Nine Consecutive Wins for West Ham in Europe, a Number 9 Dream

But a win against Aston Villa would be even more satisfying

When was the last time a team won nine consecutive European games? I know it is only the Europa Conference but wins are wins. There are probably teams who have achieved this; I’m not going to trawl through all the records to see. However I bet we might be the only team to satisfy the following question. When was the last time a team won nine consecutive European games without playing particularly well after being thrashed 4-0 on the weekend before the ninth game, and in the ninth game they managed to concede 14 corners without having a single corner themselves?

It was a comfortable win despite what you might think when looking at the corner count with two well taken goals from our number 9, Antonio, who was unlucky not to complete the perfect hat- trick (header, right foot, left foot) when his shot near the start of the second half rebounded from the inside of one post to go for a goal kick beyond the other post. You can’t get much closer than that.

Two favourite European campaigns in the past both only consisted of exactly nine games and we reached the final of each one. Following our FA Cup win in 1964 we entered the European Cup Winners Cup the following season which meant two two-legged rounds, followed by a two-legged quarter final and semi-final before a final at Wembley. We won six of the nine games played, being held to a 1-1 draw in the home leg of the first round by La Gantoise (Belgium) and then losing 2-1 in the away leg at Spartak Prague (Czechoslovakia at the time). We won both legs of the quarter final against Lausanne Sports (Switzerland). We also drew 1-1 in the semi-final away at Real Zaragoza (Spain). But we won all the ties on aggregate and progressed to the final where we beat TSV Munich 2-0 at Wembley for our first (and so far only) European trophy (I don’t count the Inter-Toto in 1999/2000 – we even lost one of the six games needed to win that which gave us qualification to the UEFA Cup in the same season).

Following our 1975 FA Cup win we had a thrilling campaign in the Cup Winners Cup the following season where we lost 4-2 to Anderlecht in the final. We only won four of the nine matches in that tournament drawing 2-2 at Lahden Reipas (Finland) in the first round, 1-1 at Ararat Erevan (USSR) in the second round, losing 4-2 in the away first leg of the quarter final against Den Haag (Netherlands) after being 4-0 at one time in the match, and losing 2-1 in the away leg of the semi-final to Eintracht Frankfurt. Our home wins in those four ties were our only victories. The home games against Den Haag and Frankfurt were two of the best games I’ve ever seen us play.

So back to this season and we’ve already won nine games on the trot in Europe and haven’t reached the quarter-final yet although you’d expect this to be a formality next week wouldn’t you? But we are West Ham remember! I’ve been a supporter for 65 years now. I don’t take anything for granted where West Ham are concerned.

This weekend it’s back to the bread and butter of the Premier League and we will face a much stiffer test when Villa visit the London Stadium. We have the opportunity to complete the double over them after our 1-0 win at Villa Park in August. That was our only win on the road so far this season. Our away performances and especially the lack of goals scored has been dreadful this season culminating in possibly the worst of all on the South Coast last week. Geoff covered this in his article prior to the Larnaca game so I won’t go over it again.

After a poor start to the season losing four of their first five league games (including the one against us) Villa’s season has improved immeasurably under new management and they sit comfortably in mid-table (11th) with 34 points with no need to look downwards as we have to.

Just like when we faced Brighton last week, Villa are equal with the Seagulls as having scored nine goals in the first 15 minutes of games so far this season, a statistic not bettered by anyone in the Premier League. So we need to be on our toes from the start (for a change!).

And continuing the number 9 theme that has been threaded through this article, Aston Villa have conceded eight goals in their visits to London this season and Danny Ings has scored eight Premier League goals this season. Can he score number 9 in this game to become the first player to score both for and against Villa in the same Premier League season? And perhaps our very own number 9 will continue scoring after his two in midweek.

We still haven’t scored a goal in the opening 15 minutes of a Premier League game yet, so how about us scoring one in the ninth minute? There’s my (optimistic?) prediction for the game – West Ham to win 2-0 with goals from Antonio and Ings. What are the chances?

In recent articles I have been analysing the position and current form of the bottom teams. I will continue to concentrate on the bottom nine as Palace in twelfth place are still only six points clear of Bournemouth in 20th, and the Eagles are bottom of my mini form league too. The relegation dogfight this season is an interesting one – I just wish that we weren’t involved. The points of the bottom nine (with the number of games remaining in brackets) are:

Palace 27 (13 to play), Wolves 27 (12), Forest 26 (13), Leicester 24 (13), West Ham 23 (13), Leeds 22 (13), Everton 22 (12), Southampton 21 (13), Bournemouth 21 (13).

Wolves and Southampton are the only two of the nine to win last weekend so our poor defeat at Brighton didn’t really lose us too much in comparison to the others. The points gained in the last 5 games are a guide to current form and are set out below. We have been toppled from this summit of this ‘mini-league’ as a result of the last game, and Palace are now at the foot.

Wolves 7, Leicester 6, Southampton 6, Forest 5, West Ham 5, Everton 4, Bournemouth 4, Leeds 4, Palace 3.

With the bottom six clubs still achieving less than a point a game so far this season, and so many clubs potentially involved in the relegation struggle, then I still reckon that a final total of 37 or 38 should be enough to confirm Premier League football next season. That would mean us securing 14 or 15 from those 13 games if my estimate turns out to be correct. Based on current averages then 35 could be enough.

The table below sets out our remaining 13 games with the figures in brackets the points that we picked up in the reverse fixtures already played earlier in the season. If we were to replicate those then we would collect another 12 points to take us up to 35. Might that be enough? We would be cutting it fine, so we must therefore hope for more than that I would suggest.

12/3 Home v Villa (3)

19/3 Away v Man City (0)

2/4 Home v Southampton (1)

5/4 Home v Newcastle (1)

8/4 Away v Fulham (3)

16/4 Home v Arsenal (0)

22/4 Away v Bournemouth (3)

26/4 Home v Liverpool (0)

29/4 Away v Palace (0)

6/5 Home v Man Utd (0)

13/5 Away v Brentford (0)

20/5 Home v Leeds (1)

28/5 Away v Leicester (0)

This week I’ve had to write this article before the Saturday games are played. So I’m hoping that on Saturday Liverpool followed up last week’s demolition of Manchester United by winning at Bournemouth, that Brentford did the business at Goodison, that the Seagulls did what they did to us at Elland Road, that Chelsea won at Leicester, then Tottenham beat Forest (I hate to write that but needs must), and that Manchester City win at Palace.

And then today, in addition to us beating Villa I’m hoping that Manchester United beat Southampton, and Newcastle beat Wolves.

With so many references to the number nine, it’s interesting that none of the bottom nine have met or will meet this weekend. I’m hoping for a West Ham win and the other eight to have lost or to lose today. What odds on that 9-match accumulator? If you are interested it is around 140/1 with leading bookmakers.

Butch Sullivan and the Last Chance Kid: Another Make or Break Week For The West Ham Manager

David Moyes is becoming a regular visitor to the last chance saloon. Will he be giving his last orders at the weekend’s home game against Aston Villa? Or will he come out all guns blazing?

It’s become a little like Groundhog Day at the London Stadium in recent weeks. The club are teetering on the brink of a disastrous relegation with the manager’s job at risk. An adequate home performance releases the immediate pressure on David Moyes. But then, another in the long line of pathetic away displays puts us right back where we started. And so, the cycle starts again. Rinse and repeat!

The away games at Tottenham and Brighton were the first times that West Ham have looked like a team resigned to their fate. The hope that defeat at Tottenham would mean the more enterprising tactics seen against Nottingham Forest were here to stay was washed away like footprints on a Brighton beach. It may have been largely the same team that had thumped Forest, but the attitude was back to the worst of Moyes hyper caution – with the wingers were back to auxiliary defenders. If you don’t give opponents something to worry about then you give them the freedom of the park – and Brighton were adept at using it. How can a manager with a thousand or so matches under his belt not understand that? He even managed to make matters worse at half-time (when the match was still theoretically alive) by replacing the attack minded Said Benrahma with worker-bee, Pablo Fornals.

Those last two games with no goals and just three shots on target between them added to the season’s shocking away form. Just six points and seven goals from thirteen games. Not a single away win in the league since 28 August and victory over this weekend’s opponents, Aston Villa.

There was a pivotal moment at the Brighton match where Moyes scowled with incredulity at the away support who sang “You don’t know what you’re doing!” The fans have had enough and Moyes is demonstrating the notorious thin skin that was a feature of his time at Sunderland. All he has to offer are weasel words about the relative success enjoyed in the previous two years. We thank you for that, Dave. But that was then, and this is now.

The only shock bigger than Moyes believing he is doing a good job is that the Board also seem to think the same. Or, in reality, are hoping to muddle through until the summer in the hope that West Ham can stay up on goal difference. The logic is difficult to fathom. Performances have been on a downward spiral for ages, there are clear tensions between manager and players, a ruinous relegation is just around the corner. How can further inaction make sense? I really don’t believe the ‘there’s no-one better available’ argument. The atmosphere is getting toxic, and change is the best way of clearing the air. Surely, it must be worth stumping up the compensation to avoid wiping untold millions off the club’s value. Whatever their other faults, the owners have invested large sums of money in the club – it’s just that they haven’t spent it particularly wisely. Just look at Brighton and compare the value for money that a proper scouting setup can deliver.

The debate as to how much the players should take responsibility for the current position is an interesting one. At the end of the day that is what we see on the pitch. Michail Antonio fluffing a goalscoring opportunity, Tomas Soucek misplacing a pass, Ben Johnson caught out of position. Are these symptoms or causes of our decline? I’ve not had the impression until recently that the players were anything less than committed. That they might not be as good as the players we would like to have, or are too old and too slow is not their fault.

Football is all about systems now – being well-drilled and attacking and defending as a unit. The best systems allow free expression to be exhibited within an overall structure. Except this revolution has passed some managers by. At the top level there are fine margins and the players must understand and buy-in to what is expected, or they will be caught out. It’s only my personal speculation but I sense that player power was behind the changes and euphoria of the Forest victory, but they were brought down to earth with a bump when the manager wanted to play more cautiously again at Brighton.     

The bottom line is that it is impossible to change a whole squad. Changing a manager is far easier. Something is broken and it needs to be fixed. David Sullivan must understand what is going on at the club and the serious risks of doing nothing. It’s not as if he doesn’t have previous experience of not acting quickly enough.


Tonight, sees a return to the European Conference League with West Ham visiting AEK Larnaka for the first leg, round of 16 tie. The competition is the one remaining chance of glory this season. Larnaka are currently second in the Cypriot First Division and have the distinction of having competed in all three UEFA competitions this season. They finished third in their Europa League group which included Fenerbahce, Rennes, and Dynamo Kiev. They reached the Round of 16 by beating Dnipro-1 from Ukraine. Although based in Cyprus, their team is largely made up of players from Spain, Portugal, and the Balkan states.

This will be no pushover against a team of part-time plumbers and postmen, but I’m fancying that we should have enough to come out on top. Whatever the outcome, I don’t see the result having any impact on Moyes position.


On Sunday, the crunch will come when West Ham host Aston Villa. The visitors have moved into a comfortable mid-table position since the arrival of Unai Emery. His side are prone to flakiness at the back, but have plenty of pace going forward to rattle the Hammers defence. What will be very interesting is how the crowd react if it’s another slow start from West Ham. It could turn out to be a very difficult watch. COYI!

Are West Ham Ready To Bury The Brighton Hoodoo In Saturday’s Seaside Special?

The Hammers have been looking more energetic and purposeful in recent weeks. Is it finally time to overcome the curse of the Seagulls, or will they take a tern for the worse?

It was another encouraging performance from West Ham in midweek even though it ended with the Hammers being dumped out of the FA Cup by Manchester United. The outcome of the game hinged on several critical ‘if only’ moments that allowed the hosts to recover from a goal down and book their place in a very open sixth round.

At the attacking end, it was Michail Antonio who left fans feeling frustrated. First, when he failed to capitalise on a one-v-one situation with David de Gea and later when going for goal when a square pass would surely have led to West Ham extending their one-goal lead. Both incidents illustrated the strength and weakness of Antonio. Using  his pace and power to engineer openings but without the accomplished striker’s finesse to execute effectively.

At the other end, a collective defensive meltdown in the final twenty minutes placed the usually reliable Nayef Aguerd under the spotlight of supporter fury. It is always unfortunate to gift an equaliser through an own goal and this was an unforced error which should have been avoided. Who knows whether the call came from the keeper to claim the ball or not? Clearly it was very poor communication somewhere along the line. After that, the plot was lost, as was the game.

It is not at all surprising that the upturn in performances (as embryonic as it is) comes after a switch to a more solid 4-3-3 formation. If only David Moyes had listened when I first suggested it last October – as if he would read these ramblings! With the change has come greater pressing in midfield areas, more passing options for the player with the ball, and more freedom for the wide attacking players. It is a particularly suitable set-up to get the best from the talents of Declan Rice and Lucas Paqueta.

Tomas Soucek is the latest bête noire of many supporters who would rather see Flynn Downes as the third man in the midfield three. It is understandable from the point of view of ball retention, but Moyes will continue to opt for the aerial presence that Soucek brings to both ends. Without his goals, Soucek is a frustrating player to watch but he does still provide useful defensive cover.

The full-back positions may need to be shuffled today depending on availability. If Vladimir Coufal is available it will be him and Ben Johnson. If not, then Johnson and Emerson Palmieri – Aaron Cresswell was looking particularly rusty when he came on against Forest. Brighton do a lot of attacking down the flanks through March and Mitoma and the game could be won and lost out wide. In the absence of any other options, Aguerd and Angelo Ogbonna will continue as the centre back pairing. Not ideal having two left footers in the middle and Aguerd on the right imposes severe restrictions on his ability to influence forward play.

Danny Ings will return to the front three alongside Jarrod Bowen and Said Benrahma with Antonio and Gianluca Scamacca providing options from the bench. An Ings/ Scamacca axis would be a fascinating prospect but may be difficult to accommodate without going three/ five at the back.


Brighton have had a terrific season so far and find themselves well placed for European football next season. They sit in 8th spot in the league, ten points behind Tottenham but with three games in hand. They are also still in the FA Cup having won their 5th round tie on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke. A home draw against Grimsby Town stands between them and a semi-final place.

West Ham could learn a lot from Brighton’s scouting and recruitment model. Signing exciting young players that no-one has heard of – Caicedo, Mac Alister, Mitoma – and introducing them to the Premier League after spells out on loan. It has proved incredibly successful but requires a degree of planning that seems to be a foreign concept at the London Stadium. The Seagulls are an eclectic mix of young talent and unfashionable stalwarts – Dunk, Gross, March – that are always competitive, despite limited firepower up front.

A trip to the seaside is never complete without a seagull trying to steal your chips. And the same is true in football, where Brighton’s Seagulls have become adept at ‘piddling’ on the West Ham chips. No matter what the relative league positions, current form or respective managers, top flight meetings between the clubs invariably end the same way – a Brighton win or a share of the points. I’m suspecting some form of sorcery or gypsy curse is at play. The Hammers only top flight win against Brighton from 15 attempts came in March 1983 with a 2-1 win at Upton Park. The teams that day:

West Ham: Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart (Alan Dickens (1)), Alvin Martin, Joe Gallagher, Frank Lampard, Alan Devonshire, Paul Allen, Geoff Pike, François van der Elst, Tony Cottee (1), Nicky Morgan        

Brighton: Graham Moseley, Steve Foster, Steve Gatting, Chris Ramsey, Gary Stevens, Jimmy Case, Tony Grealish, Neil Smillie, Andy Ritchie, Michael Robinson, Gerry Ryan (1)

I’d completely forgotten about Joe Gallagher’s West Ham career!

Today’s fixture is the first against Brighton since Roberto De Zerbi replaced the soon to be out-of-work Graham Potter. De Zerbi will serving a one-match touchline ban for his red card in his side’s 1 – 0 defeat to Fulham in their most recent home game. I’m not sure how much of a punishment a touchline ban actually is. It seems no more than a symbolic gesture – the equivalent of a player being allowed to play but not allowed to take throw-ins.

Now that I’m feeling a touch more positive about the Hammers credentials for survival, I have decided to reinstate my AI powered match result prediction service. After running the numbers the verdict is: West Ham to rip up the record books with a first ever Premier League victory against the Seagulls by two goals to one. COYI! 

Th(Ings) Can Only Get Better for West Ham

But first we need to improve our record against Brighton

What a difference a proven goalscorer makes! The acquisition of Danny Ings may not totally fit the plan of buying young, hungry players that was mooted a couple of seasons ago, but needs must. The two goals within a minute or so that opened the floodgates against Nottingham Forest weren’t the prettiest, although the first wasn’t one of the easiest to put into the net, but goals are goals and count however they are scored. The lovely strike from Declan Rice only equals Danny Ings’ second goal, however it went into the net.

The performance was much improved as the manager perhaps realised that he was instilling too much caution into the players in previous games. The two goals in quick succession relieved the pressure, and the freedom to express themselves was evident in the final twenty minutes.

A decent performance at Old Trafford on Wednesday followed with an excellently taken goal from Benrahma, and other chances (that a striker / finisher of the calibre of Ings might have put away?) could have put the tie beyond the home side. But unfortunately he was cup tied after turning out for Villa in their defeat to Stevenage in an earlier round. Hopefully he will be back for the trip to the South Coast this weekend.

Aguerd, who has looked so good in recent games, had a nightmare performance. The goal we conceded in the 75th minute when he headed it into his own net, was the first that we have conceded from a corner this season. We were the only team in the Premier League not to have let in a goal in this way in the campaign to date, and it was unfortunate that it came in this way. We were still level as extra time loomed but two late goals from mistakes, Johnson not closing down and Aguerd’s lack of concentration, meant a 3-1 score to the Red Devils that flattered them.

I’m afraid I wasn’t impressed with the ITV coverage of the game. A neutral onlooker on TV would easily have known that Manchester United were playing, but might have struggled to know the name of the opponents. The pre-match and post-match coverage was typical fare in respect of what we can expect from the media I am afraid.

At least there was some consolation on the night with Tottenham going out of the Cup to a Championship side, and Arsenal thrashing Everton plus Liverpool beating Wolves in the league; good results for us in respect of the other clubs involved towards the bottom of the table.

It wasn’t his best night in the end but I feel much happier with Areola in goal. I wonder if he will now get a consistent run in the league games with the unfortunate injury to Fabianski. If he performs well, and I believe he will, I hope that he retains his place once Fabianski is fit again. 

After Wednesday night we now have a game in hand over both Wolves and Everton. It would be good to use this advantage by winning it! An extended run of wins would help us to pull clear of the bottom three. Can we achieve this? The defeat of Forest, good as it was, must be followed up by more good performances and points.

In recent articles I have been analysing the position and current form of the bottom teams. I will continue to concentrate on the bottom nine as Palace in twelfth place are still only six points clear of the relegation zone. The points of the bottom nine (with the number of games remaining in brackets) are:

Palace 27 (14 to play), Forest 25 (14), Leicester 24 (14), Wolves 24 (13), West Ham 23 (14), Leeds 22 (14), Everton 21 (13), Bournemouth 21 (14), Southampton 18 (14).

Our goal difference is significantly superior to the other teams involved (apart from Leicester who are equal in this respect) so that might be worth another point in the final reckoning.

The points gained in the last 5 games are a guide to current form and we have now (at last) moved to the top of this mini-league which is a good sign:

West Ham 8, Leicester 7, Wolves 7, Everton 6, Forest 5, Bournemouth 5, Leeds 4, Palace 4, Southampton 3.

With the bottom six clubs still achieving less than a point a game so far this season, and an average of a point a game equalling fourteenth place in the table at present, and so many clubs potentially involved in the relegation struggle, then I still reckon that a final total of 37 or 38 should be enough to confirm Premier League football next season. That would mean 14 or 15 from those games if my estimate turns out to be correct. Based on current averages then 35 could be enough.

Looking at our remaining fourteen fixtures can you see where the requisite number of points will come from? Five of them are against teams that I have previously identified as being in the bottom nine, so winning (at least not losing) in those fixtures takes on added importance. Five games are against teams in the top six, against whom we have not collected many points in recent times, and the remaining four are against sides in ‘no-mans land’ between 7th and 11th in the table, although Fulham in 7th are level on points with Liverpool (6th), and this weekend’s opponents Brighton (8th) and Brentford (9th) both have games in hand that could push them closer to the top with positive results.

The figures in brackets below are the points that we picked up in the reverse fixtures already played earlier in the season. If we were to replicate those then we would collect another 12 points to take us up to 35. Might that be enough? We would be cutting it fine, so we must therefore hope for more than that I would suggest.

4/3 Away v Brighton (0)

12/3 Home v Villa (3)

19/3 Away v Man City (0)

2/4 Home v Southampton (1)

5/4 Home v Newcastle (1)

8/4 Away v Fulham (3)

16/4 Home v Arsenal (0)

22/4 Away v Bournemouth (3)

26/4 Home v Liverpool (0)

29/4 Away v Palace (0)

6/5 Home v Man Utd (0)

13/5 Away v Brentford (0)

20/5 Home v Leeds (1)

28/5 Away v Leicester (0)

Our performances against Brighton since they were promoted to the top flight do not bode well for this game. This is the sixth season, and in the previous eleven encounters we have not beaten them at all! We have drawn on six occasions and been beaten five times, and have never kept a clean sheet in any of those eleven games. With the increased amount of statistics available these days it has been identified that the opening 15 minutes could be vital in this match. Brighton have scored more goals in this period of the game than any other team in the Premier League so far this season. On the other hand we have yet to score a goal in the first quarter of an hour in any game. Why are we so slow off the mark?

We could really do with improving our record against the Seagulls and this weekend would be a good time to start. Recent history is against us. Can we do it? A point would be good but three would be even better. What are the chances?

Memories Are Made Of This: West Ham Wembley Dreams Face Old Trafford Test

Can West Ham add to their store of thrilling cup memories on a wet Wednesday night in Manchester?

What a difference a win makes! Wasn’t it a pleasant change to be able to enjoy the weekend without having to avoid the highlights shows and seeking out all the match reports you could find with a sense of satisfaction rather than dread?

It was a good West Ham performance throughout the 90 minutes – not the game of two halves that some have suggested. Although, as ever, it was the goals that eventually changed the complexion of the game. Two strikes from Danny Ings in as many minutes simultaneously putting a spring in the Hammer’s steps and causing Nottingham Forest to crumble with a whimper

It is interesting to speculate how and why West Ham at last came to adopt a significantly more positive attitude and approach in last Saturday’s game. Was it the result of tactical genius from the manager and coaches or had the behind the scenes player’s meetings forced them to act? It had been a long time coming but showed their is talent in the squad when given the right opportunity to express it.

It was disingenuous of David Moyes to claim ‘this was the performance I have been waiting for’ – as if the result was entirely down to te players putting in extra effort on the pitch, rather than changes to formation and the removal of virtual shackles from our attacking play. One must wonder why it had taken so long for the management to realise that Lucas Paqueta is so much more effective in a deeper role, as part of a midfield three. Or that playing with a natural finisher is going to going to bring in more goals than a succession of converted wingers. Or that allowing your wide attacking players to spend more time going forward than defending would create more chances.   

Despite the improvements, it was only one game. Talk of a mid-season metamorphosis is massively premature until we see how things shape up against Brighton and Villa in the next two league games. Forest did not provide the sternest of tests – especially once they had inexplicably taken off Shelvey – but they had been on a decent run. The worry now is that the manager’s ingrained and deep-seated caution will find a reason to exorcise whichever carefree sprite had hijacked last Saturday’s team talk. I’ve yet to rule out a return to the well worn mantra of ‘not conceding is the primary objective’ when we take the field at the Amex Stadium.


Tonight, sees a break from Premier League relegation concerns with a trip to the home of regular cup tie opponents, Manchester United. The hosts are fresh from Sunday’s Carabao Cup final success and have lost just once in their last 21 outings. Although they have a fierce derby appointment in Liverpool on Sunday, it is unlikely that Erik ten Hag will want to risk losing momentum by resting too many of his first choices for the game. He will have eyes on a cup treble.

West Ham’s record in cup encounters against the Red Devils is a little less dreadful than in the league. Moyes even recorded a shock League Cup win at Old Trafford in September 2021. Indeed, there are several standout memories from cup games against Manchester United dating back to the glorious muddy semi-final win of 1964 that preceded the Hammers first ever trophy win. And who can forget the Di Canoi – Barthez incident of 2001, Geoff Pike’s bullet header in the 1986 5th round replay, Dimitri Payet’s sublime free-kick in 2016, or Jonathan Spector’s brace in the 2010 4-0 League Cup drubbing?

Moyes will be forced to make a handful of selection changes tonight. Danny Ings is cup tied while Lukasz Fabianski and Vladimir Coufal are the latest to check-in at the Rush Green infirmary, where they can hang out with Maxwell Cornet and Kurt Zouma. Moyes may also be reluctant to risk Angelo Ogbonna and Paqueta with important league games on the horizon. But the big decision is whether or not he listens to that little voice in his head urging to return to five at the back. David, be strong!

In the absence of Ings, it could be an opportunity to reintroduce long term injury absentee Gianluca Scamacca to the fray. Ideally he should start but will most probably be a 70th minute replacement for a puffing Michail Antonio.

The FA Cup has the look of a very open competition this season with several big names already fallen by the wayside. Manchester City are firm favourites to end up as winners with their close neighbours just behind. Difficult to argue with that assessment, and a West Ham win tonight would be quite the upset. It’s a one-off game though and anything can happen. But whatever happens, I really hope the boys are given the green light to make a real game of it. COYI!

West Ham – It’s a sad, sad, situation, and it’s getting more and more absurd

A little less conversation, a little more action please

Have you read Geoff’s article published yesterday? If you missed it look it up now. It tells you everything you need to know about West Ham’s current plight. The insipid display at Tottenham, the board dithering over a dithering manager who has presided over a team in freefall for more than a year now, unadventurous and inadequate tactics, lack of entertainment, a relegation dogfight that really shouldn’t be a situation for one of the world’s richest clubs, and a cautionary approach taken to another level last week.

Even our captain, Declan Rice took a veiled swipe at the tactics employed by our manager in the wake of last Sunday’s debacle. He was spot on when he was quoted as saying: “When you play with five at the back and the three like we set up today, maybe our strikers felt a bit isolated when we got the ball up to them – they didn’t really have enough around them, not enough support.”

He was only saying what a vast number of West Ham fans have been for some time now; the approach to games is wrong, and the fact that he sticks to a rigid formation when we don’t really have the right sort of players to make the most of lining up that way (for example wingbacks that are really just defenders and don’t really pose much of an attacking threat). It is no coincidence that we are seventh in the Premier League when it comes to defence and not conceding too many goals, but sixteenth when looking at goals scored (just 19 in our 23 games this season, a woeful figure).

If we are going to get out of the desperate situation we are in then we need to score more goals and win more matches. We need a more attacking formation, and not an isolated front man. Antonio was reasonably successful at this a year or so ago, but he has lost form, and he barely scores these days. The manager has even used others (Haller, Scamacca) in a similar role even though it is clear to most of us that they are not suited to playing in this way, their strengths lie elsewhere, but David Moyes (in his obstinacy?) fails to recognise this.

In previous articles I have been analysing the position and current form of the bottom teams. I will continue to concentrate on the bottom nine as Palace in twelfth place are only six points clear of the relegation zone. The points of the bottom nine (all with 15 games still to play) are:

Palace 26, Forest 25, Leicester 24, Wolves 23, Everton 21, Bournemouth 21, West Ham 20, Leeds 19, Southampton 18.

The points gained in the last 6 games shows today’s opponents Nottingham Forest ahead of the rest, but we have now slipped in this guide to current form:

Forest 11, Wolves 10, Leicester 7, Everton 6, West Ham 6, Southampton 6, Bournemouth 5, Palace 4, Leeds 2.

Ironically, the early season fixture won by Forest by a solitary goal could easily have gone the other way with a slightly different interpretation of rules (Benrahma’s disallowed goal) and a little more luck (twice hitting the crossbar) as well as a better taken penalty (Rice). If we had won that game then we would now be on 23 points and Forest on 22. But that’s football. Will that very first game come back to bite us at the end of the season?

And talking of interpretation of rules, that old chestnut (handball) has been a talking point in our last two games with Soucek (against Chelsea) and Kehrer (against Tottenham) both handling the ball in the process of falling and that was why penalties were not awarded against us. A new rule this season says that if a player is falling and the ball touches their hand / arm when it is between their body and the ground (but not extended to make the body bigger) then that is not handball.

Whether you like this new rule or others (designed to make the interpretation of handball simpler – ha ha), that is how the referees and VAR looked at these two examples although pundits on TV tended to disagree quite vehemently. As it happens it made no difference to the points in the Tottenham game, and we benefitted by one point (if the penalty had been successful) in the Chelsea match. But as far as Chelsea were concerned this was simply karma from the reverse fixture where we were robbed.

With the bottom five clubs achieving less than a point a game so far this season, averaging a point a game equalling fifteenth place in the table at present, and so many clubs potentially involved in the relegation struggle, then how many points from the final 15 games will be enough to ensure safety? I reckon that a final total of 37 or 38 might potentially be enough to confirm Premier League football next season. That would mean 17 or 18 from those games if my estimate turns out to be correct. Based on current averages then 35 could be enough. In the last five seasons the total needed to ensure safety was 36, 29, 35, 35, 34. In the ‘29’ season three teams were significantly detached which is not the case so far this time, so that one may not be representative of what is needed. Have a look at the remaining fixtures and see if you can tell where the requisite number of points will come from.

25/2 Home v Forest

4/3 Away v Brighton

12/3 Home v Villa

19/3 Away v Man City

2/4 Home v Southampton

5/4 Home v Newcastle

8/4 Away v Fulham

16/4 Home v Arsenal

22/4 Away v Bournemouth

26/4 Home v Liverpool

29/4 Away v Palace

6/5 Home v Man Utd

13/5 Away v Brentford

20/5 Home v Leeds 28/5 Away v Leicester

Five wins and two or three draws from those fifteen games might just be enough. If you think that should be easy bear in mind that we have only achieved five wins and five draws so far from 23 games, that is eight more played than those that are remaining. Of the eight home games, four are against teams in the bottom half (the next three and the last one). In the seven remaining fixtures away from home, three are against teams in the bottom half (three of the last four). Therefore, a fairly equal spread in terms of potential difficulty based on league positions.

I began this article referring to Geoff’s excellent summary of our current plight and the action perhaps needed (change the manager?) to stay up. He ended the piece with the sentence ‘It’s a sad, sad, situation.’ You know the Elton John song – Sorry Seems to Be The Hardest Word? Some of the lyrics from the song sum it up nicely:

It’s sad, so sad

It’s a sad, sad situation

And it’s getting more

And more absurd

Note to the board from an entirely different (Elvis) song – A little less conversation a little more action please!

Towering Incompetence: Incendiary West Ham Atmosphere May Be Fanned By Forest Fire

The ongoing saga of last chances for David Moyes has now been running for longer than an Eastenders story line – doof, doof, doof, doof, doof, doof, doof, doof, doof!

How many last chances does a failing manager get to have. I was convinced the game was up after et another typically insipid display at Tottenham. But no, he gets to fail another day.

I would have thought that by the time a Board gets to the stage of giving manager’s last chances, you might as well fire him and be done with it. It will only be a matter of time, anyway. Stupendous turnarounds in fortune rarely happen. And this is a team that has been in decline for over a year, and woeful for the best part of this season.

Should the Hammers eke out a victory win this weekend, and then lose (as usual) at Brighton, is the clock then reset once again to last chance for the home fixture with Villa? Repeat until relegated. What a way to run a football club!

Even the media have now woken up to recognise that David Moyes is an emperor without any clothes. At last, journalists are scratching their heads and questioning the merits of our unadventurous, unambitious manager. It is only fellow dinosaurs such as Graeme Souness who believes everything can be fixed by the players rolling up their sleeves up and showing some grit. The players are a victim of the tactics, not the other way round. The squad can’t be changed now, but manager and tactics can. Freeing the players from Moyes inertia is the only escape route.

We should remember, West Ham are one the world’s top twenty richest clubs. They have spent hundreds of millions on players. Yet Moyes talks about fans having unrealistic expectations as if it is a low budget operation. I doubt many supporters are demanding repeated top six finishes, but we would like to be entertained and should be nowhere near a relegation scrap. 

Last weekend was the latest in a string of tame surrenders – the scene set even before kick off. Fighting talk about drawn games not being good enough didn’t make it past the team selection. Starting the game with a maximum of two attack minding players in the side was all the incentive that the opposition needed to know the points were theirs. There is nothing to fear from West Ham at the best of times – no explosive pace, no accomplished dribbler, and the main set piece threat having been sold in January – but this was caution taken to another extreme. One more notch on the bedpost of failed away trips to ‘big six’ clubs.

It has been reported that the Board’s stance on a stay of execution was swayed by improvements in form since the Everton game. I do wonder what they have been watching from their lofty position? Had there been a run of victories then fair enough. But the club need a better rate of return than five points from four games if they are to avoid the drop.

It was supremely ironic to read David Sullivan’s rant in the week about how fantastic an organisation the Premier League is – and how it didn’t need regulation – when he is doing everything in his power to leave it by the trapdoor.

There was one piece of good news in the week as the U18s reached the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup for the first time since 1999 – the days of Joe Cole and Michael Carrick. There looks to be a lot of promise in the youth ranks, even if there is still a lot of development yet to be done. We hear mostly about the goalscorers – Divin Mubama and Callum Marshall – but George Earthy, Lewis Orford and Oliver Scarles all look to be great prospects. Interesting that the Youths play nothing like the first team in style or formation. The watching Moyes would have been livid with the boys pressing for a fourth goal once they had gone ahead in extra time. All behind the ball, boys!

The sad news of the week was the passing of John Motson. He and Brian Moore were both top class commentators who knew their primary job was to tell us what was going on – and knew when to let the action do the talking. Nostalgia’s not what it used to be but they were happier and simpler days at West Ham.

Oh, Devonshire round the back …… Oh, right across ….. It’s free ….. Driven in ……. And is it a goal? It is! Brooking, ………. Trevor Brooking. The ball ricocheted in off him and West Ham are in front.

RIP Motty 1980 FA Cup Final

Tomorrow’s game will be a first home league meeting with Nottingham Forest since January 2012 when two Mark Noble penalties took the Hammers to the top of the Championship.

It wasn’t long ago that Forest looked red-hot favourites for a quick return to the second tier, despite their early season win against West Ham. Yet an upsurge in results has lifted them to the higher fringes of the relegation quagmire. They currently sit five places and five points above their hosts. They are one of only three teams to have scored fewer goals than West Ham this season, while conceding nine more. Defensively they look suspect, but they do have pace in attack through Brennan Johnson and the always busy Morgan Gibbs-White. One-time West Ham nemesis Chris Wood might also feature in the game. Woods had been well marshalled in recent encounters by Craig Dawson, but obviously that is no longer an option.

So, what approach can we expect from the Moyes book of old school football tactics for this one? We know from experience that change only happens at glacial speed. He will usually stick with a formation, regardless of opposition, until something dramatic forces his hand to change it. It is a self-evident truth that the route to survival is scoring goals – it is only Moyes who believes not conceding them is more important. If he picks the same formation – with three/ five at the back – for this game, there could be mutiny in the stands before kick-off. It is overly cautious, and the wingbacks do not offer sufficient attacking threat to compensate.

I have argued for some time that West Ham should be lining up in a 4-3-3 formation. Ideally a midfield three of Rice, Paqueta and Downes but Rice, Soucek and Downes would do if Paqueta is unavailable. Then it must be a front three who are geared towards pushing forward and playing closer together. Is any more evidence needed that the isolated striker gambit is never going to work?

Forest will be well aware of a potential powder keg atmosphere at the London Stadium tomorrow. A trademark cautious team selection by Moyes and a typically slow start by the team will play right into the opponents hands. As a supporter I feel conflicted. I want Moyes gone but I would rather three of the most winnable points remaining were not sacrificed to achieve that. But it is hard to envisage a scenario where Moyes stays and we are not relegated. It’s a sad, sad, situation. COYI!

West Ham’s Titanic Mistake As The Iceberg Of Relegation Looms Large On The Horizon

West Ham continue their rudderless drift towards the icy waters of the Championship. Who will save us from this nightmare of football oblivion?

There’s no doubting that yesterday’s results didn’t go the way we would have liked. Wins for Southampton, Bournemouth, and Everton and Nottingham Forest’s unexpected point against Manchester City were not what was needed. The table has become compressed at the bottom, no team has yet been left stranded, and West Ham now occupy one of the relegation places ahead of today’s trip across London to Tottenham.

At this stage of the season, West Ham’s ultimate fortunes will still depend on their own endeavours rather than the fate of others. We are not yet relying on snookers with 16 games to go and 48 points to play for. But where will the 20 or so points required to survive come from? Can a team that has only won five of its 22 games – and won only two of the last ten – manage to scramble another five or six wins from what is left? If, as usual, games against the ‘Big 6’ are written off, then that focuses the wins target to a 50% success from 11 matches.

The general mood among fans has largely turned to one of pessimism. But strangely, pundits and bookmakers continue to see the Hammers as one of least likely casualties among the relegation possibles. The rationale is lost on me – although we should remember pundits pay only superficial attention to any clubs outside the Champions League elite.

Perhaps, they are seduced by selected stats that suggest the Hammers have the 5th best defences in the Premier League. Or show a respectable 8th in the list of clubs with the highest number of shots. And a pass success rate consistent with Newcastle and better than Fulham or Brentford. But stats can’t pull the wool over the evidence of our own eyes. Defensive competence is earned at the expense of nine or ten men behind the ball. A high proportion of shots are long range hopeful efforts when no creative options remain. Too many passes are made where it doesn’t matter, and where no opposition pressure is being applied.

From a distance, West Ham’s form gives the impression of improvement, with three wins, three draws, and just the one defeat since the start of 2023. But form and performances aren’t always the same thing. Take away the FA Cup games, and it is less spectacular, just a marginal improvement on what had gone before. A win in the death throes of Lampard’s Everton career and two draws against sides who for different reasons had gone off the boil.

Any difference in approach or style has been negligible. Perhaps a tad more pressing further up the pitch at certain times. Maybe the three/ five at the back releasing Jarrod Bowen from onerous defensive duties and allowing him to play closer to Michail Antonio. Nothing fundamental – caution remains the overriding watchword. When Danny Ings comes on, it is to replace Antonio, not to play alongside him in a more enterprising shape. Ings has a decent scoring record at this level, but not while playing as an isolated striker chasing hopeful long balls.

David Moyes has become increasingly implausible in his media comments – like a hapless government minister trying to explain how everything that has gone wrong is outside of his control. Something about over-achieving in the past two seasons and the cyclic nature of success for clubs like West Ham meaning we would be foolish to expect too much. Claiming that draws are not enough but routinely setting up with the sole purpose of protecting the point. When Leicester beat Tottenham 4-1 last weekend, they didn’t shut up shop after going ahead, but that will always be the Moyes mindset. Caution always trumping ambition. His team may rarely be on the end of a thumping, but equally they are never allowed to press home an advantage.

The formula Moyes hit upon worked for a while, but stubbornness and intransigence prevent him from adapting to changed circumstances. A lot of money has been splashed without addressing obvious deficiencies in the squad or developing greater fluidity in the style of play. I can think of no other side in the top division so lacking in genuine pace.

With Moyes unable or unwilling to change, what hope is there that he can turn things around? The club is on a collision course with the icy waters of relegation. The manager unable to plot a course to safety and the Board asleep at the wheel. You would think the owners have been in football long enough to know a lost cause when they see one.

Today’s game at Tottenham may be the latest in a long sequence of Moyes last chances. A defeat could well be terminal. A draw granting a stay of execution until the Forest game. But is there any confidence that a contingency plan is in place should the axe fall? How damaging will not taking action during the World Cup break turn out to be? I’m sure the players would welcome the opportunity to be released from the straightjacket of the manager’s cloying negativity.

Injuries will again influence West Ham team selection. Lucas Paqueta joins Gianluca Scamacca, Kurt Zouma and Maxwell Cornet in the sick bay. Nayef Aguerd will supposedly have a late fitness test but it feels risky to rush him back into action so soon. Expect two changes from the Chelsea game with Tomas Soucek in for Paqueta and Ben Johnson replacing Aguerd. 

Despite their own inconsistencies, Tottenham are having a decent season as far as results are concerned. A win today would put them up into fourth spot. These days they are not a team you would go out of your way to watch, although, as we know, winning games can put a gloss on the lack of entertainment. In some ways they are rather like West Ham in style, but with far, far better attacking options. As always, Kane will be the main danger, especially when dropping deep to dictate play. Declan Rice’s attacking intent will no doubt be sacrificed to keep an eye on that. Apart from Kane, I will also be concerned for the potential mayhem that Perisic’s crosses can cause from the flank.

Despite the talk of playing for the win, there will be no surprise to see a repeat of the Chelsea performance. A passive low block, sub 30% possession, and set pieces being the main goal threat. We are all well aware of Moyes depressing big six record. Surely, we deserve better than this. COYI!

Statistics would suggest that West Ham’s visit to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium won’t end in a draw.

London derbies; just like London buses you wait a while for one and then two come along together. We are the last game on Sunday afternoon on Sky at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium after being the early kick off last Saturday at home to Chelsea.

After an awful first 25 minutes when we conceded a goal, and Chelsea could have been out of sight, we got better as the game went on and perhaps deserved a draw following Emerson’s equaliser against his former club.

In our five 2023 Premier League games we have beaten Everton 2-0, lost by the solitary goal against Wolves, and drawn against Leeds, Newcastle and Chelsea in addition to two FA Cup wins. That’s an improvement in results and to some extent performance too, but we still sit just two points above the relegation zone, and remain in trouble. We really need some wins and the three points that come with them to start to climb the table.

In previous articles I have been analysing the position and current form of the bottom teams and update the current situation below. The points of the bottom nine (all with 16 games still to play) are:

Palace 25, Leicester 24, Forest 24, Wolves 23, West Ham 20, Leeds 19, Everton 18, Bournemouth 18, Southampton 15.

The current form looking at points gained in the last 5 games:

Forest 10, Wolves 10, Leicester 7, West Ham 6, Everton 3, Palace 3, Southampton 3, Leeds 2, Bournemouth 2.

It won’t be easy to pick up three points in this game. In our last ten games against Tottenham our opponents have won half of them whereas we have claimed victory just twice.

Paqueta is definitely out and Scamacca is also unlikely to be involved. Aguerd faces a late test; I really hope he is fit as he has looked good and is very important to our defence. Coufal, Emerson and Soucek had reasonable games against Chelsea and will all probably play as Moyes continues with three at the back (but who will the three be?). Antonio has a good goal scoring record in this fixture.

Unusually for me I’ll predict the lineup for the game: Fabianski; Kehrer, Ogbonna, Aguerd (or Cresswell if he doesn’t make it); Coufal, Rice, Soucek, Emerson; Bowen, Antonio, Benrahma. 

Statistically it would seem unlikely that the fixture will end in a draw as the reverse one did in the game in August when Soucek’s second half equaliser cancelled out Kehrer’s own goal in the opening period.  It is 38 years since the two teams drew both league games in the same season, and additionally Tottenham have now played 21 consecutive home games without a draw. My prediction will defy the statistics as I’ll go for a 2-2 draw. What are the chances?

We Got The Saturday Lunchtime Blues: West Ham’s Tentative Improvement Faces Expensive Test

A more encouraging set of results needs to be quickly translated into league points. Do the Hammers have what it takes to see off extravagantly high-spending Chelsea?

If West Ham were a hospital patient the bulletin issued to anxious friends and relatives would read critical but stable. The outlook is not quite as bleak as it was a few weeks ago, but there was still a long way to go on the road to recovery.  

Recent form can be looked at in two ways. The optimistic view is that the Hammers have won three and lost just one in their last six games. Those with emptier glasses might point out that two of those wins were in the FA Cup against a deliberately weakened Brentford side and League 1 side, Derby.  Still winning games is good for confidence and that can never be a bad thing. It’s just that confidence needs to translated into league points very quickly. Failure to improve on the current rate of five points from six games would lead to almost certain relegation – with 33 points. Relying on the incompetence of others for survival is not a recommended strategy.

I do sense there has been some improvement in performances of late, even if it is largely imperceptible to the naked eye. Absences through Injury continue to play a debilitating part and certain positional weaknesses cannot be resolved from within the current squad. But signs that the collective spirit have been rekindled are heartening. Perhaps the return of Mark Noble behind the scenes has been a factor, diverting some of the non-playing pressure away from Declan Rice. Survival chances depend significantly on Rice continuing to put in the type of performance that we saw at St James’ Park last Saturday.

A huge positive from the Newcastle game was the team not capitulating following a dreadful opening five minutes. West Ham gradually fought their way back into contention and grabbed a deserved equalizer through Lucas Paqueta. It was possibly one of the most flamboyant goal celebrations ever seen from a Hammer, although while his backflip scored high for degree of difficulty, execution was let down by an unstable landing. I don’t recall if we were ever treated to a Robbie Keane cartwheel after either of the two goals he netted in claret and blue.   

The remainder of last Saturday’s game was reasonably even, although neither team worked the opposing goalkeeper particularly hard. The Hammers had their share of shots, but most were harmless long shots rather than skilfully crafted openings. A stunning last-ditch Moore-esque tackle from Nayef Aguerd was the highlight of the latter stages.

David Moyes substitutions were again disappointing as he opted to stick with the point in the bag with twenty minutes remaining, rather than risk pressing for a winning goal. Caution will always be his core competency.

Today’s visitors arrive on the back of equally unimpressive league form, having taken only six points from the last six games. Their only success was a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace in mid January. Despite (or perhaps as a result of) a profligate spending spree, they languish in 9th spot, nine points away from 4th place Tottenham. Chances of a top four finish are wafer thin and participation in next year’s Champions League will depend on how well they fare in this year’s competition – in which they visit Dortmund on Wednesday.

A factor in Chelsea’s favour is that manager Graham Potter has yet to lead a side to defeat against the Hammers. His record at Brighton was two wins and five draws – two wins and four draws against David Moyes.

We should expect a couple of changes from the team that started last week. Ben Johnson will take over from the injured Thilo Kehrer in the back three, with either Pablo Fornals or Manuel Lanzini the probable replacement for Said Benrahma in attacking midfield. Benrahma was particularly frustrating at Newcastle, getting into great positions and then dithering, over elaborating, or taking the wrong decision. He appears to struggle even more when there is a wing-back behind him.

Moyes has now reverted to a back three as his preferred defensive formation. It does have a more solid look to it but unless you have fast, fit wing-backs with great delivery – we don’t – it comes at the expense of attacking and creative options. The efforts and probing of Rice and Paqueta will be key for the Hammers today, as will the running of Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen.

For all Chelsea’s woes they continue to dominate possession in the majority of their games. And that is unlikely to change today. The danger for West Ham is retreating too far into their shells and leaving nine behind the ball in the all too familiar negative low block. It shows the opposition too much respect and it is obvious we look a better side when playing on the front foot. I still believe the team’s poor ball retention is as much to do with tactics and having too few options available as it is with technical ability.

The visitors have a wealth of potentially exciting talent to select from, but nothing approaching a team as yet. For Potter, a problem of too many individuals when his previous success was built on team ethic. My advice to him is stick with the floppy haired Cucurella instead of bringing in Chilwell today.

For some reason, Saturday lunchtime kick-offs have a reputation for being unpredictable affairs. While a draw would be the predictable outcome, perhaps the Hammers can enhance that reputation with a surprise three points. Otherwise it may be bottom three again by the end of the weekend. COYI!