10 Man West Ham und die Bananen-skinnen friendly

If goals equal entertainment then an entertaining yet pointless run out against fourth tier German minnows.

A mandatory clause in the Headline Writer’s Code states that whenever a team has a player sent-off then a reference has to be made ’10 Man’ in the article’s heading; even if that dismissal occurs in the third minute of added time or in a meaningless friendly.

It is, of course, highly unusual for anyone to receive a red card in a friendly game where standard practice is to ask the respective manager to replace the offending player.   It requires a particularly officious and over-sensitive referee mit einem sehr kleinen bratwurst to disrupt a friendly game simply for a spot of perceived dissent.  Mind you, it did seem rather out of character for Winston and hopefully it was not a symptom of any deeper attitude problem as a result of recent transfer speculation.

It would be interesting to know the background to how and why this game was arranged as it all seemed somewhat unnecessary with the attitude and effort of the West Ham players suggesting that they weren’t really very bothered.  It offered no contribution to building fitness and there was no cunning tactical experimentation from what I could tell.

The game saw a typically slow start by the Hammers and all three of the conceded goals were sloppy and would have been easily preventable with better organisation.  There were good strikes by Toni Martinez and Andre Ayew even though both were the result of long balls played hopefully forward.  There was, however, a little late encouragement with a lively cameo from Javier Hernandez who really should have scored at least once.

That Altona 93 are twinned with Dulwich Hamlet FC says a lot about their pedigree and aspirations.  They are a regional fourth tier club in the German league system which presents a much tougher road to the top flight than for an equivalent League 2 side in England.  A friendly game or not, a Premier League side should easily have enough of the basic skills and nous to ease past such opposition.  If there was no intention to try why play the game in the first place?  The club have even erased all evidence of the game from the first team fixtures list on the official website.

It was disappointing to learn that two of the young players who had featured prominently in pre-season had been packed off on loan to Bolton Wanderers.  Reece Burke and Josh Cullen will now embark on their third season of loan spells away from the club.  Both have performed well in previous loans as regular starters which is not a common an occurrence for many of the youngsters that West Ham loan out, most of whom end up with bench warming duties and putting the cones out in training.  At least these are not season long loans which means, I believe, that they can be recalled at any time; or in the extreme would be available to return in the January window.    The pattern of using young players in pre-season games and then farming them out is a repeat from previous seasons and a strategy that I really don’t understand.

The pre-season jamboree now moves on to Iceland and will be interesting to look out for Björgólfur Guðmundsson and Eggy Magnússon in the crowd at the Laugardalsvöllur stadium on Friday; that is if they aren’t in prison and can afford a ticket.  My hope is that Manchester City take it easy on us and that we can avoid a confidence sapping drubbing before the real business gets underway the following weekend.

Betting on a West Ham Title Win: What Are The Chances?

Can West Ham win the Premier League? What are the chances? We take a look at some of the bets being offered by bookmakers for the forthcoming season.

Despite our chairman’s belief that anything can happen we all know that the chances of West Ham winning the Premier League are very close to non-existent. Despite being an optimist when it comes to our team, I know that it would take a miracle for us to emulate the feat of Leicester the season before last. That was a one-off 5000-1 unbelievable occurrence that is never likely to be repeated.

Bookmakers don’t get a lot wrong, and I’ve been looking through the odds quoted by a couple of dozen leading firms as to who will win the title this season. Despite some small variations there is a great deal of consistency in what is being offered. After Leicester’s unlikely success the quoted odds are not really very realistic for the teams outside the elite six, and the generosity of years gone by has been replaced by some ridiculously short figures, when we all know that there are only six teams that can possibly come out on top. I’m surprised that they don’t try to tempt punters to waste their money with figures of at least 10,000/1 or more, which would reflect the likely chances of the “bottom” 13 or 14 teams winning the league.

Manchester City are the clear favourites with every single firm that I looked at. The odds quoted are shorter than 2/1 in every case, which, for a competition of 38 matches is a very short price. Chelsea and Manchester United are vying for second favouritism with both being offered between 3/1 and 4/1 to win. Tottenham come next at much longer odds of between 8/1 and 10/1, with Arsenal and Liverpool each being quoted between 11/1 and 14/1.

Not surprisingly, these are the only six teams given any realistic chance of lifting the title by the bookmakers. Everton are seventh favourites at odds of around 80/1, and then we are in a band of four clubs (along with Leicester, Southampton and Newcastle) being offered at anything between 200/1 and 500/1. The shortest odds I saw for West Ham were 250/1, although if you want to have a fun bet on our team you can shop around and get around 500/1 from a number of firms. Even at those odds, not very realistic!

You can get odds of 1000/1 upwards for the remaining nine teams in the league, with the longest prices that I saw being Burnley and Huddersfield at 3000/1.

If you believe that we can finish in the top four (we did come fairly close the season before last, after all), the odds vary between 25/1 and 80/1, so once again, shop around if you want to place a bet. The elite six are all quoted at around evens or much shorter for a top four place. The odds on us finishing in the top six are generally around 10/1 to 12/1, although I have seen 20/1 quoted, and if you want to bet on us finishing in the top half of the table (top 10), the odds vary between even money and 6/4. Betway quote odds on finishing top of the Premier League if the “big 7” teams are excluded, of 5/1, and this is perhaps the best bet I’ve seen offered.

You can get up to 200/1 on us finishing as the top London club, and up to 500/1 on us topping the Premier League on Christmas Day. Our new signing, Chicarito, is quoted at odds up to 40/1 to finish as the Premier League’s leading goalscorer.

For any real pessimists out there (and you do see some on various social media sites) you can get odds of 10/1 on us being relegated, or even up to 50/1 on us finishing at the very bottom of the league!

Of course, as all of us long standing West Ham fans know, you never really know what to expect of our team, so betting on them can be a precarious business because of their unpredictability. But if you like a bet on a one-off match, which is my personal preference when betting on West Ham, then you can get up to 12/1 on us winning our opening day fixture at Old Trafford, or 4/1 on a draw. For me, these are value bets in comparison to those on offer for the season as a whole.

Five West Ham Takeaways from the Betway Cup

Ramping up my personal pre-season preparations with a look back at what we learned from the Betway Cup.

They are only pre-season games but …..

The primary purpose of pre-season friendlies is as preparation for the main event which is now just two weeks away even though an increasing number of teams have started to be use them as commercial revenue generating exercises in far off lands.  Numerous Champions Cup competitions featuring European giants have been spawned to replace what used to be a trip down the road to play against local lower league opposition.  Previously any notion of turning out against other top level sides from the same domestic competition before the Charity Shield had been held would have been vigorously shunned but now overseas exhibitions are now becoming the norm.  Results should still not matter though and although the Betway Cup might have been our best chance of silverware this season, defeat is of much less importance than building fitness and developing cohesion in the squad.   So what has the experience taught us?

Do We Have a Better Balanced Squad?

With the knowledge of hindsight I am confident that we look to be starting the season with a far more balanced squad.  Then again had you asked me that question at the same time last year I would no doubt have answered in the same way; basking as I was in the afterglow of a creditable seventh place finish, expecting more of the same from a happy Payet and without the knowledge of how bad our player recruitment would turn out.  This year’s transfer business feels a lot smarter with welcome in-comings and sensible out-goings.  My assumption is that rumours of Liverpool (and others) sniffing around Manuel Lanzini and the comical £9 million interest by Everton in Winston Reid are no more than wishful thinking on the part of the clubs involved.  Losing either would be a major blow to the make up of the squad.  The full-back situation appears to be more stable, at least for the time being, and the signings of Javier Hernandez and Marka Arnautovic provide better and more dangerous attacking options.  I remain hopeful that our transfer business is not complete and that the lack of pace in central midfield and at the centre of defence can yet be addressed.  The ‘One Out One In’ transfer policy, if it exists, should dictate more signings following Fletcher’s move to Middlesbrough and the imminent departure of Feghouli.

Are there any early signs of tactical changes?

The manager’s preferred style of play is still not clear to me.  Admittedly we have not been able to feature key individuals such as Lanzini, Hernandez, Reid and Michail Antonio in any of the pre-season games but, nevertheless, I would expect a manager to be clear and consistent  as to how he wants to set up his team, with occasional tweaks depending on opposition and available personnel.  The key decision for me surrounds the deployment of Hernandez; will he play in an unfamiliar loan striker role (which in West Ham history has involved chasing long hopeful high balls) or as part of a front two.  If there is a front two how does Bilic also accommodate Lanzini as well as ensuring that the midfield retains a solid defensive base to protect the back-line? A task that requires two defensively minded midfield players in my opinion.   From what I have seen of the pre-season games (only on streams unfortunately) the general level of fitness and stamina looked to be of a higher standard, suggesting that the training camp approach was an excellent decision.  The players also appeared to be more willing to press (rather than retreat) when the opposition had the ball and while recovering and keeping possession were notable improvements using that possession wisely was less impressive.

What do we do with the ball now that we have it?

Giving the benefit of the doubt, maybe it was the absence of the key players that contributed largely to the lack of ideas once in possession.  Even without the retarding influence of Mark Noble the reluctance to move the ball forward quickly remained with the first instinct still being to pass the ball sideways or backwards.  If a team is going to use a slow buildup then it needs players capable of producing unexpected quick bursts to create openings, either individually or through quick inter-passing movements.  In the matches against Bremen movement off the ball was still patchy, particularly in central areas, and the primary tactic was to get the ball out wide when in attacking areas, presumably to aim for the head of a ghostly Andy Carroll.  The approach reminds me of my Sunday League playing days where most goals are the result of defensive error rather than attacking craft.  Pump it forward with the hope that a defender will make a mistake and let the striker in.  It is encouraging that we now have a ‘fox in the box’ but even a fox needs something to feed from.

Give Youth A Chance?

An undoubted positive from the pre-season games has been the encouraging performances of academy players such as Nathan Holland, Declan Rice, Reece Burke and Toni Martinez.  In the last two seasons youth players were used in Europa League fixtures only to disappear off on loan once the season started.  I hope that this doesn’t happen again this time and that the pick of the crop are kept in the squad and introduced gradually and carefully into the first team.  I don’t mean to sit on the bench as an unused substitute for thirteen games or to come on as a ninety second minute time wasting replacement but to be given reasonably regular meaningful run-outs.  I believe that playing regularly in the Premier League 2 competition with the odd ten or fifteen minutes in the first team is better for a player’s development and integration than turning out for Peterboro against Rochdale in a League 1 relegation scrap.  I am not advocating throwing young players in at the deep end but why not use them as backup rather than keep rolling out the same older or under-performing senior squad members?

Sullivan: Give Me Just A Little More Time!

Do the Chairman’s comments about short termism and balancing the books suggest that the next level is as far away as ever?

“Give Me Just A Little More Time” was a 1970 top ten hit for Michigan based US soul band Chairman of the Board (the song was later recorded by Aussie songstress, Kylie Minogue).  This week our own Chairman of the Board, David Sullivan took to the airwaves to celebrate what has largely been acknowledged as a triumphant week of West Ham transfer dealings.  During his interview Sullivan accepted that by focusing on proven and experienced ability (i.e. older players) the club had adopted a short term view for its player recruitment.  In effect, we need to give him (and the rest of the Board) a little more time before that promised assault on the next level becomes a reality.

The problem is that breaking out of a short term strategy carries the same degree of difficult with each successive season.  It is a dilemma.  Buy experience players to ensure survival and you have no resale value to re-invest plus an ageing squad.  Buy youngsters from lesser leagues and it is a gamble where anyone who excels is looking for better things after two years in any case; albeit with a tidy profit.

Overall it was a reasonable interview by Sullivan although there was some licence with the way it was subsequently reported turning a reasonable commitment to be competitive in all of the competitions that West Ham entered into a claim that the club were looking to win the Premier League.  I think many of us would be more than happy with a top half finish and some exciting cup runs.

The other comment catching the attention of the headline writers were those suggesting Javier Hernandez might be the best player West Ham have ever signed (although I wasn’t sure whether ever in this context only related to the Gold and Sullivan era or to all-time).   Although I am more than happy to see Hernandez in a West Ham shirt I think I will wait a while before hailing him as the new messiah.  Until we see how Slaven Bilic integrates a player who is used to playing as part of a front two into his own system it will be impossible to assess his eventual effectiveness.

There were also some hints that there could yet be more London Stadium arrivals during the transfer window although this was offset against a ‘One In One Out’ policy and the need to ‘balance the books’ with that old chestnut the £100m debt once again rearing its head.

I guess ‘One In One Out’ makes some sense in that there is only a finite squad size but I hope that we would not pass up on a great deal simply because we hadn’t been able to shift some left over deadwood.  There is continued speculation that Feghouli will be off to Turkey quite soon plus other assorted rumours concerning bids for Ayew, Snodgrass, Fletcher and Adrian.   How an Adrian departure might work leaving the club with just one on-loan keeper is a mystery but I wouldn’t lose any sleep over any of the others taking their boots elsewhere.  I would really liked for Ashley Fletcher to have worked out but, to me, he doesn’t have the balance or gait of a natural athlete.  So if that results in five out then we should reasonably expect another five in; and please let one of them be Moussa Dembele!

Bringing up the subject of the debt was rather disingenuous given that much of this (although not all) are loans owed to the Board themselves.  As I understand it, the club is clear of bank debt although it does have an external credit facility borrowed against future TV revenues.  There is no incentive for the Board to repay their own loans and so the figure is unlikely to change over time; so please stop mentioning it!  Although the concept of a transfer budget or war chest doesn’t really exist in isolation from other costs such as player wages (apart from in the media) our net spend on player trading remains modest in what is otherwise a red hot market.  Revenues must surely be up considerably with the new TV deal and stadium and so ambition should be reflected by directing much of this to recruitment.

Another Chairman in the news this week was everyone’s favourite Bond villain, Daniel Levy, expressing his views that the escalation of transfer fees and wages in the Premier League are not sustainable.  It is difficult to argue with him on that one as the agenda is largely set by clubs who are immune from normal business practices.  In terms of revenues Spurs have massively over-achieved in the last two seasons; they are way behind the big five clubs and find themselves in a difficult position trying to compete.  They have also performed well in recent years in player trading but are unable to match the salaries offered by the elite teams.  It is only a matter of time before their major assets (players and manager) jump ship for larger rewards.  The construction of their new stadium will also take its toll and it was amusing that Levy could not stop himself from having a sly dig by mentioning that it was being built without state aid.

“Give Me Just A Little More Time” was written by prolific Motown songwriters Holland, Dozier and Holland but someone who may not need much more time is Nathan Holland, if reports coming out of the West Ham training camp are to be believed.  I had previously mentioned him as looking lively during the Austria warm up games and as Slav loves a winger I am hoping we get to see more of him during the season.  Please no loan deal with a club likely to be fighting a League 1 relegation battle.

West Ham: Arrivals, Lineups, Formations and Substitutions

With our new arrivals, what is the best West Ham team for the coming season? Have we now got enough quality players to use impact substitutions to change a game if necessary?

I am old enough to remember the days when football was strictly eleven-a side. Teams would start with 11 players and finish with the same 11 players. If anybody was injured or out of form then that was just tough; there were no substitutes sitting on a bench to replace them. When West Ham won the FA Cup in 1964, the same 11 players started and finished every game in every round, including the Cup Final itself. Those days are long gone.

The ability to use increased numbers of replacements was a gradual one.  In the English leagues in the mid-1960s each side was permitted to use one substitute (just one player was nominated to sit on the bench), but only if a player was injured. This rule was relaxed a couple of years later to allow the substitution for tactical reasons. As time has progressed the number of substitutes that can be used has gradually increased so that now (in competitive matches, as opposed to friendlies) a maximum of three new players can be brought on, out of seven who are sitting waiting for a chance to come on.

As a follower of Rugby Union I have noticed a similar situation, where although 15 players start the game, the squad consists of 23, and I believe all 8 who start on the sidelines can be brought on at some time. If football follows a similar pattern then I can see the day not far off when perhaps five substitutes can be used, and a whole team sits on the side, allowing for tactical substitutions to be made in all positions on the field.

But, even though the game is now 14-a-side, do managers make the best use of the players at their disposal in each game? How can West Ham make better use of players sitting on the bench?

With the new players that have arrived during the current transfer window, many West Ham fans have taken to social media to set out their favoured starting eleven for the new season assuming everybody is fit, which of course is a situation that never seems to happen with our club. I have analysed a number of these, and it would appear that the following 11 players are the ones most nominated (in the manager’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation):

Hart

Zabaleta, Reid, Ogbonna, Masuaku

Obiang, Kouyate,

Antonio, Lanzini, Arnautovic,

Hernandez

Of course not everyone is in agreement, (and the manager himself may be one of those!) and the players closest to appearing in the starting eleven not in this team, would appear to be Cresswell, Noble, and Ayew. So our most recently capped England international, our captain, and our (until recently) record signing would be amongst those sitting on the bench. Other contenders for substitute would be Fonte and Collins at centre-back, Byram at right back, Fernandes in midfield, and the (seemingly) perpetually injured Carroll and Sakho up front. Snodgrass, Feghouli and Fletcher would also come into the equation if they remain with us, together with the young players such as Rice, Burke, Cullen, Quina and Martinez and perhaps others, if they are given a chance.

Of course, at times as last season progressed, we stumbled upon a 3-5-2 formation which had some initial success, and if this formation was deployed, who would be the back three? Even though Zabaleta is a full back by trade, he could perhaps be used alongside Reid and Ogbonna, although perhaps Fonte could come in? No doubt Byram or Antonio would be used as the right wing backs, and Cresswell or Masuaku on the left.

Assuming Obiang, Kouyate and Lanzini are picked whatever the formation, this would leave Hernandez and Arnuatovic as the two up front, with Carroll and Sakho (if fit) being more than useful substitutes, especially the former if a tactical variation was used. However, I personally doubt that we would start with a 3-5-2 formation with the players in the squad now, but it would be good to think that the players could adapt to this (mid-game) if necessary.

Most observers and fans seem to agree that this has been a superb transfer window so far (although some will never be happy, of course), and according to various media we haven’t finished yet. But I doubt if there will be more additions unless some go out of the exit door. But whatever your opinion, we now have much greater pace in attacking positions, allowing for a potentially completely different dimension to our forward play. We have a variety of alternative attacking options, and hopefully we will use substitutions wisely to make full use of them. We now seem to have a squad which will allow us to play with a Plan B, C, D, and I hope that we make full use of all the possibilities to enable us to score more goals.

My concerns for the forthcoming season are diminishing, although we will still rely on Lanzini to make us tick in the middle, and I’m not sure we have anyone to fulfil a similar role if he is out. If only we had another £40-£50 million to splash out on a Sigurdsson or Barkley? Similarly, whilst we have four very experienced international centre backs to choose from, I worry about a lack of pace in that area when facing nimble attacking opposition.

I firmly believe that we now have the players that will enable us to comfortably finish in at least eighth place in the Premier League. It would be good to think that we could challenge for a higher finishing position, and we should hopefully be closer to the top teams than we were last season. It will still be difficult to break into the elite six or seven teams at the top, but you never know.

A Stronger West Ham. But Are There More To Come?

Are things suddenly taking shape at West Ham and could there be more new arrivals on the horizon?

What a difference a week makes as all of a sudden the mood has become far more upbeat in the West Ham camp.  The confirmed signing of Marko Arnautovic, the anticipated arrival of Javier Hernandez , rumours of more exciting recruits and a pre-season victory against Fulham has lifted spirits to the point where talk of Europe is once again not purely limited to Brexit.  The increased optimism tempered only by a worrying injury to Cheikhou Kouyate that threatens to keep him sidelined for the first month of the season.

Assuming that the Hernandez deal goes through smoothly, and he is not kidnapped at Heathrow by Daniel Levy, then many of us might have suspected that the bulk of the summer business was now completed.  After all the club had been hinting at maybe two, three or, at a stretch four new signings as the game changers required to contest the coming campaign.  Despite this speculation continues to throw up new West Ham bound names with several players being regularly linked with a move to the London Stadium.  Alleged targets on the Hammer’s radar include Keita Baldé Diao (Lazio), Raul Jimenez (Benfica), Jota (Brentford) and Badou N’Diaye (Osmanlispor).  It is impossible to know whether any of the latest links have any substance but with the new policy of ‘keeping cards closer to their chests’ there could be a chance the Board may yet surprise us with a serving of ambition.

For me, strengthening central midfield and the centre of defence by the injection of more pace remain priorities to produce a more competitive unit.  Further unless our new Head of Medical, Gary Lewin, has developed the most miraculous of magic sponges for Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho then a second striker option is also needed.  A twin Mexican strike-force of Hernandez and Jimenez, though, would surely put an end to any thoughts of future pre-season tours to the USA.

The other persistent rumour is that of Jack Wilshere who seems to be nearing the end of his time at Arsenal.  Potentially a fit Wilshere would be a great addition but there are, of course, serious concerns over his injury record and troublesome ankles.  Possibly some form of pay as you play deal would make sense.

Going into the new season with better balance in the squad then raises the question as to how these new riches will be deployed on the pitch.  My inclination is that with Pablo Zabaleta at right back the default will be for a back four rather than back three with wing backs.  Maybe that assumption will be proved wrong but if not then it would require the wide midfield players (two from Michail Antonio, Andre Ayew and Arnautovic) to accept greater defensive responsibility.  A reluctance to track back is one of the criticisms, along with consistency, levelled at Arnautovic during his time at Stoke.  Similarly, it is not an obvious feature of Ayew’s game and the problematic trade-off between attacking flair and defensive cover is a key challenge for the coaching staff.

The major pre-occupation of the summer has been, understandably, the search for the elusive striker but last season was also notable for leaking goals.  The recruitment of Joe Hart and Zabaleta are positive upgrades but it was the way that we defended as a team that is the wider problem, not just the back-line personnel.  Principally greater pace and discipline are required in the centre of midfield; where Mark Noble lacks the pace and Kouyate lacks the discipline to effectively support Pedro Obiang.  West Ham have been particularly vulnerable against the better footballing sides attacking through the middle as witnessed in assorted capitulations last term.  Central defence during Winston Reid’s periodic absences also remains a cause for concern.

With Antonio and Arnautovic likely to be providing the width, the play-making responsibilities in the central areas would seem to fall squarely on the shoulders of Manuel Lanzini with the only backup coming from Edmilson Fernandes.  Possibly this is a position where Jota from Brentford could provide more competition.

The transfer widow has also seen a steady flow of departures with Darren Randolph the latest to leave while Sofiane Feghouli and Robert Snodgrass should also be aware of the writing on the wall marked ‘Exit’ by now.  All of this has generated a tidy inflow of funds which can hopefully be quickly re-invested to further strengthen the squad.

In the wider Premier League world there is certain to be a lot more money changing hands over the coming weeks.  To see Manchester City paying over £120 million for three full backs shows just how insane the transfer market has become and how fanciful the dream to become an established top four club is.  At least we can now feel that we have a shout in the top of the mid-table mini league – and who knows there could even be a chance of a welcome extended cup run..

West Ham Have a Hart: Now If We Only Had a Striker!

Putting together deals, closing in, ready to swoop. Is West Ham’s game changer pursuit nearing completion?

Like Dorothy’s companions on the yellow brick road in search of a heart, brain or courage to make them complete there is a widely held belief that all of Slaven Bilic’s problems would be solved “If I only had a striker!”  Although no-one could argue that a reliable regular goal scoring striker hasn’t been a problem for a good few years, it is not the only weakness that causes concern if the target is to create a team capable of a comfortable top eight finish.  Insufficient pace in the centre of midfield and central defence and a general inability to retain possession must also be addressed.

The loan signing of Joe Hart to join former teammate Pablo Zabaleta at the London Stadium has now been confirmed and will surely add some additional security to the back line, at least on a temporary basis.  I have stated before that I am not a fan of loan deals to resolve major shortcomings.  Somehow it seems inappropriate for a club that is among the top twenty richest in the world.  With the Hart deal apparently not having a buy option then I fear we will be left with an even bigger problem in twelve months’ time; particularly if Adrian stomps off with his gloves between his legs.

It would be unreasonable to suggest that Hart and Zabaleta do not improve the squad and both are likely to start the season as first choice.  But transfers should be more than just finding players who are better than what you have; it should focus on the identification and pursuit of the best footballers that you can attract.  A free transfer and a loan who are both over 30 does not yet get the juices flowing for me, although I appreciate that 30 is relatively young for keeper.  Are these two counted as game-changers I wonder?

If reports by a ‘reliable journalist’ in the Evening Standard are to believed then Marko Arnautovic will also become a Hammer within the next day or two.  Then again they also presented him as the answer to West Ham’s striker search.  Now, I believe that if you had surveyed one hundred people to “Name a Proven Premier League Striker” then you would receive a resounding ‘Uh-Uh’ from the Family Fortunes computer if your answer was Arnautovic.  It is encouraging that Stoke supporters seem sorry to see him leave but there is a suspicion that he needs to be thoroughly motivated in order to deliver his best.  I wonder whether our backroom boys have the expertise to ensure this happens.  Arnautovic would arrive as the club’s new record signing and will be happy to know that the bar is set very low in having to live up to that billing.

The name of Javier Hernandez continues to pervade transfer rumour discussion and he is alleged to be edging closer to a move to the east end, where edging is synonymous with the usual imperceptible movement of a West Ham transfer chase.  On the face of it Hernandez is a clinical finisher who has averaged close to a creditable goal every other game during his time in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen.   At first glance his Premier League record of a goal every third appearance is more of Carlton Cole proportions but, when looking at goals scored per minute on the pitch, Hernandez comes out fifth placed in the all-time Premier League standings; a result of being used more as an impact substitution than as a starter by Manchester United.

If we end up with Hart, Zabaleta, Arnautovic and Hernandez then it would represent a reasonable but safety first approach to the transfer window; focused more on survival than progression.  It would deliver an outcome where our sights can be set at the top of mid-table rather than on the cusp of the relegation tussle.  For the ‘glass half fullers’ we would have acquired a Premier League winner, England’s number one, a powerful play-maker and a lethal striker.  The ‘glass half emptiers’ might dismiss them as an ageing full back, error prone keeper, moody winger and a striker who is best from off the bench.

As ever it is all about opinions.

The new link on the block over the last twenty four hours of Lazio’s Keita Balde Diao has the hallmarks of fantasy football league about it.  It is nice to dream but this one just seems far too fanciful.


The pre-season friendlies got underway with a less than impressive scoreless draw against an Austrian third tier club.  It is pointless to read too much into these early run-outs even if you might expect a Premier League outfit to have enough in their locker to stroll past such opposition.  If/ when we don’t beat Fulham later in the week expect to hear how they are further ahead in their preparations.  From the very brief highlights of the Sturm Graz II game that I saw I thought Nathan Holland looked lively; looks, moves and runs like a footballer which many of the young players don’t.