And So It Begins…..

Pre-match tension builds for West Ham’s season curtain raiser.

Away at ChelseaExcitement and anticipation have been left simmering away that little bit longer for us this season as we feature in the last of the opening weekend fixtures away at Stamford Bridge.

With squads going through major Dr Who style re-generation every year it is difficult to know what your team (and the opposition) will look like as the real business of the day gets going.

According to the Whoscored analysis of our style of play from 2015/16 we are very strong at free kicks, set pieces and coming from behind; strong at creating chances, finishing, working long shot opportunities and aerial duels; but weak at defending against long shots, defending against skillful players and individual errors.  Our stats show lots of crosses, lots of shots,  and tendency to attack through the middle and be the victims of aggressive opponents (the 3rd most fouled team last season).  How will adding a handful of extra wingers to the squad affect this I wonder?

“The match will be very tough. We face a strong team. They have a good manager, a squad with physical, fast, talented players.”

– This Year’s Chelsea Manager

Chelsea who have a new manager and have added a few more £30 million pound players to their squad in Batshuayi and Kante will be looking for an improvement over last year’s effort free from any midweek European distraction.  Let’s hope they do no hit the ground running.

Head to Head History

Our record against Chelsea is reasonably even-stevens with Chelsea recording just one more victory than ourselves.  Given that we have won only 2 out of 21 since the asylum seeking roubles washed up in west London it is clear that historically we have held the upper hand.

P W D L F A Sequence
Home 48 25 9 14 85 65 DLWLLW
Away 49 12 13 24 64 88 LLLDLD
Total 97 37 22 38 149 153

After having been cheated out of victory at the Bridge last March we have to look back to September 2002 for our last success at their quaint, little stadium; a victory masterminded by G Roeder Esq and executed by P Di Canio.

Team News

It is difficult to speculate how we might line-up for this game.  There is speculation that neither Payet nor Masuaku are match fit and may only be on the bench.  The PhysioRoom website is still showing 9 players sidelined for us; in addition to the longer term absences of Cresswell, Lanzini, Tore and Sakho they also list Kouyate and Obiang as potential absentees.  It will be a big loss if Kouyate is not fit in my opinion and the combination of Antonio and Byram as right and left backs respectively is not filling me with confidence.

“Antonio Conte is a great manager and wants to change the way they approach the game and the principles. I rate him very highly. I am sure he will do a good job there. But we beat the big teams away last season and it was a good experience for us.  We will see how we are going to start on Monday night. We have Plan A and Plan B.”

– Super Slav

Chelsea report injuries to Terry and Zouma.  Surprisingly, Terry has a head injury as you might think there is nothing up there to damage.

Tonight’s Referee

Tonight’s referee is Anthony Taylor from Greater Manchester.  Taylor officiated 4 West Ham matches last term resulting in defeats to Leicester [H] (where he sent off Adrian) and Watford [A] and victories against Newcastle [H] and Everton [A].

I Wouldn’t Bet On It (2)

A few more punts on today’s football…….

Want a bet?There are three results in every football match. Home, away or draw. It should be easy based on form to know exactly what is going to happen, shouldn’t it? Unfortunately it is not.

Yesterday I said that I don’t normally bet on football matches at the start of the season, as I prefer to see how the form is panning out. However, I decided on a cautious approach spending 10 of my mythical 100 points by betting on nine “favourite” results and an accumulator. So how did I get on?

Well it was a poor start. I would have expected more of the favourites to win, but that’s the unpredictability of football matches. Only two were successful:

1 point on Wigan to beat Blackburn – 11/10 (2.1)

1 point on Port Vale to beat Southend – 6/5 (2.2)

So my points tally became 94.3.

Today I will make the following bets:

2 points on Arsenal v Liverpool to be a draw at 12/5 (6.8)

1 points on Manchester United to beat Bournemouth at 5/6 (1.8)

1 point on the double of the above two results being correct (6.2)

Once again, the figures in brackets are the potential returns from a 1 point stake. So today I have spent 4 points reducing my balance to 90.3.

I Wouldn’t Bet On It

Fancy a flutter? Here’s where I would put my money this weekend.

Fancy A BetWhat do they say? Gambling is a mugs game? This may be the case but you can have a bit of fun especially if you don’t stake more than you can afford to lose. I’ve always enjoyed it but I’m only a small stakes gambler, and if I do lose then it doesn’t really matter. I love horse racing and from two visits to Chelmsford City this year I’ve been extraordinarily lucky and come away with a fair bit more in my pocket than I went with. But I’ve also had bad runs including a 27 race losing streak.

It’s the same with football bets. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I don’t normally bet on football matches at the start of the season, as I prefer to see how the form is panning out. However, I am going to start tentatively today and see how I get on. I’ll begin with a mythical 100 points and keep a running total as the season progresses.

So for today, I’ll bet on nine teams to win, and add a nine-game accumulator just in case by sheer fluke all nine are correct.

1 point on Palace to beat WBA – Evens (2.0)

1 point on Leicester to beat Hull – 10/11 (1.9)

1 point on Southampton to beat Watford – 4/5 (1.8)

1 point on Norwich to beat Sheffield Wednesday – Evens (2.0)

1 point on Wigan to beat Blackburn – 11/10 (2.1)

1 point on Charlton to beat Northampton – 6/5 (2.2)

1 point on Port Vale to beat Southend – 6/5 (2.2)

1 point on Orient to beat Newport – 4/6 (1.7)

1 point on Luton to beat Yeovil – 3/4 (1.8)

1 point on a Nine wins accumulator – 407.5-1 (407.5)

The figures in brackets are the potential returns from a 1 point stake. So today I have spent 10 points leaving a balance of 90.

Let The Games Begin

A run through the West Ham squad for the upcoming season.

FormationNot long to wait now until we discover if there is going to be any significant change to shape or to the way that the team is set-up following the assorted arrivals at West Ham during the close season. With all the wingers we now have at the club maybe a revolutionary new formation is soon to be revealed.  The approach of getting the ball forward quickly to wide positions has been a feature of the Croatian national team for some years.

Looking through the players that will potentially feature most regularly in Premier League games we look in decent overall shape albeit a little short of cover in some areas given that there may also be the Europa League to contend with.

Goalkeepers: Adrian, Randolph

Our keeper position is good enough if not outstanding. Adrian is a likeable fellow and a very competent all-round keeper aside from the odd ricket (© H Redknapp) and an over-confidence in his dribbling skills. Randolph is capable backup and good to see that he signed a new contract recently. He is an excellent shot-stopper but does not command the area sufficiently well to be a number 1 at this level.

Defenders: Reid, Cresswell, Collins, Ogbonna, Byram, Masuaku (Burke, Oxford)

With James Tomkins leaving for Crystal Palace where he be able to fully develop his beard potential it looks like a few games for Burke and/ or Oxford this season during the inevitable injuries and suspensions to the regualr centre-backs. Some interesting comments made on the difficulties of blooding youngsters in the Premier League by Slaven Bilic, in the Daily Mail interview with Martin Samuel, and mistakes don’t get punished as cruelly as they do as last defender.

Following Aaron Cresswell’s injury we look light at full back even with the arrival of Arthur Masuako. There are two schools of thought regarding the suitability of Antonio as a right back; there are those that think square peg in a round hole and there is Slaven Bilic. Maybe Slav sees a net benefit from his attacking abilities and, at the moment, we owe him our trust.

Midfielders: Nordtvelt, Feghouli, Kouyate, Lanzini, Obiang, Noble, Tore, Payet, Antonio (Quina)

Many of us may have thought that midfield was the one area where there was already an abundance of talent whereas it has seen the most reinforcements (particularly if you consider Ayew as a midfielder rather than a striker). I certainly understand the signing of Havard Nordtvelt as none of the current crop are truly from the defensive midfielder mould (although I don’t think we saw enough of Pedro Obiang to reach a conclusion).

Assuming Payet remains first on the team-sheet and Noble retains his place as local boy, Englishman and skipper then it leaves some very good players vying for a couple of starting berths. Admittedly our injury curse will no doubt ensure that at least 2 or 3 are in the treatment room at any point in time – someone will need to keep Gokhan Tore company).

Domingos Quina seems to be a young player who could be on the fringes of the first team if pre-season appearances are anything to go by.  Or he could be this year’s Reece Oxford and play in the first game and then disappear.

Strikers: Carroll, Valencia, Ayew, Fletcher, Callieri (Sakho)

West Ham were joint 4th highest goal scorers in the Premier League last year but many will agree that it is the strike-force where we are most exposed. We appear to specialise in the 20 injuries a season striker which affects both body and mind – How do you solve a problem like Diafra?

I am looking forward to seeing Andre Ayew in the claret and blue and have high hopes for Ashley Fletcher but know nothing about Jonathon Callieri – except that he is allegedly owned by the Uruguayan equivalent of a Payday Loans company. Not sure there is a Golden Boot (or bonce) candidate in that lot anywhere but collectively they should be able to keep the goal tally ticking over nicely (although one more striker would not be frowned at, Davids.)

Our Challenge Lawro-athon

Our own season long Lawro challenge. Who will win?

The Thatched Haired LawroWe all know that Lawro is a thatch headed, know nothing West Ham hating Muppet who couldn’t predict the sequence at a set of traffic lights, right?  After all based on his predicted results last season we would have finished in 17th place having avoided relegation by just a single point.
Well time for us to put our money where our mouths are as we kick-off our season long Lawro challenge.  Every week we will go head-to-head with the much maligned pundit in the field of guesswork to see if we know better than him.  Our own scoring system will be one point for getting the correct result and three points for getting the correct score and result.
Predictions for the opening weekend are below and there is in not much optimism as far as the Hammers are concerned with none of us expecting Stamford Bridge to fall down on Monday night.  Personally, I would be more than happy to be wrong here but in such situations my “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” philosophy tends to take precedence.

 

Lawro

Geoff

Rich

Hull v Leicester

0-2

1-2

1-2

Burnley v Swansea

1-1

2-1

1-1

Crystal Palace v West Brom

2-1

3-1

2-1

Everton v Tottenham

1-1

0-2

1-1

Middlesbrough v Stoke

1-0

1-1

0-0

Southampton v Watford

2-1

1-0

2-0

Man City v Sunderland

2-0

4-0

3-0

Bournemouth v Man Utd

0-2

1-3

0-2

Arsenal v Liverpool

1-1

2-2

1-1

Chelsea v West Ham

2-0

2-0

2-1

5 Amusing Things About The Transfer Window

The Transfer Window is a time of speculation, exaggeration and outright invention.

1   The Majority of Transfer Speculation Stories are Most Likely Made Up

Transfer WindowFor the ever growing number of football news websites and blogs all looking for content that will attract traffic to their site there is nothing like a good transfer story.  A daily dose foretelling the latest exotic recruit linked to your club keeps many fans at fever pitch for the entire window – even if the original story was a figment of an over-active imagination.  Someone, somewhere will post a rumour which is copied, shared and tweeted and like all lies when repeated often enough becomes a fact.  Or maybe the original source is an agent attempting to stump up some interest in his want-away client.  In the spirit of the game I have invented my own statistic that 80% of all rumours are fabricated.

2   The Tricks and Traps of the Vague Story Title

Even when you have copied someone elses rumour it is no use being obvious that the story is the same as a dozen or so others already on the news feed.  The title of the post needs to be vague and cryptic enough to seduce the reader to click on through.  The day after West Ham had signed Arthur Masuaku from Olympiakos I saw a headline on Newsnow that read something like “Done Deal:  Second Defender Deal Completed in Two Days”.  Excited that it was a shiny new Right Back to complete a matching pair I was deflated to discover that the story was about an academy graduate agreeing to go out on loan.  Genius and it completely fooled me.

3   The Level of Supporter Outrage That Even a Made Up Story Can Generate

Whenever a transfer story appears there is always an army of angry supporters ready and able to argue about it regardless of how unlikely the whole thing is likely to be.  There will be the guy that hates the board and will repeatedly accuses them of penny-pinching/ misleading/ talking to media too much/ not giving supporters enough information; another who is adamant that we are paying well over the odds for every player linked (as if the transfer fee was coming out of his own pocket); and the bloke that doesn’t like or want us to do business with certain other clubs.  While opinions on players are perfectly valid (would anyone, for example, really want us to buy Benteke?) it hardly seems worth getting worked up about spurious speculation.

4   It Has a Vocabulary All of It’s Own

From the Manager dipping in to his “war chest” to “swoop” for the “want away” player that has “issued a come and get me plea” to the club that have “slapped a 50 million valuation” on their star player while”preparing a bid” for someone else’s in order to “test their resolve” the transfer window has a jargon rarely experienced anywhere else.  Sky Sports understands that this is unlikely to change anytime soon.

5   No Matter How Long the Window There Is Always a Last Minute Scramble

The transfer window is open for two months in the summer and another month in the winter.  One assumes that clubs are allowed to draw up their shopping lists well in advance of the window opening and so can clearly can hit the ground running.  In fact, West Ham always seem to complete some encouraging early business but then lose momentum.  As the days pass there is growing tension and panic leading up to deadline day where a high proportion of the workforce stop work to follow supposed sightings of players at airports, hotels and training grounds.  We are told not to go to bed else something that we have some control over happens before the morning when that window will have slammed shut.  There could be a good case for having the winter window open for one day only.

West Ham v Chelsea – Monday 15 August

A look forward to Monday night’s opener against Chelsea.

Last season the fixtures computer gave us one of the hardest possible opening fixtures, away at Arsenal. We rose to the challenge with a 2-0 victory, so the computer decided that we could comfortably cope with a tough away game, and gave us another one this year at Chelsea. Despite their poor showing last season they should not be underestimated – the bookmakers make them third favourites to regain the title (remember they were champions the season before last) behind the two Manchester clubs.

andy carroll versus chelseaOf course we beat them last season at Upton Park with a goal from Zarate and a superb winning header from Carroll. But perhaps the game is best remembered for Mourinho being sent off, and the pictures in the following morning papers as he cut a sad figure watching the game from the back of the directors’ box. We were also mightily unlucky in the return fixture at Stamford Bridge when we were robbed, as so frequently happened in the latter stages of the season, by the incompetence of the officials (in this case Mr. Madley). Chelsea’s two goals which earned them a draw were dubious to say the least. For the first the referee made our wall retreat twelve yards allowing Fabregas to score more easily from a free kick, and for the second he gave a penalty when Loftus-Cheek tripped himself up just outside our penalty area. Two scandalous decisions but it is all water under the Bridge now.

I can remember three occasions when we have played Chelsea in the opening league fixture. The first was in our cup winning season of 1963-64 when we drew 0-0 away. I was nine years old at the time and on holiday with my parents and sister in a caravan at the Martello Camp in Walton on the Naze. I didn’t find out the result until the next morning when my dad bought the Sunday paper.

Moore, Hurst and PetersAlmost 50 years ago to the day I was at Upton Park for the first game of the 1966-67 season just three weeks after England had won the World Cup. Moore, Hurst and Peters ran on to the pitch alone before the start of the game to receive the acclaim of the West Ham crowd of over 36,000. Unfortunately, despite a goal from Budgie Byrne, we lost that opening game 2-1.

Recently I have been re-reading Robert Banks’ excellent trilogy of books, An Irrational Hatred of Luton, West Ham Till I Die, and The Legacy of Barry Green. In the third book he recounts the first fixture of the 2000-2001 season when we lost 4-2 at Stamford Bridge, with our goals coming from Di Canio and Kanoute. The part I particularly remember is him describing the hot day, a large number in the crowd removing their shirts to resemble the beach at Blackpool, but saying that the donkeys were on the pitch. I seem to recall he was quite scathing about our performance.

There may well have been other first day games against Chelsea but these are the only three that I remember. So what will happen this time? They have a new manager, one of a dozen or more top flight bosses who were not Premier League managers on the opening day of last season. A former Italian international footballer and manager, he has impeccable club footballing management credentials having led Juventus to three consecutive titles from 2011-2014.

Perhaps 2-2 to match the result at Stamford Bridge last season? That would be a good result, although I have a feeling that we might just lose to the odd goal in three. I hope that I’m wrong.

Most Premier League teams play high profile friendly matches before the start of the league season and Chelsea are no exception. In some ways the results are meaningless as players are getting match fit before the real season gets underway. Nevertheless in the last fortnight or so they have lost narrowly to Real Madrid (as we did against Juventus), but they have also recorded impressive victories over Liverpool, AC Milan, and Werder Bremen.

It is a tough opening. Who knows if it is a good or bad time to be playing such a difficult fixture? I hope for a win of course as I always do, realistically I will be pleased if we draw the game, but I won’t be too disheartened if the result does go against us if we put up a decent performance. Perhaps 2-2 to match the result at Stamford Bridge last season? That would be a good result, although I have a feeling that we might just lose to the odd goal in three. I hope that I’m wrong.

A draw would be a good result there. Remember our “19th Century Football 0-0 draw” there in 2013-4 that annoyed Mr. Mourinho so much. It gave us the impetus to go on and win the next four consecutive games. And what are the chances of us repeating the result at Stamford Bridge of just over 30 years ago in March 1986? For those of you too young to remember Tony Cottee scored twice, Frank McAvennie and Alan Devonshire scored one apiece, as we thrashed them 4-0 on our way to our highest ever (third place) finish in the top division.