17th v 16th, another 6 pointer. Can West Ham reap the benefit of the arrival of an old acquaintance when Bournemouth visit the London Stadium to begin the New Year?

So, at last action was taken. I won’t need to write about my perception of Mr Pellegrini’s shortcomings any more. Minutes after the final whistle following the disappointing defeat to Leicester Reserves on Saturday, he was summoned to face Ms Brady, who, having seen Lord Sugar perform the act on numerous occasions, extended the index digit on her left hand and added the words “With regret, you’re fired.” Relief at last for the majority of West Ham fans who couldn’t wait for him to go, but this was tempered by news that David Moyes was odds on to replace him, an appointment that was confirmed by late Sunday evening.

If you want to see what West Ham fans think of the appointment just head to the appropriate social media sites which give a whole variety of opinions on the new manager. There are literally thousands of them, mostly negative I would say on balance, but many saying wait and see. This is my stance too. I saw his interview on West Ham TV as well as his press conference and he was certainly saying all the right things. You wouldn’t think that based on his track record after leaving Everton he would be the person to “take us to the next level”, but having said that, the immediate next level for our club at the moment is movement away from the relegation zone, and he does have previous in that respect. In my opinion his record as manager at Goodison Park was largely impressive, and though he didn’t pull up any trees at Old Trafford, no manager has really been able to replace Alex Ferguson, have they?

Many have pilloried the board for the appointment, but then again Messrs. Sullivan, and Gold and Ms Brady are so disliked by so many, that I doubt there was little they could possibly do in the circumstances mid- season that would satisfy a majority of fans. It was interesting to read the views of fans on social media as to who they actually wanted to manage the club. Such a diverse list of possibilities but nobody knows who would want to come here or who was available. I really hope that David Moyes is a success because I am a supporter of over 60 years who wants to see the club move forward. Whether or not it will happen I don’t know. Personally I am just glad that they didn’t turn to Allardyce or Pulis, I rate David Moyes much higher than those two. We’ll just have to wait and see. I’ll make my views known on the appointment in a few weeks’ time in this blog. For now I give him the benefit of the doubt.

Bournemouth haven’t been in the Premier League for long (this is their fifth season), but in the short time that they have been they have a good record against us. We have only beaten them twice in nine meetings, and only once in the four home games, when we won the very first league game that we played at London Stadium with a late headed goal from the Snowman. So head-to- head recent history is not in our favour.

Both teams go into the game with very poor recent form and that is why they are 17th and 16th in the Premier League table. We have the worst home form of all the teams in the Premier League, and as we all know, we have lost the last four home league games. The most consecutive home games that we have ever lost in our entire history is five, and that happened in 1931! There aren’t many of us who remember then! That is one record that we don’t wish to equal.

Even conceding a solitary goal can be a problem for us this season. In the 15 games we have conceded at least one goal we have only won one of them. That happened in August when we beat Watford 3-1. Even the day itself has been a problem in the past as we have lost seven of the eleven Premier League games played on January 1st, which is more than any other team, apart from Everton.

Bournemouth have been equally poor, losing seven of their last nine league games, and winning only one of them. In the last four and a half seasons they have lost more Premier League games away from home than any other team, apart from Watford. Two things in particular worry me though. Bournemouth are second only to Liverpool when it comes to scoring set-piece goals in the Premier League this season, and you know how good we are at defending set pieces! And Callum Wilson has not scored for 12 games. He has never gone 13 games without scoring!

It will be interesting to see our new manager’s team selection and the way we set up. I reckon he may try three at the back (Balbuena, Diop and Ogbonna) and then use two wing backs (Fredericks and Masuaku or Cresswell). But who knows? He hasn’t really had the chance to assess very much in a couple of days, but our fans will be on his back if it doesn’t go well.

There has never been a 0-0 draw in a West Ham v Bournemouth game in history. In just 14 games that have been played there has been between 1 and 7 goals in every game, including every number in between. Who can possibly predict what we can expect today? We are fractionally odds-on to win the game despite our recent poor form, probably as a result of the new manager effect. West Ham to win and both teams to score is 23/10, and if you want to predict a score, my forecast would be a 2-1 win at 15/2. I’d settle for that.

That Was The Decade That Was: West Ham’s Past Ten Years In Numbers

As a brief respite from the general turmoil surrounding the club, we look back at the numbers that define the past decade at West Ham. 

Not only have we reached the end of yet another year of disappointment but also the end of the 2010s. A decade that coincides almost perfectly with the club’s current ownership, David Sullivan and David Gold having purchased a 50% controlling stake in January 2010. It was a decade that opened with a 2-1 FA Cup home defeat to Arsenal at Upton Park on 3 January 2010 and ended with a 2-1 Premier League home defeat to Leicester at the London Stadium on 28 December 2019.

Here is what the numbers tell us about all matches played in the intervening ten years.

9 – seasons played in the top flight, representing the second best decade on record from that point of view. The 1960’s being the only decade that West Ham were ever present at the top level.  What can we expect from the rip-roaring 20’s as we once again flirt with relegation? It will take some fundamental new year’s resolutions to ever reach that next level we have heard about.

3 – number of top ten finishes (excluding the Championship year), the highest being 7th in 2015/16 (the Payet season) which also saw record points and the only ever Premier League positive goal difference. The average finishing position during the Premier League years has been 12.5. The average points tally is 45. Not so impressive for a club regularly among the top ten richest in the league.

478 – total number of games played, of which 171 were won (35.8%) and 184 were lost (38.5%).

6 – number of managers employed, although technically you could say 7 if you were inclined to count David Moyes twice. Either way it was a record for any decade. The complete rogues gallery comprises Gianfranco Zola, Avram Grant, Sam Allardyce, Slaven Bilic, David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini

17,412,173 – the cumulative attendance at all West Ham matches, home and away – an average of 36,427. The highest was the 78,523 watching the Paly-Off final in 2012 while the lowest was the 1,300 who turned up to see the 2015 Europa League qualifier at FC Lusitans.

40,276 – average home attendance – they keep turning up regardless. The highest recorded attendance at any home game was 59,988 against Everton in March 2019 while the lowest was the 14.390 optimistic souls who turned up hoping to see the Hammers reverse a 6-0 first leg deficit against Manchester City in the 2014 league cup semi-final. The lowest attendances at league games (by division) were 25,680 versus Cardiff (Championship, 2011) and 31,033 versus Hull City (Premier League, 2014).

171 – total number of players fielded by West Ham during first team games in all competitions. 57 of who made fewer than 10 career appearances for the club.

347 – the highest number of appearances made by an individual player – Mark Noble.  The remainder of the top ten appearance list are Winston Reid (215), James Tomkins (200), Aaron Cresswell (179), Carlton Cole (176), Angelo Ogbonna (143), Andy Carroll (141), Kevin Nolan (140), James Collins (139), Michail Antonio (138)

43 – the most goals scored by an individual player during the 10 years – again Mark Noble. Possibly the most telling statistic, considering players at some clubs almost reach that total in a single season. Only 8 players scored more than 20 goals during the entire ten years. The rest of the top ten scorers list are Carlton Cole (40), Andy Carroll (33), Kevin Nolan (31), Michail Antonio (29), Marko Arnautovic (22), Diafra Sakho (22), Manuel Lanzini (21), Javier Hernandez (17), Dimitri Payet & Ricardo Vaz Te (15)

15 – most goals scored in a season in all competitions by an individual player – Carlton Cole in the 2011/12 Championship season (14 league goals). The best return during a Premier League season is 12 (9 league) by Dimitri Payet in 2015/16.

0.538 – the best goals scored per game played ratio by a West Ham player. This was Demba Ba who grabbed 7 goals in 13 appearances at the end of the end of the 2010/11 season. Other players who have averaged 0.3 goals per game or better are Diafra Sakho, Ilan, Marko Arnautovic, Ricardo Vaz Te and Lucas Perez.

641– the total number of goals scored by West Ham (1.34 per game) in all cometitions. Goals conceded totaled 685 (1.43 per game)

8 – the most goals scored by West Ham in a single game – the 8-0 win against Macclesfield in the 2018/19 League Cup. The biggest league win was 6-0 in the Championship against Brighton (2011/12). The Hammers twice scored 5 times in FA Cup ties (Burnley (H) & Blackburn (A)) but did not score more than 4 in any Premier League match – something (scoring 4) that they achieved on 7 separate occasions.

6 – most goals conceded in a single match – the 6-0 league cup semi, first leg, defeat by Manchester City in 2014.  The West Ham rearguard conceded 5 goals on 7 occasions and 4 goals 25 times.

8 – highest aggregate score in a West Ham game – the 8-0 win against Macclesfield. There were 3 games that featured 7 goals – 4-3 wins against Huddersfield and Portsmouth and a 3-4 defeat to Bournemouth.

131 – the number of West Ham clean sheets earned (27.4% of games played)

125 – the number of games in which the Hammers failed to score (26.1%)

34 – the total number of goalless games featuring West Ham (7.1%)

8 – the number of players to win the Hammer of The Year Award with Scott Parker and Mark Noble both two time winners. The remainder of the list includes several heroes to zeroes and comprises Winston Reid, Aaron Cresswell, Dimiri Payet, Michail Antonio, Marko Arnautovic and Lukasz Fabianski. Young HOTY was won by Zavon Hines, Freddie Sears, Dan Potts, George Moncur, Sam Howes, Reece Burke, Reece Oxford and Declan Rice (3 times).

0 – the number of trophies won. (unless you want to include the Play Off Final).  The most productive cup runs were in reaching the League Cup semi-final on two occasions (2010/11 & 2013/14). In the FA Cup, the best the club could manage was the 6th round in 2010/11 and 2015/16. Apart from the that, the FA Cup saw West Ham eliminated in the 3rd round (4 times) and 4th round (twice). In 2020, it will be 40 years since that last trophy success in May 1980.

In conclusion, we would like to wish all Hammers, wherever they are in the world, a happy, healthy, prosperous and, if possible, stress-free new year!

“Come in Mr. Pellegrini your time is up” – West Ham entertain Leicester.

“I really cannot believe that I will be writing about Manuel Pellegrini any more after this weekend. There cannot possibly be any way that he can survive as the manager of West Ham, whatever the result this evening.”

These are the words I wrote prior to the game against Southampton. But I was wrong. We won the game after clinging on in the end, and our manager lived to fight another day. Since then we have had the postponement against (World Club Champions) Liverpool, followed by the defeat at Crystal Palace on Boxing Day. We now sit in seventeenth place in the Premier League table, just one point above Aston Villa (and with an inferior goal difference). We have a game in hand, but that is against Liverpool! We have now dropped 15 points from winning positions. With 15 more points we would now be sitting in a Champions League position in fourth place in the table. But we are not. We are in big trouble, but Dave and Dave either haven’t got the will to act (or pay off the manager), or they think he will turn it around, or perhaps they are unable to find anyone who will want to work under them.

Ironically, in recent articles I have often referred to the form table, where I have analysed results for all Premier League teams in their last 5 games. We have often appeared very close to the bottom of that table, but as we go into today’s game against Leicester, that is not the case this time. We have six points together with Burnley and (fourth placed) Chelsea. Six clubs have accrued less than that in their last five games; Watford, Brighton and Arsenal with 5, Bournemouth with 4, Villa with 3, and Norwich with 1.

But it’s not good is it? The natives are restless. I think our early season form promised so much more, but the dramatic fall down the league table, mixed with a combination of throwing away leading positions, the (poor) quality of our football, a manager who doesn’t appear to have a clue what is wrong or what he can do to change things, and the apparent low morale and in-fighting among the players (Noble and Ogbonna for example), means that a lot of us want to see a change of manager.

Our opposition today have had a terrific season so far, and sit in second place in the Premier League table, despite two heavy defeats in their last two games (admittedly against Manchester City and Liverpool). They are ten points clear of fifth placed Tottenham, so unless they plummet down the table (in West Ham fashion) a Champions League place next season looks assured. Of course those two big defeats by a combined scoreline of 7-1 shows they still have a way to go to match the top two, but nevertheless the quality of their football is great to watch, and we could be on for a hammering today.

It is now almost 14 years since we lost four home Premier League games in a row, but defeat in the last three home games leaves us perilously close to matching that unwanted statistic. What is even worse is that in those three defeats we have conceded three goals in each of the games. Only three other teams in the history of the Premier League have managed to concede three goals in four consecutive home games, Palace in 1998, Bradford in 2001, and Fulham five years ago.

Our head to head record against Leicester is one which is positive in that we have beaten them more times than they have beaten us. But the recent record is not so good, and in the last nine Premier league fixtures we have beaten them only once. In fact Leicester have never lost a game at the London Stadium.

I always want us to win, but the omens for this game don’t look too good. More in hope than expectation though, perhaps we can defy the bookmakers’ odds (around 3/1 for a West Ham victory).

WHULEI1I was sad to learn of the recent death of one of the West Ham greats, Martin Peters, shortly before Christmas. I met Martin at a book signing in 2006 when I bought his autobiography The Ghost of ’66. I had quite a chat with him and what a lovely man he was. I also took along a copy of the West Ham v Leicester programme for November 16th 1968 and asked him to sign it for me (see photo of programme). The reason for this is that was the day I saw my favourite ever West Ham goal. Martin scored past Peter Shilton in front of the North Bank, a thunderous volley at the end of a move that went from one end of the pitch to the other. I wrote about the goal in my book, Goodbye Upton Park, Hello Stratford, and to this day it remains my favourite ever West Ham goal. On that wet November day we beat Leicester 4-0. What are the chances of a repeat scoreline today? Somewhere around 125/1 according to one bookmaker I saw. We can hope, can’t we?!

Since You Gotta Go, You Had Better Go Now! Can Someone Please Put Us Out Of This Misery?

In a low budget, poorly produced sequel to the Avram Grant season, the West Ham board continue to dither over compensation payments in a further blow to the next level credibility.

Baffled Of Santiago

I was expecting to wake up this morning to discover that Manuel Pellegrini had finally been dismissed. Now just a single point away from the relegation places (with an inferior goal difference) and with a manager who: admits he is baffled; has been largely responsible for assembling this current one-paced squad; has seemingly no idea how to set up and organise a team to compete in the modern game; and is completely out of touch with current tactical trends. No-one in their right mind can surely believe that Pellegrini has got what it takes to turn things around; or, based on past performance,  would want to trust him with any further funds in the upcoming transfer window.  The season is a poorly produced, low budget, remake of the Avram Grant Season. There is no footballing rationale whatsoever for keeping him on – compensation payment is the only issue on the table. The longer a decision is put off, the greater will be the imperative to hire a manager specialising in ‘ugly’ tactics to sort it out. Stop the dithering, bite the bullet and pull the trigger – even if it is with a caretaker in charge for the next run of games.

Insider Dealing

The ubiquitous club-insider is suggesting that the manager will be given another two more games (again) to save his job. Also that if he does go then David Moyes is the probable replacement. Now I have no idea whether the insider is just making stuff up like the rest of us or is being fed information from the club (which would be massively unprofessional, but easy to believe) but if it is true then it is a deeply worrying scenario. Not that I don’t think Moyes would be a better option than Pellegrini but that is not the point. He is not the right person for the type of club we need to be. Someone who would be able to take the team in a direction that most supporters want to travel. Ultimately, football is meant to be an entertainment. It has to offer more than just doing enough to hang on to your place at the top table so that we can see the top players in the world come to tear us to pieces every season. As supporters, we need something to believe in, to be proud of, and at least be given a glimmer of hope of an a honest tilt at the occasional cup competition.

Not Fit For Purpose

Yesterday, we looked doomed right from the start. Any side with probably the three slowest players in the Premier League (Mark Noble, Robert Snodgrass and Pablo Zabaleta) is going to struggle. Throw in a comedy goalkeeper and whatever hope there was disappeared over the horizon. To be fair, Roberto was not at fault for either of the goals and made a couple of decent saves. The bench looked a little brighter with the return of Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson but neither ultimately made any impression. As usual there was no sign of any young legs and energy among the substitutes. There may have been a desire to ship out what was thought to be deadwood (Obiang, Fernandes, for example) but they were far better than what has been left behind. Is there some kind of collective madness at the club?

Two Poor Sides

The match was, as the one at Southampton, a contest of very poor quality. The Hammers nominally adopted the same 4-4-2 formation that had triumphed just over a week earlier but on this occasion the gaps between each block of players were far too great. Having won one game it was apparently beyond the players to put in the same level of effort for two matches in a row.  Michail Antonio was the only real threat, and the only one to come away with any real credit, but he cannot maintain those energy levels for a full ninety minutes. In a re-run of the past few matches, once Antonio starts running on fumes, the whole team shape collapses and becomes fatally exposed.

New Formation, Same Failings

Although there were now ostensibly two layers ‘up top’ the supply line to them was as ineffective as ever. Snodgrass despite his goal (and almost getting a second) was pedestrian throughout and again demonstrated that perseverance with the winger on the wrong flank is complete madness. Mark Noble’s only notable contribution was a bust up with Angelo Ogbonna (not sure why, but possibly due to Noble’s lazy pass putting Aaron Cresswell under pressure.) The formation, as implemented, doesn’t suit Declan Rice as his ability to break forward is seriously curtailed – he is utilised as a holding midfielder only and gave one of his least effective displays for some time as a consequence. The upshot was that Palace were given acres of space both in the centre of midfield and down their left wing where Zaha ran Pablo Zabaleta ragged all afternoon. If only we had known that might happen. Even at a goal up, it was clearly only going to be a matter of time (and Antonio’s battery running flat) before the home side breached the West Ham defence. I would take one (a defeat) for the team if it meant the end of our bewildered manager.

Ratings: Roberto (5), Zabaleta (3), Ogbonna (6), Balbuena (5), Cresswell (5), Snodgrass (5), Rice (5), Noble (4), Fornals (6), Antonio (8), Haller (5) Subs: Lanzini (4), Anderson (5), Ajeti (?)

Present Imperfect: West Ham Win Would Be Ideal Gift But Leave Manager Dilemma Unresolved

Boxing Day matches have long been a highlight of the footballing calendar. On the second day of Christmas will our true loves send us yet another stuffing or serve up a real Christmas cracker?

Christmas is over, West Ham are not in the bottom three, even have a game in hand, and the Manuel Pellegrini doomsday clock is stuck permanently at one minute to midnight. Time to feast on the left over turkey and wonder whether Santa has delivered any new ideas to the London Stadium.

Boxing Day football is as much part of the traditional festive landscape as snowmen, robin redbreast, eggnog and maids-a-milking.  My all-time fantasy Christmas list would have taking the 723 to the Boleyn for an early morning kick-off as one of its many highlights. Sadly, it seems that a home fixture on Boxing Day is now a thing of the past and that we must be content with the short trip across town to the land of allotments and inflatable clapper sticks.

On the face of it the omens are favourable for today’s game. Our boys have had a few extra days to rest or work on ‘stuff’ in training while hosts, Crystal Palace, have an injury list that would overwhelm even the best funded of A&E department. The only fly in this ointment being that such favourable circumstances have rarely worked to our advantage in the past.

The cancelled fixture against Liverpool has presented an opportunity for the Hammers to chalk up rare successive back-to-back Premier League victories. Apart from the promising run early in the season and a purple patch in November/ December last year, victories have arrived in staccato fashion separated by missed opportunities. The compact nature of mid-table means that a few wins can change the apparent complexion of the season significantly, allowing a decision on the manager’s immediate future to be parked until the summer.  As I fail to see any good place where Pellegrini can take the club, it leaves me conflicted.

Aside from the enforced change at right back due to Ryan Fredericks suspension, Pellegrini’s major selection headache will be who plays in goal. Even he must realise that either Lukasz Fabianski or David Martin on one leg has to be a better option than the hapless Roberto. If reports are to be believed it will be Martin who gets the nod today with Fabianski making his return at the weekend. Other than that, I would imagine that the team will lineup as at Southampton, with Felipe Anderson restored to the bench following his mystery illness. Certainly, if Antonio and Haller reproduce last week’s from they can unsettle the usually well-organised Palace defence.

The major (only) Palace threat will again be provided by Zaha and the hope is that there will be a plan to double up on him in times of emergency – otherwise he will lead the ageing legs of Pablo Zabaleta a merry dance. The Eagles will probably be fielding two ex-Hammers in their starting eleven – James Tomkins and Cheikhou Kouyate. Tomkins is a decent but erratic defender who is always a danger as an attacking threat from set pieces; while Kouyate has become more dependable in the limited role expected of him by Roy Hodgson.

Thoughts at this time of year also turn to the impending transfer window – which will ‘burst open’ on 1 January. Already, there are conflicting reports on how busy the Hammers will be; ranging from their being no cash available at all to a lengthy list of apparent targets that the Daves have sent to the North Pole. Whatever money there is, we can but hope that it is spent wisely. Dependable (youngish) replacements for the troublesome central midfield and full-back positions would be at top of my list but how that will lay out amid uncertainties with manager and director of football is unclear. Recruits should be fit, athletic, technically competent and, importantly, with the right attitude. They do not need to be exotic, flamboyantly named, Hispanics or ex-Champion’s League winners. It has reached a point where I am wary of any player who is reported as keen to join West Ham. Typically it is for the wrong reasons – munificent wages, the bright lights of London, or the easy life. To paraphrase Groucho Marx “I refuse to sign any player who is eager to become a (squad) member.”

I received an email from West Ham in the week announcing a 60% off clearance sale but was surprised to see that Carlos Sanchez and Roberto were not yet listed as available. The squad is far too thin to allow many departures but cannot see a downside in letting those two go. If numbers get that desperate, then give some of the young players a go. How could it be worse?

The matchday referee is Andre Marriner from West Midlands making his second West Ham appearance of the month (he was in charge of the defeat at Wolves). His VAR chum is Andrew ‘Andy’ Madley from West Yorkshire. Any chance of a seasonal penalty decision going our way today?

Looking at the TV pundits, we see Lawro backing West Ham for a 2-1 win and Charlie Nicholas unable to separate two inconsistent sides with a 1-1 draw.  It really should be an opportunity for the Hammers to add to their points tally. After all, with the season almost halfway done, the 20 point threshold has still to be reached. Thankfully, as illustrated by some of the games that I watched last weekend there are a plenty of poor teams in the Premier League right now – no matter what the marketing boys say about there being no easy games. I would prefer not to be (and we shouldn’t be) part of the Premier League leftovers but fear that is how it will stay for the foreseeable future.  Limping into the second half of the season with a bewildered manager who is living on past glories rather than present realities. I do believe, however, that we can win today.

The week was overshadowed by the sad news of the death of Martin Peters, one of the all-time great West Ham United players. Peters was a huge favourite of mine when I first started following West Ham and is easily part of my all-time West Ham XI. It was a massive disappointment when he left prematurely in 1970 as the first big-name Hammer’s departure of my West Ham supporting career. He was part of a West Ham team that played in the first ever top flight clash between West Ham and Crystal Palace, in November 1969 – a 2-1 home win in front of 31,515 spectators. The team that day, including at least five West Ham legends, was: Ferguson, Bonds, Lampard, Howe, Stephenson, Moore, Redknapp, Peters, Brooking, Hurst (1), Best (1)

Haller-lujah, Antonio In Excelsis! Takeaways As West Ham Snatch Survival Lifeline

Now, I’ve heard about when West Ham scored. That Sebastien played, and it pleased the Lord. What, if anything, did we learn from West Ham’s surprise change of formation and victory at St Marys?

Sack Race Goes Into Added Time

There was plenty of pre-match speculation as to the potential scenarios that each of the possible outcomes might have on the future employment prospects of Manuel Pellegrini. Many believed that he would be gone no matter what the result. But now, according to the latest reports being leaked from the club, the manager will be hanging around for as long as the Christmas decorations are – ‘tis the season to be jolly! Although rather than being given another two game window to save his job, he is now apparently in sudden death territory – just one more shameful, insipid performance away from the job centre. None of this should really be any surprise since it became obvious that the decision hinged on compensation payments and not for football reasons. Are the team, under Pellegrini, able to scramble high enough up the rock-face to avoid drowning in the rising tide of relegation? It is not a matter of trust in the manager- it is a case of trusting that there are three worse teams in the league come the end of the season.

First Among Failures

West Ham were deserved winners in the game that, although relatively exciting, was generally poor in terms of quality. Not exactly a ‘game of two halves’ but certainly one of ‘two portions.’ The Hammers were dominant for the first 60 or 70 minutes until they tired badly just after the hour – perhaps a few more minutes than they managed on Monday. After that, all ambition disappeared and were left hanging on and thanking the woodwork by the final whistle. Fitness levels are one of the major concerns under the current management regime – as they were during his time at Manchester City. Better sides than Southampton (that is, most of the Premier League on this showing) will be quick to exploit that weakness. Hasenhüttl had adjusted his formation at half time and there was debate in the commentary box as to whether Pellegrini would make changes to compensate – based on previous experience he will be ready to do so sometime in early March. Although Romeu was one of the hosts better performers it was fatigue in the Hammer’s ranks (notably Mark Noble and Robert Snodgrass) that changed the dynamic of the game.  The defence (particularly Angelo Ogbonna and Fabian Balbuena) was resolute but luck also played a huge part.

Pellegrini Sees The Light

Just as the manager had been slow to recognise the glaring limitations of Roberto, he was also the last person alive to twig that Sebastien Haller might be far more effective if he wasn’t left so isolated on the pitch. Begrudgingly and with the catalyst of a convenient Felipe Anderson illness, Pellegrini finally accepted that more than one team formation is possible. It was a transformation. Michail Antonio was outstanding, causing havoc in the Saints defence with his aggressive running, pace and power. Haller responded magnificently, not only with a goal, but also with a genuine striker’s performance that was a constant threat of danger. One could argue that Haller should have been putting in the required effort previously, but it is easy to understand his frustration – who would pay top dollar for a striker and then refuse to give him any service? More is still needed, however, to compete against better sides than Southampton. Midfield runners need to get into more advanced positions, beyond the strikers, on occasion – only Pablo Fornals (who is showing definite signs of improvement) did so to any effect.  The changed formation meant Declan Rice playing a more subdued role than usual – good for defensive stability but a problem while he remains the only pace in midfield. Long balls for Antonio and Haller to chase are a useful option, but cannot become the only tactic.

Little In Reserve

You only need to take a look at Saturday’s bench to recognise how thin the squad depth is, and how no confidence is being shown in academy players – Roberto, Zabaleta, Masuaku, Diop, Sanchez, Yarmolenko, Ajeti – hardly the magnificent 7! Accepted that there have been injuries, but probably no worse this season than the average Premier League club. Allowing Obiang, Fernandes and Hernandez to leave without bring in replacements and failing to address the full-back issues were completely irresponsible by all concerned. A good match-day bench should be a mix of essential cover and players who are capable of changing the game. Even Southampton had better alternatives to call on from the dugout. Pellegrini’s use of substitutes was again eccentric. Andriy Yarmolenko’s defensive contribution has suicidal tendencies – even if replacing Snodgrass (knackered and in danger of a second yellow card) made sense. The introduction of Carlos Sanchez (for Haller) effectively handed all remaining initiative to Southampton. Still, all’s well that ends well, I suppose.

Schrödinger’s Penalty

We saw the worst of VAR in Saturday’s game. Not the technology, but the way the buffoons (lunatics and assylum spring to mind) have implemented it. Ostensibly introduced to eliminate refereeing mistakes, it’s primary use is to either apply rules (or interpretation of rules) that previously didn’t exist or to enforce offside to a spurious degree of accuracy . The handball rule used to disallow the Antonio goal is bizarre. How does an offence (unintentional handball) only apply when it occurs during an attack and where a goal is scored? When in all other circumstances it is waved on? What is the current rule on penalties? What happened to the crackdown on grappling at corners? When does contact become too much contact – went down too easy versus entitled to go down? It’s a mess. In Saturday’s penalty incident there were two blatant fouls for the price of one but both ignored by the referee – perhaps he was overwhelmed. If it happened too quickly for the referee to see, then it should have been apparent to the VAR. The ‘clear and obvious error’ defence is clear and obvious nonsense – it should be about consistency and accuracy, not about a referee losing face. It has been said that had Atkinson awarded the penalty then Moss would not have reversed that decision either -for the same clear and obvious reason. It was both a penalty and not a penalty at the same time.

Ratings: Martin (6), Fredericks (5), Balbuena (7), Ogbonna (7), Cresswell (6), Rice (6), Noble (6), Snodgrass (6), Fornals (7), ANTONIO (12), Haller (8) Subs: Yarmolenko (5), Sanchez (5), Diop (5)  

A relegation six-pointer is the Saturday 5.30pm game – Southampton v West Ham – “All of us know we need a result.”

I really cannot believe that I will be writing about Manuel Pellegrini any more after this weekend. There cannot possibly be any way that he can survive as the manager of West Ham, whatever the result this evening. In view of the postponement of the Liverpool game (and perhaps even if it hadn’t been postponed) there is a very big chance that we will be in one of the relegation positions at Christmas. Very few managers survive after a run of results that we have had in the past few weeks, plummeting down the table from the heady heights of fifth place. Enough is enough. A change is necessary. There is no need to feel sorry for him – just take a look at the pay-off he will get, despite the poor performance. The exit poll taken as the fans left the ground after the Arsenal debacle predicts that he will be gone well before Christmas.

I’ve collected some of the comments attributed to him this week.

“All of us know we need a result.”

“I always think as a manager that the results of the team depends on the individual performance of a player. After that you can work a lot on tactical, physical and technical work but the players decide the games.”

“Of course, when you have your important players not in their best moment, the results of the team will not be good.”

“You must find why they are not in that moment and try to work with them and give them confidence and I hope that most of them will return as soon as possible to their normal performance.”

‘Well of course all of us know we need the results. We have just five points from the last nine games.”

“We need to return to being a consistent and solid team in the way we did against Chelsea and for 60-65 minutes against Arsenal. The points that we have are not enough for this team.”

“We dominated for 60 minutes. Maybe scoring the second goal would have been so important.

“It (booing at the end) was understandable because the last five games that we play here, we didn’t win.

“If you don’t win at home, your fans are not going to be happy.

“You cannot concede three goals in every game. Unfortunately for us, we are doing wrong things, but we need to continue fighting.”

The following is not a comment made by MP but it could have been – “And now the end is near and so I face the final curtain.”

Asked if he thought he could fix it, Pellegrini added: “Of course.”

A lot of things have been written about a rift between Pellegrini and Felipe Anderson. Here are some of the comments attributed to our Brazilian playmaker this week.

“When I arrived it was hard but we started winning and I started to show my potential by helping the team with goals, assists and dribbles, and right now things are not working out as we want.”

“Things have to improve and I have to improve to be able to help the team.”

“As I always say, this is a collective game. If I don’t score and the team wins, I’m happy, but if I don’t score and the team loses and I couldn’t help the team as I want to, it’s difficult.”

“But we need to keep on working hard and think positively.”

“Monday’s match was a very negative result and one that we didn’t expect because we were at home and because we had played well in the previous two matches.”

“But we know that we need to keep working hard to get out of this situation.”

“This is the worst phase I have been going through with the team.”

West Ham go into this “must win” game against Southampton, a team that has improved in recent weeks, certainly since being thrashed 9-0 at home by Leicester, knowing (well if they don’t know I’ve just told them!) that they have beaten Southampton in Premier League games more than they have beaten any other team. Our results against them in recent times have been positive with four wins in the last five Premier League meetings.

Knowing how our heads seem to go down when we concede a goal, one statistic that I read this week is troubling. In our last 15 visits to Southampton (a period of time that stretches back almost 25 years) we have failed to score the first goal in the game! I’m not sure what the odds will be, but based on that, you can almost guarantee that Southampton will take the lead by scoring the first goal. Despite their poor season they have managed to score in every league game they’ve played apart from two. Only Liverpool, Manchester City and Wolves have scored in more games than that.

As West Ham fans we’ve had little to cheer in recent games, and don’t need reminding of some of the statistics being banded about. Seven defeats in our last nine league games, five points fewer than at this stage last season, and twelve points dropped from winning positions (which equals our total for the whole of last season!) make depressing reading. It is hard to ignore the goalkeeping situation – we have lost 14% of games when Fabianski was in goal, and 78% of games since he has been injured and out of the team. We need him back sooner rather than later!

On a positive note (bearing in mind we are playing away), 56% of our total points this season have been collected on our travels, a percentage unmatched by any other team in Premier League. (It starts from a low base though). Our manager should be confident of victory too based on his past record, having won six and drawn one of the eight games he has been in charge of teams playing Southampton.

Of course I want us to win and I hope we can win. I don’t honestly believe that when we play our next match at Selhurst Park on Boxing Day that MP will be in charge whatever the result today. There is every chance that we will have a new man at the helm. Surely, despite some deficiencies in the squad, there is enough talent to work with to ensure a mid-table finish at least with these players. I just hope that we can attract a younger manager with fresh ideas, and don’t resort to one of the usual managerial names being banded about in the media.