Sunday, 20 January 2019

Arnautovic Escape Part Two: The Truth Emerges

If you are to believe the latest rumours it appears that Marko Arnautovic's move to China is off and that he is now staying at West Ham, possibly. At this stage a high percentage of fans probably want rid of the player as his lack of loyalty is hard to forgive. In that sense, we now realise why so many Stoke fans were glad to see the back of him, talent and all, as he is a disruptive egocentric figure.

But if you pause for a moment and consider things, the move to China has always sounded a bit strange - why now? A player at the height of his powers and at 29 years is a real presence. Many have mocked his brothers statement for raising the issue of his desire for trophies. Perhaps this is the part of the statement that reveals the Austrian's true intentions - to move to one of West Ham's rivals. If so, his campaign is going perfectly according to plan!

Until now West Ham would not have remotely entertained any bid from Tottenham or Chelsea or Manchester United, but at this stage they would probably ditch him for £30 million and use the much needed cash to bring in a replacement.

Perhaps the Arnautovic brothers are not as foolish as we imagine?

Either way, the club will be held to ransom now until the end of (a) the Premiership transfer window, and (b) the Chinese transfer window in February!

Let's hope Pelle can find a way to limit the damage that will inevitably flow from this. Offloading Marko may be the best of a bad lot of possible solutions.


Julien's Faux Pas #10: Maxi Gomes Joins the Madhouse

There's hardly much to say about yesterday's defeat at Bournemouth - after the ecstacy of beating the Gooners we were (typically) back down to earth with an underpar performance. It's hard to see the logic in the sequence where we beat Arsenal, then lose to Bournemouth while Arsenal go on to beat Chelsea!

In all honesty, Bournemouth were flattered by the scoreline as Big Andy should've put the Hammers ahead but managed an unbelievable miss from a yard out. Callum Wilson underlined his potential value to West Ham, even just to stop him scoring against us!

Meanwhile the Arnie saga went to another level with his absence and rumours of a Payet-style refusal to play. Maxi Gomes would be an interesting replacement, certainly a goalscorer, but do not underestimate the value of Arnautovic's physicality in the Premiership.

In summary, (dis) order has been restored m'ludd! We give you Julien's Faux Pas #10.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Marco Baby Triangulating His Way To Premiership Rivals

It is increasingly looking like Marko Arnautovic will be leaving West Ham in the January window as his absence from today's squad for the trip to Bournemouth represents a significant escalation of the situation. While for many a move to China right now seems ludicrous, others have highlighted the extent to which he appears to be under the influence of his manager-brother Danijel who is clearly motivated by money rather than competitive success.

But perhaps that is too simplistic an assessment, as a number of top stars have looked China bound but ultimately used the negotiations to move elsewhere. Diego Costa's exit from Chelsea certainly comes to mind. If Arnautovic does make the move to China, it'll be fascinating to look at the fine detail in his contract as, at 29 years old, he might well bounce back to the Premiership after a year or even less. It's hard not to notice that any of Spurs, Man United or Chelsea would almost certainly be delighted to have his services at their disposal.

However, if that is the plan then the Arnautovic brothers should pay careful attention to the Ramires story. The Brazilian was still in his prime at Chelsea and only 28 years old when he made the move to Jiangsu Suning in January 2016 for £25 million. Things started well for him in China until he tried to engineer a move back to Benfica, his old club in Portugal, which Jiangsu blocked and then kicked him into the reserves as punishment! It would be foolish to underestimate the financial power of the big Chinese clubs and their capacity to make a point if they feel that they are being disrespected.

It might also be worth noting for Arnautovic that at the time of leaving, Ramires had won the Champions League, Europa League, Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup during his six years at Chelsea!

Today's display at Bournemouth underlined West Ham's need for a good finisher as both Carroll and Hernandez failed to inspire while Hammers target Callum Wilson scored a stunner and was denied a second goal by the post. This was all after Andy Carroll missed a sitter that Arnie would almost certainly have buried. Sadly, at this stage the campaign has started to go all Payetesque and its hard to see Arnie coming back into the fold as many supporters will understandably feel betrayed by his actions.

Right now you can get 22/1 against him moving to Chelsea, 25/1 Man United and the intriguing 28/1 for a move to replace the injured Harry Kane at Tottenham. A move to any Chinese club is 1/5 on and its worth noting that their transfer window does not close until well into February, by which time West Ham will be well softened up towards a departure! Hmmm.


Starting XI: Big Andy goes toe to toe with Wilson to be Arnie Replacement

The teams have been announced and its pretty much as expected for the Hammers with Marko Arnautovic dropped and Andy Carroll starting with Chicharito on the bench. The Hammers are 2/1 against the win, which is understandable given West Ham's poor record in recent years against Bournemouth. 

Callum Wilson is fit and starts for Bournemouth, giving the Hammers a perfect opportunity to view a potential Arnautovic replacement. It'll be a great opportunity for Manuel Pellegrini to compare Wilson and Carroll as potential strikers to lead West Ham's line next season!

West Ham United: Fabianski, Zabaleta, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Rice, Noble (c), Antonio, Nasri, Felipe Anderson, Carroll.

Subs: Adrian, Masuaku, Obiang, Snodgrass, Diangana, Chicharito, Xande Silva

Hammers Finally Identify Perfect Arnautovic Replacement

West Ham have been truly rocked by the disappointing news that their offensive talisman Marko Arnautovic wants to leave the club in search of Chinese trophies.

Happily, the astute Hammers board have been quick to respond and are rumoured to be lining up bids for a variety of top strikers across Europe.

However, perhaps the best replacement can be found in the Americas, and after careful player profiling it seems that they have identified their man!

A single-minded ruthless poacher who is abrasive and can lead from the front!

He would also make the perfect playing partner for Hammers Mexican hitman, Javier Hernandez!


Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Stag or Drag: Some Thoughts on the Rice Conundrum

Ireland or England? For most occupants of the Islands of Britain and Ireland that question is a no brainer. Born of Irish emigrants, I grew up in Essex until I was ten and then made the move back to the Emerald Isle. Yes, I supported England as a kid and Ireland as an adult, the apparent contradiction of which has never really troubled me. It may seem strange to some, but you can have an allegiance to both while also being 100% committed to either.

Add in the club piece and suddenly the Irish perspective on football gets weird - rabid Irish fans of Man United can cheer with venom against those same players when they turn out for England! Personally, I don't think that I could ever cheer against a Hammer, no matter what country they might be playing for. And therein lies a key point, For many serious football fans the International thing is just a sideshow, a mere titillation that keeps us amused during every second Summer recess. Matches in which our greatest concern is that our star players don 't pick up an injury.

Yes, I am still aggrieved about Dean Ashton's career ending injury whilst on duty with England and yes, I did tremble with sadness when he scored that delightful overhead kick goal in Mark Noble's testimonial - reminding us of the tremendous talent that we were denied. And while we are on the subject, Diafra Sakho was a thorough menace to opposition defences until that controversial international break with Senegal in which he aggravated a back injury and was never the same again.

In short, Club football is where it is at and in reality neither Ireland nor England are likely to win anything of significance during the next decade. If you accept that, then its a question of where the better deal lies for those of mixed allegiance - the FAI are an amateurish outfit, prone to bad preparation and a variety of other gaffes, but ultimately the Boys in Green stick together, no big notions, no superstars, no media humiliations after poor results. Declan will know that from his time through the underage system and in the three friendlies he has appeared in to date.

In contrast, non-English observers watch with awe as the circus around each tournament unfolds. Initially inflated as major prospects, inevitably the nastier element starts to creep in and by the end of most tournaments the England squad need to go into hiding to escape the vitriol from the tabloid media. Gareth Southgate has escaped that so far, but would anyone bet that the European championships don't bring a fall from grace with all the associated unpleasantness, so much of which seems unnecessarily personal and often plain vicious.

As an Irish hammer I'd love to see Declan opt for Ireland, partly because of a sense of patriotism and the sense of hope that a player of his tremendous ability would bring to a team that at present is short on talent but big in heart. In addition, as a Hammer you want him to be happy and to dodge the bullet that is being an English international caught in the eye of the tabloids.

Maybe the final word on the matter should go to Jason McAteer who, when asked about what it was like returning to Liverpool after international duty explained that Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman would return from England duty usually quite sedate, sometimes crestfallen. In comparison, McAteer described usually feeling fully refreshed and ready for club action after what he described as 'like going on a stag weekend'!

No brainer then, I guess!

BTW Happy 20th Birthday Declan and Thank you for Saturday - we got to witness the loudest and most sustained moment of Hammers joy since the move to Stratford. Every man and his dog could sense that something really significant had just occurred and we loved it! 


Monday, 14 January 2019

Chinese Turn up the Heat in Arnautovic Campaign

Reports this morning indicate that the attempted hijacking of Marko Arnautovic by Shanghai SiPG has gone into a higher gear as the club have reportedly increased their £39 million bid to a whopping £45 million for the 29 year old.

With Oscar and Hulk already on their books, they are looking for another high profile signing to boost their profile. Arnautovic headed to Austria after Saturday's victory over Arsenal, with the intention of celebrating the Serbian New Year with his family. Hammers fans would probably prefer to hear that he is spending time with the likes of Mark Noble to steady his head rather than with his brother Danijel who seems to be the main energy driving the career-ending move.

Arnautovic has realised his best ever form at West Ham and would perhaps benefit from observing how Dimitri Payet's stratospheric rise came to an end when he moved back to Marseille under somewhat similar circumstances. Arnautovic has struggled with inconsistency during his career and really only found regular form since being switched to a central attacking role by David Moyes just over a year ago. 

Many seasoned observers would feel that he will be wasting the most productive  period of his career if he moves to the Chinese League which is regarded by many as second rate at best. Of note, Arnautovic himself has had no formal comments and much of the media speculation is surmised from his brother's comments and their reading of his body language.

Manuel Pellegrini has handled the episode quite differently from Slaven Bilic, who seemed to feel compelled to be seen to be strong with Payet and relegated him to training with the kids (including none other than Declan Rice!). Pelle has played down the affair as something that may well just blow over. One senses that Marko is quite a different person to Payet and that he is more prone to impulsive behaviour, while Payet seemed dead set on a move at any cost.

In reality, while Arnautovic has won the hearts of Hammers fans, the side has started to gel under Pellegrini to the point that fans have a handful of stars to sing about, including Felipe Anderson, Issa Diop and Declan Rice. Given the treacherous nature of the January window, maybe West Ham should bank the money and use it to prepare for a serious assault upon the Premiership next season?