I’ve just opened my Golden Goals ticket for the time of West Ham’s first goal. I’ve got October, so could be in with a very good chance of winning.
These are strange times at the club with the Hammers sitting rock bottom of the fledgling table with ‘nul points’ from three games played. It is not unheard of to see clubs in the lower leagues with points deductions for some financial irregularity or the other. But these deductions are rarely self-imposed by the clubs themselves, as it is in our case. A failure to act quickly in strengthening the squad and then refusing to play those we have brought in has saddled us with a unwanted nine point penalty.
As there is so much nonsense written during the transfer window it’s not easy to get to the bottom of exactly what has been going on. Slowly but surely, sizeable amounts of money is being spent, but why it it such a long drawn-out process with West Ham. And why do do many supposed deals simply fizzle out? Sure, it would be foolish to simply pay the asking price as the window would end with the club getting far less for their money, at a time when the squad is painfully thin. But that shouldn’t mean that negotiations get interminably bogged down haggling for the greatest deal. Thankfully, it will all be over this week.
If the Lucas Paquetta transfer goes through as anticipated it would represent an eighth summer signing for the club. And with chatter of even more to come. In terms of numbers, it is largely in line with what many fans were calling for. Our recruits look to be mainly mid-career signings rather than the unearthing of young, unknown talent that might have been anticipated with the guidance of Rob Newman. Perhaps our scouting network is still too flimsy for that to happen. Big money signings have an uneven track record at West Ham but the balance between proven ability and future potential is a tricky one to negotiate.
With more options to choose from, we must wait to see how (and at what speed) David Moyes goes about implementing the transition. It is often said that introducing more that three of four new players into a team at one time is fraught with difficulties, especially where organisation is one of your major strengths. But the Hammers current indifferent form stretches way back into the final three or four months of last season as well as the start of this one. Bringing in replacements would hardly be upsetting a finely tuned machine. While Thilo Kehrer was given an entire game due to a centre back shortage, only 85 minutes for Gianluca Scamacca, 22 for Maxwell Cornet, and 1 for Flynn Downes, in a run of three defeats, is a puzzling outcome.
Today’s game at Villa Park is the latest opportunity to get much needed points on the board. The Hammers face an Aston Villa side who have also failed to impress in their early matches – maybe because I had tipped them to have a good season. After this game, West Ham face London rivals Tottenham and Chelsea in quick succession and the prospect of played six/ no points must have occurred to most supporters. If ever, there was a time for a performance, it is today.
Moyes will have plenty of credit in the bank after two top seven finishes and two European campaigns, but that won’t make him bullet proof if the ‘Relegation’ word starts getting mentioned repeatedly. Remember Claudio Ranieri was sacked by Leicester less than a year after winning the Premier League title. Moyes will be safe up until the World Cup whatever happens. Hopefully a Paquetta inspired side will be marauding into the upper reaches of the league by then!
It will be hugely disappointing if significant changes are not made for today’s game. A massive dose of energy and fluidity must be injected into the side and the playing style has to far less predictable than it has become. Relying solely on counter attacks and set pieces has to be eliminated. And Declan Rice cannot be the single conduit through midfield.
None of the following players merit a starting berth today based on recent and current form: Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Creswell, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals and Manuel Lanzini. Is it also time for Alphonse Areola to be handed the keeper’s jersey? For me, Scamacca, Cornet and Emerson Palmieri must be guaranteed starters today. And Ben Johnson is a far superior option at right back than Coufal.
Villa have their own problems with Stevie G struggling as much as FLJ to impress from the managers seat. The hosts record in the final months of last of last season and into this is as indifferent as the visitors. Does that indicate a share of the spoils in a tame draw? In theory, the Villains have enough firepower in Ings and Watkins to test an unsettled Hammer’s defence, but it is the running of players such as Ramsay and Bailey that often cause our defence to be exposed.
It has the feel of one of those games that will be decided by mistakes rather than inspiration. Both defences are as shaky as a three legged chair and Moyes must make his selection to exploit that weakness in the opposition. More of the timid, one-paced, unambitious approach of previous games won’t work and has to be replaced with energy, width and movement. With a few isolated exceptions it has been many months since the Hammers demonstrated sparkle and swagger out on the pitch. It’s return is eagerly awaited. And today would be the perfect time. COYI!