5 Things We Learned From Saturday

Other than a chicken kebab here are the takeaways from Saturday’s West Ham game.

5 Things WHUTaking Points over Performance.

After a faltering start to the season there is obvious satisfaction in getting two consecutive wins under the belt. In the opening quarter of the match we looked to have carried through the momentum from the previous week and played with rare freedom and confidence. Once Sunderland had weathered the storm, however, the game became more even and the tempo of our game fell away. Not for the first time this season we started well and then fizzled out and it is worrying if we cannot get a sustained 90 minute performance out of the players. Ultimately we took the three points and in the circumstances, as with any club floundering in the lower reaches of the table, we must prioritise points over performance for the time being. That is not going to keep the London Stadium filled in the longer term though.

A Late, Late Winner

It is not too often that West Ham grab a late winner deep into added time. Sunderland had settled for the respected point by then and it is to our credit that we get plugging away despite an overall disappointing second half. I have to admit that I didn’t see the goal coming as the short corner was taken and it was unexpected to see that Winston Reid had taken up a position on the edge of the box. Still a nice piece of skill from the Kiwi and a decent shot past an unsighted keeper. Possibly a suspicion of offside but not conclusive except to Mr Dour, the Sunderland manager.

No Penalty. Mr Madely?

There were penalties awarded in the Premier League yesterday. Prior to this week’s matches there had been 31 given in 80 matches. Yesterday’s referee, Robert ‘Bobby’ Madely, who last season had deemed that Loftus-Cheek tripping over his own feet outside the area was worthy of a spot kick seemed not to be aware of the new interpretations on grappling and holding as first Ogbonna and then Reid were both grabbed by Sunderland defenders. In the light of penalties that have been awarded elsewhere this season this again showed shocking inconsistency.

Swiss in a New Role

Slav had decided to stick with three at the back after the success at Crystal Palace and it was a surprise to see Edmilson Fernandes fill the gap left by the criminally suspended Aaron Cresswell. The formation suits the currently available players and so it is likley to the how West Ham set up for the foreseeable future; probably until it goes badly wrong. I do like what I have seen of young Fernandes despite not playing in his normal position. He looks very assured and comfortable on the ball as well as being full of energy. When Cresswell returns it would be disappointing to see him dropped to the bench and he would get my vote over Mark Noble in midfield on current showing.

No Striker, No Goals

It is now 9 games gone and a striker has yet to score a goal for West Ham; a sorry state of affairs that will continue to hold us back. Surely it is obvious to anyone who has been watching that there is no way that Simone Zaza looks cut out for the Premier League. This is not a player off form or simply low on confidence but one whose talents, whatever they may have been it Italy, do not translate into the English game. It is a waste of everyone’s time to keep playing him. We have seen enough to know that he is not a £20+ million striker. With continuing doubts over the fitness of Carrol and Sakho our hopes rest with the return Andre Ayew but in the meantime we may as well give Ashley Fletcher more game time; what use is the occasional 5 or 10 minutes? Sorry Simone here is your air ticket back to Turin.

Matchday: Hammers v Black Cats

Looking forward with renewed enthusiasm as the Hammers take on the bedraggled Black Cats.

West Ham SunderlandFresh from the encouraging win against Crystal Palace last weekend Hammer’s supporters will be looking for the same professionalism and panache as West Ham entertain lowly Sunderland at the London Stadium today.  Without a win all season and just two draws in their account the visitors look almost as miserable as the look on their manager’s face.  If ever a team reflected the manager’s personality on the pitch then it is the Black Cats.

David Moyes is Sunderland’s 13th manager (plus a couple of caretakers) this century and is the epitome of the dour Scotsman; like the one who has won the lottery and then admonishes himself for buying a second ticket.  History would suggest that he won’t be at the Stadium of Light this time next year when in reality Sunderland need to stick with someone for a few years to sort themselves out.  A biggish stadium does not make a big club and there seems to be a lot wrong at the club as their perennial struggles and unlikely great escapes implies.

“It was good in the camp two or three weeks ago. We didn’t stop training but of course it’s a better mood because the confidence is back, in a positive way.”

– Slaven Bilic

Anything other than a convincing West Ham win today will be a huge disappointment.  We took four points off the Black Cats last season but were quite fortunate to do so; with the drawn away game hinging on a sending off after limply going 2-0 down and the home game a narrow and scrappy 1-0 victory.  We need to see more of the high tempo, quick passing and movement from last week and avoid a return to the ponderous build up that has characterised the majority of the season.

Head to Head

Our Head to Head record with Sunderland was another which I believed would be firmly to our advantage when in fact it is almost level pegging.  My instinct was that it this is a fixture where we routinely rattle in the goals but I guess that is merely the claret and blue spectacles playing havoc with my rear-view perception.

P W D L F A Sequence
Home 42 18 14 10 79 50 WWDDLW
Away 44 13 11 20 54 71 DDWLLW
86 31 25 30 133 121

West Ham have won three of the last six home fixture while the last Sunderland away success came in a 3-0 victory in the very final game of the woeful Avram Grant season.

Team News

By rights we should have been expecting an unchanged team from the previous match but, sadly, incompetent refereeing means that Aaron Cresswell sits this one out.  Andre Ayew is back in training but remains some way away from a recall while the recuperation of Carroll and Sakho is following a ‘tomorrow never comes’ regime; it seems that we have devised a new position of the ‘False Substitute’ which will be making Pep very jealous.

Gaun yersel’, haud yer wheesht.  Shut yer geggy, whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye.  Away an bile yer heid.

– David Moyes

I expect the starting line-up will be as last week, retaining three at the back, with Arbeloa coming in for Cresswell.  It will not be as effective without Cresswell’s exceptional forward and link up play but is the best fit to build on the momentum of last week.  I wonder what the odds are on Zaza to emulate Geoff Hurst and score 6 goals?

Sunderland will include pantomime villain Jermaine Defoe in their line-up.  Still one of the best finishers in the Premier League I assume the defence are well aware that whatever else happens he mustn’t score.

Man in the Middle

Today’s referee is Robert ‘Bobby’ Madely from West Yorkshire.  Madely was in charge of West Ham on three occasions last season including the fine wins away at Manchester City and at home to Liverpool.  The other game, the 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, was less auspicious as his various blunders cost the Hammers another memorable away success.  Madely is in fine yellow card form this season with 30 bookings from 6 games.

Sunderland Preview: Another Eight Goals?

Geoff Hurst’s on fire, the Sunderland defence was terrified.

Sunderland HurstWhen we set off for Upton Park on October 19 1968 I am not sure we knew what to expect that afternoon. When we were travelling from home to the game, on those Saturdays when we weren’t playing football for Barking Abbey School in the morning, we caught the British Rail train from Rainham to Barking, then met others for the two-stop trip on the District Line to Upton Park. Last season I made the same trip to a game, visiting memory lane (and Ferry Lane), and have to confess that not much has changed in the intervening forty-eight years. The overground trains now have automatic doors and are quieter, but Rainham Station, Barking Station, the District Line, Upton Park Station and Green Street all looked and smelt just the same as they did when we were young teenagers.

In mid-October 1968, fourteen games of the season had been played and we sat in sixth place in Division One. For younger readers that was the top division, equivalent to the Premier League today. The amazing thing about our league position was that we had not won a league game since August. In August itself we were on fire, although that was not an expression we used in the 1960s. There were seven league games in the first month of the season, and we won five of them, drew one, but lost heavily 4-1 to Everton on a warm Monday evening. In those seven games we had scored sixteen goals and conceded six, so apart from the Everton game we were scoring goals and defending well.

As September began, we had briefly topped the league, and we then thrashed Bolton 7-2 in the League Cup. What we didn’t know was that throughout the rest of September, and the first half of October we would play seven league games without winning a single one (although we did draw five of them), and also get dumped out of the League Cup by Coventry after a replay.

So we weren’t expecting anything particularly special that Saturday afternoon when Sunderland were the visitors, and as Autumn days were getting colder, less than 25,000 turned up, which was to be one of the lowest crowds of the season. As the half hour point of the match approached we still hadn’t seen anything special, although we were on top. Martin Peters crossed the ball and Geoff Hurst punched the ball into the net. From our position on the North Bank (at the other end of the ground) we thought he had handled the ball, but there were no protests from the visitors, the referee didn’t spot it, and we were 1-0 up.

Bobby Moore then smashed home a free kick to double the lead, Brooking crossed for Hurst to head home the third goal, and then a Harry Redknapp corner was turned in by Hurst shortly before half-time to make it 4-0. The hat-trick goal is shown in the photograph. Fifteen minutes before we hadn’t seen it coming, but here we were at half-time, a Hurst hat-trick, and 4-0 up.

We turned on the style in the second half. We were hoping that the first half goals would not be the end of the story, and that we would witness more of the same at our end of the ground. We were not disappointed. Two further goals from Hurst were followed by a netbuster from Brooking, before a Redknapp cross was finished by Hurst to make it 8-0, and a double hat-trick from the best centre-forward I have ever seen wearing a claret and blue shirt. I had never seen anybody score six goals in a game, and I am not sure that it has ever been done in the top division of English football since that day. Three years earlier I had witnessed Brian Dear scoring five goals in a game for us, but Geoff Hurst had gone one better.

We are meeting Sunderland this weekend almost 48 years to the day since that memorable game in 1968. We were both in the top half of the table when we met all those years ago, but this time the opposite is the case, and we both desperately need the points. If the game is still goalless as the half hour approaches don’t despair. There is still time for us to rattle in eight goals before the final whistle!

Five Things From The Weekend

Some take-aways from West Ham’s win at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

5 Things WHUA Much Improved All-Round Performance

Finally a performance to be proud of on Saturday. Played at a much higher tempo with good movement and penetrative passing. Playing three at the back worked very well and it also uncluttered the midfield of the Kouyate-Noble partnership allowing the ball to move much more freely and with real purpose. The returning Cresswell meant there were options on both flanks and his understanding and interplay with Payet can be devastating at times. Excellent performances (in no particular order) from Cresswell, Reid, Obiang, Kouyate and Lanzini.  On the other hand, Noble still looks a little lost and well off the pace and must be coming under pressure from Fernandes who from his various cameo appearances looks assured and full of energy.

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever

The Manuel Lanzini goal was a rare thing of beauty. This is the type of goal I love to see. I know they all count the same but, as far as goals to admire go ,the beautifully worked team goal trumps the 25 yard torpedo every time in my opinion. A flick by Payet, the wonderful pass from Obiang to Cresswell, the patient exchange between Cresswell and Payet, the teasing Cresswell cross and Lanzini’s perfect run and clinical finish. I have yet to tire of watching it. Elsewhere at the weekend I also came across fine well worked team goals by ex-Hammer Junior Stanislas for Bournemouth in their annihilation of Hull City and from last season loan reject Victor Moses netting the third for Chelsea against Leicester.  The type of action that makes the game great to watch.

The Consistency of Inconsistent Refreeing

I have to admit that I have lost the plot as to what does and doesn’t constitute a penalty these days. If there is a foul tackle then it should be a foul regardless of how anyone reacts. Whether a player goes down (too) easily or not is besides the point. Clive Allen, the pundit on the commentary I had, thought Cresswell had ‘gone down too easily’ although it didn’t look theatrically in any way to me or, in fact, most other observers. The mistake was compounded by a booking for simulation and then exacerbated a minute later by the second yellow card from a marginal tussle with Zaha.

I wrote before the game that Atkinson had yet to issue a red card this season so maybe he was behind on his targets. There really is no consistency. In the Middlesbrough – Watford match referee Roger East yellow carded Boro’s Barragan for a foul (not too dissimilar to the Creeswell one) on Isaac Success but then when the defender committed almost a carbon copy on the same player a little later it went unpunished.

Sometimes decisions can be seen as harsh but Cresswell’s dismissal was simply wrong and it’s a travesty that the decision cannot be corrected and a suspension must be served.

– Graham Poll writing in the Daily Mail

Knowing Me, Knowing You, Zaza!

I would agree that Zaza probably had his best game in a West Ham shirt although to be honest the bar was set fairly low. Possibly he has worked on his fitness and he is getting closer to the levels required to operate in the Premier League. However, with the appearances clock ticking on the apparent ‘obligation to buy’ clause he still looks a long, long way away from being a £20 million striker (even at devalued prices). An off form striker is one getting into positions but being unable to finish whereas I can’t recall a serious Zaza goal attempt yet this season. I have heard people talking about him playing upfront with Carroll which seems laughable to me not only for the combined lack of mobility but also for the way it would by necessity weaken the midfield. If you are going to play with a lone striker I believe you need someone who is fast, brave, mobile and strong. It is puzzling how Bilic sees this as his striker targets don’t seem to follow any template.  I was concerned by his comments that he had been interested in Benteke who is just another one dimensional player. As well as we defended on Saturday, Palace with Benteke were very predictable (as Pardew sides often are) and I hope that we can eventually find a striker to support a more fluid style of play; the type of job that Callum Wilson performed for Bournemouth in their game.

Loanee Watch

The purpose of sending young players out on loan is to aid their development by giving them game time and experience playing in the lower divisons. So, how are our loanees shaping up. Fresh from his first international goal for Norway, Martin Samuelsen was given a rare start for Blackburn but lasted for just over the hour in their goalless draw against Ipswich; Stephen Hendrie did not make the squad. Reece Burke (and I believe Kyle Knoyle) are both injured and so missed Wigan’s draw with Burton Albion. Josh Cullen played a full 90 minutes but couldn’t prevent Bradford surrendering their unbeaten record at Oxford while Lewis Page lasted 24 minutes for Coventry in their defeat at Charlton before injury required him to be substituted; at least it was all square at the time. George Dobson was an unused substitute in Walsall’s home victory against Shrewsbury. Doneil Henry was a second half substitute for AC Horsens in the 1-1 Danish Super League draw with AGF.  Verdict: nothing to get excited about.

Palace Review – Shocking Decision

The Match of The Day pundit has a very different view of the sending off to the commentator.

acress-off

Having just watched a re-run of yesterday’s Match of the Day, and still angry over the performance of the officials, I was equally appalled by the match commentary from Jonathan Pearce. In my opinion he had a very poor grasp of the “mad minute”.

Firstly he reckoned that Cresswell was barely touched and went down too easily. Wrong I reckon. Next he was virtually suggesting that you could tell how easily he went down by Cabaye’s reaction. Surely with all his years of commentating he might have realised that the clever players react in this way to try to get away with it when they know they have done wrong. And then if he was of the opinion that Cresswell went down too easily, how comes he believed that the slight brush on Zaha was worthy of a second booking.

 I like to think I can remain unbiased when watching football. Yes I am a West Ham fan and that must influence me, but I can clearly recall instances where I have been disappointed by poor officiating when opposing players have been sent off in the past too.

At least Alan Shearer, an excellent pundit in my view with a good understanding of the game, got it spot on. It was a penalty and the second booking wasn’t even a foul. But I was very unimpressed with Mr. Pearce.

Victory At Palace

Well Deserved Win Takes Us Out Of the Relegation Zone

Embed from Getty Images

It is only one win, so I am not going to get too carried away. But how refreshing it was to see a West Ham side start a game on the front foot. For the first half of the first half we totally ran the game playing with high intensity, slick passing, moving the ball quickly, players finding space to receive it, and attacking at greater pace than we have seen previously this season.

The goal when it came was well deserved, with great passing between the impressive Payet, and the equally impressive Cresswell. The way Lanzini opened his body out to place the ball into the corner of the net showed great technique. And then with seconds remaining of the first half we conceded a penalty (so West Ham!). It was probably a just decision but it would have been so unfair on the balance of play to have gone in at half time with the scores level. The fact that we didn’t was due to Bentecke, who continued what he started for Liverpool in the cup against us last season, by missing chances. It is criminal to miss the target when you are taking a penalty, but he was perhaps influenced by the way Lanzini had opened his body up to score our goal. It seemed that he tried to do the same, but blazed high and wide.

I suppose being a West Ham fan I am used to great penalty takers. In my time I remember watching John Bond, Johnny Byrne, Geoff Hurst, Ray Stewart, Julian Dicks, Paolo Di Canio and Mark Noble take most of the penalties I remember us being awarded, and despite the occasional miss (none of them had 100% records), usually as a result of an excellent save (e.g. Gordon Banks), I can rarely recall one of them missing the target.

In the second half, we controlled the game well, contained the pacy Palace attack, and were looking good value for a win when Cresswell was fouled by Cabaye in the penalty area. As I leapt from my seat expecting the award of a penalty, I was appalled to see Martin Atkinson book Cresswell for simulation. A shocking decision. Less than a minute later, Cresswell barely touched Zaha close to the touchline as they both ran for the ball, the linesman signalled a foul, and Atkinson sent Cresswell off. That minute was as inept a display of poor refereeing as you could ever wish to see. I don’t think he really understands the game.

I was angry. It was so wrong. For the second game running against Palace we had a player sent off. Remember Kouyate was dismissed in April, but that red card was rescinded. I took to Twitter to read some reactions believing that it just couldn’t be my interpretation surely! And sure enough 100% of the reactions thought that the referee had got it so wrong. Now the West Ham fans you could understand to an extent, but every unbiased ex-player reaction, and even Howard Webb, who nearly always backs up the officials, read it the same as me. I didn’t see one person who thought it was the correct decision.

But unlike Kouyate last season, because this was a sending off via two yellow cards, the rules of appeal do not apply, however unjust the decision. The nonsense of this is, although we hung on to three points by not conceding a goal, Cresswell is banned for the next match. The West Ham fans who tweeted that it would definitely be rescinded were unfortunately as ignorant of the appeals process, as the officials were of what constitutes a penalty, what constitutes a foul, and their understanding of the game of football and how to officiate it.

Bilic had decided on a changed formation for this game and it worked a treat. Full marks to Adrian for the marvellous reaction save in stoppage time. Kouyate, Ogbonna, and man-of-the-match Reid were the three at the back who stood firm, Cresswell and Antonio both had excellent games as wing-backs, Obiang was very impressive once again (he must be retained in this role), Payet and Lanzini looked much sharper than of late, Noble was OK, and Zaza put in a shift (to coin a phrase).

Let us hope that the confidence gained from this win enables us to continue to improve, and move up the table sooner rather than later.

The Lawro Challenge – Week 8

Where we attempt to out-predict the BBC predictor.

Lawro Crystal BallAfter seven weeks Rich has extended his lead at the top to ten points. Both Rich and Geoff scored eight points in week 7, compared to Lawro’s six points. Rich managed 5 correct results plus one correct score, Geoff had 2 correct results plus two correct scores, and Lawro brought up the rear this week with 3 correct results and one correct score. In our competition we award one point for a correct result and three points for a correct score.

On the BBC website Lawro has now lost three of his seven weekly prediction encounters. Firstly he was beaten by WWE star and Hollywood actor, Dave Bautista, who hadn’t heard of some of the Premier League teams, then it was the turn of the world number one darts player, Michael van Gerwen to beat him, and finally in the last round of matches he lost to comedian and actor, Elis James.

 

Rich

Geoff

Lawro

Total after 6 weeks

52

37

44

Score in week 7

8

8

6

Total after 7 weeks

60

45

50

 

 

 

 

Predictions – Week 8

 

 

 

 

Rich

Geoff

Lawro

SATURDAY

 

 

 

Chelsea v Leicester

2-1

2-2 

2-0

Arsenal v Swansea

3-1

3-0

2-0

Bournemouth v Hull

2-1

1-0

2-0

Man City v Everton

2-1

3-1

1-1

Stoke v Sunderland

2-0

1-1

2-1

West Brom v Tottenham

0-2

1-3

0-2

Crystal Palace v West Ham

2-2

1-0

1-1

SUNDAY

 

 

 

Middlesbrough v Watford

2-1

1-1

1-1

Southampton v Burnley

2-0

3-0

2-0

MONDAY

 

 

 

Liverpool v Man Utd

2-1

2-2

2-0