“China In Your Hand”

Does Arnie fancy it? Or is his brother stirring it?

“Don’t push too far
Your Dreams are china in your hand
Don’t wish too hard
Because they may come true
And you can’t help them
You don’t know what you might
Have set upon yourself
China in your hand
Come from greed
Never born of the seed

 Took life from a barren hand
On eyes wide
Like a child in the form of a man
A story told
A mind of his own
An omen for our time
We take a flight on the wings of fantasy
Then you push too far
And make your dreams reality
Yeah! china in your hand
But they’re only dreams

And you shouldn’t push too far”

An excerpt from the lyrics of China in Your Hand, a number one from T’pau in 1987

arnieIf we had a full squad of players to choose from with no injuries (yes, that’s a mighty big if for West Ham), then I’d really fancy our chances against Arsenal today. Whilst still being one of the elite six teams in the Premier League, they are no longer the force of recent times, and they trail Liverpool and Manchester City by some distance.

It was only just over two years ago when they came here and handed out a 5-1 thrashing, one of two 5-1 victories over us in the last 23 meetings. In that time we’ve won just once, at the Emirates on the opening day of the 2015-16 season, a famous 2-0 win where Reece Oxford had Ozil in his back pocket. And where is Oxford today? A player we had high hopes for is still with us, but only just, and looks destined to leave in the near future, having barely played since that promising start.

Our last home win against the Gunners was on Guy Fawkes Day in 2006, and was in fact the only time we’ve beaten them on our own ground this century (until today I hope). On that day a late Marlon Harewood goal preceded a spat on the touchline between respective managers Pardew and Wenger. Wenger took exception to Pardew’s goal celebration and the handbags came out.

Today’s opponents are fifth in the Premier League at the moment, three points behind Chelsea, and three ahead of Manchester United. Whatever the outcome of this round of matches, then barring extreme scores they will remain fifth. A win for us today could lift us up as high as eighth if other results go our way, and will keep us in touch in the race for the unofficial Premier League Division Two title. The way I see the Premier League is that the elite top six form Division One, and the bottom six make up Division Three (i.e. those teams in the relegation dogfight). The middle eight form Division Two, and to finish at the top of this group would be a successful season for the team concerned.

This week it has been confirmed that Fabian Balbuena is likely to miss at least two months, and possibly most of the rest of the season. This will be a big loss, as despite Issa Diop getting most of the headlines in this season’s new central defensive partnership, I feel he has benefitted from the steady but unspectacular performances and positioning of his injured partner. Whilst being an OK replacement, Ogbonna seems to exhibit loss of concentration at times, and I believe Diop suffers as a result as he needs to cover for his new Italian partner, as well as looking after his own defensive responsibilities..

Of course the big headlines concerning our club in the last day or so involve our maverick Austrian striker whose brother (and agent) has been on the radio claiming that Arnie wants to join Shanghai SIPG in China. Apparently the initial offer of £35 million is contradictingly described as “fantastic” by the agent, and “derisory” by West Ham, who have issued a statement saying that they will not be won over by player power. Mmmmm. If selected to play, and it seems likely that he will be, then it will be interesting to see how Arnie performs today.

For me, much as I admire his ability, if he wants to go then I can’t see us stopping him, especially if a bigger offer comes on the table. No player is bigger than the club although I would hate to see him go at this point. If the offer was from a team playing in the Champions League, and he wanted to test himself at that level, then I could understand it more, but China? How much money does he need?

It would be difficult to replace a player of that calibre, especially in the short timeframe of this transfer window, but it was interesting to note that Bournemouth have signed Dominic Solanke from Liverpool for £19 million. Surely he hasn’t been bought to sit on the bench? But with King and Wilson occupying the front positions for the Cherries, I would expect that one of them is moving on, and I wonder if Bournemouth are looking to cash in on Callum Wilson. He has been linked with Chelsea, and is likely to cost approaching £50 million. I wonder if we are in a position to hijack that deal, or if he would want to come to the London Stadium?

Bookmakers are offering around even money on an Arsenal win, and about 5/2 on a home victory, the draw being in the region of 13/5. Perhaps the best bet of the day might be on the score remaining goalless at half time (21/10). West Ham haven’t scored a first half goal in a Premier League game at the London Stadium since the beginning of November, whereas Arsenal have scored 32 of their 46 league goals in the second half of games.

Although we have conceded 32 goals in the league so far this season, Arsenal do not have the defensive capabilities of their teams in years gone by, and, despite sitting fifth in the table, have only conceded one fewer than ourselves. Both teams have picked up seven points from their last five games, and a scoring draw with second half goals could be on the cards. However I reckon a determined Arnie will put on a show and score a late winning goal in a 3-2 victory. At 125/1 that will be my fun bet this week.

I Might Not Be Back Says Arnie While West Ham Prepare To Outshoot The Gunners

Uncertainty over the future of the clubs only decent striker may overshadow the meeting of two of the Premier League’s leakiest defences at the London Stadium.

With a comfortable league position and a favourable route offered through to the 5th round of the FA Cup, everything was starting to take on a rosy complexion in the wonderful world of West Ham.  But then just as we are making ourselves comfy in this state of abnormal well-being we are hit with a double whammy: first it is announced that Fabian Balbuena has become the latest in a long list of players to discover the West Ham treatment room has no exit – you can check-out but you can never leave; and then Marko Arnautovic comes down with an unprecedented case of yellow fever.

There is no doubt that the loss of Arnautovic in the wake of a huge bid from a Chinese Premier League club, would be a major blow to Manuel Pellegrini’s plans.  Although he may not be the most prolific of goalscorers, his power, pace and mobility provides an important, almost exclusive, focus to the Hammer’s attack.  There is no-one else in the squad comparable and options from elsewhere in the January transfer window will be both limited and expensive.  I can understand that players might love to win trophies but going to China to do so is a desperate move – the equivalent of Rodney winning the Under 15 art competition in Only Fools And Horses!  If his intention to leave is genuine (rather than merely a negotiating tactic) it is unlikely to end well for a club hoping to get the best out of him.  It is a sad fact of modern football that keeping a player against their will is rarely successful.

This weekend, West Ham face Arsenal in the Premier League Saturday lunchtime kick-off at the London Stadium.  When the two clubs met back in August both were pointless and the Gunners rather fortunate and flattering 3-1 win, after being a goal down, saw them embark on a long undefeated run of games.  Since that run was brought to ignominious end at Southampton they have looked somewhat indifferent as they slip further behind in the race for lucrative Champion’s League qualification.  Arsenal may well run around a lot more under new manager Unai Emery but the sacrifice has been a loss of flair and the introduction of comedy defending.  If you had asked me a few days ago about the outcome of the game I would have said West Ham were firm favourites to record their first home victory over the Gunners since November 2006.  Now I am not so sure.

With Balbuena possibly playing little part in the remainder of the season there is a bare bones look to the central defence.  Whereas the Balbuena-Diop axis was solid, the Ogbonna-Diop one is erratic and prone to a collective loss of concentration.  With few viable alternatives, the only defensive conundrum is the ongoing battle between Aaron Cresswell and Arthur Masuaku for the left back berth, where I believe Cresswell will get the nod.

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Following an encouraging debut in the FA Cup, I expect Samir Nasri to get thrown into to a first league start alongside Declan Rice and Mark Noble in midfield while further forward Felipe Anderson and Michail Antonio would hopefully support Arnautovic, if he is considered in the right frame of mind to play.  This would leave no room for Robert Snodgrass and Grady Diangana but both would likely feature from the bench.  Central midfield continues to be a worry and links to Jonjo Shelvey and Gary Medel do nothing to ease those concerns.  Experience prompts an adverse Pavlovian repsonse in me when any player who is currently playing in Turkey is linked to the club; and a 31 year old ex-Cardiff City player is hardly an exciting, forward looking prospect.

Arsenal have been running West Ham close in the most injuries achieved competition but may be able to welcome back Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal and Ozil this weekend – although Mkhitaryan, Holding and West Ham nemesis Welbeck remain sidelined.  Although Arsenal no longer have the traditional Wenger swagger in midfield (and what is the point of Iwobi?) the combined threat of Aubameyang and Lacazette can be as good as any in the league on their day.

Making his first refereeing appearance at a West Ham match this season is Jonathan Moss from West Yorkshire.  Moss loves to flourish the cards and will be looking to add to his total of sixty seven yellows and four reds in what is often a fiercely contested London derby.

With two of the leakiest defences in the top half of the Premier League, this game is sure to have goals in it.  BBC pundit Lawro is predicting 1-2 while at time of writing former Gunner Merson is still wrestling with his conscious before declaring for an Arsenal success.  For me, a lot hinges on the Arnautovic situation – whether he is picked to play and, if he is, what his level of commitment will be.  Arnie in churlish mood will see him limping around the pitch in a sulk looking to be the first name in the referee’s notebook.  Nevertheless I am mysteriously in confident mood and can sense a Nasri inspired 3-2 Hammer’s bonanza.

Pellegrini Steers A Course Towards Cup Success

Jasper Carrott, Ozzy Osbourne, Simon Bates, Peaky Blinders, Bob Carolgees and Spit, Richard Hammond, Kiroy-Silk, Crossroads Motel, Mr Blue Sky, UB40. Your boys gonna take a hell of a beating!

It has become common over recent seasons to hear the term game management to describe the dull final twenty minutes or so of a match where the team in command ceases to press home the advantage while their opponents lack the ability to do anything about it.   When it comes to the third round of the FA Cup, which sits at the end of a packed holiday schedule, it has become a case of witnessing season management – managers looking to select a team with just enough quality to get through without the risk of further injury or fatigue.

In years gone by, the third round of the FA Cup was one of the most eagerly anticipated dates in the football calendar; but it is now firmly in the shadow of Premier League money-go-round and the quest for final standing merit payments.  The cup now only really comes into its own, as far as managers and the media are concerned, in the later rounds with the final managing to retain a good part of its allure.

At the old Wembley stadium, there were famously 39 steps from the pitch up to the royal box where both Bobby Moore and Billy Bonds climbed to receive the challenge cup trophy.  This season marks the 39th anniversary of the last of those memorable victories.  Is it be a step too far to imagine Mark Noble raising the cup aloft with a claret ribbon when May comes around?  Can Manuel Pellegrini manage his depleted resources and navigate a course all the way to the Wembley Arch?

The majority of supporters love a good cup run although the definition of what would constitute good is uncertain.  While going all the way is fantastic, elimination before the sixth round doesn’t really carry much of a distinction or merit even a footnote in history – personally, I even have mixed feelings about the 2006 final; a great day out at the time but I have never been able to relive the experience by watching the highlights ever again!

Even under Avram Grant (the second worst West Ham manager ever) there were two barnstorming cup runs – reaching the sixth round of the FA Cup before losing to Stoke City and going one step further in the League where the Hammers lost in a two leg semi final – to Birmingham City!  It is perhaps easy to look back with the knowledge of hindsight and say that the experience of the cup runs trumped eventual relegation but that could easily have turned out a lot worse for the club.  In financial terms winning the cup is only worth a league place or two but the memories for supporters last a lifetime.  It is a difficult balance for managers to handle.  At least the manager has the cushion of a comfortable league position as his backstop.

Pellegrini says that the cup is important to him and it certainly represents a more realistic route to winning a trophy than league success.  But winning the cup has still been dominated by the big six during the Premier League era and, more than ever, requires good fortune and a lucky draw – providing both an easy path forward for us and allowing the bigger teams to eliminate each other on the way.

Pellegrini will be wanting to give a break to key players this afternoon, particularly those that have played almost every minute; such as Felipe Anderson, Declan Rice and Issa Diop – although it may not be possible in every case.  Who, for instance, is available to cover for Diop?  New recruit Samir Nasri will play some part but probably no more than a half.  With such a long injury list there is not too much on the fringes of the squad to get very excited about and it may well mean another outing for the odd striking couple of Andy Carroll and Lucas Perez.  Apart from Gray Diangana and Xand Silva there has been little indication that the manager is seriously considering others from the  academy as first team players right now.  Conor Coventry and hopefully Nathan Holland will make it onto the bench alongside Anderson and Marko Arnautovic who are likely to be held in reserve.

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The Two Daves will be keen to welcome their former club to the London Stadium, like a man trying to impress on his ex-wife how well he has been doing since the divorce.  It is strange not to have a club from England’s second city in the Premier League and with Birmingham (as well as Villa) just off the pace in the Championship, perhaps their minds and priorities will also be somewhere other than the FA Cup.

Manager Gary Monk who had a bright start to his managerial career at Swansea City, but subsequently struggled at Leeds and Middlesbrough, appears to be finally getting some consistency at St Andrew’s.  From what I have seen and read about Che Adams, he is just the type of player to give the Hammers the runaround and will need to get kept on a tight rein.

I was never one to attend many away games outside of the capital but, courtesy of a friend giving me some Persil tickets, I did travel to Birmingham to see the fifth round tie in 1984.  It was quite possibly the most miserable footballing experience of my life where the fighting started in the bar at Euston and remained a real and constant threat throughout the day.  A tepid West Ham performance and a 3-0 defeat did nothing to improve matters for the long depressing ride home.

The referee today is Roger East from Wiltshire who was last at the London Stadium for the win against Burnley.

As much as I would love to see West Ham sweep aside their lower league opposition, game management and season management will not allow that to happen.  This will be no Macclesfield (or Tranmere!).  It is even too tight even to be viewed as an upset – a banana skin without much potential, in fact. Keeping the faith, however, I will rely on the Hammers putting in a spirited performance and securing a single goal victory.

Hammers v Blues Clashes in the FA Cup

We look back on previous meetings between the two sides in England’s premier domestic cup competition.

1932-33 was a turbulent season in the history of West Ham United FC. Ten years after appearing in our first FA Cup Final, and the very first Wembley (White Horse) final we found ourselves back down in Division Two after spending the previous decade in the top flight. The season began poorly and we did not win a game until beating bitter rivals Millwall in mid-September. Early attendances that season at Upton Park were around the 10,000 mark but 25,000 were there to see our South London opponents comprehensively beaten 3-0.

The season continued with good form at home but we were abysmal on our travels. We hovered around the bottom of the league despite some impressive home wins, 5-2 against both Oldham and Grimsby, 7-3 against Charlton, 3-1 over Manchester United, Swansea and Southampton, and 5-0 against Port Vale. With just five league games to go we sat at the foot of the table, and with a difficult run-in looked destined to fall into the third tier of English football. However four successive wins over Nottingham Forest, Chesterfield, Manchester United and Tottenham (three of whom were to finish in the top six) saved us.

Off the field, our manager Syd King, who had been at the club as both player and manager for over 30 years back to the Thames Ironwork days, was warned on a number of occasions regarding his drink-related conduct, and in November 1932, he was suspended for three months. In early January his contract was terminated, and just a few days later he drank a mixture of alcohol and disinfectant and died. He was succeeded as boss by the club trainer, Charlie Paynter.

Our FA Cup fortunes were an improvement on our league form. After disposing of Corinthians (2-0) in Round 3, and West Brom by the same score in Round 4, we met Brighton and Hove Albion in the fifth round. The game was a 2-2 draw before we won the replay 1-0 to set up a quarter final tie against today’s opponents Birmingham City (then a mid-table Division One team). A reported 44,000 were at Upton Park on that day, although the figure is disputed and some sources reckon it was around 40,000. Nevertheless the stadium was packed to see us easily win the game 4-0 to progress to the semi-final.

Despite the poor league form, our journey in the FA Cup was an exciting one, and we faced Everton of Division One in Wolverhampton for a place at Wembley. With just a few minutes remaining the match was tied at 1-1 but we conceded a late goal and went out of the competition. Everton won the final at Wembley easily beating Manchester City 3-0. A co-incidence that we drew 2-2 with Brighton shortly before facing Birmingam in the FA Cup? Let us hope that the co-incidence extends further and that we record a 4-0 victory in this game today.

We didn’t meet Birmingham again in the FA Cup until they visited Upton Park for a third round tie in January 1965. This was our first FA Cup match since lifting the cup the previous May (winning our first ever major trophy). We were both top flight sides, although our visitors were struggling at the foot of the table (and were eventually relegated finishing bottom). The Blues (not the most exciting of nicknames I reckon) unexpectedly raced into a two goal lead, but we fought back with two goals from Geoff Hurst, and one apiece from Johnny Byrne and John Sissons to win 4-2. However we were unable to extend our hold on the cup any longer when we were knocked out by Chelsea (1-0) at Upton Park in the next round. Of course we did have a magnificent cup run that season in the European Cup Winners Cup where we progressed all the way to the final where we beat TSV Munich 1860 to win our first (and only) European trophy.

Our only other FA Cup meeting with the Blues was in the fifth round of the 1983-84 competition. After disposing of Wigan in Round 3 and Crystal Palace in Round 4 we travelled to the Midlands to face a Birmingham side once again hovering near the foot of the table in the fifth round. We played poorly that day and they easily beat us 3-0. It was disappointing in that we were a side that were third in the Division One table when we met them in February whilst they were eventually relegated.

If you are looking for good omens then the last time we won the FA Cup (in 1980) the third round tie was played on January 5th. But conversely the Round 3 game five years ago (in 2014) was also on this date, and Hammers fans will recall an embarrassing 5-0 defeat at the hands of Nottingham Forest. We put out a weakened side that day with five youth team players, who never had the opportunity to play in the first team again.

Let us hope that we put out a team strong enough to progress to the next round. This is a competition that we have a chance of winning. We are safely ensconced in mid-table in the league with no prospect of being involved in a relegation battle. Wouldn’t it be great to be involved in another exciting cup run? Unfortunately, in modern times the cup competitions take second place to obtaining the highest possible league position, and that is a big shame in my opinion. I remember vividly our FA Cup wins of 1964, 1975, and 1980. They are great memories. It’s about time for another!

Can West Ham add the Seagulls to the Magpies, Bluebirds and Eagles?

The hectic Christmas and New Year schedule continues as West Ham look to shoot down the seagulls and welcome in 2019 with a sixth win in eight.

It was a poor performance at Burnley, which means that we have lost two of our last three games. On the other hand, when I previewed the Newcastle game at the beginning of December, I was (admittedly, tongue in cheek) looking for 24 points from the next eight games. Perhaps I could have put it another way. If we could get 15 points from the seven games leading up to the Brighton fixture at the beginning of 2019, how many fans would have taken that? Or even, if in the month of December we could get three more points than Manchester City in the seven games to be played by the end of the year, who would be happy with that, especially with the (usual) lengthy injury list that we have?

Whatever the reasons for what happened at Burnley, and I’m sure that tiredness was a contributory factor, if not as important a part as has been said, then if we can bounce back with a win tonight then all will be forgotten for the time being. Wolves and Watford stand in our way of reclaiming eighth place, and even a point may be enough to take us into the top half of the table, as two of our adversaries in the race to finish seventh (Bournemouth and Watford) meet on the South Coast tonight. I’d like to see that game end in a draw, as well as the Wolves v Palace game. In fact I always like to see teams that we are in direct competition with losing or drawing their games for the benefit of our fortunes in the league.

Ironically, Brighton are not renowned for their performances away from the Amex, especially when they travel to London, where they have lost seven of their last eight games in the capital. Of course the exception to this is the 3-0 drubbing they gave us last season at the London Stadium. This is only their second season back in the top flight, but manager Chris Hughton (much under-rated in my opinion) has done an excellent job.

In the three games played so far since their return, the Seagulls have beaten us on each occasion, but given our recent run against flying creatures (magpies, bluebirds, eagles) let us hope that we can add a fourth bird to the list tonight. Oh, for a repeat of that glorious sunny afternoon in April 2012 when Ricardo Vaz Te scored some wonderful goals, and we trounced Brighton 6-0 in a Championship fixture on our way back to the Premier League.

If fit (and not too tired) I’d like to see a triple A front line tonight of Antonio, Anderson and Arnie. In midfield I’d like to see Snodgrass, Rice and Obiang. And if Zabaleta is fit, then I’d like to see him take his place alongside Diop, Ogbonna, and Cresswell. My player of the season, Fabianski (just shading Rice) will continue in goal, although I assume Adrian will get a run out in the Cup next week.

It won’t be easy against an Albion side that are well organised, and have taken four points from their last two games against Everton and Arsenal, after a run of three successive defeats. It would be good to get off to a quick start and score early on. But I’ve been racking my brains trying to remember the last time we scored a goal at home in the first half of a game, and despite our excellent recent run, I don’t think we’ve scored in the first 45 minutes of a match at the London Stadium for two months now, since the win over Burnley on 3 November.

Perhaps today we can put that right? I’ll go for a 3-1 win.

West Ham Ready To Bounce Back And Bury The Brighton Bogey

There might not be nine ladies dancing on this ninth day of Christmas but it could be league win number nine as West Ham look to return to winning ways in their first game of 2019.

For those still counting, today is the ninth day of Christmas and the notion of nine ladies dancing might bring back nostalgic memories of the Hammerettes strutting their half-time stuff to MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This at Upton Park.  But that is all in the past whereas today is about new beginnings as West Ham welcome Brighton and Hove Albion to the London Stadium for the opening game of 2019.  A new year brings with it renewed feelings of optimism; the opening of the transfer window has us dreaming of exciting new recruits to bolster the squad; and a reset of the yellow card count allows players added scope to hack, lunge, tug and dive knowing that the spectre of suspension no longer hangs over their head.

Brighton have become something of a bogey team for West Ham and will be looking to claim their fourth successive Premier League victory against the Hammers.  In fact, West Ham have only won one of the six top flight games against the Seagulls – a 2-1 victory (Cottee, Dickens) back in March 1983.  It was the consequences of the demonstrations at last season’s home fixture with Brighton, however, that prompted the Board to extend their previously short arms deeper into their pockets during the summer, finally employ a decent manager and take a welcome step away from Twitter.

Depending how you want to look at it, West Ham have won an in-form five from the last seven or are on the slide with two defeats in the last three.  The common denominator in those two defeats was an opposition playing with aggression and intensity; it would be no surprise to see the same approach from Brighton tonight.  Manuel Pellegrini suggested that fatigue was the major contributor to the disappointing showing at Burnley but it seemed as much about poor attitude and a lack of desire to me.  Not that the effects of the festive programme with a squad badly hit by injuries didn’t play a part – just that it was not the whole story.

West Ham will hope to welcome back Pablo Zabaleta in defence but, with few other alternatives available, the rest of the back-line will be as you were.   That leaves Angelo Ogbonna once again standing-in for the missing Fabian Balbuena and it will be fingers crossed that he will is more alert than he was at Turf Moor.  I had an old computer that was like Ogbonna.  It was fine when you first started it up but gradually over time its performance became slow and erratic until the only option was to re-boot.  Hopefully, he has been cleared down, reformatted and had a firmware upgrade installed over the last few days to increase power.  Issa Diop’s performances have also suffered in Balbuena’s absence and both will need to be on their toes tonight.

In midfield, Pedro Obiang must surely return as a replacement for the struggling Mark Noble, who is looking well past his best before date right now.  Assuming Robert Snodgrass has recovered from his knock, the rest of the midfield should be unchanged.  The wild card is Samir Nasri who is reported to be available for the game following his signing for the Hammers at the expiration of his doping ban.  It would be a stretch to expect him starting the game (he has only played eight times since the start of the 2017 season) but can see him getting twenty minutes or so from the bench. At least he shouldn’t be tired!

Marko Arnautovic will lead the attack again and his presence is essential to take some of the spotlight (and attention) from opposition defenders away from Felipe Anderson.  If other teams decide to double up on Anderson then it is up to the other players to exploit the extra space made available.  My preferred choice as a partner for Arnie would be Michail Antonio who looks to have regained much of his appetite in recent weeks.  Ideally, it will be Andy Carroll and Xande Silva on the bench with Lucas Perez safely at home watching the new season of Luther.

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Brighton are at completely the other end of the injury league table to West Ham.  Their only reported injury is Colombian bogeyman, Jose Izquierdo, and even then he may be available for selection today.  They will, however, be missing Mat Ryan and Alireza Jahanbakhsh who are both on international duty at the AFC Asian Cup.  In addition to Izquierdo, ageing striker Glenn Murray also revels in his games against the Hammers.

Referee Chris Kavanagh from Lancashire makes his second West Ham appearance of the season – the first was in the drawn game at Huddersfield in November.  He has his fair share of yellow cards this term but just the one red – Maddison of Leicester against Brighton.

I heard West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini’s comments about the scheduling during the festive period – if that’s a problem then he shouldn’t have taken the job.

Lawro on Pellegrini

Despite having a dig at Pellegrini concerning the busy festive schedule, Lawro expects West Ham to return to winning ways with a 2-0 win.  Paul Merson is going for exactly the same result and score.  I am expecting to see a positive reaction following the disappointment at Burnley.  Brighton will be well organised as usual and even though they are not good travellers this will be another stern test.  Apparently, January is West Ham’s worst performing month for Premier League wins but having watched a poor Everton – Leicester game yesterday there is every reason to keep our sights on the ‘best of the rest’ title.  It might ultimately turn out to be unrealistic but there is nothing wrong with setting challenging and ambitious targets.  West Ham to win 2-1.