West Ham Face Everton In Season Finale Protect The Point Derby

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

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

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

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

Head to Head

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

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

Team News

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

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

Man in the Middle

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

Predictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Head to Head

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

Team News

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

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

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

The Man In The Middle

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

Predictions

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

West Ham To Profit From Foxes On The Run?

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

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

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

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

 Head to Head

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

Team News

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

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

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

Man in the Middle

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

Predictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

West Ham v Man City Preview

With the success yesterday of teams who can still be relegated this season, we are still in potential danger

Yesterday’s results were not the best from our point of view. With just a fortnight of the Premier League season to go there is still a lot to play for by the teams at the foot of the table. Even West Brom who have looked doomed for a long time are not yet mathematically relegated, but surely they have left it too late? They are the only team who cannot overtake us. Stoke managed an unexpected goalless draw at Anfield, perhaps something to do with Liverpool’s continuing participation in Europe and their return match in Rome this week? Had Liverpool won the game we wouldn’t really be worrying about Stoke any more in view of their poor goal difference. But they have two winnable games left and can reach 36 points, one beyond our current total.

The other three teams below us, Southampton, Swansea and Huddersfield can all overtake us. Swansea and Southampton in particular have winnable games, but it could be a blessing that Swansea still have to face both Southampton and Stoke, and can take points off each other. I certainly wouldn’t want to change our position with Huddersfield who are level on points with us, but with an inferior goal difference. Their three remaining games are away at both Manchester City and Chelsea, with a final day at home to Arsenal.

It could be that we have enough points already, and I think that just one more will probably be enough, but that may not necessarily be the case with an unfortunate set of results. I just hope that we can achieve safety sooner rather than later, and I certainly wouldn’t want to go into the final fixture at home to Everton with the possibility of relegation still there. Everton have picked up in recent matches and have taken fourteen points from their last seven. Just imagine how Big Sam would relish that situation.

So where can we pick up any points in our final four games? Today will be the toughest task of all with bookmakers odds at 9/1 for us to win, and as long as 9/2 to even get a draw. If we do lose, and even wearing my optimistic hat I am afraid that is a likely outcome, then I hope that unlike their two most recent visits to us, they don’t inflict too much damage on our goal difference.

It would be absolutely brilliant to be walking back to Stratford station at 4.15 today with three points under our belt and almost certain safety. Stranger things have happened but if offered a draw now then we would surely bite the hand for it. But it is the most unlikely outcome of the game, and it looks as though we will need to get something from the last week of the season, either from our visit to Leicester, or from our final two home games against Manchester United or Everton.

Trust me, we will be OK.

Will West Ham Set A Lack Of Possession Record Against Manchester City?

A pivotal weekend in the Premier League survival stakes where West Ham may need to pin their hopes on events away from the London Stadium

As a schoolboy I used to spend my Sunday’s checking coupons for Zetter’s Pools as a way of supporting my extravagant lifestyle; following West Ham, watching live bands at Dagenham Roundhouse and drinking light and bitter.  The pools was not just about Treble Chance and score draws and punters were also able to seek their fortune by predicting five matches that were likely to result in away wins.  If anyone had been looking for an away banker from this weekend’s matches then they wouldn’t need to look much further than the uneven contest scheduled to be played out at the London Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The rationale for drinking light and bitter back then was that in the days before electronic measures (and with the assistance of a friendly barmaid) you could end up with close to a pint and a half for your two shilling’s worth.  It seemed like a bargain (it probably wasn’t) but for a cheapskate it ticked all the boxes in the same way that the West Ham board approach the business of football – cheap and cheerful at the expense of quality and class.  The Hammers are the light and bitter to Manchester City’s cellar of fine wine.  They are the Zetters to City’s Littlewoods – for people who can’t really afford to compete and who wouldn’t win anything worthwhile anyway.

Without doubt today’s visitors are worthy champions and manager Pep Guardiola has (at great expense) assembled a fine team that plays attractive and inventive football.  I can’t help feeling, however, that managing is rather more straightforward where money is no object; where if you sign a few £50 million duds (normally the English ones) you simply throw them away and sign some more.  The inequality caused by money is slowly but surely ruining the game for the regular paying customer and City are the worst of the current culprits.  Being owned by a small middle eastern country with a questionable record on human rights just plain seems wrong but it is amazing how a blind eye can be turned when money is involved and it is in one’s own interests.  Maybe I would be just the same if it were to happen at West Ham and perhaps the Supreme Leader will be wanting to invest a few billion in a Premier League club now that he is making overtures to rejoin the international community.

By the time our game kicks off on Sunday the Hammers could have slipped to fourth from bottom just three points outside the bottom three.  By the end of the weekend we cannot have sunk any lower but there is a good chance that goal difference could be considerably worse if recent encounters with City are anything to go by.

Head to Head

Victories over City are rarer than a blue moon with the Hammers winning just two of their last twelve home games against the visitors; in 2009 and 2014.  We can but hope that past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Team News

With the news of Abba reforming after 35 years I wonder if there is any possibility of including Brooking and Devonshire in tomorrow’s starting eleven?  Could they do any worse?

I have read that David Moyes has been using training sessions to teach the West Ham players how to play without the ball.  It seems to me that we have already had plenty of practice with that during the course of the season. Time might have been better spent on practising not giving the ball immediately back to the opposition once possession has been gained.

I don’t see many changes in lineup (apart from Adrain returning in goal in place of the ineligible Joe Hart) from that which tried hard but were ultimately left wanting at Arsenal last week.  It will be painful to watch Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate floundering against City’s quick and slick midfield interplay.

City will field an array of talent each of whom will have cost more than our entire squad (probably!)

The Man in the Middle

Making his fourth Hammers appearance of the season is Neil Swarbrick from Lancashire, near Manchester.  His previous associations saw West Ham defeats away at Newcastle and home to Liverpool plus the home draw with Palace.  In 23 games this season he has shown 65 yellow cards but has yet to see red.

Predictions

Reinforcing the banker away win claims, Lawro says 2-0 to City while Merson plumps for 4-0 to the visitors.  The most desperate of straw clutching leads us to the hope  that City might take their foot off the pedal now that the league title is sewn up – a shame that they are still not playing in Europe.  Damage limitation will be the name of the game and, given that we do normally score in a game, I am predicting a 1-4 away win.  Naturally, I am hopeful that I will be sensationally wrong. The games played elsewhere this weekend are likely to have more bearing on the potential for survival than our own game.