Saturday, 29 April 2017

Five Reasons to Watch Stoke Versus West Ham

For many West Ham fans, our season died some months ago. However, a run of sensationally dreadful results suddenly pitched us back into the relegation frame until a series of half decent results in the last three games have pushed us to the brink of safety again. In all honesty, one more result in our final four games will put to sleep any likelihood of the Hammers slipping into the bottom three.

As such, an away trip to Stoke is hardly the most enticing fixture of the campaign. The Brittania stadium is not one where the Hammers have enjoyed great success over the years and for the purists the style of football that is usually on offer requires some imagination in order to reconcile it with the notion of 'the beautiful game'! So, my friends, to put it simply - why would you bother to engage with today's mid-table dead rubber against the Potters?

1. With the injury room busier than an NHS A&E, our fringe players are getting a chance to save their squad positions for next season. From today's confirmed starting XI Collins, Fonte, Calleri, Nordtveit and even Ayew are playing for their West Ham lives. One might add Arthur Masuaku to that list as his battle for the left back starting berth with Aaron Cresswell is the kind of tussle that we need to see more of in the squad as it brings an undeniable focus to the players efforts. This is no dead rubber for most of our players!

2. With Mark Noble starting on the bench we will get a chance to take a good look at how well Cheik Kouyate plays in a more attacking role with Havard Nordtveit sitting deep in front of our three centre-back formation. In all honesty, we have not found a stable defensive formation this season and have suffered by repeatedly conceding goals at crucial times. This week it's another chance to consider the three CB set up that allowed us to keep a clean sheet against the terrifying goalscoring prowess of Romelu Lukaku last week.  

3. Yet another chance to see if a non-specialist right back can cope in that position - or to rephrase things, in the era of highly specialised and usually horrifically pacey wingers, we can gather yet more evidence that the role of full back is now equally specialised and cannot be filled by natural midfielders! SuperSlav REALLY needs to movce on from this farce next season and bring in at least one more right back as even the checkout staff in the Westfield Shopping Centre know that the Antonio/ Kouyate/Fernandes experiments of this season have been a sickening failure!

4. Stoke are on an impressively poor run and we might get a rare win - they have lost their last five games while we are unbeaten in our last three and should have won each of those games. We have managed 4 draws and three defeats in our last 7 clashes with Stoke, last winning in 2013 1-0 at the Brittania. West Ham are 3-1 to win with Stoke at evens. Both sides can still make the top ten so a hard fought draw is a decent bet at 5-2.

5. The current Stoke side are pretty decent to watch and have evolved from the assaultative long ball tactics of previous campaigns to play some decent footie these days - perhaps that's why they keep losing! With Arnautovic and Shakiri they have two very skilful players who are capable of keeping fans from both sides amused and titillated throughout the game.

Starting XI: Adrian, Masuaku, Reid, Fonte, Collins, Fernandes, Kouyate, Nordtveit, Lanzini, Ayew, Calleri.
Subs: Randolph, Noble, Cresswell, Snodgrass, Feghouli, Byram, Fletcher

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Wow! We rate the model home kit for 2017/18

The speculation has started already regarding the Hammers new kits for next season. With Premiershio safety essentially guaranteed, there is little else to focus upon until the transfer window opens.

In one intriguing development, David Gold retweeted a shot of a delightful new kit - apparently drawing from the AVCO years, it looks very smart indeed and has already received the thumbs up from many supporters.

Our rating is as follows;

1. Overall balance of colours: 9/10. The blue hoop across the chest tilts the percentage of colour towards blue over claret, while the socks and shorts emphasize our third (important) colour in white - contrasting with the tendency to over emphasize blue on our shorts and socks in recent years.

2. Sponsor logo: 8/10. Traditionalists would prefer no such adornment but in fairness 'Betway' is pretty neutral and not too cumbersome compared to the cumbersome 'Jobserve' or embarrassing 'XL' of past kits.

3. Neck: 7/10. A crucial component of any kit. The V neck is a little too informal for many who prefer a more dominant neck when combining the jersey with a standard black collared jacket. However, mercifully there are no tedious neck buttons or similar tedious adornment. Overall, the neck presents a definite area for improvement.

4. Material: not rated. Again crucial to every kit but not really clear from this picture. In recent years the quality of jersey material has improved greatly and hopefully will be maintained.

5. Cost: Again tbc. The outlandish price of kits in recent times seems likely to continue but at least for Hammers fans we know that the canny club owners have made sure that the vast majority of income generated through kit sales goes directly to the club and maybe, just maybe, this year all that dosh will be used to bring in the striker that we need rather than a bunch of untested loanees!

Overall, what we can see here gets our thumbs up.


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Everton Performances Cause Planning Headache for Bilic

Yesterday's game brought another useful point as West Ham stumble towards Premiership safety. Most fans will probably be happy with the result given our poor form and injury problems. In addition, ending the embarrassing Lukaku goalscoring run against us was pleasing. Barring a bizarre conclusion to the season, West Ham are all but safe and next week's visit to a horribly out of sorts Stoke City should finally end all doubt about Premiership survival.

As such, the club can start looking to next year after a disappointing start to life at the Olympic Stadium. In truth, the Payet saga spurred the fans into a position of solidarity against the bad guy and brought some much needed unity to the club. At this stage the players are playing for their West Ham careers as the Summer will surely see a major clear out.

Against Everton, Arthur Masuaku had his best game yet for the club and looks like he might be a long term fixture at the club providing some much needed competition for Aaron Cresswell. Meanwhile, the return of Adrian will probably prevent him from seeking a new club to get first team football. Even Havard Nordtveit played well but one suspects that his goose is cooked as he has struggled to find first team action. James Collins was again excellent and will surely get the contract extension he is seeking.

Up front, Jonathan Calleri was again very disappointing and is surely set to leave in the coming months, while Andre Ayew has still to justify his transfer fee and salary. The Andy Carroll question goes on and on and although most fans would agree that he is a top striker when fit, he seems unlikely to ever become a reliably available force and is an expensive commodity given that he typically starts less than 50% of games for us.

All in all Slaven Bilic has plenty to ponder over the coming weeks as he plots the second season at the new stadium. The financial situation at the club is very healthy indeed and it looks like we can afford to really splash out this Summer.


Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Hammers To Re-sign Striker Who Can't Stop Scoring?

Ex-Hammer Sean Maguire's goalscoring exploits continue as the 22 year old has netted 9 times in 9 games this season and Cork City have gone on a record breaking run of straight victories to start the League of Ireland season.

This follows on from a prolific season last year when Maguire was top scorer in the Airtricity Premier League with 18 goals and a total of 28 goals in 43 appearances for Cork City last year, not surprisingly making the Premier League team of the year.

Maguire joined the West Ham youth squad from Waterford United in 2013 and was considered to be the next Tony Cottee, even being likened to Lionel Messi by his youth coach at Waterford!

However, things stalled at the Hammers and he struggled with the physicality of the English game ultimately being let go at the end of 2015 after loan periods at Colchester, Sligo Rovers and Accrington Stanley. Maguire's shot at the limelight looked to have slipped away.

Now, with his continued goalscoring antics, the talk amongst Cork City fans has turned to a possible return to England. Perhaps instead of trying to lure 35 year old Jermain Defoe back to the club, West Ham should be looking at Maguire?


Saturday, 8 April 2017

Bilic Makes His Point, Now Can He Make Three Against Swansea?

West Ham fans have been left befuddled by SuperSlav's team selection fot the crunch relegation six pointer with Swansea as he has dropped Andy Carroll to the bench and has no striker up front as Andre Ayew leads the line!!! 

Perhaps the crafty Croat is making a point to the fans and the board that at such a crucial stage of the season, and despite all the promises and media huffing and puffing, we lack a reliable striker for the first team!!! 

Darren Randolph holds his place as Slav also is forced to stick with the back four that struggled against Arsenal during the week. It remains to be seen if the team can get some rhythm and put real daylight between ourselves and the bottom three or if the disastrous five defeats in a row slide is to continue. 

Starting XI: Randolph; Byram, Fonte, Collins, Masuaku; Kouyat√©, Noble, Antonio, Lanzini, Snodgrass; Ayew.

Swansea: Fabianski; Naughton, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson; Fer, Cork, Carroll, Routledge, Sigurdsson; Ayew.

Hammers Board 'Totally' Pile Pressure upon Under Fire Manager

A number of media commentators have highlighted how when they are under pressure that West Ham seem unable to circle the wagons and keep a tight house. With the Davids and offspring seemingly unable to resist the temptations of tweeting every last thought, Mrs Brady has her column in the Sun.

This week she chose to declare her apparently conditional support for SuperSlav with the following limp endorsement: “I would be lying if I denied there is growing anxiety. We fully support Slaven and expect him to turn things around. But it’s at moments like this we have to understand football, totally, is a results business.”

Errr, OK - he's staying it seems but only if results pick up. Hmmm. Today's game against Swansea is the biggest game we've had in years and is surely a time to demonstrate that we can create a fortress at our new home that intimidates visitors when we really need a result.

Whatever about the musings of the board, who really haven't redistributed our new found wealth into squad strengthening, we need to get behind the team today.

After all the talk, we look to have a reasonably fit squad to select from - our bet is that Bilic will go for an aggressive selection - with Antonio, Carroll, Ayew, Lanzini and Snodgras feeding the attack and Sakho ready to join the effort in the final quarter.

It'll be tense but definitely NOT the boring tail off to the season we expected 6 games ago!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Bilic: "Now we are fighting for our lives"

After a predictable and irritatingly routine thumping was played out at the Emirates last night, we are now truly in a dog fight. Slaven Bilic accepted as much in the post match conference with his comments that "now we are fighting for our lives". Saturday's visit of Swansea is now a massive game for us where, at the very least, we MUST halt the slide of five consecutive defeats. We are currently 5 points ahead of the Swans and a win would put decent daylight between us. In contrast, a defeat would heap pressure onto the side and put us in major danger of relegation.

With big selection issues facing SuperSlav, we ask how did the team perform last night?

Darren Randolph: Didn't do well for Ozil's opener but otherwise looked composed. May face the chop with Adrian waiting in the wings but, in all honesty, goalkeeping is not where the big problems lie in the team 5/10

Sam Byram: Did well in coping with a lively Arsenal attack and starting to demonstrate what a proper right back brings in terms of positional sense. 7/10

Jose Fonte: Struggled after we conceded and was at fault with a botched clearance before the first goal. We are really missing Winston Reid. 5/10

James Collins: Gave his usual 110% performance with endless blocks and interceptions. We need warriors right now and Ginge is certainly one of those! 7/10

Arthur Masuaku: Did well apart from a probable penalty for a clumsy challenge on Walcott early on that wasn't given. Nip and tuck between him and Cresswell for the starting berth. 6/10 

Mark Noble: Committed and looked on the pace for the first half but the Gunners pace and energy proved too much as we conceded midfield almost entirely in a wearying second half capitulation. We need his leadership against Swansea! 5/10

Cheik Kouyate: Put himself about as always but we were hopelessly outpassed and overrun in the second half. 6/10

Michail Antonio: Buzzed about the pitch but taken off as a precaution as Saturday is a bigger game for us 6/10

Manuel Lanzini: Nice work on the ball but defensively weak. The one player who looked capable of p[ulling a rabbit out of the hat for us. 7/10

Andre Ayew: Almost anonymous throughout. At no point has the £20 million transfer fee made sense. Not clear whether he should start against his former club at the weekend 3/10

Andy Carroll: Did his best up top with very little support. He can't work miracles! 6/10


Diafra Sakho: Looked lively and the one positive was that he gained some valuable game time 6/10

Robert Snodgras: Struggled to make any impact - a pattern of late but we need to keep faith with him as he has undoubted ability 4/10

Edmilisen Fernandes: A real prospect and good to see him getting game time. Not clear if a relegation battle is the best place for a  youngster to find his feet? 5/10