5 Things We Learned From Matchweek 1

The topics and talking points that created an impression this week.

Five Things EPLThe Fixtures Computer can still produce underwhelming results.

With all the money, glamour and razzmatazz that surrounds the newly re-branded Premier League, the fixtures computer still managed to contrive a good few uninspiring pairings for the opening day; particularly for the Saturday afternoon slot whose temptation included Middlesboro v Stoke, Burnley v Swansea and Palace v Albion. Only the die-hard neutral could take any interest in what is quite typical Saturday 3pm fare in the TV era. In the end I settled for the lesser of many evils and watched Everton against Spurs in the hope of an Everton rout. In the event of Europa League group stage qualification, Saturday games will be a stranger to West Ham this season and it’s going to be a toss up between watching the games or going on a paint drying course.

Mistakes by the ‘Elite’ Referees continue to influence the outcome of games.

It didn’t take long for Mike Dean to clock up the first big refereeing mistake of the season when he awarded Leicester a penalty an the chance to draw level in the early kick off at Hull. With Hull holding a slender half time lead Tom Huddlestone tackled Demarai Gray just outside the area and Dean inexplicably awarded a penalty – video referee anyone? Leicester appeared to get the ‘rub of green’ last season from officials and maybe they are benefiting from big club favouritism. I also noticed a couple of blatant dives by Manchester United players that went unpunished at the weekend – and no, Jim Beglin, expected that you might be tackled does not justify diving to the ground. And then of course there was Diego Costa…..

TV commentators still mainly talk “b*ll*cks”.

I don’t know what I was hoping for. Possibly that they had a commentators team building offsite during the close season and decided that their “mission statement” wasn’t to hear the sound of their own voice. A return to Kenneth Wolstenholme’s laconic and frugal commentary style and ditching the co-commentator would suit me just fine. We are there to watch the game in front of us not to be impressed by your knowledge of statistics or where players went for their holidays. Today’s commentary team seem to select a theme or their potential man of the match ‘early doors’ and no amount of contradictory evidence is ever going to change their minds.

We are going to have to endure a season long Zlatan-mania.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has had a great career, is a personality and a wonderful entertainer. Whether he can contribute during a full Premier League season (do United have to play away at Stoke on a wet Tuesday night in February?) remains to be seen. He seems like a Meadowlark Lemon/ Harlem Globetrotter type of signing to me; more about image and marketing than on-field ability. Nevertheless he featured in the Sunday game at Bournemouth where he produced one flick-on for Rooney before unleashing a mishit goal scoring shot which was subsequently converted into a ‘wonder strike’ by the close-to-orgasm commentary team. If Zlatan lasts the pace we could get mightily annoyed by the hype.

Does Eric Lamela wear eye make-up on the pitch?

Eric Lamela is a much more expensive version of our own “jewel” Manuel Lanzini. Lamela was purchased at huge expense at a time when the cash from Gareth Bale’s transfer was blocking the corridor outside Daniel Levy’s office at White Hart Lane. After a couple of indifferent seasons Lamela is look to be worth at least half his transfer fee and at the weekend popped up with a headed equaliser at Everton. The big question for me was that it looked like he had applied new-romantic style eye liner before the match. I know that modern day footballers can be rather effete compared to their predecessors but there is a line surely; the rot set in when Keith Weller pulled on a pair of white tights.

Chelsea 2:1 West Ham

Pouring through the debris of the season opener. A blunt attack, lack of ambition and more weak refereeing.

Costa ThuggeryWhen we elect a government to run the country we have accept that they will make decisions on our behalf. We can of course voice our disapproval but we have to wait until the next election before we can influence any changes (unless of course there is a referendum on a particular matter!). Football managers are not elected by supporters but I have a feeling that when Big Sam’s contract was not renewed, if there had been an election at the time then Slaven Bilic would have had a large majority. And in his first term of office he guided us to a very respectable seventh place in the Premier League, narrowly missing out on (some would say we were robbed of) a place in the Champions League, with a style of football that the majority approved of.

So we move into the second season and get through comfortably into the play-off round of the Europa League and then have to visit Stamford Bridge for the opening league game. I looked at Twitter about an hour before the kick off to see the players that had been selected, and was horrified to read the meltdown taking place by various individuals and West Ham groups before a ball had been kicked. The language was about as bad as it can get, the main attacks being on the manager’s team selection. Apart from all the words used to describe Bilic personally, the emphasis was on Antonio being picked at right back, Ogbonna being left out, the selection of Reid, Valencia (another subjected to vicious personal attacks), and Payet being left on the bench. Almost unanimously there was a call for Byram, Ogbonna and Payet to start and Antonio to play instead of Valencia in attack.

“It was therefore a complete surprise against the run of play when Collins scored with a superb shot, only his ninth career goal, but his fourth against Chelsea!”

Our supporters at the game were singing the Super Slaven Bilic song after about a quarter of an hour so were they taking an alternative view to the tweeters? We started promisingly for about ten minutes and then Chelsea gradually began to take over. Ayew had not really got into the game when he was injured on the half hour and Tore came on to replace him. Our defence were quite comfortable in the first half but we were unable to achieve anything in an attacking sense.

It all changed 50 seconds into the second half when Antonio got caught out of position and gave away a penalty. He was substituted, and the tweeters were happy that the point they had been making about Bilic’s insistence to play him at right back had been proved. Byram provided better cover from a defensive viewpoint. Although I am not a fan of most statistics in games, the Sky caption on 70 minutes that revealed shots on goal to be 14-1 in Chelsea’s favour was very telling.

It was therefore a complete surprise against the run of play when Collins scored with a superb shot, only his ninth career goal, but his fourth against Chelsea! Ah, that’s why he was picked! It was our first shot on target and came after 77 minutes. It would have been a most undeserved draw, and West Ham managed to do what they often do, conceding an 89 th minute goal. But Costa should not have been on the pitch when he netted the winner. He had already been booked when he raked his studs down Adrian’s leg, and should have perhaps had a straight red for that alone.

I take no pleasure in predicting a 2-1 defeat prior to the game. In truth I was expecting both sides to be better than they were. From a defensive viewpoint, when Byram was introduced we looked sound, although the distribution when we had the ball at the back was often poor.

“Let’s hope we learn some lessons from this match and put on a decent performance in Romania on Thursday.”

Only Kouyate of the midfield trio had a decent game in my opinion, but up front we were totally lacking in ideas. Carroll and Valencia didn’t have particularly good games although they were poorly served, and Tore looked like he was a complete stranger to the game.

What a disappointing opening! I had a quick look at Twitter before retiring to bed. It was once more in meltdown. The “told you so” brigade were once again in full force using the foulest language imaginable, hiding behind the anonymity provided by the internet. Yes, it was a poor performance. Yes, even the manager, with the benefit of hindsight, might have selected a different team.

This is my 59th season of supporting the team. This is what West Ham are all about. You never know what you are going to get from one game to the next. Let’s hope we learn some lessons from this match and put on a decent performance in Romania on Thursday.

I Wouldn’t Bet On It (3)

The final weekend flutter with a cheeky bet on tonight’s match.

BookmakerI stick to a number of personal rules when I am betting.

  1. Only do it for fun; don’t get too serious.
  2. Bet with small stakes only, never more than you can afford to lose – it doesn’t then matter if you do lose.
  3. If you are on a losing run don’t chase your losses and try to get them back too quickly. Just like Mo Farah being tripped and going to ground in the Olympic 10,000 metres final. He didn’t rush to get back on terms quickly, he came back gradually.

On Sunday (14 Aug) there was one successful bet:

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

But I had good fun with the draw bet on the Arsenal v Liverpool game and was interested right to the end as Arsenal came back into the game after being 4-1 down.

The balance in points is now 92.1.

For the Chelsea v West Ham game I’ll do a different fun bet:

1 point on there to be exactly 3 goals in the match at 3/1 (4.0)

By placing this bet the balance is now reduced to 91.1.

The figure in brackets is the potential return from a 1 point stake.

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.)