Opportunity Knocked – The Five Takeaways As West Ham Once Again Let Points Slip From Their Grasp

The inability to hold on to points continues to hamper the Hammer’s relegation battle. And the unintended consequences of VAR.

Varalysis By Analysis

Varalysis  noun  the loss of the ability to move (or to feel anything) when a goal is scored, due to an uneasy fear of the outcome from the VAR review.

Even when VAR doesn’t throw up anything controversial in a game (unless you include the Ajeti headbutt in the dying minutes) it has made a lasting impact on the match-day experience. When Issa Diop headed the West Ham opener (apparently the Hammer’s first headed goal of the season) just before half-time could we celebrate or not? Had Angelo Ogbonna’s offside stud touched the ball on the way through? Was there a handball incident in the lead up to the free-kick? Celebrations are starting to show signs of the yips, as they do in golf or darts. Not that this mundane game couldn’t have done with something more to liven it up.

A Tale Of Two Footballing Cities

It was the best of halves, it was the worst of halves. Having been much the better team in the first period, it was disappointing to concede a soft equaliser before the break before offering little in the second half. We have become poor at defending corners – and an apparent zonal marking system and stay-on-the-line keeper didn’t help matters. It allowed what had been a poor Everton team back into the game. There are many parallels between West Ham and Everton – a sense of misplaced grandeur, a belief that winning games should be an entitlement from the fact that they have big-name signings and are based in big footballing cities. Hard work, effort and application are for the lower classes. Both managers have their work cut out in shaking things up. This was certainly a game that West Ham would have been targeting to win – so it must go down as two precious points conceded.

Encouraging Signs?

Credit where it is due, there have been some encouraging signs on the pitch since the appointment of David Moyes – at least in the context of a team needing to steer clear of relegation. There has been a noticeable increase in intensity and energy levels even if they cannot yet be sustained for a full 90 minutes. Shape and organisation have improved; players are less isolated or exposed with the result that individual errors are less costly – with backup usually available. There is still some way to go and only so much can be achieved from a squad that is short on numbers, deficient in key positions and showing signs of age. Going into the closing stages of the season without quality recruits would represent a huge risk.

Precious Little Creativity

The conundrum with the current side is that those players who put in the most effort are among the least limited; either because of age, technical ability or both. I was pleasantly surprised how well Pablo Zabaleta performed and you can never fault the effort put in by Mark Noble and Robert Snodgrass – at least until they start to tire. But it is not always what a player does that is important, but what they don’t. In fact, looking at each of our midfielders on Saturday they all recorded commendable pass completion statistics on paper – and yet there were very few clear cut chances created. Aside from set pieces there is not much threat – if you could bring on a player just to take free kicks and corners then Snodgrass would be invaluable. Sebastien Haller struggles to justify his price tag continue but he still needs better support and service. Manuel Lanzini has completely lost his mojo since his recent injury woes. He had a reasonable amount of the ball but was mostly too deep and did absolutely nothing of note. Why it was Pablo Fornals and not Lanzini who was the first to be replaced is puzzling. The returns of Michail Antonio and Felipe Anderson will be eagerly awaited.

Solid Defence or Poor Opposition Attack?

Defensively, it was a solid performance – but part of that may be down to how lacklustre the opposition in attcking areas. Maybe it would have been a different story had Richarlison been playing. Still Ogbonna and Diop were accomplished, Declan Rice provided excellent defensive cover and both Aaron Cresswell and Zabaleta put in generally competent defensive displays, despite getting caught out on occasion. The two full backs also recorded the most individual touches among the West Ham players – both getting forward frequently to provide a semblance of width that was otherwise missing.

Ratings: Randolph (5), Zabaleta (7), Diop (7), Ogbonna (7), Cresswell (7), Rice (7), Noble (6), Snodgrass (6), Fornals (6), Lanzini (4), Haller (5) Subs: Masuaku (5), Ajeti (5)

The West Ham Revival Part 2: Bouncing Back From The Blades To Take On Everton At The London Stadium

With his first honeymoon ending in a decidedly limp manner, courtesy of VAR, David Moyes will be looking to demonstrate ‘bouncebackability’ as the Hammers come up against his old club, Everton.

Yet again the important business of transfer speculation is interrupted by having to play a game of football. And to make matters worse, it will be two matches in a week as West Ham kick-off a run of 17 potential ‘must win’ games between now and the middle of May. They probably need to win at least five or six of them.

As things stand West Ham are among the front-runners in this season’s relegation stakes. Things can change, of course, but right now it looks any three from Norwich, Bournemouth, Aston Villa, Brighton, Burnley and West Ham for the drop – you couls potentially add in Watford but I don’t see them as relegation material now they have got their act together. Norwich are already well off the pace, but  a revival in East Anglia could set up a claret and blue treble. Optimists might point out that the Hammers have a game in hand as well as one of the better goal differences among the threatened clubs – but both of those could be wiped out when we meet Liverpool at the end of the month. Looking at how compressed the lower half of the table is suggests that clubs will need every one of those 40 points this time around.

Any encounter with Everton is a huge test for David Moyes as it is the Toffees that he is still most closely associated. Although ultimately it required the assistance of VAR to confirm defeat at Bramall Lane last week, it was a disappointing West Ham performance that brought the new manager’s honeymoon to an abrupt halt. The bounce turned out to be of the dead cat variety. He will be desperate to launch bounce phase two against his old club. Moyes may have the natural demeanour of Eeyore but needs to embrace his inner Tigger to breath life into his listless team.

One probable change this week will be the returning Darren Randolph in place of the re-injured Lukasz Fabianski. In his previous West Ham incarnation, Randolph showed he could be a more than competent shot-stopper but I will keep fingers crossed that he has toughened up in the air during his time on Teesside. He is good enough to fill the spot as an understudy keeper but he is unlikely to single-handedly save the season. For that we would need Gandalf rather than Randolph.

Who eventually joins him through the West Ham transfer window is anyone’s guess. As usual there are so many mixed messages as to the type of player(s) being pursued. The usual in-the-knows and reliable journalists have been throwing up new names, from the exotic to the mundane, on an almost daily basis. I would be quite happy with a Barkley or a Clyne, much less so with a Fellaini or an Allen. The sense that we have all been in this very same position before – allowed to drift into a relegation battle and potentially recruit a bunch of journeyman has-beens as a reaction – is highly depressing.

The idea that the club will let yet another transfer window pass without finally strengthening the suspect central midfield area and bringing in pace and athleticism is inconceivable, isn’t it?

No doubt the owners will be persuaded to open their wallets (even if it is for loan deals – which are not a problem in principle) as their only deeply held desire is to hold on to their Premier League status. Never mind taking profits or receiving income from director loans, it is the asset value of the club that is important to them – and that would plummet in the Championship.

Last week marked the 10th anniversary of Gold and Sullivan taking control of the club. In wedding terms that would make it a tin anniversary. If only our own tin men had a heart (or a brain as well come to that). Or is the heart they are searching for the one that many believe has been ripped out of the club?  It has been obvious to me for some time that the owners have no strategy that seeks to incrementally improve the club and the way that it is organised. The fighting words they made on taking over the reins at West Ham has never been backed up by a sensible plan of action. Money has been spent but not wisely or with long term team building in mind. The irony is that despite everything, West Ham is one of the top twenty biggest clubs in the world in terms of revenues. Professional football people taking day to day control of operations could easily make a big difference.

Making a quick return to West Ham officiating is Andre Marriner from the West Midlands. He was most recently in charge of the Hammer’s defeat at Crystal Palace. This week’s Dr Evil in the VAR Stockley Park bunker is Simon Hooper from Wiltshire. In the pre-VAR days West Ham looked to be the one club that would benefit from accurate and consistent refereeing decisions. And yet, the exact opposite has been true in practice – or at least that is how it looks through my claret and blue spectacles. Funnily enough, I don’t remember any hoo-hah being made about accidental handballs leading to goals back then. The new interpretation has tried to fix a problem that didn’t exist – it is ridiculous and inconsistent. If the concern is that a player has gained an advantage then the same must also be true of any ball to hand for a defender in the penalty area – yet it goes unpunished. As I have mentioned before, giving the responsibility for implementing VAR to referees was asking for trouble.

Lawro and Charlie Nicholas are again synchronised this week in calling a 2-1 West Ham win. Although it is a winnable game I am not confident unless we start on the front foot and dominate the middle of the park – something we have struggled with for much of the season. Calvert-Lewin will cause problems for our defenders as he did last season (but now he is scoring goals as well), Richarlison will run at our defence and fall over at the slightest change in air pressure (beware Simon Hooper) while Walcott saves all his best performances for the Hammers. On the other hand they are vulnerable at the back but can we put them under sustained enough pressure? I am not certain that Moyes will be bold enough to throw everything at them rather than keeping it tight. Hoping for a win, but feeling it’s a draw.

Blade Runners: Newly Energised West Ham Face Tough Challenge In The Steel City

David Moyes ‘Don’t Run, Don’t Play’ policy faces it’s sternest test yet as the Hammers travel to Bramall Lane to face Sheffield United, the season’s surprise footballing package.

Things could hardly have gone any better for David Moyes at the start of his second stint as West Ham manager. Two games, two wins, two clean sheets. Lucky in many ways to have begun with such a benign set of fixtures but it will have helped build both confidence in the squad and a degree of support for the manager.

The bounciness of any new managerial appointment always has limits before gravity and drag attempt to return it towards equilibrium. Solskjær’s endured for several months at Manchester United last season while Mourinho’s honeymoon at Tottenham was much shorter lived. Coming up against a gritty, well disciplined and determined Sheffield United side poses a serious challenge to the momentum of the current Moyes bounce. And that ignores any potential energy that might be added to this evenings proceedings as a result of the Carlos Tevez effect. Remember, when West Ham played with the unfair advantage of Tevez in their team they only lost 3-0 at Bramall Lane.

The Blades have undoubtedly been one of the success stories of the season so far. A team with no stars but having great work ethic and a shape that manages to be both well organised and unorthodox at the same time. Manager, Chris Wilder, can take much of the credit in producing a style that is so unfamiliar to Premier League opponents that many have struggled to cope with it. Whether managers will ultimately become wise to the approach, as we enter the second half of the season, remains to be seen. One certainly wouldn’t have put any money on Pellegrini spotting an Achilles heel, but can Moyes fare any better?

I suspect that the manager would like to play three at the back today – I believe he sees it as the best way to instil defensive stability given the players available to him. It was also apparently (at least from what I have read) one of the tactics employed by both Southampton and Newcastle in their wins at Bramall Lane. That formation, however,  may have been frustrated by the injury to Ryan Fredericks – just when he was at last looking to use his pace as an attacking threat. Pablo Zabaleta would be the obvious replacement but, putting aside the unlikely strike at Gillingham, there is a major question mark over his pace and stamina these days. Perhaps Michail Antonio is an alternative wing back option if considered fit enough to start.

Elsewhere, there are unlikely to be many changes from the side that started against Bournemouth, subject to there being no further injury problems. It has been encouraging to hear the manager’s “if you don’t run, you don’t play” mantra being repeated again this week although, maybe, it is too early to expect fitness levels to have reached that required to compete for 90 minutes – especially against opponents that demonstrate an effective never-say-die philosophy.

Today will see a third encounter of a close kind with referee Michael Oliver from Northumberland. If you believe in omens you will disappointed to be reminded that the last two ended in defeat – home games with Palace and Tottenham. Oliver’s wingman on the VAR master console will be occasional Premier League referee, Simon Hooper of Wiltshire.

In a rare Jupiter aligning with Mars moment, media pundits Lawro and Charlie Nicholas are agreed in predicting a fence sitting 1-1 draw. It is easy to understand why, with the chances of a Friday night goal-fest for the stay-at-home TV audience, unlikely from two relatively low-scoring teams.

From his own bigger picture perspective, Moyes may be inclined to view the game as a point not to lose, rather than two more to win – and will approach the game accordingly. That’s not to say, though, that it can’t be won courtesy of a quick breakaway. The hosts are strong in the air and rapid attacks through the middle might prove a more productive route to goal than crosses into the box – perhaps a reprise of Felipe Anderson’s goal against Bournemouth might do the trick. A goalless draw would be no surprise but, as always, we live in hope.

Forty Years Of Hurt Never Stopped Us Dreaming: Will West Ham Be Up For The Cup This Time Around?

Time to enter HA9 0WS into your GPS system as the Hammers set off on the Road to Wembley from the modest surroundings of the Priestfield Stadium.

The FA Cup 3rd Round marks the final opportunity of the season to generate a sense of optimism. By this midway point, we have a reasonable idea as to how the league placings will pan out and, for most teams, the Cup offers a last chance of true glory. Finishing the season in 10th rather than 14th place in the table may deliver greater financial rewards but that is largely academic to supporters.

Historically, the dream of glory has been a short-lived one at West Ham and, although past performance gives favourable odds for progressing beyond the 3rd Round, it is a less than 40% chance of the Hammers being in the 5th round draw. Reach as far as the semi-finals, however, and the omens are much better.

Looking back at the club’s FA Cup exploits since the 1958/59 season (i.e. when the modern football  era begun in my own mind) this is our elimination record:

3rd Round                  22 times
4th Round                  16 times
5th Round                  9 times
6th Round                  9 times
Semi Final                 1 time
Losing Finalists        1 time
Winners                    3 times

What we have to remember is that for the majority of those 61 seasons West Ham have actually been doing their best to win all FA cup games – the same cannot be said for some of the more recent seasons. Over the years the relative importance placed on the competition by fans and clubs has diverged significantly – and not only at West Ham.  Although the idea of owners ‘instructing’ managers to throw cup games is a ludicrous suggestion, the fact that achieving the highest possible Premier League position is where the managerial bread is buttered is sure to influence thinking and thus, team selection.

I suspect that David Moyes will want to put out a ‘strongish’ today side – if only to keep the fans onside during his second honeymoon. He will face some tricky decisions as he endeavours to steer the side away from the relegation battle with a squad thin in numbers and quality in certain key positions (and then there is that £2 million no-relegation bonus to consider.)  Does he risk Lukasz Fabianski and Sebastien Haller, for whom there is inadequate competent cover, and can Mark Noble and Robert Snodgrass handle another game so soon after their impressive efforts on New Year’s Day? Perhaps a place for one or two young sets of legs from the Under 23s can play a part – Nathan Holland or Connor Coventry, for example. Hopefully, we have seen the very last of Roberto and Carlos Sanchez.

I must confess to knowing next to nothing about Gillingham. They are a mid-table League 1 side – so thankfully nowhere near as good as Oxford United. From their record it appears that they neither score nor concede that many goals. That prising open well organised, packed defences and coping with quick counter attacks are not West Ham core competencies, it leaves plenty to be concerned about – especially if any complacency creeps in or the team are not up for the physical challenge often associated with lower league opposition.

We will be spared the delight of VAR today as it is only in operation at top flight stadiums in the 3rd to 5th rounds of the competition. That all sounds very inconsistent to me. What are the chances of a contentious handball decision in the build up to a Gillingham goal that VAR would have certainly disallowed? At least, if there are any goals, we will be able to celebrate with gay abandon without the fear of virtual intervention. In the absence of a virtual assistant all decisions will be the sole responsibility of Andrew Madley from West Yorkshire.

It is, of course, a serious topic but I can’t help detect a sense of irony that kick-off times this weekend have all been delayed by one minute as part of FA’s mental health awareness campaign. If anything has produced a negative effect on my wellness over the years, it has been following the Hammer’s cup exploits.  Conversely, having experienced three FA cup wins during my supporting career, it is difficult to over-estimate the magnificent ‘high’ that accompanied each one.

This year it will be 40 years since the last of those successes, and 14 since the closest near miss. What are the chances of marking that 40th anniversary with a repeat performance – around 40/1 according to the bookmakers!

As a Premier League club, we really should be expected to overcome League 1 opposition – but shock results are part and parcel of the Cup’s attraction. Several top-flight clubs have already gone out to lower league opponents and we don’t need to be joining them. This is not going to be an easy game and the attitude must be right to back up the obvious superior technique. Everyone in claret and blue will need to graft – there is no room for lightweights in this type of fixture. With the correct preparation I fully expect to see our name alongside ball number 29 when the 4th round draw takes place on Monday evening.

Groundhog New Year’s Day: The Moyes Is Back In Town And This Time He’s Looking For A Bounce

Cometh the man, cometh the dour. He’s back but what will be the biggest challenge – winning over the opposition or winning over the fans?

Another year and the eternal hope for the dawn of an exciting new era for West Ham. At least, that is what they would like us to think. That a change of manager will wipe away the past, fix the present and lead us to a future of sunlit uplands and silverware.

Without doubt getting shot of Manuel Pellegrini was the right thing to do.  The current predicament, flirting with relegation, was largely his doing and we need not feel sorry for him. Beyond that, the lack of direction, the failure to deliver a plan or strategy that might produce a step change in the club’s fortunes and the absence of a required level of investment is down the board. I have said this several times before but the two Daves lack both the financial resources and imagination to turn West Ham into a club capable of challenging at a higher level. The appointment of David Moyes, as West Ham’s seventh manager in their ten-year tenure, was typical of their muddled thinking and short-term outlook.

I don’t have any particular issues with Moyes, but he is not a progressive choice. He will most probably keep us in the Premier League but the fact is, once again, survival has become the only objective. From the owner’s perspective retention of Premier League status will see the value of the asset appreciate until the right time comes to sell. The level of investment need only be sufficient to keep heads above the Championship. A cynical view, perhaps, but one that the owner’s actions have done little to dispel. I have read some fans on social media hoping for relegation as a means of forcing the owners out. That feels like a naive view to me as they would unlikely sell in those circumstances. In fact, the level of investment has been fairly consistent with other also-rans but most others have spent more wisely.

There are two schools of thought concerning Moyes previous spell in the West Ham hot seat. One that he steered the club from a desperate situation to mid-table respectability and did what was needed to make that happen; the other that it was a grim period in recent Hammer’s history where a couple of late wins put an undeserved gloss on an otherwise mediocre record and below average win ratio. The case for the prosecution will also point to the signing of Jordan Hugill.

Unfortunately for Moyes he finds himself back in a similar position as last time, where the priority for points is weighted far more highly than a duty to entertain – if, in fact, he has that tool in his locker. As we supporters should have learned from our own history, it is very difficult to reach judgement on a manager from a single or part season only. Maybe the situation will spawn a new round of anti-Board protests but I sense that we will now have Moysie here for the next 18 months. I can’t see anything other than pretty ugly football for the remainder of this term; after that we will need to wait and see which way the latest new direction points.

There have been some horrendous suggestions in the media and online of players linked with a move to the London Stadium during the transfer window. I prefer to take these with a pinch of salt as only a small percentage of rumours turn out to be true. Maybe it is just wishful thinking.

Today’s game against Bournemouth is a classic six-pointer. Both teams have struggled for points in recent weeks and look to be in free-fall, just as other clubs in relegation peril start to rally. There has been precious little time for Moyes to work on the team’s obvious lack of fitness and organisation, but it would be no surprise if he decided to go for a change of formation – to the 3-5-2 set-up that he settled on during his previous reign. As many of us were imploring Pellegrini to do likewise, I couldn’t argue with that. Whatever the eventual line-up, we could certainly do with a generous helping of new manager bounce to help us on our way. Perhaps losing but not from a winning position will be as good a bounce as we’re likely to get!

The visitors have been badly hit by injuries this season but any team that lost Leicester reserves cannot take much relief from that fact.  Eddie Howe’s team have a good record against West Ham and strikers Callum Wilson and Josh King must both rate the Hammers as a favourite and hospitable opponent. Fortunately, King looks to have been added to list of sick and will probably miss the game.

Graham Scott from Oxfordshire is the matchday referee aided by Lee Mason on VAR duty in the underground Stockley Park bunker. The implementation of VAR appears to be getting worse and more intrusive week by week – more so for those in the ground who are left waiting with little information. Allowing the referee’s to supervise implementation was never going to be a good idea.

Our pundit buddies have both gone for a West Ham home win: Lawro by 2-0 and Charlie Nicholas by 2-1.  I can see this being the most cagey of games and wouldn’t be surprised to see it settled by a single goal. Hopefully, it will be one that works to our advantage.

That Was The Decade That Was: West Ham’s Past Ten Years In Numbers

As a brief respite from the general turmoil surrounding the club, we look back at the numbers that define the past decade at West Ham. 

Not only have we reached the end of yet another year of disappointment but also the end of the 2010s. A decade that coincides almost perfectly with the club’s current ownership, David Sullivan and David Gold having purchased a 50% controlling stake in January 2010. It was a decade that opened with a 2-1 FA Cup home defeat to Arsenal at Upton Park on 3 January 2010 and ended with a 2-1 Premier League home defeat to Leicester at the London Stadium on 28 December 2019.

Here is what the numbers tell us about all matches played in the intervening ten years.

9 – seasons played in the top flight, representing the second best decade on record from that point of view. The 1960’s being the only decade that West Ham were ever present at the top level.  What can we expect from the rip-roaring 20’s as we once again flirt with relegation? It will take some fundamental new year’s resolutions to ever reach that next level we have heard about.

3 – number of top ten finishes (excluding the Championship year), the highest being 7th in 2015/16 (the Payet season) which also saw record points and the only ever Premier League positive goal difference. The average finishing position during the Premier League years has been 12.5. The average points tally is 45. Not so impressive for a club regularly among the top ten richest in the league.

478 – total number of games played, of which 171 were won (35.8%) and 184 were lost (38.5%).

6 – number of managers employed, although technically you could say 7 if you were inclined to count David Moyes twice. Either way it was a record for any decade. The complete rogues gallery comprises Gianfranco Zola, Avram Grant, Sam Allardyce, Slaven Bilic, David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini

17,412,173 – the cumulative attendance at all West Ham matches, home and away – an average of 36,427. The highest was the 78,523 watching the Paly-Off final in 2012 while the lowest was the 1,300 who turned up to see the 2015 Europa League qualifier at FC Lusitans.

40,276 – average home attendance – they keep turning up regardless. The highest recorded attendance at any home game was 59,988 against Everton in March 2019 while the lowest was the 14.390 optimistic souls who turned up hoping to see the Hammers reverse a 6-0 first leg deficit against Manchester City in the 2014 league cup semi-final. The lowest attendances at league games (by division) were 25,680 versus Cardiff (Championship, 2011) and 31,033 versus Hull City (Premier League, 2014).

171 – total number of players fielded by West Ham during first team games in all competitions. 57 of who made fewer than 10 career appearances for the club.

347 – the highest number of appearances made by an individual player – Mark Noble.  The remainder of the top ten appearance list are Winston Reid (215), James Tomkins (200), Aaron Cresswell (179), Carlton Cole (176), Angelo Ogbonna (143), Andy Carroll (141), Kevin Nolan (140), James Collins (139), Michail Antonio (138)

43 – the most goals scored by an individual player during the 10 years – again Mark Noble. Possibly the most telling statistic, considering players at some clubs almost reach that total in a single season. Only 8 players scored more than 20 goals during the entire ten years. The rest of the top ten scorers list are Carlton Cole (40), Andy Carroll (33), Kevin Nolan (31), Michail Antonio (29), Marko Arnautovic (22), Diafra Sakho (22), Manuel Lanzini (21), Javier Hernandez (17), Dimitri Payet & Ricardo Vaz Te (15)

15 – most goals scored in a season in all competitions by an individual player – Carlton Cole in the 2011/12 Championship season (14 league goals). The best return during a Premier League season is 12 (9 league) by Dimitri Payet in 2015/16.

0.538 – the best goals scored per game played ratio by a West Ham player. This was Demba Ba who grabbed 7 goals in 13 appearances at the end of the end of the 2010/11 season. Other players who have averaged 0.3 goals per game or better are Diafra Sakho, Ilan, Marko Arnautovic, Ricardo Vaz Te and Lucas Perez.

641– the total number of goals scored by West Ham (1.34 per game) in all cometitions. Goals conceded totaled 685 (1.43 per game)

8 – the most goals scored by West Ham in a single game – the 8-0 win against Macclesfield in the 2018/19 League Cup. The biggest league win was 6-0 in the Championship against Brighton (2011/12). The Hammers twice scored 5 times in FA Cup ties (Burnley (H) & Blackburn (A)) but did not score more than 4 in any Premier League match – something (scoring 4) that they achieved on 7 separate occasions.

6 – most goals conceded in a single match – the 6-0 league cup semi, first leg, defeat by Manchester City in 2014.  The West Ham rearguard conceded 5 goals on 7 occasions and 4 goals 25 times.

8 – highest aggregate score in a West Ham game – the 8-0 win against Macclesfield. There were 3 games that featured 7 goals – 4-3 wins against Huddersfield and Portsmouth and a 3-4 defeat to Bournemouth.

131 – the number of West Ham clean sheets earned (27.4% of games played)

125 – the number of games in which the Hammers failed to score (26.1%)

34 – the total number of goalless games featuring West Ham (7.1%)

8 – the number of players to win the Hammer of The Year Award with Scott Parker and Mark Noble both two time winners. The remainder of the list includes several heroes to zeroes and comprises Winston Reid, Aaron Cresswell, Dimiri Payet, Michail Antonio, Marko Arnautovic and Lukasz Fabianski. Young HOTY was won by Zavon Hines, Freddie Sears, Dan Potts, George Moncur, Sam Howes, Reece Burke, Reece Oxford and Declan Rice (3 times).

0 – the number of trophies won. (unless you want to include the Play Off Final).  The most productive cup runs were in reaching the League Cup semi-final on two occasions (2010/11 & 2013/14). In the FA Cup, the best the club could manage was the 6th round in 2010/11 and 2015/16. Apart from the that, the FA Cup saw West Ham eliminated in the 3rd round (4 times) and 4th round (twice). In 2020, it will be 40 years since that last trophy success in May 1980.

In conclusion, we would like to wish all Hammers, wherever they are in the world, a happy, healthy, prosperous and, if possible, stress-free new year!

Since You Gotta Go, You Had Better Go Now! Can Someone Please Put Us Out Of This Misery?

In a low budget, poorly produced sequel to the Avram Grant season, the West Ham board continue to dither over compensation payments in a further blow to the next level credibility.

Baffled Of Santiago

I was expecting to wake up this morning to discover that Manuel Pellegrini had finally been dismissed. Now just a single point away from the relegation places (with an inferior goal difference) and with a manager who: admits he is baffled; has been largely responsible for assembling this current one-paced squad; has seemingly no idea how to set up and organise a team to compete in the modern game; and is completely out of touch with current tactical trends. No-one in their right mind can surely believe that Pellegrini has got what it takes to turn things around; or, based on past performance,  would want to trust him with any further funds in the upcoming transfer window.  The season is a poorly produced, low budget, remake of the Avram Grant Season. There is no footballing rationale whatsoever for keeping him on – compensation payment is the only issue on the table. The longer a decision is put off, the greater will be the imperative to hire a manager specialising in ‘ugly’ tactics to sort it out. Stop the dithering, bite the bullet and pull the trigger – even if it is with a caretaker in charge for the next run of games.

Insider Dealing

The ubiquitous club-insider is suggesting that the manager will be given another two more games (again) to save his job. Also that if he does go then David Moyes is the probable replacement. Now I have no idea whether the insider is just making stuff up like the rest of us or is being fed information from the club (which would be massively unprofessional, but easy to believe) but if it is true then it is a deeply worrying scenario. Not that I don’t think Moyes would be a better option than Pellegrini but that is not the point. He is not the right person for the type of club we need to be. Someone who would be able to take the team in a direction that most supporters want to travel. Ultimately, football is meant to be an entertainment. It has to offer more than just doing enough to hang on to your place at the top table so that we can see the top players in the world come to tear us to pieces every season. As supporters, we need something to believe in, to be proud of, and at least be given a glimmer of hope of an a honest tilt at the occasional cup competition.

Not Fit For Purpose

Yesterday, we looked doomed right from the start. Any side with probably the three slowest players in the Premier League (Mark Noble, Robert Snodgrass and Pablo Zabaleta) is going to struggle. Throw in a comedy goalkeeper and whatever hope there was disappeared over the horizon. To be fair, Roberto was not at fault for either of the goals and made a couple of decent saves. The bench looked a little brighter with the return of Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson but neither ultimately made any impression. As usual there was no sign of any young legs and energy among the substitutes. There may have been a desire to ship out what was thought to be deadwood (Obiang, Fernandes, for example) but they were far better than what has been left behind. Is there some kind of collective madness at the club?

Two Poor Sides

The match was, as the one at Southampton, a contest of very poor quality. The Hammers nominally adopted the same 4-4-2 formation that had triumphed just over a week earlier but on this occasion the gaps between each block of players were far too great. Having won one game it was apparently beyond the players to put in the same level of effort for two matches in a row.  Michail Antonio was the only real threat, and the only one to come away with any real credit, but he cannot maintain those energy levels for a full ninety minutes. In a re-run of the past few matches, once Antonio starts running on fumes, the whole team shape collapses and becomes fatally exposed.

New Formation, Same Failings

Although there were now ostensibly two layers ‘up top’ the supply line to them was as ineffective as ever. Snodgrass despite his goal (and almost getting a second) was pedestrian throughout and again demonstrated that perseverance with the winger on the wrong flank is complete madness. Mark Noble’s only notable contribution was a bust up with Angelo Ogbonna (not sure why, but possibly due to Noble’s lazy pass putting Aaron Cresswell under pressure.) The formation, as implemented, doesn’t suit Declan Rice as his ability to break forward is seriously curtailed – he is utilised as a holding midfielder only and gave one of his least effective displays for some time as a consequence. The upshot was that Palace were given acres of space both in the centre of midfield and down their left wing where Zaha ran Pablo Zabaleta ragged all afternoon. If only we had known that might happen. Even at a goal up, it was clearly only going to be a matter of time (and Antonio’s battery running flat) before the home side breached the West Ham defence. I would take one (a defeat) for the team if it meant the end of our bewildered manager.

Ratings: Roberto (5), Zabaleta (3), Ogbonna (6), Balbuena (5), Cresswell (5), Snodgrass (5), Rice (5), Noble (4), Fornals (6), Antonio (8), Haller (5) Subs: Lanzini (4), Anderson (5), Ajeti (?)