Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss?

Will we all get fooled again by a Board big on promises but low on delivery?

If there was any intention to keep David Moyes on the list of managerial options for next season (as suggested by David Gold) then it was handled in a typically ham-fisted way by his partner in crime, David Sullivan.  Perhaps tact and sensibilities do not come into play when you are casting for Saturday Night Beaver but trying to attract high calibre football managers is a totally different proposition.  It is no surprise that Moyes opted not to throw his hat into the ring.

Whether it is right to have parted company with Moyes will only become apparent in the longer term with the hindsight of ‘what happened next?’  He is not a particular exciting or progressive manager but then he was dropped into a less than exciting or progressive club; one that was already in crisis.  He inherited a lopsided, ageing, unfit and unmotivated squad (assembled with no thought as to how they might play together) and got them successfully, if stutteringly, across the finishing line.  Whether or not he was complicit in the stupidity of the January transfer window is difficult to know.  What is certain is that it was an awful season but he achieved the task he was set to do.

If anyone believes that by changing manager all of the problems at the club will disappear then there glass is not merely half full it is close to overflowing.  I have heard people argue that we have the nucleus of a good squad but the only way that can be said to be true is if a nucleus can be as small as three or four players.  With well below average training facilities, an under-performing academy, an amateur meddler as director of football and no discernible long term strategy the club requires major surgery.  What would a Guardiola or a Klopp make of it all?

Like it or not survival will continue to be the over-riding priority for the foreseeable future.  The holy grail of expansive football, cup runs and exciting youth prospects looks a long way off from where we now sit.  A knowledgeable and visionary manager can certainly be part of the solution but not in isolation.  Investment in the squad and facilities and keeping the Chairmen locked up in the Boardroom and away from the day to day action is a must,

The leading contenders at time of writing, at least according to the bookmakers, are Fonseca, Pellegrini, Benitez, Emery and Silva.  There is some debate as to whether Fonseca has already ruled himself out and there is also the fact that the same names are likely to feature on Everton’s shopping list as well.  Given a straight choice I wonder which employer most would choose?  Of the five names mentioned three (Pellegrini, Benitez and Silva) have the Premier League experience which, depending on which way the wind is blowing, is inexplicably raised as an essential criteria by our Board.

The problem is that any veteran of previous player transfer windows will immediately start to smell bullshit.  As Crosby, Stills and Nash (and Young?) might have put it “we have all been here before”.  It is a path much travelled in Gold and Sullivan’s tenure, promising high and delivering low.  Stories will emerge of burning the midnight oil, working twenty four hours a day, leaving no stone unturned only to find that Newcastle won’t allow us to take Benitez on loan.

Experience suggests that one by one the targets will either sign new contracts at existing clubs or be tempted elsewhere by decisive boards with wads of cash.  By then it will be the World Cup and everything is put on hold while attention is focused on the violence in Russia.  Come July it will be back to pre-season training with the same squad (apart from those that have been sold) and with no new manager until the club reveal the return of Alan Pardew.  Even then there will be some mug on twitter explaining that he would take him back in a heartbeat because he has passion and a nice line in T shirts.  It would be miserable to go through all this and end up with another from the pragmatic manager’s stable that has given us Allardyce, Dyche, Hughes, Bruce, Pulis & Co in the past.

Perhaps cynicism is getting the better of me and that the turmoil of the past season will have been a ‘road to Damascus moment’ (without the chemical weapons) for our leadership.  Maybe they have listened to the gripes of supporters and are finally prepared to act.

Personally, I would be happy with any of the above mentioned names.  Whoever gets the nod deserves to be given a chance. I just hope that there is a quick resolution and not a repeat of the long drawn out transfer fiascoes that we have become so used to.

West Ham Face Everton In Season Finale Protect The Point Derby

West Ham and Everton meet up for a contractual obligation end of season encounter that is unlikely to be remembered much past closing time.

If you were to go to the theatre in the West End or to see your favourite rock band it would be particularly irksome to discover that, as it was the end of a long run or tour, the participants were only going to go through the motions today; maybe mumble the words or cut back on the more arduous action parts.  Strange then that it has become regarded as almost expected and acceptable in top level football that, unless you are competing for a European football place, teams can start to take it easy once the survival target has been reached.  With all the television money sloshing around not even the prospect of a few extra million quid place money seems worth getting out of the metaphorical bed for.

Overlay that with the fact that today’s two teams have been prepared and motivated by a pair of the Premier League’s pragmatic ‘respect the point’ managers then it would be absurd to anticipate a carnival of expansive football in the season’s final act at the Londn Stadium.  Not that David Moyes and Fat Sam Allardyce are the league’s only pragmatists.  Outside of the top six almost all fall into this category (with the possible exceptions of Rafael Benitez and Eddie Howe) where survival trumps any pretence at entertainment.  Maybe it is acceptable at financial minnows such as Burnley, Bournemouth, Huddersfield and Brighton where top flight football is a novelty but at relatively more wealthy clubs like Everton and West Ham supporters expect to see more.  There is nothing odd or deluded about it; these are rich and well supported clubs for whom year on year survival cannot be the extent of all ambition.

It is always laughable when the football pundit brotherhood leap to the defence of the old school managers extolling their expertise at getting the job done, achieving what they are paid for and guiding their teams over the forty point survival line.  For them it is a top six league only where the remainder of clubs is a homogeneous group existing only to fill the gaps on the fixture list.  Who knows what will happen in the boardrooms of West Ham and Everton during the summer but there are few supporters who would lose any sleep if a management change were to come about; although simply swapping one dinosaur for another is equally as pointless.  The problems on the footballing side at West Ham run particularly deep and a massive overhaul of the entire set up is required if any improvement is to be seen.  We appear in no better position than a recently promoted club and I wouldn’t advise holding your breath.

Head to Head

Everton are traditionally a West Ham bogey-team with the Hammers having one only once in the last twelve meetings (3-2 at Goodison in March 2016) and only once in the last twelve home encounters (Bobby Zamora in a 1-0 win in the April 2007 great escape run-in).

This year’s reverse fixture was a humbling 4-0 defeat for the Hammers in the last match of David Unsworth’s caretaker regime – although Allardyce likes to claim credit for this one when highlighting Everton’s improvement since he rode in to the rescue.

Team News

It would be a huge surprise if there were any unexpected changes in the West Ham lineup.  The usual uninspiring mix of the journeymen, the washed up, Marko Arnautovic and Declan Rice.

The good news for the Hammers is that both Rooney and Walcott could be missing from the Everton team; both must surely put West Ham close to the top of their most rewarding opponents lists.  Rooney is rumoured to have played his last game in English football as he prepares to terrorise the defences and glamorous grandmothers of Major League Soccer.

Man in the Middle

The man charged with bringing the curtain down on the 2017/18 season is Graham Scott from Oxfordshire.  West Ham have a 100% record under his control this term with wins at Stoke and at home to Watford.  His season record is 29 games, 79 yellows and 5 reds.

Predictions

Both Lawro and Merson predict a West Ham home win going for 2-0 and 1-0 respectively.  A tame draw is the most probable outcome but as a rallying call I am predicting our boys to overturn the Goodison result with a 4-0 rout of our own.

West Ham thank Jon Moss for the moment when safety for another season was guaranteed

With just two games of the Premier League season to play we were safe – following the point gained against Manchester United, how high can we get in the table with a win today?

Sunday 22 February 2015. West Ham playing at White Hart Lane. Ten minutes to go and we lead 2-0. Being West Ham you have a good idea what can happen. A mis-hit shot brings it back to 2-1. The referee Jon Moss adds on five minutes of extra time. The time passes slowly but we hang on. The five minutes are up but Tottenham are attacking. The ball goes into our penalty area, Harry Kane goes down, penalty. You could see it coming, but it was very soft. Just time for the penalty kick to be taken and then the final whistle should blow. Kane steps up and the kick is saved. Moss should blow the whistle for full time straight away. But he doesn’t. He just allows time for the rebound from our keeper to be put back into our net. 2-2. Poor refereeing. We were robbed.

Sunday 17 April 2016. West Ham playing at Leicester. The ninety minutes is up and we lead 2-1. Being West Ham you have a good idea what can happen. The referee Jon Moss adds on four minutes of extra time. Three minutes 35 seconds have elapsed and Valencia has the ball. Just keep the ball in our possession and the game is won. Oh dear. Valencia fails to keep the ball under control and Leicester regain possession and move towards our penalty area. Three minutes and 56 seconds have gone, and Andy Carroll lightly brushes against a Leicester player who throws himself to the ground. Book him for blatant diving! But Mr. Moss has other ideas and awards a penalty. Leicester score. 2-2. Poor refereeing. We were robbed.

Saturday 5 May 2016. We beat Leicester and reach 38 points. Everton playing at home to Southampton. If Southampton do not win the game then we are mathematically safe from relegation. Southampton had a midweek fixture at Swansea to look forward to after this game. Therefore only one of them could overtake us. Stoke and West Brom both could not. Southampton take the lead in the game and hold on to the slender goal advantage as 90 minutes is up. The board is raised and indicates an additional four minutes. At this time a Southampton player suddenly goes down with an injury. Teams know that injuries in time added for injuries rarely get fully added. He stays down for about a minute.

The ball is pumped deep into the Everton half close to their corner flag and an additional five minutes has now elapsed. The referee is a long way away as he is struggling to keep up with play. Redmond tackles an Everton defender. The linesman who is standing close by sees nothing wrong with the tackle. Jon Moss from some distance away does though, and awards a free kick which is dubious to say the least. Everton take the kick about 15 yards ahead of where the alleged infringement took place. About a minute later the ball ends up in the Southampton net via a wicked deflection. Mark Hughes is furious. All Southampton fans cannot believe it. But thanks to Jon Moss West Ham are safe. Of course the result of one match on its own isn’t the reason we will be playing in the Premier League next season. But this was the moment when safety was assured. Poor refereeing. Southampton were robbed. But we don’t care. Thank you Jon Moss.

And who was the referee appointed for our Thursday night game at home to Manchester United? Of course you know the answer. Mr. Moss refereed a tedious game but kindly refrained from sending off Mark Noble when many referees would have done so when he raised his arms to Pogba.

The point against United moved us up to 39 points and we remained in 15th place in the table, just two points adrift of tenth placed Newcastle. None of the teams from 10th to 15th are playing each other, so theoretically we could still end up in the top half of the table with the right set of results. With a difference of around £2 million for each additional place in the final table at stake, then a rise of 5 places could add £10 million to the “kitty”.  For this to happen we need to beat Everton and then hope that Chelsea beat Newcastle, West Brom beat Palace. Burnley beat Bournemouth, Manchester United beat Watford, and Liverpool beat Brighton.

The accumulative odds against those six results occurring is around 56-1, so of course the chances of us finishing tenth are very slim. Nevertheless it is not impossible and worth a couple of pounds of my money as a fun bet. I don’t honestly believe it will happen as Newcastle and Palace will win their games in my opinion. But switching the accumulator by just one result and predicting Newcastle to beat Chelsea lengthens the accumulative odds to 200-1, and this has produced another fun bet for me.

Of course when you place an accumulator bet there is always one shock result that ruins it. Nevertheless if we do beat Everton, the other fixtures are such that we stand a decent chance to rise in the final standings. Of course this shouldn’t mask the deficiencies of a disappointing season and a complete overhaul is necessary to avoid a repeat next time around.

So this is my penultimate visit to the London Stadium for a while. I’ve got one more which is a present of a tour of the stadium. I did the Upton Park tour shortly before we left there and it will be interesting to see how the behind the scenes facilities compare. I renewed my season ticket some weeks ago when our future was still in the balance. I will continue to follow the club whatever league or division we are in, but I am relieved that we are still in the top flight.

Three seasons ago Everton came to Upton Park on the final day of the season, and despite us taking a lead on the hour mark through Stewart Downing, Everton equalised and then snatched the winner in time added on. The fans deserted the stadium on the final whistle and not many remained to watch the “lap of honour” that is traditional at the end of the final home game of the season.

Today let us hope that we can end the season in style and see off a very average Everton side who will probably finish eighth in the final table. It would be good to think that we could finish that high next season. A lot of changes will be necessary for that to happen.

West Ham’s Real End Of Season Party With Manchester United

Will it be a big bang or a damp squib for West Ham as they face Manchester United free from relegation pressure

The Premier League season continues to fizzle out prior to what should have been its ultimate finale on Sunday requiring the assorted media and commentators to dig deep into the hyperbole to find a story of any significant interest.  With the title having been wrapped up months ago and the relegation places all but settled ( a hearty pat on the back to Huddersfield) there is only the jostling for positions in the top four still up for grabs – about as compelling as the third place play-off match at a World Cup.  It no longer really matters where you finish in the top four for the purposes of the Champion’s League money-go-round and so the only matter of consequence that remains unresolved is the unlikely prospect of Chelsea pipping Liverpool for the final qualification spot – unless, that is, Swansea can put ten past Stoke.

Football seasons are becoming increasingly like fireworks displays for me.  Despite all the lessons of history I still get excited by the prospect of a new one starting and yet all too quickly it becomes routinely predictable.  Unless you are a small child you have seen it all before and you can’t help but look at your watch hoping that it will all be over as soon as possible; and without any accidents.  For all the whizz, bangs and whistles the underlying product has become less interesting and more cynical each year.  Still if there is to be one final big bang it might as well be against Manchester United rather than the actual scheduled climax against Fat Sam’s Everton side which has all the appeal of a damp sparkler.

The visitors need one more point from either tonight’s game or at home to Watford on Sunday to claim second spot despite having been lapped some time ago by their City neighbours.  They also have the FA Cup Final to look forward to and thus it is difficult to gauge their level of commitment and motivation for this one, particularly after their defeat at Brighton last weekend.

Should the extraordinary happen and West Ham win their final two games, the record books will show a comfortable mid-table finish for the Hammers which, as we know, is a long way from what actually happened.  Now that our heroes have secured survival we can only speculate as to whether the reaction will be a performance lacking in fear or one lacking in effort.  Generally, the team makes an attempt to turn up against the Red Devils which can only be a good thing.

Head to Head

Two years ago today West Ham came from behind to beat Manchester United 3-2 in the very last competitive game at Upton Park.  Two short years but it could well have been a lifetime ago such has the mood changed around the club.  The Hammers have won three and lost five of the last twelve home games against the Manchester Reds, including last year’s defeat inspired by a piece of Phil Jones cheating to get Sofiane Feghouli sent off by hapless referee Mike Dean.  Which reminds me what happened to that new rule about retrospective red cards for players who deceive a referee?  Seems it was abandoned after Manuel Lanzini (and a Stoke player?) were banned – either that or there has been no cheating going on ever since!

Team News

Without a doubt David Moyes will name the same team that won at Leicester and will probably also make exactly the same substitutions at roughly the same stage of the game.  It seems that, thankfully, Marko Arnautovic has recovered from his injury which means there is at least some hope of making a game of it.

Manchester United are without Lukaku (we do not have to go into the game already a goal down) and also ‘elbows’ Fellaini, who might otherwise be trying out the home dressing room for size.  On the other hand Sanchez (who also likes to score against the Hammers) could make a return having missed the game at Brighton.

The really good news coming out of Manchester United is that Sir Alex Ferguson appears to be on the road to recovery.  If only their current manager were half as talented or half as good as he thinks he is.

The Man In The Middle

Jonathan Moss from West Yorkshire takes charge of his fourth West Ham fixture of the season in which the Hammers are incredibly unbeaten.  These were a home draw with Arsenal, an away win at Huddersfield and the home win over Southampton.  In 33 games this season he has shown 118 yellow cards and 4 red ones.

Predictions

Merson is back on the case predicting a 2-1 away win while Lawro goes for safety and a 1-1 draw.  Whether the natural desire to want to beat Manchester United overcomes the normal end of season, nothing to play for stupor will be key for this game.  If Moyes can put up a rocket up the players, in support of his own personal vendetta against one of his old clubs, then I back West Ham for a surprise 3-1 win.

West Ham To Profit From Foxes On The Run?

Can a desperate West Ham take advantage of Leicester’s late season atrophy? Or will David Moyes overly cautious, softly softly approach once more fail to catchee monkey?

An end of season game against a side with nothing to play for, who have only won four of their last eighteen games and who have an injury list as long as a line of supporters streaming out of the stadium before the final whistle.  What could possibly go wrong?

Today the West Ham roadshow travels to the home of former champions Leicester City in search of the remaining precious points that will seal Premier League survival – at least for one more season.  David Moyes says that the mood in the camp is good despite the disappointment of last Sunday’s performance but I would take that very much with a pinch of salt.  In all probability today’s approach will be to try to contain Leicester, protect the point, and maybe hope to hit them on the break.  Recent history will already have taught most of us that containment is a risky strategy for a side with league’s worst defence but continuing to flog a dead horse has long been a favourite pastime for West Ham managers.

Leciester for their part have continued to wallow through the afterglow of their never to be repeated Premier League crown; but at least they have done it once which is more than most.  In appointing Claude Puel they seem to have accepted that mediocrity is their place in the world and it is a measure of own incompetence that mediocre looks a mighty fine place to be from right down here –even though a fine run of 5 or 6 – nil wins could still see us overhaul the Foxes.  Despite a lacklustre season for the club, Jamie Vardy has still managed to plunder seventeen goals and if there is one team who are not yet wise to the ball over the top of the defence ploy then it will be ours.  I suspect that the Hammers have spent all week practising how to defend against it but, even so, a collective amnesia will once again strike once they leave the tunnel.

 Head to Head

The home fixture against Leicester was Moyes first West Ham point back in November last year.  In the last twelve away fixtures with the Foxes, West Ham have won three, lost five and drawn three.  The last Premier League away win was in January 2000, a 3-1 success courtesy of Wanchope (2) and Di Canio – Emile Heskey scoring for the home side.

Team News

Moyes must look at his squad in much the same way that a woman rifles through her wardrobe prior to a night out and declares she has nothing to wear!  There are only the same tired unimaginative combinations to choose from while the expensive mistakes (that seemed like a good idea at the time), the ones that have seen better days and those that no longer fit are quickly discarded.  Hopefully there will be no place for Patrice Evra (whatever was he thinking last week) or Edmilson Fernandes but is there anything better available?  I don’t see anything special in Josh Cullen but could he do any worse than Mark Noble or Cheikhou Kouyate have performed of late?  Andy Carroll spent time during the week on the naughty step and his now back in contention for a place on the bench.

The West Ham academy continues to disappoint and offers no exciting alternatives. Apart from Declan Rice, the only other player who has impressed (admittedly from only brief online glimpses) is Nathan Holland.  Reece Oxford appears not to want to return to the east end and the other youngsters out on loan rarely get a game at their struggling clubs.

As mentioned Leicester have a long injury list but they still have Vardy and Mahrez available to taunt West Hams.  Also a likely starter is Iheanacho, one of the many apparent failed targets for the Board during last summer’s smoke and mirrors transfer window.  As well as those missing through injury, Leicester are also without the suspended Albrighton.

Man in the Middle

When the referee appointments are made each week there is one website that routinely proclaims ‘Referees are announced and it’s bad news for Moyes’; the logic being the existence of lucky or unlucky referees.  In truth we lose so frequently that any referee can be proved to be unlucky.  Today’s candidate is Chris Kavanagh from Lancashire and, indeed, his one and only ever West Ham game was this season’s cup defeat at Wigan – where he sent of Arthur Masuaku for spitting.

Predictions

It seems that Paul Merson couldn’t be bothered to make any predictions this week (at least not at time of writing) while Lawro goes for a 2-1 Leicester win.  I would be more confident had the Foxes not been so humiliated last week but I believe this game has a draw written all over it.

West Ham face the Foxes, the Red Devils and the Toffeemen to round off a disappointing season.

With just three games of the Premier League season to play we are still heavily involved in the relegation dogfight. Have we got enough points already, or do we need more?

We now enter the final week of the Premier League season with three games to play that could decide whether or not we return next year. Results could still go against us in the final matches meaning that we need to pick up more points, or we might already have enough. Whatever the outcome, it has been a disappointing season, and at this stage it is hard to look beyond another struggle in 2018-19.

The performance against Manchester City last weekend was dismal in many respects, even though the result was inevitable. The problem was that the players looked beaten before the game began, and showed the worthy champions too much respect. Apart from a few minutes at the end of the first half we just didn’t show enough positivity to compete with them.

If you read the press and social media then there are many who think that we are down already. That is most definitely not the case. Our form hasn’t looked great, but if you look at a “form” league table for the last five games, we have picked up five points. It is more than any other team from twelfth downwards in the “season to date” league table (with the notable exception of doomed West Brom), and it puts us in twelfth place for those fixtures. Our key rivals in the fight to avoid the drop are Huddersfield and Southampton who have collected four points each, Stoke three, and Swansea two from their last five games. Of course (as they say in the financial planning world) past results are not a guarantee of future performance, but nevertheless they do give an indication that other teams are struggling like ourselves.

And whilst we do not have the easiest of run-ins, I would not swap places with Huddersfield (who are below us on goal difference) who face tough away games at Manchester City and Chelsea, before a final game at home to Arsenal. Swansea, who have collected just two points in their last five games (no team in the league have less), have potentially the easiest task on paper with an away game at Bournemouth before home games versus fellow strugglers Southampton and Stoke.

I listened to the Soccer Saturday panel talking up Southampton’s chances of avoiding the drop, and although they have the best goal difference of the teams involved, they are still in the bottom three and face trips to in-form Everton and fellow strugglers Swansea, before the final game at home to Manchester City. Stoke will probably need to win their final two games (at home to Palace and away at Swansea) to have any chance. Despite picking up eight points from their last five games, West Brom would need to beat both Tottenham and Palace in their last two fixtures and hope for a miraculous set of results to escape. Brighton (almost certainly, although not mathematically safe) will be glad they have 37 points in the bag, as they are at home to Manchester United, before visits to Manchester City and Liverpool.

Much has been written about the number of goals we have conceded, and it doesn’t make for good reading. Whilst this highlights a big problem, you don’t go down based on goals against alone. If we did then the teams in biggest trouble would be West Ham (67 conceded), Stoke (65), Watford (62), and Bournemouth (60). Both West Brom and Southampton in the bottom three have conceded the same number of goals (54) as Everton who are eighth in the table.

Goals scored is a much better statistic for us, and if the league table was based on this alone then with 43 goals we would be sitting in eighth place, with only the top six teams and Leicester (9th) having scored more.

But points are the important factor, and regrettably we are not safe as we enter the final week. The trip to Leicester may not be as daunting as many would think as they seem to believe that they are on the beach already. They have only four points from their last five games and were hammered 5-0 by Palace last weekend. But conversely, that result could shake them into a big performance against us.

After the less than ideal set of results last weekend, in this round of matches we will be looking for Manchester City to beat Huddersfield (surely they will?), Swansea to lose at Bournemouth, Southampton to be beaten at Everton, and Stoke to fail to beat Palace (a draw will do from our point of view). Whatever the outcome of our game, the position should be much clearer by Sunday evening.

It would be good to believe that we will go into the Leicester game in a more positive frame of mind with greater attacking potential, but the baffling selections of the team in recent games would indicate otherwise. At this stage we have no idea if the manager will still be here next season, nor many of the players. We need a massive shake up from top to bottom of the club if we are to avoid a repeat of this season.

We don’t yet know if we will be playing in the Premier League or Championship next August. If you look at bookmakers odds then West Brom and Stoke are as good as down, with the other place closely fought out by Swansea, Southampton and Huddersfield. We are only on the fringes of the betting, and pessimists among you can get odds of up to 14/1 on us being relegated.

I have a feeling that we have enough points already, and if not, then I think we can scrape together what we need from these final games. It would be awful to go into the final game with our destiny still in the balance, and the sight of Big Sam on the touchline cupping his ear to listen to the reception he might get if things go horribly wrong would be too much to bear.

However, even if we avoid the drop, the negativity surrounding our club at the moment is a worrying thing and does not bode well for the immediate future.

Five Takeaways: West Ham’s Tame Surrender To Manchester City

Defeat to runaway champions may have been predictable but the manner of West Ham’s capitulation once again causes frustration, concern and disappointment.

An Expected Result

Getting a score prediction correct is rare for me but I was spot on with this one although, in part, that was thanks to Manchester City for taking it easy and playing at half pace.  The outcome was pretty much as expected and so probably changes very little in the scheme of things except making the Hammer’s goal difference even more desperate than it was before.  Right from the start there was a general air of resignation around the ground that West Ham were sure to lose this one.  The players did their best to reinforce this belief by only putting up a token effort of resistance, as if they had mentally written off the game.  The only brief period of optimism was that short spell before half time when Aaron Cresswell pulled a goal back to make it 2-1, but the half time pep talks quickly restored equilibrium; the Hammers not even having a sniff at the City goal in the second period.

Record Breakers

Manchester City already have or are about to break all sorts of Premier League records this season as far as wins, points and goals scored are concerned.  Not to be left out, West Ham themselves have managed to snatch the baton for worst defence in the league by allowing the goals against tally to rocket to a whopping 67.  Having leaked three goals or more six times in the last ten games does not bode well for the remainder of the relegation threatened season.  The Hammers are also closing in on the record for all time Premier League defeats and currently sit just two behind Everton (350 to 348).  Ironically, if they manage to claim top spot it is likely to mean relegation and an inability to retain the title next season!

Selection Headaches

Once again the Hammers find themselves with a situation of limited competition for places which so often leads to complacency.  Strangely the exception is with strikers where the strategy of playing none is really keeping them on their toes.  In truth the problem is that the team is so poor defensively and in midfield that playing with more than one striker is regarded as a huge risk.  That each of the recognised strikers are ill-equipped to play a lone role means that Marko Arnautovic (brought to the club as a midfielder) has become the obvious choice to play up front.  Arnautovic is in a one-horse race in the Hammer of The Year stakes and it would be no surprise if he wanted out in the summer.  Despite these selection limitations why anyone would believe that Patrice Evra would be the answer to the defensive frailties against the runaway champions is beyond me.  The recruitment of Evra and Jordan Hugill in the winter transfer window was the icing on the shambolic, muddled, ill-judged and short term cake of boardroom thinking.

Lazy and Unacceptable Performance

In last week’s defeat to Arsenal there was at least an attempt to make a game of it until the late capitulation intervened.  This week the players offered nothing!  David Moyes would not have been my choice as manager but I was prepared to give him a chance because I believed he would get the team fitter and better organised.  For a while it looked to be working but now we are back to where Slaven Bilic left off.  How can a side still battling for Premier League survival put in that type of disinterested performance even if they were outclassed?  Where is the leadership both on and off the field?  What is the downside for simply going through the motions as opposed to earning those huge pay packets?  Out of yesterday’s game maybe Arnautovic and Angelo Ogbonna were close to adequate but the rest were dreadful; with special mention for dreadfulness going to the woeful central midfield pairing of Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate.

A Sorry Squad

Moyes cannot take full responsibility for all of the weaknesses in the squad.  I have no insight to what attempts were made to strengthen in January but my guess is that the Board thought they could muddle through without having to dig into their pockets – a survival at minimum cost strategy.  It was already known that Obiang would be out for the season and the failure to bring in a replacement was mindbogglingly negligent. Further, why the two Reece’s and Fonte were allowed to leave when numbers were already short is a major puzzle.  I am sure Declan Rice will go on to have a great career in football but he could be severely damaged by the recent experience of too many games too soon in such a difficult and high pressure position.  The running of the club (at least on the football side) remains completely amateurish.  West Ham are  going backwards without any pretence of a strategy for progress.  Filling the squad with past their best, ageing players is penny pinching short-termism posing as a policy of acquiring Premier League experience.  Putting up with an under-performing academy and sub-standard training facilities will do nothing to attract and retain the type of players who have other offers on the table.  From the current squad I see Arnautovic, Rice and Manual Lanzini as the only real assets and each of these could easily leave in the summer.  Of the remainder I wouldn’t lose any sleep if the lot were shipped out – they are either too old, too fragile or don’t care.