Rock, Paper, Hammer, Toffee: It’s Trial By Combat At The London Stadium

The indefinite force meets the incapable object in today’s battle of the fast-falling, crisis torn clubs. And it’s a last-chance throw of the managerial dice for Moyes and Lampard

I’m not a betting man but after last weekend’s results I would have put money on neither of today’s managers surviving for another seven days. Change felt inevitable as the mood with supporters reached an all-time low. The respective Board’s, however, had other ideas and opted to stick rather than twist.

Perhaps it was the looming cliff-edge drama and jeopardy of today’s death-match encounter that was difficult to resist. A gladiatorial struggle of titanic proportions at the London Coliseum where, as the final whistle blew, all attention would switch to the Chairmen in the stands to deliver their thumbs-up or thumbs-down verdicts. Maybe both will end up being thrown to the lions – but whether even Millwall would be interested is another matter!

I’ve long believed there are many similarities in the malaise that infects West Ham and Everton as they struggle to emerge from the shadows of more illustrious neighbours. Each with a strong and committed fanbase who have repeatedly been let down through the hubris of successive owners unable to come to terms with the reality of their situations. Preferring to believe that big city stardust empowers them to throw money at ostentatious signings rather than do the hard-work of building extensive scouting networks. Signing established second-rate players with fancy Youtube reels (and fancy agents) – who don’t interest the bigger clubs – in preference to unearthing emerging young talent before they become known. The idea of performing detailed analytical research and fishing in less known waters is considered necessary only fit for low-budget clubs such as Brighton and Brentford.

No surprise that Everton and West Ham lead the rankings for the most Premier League defeats ever. The Toffees have the edge for now with 424 to the Hammer’s 420 – although the West Ham total has been achieved in four fewer seasons.

We can only speculate how the conversation might have gone in the midweek board meeting at West Ham where the final decision was to do nothing, other than open another packet of hobnobs. Their logic, it seems, being that a manager who has been on a downward spiral for well over a year, who has picked up just one point from the last twenty-one available, who either bought disastrously or has been unable to incorporate expensive players into his game-plan, should be given one last chance – against the only team in the division that is equally incompetent – to prove he still has what it takes to turn things around. It makes absolutely no sense.

There was one report in the week that the Board didn’t want a change of manager to take the limelight away from the planned tribute to David Gold which will take place before kick-off today – it’s what he would have wanted. If true, it takes bizarre decision making to a completely different level.


Yesterday’s signing of Danny Ings was completed with uncharacteristic speed by West Ham. These things generally take weeks of posturing, dithering and negotiation. I suppose it reflects that someone, somewhere is starting to act with a sense of urgency. It raises questions again as to who is making the recruitment decisions at the London Stadium these days. My guess is that Sullivan in cahoots with Mark Noble are now calling the shots.

Ings has a decent Premier League goalscoring record having rattled home 68 goals in 188 appearances – or the equivalent of 141 lots of 90 minutes if you allow for substitution time. Surprisingly he has never scored or been on the winning side against West Ham (in thirteen attempts) but has scored more goals against Everton than against any other opponent. For lovers of symmetry, his 68 goals put him 68th in the rankings of all-time Premier League scorers.

How high up those ranking he is allowed to progress – can he join the one hundred club – will depend on how he is utilised. Stick him up top all on his own without support and he can do no better than those who have came before. He is an intelligent footballer and needs others to play off and to combine with. The well-worn, old-hat, outdated 4-2-3-1 as deployed by Moyes encourages none of that. Attempting to second guess the manager’s team selection leaves most supporters scratching their heads and I’m not expecting any revolutionary change of approach. It is by no means certain whether Moyes will abandon the habit of a lifetime and start with Ings, or leave him on the bench until we are a goal down?

One player who does have a record of scoring against the Hammers (three in five and no defeats) is Neil Maupay. His goal separated the two teams in the return fixture back in September and that remains his only strike of the season to date. Will he get he nod today or will Lampard pin his hopes on the aerial threat of Calvert-Lewin?


With the imminent departure of Craig Dawson, West Ham look alarmingly short of numbers at the back should Kurt Zouma and Nayef Aguerd continue to be plagued by injuries. It will be useful to have Zouma back in action today to finally get the preferred partnership with Aguerd finally up and running. Aguerd looks an accomplished defender but needs someone more dominant aerially alongside him.

With all that is at stake the game it does not promise to be a classic, free-flowing exhibition of the beautiful game. Whoever scores the first goal – if there are to be any – will no doubt shut up shop and look to choke the game with petty fouls and endless pretend head injuries. Neither side is over-burdened with creativity suggesting a dour, desperate, niggly affair to be settled by a lucky deflection, defensive howler or reckless red card. Whether the Hammer will ultimately shatter the brittle Toffee, or the Toffee will cause the Hammer to get stuck fast (Thanks, Mike) is impossible to predict. The forecast is an afternoon where endurance triumphs again over enjoyment. COYI!

The two teams at the bottom of the current form league meet when West Ham entertain Everton on Saturday

Just one week ago I sat down to write a preview of our game at Wolves that would bring up the halfway point of the season. The subheading to the piece was that the wrong result might mean that we could be in the bottom three. The inevitable happened, we lost the game 1-0, and we now sit in the relegation zone, with just goal difference stopping us from propping up the league.

A large portion of the article considered a potential change of manager and the reasons behind why this should happen. Nothing has changed and David Moyes is still in charge. A number of articles have been written this week suggesting that the manager needs to win this game against Everton to save his job. I hope we beat Everton as I hope we win every game, but if we do does this mean a reprieve? 

Without a doubt Moyes did a splendid job in the last couple of seasons leading us to European qualification as a result of sixth and seventh place finishes. But this time around it has gone wrong. Is it surprising? There is a theory held by many that a football manager’s life cycle at any club is probably three years. After that it is often time to move on. Think Mourinho, think Conte, think so many managers. Some have lasted longer, think Benitez or Pochettino, but did it get any better after the third year in the job. Even Guardiola had a relatively poor fourth season at Barcelona and then moved after three successful seasons at Bayern. At Manchester City season four was a comedown after winning the league in seasons two and three, but he still continues to be relatively successful and perhaps disproves the theory.

Rebuilding a team on a regular basis is surely the key to bucking the trend. Guardiola has done this to some extent as did the two managers in recent times who built long lasting success at their clubs. Ferguson and Wenger built new teams when they deemed it was necessary. This is surely the only way to succeed.

Perhaps this was Moyes intent with the summer spending spree? But it hasn’t worked has it? The players he has brought in do not appear to be suited to West Ham, do not appear to be suited to Moyes favoured playing style, and do not appear to be suited to the Premier League. Were they his choice? There are many reasons for our disappointing first half of the season but so many of them are surely down to the manager.

Ironically Moyes himself could be said to disprove the three year theory in his time as manager of Everton, consistently achieving top eight finishes, although his fourth year in charge was possibly the low point. Somehow he turned it around. Can he do the same at West Ham? Bookmakers’ odds on the next manager to leave suggest that he won’t be given the chance. We shall see.

In last week’s article I highlighted the eight teams at the foot of the table at present as the ones involved in the relegation fight whilst stressing that some could escape and others could be drawn in. Of the eight, three won last weekend and five were beaten. The points for the bottom eight now reads:

Forest 20, Leicester 17, Leeds 17, Wolves 17, Bournemouth 16, West Ham 15, Everton 15, Southampton 15. 

Forest in particular are on the up whilst just two points separate the bottom seven. The form table for the last six games:

Forest 11, Wolves 7, Leicester 6, Leeds 5, Bournemouth 3, Southampton 3, West Ham 1, Everton 1. 

That makes desperate reading for the two teams meeting at the London Stadium on Saturday. I wonder if both, one, or neither of the two managers will be in charge of their team in the game after this one? At the time of writing they head the betting in respect of next managers to leave with Moyes 11/10 favourite and Lampard 5/2, with Marsch next at 12/1.

Current relegation odds make interesting reading:

Bournemouth 1/3, Everton 8/11, Southampton Evens, Wolves 11/4, Forest 11/4, Leicester 7/2, Leeds 4/1, West Ham 5/1.

Bookmakers fancy seven other teams as more likely relegation candidates than West Ham. Are they right? If they are then we are likely to finish 13th. We shall see.

This is a game that will undoubtedly be described as must win. But the points spread of the bottom 7 means that it is probably not the case. Nevertheless 3 points will be more than welcome.  Will we get them? Will Everton? Will the points be shared?

As I finish this article on Thursday evening I still await confirmation that we are signing Danny Ings. Without doubt he is a proven goalscorer although I note that many of our fans on social media describe this as a desperation signing. He is not exactly in the signings category promised to us but forgive me if I am wrong, these are desperate times. He obviously likes playing in claret and blue having previously played for Burnley and Villa. I just hope he is given the service, because if he is he will score goals. It was interesting to note that our odds on being relegated, and Moyes odds to be next Premier Manager to leave both lengthened on the news.

A Shot In The Dark: West Ham Travel To Wolverhampton For The Six-Pointer Goal-Shy Derby

A mighty six-pointer battle beckons at Molineux between two teams struggling to create and convert goalscoring opportunities. Who will take the three points and who will end up bottom three?

Another week, another game, and the prospect of another ninety minutes where David Moyes deploys exactly the same tactics in the hope of a different outcome. Yet again, we are faced with the familiar conflict of wanting West Ham to do well but recognising how hopeless the cause is without a change of manager.

A record of one point from a possible eighteen doesn’t lie. Previewing a match is becoming increasingly difficult when nothing ever changes. It is like being assigned to produce a weekly update on the fortunes of Sisyphus who in Greek mythology was consigned to roll a huge boulder up a hill for eternity.

Everything that is wrong with the current setup on the pitch has already been said over and over again. But for the sake of using up some column inches, let’s have a recap. The squad has been allowed to become too old. And it contains a serious lack of pace throughout. The over-riding game plan is not to lose – except against top teams when it is not to lose by too many. The keeper is among the worst with his feet in the league – yet the hurried pass back is one of our top-rated moves. The centre-backs most often look uncomfortable with the ball at their feet. The full-backs lack Premier League quality – and, in any case, are deployed far too narrow. There is nobody in the squad capable of playing the wing-back role effectively. Any attempt to press has been abandoned in favour of a ridiculously low block. There are never enough players in front of the ball to launch incisive counter-attacks. Movement off the ball is terrible and contributes significantly to poor passing success and ball retention. Players rarely take the ball in their stride or play on their toes . Imagination and creativity is missing in the final third. Wide attacking players are given too much defensive responsibility. The lone striker ends up isolated and gets drawn too deep or too wide, through a lack of support. Throw-ins are an invitation to return the ball immediately to the opposition. Corners either fail to beat the first defender or are floated into the keeper’s arms. There may be more. Other than that, we are in great shape.

There are many things in life that defy explanation – the ability of electrical wires and coat hangers to tangle themselves up, the reason your fingers get wrinkled in the bath, the surprising popularity of LInkedIn – but the owner’s belief that Moyes is the man to turn the season around trumps them all. The current trajectory leads to just one destination – the Championship!

Relegation can be in no-one’s interest. The only reasons to own a football club are for prestige and asset value. Both would take a battering by demotion to the second tier. The indecision over Avram Grant still rankles as one of the worst episodes of recent West Ham history. But the Board had terminated the services of both Slaven Bilic and Manuel Pellegrini by this stage of their final seasons – Bilic after eleven games in November 2017, Pellegrini after nineteen games in December 2019. Act NOW please, or we will never escape this hole!


Such indecision was not on show at today’s opponents, Wolverhampton Wanderers, where a managerial change was made prior to the World Cup break – eminently sensible timing for any struggling club.

The Wolves owners, who I believe are Chinese, have a strange obsession with the Iberian peninsular when it comes to player and manager recruitment. In the apparent absence of any available Portuguese managers, they were forced to turn their attention on this occasion to Spain when appointing Julen Lopetegui who had recently been sacked by Sevilla.

Another unusual aspect of the appointment is that in Lopetegui and Nuno Espírito Santo before him, they have now employed two former goalkeepers as manager. That is quite a rarity with the only other ex-keepers I can think of who have managed at the top level in England being Mike Walker and Nigel Adkins. Keepers area rather like drummers in rock bands. You obviously need to have one, but they are far too crazy and unpredictable to make any wider contribution.


Performances this season suggest today will not be a high scoring encounter. Wolves have scored just five times at home in the league, West Ham have managed just six away. The overall comparison of this season’s scoring and shooting stats (West Ham first) show: Goals (15 v 11); Shots (240 v 202); Shots on Target (62 v 56); Shots on Target % (25.8 v 27.7). West Ham have had the sixth highest number of shots in the league but have the worst on target percentage of anyone. A reflection of laboured ineffective build-ups that end with speculative long shots.

Some have seen signs of improvement in the past few games, but I have yet to be convinced. Those with a glass half full, might already be talking about being unbeaten in two. Although any 3rd round cup win is welcome, would it have ended that way if Frank hadn’t taken the unfathomable decision to rest so many key players.

I didn’t see Wolves cup tie at Liverpool where they are said to have played very well and would have won had it not been for VAR. I did catch them against Manchester United and it was apparent that they still lacked a cutting edge. No more obliging opponent than the Hammers for them to sharpen that on.

What to expect today? I’ve no idea, and really don’t know what to hope for so the current madness can be brought to a rapid conclusion. How about an unimagined 3-3 draw? COYI! 

East London Football Club Seeks Winning Formula: Will Swap For A Claret Ribbon

West Ham’s desperate search for a win continues as they travel to Brentford in the FA Cup. Will we get an inspiring fight to the finish or a typical tame surrender?

I just entered ‘Road To Wembley’ into my new AI powered SAT-Nav software and was directed to “take the 3rd round exit at Brentford.” You can’t argue with the algorithm!

If I interpreted David Moyes press conference wisdom correctly, he stated that, as a manager, success in the Premier League is the most important thing, but that a good cup run is equally important. I’m glad he cleared that up. The pressure of the alleged three match ultimatum must clearly be getting to him.

Whatever happens today, it is unlikely to have much bearing on Moyes’ future. Winning will be meaningless if the crucial games against Wolves and Everton both end in defeat. In the same way, losing today will not harm his prospect of he follows it up with two wins. We can only speculate on what the owners would view as an acceptable return from those two games. Four points at least I would imagine.

We should be encouraged that Moyes is now talking about trying to find a winning formula. After all, its only a year since it was lost. How far away from achieving it is a matter of opinion. There did seem to be a greater sense of spirit and purpose in the performance at Leeds but much more needs to be done. Clearly the return of Kurt Zouma and Nayef Aguerd at the back will help enormously, but it will not solve the full-back conundrum. And if the manager needs Gianluca Scamacca to get into the box more, he needs to set up for better service and support.

Moyes has also recently changed his tune on the likelihood of January signings – having previously said the cupboard was bare. The decision may well have been taken out of his hands in the light of his precarious position and the less than spectacular impact of the summer arrivals. The club has painted itself into a corner. Replacing a manager with just a few days remaining in the window would be far from ideal timing.


Moyes’ FA Cup record in his two spells at West Ham has been as indifferent as those that went before him. A 4th round defeat away at Wigan (League 1), a 4th round loss at home to West Bromwich Albion (Championship) and exits away to Premier League rivals Manchester United and Southampton, both in 5th round ties.

In the years since the 1980 FA Cup final victory against Arsenal, West Ham have been knocked out of the competition at the following stages: 3rd round (12 times), 4th round (12), 5th round (8), 6th round (8), semi-final (1) and final (1). In the last ten seasons they have only made it as far as the 6th round once, in 2016. Will we ever see the claret ribbon fluttering on the famous trophy again?

This season’s third round opponents are Brentford who will be looking for a fourth straight win against the visitors. In the previous three games West Ham were overcome by the aggressive pressing and powerful running employed by the Bees. A different attitude and approach will be needed today if a different outcome is to be secured. The best hope of victory may be to rely on the ancient unwritten rule that a team that has just beaten you in the league will lose in the return cup tie a few weeks later.

West Ham and Brentford have met just once before in the FA Cup – a 4th round tie in 1927. Third Division Brentford held First Division West Ham to a 1-1 draw at Upton Park and the two teams met again four days later at Griffin Park. Despite having four England stars in the line-up – Vic Watson, Jimmy Ruffell, Ted Hufton, and Stan Earle – the Hammers were soundly beaten 2-0 by their lively opponents. Syd King Out!

For the older generation the excitement of the 3rd round cup was as much part of the new year landscape as frozen points at Upminster. It was a time to varnish the rattle, re-align the badges on your bobble hat, and order a brand-new jar of Bovril. Now the competition only comes alive in the later rounds, when the metaphorical twin towers are in close touching distance.

Moyes’ pre-match comments suggest he will be rotating his squad for today’s game. it is understandable that he will not want to risk further injuries with key games coming up. But if he really is trying to rediscover that elusive winning formula, he needs to be doing it with his first-string players. His stock is already close to flatlining with supporters and a half-hearted approach today will not be tolerated.

Maybe just as important to how the match unfolds is the approach Thomas Frank takes to the game. The Bees are currently buzzing. Will he want to give certain players a rest or will he leave things alone to build on the momentum of wins against Manchester City, West Ham, and Liverpool.  

It is always difficult to call these games without knowing how much importance the coaches attach to the FA Cup. What is certain is that another low intensity, passive performance by West Ham will be routinely punished by the hosts. The only way to get a positive result will be to match Brentford physically. Will we be up to it and up for it? COYI!

Time To End The Creeping Paralysis That Sees A Wretched West Ham Sleepwalking To Disaster

They dillied they dallied, they dallied and they dillied, lost the plot and don’t know who to phone. There’s increasing despair as the West Ham Boardroom doubles down on the manager’s dithering.

Cast your mind back to the middle of January last year. West Ham were fourth in the league, had just breezed past Leeds in the FA Cup and were now hosting the Yorkshire side again in a Premier League fixture at the London Stadium. The injury ravaged visitors outran, outfought and outthought a complacent Hammers side to record a famous victory. It was a win which turned out to be the last for Bielsa as manager of Leeds. He was sacked the following month at the end of a run that earned just one point from the next six games.

But the rot had also set in for West Ham. Their style had become predictable and one-dimensional. Everyone knew how they would play and took steps to counter it. The opportunity to freshen up and strengthen key positions in the transfer window was overlooked. David Moyes only had eyes for the lovesick pursuit of Jesse Lingard – yearning to recreate the magic of twelve months earlier.

The season ended with a whimper. The desperately small squad of players was run into the ground. A meagre haul of five wins and nineteen points from the remaining sixteen games plus a disappointing semi-final exit in the Europa League was deflating. By the end, topped of with a lame surrender in Brighton, the spirit that had been built over the previous two seasons lay in tatters.

While we cannot complain about the size of the transfer spend in the summer it was completed so late in the day and without any apparent plan or pattern to the recruitment. The promised new philosophy of pursuing an RB Leipzig style model of signing emerging unknown talent did not materialise. Instead, we got a mixed bag of big-money exotic names, not on the radar of the ‘bigger’ clubs, plus a handful of squad fillers. It hadn’t worked for Pellegrini, so let’s try it again!

Since the season started we’ve seen no attempt by Moyes to change his approach or try anything new. Talk of a more possession based style of play has never been followed up on the pitch in any meaningful way. Passing is wayward, movement is lacking, and options are few. Quick, flowing passing moves are a thing of the past.

Caution remains the Moyes’ watchword and as the goals have dried up the team have retreated further into their shell. Some say that it is down to fitness, but I am not convinced by that argument – Declan Rice commented in the summer as to how brutal training is under Moyes. To me, the decline in running stats is the result of abandoning any pretence at pressing in favour of the lowest of low blocks. It is the new normal to have all but one or two players regularly operating behind the ball. Opportunities for transition are lost and possession is invariably given away.

Throw in the critical lack of pace and creativity and the Hammers have become a blunt force in attack.  Possibly the slowest team in the Premier League, the ability to effectively counter-attack is no longer a threat. Without any truly creative players, attacks default to ludicrously slow build-ups that end up with hopeful crosses floated into the keeper’s arms. When your greatest goal threat is Craig Dawson from a corner, you know you are in trouble.

Expecting Moyes to repair the current slide by doing more of the same is delusional. It is staggering that the owners didn’t see that. Using the World Cup to make a clean break would have been perfect. Loyalty can be admirable, but it only makes sense if there were clear and obvious signs of improvement. In the real world, performances have been getting progressively worse for almost a year now. The squad needs surgery in the transfer window – how much longer can we play without a competent left-back – and Moyes cannot be trusted with supervising that. The answer to our problems really isn’t to sign Michal Keane.

It can only be a matter of time before Moyes gets his marching orders. The longer it’s left and the more desperate the situation becomes, the more chance that the owners will be forced into a short-term fix. Another firefighter parachuted in to preserve Premier League status rather than a new broom who can move the club forward. So far the names banded about range from those likely to be wanting bigger gigs – Tuchel, Pochettino, Enrique – to the ever-presents on the familiar managerial merry-go-round – Benitez, Dyche, Hassenhurtl, Bielsa. Surely there must also be other younger, more progressive coaches out there waiting to be discovered.

To complicate matters further West Ham will now almost certainly be competing with other clubs in the search for a new manager. By the time you read this Lampard at Everton and Rodgers at Leicester may already be queuing to pick up their P45s. Dithering in the boardroom could prove to be very costly.

I have already unconsciously written off today’s visit to Leeds as a lost cause. Making it a sixth league defeat in a row with West Ham firmly entrenched in the bottom three by the end of the day. While the hosts may still display the same laissez faire approach to defending as they did under Bielsa, it is doubtful whether the Hammers have the firepower or sense of adventure to expose and exploit it. In attack, Leeds have explosive pace which will thoroughly test the ancient limbs and leaden feet of the West Ham defence. The one positive note is that Nayef Aguerd may finally make his first Premier League start in tonight’s game.

My guess is that Moyes will revert to a back four tonight with Dawson partnering Aguerd in the continued absence of Kurt Zouma. Moyes will have seen his change of shape against Brentford as a failed audacious experiment and revert to his familiar Moyes 4-2-3-1. No-one is going will be shocked by a Tomas Soucek recall and to see one of Gianluca Scamacca or Michail Antonio isolated up front. This may all sound disillusioned, but that’s where we are.

I’m not going to predict an outcome for the game. Sadly, it is probably in the best interests of the club if we actually  lose this game to trigger the inevitable. No-one can survive six defeats in a row. Or can they? COYI!

West Ham Play Host Brentford: Will David Moyes Finally Reveal A Plan Bee?

Episode 2 of David Moyes Turns The Season Around sees an increasingly sluggish West Ham attempt to resist the boisterous Bees of Brentford

Today’s football news has been dominated by the sad passing of Pele, one of the greatest players and ambassadors to have ever graced the beautiful game. It is futile to compare players across generations where the game has changed so much, but he was right up there with the finest – the very best in the eyes of some. His was a different era – one of robust shuddering tackles, hefty laced-up footballs, ploughed field playing surfaces – and Brylcreem. May he rest in peace!

The Christmas period also saw the demise of yet another of England’s 1966 World Cup heroes with the farewell of George Cohen. It was interesting to read some of the comments in his obituary where he shared the advice received from his first ever manager at Fulham in 1957. It included several gems that are particularly pertinent in the context of the stodgy fare currently being served up at West Ham: “Football is a game of movement, it’s about width and depth”; “… he taught me how to run on to balls, keeping the game fluid, rather than waiting to receive the ball.” Such ancient wisdom is enough to leave us scratching our heads!

Meanwhile, the David Moyes Doomsday clock has ticked ever closer to midnight following his team’s defeat to Arsenal on Boxing Day. He’s now the cartoon character clinging on to the edge of a sheer cliff as the rocks and dead branches in his grasp fall way one by one. It’s only a matter of time. Even the owners must recognise no attempt has been made to improve or change the style of play, despite the huge investment they have made. It must be obvious they have a manager who, despite the relative success of the past two seasons, is no more than a one hit wonder.

It would be considered madness for any manager to carry on peddling the same tired, predictable style once it has been rumbled by every one of his opponents. The shortcomings have been obvious to supporters for many, many months and even the band of backslapping pundits are finally waking up to it. It may have worked for a while but is now well past its best before date. If there had ever been a master plan to develop a more possession based game, there is no evidence that it has left the drawing board.

Moyes may well highlight the failure of the expensive summer recruits to impress at the London Stadium, but equally there is a huge disconnect between the players signed and the style of football served up. If Lucas Paqueta’s first touch defence splitting through balls are meant to be our salvation, was the less than pacy Gianluca Scamacca the ideal striker to be on the receiving end of them? Even if Moyes is capable of change, he has left it too late.

One of the names routinely touted as a future Moyes replacement, until he signed a new contract, was Thomas Frank, manager of today’s opponents, Brentford.

Frank is unusual in managerial circles in that he did not have a professional career as a player. He has done a tremendous job keeping his low budget team competitive since its promotion to the Premier League. Alongside Brighton, Brentford have demonstrated the type of admirable, far-sighted recruitment strategy that West Ham can only dream of.

Personally, I’m less sure that Frank would the right man for a team like ours – one that theoretically has aspirations to be regularly knocking on the door of European competition. He’s better than what we’ve got but not the long-term answer, for me. Maybe I do him a mis-service and he is more than capable of adapting to circumstances and handling teams with greater resources.

There is a romantic halo effect that surrounds plucky Brentford, especially after their recent heroic win at Manchester City. Yet their reality is an aggressive and muscular outfit which favours aerial dominance, long balls, rapid pressing and set piece mastery. There’s a hint of Stoke City about their physical approach except they are more attack minded than the Potters ever were – spearheaded by the excellent pairing of Toney & Mbeumo up front. I was banking on Toney serving a lengthy ban for his betting misdemeanours by now, but it was not to be.

There’s a real possibility that the Brentford front two will rip the Hammers sluggish rear-guard to pieces with their pace, power, strength and running; and that the West Ham midfield will be overwhelmed by the Bees aggressive pressing. It worked a treat against Tottenham last week until they ran out of steam and had to settle for a share of the points.

Going into the game, West Ham have lost five of their last six league games and badly need to stop the rot. It’s impossible to second guess what the dithering Moyes will do given his reluctance to change what hasn’t worked in the past. Another slow and cautious start to a game could be fatal. I have long advocated a style of 4-3-3 where the front three are closer together, more fluid and not over burdened with defensive duties. The midfield three (e.g, Flynn Downes, Declan Rice and Paqueta) must take on the responsibility for cutting off the supply to the Brentford front-men. Unfortunately, the back four, whatever selections are made in the absence of Kurt Zouma and Nayef Aguerd, will continue to have a rickety makeshift look to it. Is it now also time for Alphonse Areola to come into the side?

As we reach the final match of the season all we can look back at is a very unsatisfactory year in league matches. The record for 2022 to date is P 35, W11, D6, L18, GF 39, GA 46 – earning only 39 points. Slightly ahead of relegation form but on a downward spiral. Away from home the record is particularly disturbing. Just 4 wins, 2 draws, 11 points and 13 goals from 17 games – with 4 of those goals coming in a single game against relegated Norwich City. Depressing stuff all round.

The year started with a win, so can it end with one?  I feel we might end up with a point apiece, allowing the managerial can to be kicked down the road a little further. Prolonging the misery and uncertainty for a week or two more. All I can offer is COYI and wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

The (not quite) Half Term Review for West Ham United

In a normal season around this time of year, Christmas / New Year, we would be at the halfway point of the Premier League campaign. Of course this is not a normal season with interruptions to the fixture list following the death of the Queen and a World Cup played in our winter as opposed to the summer.

As we go into the final fixture of 2022 at home to Brentford we still have three league games to play before the halfway point is reached. Following Brentford we have away games at Leeds (4 Jan), and Wolves (14 Jan), with a third round FA Cup tie at Brentford in between (7 Jan).

In a normal season we would play all the other 19 teams first before embarking upon the reverse fixtures in the second half, but this time around it will not be quite like that, as our 19th fixture at Wolves will be the second time we have faced them. We haven’t yet faced high flying Newcastle as that game was postponed in Matchweek 7.

After 16 Premier League games we have lost 10, winning just 4 and drawing 2. That means we have 14 points and sit in 16th place in the table, just ahead of Everton based on goals scored (we are level on points and goal difference with them). Any team that is averaging a point a game or less is involved in a relegation situation. We are most definitely involved. Although Declan Rice believes the current position is just “a bump in the road.”

Everton are one of just three teams to have scored fewer goals than us. We have 13, Everton 12, Forest 11, and Wolves 10. Conversely our goals conceded record is much better with only Newcastle, Everton, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool having conceded fewer goals than us. That demonstrates where the problem lies. We are not scoring enough goals, especially away from home where we have managed just four and never more than once in any game.

At home we have 10 points from our 8 games with 3 wins by two goal margins, 2-0 v Wolves, 3-1 v Fulham and 2-0 v Bournemouth, and a 1-1 draw v Tottenham. Four home games have been lost conceding two goals in each, 0-2 v Manchester City, 0-2 v Brighton, 1-2 v Palace and 0-2 v Leicester.

Away from home this week’s 1-3 reverse at Arsenal was the first time we have been beaten by more than a single goal, with four 0-1 losses at Forest, Everton, Liverpool and Manchester United and a 1-2 reverse at Chelsea. The four points we have picked up on our travels are from a 1-0 win at Villa and a 1-1 draw at bottom club Southampton.

Current form is woeful with four league defeats in a row (the same as Southampton who have recently sacked their manager); our last win was 2-0 at home to Bournemouth (24 Oct). Said Benrahma is our leading league goalscorer with 3 (2 of which were penalties). In fact he has scored our last three league goals. The last time any other player has scored a goal was when Zouma scored (a controversial?) header just before half time in the win over Bournemouth.

Bowen, Scamacca and Antonio haven’t scored since 9 October when they all scored in the 3-1 win over Fulham. Bowen’s goal was a penalty in that game; he subsequently missed one at Liverpool on 19 October. They have each scored just twice this season.

The 14 points we have amassed from our first 16 games is exactly half of what we had achieved after 16 games last season when we had 28 points from 8 wins, 4 draws and just 4 defeats, and sat in 4th place in the table. This highlights our decline since then with the final 22 games from last term and the first 16 from this one (a full season’s worth of 38 games) producing just 42 points.

The only real positive from this season has been our 8 wins from 8 games in the Europa Conference League. You can only beat what is in front of you but these victories say more about the quality of the opposition in those games than anything else.

The pressure is building on David Moyes as we have lost four games in a row, the ten defeats are equally the most in the top flight, and we are just one point and two places above the bottom three. The next three games to the halfway point of the season are crucial.

  • Can we win all three to move on to 23 points from 19 games and mid-table?
  • If we lose all three and / or fall into the relegation places will David Moyes still be the manager? Or will two top seven finishes in the last two seasons, reaching the Europa Cup semi-final last time, and qualification for the round of 16 in the Europa Conference League this season buy him more time?
  • If he goes, who might replace him?
  • Will we still be in the FA Cup after the third round matches?

The mood on fan groups on the internet certainly seems to have shifted. The numbers calling for the manager to be replaced are growing, and the number of fans supporting him seems to be diminishing rapidly. That will escalate if the current slump does not get turned round quickly.

The list of complaints about him include:

  • losing the dressing room,
  • picking his favourites however poorly they seem to be playing,
  • a lack of tactical ideas,
  • no plan B or C,
  • setting up to not lose or to hold on for a win if we do get in front,
  • making strange substitutions,
  • making substitutions too late,
  • an inferiority complex especially regarding the top teams,
  • giving too much respect to the top teams especially when we are away (he has a poor managerial record against some top clubs never having beaten them away after numerous efforts),
  • turning good players into average ones,
  • buying players not suited to the club, the Premier League or his playing style,
  • opposition teams have now found us out and he has failed to adapt or recognise this,
  • failure to give academy players a chance

Those are just a random selection – there may be more.   

He was well supported in terms of finance in the summer but the newcomers have not (yet?) proved to be a success. Aguerd has been injured (is he injury prone – time will tell?), Paqueta is obviously a good player but does not seem to be suited to playing in the Premier League, Scamacca is Haller mark 2 and not suited to our style of play, Emerson is Masuaku mark 2, Cornet seems to be injury prone, Kehrer seems to make a lot of mistakes for a current German international defender, and Downes looks a good player  but doesn’t get selected.

This evening’s game against Brentford is vital if we are going to start to recover from this disappointing start to the season. We haven’t beaten them for almost 30 years, although we have only played them twice in that time when they did the double over us last season. Despite our recent form, bookmakers still have us as evens favourites to win the game. What are the chances?

The Hammers Are Back: A Breath Of Fresh Air Or A Bad Dose Of Qatarrh?

The road to recovery is meant to start here. To do so the tortoise must beat the hare and David Moyes must shatter his shocking record away to top six sides.

West Ham return to Premier League action today in aspirational ‘turn things around’ mode as they make the short, and historically fruitless, trip across London to face league leaders Arsenal.

The Hammers entered the World Cup break with a bleak run of tame home defeats that saw them lose to Crystal Palace, Leicester, and Blackburn Rovers. Many believed it was a sequence that would see the end of David Moyes, but the board have decided to stick with him, in the hope of a miraculous upturn in fortunes. What fresh ideas they seen in performances to date can only be speculated upon. Yet they seem convinced he is the man to throw off his hard-wired caution and lead a charge back to the European table?

The worry for me is that we are entering a period of uncertainty and paralysis. The manager on life support hoping to survive day-to-day by scraping enough points to stay out of the bottom three and avoiding any embarrassing thrashings. It is a recipe for greater caution, not for a renewed sense of adventure that might get the best out of the expensive new signings.

How the six-week break will impact matters is impossible to tell. Some had the chance to take relaxed winter holidays while others experienced the thrills and heartache of representing their countries in Qatar. How will the World Cup hangover play out – not just for West Ham but for all teams?

Unlike the COVID break in 2020 there will have been no opportunity to work as group on fixing the many things that have been going badly. There was no obvious new approach on show in the recent friendly matches. And you will remember that West Ham lost the first two games when post-COVID matches resumed in June 2020.

The task that faces the Hammers today is a daunting one, regardless of their poor record in this fixture. Arsenal are five points clear at the top of the table having played eight of their fourteen games away from home. At The Emirates, they have won six out six. Conversely, West Ham have just one win and one draw to show from seven matches played on the road. The game will be a contest where pace and fluidity meets slow and predictable. Mismatches don’t come much bigger than this!

Moyes has selection dilemmas both front and back today. The roll call of injured and doubtful players includes Kurt Zouma, Nayef Aguerd, Aaron Cresswell, Maxwell Cornet, Michail Antonio and Gianluca Scamacca. If I were to be cynical, I’d suggest Moyes already has this down as a home win, and will not risk anyone who is not fully fit. His tactics will be driven by damage limitation, holding on to the point if that is at all possible.

On the other hand, the Gunners will be close to full strength apart from the missing Jesus who was injured in Qatar. I have mixed feelings about Arsenal. It is a club punching above its weight which at times can be a joy to watch. But under Arteta they are too fond of the dark arts for my liking. Expect at least one penalty with Saka and Martinelli going to ground faster than a paranoid fox.

I fully expect Moyes to play with a back five today – with the makeshift set of players that are at his disposal. It will be sitting deep and hoping to snatch a goal from a set piece. Moyes will have been making careful notes when Japan beat Spain in Qatar with less than 18% possession. A shot on target will be a momentous event.

I am conflicted right now. I never want West Ham to lose any game but equally don’t see any future scenario where the Hammers are a competitive and entertaining outfit under the current manager. Let’s not forget his abysmal managerial away record against top six sides.

Boxing Day success for the Hammers seems implausible. It would require David to slay Goliath, the tortoise to beat the hare, and Jack Reacher to fight off five hoodlums in the bar room parking lot – all rolled into one. Hats off to Moyes if he can pull something out of the fire but even the Moyesiah wouldn’t have chosen Arsenal away at Christmas as the starting point for his resurrection.

It is difficult to see any other outcome other than a comfortable defeat. I really hope that’s not the case but it’s what history and reality suggests. COYI!

It’s Good To Be Back! Domestic Football Resumes when West Ham visit the Emirates Stadium

It seems strange doesn’t it? Domestic football resumes after a month-long break for a winter World Cup. That’s something we’ve not experienced before, although the Covid break not so long ago was an interruption to the Premier League season too.

When I was young I (many years ago) I loved to watch international football but in recent years the friendly games have become virtually meaningless to me with unlimited substitutions disrupting matches. I’ve always enjoyed the tournaments though. The first one I remember (though not in detail) was the 1962 World Cup, and then of course the never to be forgotten 1966 one.

Despite my misgivings around this World Cup on a number of levels I watched a lot of the games and really enjoyed many of them, especially the upsets. Any one of a number of teams could have won the tournament – so much depends on penalties these days, which to some extent are a bit of a lottery. Thinking back to some of the early World Cups that I remember (1966 and 1970 in particular) I cannot remember any of the knockout games still being level after extra-time. Penalty shoot-outs didn’t exist at the time. What would have happened? Replays? I just can’t remember how the games would have been decided if games finished level. But I don’t think any did – none that I can remember anyway.

It was interesting to listen to Micah Richards and his disbelief when Gary Lineker told him that there were no substitutes back then. He was telling him about the 1966 final when the eleven players that started played all 120 minutes. Richards couldn’t believe that no substitutes could be brought on in those days. Obviously not a student of the history of the game. It’s a different game now, isn’t it?

I’m not sure I agree with the widely held belief that this was the greatest World Cup final ever. For 80 minutes France didn’t really turn up and it was very one-sided. Yes, the last ten minutes and extra time produced plenty of drama. For me the best final ever remains the 1970 one watching the great Brazil team of that era. I guess that was a bit one-sided too but still my favourite.

So now the Premier League resumes on Boxing Day and we face one of the more difficult games straight away, at league leaders Arsenal. But perhaps this is the best time to play them? It’s a bit like the first day of the season. I remember well the opening day of the 2015-16 season (our last at the Boleyn) when we travelled to the Emirates Stadium and came away with a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Kouyate and Zarate. That game was famous for the debut of 16 years-old Reece Oxford. What a talent and prospect he seemed. What a waste.

That was one of only two occasions in the last thirty meetings between the teams when we have collected the three points, the other being in January 2019 when Declan Rice scored his (first?) goal for us in a 1-0 victory at the London Stadium.

We’ve never beaten Arsenal on Boxing Day either in the past. The only two games that I can recall are a 1-0 defeat on 26th December 1998 when Marc Overmars scored the only goal of the game very early on. And then 15 years to the day later we lost to them at Upton Park when Carlton Cole gave us an early second-half lead, but two goals from Walcott and one from Podolski in the last quarter of the game wrapped up the points for the Gunners.

My earliest recollections of Christmas games are good though, beginning with two wins over Tottenham at Christmas 1958, home and away on December 25th and 26th – yes we did play on Christmas Day then! In the week immediately before and after Christmas there was a 4-4 draw and a 4-3 win over Forest in 1962, a 5-5 draw at Chelsea and two 4-1 wins over Blackpool in 1966, a 2-1 win over Tottenham and two 4-2 wins over Leicester in 1967, a 2-0 win over Tottenham in 1969, a 1-0 defeat of Tottenham in 1971, a 2-2 draw with Tottenham in 1972, a 4-2 win over Chelsea in 1973, and a 1-1 draw with Tottenham in 1974.

How many times have we played Tottenham in the Christmas period and beaten them?! They did beat us twice in 1960 on their way to doing the double that year but I’ve forgotten them. I’ve also neglected to mention Boxing Day 1963 when we lost 8-2 at home to Blackburn, although we did beat them at Ewood Park two days later (3-1).

So lots of good memories from my young days of Christmas games. Will this be another? To be honest I haven’t got a clue how we will fare this Monday. If the game had been played without the enforced break, then based on the form this season so far I wouldn’t have fancied our chances too highly. But now, who knows?

Our website has been talking up our unbeaten run in the three friendlies played in the past couple of weeks. Better than nothing I suppose but I’ve always felt that pre-season games were never a true indication of what would happen when the real stuff starts. And in a way this is no different to the start of the season.

I reckon we might surprise the league leaders. I hope so anyway. What are the chances?

West Ham Season 2022/23 Half-Term Reports – Part One: Players F to Z

Concluding our two part half term report on the West Ham first team squad before Boxing Day’s return action at Arsenal

Fabianski: Lukasz: Hanging on as the club’s Number One despite his advancing years and the challenge from Areola. His powers have not yet shown significant decline and his strengths and weaknesses remain as they were. One of the better shot stoppers in the league but liable to be vulnerable in the air. There have been several goals this season where he ‘could have done better’ (© Jim Beglin, Tony Gale and others) but no alarming clangers have been dropped. In the context of modern day goalkeeping his kicking and distribution are woeful. A deficiency amplified by the number of rushed back passes that are made in his direction. Grade: C+

Fornals, Pablo: Impossible to fault Fornal’s energy but difficult to pinpoint what his core competencies are other than non-stop running. Too frequently deployed as Cresswell’s minder, he lacks the pace to offer true offensive threat out wide. Plays the occasional sublime through ball but otherwise his passing is as erratic as his finishing. His strength is inversely proportional to his stamina – invariably loses every challenge and seemingly lacks the power to make successful long-range passes. Always looks very happy though. Grade: C-

Johnson, Ben: At one time I would have described Johnson as the best defensive full-back at the club. But this season, performances have fallen away worryingly to a point where he has looked lost and is frequently stranded in no-mans-land. A string of injuries has not helped his development nor has being asked to switch between right and left back and as part of a makeshift central defence – not easy in a struggling side. Hopefully he can rediscover his defensive mojo but has yet to show that he has much to offer from an attacking perspective. Grade: C

Kehrer, Thilo: With the received wisdom being that players need time to adjust to the Premier League, Kehrer should be allowed some slack for a less than impressive start to his West Ham career. Thrown in at the deep end, played in every game and switched between full-back and center back, there has been little time for him to settle. Has a tendency towards recklessness but there may be a touch of confirmation bias when apportioning blame his way to goals conceded, which are rarely down just to individual error. He should improve to become a valuable squad member. Grade: C

Lanzini, Manuel: Never the same player since his unfortunate injury on duty for newly crowned World Cup champions, Argentina. He was approaching his peak at the time but these days Lanzini is more sloppy than messi. Has the occasional better game when sitting deeper and is capable of the spectacular strike. But the days of tricky runs and probing passes are filed under historic record rather than current affairs. Grade: D+

Ogbonna, Angelo: Another of the wily campaigners with a decent West Ham career to his credit. Now 34 and recovering from a bad injury that ruled him out for most of last season, Ogbonna is at the tail end of his career. Used mainly in European games, he has been limited to 27 Premier League minutes this season. However, given the hoodoo surrounding the fitness of fellow central defenders, he may well be called upon more in the coming months than originally anticipated. A huge risk as to whether he will be able to manage the pace and physicality if thrown into the mix. Grade: C-

Palmieri, Emerson: The strangest of signings which was presumably meant to be either backup or competition for Cresswell. Left back has been a long-term problem position and that was the best option available? Has the feel of a last-minute panic buy, equivalent to Moyes buying saucepans as his wife’s Xmas present.  Emerson is neither a left back nor a particularly effective wing back. In that sense the ideal replacement for Masuaku. Grade: D

Paqueta, Lucas: It would be an understatement to say that Paqueta has not lived up to the hype surrounding his £50 million summer transfer. Early signs are that he is not the game-changing, playmaker that was advertised. No doubt there is talent there but one that favours one-touch flicks and killer passes rather than crafting openings, running with the ball, and directing operations. It is a frustrating style to shoehorn into a team of such limited movement and pace. Does have a couple of assists to his name while looking indecisive in front of goal. Grade: C

Rice, Declan: Continues to be the club’s best and most influential player, despite not quite reaching the heights of previous campaigns. Has the added responsibility of being captain taken its toll or was he distracted by the glamour of the world cup? One of the most exceptional players to pull on a West Ham shirt in recent history there are so many facets to his game – tackles, interceptions, passing, surging runs – that will be sorely missed if, and when, he leaves. Has carried the team more and more to the point of over-reliance. The only player capable of carrying the ball forward at pace and under control. Quite possibly his last half-season as a Hammer is coming up. Grade: B+

Scamacca, Gianluca: On evidence to date Scamacca is a candidate to join the very long list of West Ham strikers failing to deliver in the penalty area. It’s a prophecy that’s guaranteed to come true if he remains as isolated as he has been until now. To prosper he needs others close by, playing off and around him. If the counter attacking style of football was not going to change then a player with pace prepared to run and run would have been a more suitable option – not one more comfortable playing with his back to goal. His attitude seems OK but frustration must be building. Despite everything, he is the club’s joint top scorer (alongside Bowen, Benrahma and Antonio) with two apiece. Grade: C

Soucek, Tomas: The 2021 Hammer Of The Year has seen a rapid fall far from grace as his limitations have been exposed. He is the type of player that you don’t want to have involved in the middle third where he has made a major contributor to poor ball retention and the slowness of build-up play. Still does a lot of great work defensively protecting the backline but has lost the knack of ghosting in to score at the other end – now that he is a known quantity. When the goals dried up his value dropped like a stone. Can’t think of another Premier League midfielder who looks anywhere near as awkward when on the ball – not even Kouyate. Grade: D+

Zouma, Kurt: Zouma is a solid and dependable centre back, whenever he is not injured. Rarely does a game go by when he doesn’t appear to be in some degree of agony. Will his recent surgery sort him out or will he be forever injury prone? Very strong in the air and not easily bullied, he is adept at making clearances all day long. The potential partnership with Aguerd is appealing but will they ever both be fit at the same time? Not the greatest on the ball but competent enough. Grade: B

Click here to read part one of the half-term report.