Astonishing, Brilliant, Magnificent, Spectacular, Superb: Five Takeaways From West Ham’s Red Devil Romp

Plucky Manchester United fare little better than Macclesfield Town as West Ham extend their rip-roaring, free-scoring unbeaten run to four games at the London Stadium.

Just Like Watching West Ham

Ask the majority of West Ham supporters how they would like their team to play and you might find yesterday’s performance coming closer to that ideal than anything seen for a good many years.  The ugly duckling performances of the first four games have metamorphosed into a very fine swan indeed.  Suddenly players who had previously laboured and plodded their way around the pitch for ninety minutes are playing on their toes with confidence high and a spring in their step.  It brought to mind Arsene Wenger’s original transformation of George Graham’s Arsenal with one-time donkey Tony Adams playing passes with the outside of his boot.  It is a wonder what can be achieved when organisation, teamwork and movement are introduced along with a belief that the ball isn’t something that needs to be got rid of as quickly as possible.  This was West Ham’s finest show of the season in what has turned into a nice little unbeaten run.  We can now look forward with interest to see how the team manages to maintain impetus, flair and hard-work in the next set of fixtures.  From the spectre of a long relegation battle I am now looking curiously at sixth spot in the table.

ZABsolutely FABulous

Ten goals conceded in the first four games has been followed up with just two in the next three (comprising tough games against Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United) all with largely with the same back-line.  If ever there was an example of defence not being only about the back four or five then this is it.  Finally, we have the look of a team that attacks and defends as a unit rather than being made up of three discrete components working to a rule book.  However, despite the team ethic there were also fantastic individual performances all-round yesterday!  Pablo Zabaleta (as with Mark Noble in front of him) seems to have discovered a fresh pair of legs.  Fabian Balbuena and Issa Diop have exceeded all expectations as a central defensive partnership (already there are envious eyes focusing on the talent and athleticism of Diop).  Declan Rice has shown a far greater deftness of touch and eye for a pass than I gave him credit for, and I even spotted a Bobby Moore tackle at one point – neatly complementing the Gordon Banks save made by the flawless Lukasz Fabianski from Fellaini’s header.  And how about the effort put in by Robert Snodgrass during his time on the pitch – playing like a man possessed.  It was a shame that the goal conceded blotted the afternoon’s copybook resulting, as it did, from a drop in concentration during the visitor’s double substitution.

It’s All About The Pass

Of all the football statistics now thrown at us, it is the ‘Assist’ that I find to be the flakiest of them all.  Two weeks ago at Everton, Noble got an assist for Andriy Yarmolenko’s second goal although his actual contribution to it was negligible.  Yesterday, without his precise defence splitting pass to Zabaleta to set up the West Ham opener there would have been no goal.  Yet as a goal can only have one assist there is no recognition.  The biggest positive out of the last three games (apart from the points) has been the quality of the passing.  For a good pass you certainly need somebody to execute it but you also need options and for others to take up positions that will provide an advantage.  The number of options available to the player with the ball has been pleasing as has the movement and anticipation that allows quick switching between flanks and for balls to played into space for runners.  There was some great interplay on show yesterday particularly, although not exclusively, between the front three of Marko Arnautovic, Felipe Anderson and Yarmolenko.  The first and third goals were a delight to watch.

That Free Kick Routine…..

I am still a little puzzled by the free kick routine where Player A takes the kick, rolls it a few yards to Player B who stops it and then retreats allowing Player A to cross into the box.  It is clearly a routine from the training ground as we have seen it a few times already this season.  I suppose it could slightly alter the angle of delivery into the box but does it really make so much difference?  Answers on a postcard please …..

Do You Know The Way To Can Jose?

No surprise, given the high profile of those involved, that much of the media attention was on the crisis unfolding at Old Trafford.  As well as the Hammers played they were allowed plenty of space and opportunity to do so by an opponent who looked dispirited, disinterested and disorganised – especially in the first half and again after the third goal went in.  Mourinho looks to be re-enacting his last days at Stamford Bridge blaming everyone for the collective deficiencies apart from himself.  Manchester United look to be a team in turmoil and with very public spats between manager and leading players it is difficult to see how this can be fixed with Mourinho still in place.  I had thought they may stumble on for a while longer but now having seen how bad the situation is it could well be a matter of days before Zidane rocks up in Manchester.

Perky Pellegrini To Mount More Misery On Morose Mourinho: West Ham v Manchester United Preview

A suddenly buoyant West Ham take-on the under pressure and misfiring Manchester also-rans at the London Stadium in what could well be Mourinho’s farewell visit.

It is no doubt a reflection of the “hope for the best, fear the worst” mentality that goes with supporting West Ham that I can’t quite make up my mind whether today is a good or a bad time to be playing Manchester United.  A lacklustre start to their Premier League campaign had already created rumblings of discontent at Old Trafford and these became amplified by the midweek League Cup defeat by Championship side Derby County.  So the question is, will the ever moaning Mourinho get a storming response out of his players at the London Stadium or will they continue to struggle in shaking off the shackles of their manager’s nineteenth century safety first tactics?

It would be no surprise if Manchester United were among the first to change managers in the Premier League this season as his style, or lack of it, falls far too short of the expectations at famous (and one-time successful) club.  However, my money for first managerial casualty would be either on Claude Puel at Leicester or Colin Wanker at Cardiff.  The transition from the Alex Ferguson era at Manchester United is looking just as painful as that which followed the retirement of Matt Busby; and if history repeats itself then the Red Devils can expect to win their next title by 2039.

It would be foolish to read too much into League Cup results these days as no-one really starts taking it seriously until reaching the quarter finals stage.  Still you can only beat what is in front of you and a stroll against League 2 basement club, Macclesfield Town, can’t have harmed the confidence in the Hammer’s camp, following on from the win at Everton and draw with Chelsea.  A fourth round tie against Blackpool or Burton Albion would do very nicely.

Today will see Manchester United’s third visit to the London Stadium where they have yet to concede a goal – last year’s drab scoreless draw being preceded a 2-0 Manchester victory thanks largely to Mike Dean’s dreadful decision in sending off Sofiane Feghouli.  The Hammers recent record against the visitors is not so good and, apart from the famous last game at the Boleyn victory, there have been no other successes in the last nineteen league meetings.  As usual the biggest obstacke in the way of improving that record will be Lukaku, who has netted eleven times in his last eleven matches against West Ham – he has also scored in each of the visitors three away league games so far this season.

We are promised the return of Marko Arnautovic from injury today and his inclusion at the expense of Michail Antonio could well be the only change from the team which started last weekend against Chelsea.  It is possible that Manuel Pellegrini will make tactical changes in the full-back positions but it would surprise me.  With Carlos Sanchez now absent through injury there are limited options left to replace Mark Noble when his legs run out around the 75 minute mark.


It was good to see several youngsters get a game in midweek and it is about time the Academy started to deliver after a lengthy barren spell stretching back almost a decade.  Clearly performances must be viewed in the light of the opposition faced and it is a huge leap in class from Macclesfield to Manchester.  However, I think there should always be room for at least one young player with potential to be on the bench as a way of introducing them to the atmosphere and expectations of league football.  It was Grady Diangana who received all the plaudits following his two goal debut in the League Cup but he will surely be behind Antonio and Robert Snodgrass in the attacking bench pecking order. So, arguably it could be Conor Coventry who is more likely to get a look in as the fresh legs cover for the Hammer’s skipper.

The referee for today’s game is Michael Oliver from Northumberland who took care of two West Ham defeats (home to Spurs and away at Everton) last season plus the home draw with Stoke.  In five Premier League matches this season he already has two red cards to his name.

BBC pundit Lawro predicts a 2-0 away win confident that Mourinho will get a reaction from his chaotic charges while Merson at Sky is sticking with a 1-1 draw.  It will be interesting to see how the game pans tactically and whether Pellegrini expects his team to sit back, as they did against Chelsea, or show more attacking intent.  A more enterprising West Ham may be just what the visitors are looking for and there is the potential for the game turning into a cagey cat and mouse affair.   Notwithstanding the curse of Lukaku I am going to stick my neck out and predict a 2-0 home victory that heaps even more misery on the morose Manchester manager.

Can West Ham deepen the frown on Mourinho’s face when Manchester United visit the London Stadium this weekend?

The Hammers face the Red Devils in this week’s early kick-off

Prior to our game against Everton just a fortnight ago I wrote in my preview that, although we were pointless at the time, I would be more than happy if we could amass eight points from the following four difficult fixtures to bring our average up to a point a game. With away games at Everton and Brighton, and home games against Chelsea and Manchester United that would be a difficult task, especially considering our performances in our opening four matches. Nevertheless, we are half way to my “target”, and based upon what I’ve witnessed in the past two games, I am confident that we can reach eight points from eight games. We just need a win and a draw from this game at home to the Red Devils, and the trip to the South Coast to face the Seagulls next Friday. Hopefully we can start with a win this weekend.

A game against Manchester United is always something special. Like them or loathe them, they have been the most successful club in England in the history of the game. They have won the league 20 times, as well as 12 FA Cup wins and various other honours including three wins in the European Cup / Champions League. They are the biggest club in England and the third biggest in the world in terms of revenue.

Of course all West Ham fans fondly remember the final game at the Boleyn just over two years ago, where we followed the script and came from behind to win the game 3-2. Despite Manchester United’s success over the years their record against us on our ground is not the best. Other “big” clubs have visited us on a similar number of occasions in history and have beaten us more times than we have beaten them. But our record against United bucks the trend and we have more wins against them than they do against us on our home turf.

I’ve written previously about the changes in personnel at football clubs, especially our own in recent times. Of the fourteen West Ham players involved on that historic night in May 2016, only Antonio (who played at right back), Noble, and Obiang (who came on as an 84th minute substitute) were on the pitch last Sunday against Chelsea. Randolph, Kouyate, Payet, Sakho, Tomkins, and Valencia have left the club, Reid, Carroll, and Lanzini have long-term injuries, and Ogbonna and Cresswell were on the bench. It’s funny how the term bench has survived; these days players sit back on comfortable padded (and heated?) seats whilst awaiting the call to enter the fray.

I’m not sure how much attention we need to pay to the supposed behind the scenes unrest at United, especially the apparent issues between Pogba and Mourinho, but in many ways they don’t seem to be a happy bunch. Based on what I’ve seen so far they are nowhere near the level of Manchester City, Liverpool or Chelsea, or perhaps even our North London neighbours, Arsenal or Tottenham, and given our battling performance against the blues from West London last weekend I am hopeful that we can go one better in this game.

They have won half of their six games so far, losing on their travels at Brighton, and a hefty home defeat to Tottenham. Last week they drew 1-1 with newly-promoted Wolves, so their ten points sees them sitting in seventh place, two points behind the aforementioned North London duo, but already eight points adrift of the top of the table.

Those people who bet on West Ham to win or draw against Chelsea were in profit, and you would be equally successful this weekend with the same bet, if one of those two results happen. The bookmakers are not as generous with their odds on us beating United as they were against Chelsea, with around 10/3 the going rate, and 12/5 for a draw. I think I’ll just stick with the win for this one, as I’m confident we will pick up the three points to heap more misery on the face of the opposition manager, and even more so if Arnie has recovered from his knee injury. I’m not expecting 8-0, but a good performance, and any kind of win would be good. 3-2 again?

I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues: Five Takeaways From West Ham’s Well Earned Point Against Chelsea

What we learned as West Ham happily concede possession, are rarely troubled by a predictable one dimensional Chelsea and end up spurning the best chances of the afternoon.


If Premier League football was a level playing field then you wouldn’t want to see your team playing at home on the wrong side of 28%-72% possession statistics.  Although we are now well past the point of believing that possession is everything in football, that is a very one-sided scenario.  But football is not a level playing field and, the occasional upset apart, success follows the money including the flip side that is the financial imperative of Premier League survival.  Had the Hammers made a more convincing start to the season then maybe Pellegrini could have been more adventurous against Chelsea; but with his team firmly in the recovery position the ends of a hard won, well-earned point jsutified the means of a mostly backs-to-the-wall performance.  Even so, the two clearest cut goal-scoring opportunities of the game fell to West Ham and, at the end, we were left imagining what might have been.


A look at the average position of the West Ham players during the game is quite telling.  Although Pellegrini has always favoured a back four, the Hammers effectively played with a back five with Declan Rice rarely venturing into the opposition half except at set pieces.  Rice had another very good game, as he had at Goodison the previous week, and showed a deft touch as well as intelligent distribution.  The data also showed that, on average, Pedro Obiang took up a more advanced position than Felipe Anderson although both played relatively deep on the left hand side – not surprising as Chelsea did most of their attacking down the right wing.  Cover for Pablo Zabaleta on the Hammer’s right was provided mainly by Andriy Yarmolenko.  The result was that West Ham found it difficult to retain possession with too few players getting forward to mount constructive or sustained attacks.  For those interested in statistics, the Hammer’s most accurate passers of the afternoon were surprisingly Issa Diop, Michail Antonio and Arthur Masuaku.


For what is normally a fiercely contested London derby the match was remarkably tame as far as boot flying intensity was concerned; the matter of no added first half minutes was testament to lack of physicality.  There were a smattering of fouls but mainly of the niggly variety rather than the vicious or dangerous.  Referee, Mike Dean, must have been most disappointed that he was not called upon to make any game changing decisions.  In fairness, Dean performed very well with the anonymity preferred in a referee  – particularly when ignoring Hazard’s blatant dive on the edge of the area in the first half.  There was a period around the two Antonio first half chances that West Ham (and the crowd) got the bit between their collective teeth but otherwise it was more chess match than gladiatorial battle.


Another fine set of performances from Lukasz Fabianski, Fabian Balbuena and Diop with sterling support from Zabaleta in the back line.  Their day was made somewhat easier by an apparent lack of ideas and enthusiasm from the opposition.  Chelsea had put all their eggs into the Hazard and Willian baskets yet looked uncertain what to do with the ball once they got into dangerous positions and the West Ham defenders were able to clear their lines at will.  It was a good lesson yesterday that defence is not just about the back four or five – but is something performed as a team.  Everyone did their job in limiting Chelsea to speculative strikes and in the rare event they did break through, Fabianski was more than equal to the threat.


If yesterday was a good example of defending as a team it was a less impressive one of attacking as a team.  We can maybe excuse the all-hands-to-the-pumps defending in the context of the match and the season but the team must be able to collectively do more when up against lesser sides.  The more creative midfield players cannot have their effectiveness blunted by too great a burden of defensive responsibility; otherwise the front man ends up isolated chasing punts from the keeper.  Yarmolenko did well to track back in support of Zabaleta and also find time to miss his sitter (a shame his head is not as sweet as his left foot).  Anderson, on the other, needs to step up his contribution from cameo guest appearance to the leading man that his transfer fee demands.  From an attacking viewpoint it was crystal clear how much the team rely on the absent Marko Arnautovic.  If the Antonio and Yarmolenko opportunities had fallen to Arnie then we may have been celebrating a famous smash and grab victory.  No matter it was a point well won, another encouraging performance and several steps in the right direction of mid-table security.

West Ham’s Autumn Flurry To Herald The Fall Of Chelsea

Hot on the heels of an impressive victory at Everton, West Ham will seek to open up Chelsea and place the blue flag where it rightfully belongs.

It is surprising the extent to which a good result at the weekend can play in creating a positive impact on your life – or at least that portion of it that is devoted to football.  Post-match euphoria has a long half-life and can easily be topped-up as with repeated highlight watching and mutual social media backslapping.  The warm glow of victory can be comfortably felt for the remainder of the week albeit with the potentially dangerous side effect of unrealistically raised expectations.

The visit of Chelsea to the east-end is always one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the season and, with the added incentive of derailing the visitors 100% perfect start to the season, there is plenty at stake.  Despite the west Londoners having bossed encounters in recent history, following the injection of Roman’s dodgy roubles, a West Ham victory today would even-up the all-time record at 57 wins apiece.

It is a surprise to see Chelsea (once again under new management) start the season so positively although, with the exception of a visit by Arsenal, they have been favoured by a relatively benign set of opening fixtures.  Still their confidence will be on a high having also successfully come through a midweek European gimme in Salonika.  If only they had a half decent striker they might well be offering serious competition to Manchester City and Liverpool in this season’s title race.

Chelsea’s undoubted strength is in the midfield areas where they look particularly formidable.  The introduction of Jorginho alongside Kante provides more energy than a whole box of Duracel batteries combined and allows Hazard and Willian the freedom to menace opposition defences at will.  Hazard can divide opinion among fans of other clubs but, for me, he is one of the best and most creative players currently turning out in the Premier League.  Clipping his wings will be key to any West Ham’s success today.

I can’t see Manuel Pellegrini making any discretionary changes to his starting lineup after last week’s win at Everton – the fitness of Marko Arnautovic being the greatest concern and still uncertain.  I have read others suggesting changes to either full-back (Ryan Fredericks in for Pablo Zabaleta or Aaron Cresswell in for Arthur Masuaku) and even, bizarrely, those recommending a place for Carlos Sanchez at the expense of Mark Noble.  I am no great supporter of the 2018 model skipper but did they they not witness Sanchez disastrous short suicidal cameo last weekend?


There may be a case for changing the full-back slots where Zabaleta and Cresswell edge it defensively but fall shorter on attacking threat.  Both Fredericks and Masuaku can be electric going forward, but it depends to what extent formation and set-up allows that to happen.  This aside, and at the risk of projecting previous West Ham manager behaviours onto Pellegrini, I am confident he will not change a winning team and will stick with his latest preferred formation until its weaknesses become exposed.  The main apparent weakness being too much space left on the flanks for opponents to exploit when attacking.

Much will depend today on how effectively the midfield three of Declan Rice, Pedro Obiang and Noble acquit themselves; and the way in which they are deployed.  Last week Rice did a great job of tracking the runs of Sigurdsson and he may well be given a similar responsibility with Hazard today.  That will require Noble and Obiang to keep busy in covering the flanks and getting forward to support the front players wherever possible.

Fitness permitting, I look forward to seeing the front three of Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko and Arnautovic pick up where they left off last week; putting plenty of pressure on the visitor’s defence.  I have never really seen the value of David Luiz and believe he can be bullied and forced into mistakes when pressed – critically this depends on the availability of Arnie.  If the Austrian is not passed fit I suppose the replacement would need to be Lucas Perez – assuming he is warmed up in time!

There can be no real debate concerning the keeper and centre backs with the current incumbents each having performed admirably in recent games, even if the goals against tally suggests otherwise.  West Ham should have particularly high hopes for Issa Diop who looks like he will be a great signing even though his performances will ultimately attract the attention of more successful sides.  To think it could have been Alfie Mawson in the back four!

Today’s referee is Mike Dean from The Wirral known for his exuberant celebration of Tottenham goals.  Dean is always a little card happy and it would be no surprise if there were fewer than twenty-two players on the pitch come the final whistle.

This afternoon sees the return to West Ham of former manager Gianfranco Zola.  The affable and grinning Italian has an undistinguished managerial career, following his time at Upton Park, but now finds himself in an assistant coaching role in West London.

There is a difference of opinion between the much loved pundits this week with Merson opting for a Hazard inspired 3-1 Chelsea win but Lawro going out on an uncharacteristic limb with a 2-1 West Ham success.  One might conclude that it is a case of wishful Lawro thinking and that his motivation for the result is that it would benefit his beloved Scousers.  Personally, I think that there is a very high chance that the Hammers will not get beaten this afternoon and pick up their first home league point of the season.  Whether it is all three and another week of glorious football well-being or whether we will have to settle for just a share is hard to call.  Naturally, a win would satisfy my raised expectations but feel a draw is the most likely outcome.  As long as it accompanied by more signs of improved performances and greater understanding then I would reluctantly take that.

Can West Ham’s team of many nationalities end Chelsea’s 100% start to the season?

I woke up it was a Chelsea Morning ………….

Well, not quite morning, but an early kick-off nonetheless. We have to leave early on a Sunday morning to watch this game. Chelsea Morning was the title of a song written by Joni Mitchell in 1968. It was initially released as a track on the debut Fairport Convention album that same year, before Mitchell herself released it as a single the following year. Ah, 50 years ago. I am old enough to remember it well.

Coincidentally 50 years ago this very weekend West Ham played Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Hey Jude by the Beatles topped the chart as West Ham came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw in front of a 58,000 crowd. I stood in the Shed as a 14 year-old, not revealing my allegiance to the away team, as I was amongst the home supporters. I had to suppress my excitement as Billy Bonds moved forward with ten minutes to go and found Trevor Brooking on the right. Trevor went to the bye-line and crossed for Martin Peters to head home off the underside of the bar, the ball barely crossing the line, a trick mastered by West Ham in the sixties. Fortunately, although it was many years before goal-line technology was to send a message to the referee’s watch, an alert linesman spotted that the ball was over the line and the game was drawn. This was a good point earned against a Chelsea team who went on to finish fifth at the end of the season (we were eighth).

The game was our tenth league fixture that season and at that stage we had only lost once, 4-1 at home to Everton, who coincidentally are the only team we have actually beaten this season in a league game. The West Ham team that day was full of famous players who played many times in the claret and blue; Ferguson; Bonds, Howe; Peters, Stephenson, Moore; Redknapp, Boyce, Brooking, Hurst, Sissons.

The Chelsea goal in that game was scored by Bobby Tambling, the player who held the Chelsea record for most goals scored (202) before it was overtaken by Frank Lampard. Bobby Tambling was born in 1941 (the same year as our own Bobby Moore), and made his Chelsea debut in February 1959 (two days after my fifth birthday), scoring the winner in a 3-2 victory over (you’ve guessed it) West Ham. Our own Bobby Moore (full name Robert Frederick Chelsea Moore), also made his West Ham debut in the same season, coincidentally also in a 3-2 victory (against Manchester United).

In the same season that Moore and Tambling made their debuts (1958-59), then yet another coincidence, 60 years ago this very weekend West Ham played at home to, you’ve guessed it again, Chelsea. In those free-scoring days we won that match 4-2, to record our fifth win out of nine games played at that stage, to move up to eighth in the table. In the three league games that we’d lost prior to that match, we had conceded four goals in each one, to Luton, Nottingham Forest, and Manchester United. It will be no surprise to learn that by May that year we had scored 85 league goals and conceded 70, to finish sixth in the table in our first season back in the top flight in over a quarter of a century.

Despite an indifferent time last season we took four points off Chelsea, who were the reigning Premier League champions. In the away fixture on 8 April, less than six months ago, Chicarito came on as a substitute with 20 minutes remaining and within three minutes equalised Azpilicueta’s first half goal. Despite that game being so recent, only four players from that day were involved in our win over Everton last Sunday, namely Masuaku, Noble, Rice, and Arnie.

And on 9 December last year we had another early kick off at 12.30 pm on a Saturday lunchtime. Arnie scored his first goal for the club in the sixth minute, and we held on for a nail-biting 1-0 win to record our first victory under David Moyes in his fifth game in charge. A repeat of that scoreline this weekend would be most welcome.

For supporters who like to place a bet on West Ham to win games, then the losses incurred after the first four league games would have been largely wiped out with the win at Goodison Park last Sunday. A win this weekend would put you well in profit as West Ham are around 9/2 and upwards to repeat last December’s victory, and even the odds on a draw at around 7/2 would appeal to some. Of course Chelsea have begun the season with five straight wins in the league, and are tying for top spot with Liverpool, so naturally are hot favourites to win the game. If you think that we can repeat the same score as last season then the odds on 1-0 to us are around 18/1.

If you are looking for an omen, then the last time that Chelsea won their first five games of the season (which was eight years ago when Ancelotti was their manager), they lost their next match by a 1-0 scoreline. But having said that, they have twice (in this century) won their opening six league games, and on both occasions went on to win the title.

Barring any necessary changes for injuries I would expect the same starting line-up this week. Thankfully the manager has finally seemed to realise the necessity for greater strength and mobility in central midfield, and in my opinion the performances of both Obiang and Rice in particular were outstanding against Everton. Why they haven’t been selected to fulfil those roles before now is a mystery to me. Of course Yarmalenko took the headlines, but the front three with Arnie and Anderson added to the Ukrainian, started to show that they can cause problems for opposition defences this season. And our central defensive partnership of Diop and Balbuena could be the first choice for the foreseeable future. I can’t remember a West Ham victory when so many different players were accorded the star rating for the team by various newspaper / media reports of the game. It goes to prove how many of the side had played so well.

At half-time last weekend I was trying to work out in my mind if we were fielding a starting line- up of eleven totally different nationalities. Quite probably the answer is yes, although Diop and Masuaku were both born in France and represented them at lower age levels, but are not full internationals and their allegiances could change. I’m not sure about Obiang either – he has played for Spain at the lower age levels but could still become a full international for Equatorial Guinea. With two of our three substitutes used being Snodgrass (Scotland), and Sanchez (Colombia), we fielded (probably?) thirteen different nationalities in the match, which must be some kind of record? And in addition we have had players from Spain, Italy, and Mexico on the pitch this season, and New Zealand could be added to this list in the future. An interesting comparison can be made with the West Ham team that played against Chelsea 50 years ago which comprised ten Englishmen and a Scotsman. How times have changed!

Fabianski (Poland); Zabaleta (Argentina), Diop (France/Senegal/Morocco), Balbuena (Paraguay), Masuaku (France/DR Congo); Obiang (Spain/Equatorial Guinea), Noble (England), Rice (Ireland), Yarmalenko (Ukraine), Arnautavic (Austria), Anderson (Brazil).

It will be a difficult game against a team in such excellent form, but let’s hope for another fine performance, and perhaps even an end to Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the season. 1-0 again?

A Winning Formula? Five Takeaways From West Ham’s Stunning Victory At Everton

It’s Werther’s Originals all round as Manuel Pellegrini celebrates his 65th birthday with a rare West Ham win at Goodison Park. What did we learn from the latest Hammers shape and improved performance?

A Win, Entertainment & Goals

Great relief at an unexpected victory that finally put some points on the board for West Ham and allowed them to climb to 16th place in the Premier League table. That’s one place higher than Avram Grant’s team managed during the entire 2010/11 season – the last time the Hammers lost the opening four games of a campaign.  It was not just the win that was pleasing, however, but the manner in which it was achieved with some great all-round performances plus a spirit and tenacity that had been missing from previous games.  What I had envisaged as being a scrappy Sunday afternoon affair turned out to be highly entertaining with plenty of incident at both ends and some excellent well-taken goals (and all from open play for a change).

We Were Good Or They Were Bad?

When any game is analysed these days there is invariably a binary debate as to whether the outcome was down to the superiority of the victors or the shortcomings of the defeated.  Most (non-partisan) reports that I read look to have taken the position that the deciding factor yesterday was Everton’s deficiencies rather than West Ham’s performance.  As a contrast, when Manchester City beat Fulham on Saturday, the consensus was this was due to City’s impeccability and flawlessness while Fulham’s suicidal tactics were largely ignored.  In truth, most games are a mix of the two and we shouldn’t underestimate how, on the day, West Ham’s confident and energetic approach to the game served to rattle their opponents.

The Shape Of Things To Come

The number of changes announced in the West Ham starting eleven took most people by surprise and was seen by some as a sign of panic.  It was a puzzle to see how they would eventually line up.  Formations should, of course, be flexible but what we saw was something that looked like a 4-1-2-3 where Declan Rice was as close to being a third centre back as possible without becoming a back three. In the event it worked well and both Rice and Pedro Obiang had outstanding games in the centre of midfield and the front three were given an opportunity to flourish.  Where the set-up didn’t work so well was in supporting the full-backs, an area where most of the Everton threat came from.  Despite the Fabian Balbuena – Issa Diop partnership again being sound, Everton were still presented with three or four good chances from crosses into the box.  With Obiang and Mark Noble playing narrow in midfield it looked as though the responsibility for tracking back rested with Andriy Armolenko and Felipe Anderson – a big ask if you also expect them to be the springboard for attacks.  Most successful teams do not expect their most advanced players to defend deep (relying on them to press higher up the pitch).  It is a problem that needs to be addressed as the next opponents may not be quite as profligate on crosses as Everton were.


It was a first chance this season to see Marko Arnautovic start a game supported by the two expensive summer recruits – Anderson and Yarmolenko.  It was a pleasure to watch and to see passes being played into spaces that others were running into; rather than the static triangles that we have become used to.  The first and third goals in particular were beautifully worked and featured the swift passing style that I love to see nestling in the back of the net – thirty yard thunderbolts are fine but team goals are football at its best.  It was a dream full debut for Yarmolenko who can look somewhat ungainly but what a sweet left foot he has!  It was a little worrying seeing Anderson stranded out wide on the left at the start but his influence grew as the game developed.  Although not directly involved in any of the goals he showed excellent close control and an ability to retain possession that has eluded generations of West Ham players since Alan Devonshire (or maybe Yossi Benayoun).  I am hoping we get to see some true Anderson end product soon rather than later but the prospect of these three having an extended run together is very exciting.

Game Management

Having conceded late in the first half the initial reaction was that “West Ham’s gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away” – but in fact they managed the second half very well and the expected Everton onslaught never materialised.  The timing of the Arnautovic goal was perfect and went some way to settle the nerves; but long time Hammers supporters will never be fully confident of victory until the game is finally over.  My biggest worry was that at the rate Martin Atkinson was handing out yellow cards to our players (four of them for their only foul of the match) we would end up a man down.  At least he didn’t show a straight red for Arthur Masuaku’s boot ending up on Walcott’s ducked head as the idiot Clattenburg has been suggesting in the media.  Even substitutes Michail Antonio and Robert Snodgrass acquitted themselves well, although there were flashbacks to Selhurst Park whenever Antonio took the ball to the corner flag.  Carlos Sanchez on the other hand ………..what was he doing?

West Ham Set To Dazzle Everton With Improved Tactical Stuff

Reports from the training ground are that West Ham spent the international break working on ‘tactical stuff’. What should we expect when battle re-commences in today’s Premier League encounter at Everton?

Part two of the weekend’s Merseyside versus London Premier League action sees pointless West Ham travel north to face unbeaten Everton at Goodison Park.  If the Hammers are as thoroughly outclassed as their itinerant North London neighbours were at Wembley on Saturday afternoon then we could be in for a painful afternoon.

Trips to the north-west have never come easy for West Ham with Everton representing a particular challenge, both home and away, in recent years.  In the last twenty visits to Goodison, the Hammers have only returned down the motorway with all three points on two occasions (in 2005/06 and 2015/16).  It is not a record that encourages optimism.  Another defeat would represent a worst ever start to a league season in the entire history of the club and heap even more pressure on manager Manuel Pellegrini.  Unfortunately, it is all looking very Avram Grant at the moment.

It is difficult to know at what point the Board would take action should the bad run of results and performances continue but the season already has that feel of immense disappointment about it.  Even if Pellegrini does eventually turn it around as he did after slow starts at Villareal and Malaga it is much more likely to be a slow climb to mid table than a surge to Europa League qualification.  Perhaps we can be reassured by the words of Michail Antonio who told the Official Site that the squad had made good use of the international break by working on “shape and tactical stuff”.  You can’t have too much tactical stuff in my view and I look forward to witnessing the improvements this afternoon.  One assumes that it is a change of tactics that we are talking about rather than a case of having previously forgotten about having any!

On the evidence of the last time out, at home to Wolves, it is not only shape and tactics that are in need improvement but also the levels of effort, intensity, sharpness and tempo.  The performance against Wolves was widely criticised – and for good reason. So, are we likely to see any significant difference today?

I am still of the view that three at the back would suit the players available far better than a flat back four.  However, it would be a major departure to Pellegrini’s beliefs to countenance such a change.  Thus, I can see the defence being largely unchanged from that which started against Wolves and, with few options to choose from up front, all of the tinkering has to be in the midfield areas.

Everyone, apart, it seems, from those responsible for player recruitment, knew that West Ham had a major problem in defensive/ central midfield.  The late signing of Carlos Sanchez, as an afterthought, in the final hours of the transfer window was akin to buying your wife’s Christmas present at the petrol station just before it closed on Christmas Eve.  It is only going to end badly.  Not that Sanchez has been the stand-out worst performer in the games where he has featured; just that he is not good enough to fill this most necessary of positions.  Without a Fernandinho or Kante to call upon, West Ham need at least two bodies in this area of the pitch and, as things stand, it is a case of finding the least worst pairing out of Sanchez, Pedro Obiang, Mark Noble and Declan Rice to do the job.  For me, it would be Sanchez and Obiang but then I would also be starting Rice (in his proper position) as part of a back three.  Sadly, Noble is well past his best-before date and his lack of pace and his first instinct to go backwards is not a step in the right direction (as far as better tactical stuff is concerned!)  Neither am I convinced, despite his undoubted passion,that he provides so much in the way leadership on the pitch; although it is a worry where else this would come from.

The reluctance to start Andriy Yarmolenko continues to puzzle and maybe there has been a question over his match fitness.  If I was holding the purse strings I would want to see my expensively assembled squad in action right away.  I would feel short-changed (after spending £100 million) at having to yet again watch Robert Snodgrass plod around to little effect.  Apart from his short-lived purple patch while at Hull he has never been an effective Premier League player.  As he offers the greatest threat down any flank and is a useful outlet for under pressure defenders my choice for the left sided midfield role would be Arthur Masuaku.  At least he has the pace and trickery to run at, unsettle and get behind defenders.


Felipe Anderson needs to start earning his keep and to be played in the freer attacking midfield role that we saw against Arsenal.  He has a big price tag to live up to and needs to deliver sooner rather than later.  There have been a few promising signs and I have to remain hopeful that he can build a useful understanding with, and provide much needed support to, Marko Arnautovic.  I can imagine Arnie quickly losing patience if he is left abandoned up front on his own for much longer.

This week’s straw to clutch is that opponents Everton have a long list of injuries in defence and without the suspended Richarlison ‘look’ rather light in attack.  On the other hand, games against West Ham always seem to bring out the best in Walcott and Sigurdsson.

Today’s match referee is Martin Atkinson from West Yorkshire who officiated several of last season’s best forgotten matches away at Manchester United and Swansea and at home to Brighton.

As for the pundits, Lawro is plumping for a 2-1 Everton win while Merson is being kinder by going for a 1-1 draw.  I can see us breaking our duck today but with just the single point from a scrappy draw.  More importantly some clear signs that the players do actually care, are committed to the cause and appear to know what they are doing would be most welcome.  That is the beauty of tactical stuff!

Sticky Toffee Pudding or Goodison Glory for West Ham on Sunday?

Game Five sees pointless West Ham visit Goodison Park to face unbeaten Everton. Will this be the game to get our season going?

If you are one of those supporters who like a bet on your team to win a game of football, then this season wouldn’t have been ideal if you are a fan of West Ham. If you placed, say, a tenner on each of our league games so far then you would now be £40 out of pocket. If West Ham had been as successful as Watford in the opening four league games then you would now be sitting on a pot of around £260. And if we had picked up four wins and you had been bold and reinvested your winnings each time then your original £10 would now be worth over £6000! But sadly that hasn’t happened.

Now of course this may seem a little far-fetched, but any Watford fans who had done this would have been looking at some very big gains. You have to remember that whilst bookmakers had West Ham finishing somewhere between 7th and 10th, their odds suggested that Elton John’s unfashionable North of London outfit were one of the favourites to be playing Championship football next season. And if you do like a bet then one of the games to consider this weekend is the very generous 7/2 being offered on Watford beating a poor Manchester United team who are at even money.

One sensationalist newspaper that I read suggested that West Ham were the only team in the top eleven leagues in the English football pyramid to have not earned a single point so far this season. But I’m not sure they did their homework correctly because Lancaster City were stuck at the bottom of Evostik North (see what I did there?) with a similar points tally after they had played five matches.

But joking aside, it has been an horrendous beginning to a season that began with high hopes. A few statistics: At the first international break we are the only team out of the 92 Football League sides without a single point. We have scored the least goals in the Premier League (2, tying with Cardiff and Huddersfield), have conceded the most (10, level with Huddersfield), and have the worst goal difference (-8, again the same as Huddersfield). Our manager is second favourite to be the first Premier League manager to depart the club this season (after Mourinho). And apparently our players have covered less distance on the pitch than every other team in the top flight bar Cardiff and Manchester United. But it is still early days and two or three wins on the bounce would soon wipe out the pessimism surrounding the club. But do we have the ability to do this?

Everton, under new manager Silva, are one of the five clubs in the Premier League who haven’t lost a game so far (one win and three draws), and currently sit 7th in the table, which is probably roughly where they are likely to finish at the end of the season according to most pundits. They are generally seen as the team most likely to challenge the established order of the top six so-called elite clubs. Their six points sees them six points off the top, as well as six points ahead of where we are.

Our record against them in history shows that in 138 meetings, Everton have won exactly half of the games (69), with the other 69 seeing 39 West Ham wins and 30 draws. Our record defeat in football was 7-0 at the hands of Everton (in 1927, before my time!). But, of course the last time we met was our final home game last season, when, with the pressure off, we gave them a good hiding with a very comfortable 3-1 victory, with England keeper Pickford conceding three goals from distance.

I’m not one of those who believe that football only began with the advent of the Premier League, but it does provide a convenient timeframe to examine results of the last 25 years or so. And our meetings with Everton do not make for good reading. In 44 matches we have won just 8, whilst Everton have come out on top 24 times. 5 of our 8 wins were at home meaning that we have won just 3 of our 22 league visits to Goodison Park in the Premier League era. Those wins were 1-0 on New Years Day 1994, 2-1 shortly before Christmas in 2005, and 3-2 in March 2016, when a Payet-inspired comeback saw us come from two down to win the game in the last 15 minutes. Those of you who like symmetry will anticipate that our next win there will be 4-3, so let us hope that is what happens on Sunday.

I won’t even begin to predict the team that our manager will select for this game as I have no idea how he will have reacted after the dismal showing against Wolves a fortnight ago. We were quite rightly universally castigated for that performance and we will need to have improved significantly to start to climb the table. Our four games leading up to the next international break are, in addition to the game at Everton, home games against Chelsea and Manchester United, and a trip to Brighton. We could theoretically have 12 points by that time, but I would be more than happy if we can amass 8, which would mean 2 wins and 2 draws. That would still leave us averaging just one point a game, which is still relegation form, but would nevertheless be a significant, although possibly unlikely scenario and much needed improvement. On paper at least the fixture list gets easier for a while after the end of the next half a dozen games, but by then, if results haven’t improved, we could be in a relegation battle with barely a quarter of the season gone.

As someone who personally enjoys football at 3pm on a Saturday our next four games are an interesting mix of times, but they give everyone who has the necessary TV platforms the opportunity to watch us on TV. Coming up the games are at 4pm on Sunday, 1.30pm the following Sunday, 12.30pm the Saturday after, and then finally 8pm on Friday 5th October.

Bookmakers are not very generous with their correct score odds on football matches. The best that I could find for my unlikely “symmetrical” West Ham 4-3 win was just 175/1. A 6-0 West Ham victory was only 250/1, but how likely is that? Considering the relative starts to the season of both sides, the odds on the game are not quite what I expected either. You can generally get only 5/2 or perhaps 11/4 on a West Ham win. The correct odds should be much longer than that, surely? But nevertheless if you take them, and we do win, then you will go some way towards winning back the money you might have lost so far this season betting on West Ham.

It’s A Perfect Time To Panic: Five Takeaways From This Week’s Horror Show

A lethargic and lacklustre West Ham limp to a fourth consecutive Premier League defeat after a schoolboy error hands a last minute winner to a determined Wolves. What are the takeaways for the disgruntled Hammer’s fan?

You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

Someone, somewhere doesn’t know what they are doing – but I’m quite not yet sure whether it is the manager or the players.  Accepting that change is difficult, and that a new manager, new ideas, new style and an almost completely new set of players would make a storming start to the season unlikely I had expected better than this.  Leaving aside the time needed to create optimum cohesion and understanding it is surely not unrealistic that the basics of organisation and commitment should be in place by now in such an expensively assembled squad.    Does the manager have a plan, do the players not know what that plan is, or do they know but are unable to put it into action?  I think we all knew that champagne football might take a while to flow freely but the low energy, low tempo, low intensity fare being served up at the moment carries no promise of fizz tomorrow.  A few games into the season and many of the players look ready for a holiday just to take the lead out of their boots.

Is There A Man With A Plan?

The way that West Ham have been set up with the players that are available is a massive concern.  I am sure Manuel Pellegrini doesn’t believe he is back at Manchester City with players of superior class who can boss possession and pass their way to success.  Very few teams can do that – even if some of our players stroll around as if they believe they can.  For all the rest it is matter of hard work, organisation and application.  Either you work like fury to regain possession once it is lost it, or else you employ a compact shape allowing quick retreat and denying space for the opposition to exploit.  From the evidence to date, the new look West Ham are happy to concede both possession and space.  It is not rocket science that teams need to attack and defend as a team but this hasn’t sunk in for Pellegrini’s West Ham yet. In yesterday’s game, there were four players who offered little or nothing defensively which allowed Wolves numerical advantage whenever they attacked.  As with Arthur Masuaku before him, Aaron Cresswell was hung out to dry as time and again opposition runners were given the freedom to swarm forward unimpeded – what makes it even worse is that the full backs look to be under instruction to tuck in close to the central defenders.  It makes no sense whatsoever to give opponents such a free pass to the wide areas.   Contrast that with West Ham’s inability to create any space themselves down either flank – for either the wide midfielders or full-backs to run into.  Overall the game demonstrated very poor tactical awareness both at outset and as events unfolded.

Individual Mistakes

As the game looked to be petering out with both teams settled on a scoreless draw, it was ultimately an individual mistake that threw the game away and prevented the Hammers getting a first point on the board.  Having demonstrated a lack of penetration during the previous ninety minutes, and having been unable to fashion much in the way of clear cut chances, why they thought a slow build up for a short free kick was a good idea is beyond me.  Surely at that stage of the game, with time almost up, a percentage play knock down from the long ball would have been the sensible and safer option.  Surely any manager would have gone along with that, regardless of footballing philosophy.  If the initial decision was stupid then Carlos Sanchez giving away possession constituted diabolical schoolboy defending.  It was a shame because Sanchez was far from the worst of the Hammers in a performance where few came out with any credit – with the honourable exception of Fabianski (again), Diop and maybe Balbuena (although his distribution was generally erratic).  For me, Michail Antonio and Robert Snodgrass were particularly ineffective in their respective roles.

Great Expectations

If West Ham had played and lost four games but had competed well then there would be reason to cut the team some slack; after all it is still early doors, as Big Ron would say.  As things stand though there is little to be positive about and, having lost two winnable home games in a lethargic manner, the alarm bells should at least be tested even if it is not yet a full-on alert.  If we get to the end of September still with ‘nil points’ on the board it will be interesting to see how the Board react.  What started as a season of high expectations is now taking on the look of a typical slog where we are impatient for the season to end before the daffodils are out.  The table makes grim reading (even at this early stage of the season) – not just for the absence of points but also for only two goals scored and ten conceded.  I had predicted pre-season that Marko Arnautovic could become the first Hammer to score twenty in a Premier League season but now I wonder if the whole team can reach that milestone.  It will not help Arnie’s cause if he keeps having to drop so deep in order to spot the ball.  I wonder what the opposite of ‘The Invincibles’ is – ‘The Destructibles’ perhaps?

Feast and Famine

We have to hope that Pellegrini can manage, in the not too distant future, to create a functioning unit from the resources he has available.  The worst case scenario is limping to the halfway stage of the season and having to parachute in another salvage operator such as Allardyce or Moyes.  What the club needs is to be set on a path to improvement that blends hard work, organisation and a touch of flair.  Alternating years of feast and famine will take us nowhere.  For many years it was White Hart Lane that laid claim to the title of the players graveyard – where expensive players with big reputations came to do nothing more than pick up their pay cheques.   There is a very big fear that this is what the future holds for West Ham.  When Pellegrini was appointed at West Ham I read some criticism about how unfit the Manchester City players had become by the end of his reign.  At the time I had dismissed it as a convenient re-writing of history but, right now, there is just a flicker of a concern that it might ring true.