Rock, Paper, Hammer, Toffee: It’s Trial By Combat At The London Stadium

The indefinite force meets the incapable object in today’s battle of the fast-falling, crisis torn clubs. And it’s a last-chance throw of the managerial dice for Moyes and Lampard

I’m not a betting man but after last weekend’s results I would have put money on neither of today’s managers surviving for another seven days. Change felt inevitable as the mood with supporters reached an all-time low. The respective Board’s, however, had other ideas and opted to stick rather than twist.

Perhaps it was the looming cliff-edge drama and jeopardy of today’s death-match encounter that was difficult to resist. A gladiatorial struggle of titanic proportions at the London Coliseum where, as the final whistle blew, all attention would switch to the Chairmen in the stands to deliver their thumbs-up or thumbs-down verdicts. Maybe both will end up being thrown to the lions – but whether even Millwall would be interested is another matter!

I’ve long believed there are many similarities in the malaise that infects West Ham and Everton as they struggle to emerge from the shadows of more illustrious neighbours. Each with a strong and committed fanbase who have repeatedly been let down through the hubris of successive owners unable to come to terms with the reality of their situations. Preferring to believe that big city stardust empowers them to throw money at ostentatious signings rather than do the hard-work of building extensive scouting networks. Signing established second-rate players with fancy Youtube reels (and fancy agents) – who don’t interest the bigger clubs – in preference to unearthing emerging young talent before they become known. The idea of performing detailed analytical research and fishing in less known waters is considered necessary only fit for low-budget clubs such as Brighton and Brentford.

No surprise that Everton and West Ham lead the rankings for the most Premier League defeats ever. The Toffees have the edge for now with 424 to the Hammer’s 420 – although the West Ham total has been achieved in four fewer seasons.

We can only speculate how the conversation might have gone in the midweek board meeting at West Ham where the final decision was to do nothing, other than open another packet of hobnobs. Their logic, it seems, being that a manager who has been on a downward spiral for well over a year, who has picked up just one point from the last twenty-one available, who either bought disastrously or has been unable to incorporate expensive players into his game-plan, should be given one last chance – against the only team in the division that is equally incompetent – to prove he still has what it takes to turn things around. It makes absolutely no sense.

There was one report in the week that the Board didn’t want a change of manager to take the limelight away from the planned tribute to David Gold which will take place before kick-off today – it’s what he would have wanted. If true, it takes bizarre decision making to a completely different level.

Yesterday’s signing of Danny Ings was completed with uncharacteristic speed by West Ham. These things generally take weeks of posturing, dithering and negotiation. I suppose it reflects that someone, somewhere is starting to act with a sense of urgency. It raises questions again as to who is making the recruitment decisions at the London Stadium these days. My guess is that Sullivan in cahoots with Mark Noble are now calling the shots.

Ings has a decent Premier League goalscoring record having rattled home 68 goals in 188 appearances – or the equivalent of 141 lots of 90 minutes if you allow for substitution time. Surprisingly he has never scored or been on the winning side against West Ham (in thirteen attempts) but has scored more goals against Everton than against any other opponent. For lovers of symmetry, his 68 goals put him 68th in the rankings of all-time Premier League scorers.

How high up those ranking he is allowed to progress – can he join the one hundred club – will depend on how he is utilised. Stick him up top all on his own without support and he can do no better than those who have came before. He is an intelligent footballer and needs others to play off and to combine with. The well-worn, old-hat, outdated 4-2-3-1 as deployed by Moyes encourages none of that. Attempting to second guess the manager’s team selection leaves most supporters scratching their heads and I’m not expecting any revolutionary change of approach. It is by no means certain whether Moyes will abandon the habit of a lifetime and start with Ings, or leave him on the bench until we are a goal down?

One player who does have a record of scoring against the Hammers (three in five and no defeats) is Neil Maupay. His goal separated the two teams in the return fixture back in September and that remains his only strike of the season to date. Will he get he nod today or will Lampard pin his hopes on the aerial threat of Calvert-Lewin?

With the imminent departure of Craig Dawson, West Ham look alarmingly short of numbers at the back should Kurt Zouma and Nayef Aguerd continue to be plagued by injuries. It will be useful to have Zouma back in action today to finally get the preferred partnership with Aguerd finally up and running. Aguerd looks an accomplished defender but needs someone more dominant aerially alongside him.

With all that is at stake the game it does not promise to be a classic, free-flowing exhibition of the beautiful game. Whoever scores the first goal – if there are to be any – will no doubt shut up shop and look to choke the game with petty fouls and endless pretend head injuries. Neither side is over-burdened with creativity suggesting a dour, desperate, niggly affair to be settled by a lucky deflection, defensive howler or reckless red card. Whether the Hammer will ultimately shatter the brittle Toffee, or the Toffee will cause the Hammer to get stuck fast (Thanks, Mike) is impossible to predict. The forecast is an afternoon where endurance triumphs again over enjoyment. COYI!

9 thoughts on “Rock, Paper, Hammer, Toffee: It’s Trial By Combat At The London Stadium”

  1. Thanks for the shout out Geoff! You say, quite rightly, that it makes absolutely no sense for Moyse to still be in place after 12 or 13 months of massive underperformance. Moyse himself tries to shift the perspective in two ways: either to the period three years ago when he was indeed the Moysiah or to the last few weeks, when the truth is that we have been awful since December 2021. The figures don’t lie however much you talk about bad luck or bad decisions. It’s true there have been bad decisions, Scamacca, Paqueta, Emerson and Kehrer to name but four. Not all bad players by any means ( you don’t get to play for Italy, Brazil or Germany if you are rubbish) but players apparently totally unsuited to and unsuitable for the job they are being asked to do. Integrating players into a side is not always easy, but if you want a masterclass in how not to do it – study West Ham. It is also one of the most important tasks a Manager has to perform ( along with buying the right players in the first place) and no prizes for guessing who must be the worst Manager in the Premiership at doing both those things. I think we will beat Everton. A more important question is will we bear Newcastle, Chelsea or bloody Spurs, because if we don’t we really are in trouble.

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    1. That’s the whole point isn’t it. Basing a decision on your managers future on how well they do against another rubbish, underperforming side is ludicrous. We need to win quite a few of the remaining 19 games – maybe half of them – but you can already write off the games against the ‘big’ six and the two against Newcastle. It doesn’t leave many left


      1. Well a 2 – 0 win against the worst team in the Premiership and suddenly all is well. As you say “ ludicrous”. What happens if, as is entirely possible, we lose the next three games? Anyway, we shouldn’t be basing a decision like this only on games won or lost, but on who is the right person to take us forward over the next three to five years. We won’t do that of course and the deafening silence from the Board throughout the last few weeks suggests to me that Moyse is in place for the rest of this season, regardless of results. Absolutely freezing here at the moment, so you are definitely in the right place – even if Moyse isn’t! Best regards. Mike.


      2. I’m not sure what would be worse now. Hoping we scrape enough points to survive and replace Moyes in the summer. Or having to make a panic fire-fighting appointment in five or six games time. Any idea of the club taking a long term view with a progressive younger manager seems as far away as ever. And now Ings is injured and out for several weeks. Priceless!


      3. In addition to scoring wherever he has played, Ings has been injured everywhere too. A classic panic buy. Once again a player with a knee injury has been allowed to get up and play on by our medical staff ( remember Ogbonna, Zouma and, I think, Rice ), who have a long history of failing to treat our players properly. Ings will now be out for twice as long as originally thought and will join Cornet in the treatment room for at least the three vital games we have coming up. Another £15 million wasted. I’m very tempted to say that he will score goals in the Championship though.


      4. I think we’re now dependent on players finding form and staying uninjured. Rice, Aguerd and Bowen were excellent, but I suspect it’ll be Fabianski who keeps us up again (if we do stay up). It was good to see a glimmer of the old Coufal again, and a reminder of what a great winger Antonio can be. But of course there’s no chance of him playing with Scamacca…The owners want to avoid paying DM off, and then there’s the prospect of offers coming in for the club after the March 23 tax deadline has passed. I believe Sullivan and co. are gearing up to sell, hence the lack of any long-term planning.

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      5. You may be right about not wanting to pay out if they ditch Moyes. It’s a risky strategy though as relegation would put a huge dent in the club’s valuation. I think its fair to say that the club has never demonstrated any long term planning or strategy, under these owners or those that went before. It’s been repeated cycles of having to clear out heaps of dead wood every 3 or 4 years. But short-termism is likely even more difficult to pull off the way the game has changed.


  2. We also need a replacement for Dawson, hopefully another forward, and a left back before the window closes, otherwise our survival chances are not great. This regardless of whether we win today.

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