double over the Hammers in 1979/80 and West Ham returning the favour in their record breaking promotion season of 1980/81.  Today will be the very first cup meeting between the two sides.

The previous encounters against Shrewsbury took place at the amusingly named Gay Meadow (away supporter access via the rear entrance) while they now play at New Meadow (or the Montgomery Waters Meadow to give it its full naming right’s title!)  A legend from the Gay Meadow years that I remember watching on Jimmy Hill’s Chinny Reckon Football Yarns (or some similar TV programme) concerned a local boat-builder who spent match-days in a coracle afloat on the adjacent River Severn ready to retrieve any wayward clearances that sailed out of the stadium.

With West Ham playing their third game in a week, and still sitting precariously in relegation danger, manager David Moyes will almost certainly make several changes to today’s starting eleven.  The dilemma of modern football is that while fans continue to dream of the romance of the cup the practical realities of survival in the money league creates a completely different set of priorities for managers.  Moyes, like many other managers at the top level, will be judged on preserving Premier League status first and foremost rather on than heroic cup performances.  It is a shame particularly for those who have good paid money to watch but it will remain a fact of footballing life while the cost of Premier League failure is so high.  If West Ham were six or seven points better off then it would be a different story.

It would be a surprise if more than five or six of the team that started at Tottenham are in the starting eleven for today’s game – despite the limited options that might be available with up to nine senior players out with injury.  One player who will definitely be starting is Joe Hart making a return to the home town club where he started his career in 2003.  Other than that the West Ham lineup is impossible to predict.  It is unlikely any of those returning from injury will be risked while others (such as Mark Noble and Pablo Zabaleta) could well be rested if there are viable replacements at the ready.  An opportunity perhaps for Declan Rice, Sead Haksabanovic, Domingos Quina, Toni Martinez and Reece Oxford (if fit) to get a little game time.

Shrewsbury manager Paul Hurst may be inclined to give this one a real go, seeing an inspiring cup run as enhancing the club’s promotion push rather than hampering it.  He has an impressive managerial record and has done a remarkable job during his time at Shrewsbury.  It will be an athletic, pacey and direct side that is full of confidence facing the Hammers this afternoon.  The Shrews have lost just three league games this season although they have also been beaten in an EFL Cup against Nottingham Forest.  They are not a high scoring side but equally do not concede many goals.  Top scorers are Stefan Payne (once of AFC Hornchurch) and Shaun Whalley.  Other notable players include team captain Abu Ogogo, a long time servant of Dagenham and Redbridge, and Aristote Nsiala who was released as a youngster at Everton by Moyes who himself had a stint in a Shrewsbury shirt between 1987 and 1990.

Difficult to see which way this game will go as much depends on the desire of the two managers to win the tie.  West Ham have gone out of the FA Cup four times in the last six seasons at the 3rd round stage and it would be no big shock if it happened again today.  I still love a cup run but equally understand the unfortunate realities of the modern football business that makes this famous old competition a lower priority, especially during the early rounds.  In many respects the worst outcome of the afternoon would be a draw and a replay.  Third round day in the FA Cup was once one of the highlights of the season and let’s hope that today’s game can re-kindle some of that old magic.

West Ham To Once Again Poop Tottenham’s Party?

West Ham have another opportunity to derail the ambitions and delusions of the north London glory boys.

If ever further proof were required that English football well and truly dances to the broadcaster’s tune then the clusterfuck that is the holiday match schedule is surely the smoking gun.  The intention to bring a daily dose of soap opera style Premier League football straight into our living rooms might be the marketing man’s dream but its major flaw is that we all know how the story ends (i.e. Manchester City win the title) – while the peripheral cliffhangers of who qualifies for Europe and who gets relegated are simply B-movie supporting features.

Nevertheless, just forty-eight hours after their last games two of the supporting cast lock horns at Wembley to further their own particular battles.  West Ham desperate to build on their last gasp success over West Bromwich Albion and climb away from the relegation zone; Tottenham desperate to finish above Arsenal.

Over the past two seasons I will begrudgingly admit that the hosts have played some of the most attractive and enterprising football in the league but their real chance of glory has now been missed and it is only a matter of time before manager and star players go looking for medals and money in more fertile waters.  This season Tottenham are back in their rightful place scrambling to pinch fourth spot in their role as wannabe top four gatecrashers; a task that should their usual late season bottle job be repeated could prove well beyond them.

Head to Head

Bragging rights in this fixture favour the north Londoners who have sixty three wins to the Hammers fifty with another thirty six games being drawn.  On recent form, however, West Ham have the edge winning six and losing five of the last twelve games.

The Hammers have not traditionally travelled well to the north London suburbs having won only seventeen times on the road out of seventy five attempts; although we have a 100% record against them at Wembley.  The last twelve away fixtures against Tottenham have seen West Ham win three and lose seven but with all three of those victories happening in the most recent six games.

Team News

Aaron Creswell is added to the West Ham injury list and if he is confirmed as missing then his place in a back three will likely be taken by Declan Rice or Cheikhou Kouyate.  I expect West Ham will adopt similar tactics to those used at Manchester City with Mark Noble and Pedro Obiang sitting in front of five defenders to form an impregnable shield.  At least the blossoming understanding between Marko and Manuel does offer enough quality to break quickly and cause problems on those rare occasions that we get and hold on to the ball and it will be interesting to see how they can link up with the unplayable (but largely unmovable) Andy Carroll – who will surely keep his place after his two second half goals on Tuesday.

Tottenham will be without Rose but Kane returns to the starting eleven possibly along with Wanyama (which is a bit of a shame for West Ham).  Although an admirer of Pochettino’s management his recent signings have not matched up to what he already had and it will be disappointing should a few of those not be on the pitch today.

Man In The Middle

Twelfth man for Tottenham today is Mike Dean from the Wirral.  If the old adage that bad refereeing decisions balance themselves out over time then hard done by West Ham might be awarded a dozen penalties today against the routinely leniently treated hosts.  Dean was in charge of the EFL cup game between the two teams in October as well as the defeat against the Champions Elect in early December.

Predictions

Merson sees an emphatic 3-1 victory for Tottenham while our old mate Lawro appears to have passed on predicting this one; maybe the result of too many sherries and snowballs over the holiday period.  This is going to have to be one of those spirited backs to the wall affairs, where not conceding an early goal and the ability to pull off a smash and grab are crucial to coming away from the game with any return.  It will a tough ask but I am hopeful (with 70% confidence) that West Ham will earn a scoring draw and continue to be a thorn in the side of the angst ridden Tottenham support.

West Ham To Start The New Year In Style Against West Bromwich Albion?

A new year and a new opportunity for West Ham to reset expectations against struggling West Bromwich Albion.

Whether or not the New Year turns out to be a happy one or not is largely dependent  for many of us on how well our football team performs.  In a comparative sense, we start 2018 with a very low bar to raise as one of the worst performing teams in the Premier League for the 2017 calendar year – in fact only today’s visitors, West Bromwich Albion, experienced a worse record in 2017 with just seven wins in twelve months to West Ham’s ten.

January is always an odd month in the football year where ongoing on-field struggle competes for attention in the media and for fans with the unrelenting transfer window frenzy.  This is particularly the case for those clubs making their push as gallant runners-up to Manchester City and those teetering close to the Championship precipice (or is it an abyss), as is the case for today’s two participants.  Two days into the window and with still no new signings to get excited about, the Hammers will need to see off Albion using only their existing resources plus the newly recalled, but reportedly want-away, Reece Oxford.

The Premier League manager merry-go-round sees the return today of former West Ham boss Alan Pardew.  Pardew’s time at the Hammer’s helm is most fondly remembered for his slogans and the 2006 FA Cup Final rather than the hard slog he made of scrambling back into the Premier League and his inability to integrate two world class Argentinians into his team.  He has experienced a largely lacklustre career since his departure where a pattern of early promise followed by disappointment has been the order of the day.  Given their current predicament we are unlikely to witness a side demonstrating much of a change from the muscular and uncompromising Pulis incarnation tonight, but then I have always seen Pardew as the slightly more presentable graduate of the Allardyce/ Pulis coaching academy anyway.

Head to Head

A 4-0 West Ham win today would even matters up nicely in the head to head record books giving each team forty wins out of 105 matches played, and an equal number of goals scored to boot.  Both teams have won three of the last twelve encounters (home and away) and the same record applies to the last twelve games played in London.  The last four West Ham home games with Albion have been draws and you have to go back to November 2003 for the last Albion victory – by four goals to three in a game that saw a sulking Jermaine Defoe red carded.

Team News

Sam Byram, Jose Fonte and Edmilson Fernandes are all missing for West Ham while Mark Noble and Michail Antonio are doubtful.  From what remains, David Moyes must fashion a team that is defensively sound while carrying enough guile and threat to break down what will be a resolute and obdurate opponent.  It is a management challenge that is currently without an obvious answer in a squad that lacks a strong, mobile front-man and is fragile in the centre of midfield.  Our best chance comes in the form of Manuel Lanzini but whether Moyes will trust one of the nominal strikers Javier Hernandez, Diafra Sakho or Andy Carrol to lead the attack or use either Marko Arnautovic or Andre Ayew for that role remains to be seen.  My guess is that Hernandez will get the nod with Arnie joining Lanzini as attacking midfielders and Pedro Obiang and Cheikhou Kouyate just behind.  Maybe there will be a change or two at the back where Aaron Cresswell as part of a back three will be increasingly vulnerable as teams target him in the air. Once again Moyes might put out a side that looks adequate enough OK on paper it is likely to be quite unbalanced all the same.

Albion play their second game in three days and should (hopefully) be the less fresh of the two teams.  They may be without Rondon, Chadli and Morrison.

Man in the Middle

The referee today, making his first West Ham appearance of the season, is Mike Jones from Chester.  Jones took charge of two Hammer’s away defeats in 2016/17 – at Manchester United in the EFL Cup and Hull in the Premier League.

In 15 outings this season he has shown 1 red and 53 yellow cards.  With refereeing decisions continuing to have an undue impact on the outcome of games we wish Mr Jones a peaceful and drama free start to the year.

Predictions

No surprise that Lawro is firmly entrenched on his fence seeing this as yet another 1-1 game.  Merson on the other hand believes it is back to winning ways for the Hammers with a 2-1 win.  This really is a game we should and need to win if we are going to secure a more comfortable position in the congested lower half of the Premier League table.  In theory there should be few easier games than at home to an out-of-form Albion side.  Sheer blind optimism prompts me to believe that we will shade the game by a couple of goals but I remain unconvinced that we can effectively take the initiative without get suckered on the counter-attack. Fingers and toes are crossed.