West Ham Versus Bournemouth: All The Things You Don’t Need To Know

All eyes will be on David Moyes as he cherry picks his West Ham side to face Bournemouth at the London Stadium

In a period of rampant fixture congestion prior to the Qatar World Cup it feels perverse to ask a team involved in midweek European competition to play their weekend fixture late on a Monday night. Once a big deal in the early days of live televised football, the glamour of the Monday night match has waned to become the home of fixtures with minority appeal. A perfect example of after the Lord Mayor’s show, but still preferable to the Friday night slot.

The weekend’s games have seen the Hammers left floundering in 17th place of the Premier League standings, teetering just above the dotted line of doom. As ever, the curse of VAR continued to infect the once beautiful game. When it comes to the poor standard of refereeing, a problem shared is a problem doubled. On-pitch and off-field officials compound each other’s flawed judgements and mistakes. The probability of error is being added rather than multiplied.

If the technology were being applied correctly, there would be a move towards greater consistency, not away from it. A penalty awarded for Chelsea but denied for Arsenal in almost identical circumsatances, just as the judo throw on Tomas Soucek also went unnoticed at Southampton. Haaland being allowed to use power and strength to barge through defenders, while Michail Antonio is regularly penalised for doing exactly the same.

Add to that the two-to-three-minute delay at Manchester City (as the game went on around them) before the ludicrous award of a ‘clear and obvious’ home penalty especially with a strong suspicion that Silva had engineered the tackle in the first place.

Although bizarre VAR decisions have played a supporting part in West Ham’s stuttering start to the season, both manager and team have struggled to look anywhere close to convincing. While a plea of misfortune could be entered for points dropped in games against Forest, Chelsea, Southampton and Liverpool, little evidence exists that the Hammers can reprise the exploits of the last two seasons.

If I were asked to summarise this season’s performances to date, it would be a team that is over-cautious, too willing to concede possession, poor at passing, and weak at finishing. But do the statistics bear that out?

I think the reason Moyes team appears overly cautious is the reliance on a low block and the lack of pressing higher up the pitch. The Hammers score low on number of presses, especially in the attacking third – preferring to retreat to the edge of their own area. Creating a disciplined compact defensive shape was one of Moyes tactical victories in stopping the rot left by Pellegrini. The culture persists today and only four teams in the Premier League have conceded fewer goals this season. But compact in defence can easily become congested in possession if there is not good movement. It is difficult to validate this from publicly available stats, but observation suggest a lack of fluidity, few third man runs, and a dearth of passing opportunities that feature in the play of most successful sides.

Possession stats have risen a little in the past few weeks, up now to 44% and higher than five other clubs in the division. Surprisingly, the Hammers are mid-table when it comes to passing accuracy, roughly equal to Newcastle. But when looking at the progressive distance of those passes, it shows them slipping down the table – suggesting a higher proportion of passes that are short or go sideways and backward. What is not clear to me is whether a below par passing game is down to individual player weaknesses or to match tactics which stymie a fluent passing game – which is the chicken and which is the egg?

Interestingly, West Ham sit eighth in terms of total number of shots but are well down the rankings for shots on target (and of course, goals scored). In fact, only Wolves have a worse record for percentage of shots on targets. West Ham’s 25% of shots on target is strikingly unfavourable compared to the 38% achieved by both Arsenal and Tottenham. What is the opposite of clinical?

I’ve had a long held soft spot for tonight’s visitors dating back to their time as a plucky lower league side. For some years, I lived on the south coast but the association started even before that, when I attended a Bournemouth versus Luton game in 1969 during a family holiday. It was first professional game I had gone to that didn’t feature West Ham. The battle of the Supermacs – Ted MacDougall for the hosts and Malcolm Macdonald for the visitors – ended as a 1-0 away win. The club has also had a strong West Ham connection over the years with John Bond, Trevor Hartley, Harry Redknapp, Kevin Bond, Jimmy Quinn, Scott Parker and now Gary O’Neil all spending time in the Cherry’s manager’s seat.

I half expected Bournemouth to fade back into lower league obscurity following their 2020 relegation, so full credit to them for making it back to the big time and putting together a creditable start to the current campaign, despite early season hammerings by Manchester City, Arsenal, and Liverpool. Since O’Neil took charge, the Cherrys have won two, drawn four and lost just once.

According to most reports, West Ham will be without Nayef Aguerd and Lucas Paqueta tonight and doubts continue with the fitness of Craig Dawson and Maxwell Cornet. That suggests a continuation of the Kurt Zouma / Thilo Kehrer centre-back pairing – assuming Angelo Ogbonna is not consider a credible starter these days – with either Ben Johnson or Vladimir Coufal at right back. I am hoping that Paqueta’s absence means a rare start for Said Benrahma to offer at least a hint of guile, and that Flynn Downes gets another chance to impress following his fine performance at Anfield. My concern again would be a midfield top-heavy with defensive minded players unable to provide the level of support required by the front players. We are, after all playing at home – against Bournemouth!

A home win today would bounce West Ham into the top half of the table – onto page one of Teletext, as it was. Defeat would leave them mired in a congested mob of clubs looking nervously downwards. There is a lot to play for and it is a time to boldly go for it. Maybe time for an extended look at Gianluca Scamacca and Michail Antonio as a joint attacking force. We can dream!

Apparently, the Hammers have built a reputation as Monday night masters, having won their last five fixtures on that particular graveyard shift – who keeps tabs on this sort of thing? I will be surprised and disappointed if they don’t make it six in a row. But what we do know, is that they will make hard work of it. West Ham to win 2-1. COYI!

Can West Ham make it five home wins in a row for the first time in more than ten years?

How many of us (West Ham fans) would have thought at the start of the season that when it came to the fixture at home to Bournemouth, just a week from the end of October, with the World Cup looming up next month, and with almost one-third of the season completed, that we would be sitting below them in the Premier League table? West Ham, with a sixth and seventh place finish in the top-flight in the last two seasons versus a newly promoted Bournemouth side. Surely, with what was believed to be a very successful summer transfer window, with the recruitment of current internationals (German and Italian defenders, a Brazilian midfielder, and an Italian centre forward), we would be maintaining our challenge to the top teams, whereas our south coast opponents would be languishing towards the bottom?

Yet here we are with 11 points from 11 games whereas the Cherries are two points in advance of us, both of us having won three of our opening games, but they have drawn four and lost four, whereas we have drawn two and lost six. In fact, all three of the promoted teams have done relatively well (so far) with Fulham sitting in the top half of the table, Bournemouth amongst a cluster of mid-table clubs, and even Forest, despite sitting in the bottom three, beating our midweek conquerors Liverpool at the City Ground on Saturday.

After beginning this campaign with a 2-0 home win over Aston Villa, Bournemouth then lost three games in a row conceding four at Manchester City, three at home to Arsenal, and then a record-equalling nine at Liverpool. Sixteen goals conceded without a single goal scored meant cheerio Scott Parker, and since then Gary O’Neill has been in caretaker charge.

He began with a goalless draw against Wolves, an excellent 3-2 comeback win at Forest after being two down at half-time, a creditable 1-1 draw at Newcastle, another goalless draw at home to Brentford, a 2-1 home win against Leicester, and then a 2-2 draw at Fulham. Two wins and four draws in his first six games in charge, an excellent CV if he was hoping for a permanent appointment, was then spoiled by an (unexpected?) 0-1 reverse at home to fellow south coasters Southampton in midweek. Nevertheless, the midfielder, who spent two and a half years at Upton Park, turning out 48 times for the Hammers around ten years ago, has steadied the ship, and must be a contender for the role in the longer term if he can keep them away from the bottom.

This is our seventh season at the London Stadium. Do you remember our very first Premier League game here in August 2016? On a sunny Saturday afternoon Bournemouth were the visitors and we ran out 1-0 winners when Michail Antonio headed a very late far post winner. But we haven’t had it all our own way against the Cherries in top-flight games, and in fact they lead 4-3 in wins in Premier League matches.

We head into this game (our 85th Premier League match on a Monday, more than any other team I read) with 12 fewer points than at this stage last season (11 compared to 23) after 11 games. In our first 11 games last season we had won 7, drawn 2, and lost 2, so we are some way behind where we were last time around, and have some catching up to do if we are to equal the seventh-place finish in 2021-22.

Our recent home form has been good, winning our last four competitive games. We haven’t won five in a row at home for more than ten years now. Much is made of David Moyes’ poor record as a manager against the big boys, but conversely he has never lost a game in charge against Bournemouth. Is that a good or a bad sign?

I wonder what starting eleven he will select for this game? Is Aguerd ready for consideration yet? He must be close now, but they are hoping to give him a couple of under 23 games first I read. Perhaps Cornet and Dawson will be ready after their recent injuries, although it seems unlikely that Paqueta will be risked unless he is 100%. One player I definitely want to see is Flynn Downes. He has impressed me immensely in the games where he has been given the chance, he adds some solidity to our midfield, and enables Declan Rice to go forward more, something he did superbly in his man of the match performance at Anfield in midweek.

A win would equalise our top-flight record of wins against our visitors, but more importantly we would leapfrog them in the table. Yesterday’s results meant that we slipped down to seventeenth in the table, but it is so congested that a win would take us into the top half (10th) with 14 points, just two points adrift of eighth-place Liverpool, and four below Fulham in seventh.

This game won’t be as easy as some might predict, but I reckon we’ll do enough to achieve that fifth competitive home win in a row. 3-1? What are the chances?

West Ham at Anfield, plus abuse of officials setting a poor example to the junior game

I thought that Jurgen Klopp was very restrained on the touchline in our game at Liverpool on Wednesday night. He had previously “lost it” last weekend at assistant referee Gary Beswick and was sent off for his outburst. He did apologise and has vowed to try to contain his behaviour. To be fair he hadn’t been sent off before, but this time he really overstepped the mark. Some of his fellow managers, including our own gave him support. Frank Lampard for example does not seem to believe there is a link between the behaviour of managers at the top level and the abuse that referees get at junior levels. David Moyes believes that managers can “lose their heads” in a game and change their character from their true selves.

As someone who watches junior football I believe Klopp has a responsibility to set an example like all elite managers and players should. Like it or not, young players copy what they see the professionals doing. And parents on the touchline will copy what they see too. The abuse given to referees at junior matches can be quite appalling. Klopp’s conduct leads to parents reacting in the same way, because I guess, they think it’s OK. It’s not. Referees at grassroots level are giving up in droves because they can’t stand the abuse. The FA revealed that last season 380 players were banned for attacking or threatening officials in English grassroots football. I hope Klopp gets a significant touchline ban.

Players surrounding the referee when a decision goes against them is another issue that needs addressing. In the days of Alex Ferguson Manchester United players were notorious for this kind of behaviour. The same is true of their players today, and the club have been charged for failing to control them in last Sunday’s game against Newcastle when they surrounded the referee like a pack of dogs. Their current manager doesn’t agree believing it wasn’t that aggressive. Of course West Ham have now been charged with failing to control players after they too surrounded the referee (Peter Bankes) during last Sunday’s draw at Southampton when he body checked Jarrod Bowen as he attempted to tackle Perraud just before he scored. I’m not sure we can learn too much from the game of rugby, but the insistence that only the captain can approach the referee to question decisions is one that perhaps we could follow. Similar situations surrounding referees happen in junior football too. Would it happen if they didn’t see players at elite levels doing it? I don’t believe it would.

Back to Wednesday night’s game at Anfield. To only lose 1-0 and miss a penalty in the process is a sign that we are, perhaps, not too far away from getting back towards our form of the last two seasons. We restricted Liverpool to a handful of chances, and Fabianski was equal to the challenge when necessary. The amazing statistic that we are the lowest scoring Premier League team in the first half of games this season (only scoring 2 so far) was maintained during a first half where we were threatened to be overrun in the early stages. But a much improved second half performance could have, and perhaps should have resulted in us getting a point out of the game.

I thought that Declan Rice had a tremendous game, doing his usual stuff, plus thrusting forward and setting up attacks more than he has done in recent times. I believe that one of the reasons for this was the inclusion of Flynn Downes from the start. Every time I see Downes he impresses me with his strength when tackling and challenging for the ball, his positional sense, and his great habit of finding a team-mate when passing the ball, unlike one or two others in the team. I hope he gets a run in the starting eleven.

We still find ourselves in the bottom half of the table two points above the relegation zone, but only five points below seventh place where we finished last season. Three of the next four games before the break for the World Cup are at home to Bournemouth, Palace and Leicester with a trip to Old Trafford sandwiched in between. We have a good opportunity (on paper) to move into the top half before the break. Ten points from those four games would be good. What are the chances?

Groundhog New Year’s Day: The Moyes Is Back In Town And This Time He’s Looking For A Bounce

Cometh the man, cometh the dour. He’s back but what will be the biggest challenge – winning over the opposition or winning over the fans?

Another year and the eternal hope for the dawn of an exciting new era for West Ham. At least, that is what they would like us to think. That a change of manager will wipe away the past, fix the present and lead us to a future of sunlit uplands and silverware.

Without doubt getting shot of Manuel Pellegrini was the right thing to do.  The current predicament, flirting with relegation, was largely his doing and we need not feel sorry for him. Beyond that, the lack of direction, the failure to deliver a plan or strategy that might produce a step change in the club’s fortunes and the absence of a required level of investment is down the board. I have said this several times before but the two Daves lack both the financial resources and imagination to turn West Ham into a club capable of challenging at a higher level. The appointment of David Moyes, as West Ham’s seventh manager in their ten-year tenure, was typical of their muddled thinking and short-term outlook.

I don’t have any particular issues with Moyes, but he is not a progressive choice. He will most probably keep us in the Premier League but the fact is, once again, survival has become the only objective. From the owner’s perspective retention of Premier League status will see the value of the asset appreciate until the right time comes to sell. The level of investment need only be sufficient to keep heads above the Championship. A cynical view, perhaps, but one that the owner’s actions have done little to dispel. I have read some fans on social media hoping for relegation as a means of forcing the owners out. That feels like a naive view to me as they would unlikely sell in those circumstances. In fact, the level of investment has been fairly consistent with other also-rans but most others have spent more wisely.

There are two schools of thought concerning Moyes previous spell in the West Ham hot seat. One that he steered the club from a desperate situation to mid-table respectability and did what was needed to make that happen; the other that it was a grim period in recent Hammer’s history where a couple of late wins put an undeserved gloss on an otherwise mediocre record and below average win ratio. The case for the prosecution will also point to the signing of Jordan Hugill.

Unfortunately for Moyes he finds himself back in a similar position as last time, where the priority for points is weighted far more highly than a duty to entertain – if, in fact, he has that tool in his locker. As we supporters should have learned from our own history, it is very difficult to reach judgement on a manager from a single or part season only. Maybe the situation will spawn a new round of anti-Board protests but I sense that we will now have Moysie here for the next 18 months. I can’t see anything other than pretty ugly football for the remainder of this term; after that we will need to wait and see which way the latest new direction points.

There have been some horrendous suggestions in the media and online of players linked with a move to the London Stadium during the transfer window. I prefer to take these with a pinch of salt as only a small percentage of rumours turn out to be true. Maybe it is just wishful thinking.

Today’s game against Bournemouth is a classic six-pointer. Both teams have struggled for points in recent weeks and look to be in free-fall, just as other clubs in relegation peril start to rally. There has been precious little time for Moyes to work on the team’s obvious lack of fitness and organisation, but it would be no surprise if he decided to go for a change of formation – to the 3-5-2 set-up that he settled on during his previous reign. As many of us were imploring Pellegrini to do likewise, I couldn’t argue with that. Whatever the eventual line-up, we could certainly do with a generous helping of new manager bounce to help us on our way. Perhaps losing but not from a winning position will be as good a bounce as we’re likely to get!

The visitors have been badly hit by injuries this season but any team that lost Leicester reserves cannot take much relief from that fact.  Eddie Howe’s team have a good record against West Ham and strikers Callum Wilson and Josh King must both rate the Hammers as a favourite and hospitable opponent. Fortunately, King looks to have been added to list of sick and will probably miss the game.

Graham Scott from Oxfordshire is the matchday referee aided by Lee Mason on VAR duty in the underground Stockley Park bunker. The implementation of VAR appears to be getting worse and more intrusive week by week – more so for those in the ground who are left waiting with little information. Allowing the referee’s to supervise implementation was never going to be a good idea.

Our pundit buddies have both gone for a West Ham home win: Lawro by 2-0 and Charlie Nicholas by 2-1.  I can see this being the most cagey of games and wouldn’t be surprised to see it settled by a single goal. Hopefully, it will be one that works to our advantage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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