Are West Ham On Course To Sink Faster Than The Pound?

There’s no crisis, I have a clear plan. Losing five of the first seven games was the right thing to do, insists embattled Hammers premier.

The vacuum created by a blank weekend of perfunctory international fixtures was firmly filled, as far as the mood at the London Stadium was concerned, by a steady stream of increasingly glum negativity . As was explained with the sharp fall in the pound, momentum started to take over and then accelerated away. Not only to lambast David Moyes for the dithering and lack of adventure that has blighted the start to the season, but also to pillory the individual performances of each West Ham player turning out for their national teams. For example, according to one headline, Lucas Paqueta was ‘hooked off’ at half time for Brazil against Tunisia, rather than ‘being one of several players rotated’ when his side were leading comfortably.

Of course, a brief glance at the league table is all that is required to understand the obvious disquiet circulating among Hammer’s fans.  Having invested heavily during the summer, nobody expected to see the team floundering in the relegation places with seven games played. Even if the points tally might have been higher had it not been for dubious refereeing decisions, the performances have generally been well below par, both individually and collectively.

Losing to a poor, tentaive and ineffective Everton side at Goodison Park two weeks ago was particularly galling. If an example of Moyes excessive caution were needed, then this was it. It took falling behind to Maupay’s fortunate mis-control and strike before any serious attempt to pressure the opposition goal was made. Any team who had gone into that game with a sense of adventure would have had it easily won well before the end.

It is quite surprising how quickly David Moyes stock has fallen among supporters. There have always been doubters, never convinced by his dour persona, waiting in the wings ready to pounce when things turned bad. But two fine seasons will have earned him plenty of credit with the owners – or at least with Gold and Sullivan, who have never been inclined towards trigger happiness in the past. Will Kretinsky see things differently? He might expect more for his money, whether that is success or entertainment.

A run of poor results is a long-time in modern football and Moyes will come under increasing pressure to improve matters between now and the break for the World Cup. If the Hammers are still in the bottom six by then, his job will surely be seen as high risk.

A huge part of that improvement must be to jettison the blind loyalty to long-term under-performing players such as Pablo Fornals, Tomas Soucek, Vladimir Coufal and Aaron Cresswell. A lot of money has been paid to bring new players into the club (even more now if the instalments are due in Euros) and they must be central to the evolution of style that involves better ball retention, greater passing sucess and enhanced mobility. West Ham need to take back control of the ball. Continuing to rely solely on counter attacks and set pieces has no future. It’s all very well wanting to ease new players in gently, but it makes no sense when the old alternatives have been well below average for many, many months.

As things stand, we are second last to Bournemouth on average percentage possession (41.3%) for the season to date. Add in only three goals scored, and none in the first half then it suggests it is major changes that are needed, not minor tweaks. Is the manager up to it? Can he still turn things around or are we already past the point of no return? Many have speculated on the degree of unity within the camp but who knows what to believe.

In my preview of the Everton match I offered the following suggested line-up: Areola – Kehrer, Zouma, Dawson, Emerson – Rice, Paqueta, Downes – Bowen, Scamacca, Antonio. Equally, I would be happy to consider Said Benrahma and/ or Maxwell Comet as alternatives to Jarrod Bowen or Michail Antonio. Indeed, any three from those five up front would provide options and a level of goal threat that has been missing for some time.  More is needed than just different players in the same tired 4-2-3-1 format.

Today’s visitors are Portuguese giants, Futebol Clube Andarilhos de Wolverhampton. Os Lobos have made a similarly unimpressive start to the new season, joining West Ham as the league’s lowest scorers. In direct contrast to the Hammers, all Wolves goals have come in the first half.

Wolves manager Bruno Lage will point to the continued absence of Raul Jimenez for his team’s woes and has recently recruited free agent rent-a-thug, Diego Costa to boost his attacking options. Costa will most probably start on the bench today. Of the other Wolves players, Neto and Podence, would be capable of mayhem if they are paired up against the sluggish Coufal and Cresswell. I also like the look of Max Kilman at the back – a real shame the Hammers were not in for him, given that he was playing for Alan Devonshire at Maidenhead before moving to Molineux.

So what is likely to happen when a team who can’t score in the first half comes up against one that can’t score in the second? From what I have seen of Wolves they enjoy much better possession (52.1%) than West Ham (as do rock bottom Leicester with 53.9%) but have little cutting edge. Unless we see a change of style from Moyes it may well be another case of erring towards caution, rather than starting on the front foot. The manager must know something radical needs to change in his approach. If he feels our league possession is more down to bad luck than poor form, then the club may well be about to enter a doom spiral.

Trying to be the optimist, I hope for Moyes to see the light on team selection and will predict a 2-1 win. In the circumstances this will require the Hammers to recover from a half-time deficit to claim all three points. COYI!

West Ham’s season so far – poor performances, poor decisions or bad luck? Can we turn it around before the World Cup interrupts the season again in mid-November?

If you’ve been away to a remote island for the past couple of months and missed the beginning of the season then a quick glance at the Premier League table will tell you all you need to know about West Ham’s start to the 2022-23 campaign. Or will it?

Certainly it’s not ideal to be occupying a place in the bottom three at any stage, although only seven games in gives you the opportunity to put matters right by next May.

But after two consecutive seasons of qualifying for European football by virtue of a top 6/7 league position we have already given the rest of the teams a head start and made it difficult to achieve the feat for a third successive year.

So what has gone wrong? Why have we only collected four points from the opening seven games? For much of the time the players on show have not reached the levels achieved in the previous two campaigns either individually or collectively. For me, Fabianski, Coufal, Cresswell, Fornals, Lanzini, Benrahma, Soucek and Bowen all fall into that category to some extent and even Rice has not performed at the top of his game, but we can’t expect him to do it all! From reading social media I know that some will agree and some will differ with my assessment.

Our new recruits look good on paper with lots of international footballers, but have they been given sufficient opportunity yet to show what they are capable of? And have we bought the right players to blend together to become a top seven Premier League club? 

Many fans believe that the manager has continued to select out of form players that have done it in the past whilst being reluctant to throw new recruits into the fray claiming they are not yet ready. New signings at other clubs seem to hit the ground running!

So many poor decisions all round have contributed to our league position. Things might have been different if officials had not ruled out (controversially) Benrahma’s goal when Antonio was blocked, not the other way round surely? Or the failure of the referee to send Forest down to 10 men with the deliberate hand ball? Or Rice’s decision to take the penalty kick? Added to the bad luck hitting the inside of the woodwork twice and we could easily have collected 3 points from the opener at Forest.

It goes on. Poor finishing towards the end of the Tottenham game meant only one point when it could have, perhaps should have, been three. There’s no way Chilwell would have scored Chelsea’s opening goal If Fabianski had not left his line at the post. The refereeing decision to deny our late equaliser has been well documented and 99 per cent of people believe it was wrong. We should have had one, and possibly three points from that game too.

True, the luck did go our way in the Villa game with the deflected goal, but the inside of a post denied us a point at Everton in an uninspired performance from both sides. There was no way we would have beaten Harland-inspired Manchester City, and as usual we performed abysmally against Brighton and deserved absolutely nothing from that game which is exactly what we got.

In a parallel universe we might have had ten or twelve points from those first seven games, but the fact is we have just four points and sit in the bottom three.

In a season interrupted by a World Cup in November/ December the powers that be decided that there should still be an early international break. The additional interruption caused by the decision to postpone football matches following the sad death of the Queen will only add to the congestion later on, but I wonder if this will work in our favour in the long run?

I wonder if the lack of games recently in a period when we haven’t been playing well will give us a chance to regroup? Will our costly defensive signing Aguerd be back soon? Will the manager give Cornet more game time? Will Downes (who was my man of the match in his only start in a European game) at last be given an opportunity to show what he is capable of? Is it time for Areola to replace Fabianski? What influence will the European schedule (Thursday- Sunday) have? Can we start to retain possession of the ball more? Will bad luck convert to good fortune in the upcoming games? These and so many other questions will be answered in the next few weeks.

Wolves on Saturday, followed by Fulham, Southampton, Liverpool, Bournemouth and Manchester United are the six league games in October. They are followed by Palace and Leicester in early November. And then we break again for the World Cup. Five of the eight are at home. 

By mid November we will have played 15 games (8 at home). We could still have four points at that stage! If that were the case we would be in deep trouble. We could have won eight games in a row and have 28 points and be challenging near the top.

More realistically I reckon we would need to have picked up at least 16 points from the next eight games to be back on course for a potential top 7 finish.Can we do it? What are the chances? 

Can Moyes Substitute Courage For Caution: West Ham Seek Premier League Points At His Old Stomping Ground?

In a game that has the look of a banker stalemate, can either team break free of their shackles and climb away from early danger?

We are spoiled this weekend with a glimpse of Premier League football matches before it all stops yet again, this time for an enforced international break. It seems an age now since the farcical VAR farrago at Chelsea which established a new low-water mark in the rich history of shocking refereeing. At least the Chelsea manager did the honourable thing and got himself sacked in the immediate aftermath. More than can be said for the two hopeless officials who walked away unscathed and with their whistles intact.

At least the Hammers have enjoyed two kick-abouts since then as they kicked-off their Europa Conference League group stage campaign. This phase of the competition has a going through the motions feel to it and, although unconvincing, two wins is a decent start in what is arguably our best chance of glory and a continued run in Europe. In contrast, it is the first action for Everton since their hard-won point in the most recent Merseyside derby, a game which for once provided decent entertainment.

A West Ham visit to Goodison Park is invariably framed as the return of David Moyes to the ground where his reputation was originally built. Like many fans of other clubs, I never paid close attention to the ins and outs of his time at Everton, but the take-away was always a period of relative success punctuated by unexpected poor starts to the season. If that is an accurate assessment, then history may be repeating itself now at West Ham. Is this a manager who continues to have difficulty dealing with transition and evolution? Does he struggle to adapt his side’s playing style once they have become a known quantity? Is he overly loyal to players who have served him well in the past and overly cautious when looking to introduce new players? The answers are eagerly awaited.

This season’s poor start in the Premier League – having already dropped fourteen points – makes an assault on the top six for the third season running look like a very long outside bet. After two seasons of being part of the ‘conversation’ being marooned in mid-table obscurity would be a huge disappointment. A double bubble of disappointment in the context of the significant investment made to the squad during the summer. Even though I am confident of improvement, a barnstroming run to the top of the table feels improbable in a safety first environment.

On the evidence of the season to date, any discernable tactical change to the Hammer’s style has been impossible to detect. What we have seen so far is the same plot but with a slightly different cast – Lucas Paqueta a replacement for Manuel Lanzini and/ or Said Benrahma; Gianluca Scamacca an understudy or replacementfor Michail Antonio. The prospect of Antonio, Scamacca and Jarrod Bowen collectively ‘unleashed’ to rattle an opposition defence is one for fantasy league enthusiasts only.

Moyes has been flirting with three/ five at the back in certain games this season but I really don’t see how we have the players, notably wing-backs, with the skill-set to handle that. Such a system relies heavily on wing-backs to provide width and pace to attackes, attributes that are not apparent with the current personnel. On the left, Aaron Cresswell has gone some way past his best and we have yet to see exactly what Emerson has to offer. On the right, Vladimir Coufal remains way short of his first season form and Ben Johnson appears worryingly injury prone. A look at what Thilo Kehrer can bring as a full-back/ wing-back would be interesting now that the centre back shortage has eased with the return of Craig Dawson and Angelo Ogbonna.

It was a surprise that Flynn Downes was not given another opportunity in midweek. Has he been held in reserve for this weekend? He would offer more energy and greater ball retention than Tomas Soucek does, but without the defensive height and attacking goal threat. If Soucek is not deployed to focus on the things he is good at, he is a very average player.

The other apparent undroppable is non-stop Duracel bunny, Pablo Fornals. There’s certainly no doubting his effort, likeability and commitment to the cause, but does he really do enough with the ball at his feet for an attacking midfield player at the top level? Unfortunately, I think not!

Having looked at a few of the predicted lineups in the media for the weekend’s game, many have gone for what is effectively last season’s team but with the addition of Paqueta. That would be a very strange move after a multi-million-pound spending spree in the summer. Surely, eyebrows would raised in the boardroom. For what it’s worth this is what I would like to see given a try: Areola – Kehrer, Zouma, Dawson, Emerson – Rice, Paqueta, Downes – Bowen, Scamacca, Antonio. One can dream.

Everton currently sit one place above West Ham by virtue of a superior goal difference. Apart from Leicester, they are the only side in the division without a win this season. They have, however, only lost two to the Hammer’s four, amassing their four points courtesy of draws with Forest, Brentford, Leeds, and Liverpool. They certainly played with a lot of spirit in the Merseyside derby and were able to survive thanks to a string of fine saves by Pickford, now missing through injury. The Toffees (like West Ham) are a low possession, counter attacking side who rely heavily on the pace of Gordon and Gray to drive attacks. It might suggest a paint-drying match played mostly backwards and sideways across the middle-third.

With Everton the draw masters and West Ham a mixture of slow starts and stifled ambition I can’t see past a share of the spoils for this one. Even the Orcale Cloud Win Probbaility will struggle to predict a winner for this one. COYI!

Further thoughts on West Ham at Stamford Bridge and subsequent events

What goes around comes around (sometimes sooner rather than later)!

It’s Wednesday morning on the 7th September 2022. I’m listening to some John Lennon music tracks, and one of my favourites – Number 9 dream. I wonder what Michail Antonio dreams about? Perhaps it is referees and the decisions that have gone against West Ham in the opening games this season, the disallowed goals at Nottingham Forest and Chelsea?

I’m sure you know who Lennon is, but in case you don’t he was one of the twentieth century’s greatest musical talents. He was a world-famous singer / songwriter who, together with Paul McCartney, fronted the Beatles and penned virtually all their hits. He was shot dead in New York in 1980, a sad and untimely death, aged just 40. And just in case you don’t know the Beatles, they were the world’s most successful group who changed the face of popular music in the 1960s.

As I listened to some of Lennon’s great songs I was reading through the BBC Sport website looking at the football for the previous evening. I had taken no notice of the football results last night with little interest in the early group stages of the Champions League. It’s a different matter thinking about the Europa Conference League, which, as a West Ham fan I will be following closely of course.

I read about Manchester City’s exploits and unsurprising win in Seville, and then about Chelsea’s defeat to Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League. I cannot deny it. It brought a smile to my face. I looked with interest to see that Mendy had been dropped from the starting eleven, or was he rested, or injured by that vicious assault by Jarrod Bowen last Saturday? Being unfamiliar with the Chelsea substitutes I spotted his name amongst the substitutes but wasn’t sure whether he was the only keeper there.

Arrizabalaga was in goal for this game. I wonder if Mendy will have recovered in time for Chelsea’s next league game, or even from his injury? Remind me again, was it a broken or dislocated shoulder? Another report said it was a knee injury that ruled him out, even though the Senegal keeper was named on the bench and apparently took a fully active part in the pre-match warm-up. Now I am confused. What part of Mendy’s body did Bowen’s boot brush against? I also read that Chelsea had a goal disallowed in Zagreb. I don’t know if VAR was involved but I do hope so.

As I was reading the match report a message flashed up on my phone to say that Thomas Tuchel had been sacked. Surely not! What football club would hand their manager the world-leading transfer kitty in the summer – how much was it £250 million or close to £300 million – and then sack him so early in the season just after losing his 100th game in charge less than one week after the transfer window had been slammed shut? Only Chelsea could do that! They have lost their Russian benefactor who was famous for sacking managers but the new regime still seems to have unlimited funds to spend. By the way, does Financial Fair Play still exist?

I was fuming on Saturday about the closing stages of our game at Chelsea. Not only by Cornet’s header against the post which might have secured three points, but the events following Chelsea’s goal to give them a 2-1 lead. It seemed incredible to me that the well-taken finish (by Cornet, making up for his glaring miss) could possibly be disallowed but the referee, after consulting the pitchside monitor, decided to do so. It’s a decision which has been condemned by virtually all football fans and pundits and even the referee’s body (PGMOL or whatever they are).

The only people who seemed to suggest it was a foul are Mendy (for his writhing around on the floor), Tuchel (who said so in his post-match interview on Saturday), and Graham Souness (that successful ex-football manager writing in his weekly Sunday newspaper column). Perhaps there are one or two others but the vast majority, including a couple of Chelsea fans I know could not believe the injustice of how West Ham had been robbed of a point. Apparently Tuchel was also reported as saying (after the Zagreb game) “I just didn’t see it coming.” He was referring to the poor Chelsea showing and the defeat, but I guess it could just as easily have referred to the actions of the Chelsea board on Wednesday morning! I don’t feel sorry for him. No doubt he will be well compensated for the early release from his contract.

Anyway back to the music. I was listening to a number of John Lennon tracks whilst preparing my twice-weekly music show that I present on local community radio. Just as I was reading the Chelsea stuff, about their poor result in Zagreb and the sacking of Tuchel, the next John Lennon track came on. It was a song that reached number 5 in the UK charts in 1970, and it became the first single by a solo member of the Beatles to sell a million copies. The lyrics of the song focus on a concept in which the consequences of one’s actions are immediate rather than borne out over a lifetime. They mean that your actions influence your future, perhaps sooner rather than later. I now had an even wider smile on my face. The title of the song – Instant Karma.

West Ham Head Up West To Take On The Second Best Team In Fulham

Unbeaten in two, the resurgent Hammers look to extend their recent improvement as they visit a stuttering Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

At long last the daily dose of red-hot speculation, tabled bids, failed deals and last-minute hijacks is finally over. The window is closed, its hinges oiled; it is securely bolted, padlocked with the curtains drawn until winter. The omnipresent Fabrizio Romano can give his twittering finger a well-earned rest and Rob Newman can toss his list of 2022 targets into the recycling. According to reports, he has already ripped a fresh sheet of paper from his pad, written “2023” on the top and underlined it twice. In the coming months a new list of exciting names will be progressively added to it.

There can be few complaints (there will always be some -ed) on the amount of money that has been committed by the owners this summer. It’s early days, but the incomings look to be a significant upgrades on the departed. Perhaps we are now business class rather than premium economy? But is this level of transfer activity a one-time splurge or the start of a new abnormal at the London Stadium? A golden era of enlightenment from Gold & Sullivan or the emegent transition of influence towards Daniel Kretinsky?   

Incidentally the Czech Sphinx was in the news for different reasons this week, having purchased a whole chateau in France for roughly the same outlay as recruiting Lucas Paqueta. Kretinsky’s net worth is now reported to be a whopping £3 billion. A fortune, it is said, that has been largely assembled through buying up a string of unloved assets – “do they mean us?” (© Derek Jameson)?

David Moyes feels the Hammers now have a squad capable of competing at the top end of the table. On paper, that is true, and it is now up to him to translate that potential to performances on the pitch. A win and a draw have moved the narrative from three consecutive defeats to unbeaten in two. It is imperative to maintain that momentum in the league while navigating the Europa Conference group stages which start next week. In total, West Ham face eighteen matches and one international break in the ten weeks prior to the World Cup. Careful squad rotation is necessary to claw our way back up the league and keep the UEFA co-efficient ticking over.

The squad now has realistic options and competition for most positions on the pitch. Perhaps a change in style is also on the cards. Relying less on counter attacking and creating more with the ball to provide penetration against opponents who refuse to play our game and are willing to surrender possession. It also gives us more room to deliberation on team selection other than pondering which two from Pablo Fornals, Manuel Lanzini and Said Benrahma will be starting this week.

Possible variations to formation away from the tried and tested 4-2-3-1 has also been mooted with some suggesting Moyes may now favour three at the back. Personally, I’m not convinced that we have the wing-backs offering defensive competence and pace and width going forward that such a switch would require.

It was a much improved performance in the midweek game against a highly cynical Tottenham side, particularly after the break. By the end, it was disappointing not to have taken all three points. What was even more remarkable was that our goal came as a result of a throw-in – a West Ham throw is invariably among the quickest ways to return the ball to the opposition.  The last throw-in inspired goal I can recall was King Arthur’s humdinger against today’s opponents, Chelsea, in December of last year.

It is difficult to know what to make of Chelsea in the post- war (the Ukraine one) era. They have invested heavily during the summer but the bottomless pit of dodgy Russian money that had financed success over the past twenty years will no longer be sloshing around. They are a team in transition that has made a stuttering start to the season and, like Tottenham, their most realistic target this term is to target the fourth Champions League spot.   

Looking through the Chelsea team sheet no longer strikes the fear of god into opponents as it once did. They have good players but not great ones. Tuchel has his side playing a fast, enterprising style of football that creates plenty of openings, but without enough product at the end of it. For me, James and Sterling are the players to watch out for. Interestingly, their line-up today may include both Gallagher and Broja, two players heavily linked with a move across London during the summer, and who partly built their reputations on fine performances against the Hammers in the past.

I suspect a further dose of Moyes caution today by leaving Paqueta and Gianluca Scamacca (if fit and well) on the bench for the first hour. Emerson might well be preferred over Aaron Cresswell but otherwise predict the same starting eleven as on Wednesday. Some have been calling for Jarrod Bowen to be benched but thought he was starting to look a threat again against Tottenham – and the only potential replacement would be to shift Antonio out wide. Pablo Fornals is another who has been dividing opinion. His work on the ball has been well below required levels but I’m convinced Moyes will stick with him due to his tireless pressing off the ball.

Quite a few Hammer’s fans I have spoken to are very bullish about today’s game. Their sense that of the two games played this week, away at Chelsea had greater points potential than home to Tottenham. Not sure I fully share that optimism, although the game is there to be won if the attitude is right. A second half performance from the first whistle would be a nice change. The tendency for slow starts and undue respect for once glorious opponents must be flushed from of the system.

If Declan Rice and Thomas Soucek continue their return to form and the excellent Thilo Kehrer and Kurt Zouma remain alert to the forward runs from deep, it could be a profitable afternoon for the boys in claret and blue (or white and orange). I do think, though, that another draw is most likely outcome. COYI!

West Ham – thoughts on the Tottenham game and the transfer window

Did you enjoy our excellent performance against a disappointing Tottenham side on Wednesday night? I certainly did. For me it was our best performance of the season by a long way and reminiscent of some of our better games in the last two seasons. There was only one team who were going to win the game in the second half and it wasn’t whingeing Tottenham.

They had taken the lead rather fortuitously in the first half with the own goal but I can barely remember Fabianski being troubled all night, and when he was called upon he showed why he has no intention of relinquishing the number 1 jersey with a commanding display. To be honest I expected a lot more from Tottenham but they resorted to dubious ‘old-fashioned Italian’ tactics, moaning at the referee at every stoppage, and generally they seemed to feel that everything should go their way because they have had a decent start to the season and we haven’t. They believe that they are genuine title challengers but with this display they are a million miles away.

The treatment of Bowen in particular was appalling in the way he was targeted and brought down at every opportunity. He was looking back to his lively self from last season and could perhaps have scored more than once in the closing stages of the game. With a little more composure Fornals should have scored too, as should Paqueta when he and Emerson left the ball for each other when in a great position from Coufal’s cross.

I thought the whole of our team played well with season-best performances all round, especially in the second half, and my man of the match was Antonio. He was unlucky in the first half when his long-range shot hit the post, and his Bergkamp-like flick to set up Soucek’s equalising goal was sublime. And didn’t Soucek take it well! All night Antonio (just like Bowen) was fouled by the Tottenham defenders who were allowed to get away with it by a referee who was too lenient in many respects. I am all for the new code where referees allow the game to continue more freely than before after strong tackles but this was too much.

Conte disappointed me too with his post-match comments about the VAR decision which sent the referee to look at the screen after the ball struck Cresswell’s arm after deflecting off his face. Quite frankly how VAR took almost four minutes before they came to that conclusion was baffling. You only had to look at the replay once to see what had happened. I am a fan of VAR applied properly and in this case justice was done, but why the hesitation? But not according to whingeing Conte.

Some excellent performances all round by our players and the new signings are going to be great additions. Paqueta’s thirty-minute cameo demonstrated what a signing he could become and was especially notable for the fact that he hadn’t trained with the team beforehand. Players are now playing knowing that there are quality players on the bench and the competition for their places is just what is needed. What I particularly liked in comparison to the earlier games this season was our ability to retain the ball and not give it away cheaply. We moved the ball quicker too with more purpose, and the players were finding space to receive the ball too.

I don’t usually give player ratings but I’ll make an exception for this game. Fabianski 7.5, Coufal 7.5, Kehrer 8, Zouma 7.5, Cresswell 7, Rice 8.5, Soucek 8, Fornals 7, Benrahma 7, Bowen 8, Antonio 8.5.

I won’t give a rating for the substitutes but Paqueta, Ogbonna and Emerson, all looked good with their relatively short time on the pitch and we were well on top as the game edged towards a close.

We now move on to Stamford Bridge to face big-spending Chelsea. Another performance like we produced for the Tottenham game, especially in the second half will be fine. We are actually playing a game on a Saturday! When did that last happen? If I’m not mistaken we last played a league game on a Saturday (the traditional day for football!) at the beginning of March when we lost 1-0 at Anfield. And when did we last win a league game on a Saturday? I don’t think it has happened since New Years Day, January 1st when we beat Palace 3-2 at Selhurst Park. I may be wrong but I don’t think we won a league game on a Saturday at the London Stadium in the whole of last season. Of course the main reasons for this are games shown on TV plus our participation in European competition.

The madness, also known as the transfer window, slammed shut on Thursday evening. (Why does it always slam?). At last an end to the 982 players linked with West Ham over the past few weeks! Sky Sports is whipped into a frenzy on the final day when so many clubs finalise the business that they’ve had weeks to do, and so many transactions take place right up until the 11pm deadline. Time will tell of course, but I reckon that this has been the most successful window for West Ham in years. Spending has certainly exceeded my expectations with the arrival of eight players to replace those that left or who have retired. Seven of the eight are current full international footballers. It’s now down to the manager to mould them into a team that can challenge for honours. I look forward to the rest of the season.

West Ham and Tottenham Clash In The Hammers First And Firiest London Derby Of The Season

The win at Villa Park and stunning signing of Lucas Paqueta have baked in a new sense of optimism at the London Stadium. Can a win against the old rivals put the icing on the cake?

The West Ham Transfer Advent calendar has just two windows left to open but has already revealed an eclectic mix of expensive gifts that go way beyond my historic expectations. Could there be even more to come? Past performance suggests the chances of our crack negotiating team signing and sealing further deals inside a two day deadline is highly improbable, but these are not normal times at the high spending Hammers. David Moyes prayers have been answered and he has been given a whole new set of tools to play with. The pressure is now on him to show what he can build with them.

The interest in Lucas Paqueta came as something of a surprise to me, although Moyes claims to have been tracking him for some time. It really is the most mouth watering signing for some time if he delivers anywhere close to his Youtube showreels. The reported transfer fee is a huge one for a player signing from a Ligue 1 club – in fact, second only to the fee paid by Real Madrid to sign Tchouameni from Monaco. Will it be money well spent?

How heavy the burden of being the Hammer’s most expensive ever signing will sit on Paqueta’s shoulders will become apparent over time. Not only must he adapt to the pace of the Premier League, but others must be tuned into the same wavelength. Otherwise the flicks and tricks will look out of place. To the more flat-footed, workaday members of the squad, his speed of thought and movement must be like watching a timelapse video.

I took David Moyes comments on needing time to adapt as setting expectations that we might not see the best from Paqueta straight away. Not that it was his intention to bed him in as a 75th substitute for the initial ten game period. I hope I’ve got that right. His presence in the side will represent a very different dimension for opposing teams to counter, and as well as creating and scoring himself he will be freeing up spaces for others to fill and hoepfully exploit. Can I already hear the cries of “¡olé!” reverberating around the London Stadium?

It was a welcome win at the weekend courtesy of a first West Ham goal of the season in almost six hours of trying. True, the goal had a few slices of luck about it but deflected shots are more common these days with defences willing to encourage shots from distance. Always happy to take what comes our way!

The first half experiment of a back five failed miserably as might have been predicted. For it to work and not be a negative tactic, fast raiding wing-backs and a pacy, mobile front three are required – not obvious strengths of the eleven players taking the field. With Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek more concerned with what Coutinho was doing, attacking opportunities were non-existent, passing and movement were at a record low, and Villa were gifted an ever increasing level of possession as the game progressed. Thankfully, the hosts had few ideas of their own and the West Ham defence stood firm in an afternoon of heading-the-ball-away practice.

To his credit, Moyes acted with uncharacteristic decisiveness to change things around at half-time, leaving the bewildered Stevie G to persist with what hadn’t worked in the first period. The upshot was that suddenly it was the visitors who looked the most likely if there was to be an eventual winner. It was typical football irony that Pablo Fornals, who hadn’t put a foot right all afternoon, was the player to pop up with the deciding strike. 

A goal and a win should provide a much needed boost to confidence but today’s opponents, Tottenham, will be nowhere near as obliging as the Villains were. Along with their north London neighbours, Spurs are among the early season Premier League front runners with three wins and a draw from four games played. They have also recruited heavily in the summer. Remarkably, four of the capital’s clubs (Chelsea, West Ham, Tottenham, and Arsenal) are among the top ten spenders across Europe this window.

Despite the recruitment, Conte has largely put faith in the players who secured Champions League qualification last year. But the strength on the bench looks daunting. Talking of subs, with Richarlison coming off the bench to join Kane and Son, there may well be shouts of “Dive!, Dive!, Dive!” whenever the ball is played anywhere near the box. VAR must ensure it has its periscope up at all times.

At time of writing I haven’t heard whether Pacqueta has received HM Government work permit clearance to feature in tonight’s hostile environment. I fear the midweek game has come too early for him in any case. Maybe a place on the bench is the best we can expect. I would imagine Moyes starting eleven to be the same as the one that started the second half at Villa Park.

The home encounter with Tottenham is the Hammers premier London derby of the season. Arguably, the most eagerly anticipated clash of the season. Difficult to call a game between two sides who prefer to counter attack. On form, the visitors have the edge and they are faster and more clinical on the break. Still while there is Eric Dier, there is always a chance.

Losing three opening home league games on the bounce would be a huge blow for all concerned. Not sure when that last happened but no doubt we will be told. If Rice and Jarrod Bowen remember to get their socks pulled up, I’ve a feeling we can take something away from this game – even if it is a hard fought draw. COYI!

Hammers At Villa Park: Any Plan To Address The Energy Crisis In The West Ham Midfield?

I never felt more like singing the claret-and-blues. Two of the leagues disappointing and downcast sides go head-to-head at Villa Park as West Ham take on Aston Villa

I’ve just opened my Golden Goals ticket for the time of West Ham’s first goal. I’ve got October, so could be in with a very good chance of winning.

These are strange times at the club with the Hammers sitting rock bottom of the fledgling table with ‘nul points’ from three games played. It is not unheard of to see clubs in the lower leagues with points deductions for some financial irregularity or the other. But these deductions are rarely self-imposed by the clubs themselves, as it is in our case. A failure to act quickly in strengthening the squad and then refusing to play those we have brought in has saddled us with a unwanted nine point penalty.

As there is so much nonsense written during the transfer window it’s not easy to get to the bottom of exactly what has been going on. Slowly but surely, sizeable amounts of money is being spent, but why it it such a long drawn-out process with West Ham. And why do do many supposed deals simply fizzle out? Sure, it would be foolish to simply pay the asking price as the window would end with the club getting far less for their money, at a time when the squad is painfully thin. But that shouldn’t mean that negotiations get interminably bogged down haggling for the greatest deal. Thankfully, it will all be over this week.

If the Lucas Paquetta transfer goes through as anticipated it would represent an eighth summer signing for the club. And with chatter of even more to come. In terms of numbers, it is largely in line with what many fans were calling for. Our recruits look to be mainly mid-career signings rather than the unearthing of young, unknown talent that might have been anticipated with the guidance of Rob Newman. Perhaps our scouting network is still too flimsy for that to happen. Big money signings have an uneven track record at West Ham but the balance between proven ability and future potential is a tricky one to negotiate.

With more options to choose from, we must wait to see how (and at what speed) David Moyes goes about implementing the transition. It is often said that introducing more that three of four new players into a team at one time is fraught with difficulties, especially where organisation is one of your major strengths. But the Hammers current indifferent form stretches way back into the final three or four months of last season as well as the start of this one. Bringing in replacements would hardly be upsetting a finely tuned machine.  While Thilo Kehrer was given an entire game due to a centre back shortage, only 85 minutes for Gianluca Scamacca, 22 for Maxwell Cornet, and 1 for Flynn Downes, in a run of three defeats, is a puzzling outcome.

Today’s game at Villa Park is the latest opportunity to get much needed points on the board. The Hammers face an Aston Villa side who have also failed to impress in their early matches – maybe because I had tipped them to have a good season. After this game, West Ham face London rivals Tottenham and Chelsea in quick succession and the prospect of played six/ no points must have occurred to most supporters. If ever, there was a time for a performance, it is today.

Moyes will have plenty of credit in the bank after two top seven finishes and two European campaigns, but that won’t make him bullet proof if the ‘Relegation’ word starts getting mentioned repeatedly. Remember Claudio Ranieri was sacked by Leicester less than a year after winning the Premier League title. Moyes will be safe up until the World Cup whatever happens. Hopefully a Paquetta inspired side will be marauding into the upper reaches of the league by then!

It will be hugely disappointing if significant changes are not made for today’s game. A massive dose of energy and fluidity must be injected into the side and the playing style has to far less predictable than it has become. Relying solely on counter attacks and set pieces has to be eliminated. And Declan Rice cannot be the single conduit through midfield.

None of the following players merit a starting berth today based on recent and current form: Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Creswell, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals and Manuel Lanzini. Is it also time for Alphonse Areola to be handed the keeper’s jersey?  For me, Scamacca, Cornet and Emerson Palmieri must be guaranteed starters today. And Ben Johnson is a far superior option at right back than Coufal.

Villa have their own problems with Stevie G struggling as much as FLJ to impress from the managers seat. The hosts record in the final months of last of last season and into this is as indifferent as the visitors. Does that indicate a share of the spoils in a tame draw?  In theory, the Villains have enough firepower in Ings and Watkins to test an unsettled Hammer’s defence, but it is the running of players such as Ramsay and Bailey that often cause our defence to be exposed.

It has the feel of one of those games that will be decided by mistakes rather than inspiration. Both defences are as shaky as a three legged chair and Moyes must make his selection to exploit that weakness in the opposition. More of the timid, one-paced, unambitious approach of previous games won’t work and has to be replaced with energy, width and movement. With a few isolated exceptions it has been many months since the Hammers demonstrated sparkle and swagger out on the pitch. It’s return is eagerly awaited. And today would be the perfect time. COYI!   

West Ham – the season so far

We certainly didn’t hope to be at the bottom of the Premier League table after three games with no points and no goals, the only team in the top flight with that unenviable record. An opening day fixture against champions Manchester City was always likely to end in defeat despite our excellent 2-2 draw with them at the tail end of last season. In reality, despite the massive City possession statistics, new signing Erling Haaland was the real difference between the teams. Without his contribution we might have held on for another draw.

The second game at newly-promoted Forest was always going to be more difficult than many might have expected. We didn’t play particularly well but, in my opinion we were extremely unlucky not to win the game. Twice hitting the underside of the bar only to see the ball bounce down on the goal-line, a poor penalty miss inexplicably taken by our captain when surely there are better penalty takers in the team, and a goal chalked off after VAR had intervened suggesting that Antonio had impeded the defender (when surely it was the other way round?), were compounded with a Forest goal a result of poor defending, lucky bounce off the knee, and an inability to retrieve the situation in the second half.

And for some reason we just cannot beat Brighton. This was our eleventh attempt at doing so since they were promoted to the Premier League, but poor defending gifted them two goals and we were unable to break them down. When we did their keeper was good enough to repel our efforts. The Seagulls are a team that are underestimated by many and have developed into quite a force in the top flight. In Graham Potter I think they have one of the best managers around.

Perhaps injuries and poor fitness of some players, especially central defenders has contributed to our current plight? Perhaps trying to integrate new players into the squad is a factor? We continue to make signings that look very good on paper but it does take time for new players to bed in at a club. To be fair the new acquisitions have not really been in the team, or certainly the starting eleven in the league games to date. Perhaps it is continuing to select players who were not performing too well in the latter part of last season? Perhaps it is the reluctance to introduce substitutes until much later in the game than many fans would like to see to enable them to have a positive influence on the games? Perhaps too many players are just out of form? Perhaps a mixture of all of those factors plus others? Whatever the reasons we haven’t made the start to the new season that we would hope for.

Everybody has opinions, but the manager is the one whose job depends on making the right decisions. I have my reservations about some of the ones he makes, but two seasons of sixth / seventh place finishes after taking over at the club in a perilous position facing relegation, and qualification and (almost) success in Europe, should not be discounted because of three games. There’s a long way to go. If I remember correctly Pellegrini was manager when we lost the first four games a few seasons back and we still finished tenth in that campaign.

Given the fluidity of positions on a football pitch in modern times it is difficult to categorise players but forgive me and humour me in attempting to do so with our current squad. I’ll highlight 23 and for the purposes of this I’ll ignore our up and coming prospects such as Ashby, although I hope that the manager does not continue to ignore them. By my reckoning we have 3 international goalkeepers (Fabianski, Areola, Randolph) and now 7 international defenders (Cresswell, Zouma, Coufal, Ogbonna, Kehrer, Aguerd, Palmieri). We have 4 international midfielders (Fornals, Lanzini, Soucek, Rice) and 5 forwards with full international caps (Scamacca, Antonio, Cornet, Bowen, Benrahma). By my reckoning that makes 19 full international footballers out of a squad of 23 (so far). Even the four other players in the first team squad have some international recognition (Ben Johnson U-21, Conor Coventry (U-21 Ireland), Flynn Downes (U-20) and Craig Dawson has 15 U-21 caps and 3 Great Britain Olympic caps). Just 5 of the outfield 20 players are aged 30 or over (Creswell, Coufal, Dawson, Ogbonna and Antonio).

We all have differing opinions but I truly believe that we have a squad of footballers well capable of challenging for a place in the top 8 (hopefully higher) in the Premier League, in the cups, and in Europe. At least the first European hurdle was easily completed on Thursday evening with the 6-1 aggregate win over Viborg. We now move on to the league stage.

It is the job of the manager and coaches to mould the squad and produce results enabling those results to be achieved. Failure to do so will put his and their jobs in jeopardy. He has produced the goods in the past two seasons with what I believe was an inferior squad. I’m not at all upset by any of the players that have departed and believe that they have been replaced by footballers of a better quality. The manager and coaches now need to earn their money and produce teams week in and week out that have a method (and alternatives) of playing that will achieve the results that I believe a squad of that ability should be able to.

I’d also like to think that we haven’t finished adding to the squad. There are 3 players that I would be delighted if we signed one or more of them. A true consistently-proven goalscoring midfielder such as the Belgian, Vanaken, would be a tremendous signing, and Moyes has admitted we’ve put in a bid for him. Apparently our bid and Club Brugge’s valuation are some way apart and I wonder if it will happen?

I’d also like to see some real pace down the flanks and there are two players I like that would provide this. One is Sarr from Watford who I really like, but the other would be a controversial one and many will disagree with me. The other one is Adama Traore from Wolves. He has frightening pace and the potential to be a world beater, but his potential has never been realised mainly because there is little or no end-product from him. I’m sure he could be bought for a song and then it would be the job of the manager and coaches once again to turn massive potential into a top player. I honestly believe he would be worth taking a chance on if he can be acquired for a knock-down fee, and then we can see whether he can be coached into really achieving what I reckon he could be capable of. I wonder if we’ll see any of the three of them, or even Paquet (from Lyons) or Maitland-Niles (from Arsenal), both quality players that have been supposedly linked with us.

So there we are. That’s my view of the start we have made and what I believe we are capable of. My views are not shared by many on social media and that’s fair enough. We are all entitled to our opinions.

Matchday 4 of the Premier League season arrives this weekend and we are at Villa Park. That game is closely followed by fixtures against Tottenham, Chelsea and Newcastle. We could have 12 points after 7 games. We might still have zero. Or of course we could be somewhere in between. How many points do you think we’ll have? It’s time for the players, manager and coaches to really start earning their money, and for the team to start climbing the table.   

Can West Ham Shake Off The Brighton Bogey To Put Some Points On The Board This Weekend?

No goals, no points and no ideas! Is it time for David Moyes To put faith in his new signings for Sunday’s Premier League clash?

Although it has been a few months now since West Ham endured their most recent fruitless encounter against Brighton and Hove Albion, it is only three games ago in match terms. Back in May, when a win would have secured a place in the top six for the Hammers, things had looked rather rosy at the half-way stage. But a simple tactical switch by Seagull’s boss Graham Potter in the second period bamboozled our boys and they slumped to the most convincing of defeats. A performance that was typical of many seen during the season run-in.

On the evidence of this season to date, the lethargy that has shrouded the club’s on-field performances since last January has yet to be shaken off. New signings have been trickling through the doors during the summer, and while additional bodies are welcome, I’m yet to be convinced the resources have been assembled to vary style, tactics, and approach according to changing circumstances. Is there now a Plan B or now just multiple versions of Plan A?

Even during the last two (very impressive) seasons the wit to break through organised opposition defences was clearly absent in the squad – resulting in points dropped against sides we would have expected to beat. This gap in the squad has yet to be filled. My worry is that if a new attacking midfielder is brought in, it will be as a battering ram rather than someone capable of picking locks.

Following the two early league defeats it was certainly a relief to get a win under the belt against the Danes from Viborg in Thursday nights Europa Conference qualifier. Not that it was a performance to take much comfort from. In a game played at half paced it was another stilted, low-gear showing from West Ham – papered over by three well-constructed goals which will probably be enough to claim the tie.

Indeed, it was the visitors who showed more endeavour when it came to passing and moving through the midfield areas. The absence of Declan Rice leaves a massive void in the Hammer’s midfield as all attacking momentum goes through him these days. Even against pedestrian opponents Manuel Lanzini and Pablo Fornals had no magic to weave and made no impression as far as play-making was concerned. Thankfully, Viborg for all their energy were short of end product – a possible Brexit bonus as their two forward players were unable to enter the UK due to new visa restrictions.

For our own part it was mostly monotonous side to side passing across the back, with Tomas Soucek and Conor Coventry particularly culpable. Forward movement, other than hopeful punts, appeared to have been outlawed and the full-backs rarely crossed the halfway line. Whether this was a cunning tactical plan or the consequence of playing three right backs in the back four was not obvious.

Still a win is a win and there were brief encouraging flashes from Gianluca Scamacca, Maxwell Cornet and Said Benrahma – although each would have benefited from a greater level of involvement. The game also saw a welcome return for Angelo Ogbonna, back in the side after his lengthy injury lay-off, and an opportunity to have a first look at Thilo Kehrer.

With a return to league action on Sunday the need to avoid a third straight defeat will be on everyone’s mind. It’s a mystery why West Ham have found it impossible to come out on top against Brighton in recent years, a run that now extends to ten matches. No doubt that Potter is a tactically astute manager, but the Hammers were equally unsuccessful while Chris Hughton was at the helm. Perhaps it is just one of those odd quirks found in football and all talk of the Seagulls as a bogey-team will be swept away once a first win is recorded. Could it be this weekend?

Last weekend I was convinced that Scamacca and Cornet would feature in the starting eleven at Nottingham Forest but failed to gauge just how conservative Moyes is when introducing new players into his system. Understandable if you are in the middle of a hot winning streak but less so when you have only won two of the last ten league games. Whether the manager will do anything more radical in team selection than the usual lucky dip between Benrahma, Lanzini and Fornals is anyone’s guess. He is unlikely to regard Ogbonna or Kehrer as potential starters leaving Ben Johnson to once again partner Kurt Zouma in central defence. Personally, I would like to see Scamacca, Cornet and Kehrer all start but the chances of that happening are slim.

Brighton have made a promising start to the season with a win at Manchester United and home draw against Newcastle. They have lost Bissouma and Cucurella since last term and have signed a handful of young players who have yet to feature in the first eleven. Potter is likely to start with a tried and tested side and hope that Gross, Trossard, and Welbeck continue to unsettle the rigid West Ham defences.

A huge improvement from the opening two games will be required if the Brighton curse is finally to be lifted. Maybe with a returning Declan Rice and a little more competition on the bench can tomorrow be that day?  West Ham to win 2-1. COYI!