Our Challenge Lawro-athon

Our own season long Lawro challenge. Who will win?

The Thatched Haired LawroWe all know that Lawro is a thatch headed, know nothing West Ham hating Muppet who couldn’t predict the sequence at a set of traffic lights, right?  After all based on his predicted results last season we would have finished in 17th place having avoided relegation by just a single point.
Well time for us to put our money where our mouths are as we kick-off our season long Lawro challenge.  Every week we will go head-to-head with the much maligned pundit in the field of guesswork to see if we know better than him.  Our own scoring system will be one point for getting the correct result and three points for getting the correct score and result.
Predictions for the opening weekend are below and there is in not much optimism as far as the Hammers are concerned with none of us expecting Stamford Bridge to fall down on Monday night.  Personally, I would be more than happy to be wrong here but in such situations my “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” philosophy tends to take precedence.

 

Lawro

Geoff

Rich

Hull v Leicester

0-2

1-2

1-2

Burnley v Swansea

1-1

2-1

1-1

Crystal Palace v West Brom

2-1

3-1

2-1

Everton v Tottenham

1-1

0-2

1-1

Middlesbrough v Stoke

1-0

1-1

0-0

Southampton v Watford

2-1

1-0

2-0

Man City v Sunderland

2-0

4-0

3-0

Bournemouth v Man Utd

0-2

1-3

0-2

Arsenal v Liverpool

1-1

2-2

1-1

Chelsea v West Ham

2-0

2-0

2-1

5 Amusing Things About The Transfer Window

The Transfer Window is a time of speculation, exaggeration and outright invention.

1   The Majority of Transfer Speculation Stories are Most Likely Made Up

Transfer WindowFor the ever growing number of football news websites and blogs all looking for content that will attract traffic to their site there is nothing like a good transfer story.  A daily dose foretelling the latest exotic recruit linked to your club keeps many fans at fever pitch for the entire window – even if the original story was a figment of an over-active imagination.  Someone, somewhere will post a rumour which is copied, shared and tweeted and like all lies when repeated often enough becomes a fact.  Or maybe the original source is an agent attempting to stump up some interest in his want-away client.  In the spirit of the game I have invented my own statistic that 80% of all rumours are fabricated.

2   The Tricks and Traps of the Vague Story Title

Even when you have copied someone elses rumour it is no use being obvious that the story is the same as a dozen or so others already on the news feed.  The title of the post needs to be vague and cryptic enough to seduce the reader to click on through.  The day after West Ham had signed Arthur Masuaku from Olympiakos I saw a headline on Newsnow that read something like “Done Deal:  Second Defender Deal Completed in Two Days”.  Excited that it was a shiny new Right Back to complete a matching pair I was deflated to discover that the story was about an academy graduate agreeing to go out on loan.  Genius and it completely fooled me.

3   The Level of Supporter Outrage That Even a Made Up Story Can Generate

Whenever a transfer story appears there is always an army of angry supporters ready and able to argue about it regardless of how unlikely the whole thing is likely to be.  There will be the guy that hates the board and will repeatedly accuses them of penny-pinching/ misleading/ talking to media too much/ not giving supporters enough information; another who is adamant that we are paying well over the odds for every player linked (as if the transfer fee was coming out of his own pocket); and the bloke that doesn’t like or want us to do business with certain other clubs.  While opinions on players are perfectly valid (would anyone, for example, really want us to buy Benteke?) it hardly seems worth getting worked up about spurious speculation.

4   It Has a Vocabulary All of It’s Own

From the Manager dipping in to his “war chest” to “swoop” for the “want away” player that has “issued a come and get me plea” to the club that have “slapped a 50 million valuation” on their star player while”preparing a bid” for someone else’s in order to “test their resolve” the transfer window has a jargon rarely experienced anywhere else.  Sky Sports understands that this is unlikely to change anytime soon.

5   No Matter How Long the Window There Is Always a Last Minute Scramble

The transfer window is open for two months in the summer and another month in the winter.  One assumes that clubs are allowed to draw up their shopping lists well in advance of the window opening and so can clearly can hit the ground running.  In fact, West Ham always seem to complete some encouraging early business but then lose momentum.  As the days pass there is growing tension and panic leading up to deadline day where a high proportion of the workforce stop work to follow supposed sightings of players at airports, hotels and training grounds.  We are told not to go to bed else something that we have some control over happens before the morning when that window will have slammed shut.  There could be a good case for having the winter window open for one day only.

Another season, another reason, for makin’ whoopee?

Top 4, second season Slav syndrome or more of the same?

At the start of last season I was warned to be careful what I wished for and would happily have settled for a more entertaining brand of football while consolidating our place in the Premier League with another mid table finish.

Looking back objectively on the season only the most difficult to please supporter would dispute the view that the on-field achievement outperformed all expectations. A collection of inspired transfers and a more expansive style resulted in a creditable 7th place finish that included notable victories over Arsenal, both Manchester clubs, Chelsea and a double over Liverpool that finally ended the 50 year hoodoo at Anfield.

The flip side of taking welcome points from teams that we had traditionally rolled over to were the tame defeats to Bournemouth and Newcastle and dropped points against Villa, Norwich, Stoke and the Baggies. Had we beaten the teams we might be expected to beat then it was maybe the golden opportunity to secure the holy grail of a top 4 finish.

Now it is one year later and we begin the new season with relatively short odds for a top 6 finish and well off the radar as relegation candidates. As a long time hope-for-the-best, expect-the-worst type of supporter I wonder whether this optimism is justified considering how much cash is being flashed by all and sundry during the transfer window.

Tottenham Transfer Shopping
Tottenham Transfer Shopping

The 2016/17 season has new brooms at both Manchester clubs and Chelsea while Klopp begins to sweep away all of Brendan’s dead wood at Liverpool. Each of these clubs have been spending big as manager’s frantically attempt to build squads in their own image and will likely continue to do so until the window (slams) shut. In North London, Levy’s usual haphazard approach to transfers with all the discernment of a finalist is a Supermarket Sweep competition is now tempered by a competent manager advising him to steer clear of anything past its best before date. Over at Arsenal there is even the possibility of the Gunners making a late appearance at the transfer party as soon as Wenger remembers where he left his ATM card.

We look to have made some shrewd additions to the squad but I don’t believe we have adequately resolved the full back and striker situation. This will be a tough second season for Slaven Bilic as far as Premier League position is concerned especially with the prospect of Europa League to contend with. My heart wants glory but my head sees a repeat of last year’s seventh place at best. Here are my full selected standings.

1 Man City
2 Man Utd
3 Tottenham
4 Liverpool
5 Arsenal
6 Chelsea
7 West Ham
8 Leicester
9 Everton
10 Crystal Palace
11 Stoke
12 Southampton
13 West Brom
14 Bournemouth
15 Sunderland
16 Middlesbrough
17 Swansea
18 Watford
19 Burnley
20 Hull

Lies, Damn Lies and Football Statistics

Football statistics, what do they mean and how do West Ham fare?

One of the growth industries of modern football is the statistic and every game seemingly now has an army of people studying play on computer monitors so that every pass, tackle and duel can be recorded and fed into a database for subsequent analysis and debate.

Playfair
Playfair Football Annual

As a young boy I was regularly given Playfair Cricket and Football Annuals as a present which became required bedtime reading to the accompaniment of Radio Luxembourg where Horace Batchelor urged listeners to subscribe to his patented method of winning the football pools.

While the Cricket Annual was packed with player stats of runs scored, wickets taken, catches, stumpings and averages the most that you got for football players of the time was appearances and goals scored. Even Horace Batchelor had no inside statistical knowledge to support his“Famous Infra Draw Method” and his approach was to pool resources and create a huge permutation to improve the chances of picking out the drawn games.

Fast forward to today and the internet is awash with football stats and there are companies and websites that are completely devoted to their collection and analysis. The range of stats now includes number of shots, passes, tackles, fouls, aerial duels, short passes, long passes, dribbles, interceptions and distance run.

The problem that I have is that while these stats may be interesting is their any causal relationship between the information collected and the outcome of the match? Looking at the cricket stats I think it is clear that scoring runs and taking wickets are quite fundamental to winning a game but how important is, say, aerial duels won to the outcome of a football match?

The Whoscored website is a great resource for the stats aficionado and they live by their claim to be “Revolutionising Football Statistics”. So it was interesting to look at how Leicester had fared last season from a stats perspective as they ran out comfortable Premier League champions by 10 points.

The stand-out for me from Leicester’s season is that they were ranked 18th for Possession and 19th for Pass Success Rate (we should not be surprised that these two metrics are closely correlated because I have read that Opta use Pass Success Rate as a proxy for Possession – they don’t actually record who is any possession at any one time!). Where Leicester did well was for Interceptions, number of Tackles and Aerial Duels won. For Aerial Duels they were just behind Aston Villa – so we can see that it didn’t do them much good.

From all of these stats, Whoscored derive an overall rating (although I couldn’t find any details as to how this is calculated). The top 6 clubs based on the rating (in order) were Arsenal, Leicester, Tottenham, Manchester City, West Ham and Southampton with Manchester United in distant 10th place. So I guess you could say there is some correlation if the rating is directly related to the attributes measured.

For the TV viewer it is Possession that is the most frequently presented statistic and this seems odd when, at least based on last season, it bears no relation to the probable outcome. It may give the disgruntled losing manager something to hid behind yet the only true meaningful statistic is goals scored.

WH-Stats
WhoScored.com

The statistical summary of West Ham’s last season also shows that we were one of the poorer teams as far as Possession and Pass Success (12th and 13th respectively) are concerned. We performed quite well for Total Shots and Shots On Target but our main claim to fame was being one of the most Fouled sides in the league.

So that was last season and for this we start with a fresh notebook and pencil and will provide regular updates on how the wonderful world of statistics is affecting West Ham’s season.

Welcome to Under The Hammers

A warm welcome to our new blog

Under The Hammers is a new blog started by two long time ardent West Ham supporters (Geoff Hopkins and Richard Bennett) with plenty of mileage on the clock and who until recently were sometime contributors to the Over Land and Sea fanzine.

Our purpose in creating this website is to inform and entertain by taking a sideways and often irreverent look at the club we love while also bringing you all the news, previews, reviews and stats that you could want.  Our aim is to achieve this in a rather straightforward way without those ambiguous ‘clickbait‘ teasers, such as “Are West Ham planning to sell this 29 year old?“, that you find all around the internet with the sole intention of driving traffic to the site and generating advertising revenue.  This is a labour of love rather than a revenue generating exercise – it’s the West Ham way!

We plan to preview and review every game and include regular features on players, managers, referees, injuries and other oddities and talking points of the beautiful (but very expensive) game.