Saturday 31 December 2016

Bilic Sticks with Winning Formula

There are no major surprises in the line ups for today’s visit to the King Power with Slaven Bilic opting to stick with the same starting XI who thrashed hapless Swansea last week.
Whether they will line out as a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 is less clear but with Leicester uncertain at the back we expect SuperSlav to take an attacking perspective and focus upon outscoring rather than containing the Foxes. 
Mahrez and Huth return for Ranieri's side.  Kick off is in just over half an hour.

West Ham United - Randolph, Nordtveit, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Noble, Kouyate, Antonio, Ayew, Payet, Carroll. Subs - Feghouli, Lanzini, Adrian, Obiang, Fletcher, Fernandes, Quina.

Leicester City - Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Chilwell, Mahrez, Drinkwater, Amartey, Albrighton, Slimani, Gray. Subs - Musa, King, Okazaki, Zieler, Ulloa, Mendy, Fuchs.

Defoe: I Want Another Bite at the Hammers!

My ole man's....
Just as the bookies slashed the odds on Jermain Defoe returning to the Hammers, Ex Captain Kevin Nolan has advised the prolific striker to seize the opportunity if and when West Ham come calling.

While Defoe is still 8/15 to stay at Slumberland, West Ham lead the chase at 51/8, with Crystal Palace second favourites at 8/1 and Spurs next at 28/1. Undoubtedly David Moyes will want to keep Defoe on Wearside as Defoe's goals are the main barrier that exists between the Black Cats and another relegation to the Championship.

Defoe remains something of a controversial figure for Hammers fans and is sometimes referred to as Judas #2 after handing in a transfer request within hours of our tragic relegation in 2003. However, a recent poll indicates that over two-thirds of fans have forgiven him for his insensitivity and would welcome him back to the club to add a bit of much-needed bite to our misfiring attack.

Oi, wot u doin - this aint Gauchos mate!

However, some fans remain sceptical and recall
Defoe's outlandish attack on then-Hammer Javier 'i can probably play better than this' Mascherano in 2006. Defoe was subsequently given a life ban from playing for a proper football team, something which forced him to stay at Tottenham for most of his career.

Oliver Can....and he will!

But even though the Hammers will blame tragic Tottenham for Defoes conversion to cannibalism, there can be no doubting that Oliver Kahn's 1999 carnivornous attack on Borussia Dortmund's Heiko Herrlich occured whilst wearing a Hammers away jersey. Such behaviour is unacceptable - even in the Bundesliga.

BTW that's Neil Ruddock looking on nonchalantly.

All of this could have been snuffed out if only the footballing world hadn't misinterpreted John Hartson's attempted purge of gnasher-related footballing offences when he attempted to kick teammate Eyal Berkovic's teeth out during a training ground routine in 1998. This was almost certainly a (vain) attempt to remove dental problems from the game for once and for all.

However, once again  the ruling authorities got it all wrong, horribly horribly wrong.

Toothless Foxes Turn to Benjamin

As many predicted, Leicester have struggled to maintain their amazing form of last season and go into today's clash with West Ham just two places above the relegation zone. With only 4 wins from 18 games, they are finding goals hard to come by and their offensive problems are further compounded by the absence of Jamie Vardy today.

Last season the Hammers felt robbed by a soft penalty decision in the final minute of their visit to the King Power stadium and had to settle for a point. Jamie Vardy opened the scoring that day but then got sent off for diving. As a consequence, with Riyadh Mahrez off-form of late the Foxes will be relying on former Hammers target Islam Slimani for goals.

Although the Hammers are five points better off it is noteworthy that they have a worse goal difference than Leicester due to a series of poor defensive performances in November.

In an unusual gesture, Leicester will be giving out a free beer to all home supporters before today's game - proof that the Soccer God's love us and want us to be happy as Benjamin Franklin (might) have said!* It appears that the three and a half thousand travelling Hammers fans will not be afforded such generosity but will be able to get a taste of Leicester's finest in the form of a pint of Vardy's Volley - a light ale named after their ace striker that is available in local pubs!

Meanwhile, Hammers fans will also be celebrating the news that Dimitri Payet looks set to stay at the club at least until the end of the season. The Bookies have lengthened his odds of leaving during the January transfer window and he is now 1/4 on to stay.

After thrashing Swansea last week, the Hammers will be hoping to continue their good form and it looks likely that Slaven Bilic will stick with the same starting XI and 4-4-2 formation as last week. That means that there will be no starting place for Pedro Obiang or Manny Lanzini but expect both to figure at some point.

Big Andy Carroll will be on the prowl again and is looking mighty sharp since returning to action four games ago. He appears to have made the necessary 'dietary and lifestyle changes' that manager Slaven Bilic recently demanded after he was caught over-celebrating with Darren Randolph. As such, if he adds to his two recent goals he is unlikely to copy Massimo Maccarone's celebration after scoring for Empoli this time last year whereby he took a swig from a spectator's beer!

Either way, We will be looking for a Hoppy Ending!

*Actually Franklin was referring to wine rather than beer.

Tuesday 27 December 2016

Ok, so it WAS a stroll in the park

We had warned before the game that yesterday's visit to the Liberty Stadium would be no stroll in the park but as it turned out we put in an excellent performance and ran out easy winners at 4-1. In truth, Swansea had the better of proceedings until the Ayew goal but thereafter they looked rattled and we were calm in the way that a team who is coming off the back of a series of good results can be.

Tormentor in chief was the splendid Andy Carroll. How quickly we forget his injury problems when he is back and in dominant form like yesterday. He may have left it until injury time to grab a deserved goal, but all afternoon he ran Swansea ragged as he dominated their centre backs in the air and looks almost back to his best.  

Next up was Winston Reid who was once again assured at the back and even popped up to snatch a goal as he outmuscled the hapless Swansea defence to head in a delicious Payet corner. Behind him, Darren Randolph was equal to pretty much everything Swansea could offer and will be annoyed at the concession of a late goal through some somnolent defending by Oggy and Cressy. 

We reverted to four at the back in a 4-2-3-1 formation that looked much more fluid than we have in a long time. Even with Manuel Lanzini missing and Dimitri Payet somewhat off form, we still looked much more penetrating than the Swans. SuperSlav was happy with both the result and the performance but in many respects this outing leaves even more questions to answer about our best formation and starting XI!

Either way, with 22 points and in eleventh with still a game to play before the half way mark of the season, we can afford to experiment a little in January and February as new recruits arrive. Nordtveit performed decently at right back yesterday but we clearly need a specialist in that position. Antonio's strike again emphasised how much he is wasted when played as a makeshift right back. With Kouyate about to depart for the AFCON, we have limited resources in midfield and, of course, we need a striker or two! The bench yesterday emphasised our lack of squad depth with the kids getting some valuable matchday experience.



Monday 26 December 2016

It wont be a stroll in the park...

West Ham's improved run of results could be seen as a cause for optimism as they have hauled themselves up to 13th and sit a healthy five points above the drop zone going into today's game. However, more astute observers will have noted the considerable fortune in the two recent wins against the luckless Hull and Burnley and recognise today's game as a genuine six pointer.

The January transfer window may provide an opportunity to bring in some fresh energy but, in reality, there are few success stories that follow from January acquisitions and for every Demba Ba there are a host of Emineke's, Petric's, and, king of them all - Benni McCarthy! January is when clubs offload their failed projects as Simone Zaza will discover.

Moreover, we are not only lacking a reliable source of goals, but have a defence that is unbalanced and desperately leaky. as the Arsenal humiliation demonstrated, we are an atrocity waiting to happen as teams have rumbled how to stop our Payet solo brilliance / Payet to Antonio plan A and B and are pushing up to add to the pressure on our beleaguered defence.

With Cheik Kouyate about to disappear for the AFCON and Diafra Sakho out with 'that' back problem again, we are looking low on resources. Today's bench emphasises how thin we are with more than half the bench comprising youth/development squaddies. The in-form Pedro Obiang is suspended for today which will give Havard Nordtveit another chance to redeem himself after the Spurs howler.

As such, we are gonna need every point we can get our hands on and today's game against a Swansea side that is prolific but equally porous in defence. A big game for Andre Ayew as he returns to his former club. As yet, without a goal, he has started to look sharper and today would be an ideal moment to (finally) announce his arrival.

It looks likely that there will be goals aplenty but either side could come out on top. The Hammers are 2-1, whilst Swansea are 7/5, with the draw at 5/2.

West Ham Starting XI: Randolph, Antonio, Kouyate, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Noble, Nordtveit, Ayew, Payet, Carroll.

Subs: Adrian, Feghouli, Rice, Pike, Fletcher, Fernandes, Quina



Monday 19 December 2016

Can Bilic find another Vaz Te?

SuperSlav left his staff in no doubt how he feels about our recent form despite capturing an impressive 7 points in the past week by postponing the staff Christmas party until the New Year. Bilic will be well aware that Saturday's victory was one of major good fortune as we could so easily have been given a thumping by the Premiership's bottom club!

With nine days until our visit to Swansea, Bilic will be using the time to try to work on our formation which again misfired at the weekend as Hull flooded through midfield creating a host of decent opportunities and rattling the woodwork on three occasions without actually scoring. Quite simply, Slav will feel that there's no need for a Christmas Party cos Santa came on Saturday!

In addition, SuperSlav will undoubtedly be looking a potential captures in the January transfer window as we lack a reliable right back or striker. With loanees such as Calleri, Tore and Zaza all likely to be returned to sender, we will have plenty of room in the squad for new recruits. The problem is, of course, that midseason acquisitions raely work out in the longer term.

Never the less, Hammers fans will remember Ricardo Vaz Te with fondness as the Portuguese hitman arrived in January 2012 and proceeded to bang in ten crucial goals that sealed our return to the Premiership. Thereafter, Vaz Te managed only the occasional strike as he proved to be one of those players who is better suited to the Championship than the first tier.

As we pin our ears to the ground it's hard to know who we might capture as most of the names touted to date are unlikely to actually materialise - Batsuayi, Sturridge, Bacca etc. Moreover, given the chaos at the club right now one wonders who would actually be likely to join us?

Let's hope that Bilic has some special knowledge of international football and can identify a suitable striker. To date, his record in signing forwards is pretty underwhelming - Jelavic, Zaza, Emenike, Calleri.....hmmm.


Sunday 18 December 2016

West Ham Sign Solution to Full Back Problem

West ham have endured a difficult season to date. since moving to their new home at the Olympic Stadium they have found managing the increased space of the bigger pitch a real challenge. Central to their difficulties has been the absence of a specialist right full back, with a variety of midfielders (Edimilisen Fernandes, Havard Nordtveit) and forwards (Michail Antonio) filling in with limited success.

However, yesterday's torrid encounter, which saw them given the proper run around by lowly Hull City, finally clarified the way forward for SuperSlav's side as, amidst all the chaos, the ideal solution to their defensive woes emerged as the hero in maintaining a clean sheet and seizing a vital 1-0 win.

Full back Al Uminium demonstrated his considerable talents with three crucial interceptions. First up, Aaron Cresswell's short back pass looked to be a real howler as Hull's Mbokani closed in on goal - only for Al to get back and prevent a goal in dramatic fashion! Then, early in the second half, Mark Noble flicks a header towards his own net but Uminium is there again to save the day with a solid clearance. finally, just as Hull looked to have finally netted courtesy of a screamer from Andrew Robertson, Big Al intervened once again by throwing his body in front of the torpedo-like strike!

Uminium may lack the attacking prowess of Michail Antonio but, unlike the Hammers top scorer, has decent defensive positioning sense and always stays goal side of his man. Meanwhile, in contrast to Havard Nordtveit, Big Al is unlikely to dive needlessly into challenges - especially against your neighbours in the final seconds of a crucial derby!

However, the signing has run into problems around the paperwork as some observers have suggested that a third party might be involved and that the player is in fact ex-Hammer Guy Demel. Apart from the incredible physical likeness, Demel's determination to stick to his defensive duties were evidenced by just a single goal during his four years at Upton Park - something that harks back to traditional defensive mindset where defenders primarily focus upon stopping the opposition score rather than flouncing up and down the wing pretending to be David Ginola or the likes.

In contrast, some other observers have suggested that Uminium may in fact be Alvara Arbeloa - a natural right back who has mysteriously fallen out of favour at West Ham despite no obvious poor performances!

Either way, it looks like the Hammers have finally found the solution to their defensive woes!


Where To Now for Misfiring Hammers?

After a week that brought seven precious Premiership points including two clean sheets and a rare away result at Anfield, it seems strange that Hammers fans are feeling so negative about their side. However, the overwhelming vote for the post as MOTM after yesterday's almost criminal victory over a dominant Hull City highlights the level of concern amongst fans that the team are playing relegation football and have lost their way tactically.

After stumbling home against Burnley in midweek courtesy of a soft penalty, Hammers fans hoped that their heroes would turn on some style having finally ended a run of defeats. However, the performance against Hull was possibly our worst of the season as we could easily have conceded 4 or 5 goals against the Premiership's least potent attack!

Apart from the three shots that hit the post, Hull created a host of decent opportunities and will feel devastated not to have taken all three points. Chief amongst our woes is the inability to maintain possession once we get past the half way line. Opposition sides have rumbled the 'Payet plan' and are simply crowding the talismanic midfielder out of the game.

Meanwhile, Andy Carroll may be winning lots of headers but as a lone striker there is nobody close enough to benefit. as a consequence, we are sending long balls up to the big man who is essentially controlling the ball for opposition defences. Pointless stuff that makes you wonder if we need to revert to a traditional 4-4-2 formation? Sakho and Carroll up top will make any opposition defence stay deep and take some pressure off our beleaguered midfield and defence. Moreover, it will make space for Mr Payet, which can only be good for us!

The three CBs formation was adopted back in early November in an effort to stem the flow of goals conceded by a disorganised defence that had lost it's confidence. Chief amongst this was the absence of Cresswell and Bilic's insistence upon playing Antonio as a right wing back. Although initial results (against the offensive might of Middlesboro!) suggested that we had tightened things up, yesterday's performance, along with the recent drubbings by Arsenal and Man United have emphasised how we are really no better defensively with this formation.

With Kouyate sitting deep we lack the mobility in midfield and also his capacity to join the attack at crucial moments. Moreover, Kouyate's positioning in the deeper role allows teams to play the ball quickly through the centre with relative ease and has resulted in our repeatedly getting caught on the counter. Given our lack of penetration as a pressing side when in possession, this is proving a major weakness for opposing sides to capitalise upon.

Now that we have a few points on the board we can get back to trying to find our best formation. The (presumed) arrivals in January will provide new personnel to fit into our system and a face-saving excuse for Bilic et al to abandon our present tactics. Swansea will be an interesting test but the early substitutions yesterday bringing on Fernandes and Ayew emphasised that the current problems are about a lot more than players and that our set up is all wrong.



Saturday 17 December 2016

Consistency the Key as Hammers Prepare For Tigers

It's a predictable starting XI for the Hammers. Bilic will be hoping that they can get an early breakthrough against the Tigers and develop a bit of attacking rhythm. Hull have brought in Dieumerci Mbokani up front to try and bolster a blunt attack. Hammers will need to beware of free kicks as Snodgrass will be waiting.

West Ham: Darren Randolph, Aaron Cresswell, Angelo Ogbonna, Winston Reid, Michail Antonio, Cheikhou Kouyaté, Mark Noble, Pedro Obiang, Dimitri Payet, Andy Carroll

Substitutes: Adrián, André Ayew, Ashley Fletcher, Sofiane Feghouli, Edimilson Fernandes, Håvard Nordtveit, Domingos Quina.

Hull City: David Marshall, Curtis Davies, Michael Dawson, Ahmed Elmohamady, Harry Maguire, Andrew Robertson, Sam Clucas, Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore, Robert Snodgrass, Dieumerci Mbokani

Substitutes: Eldin Jakupovic, Markus Henriksen, Shaun Maloney, David Meyler, James Weir, Jarrod Bowen, Adama Diomande. 

Hammers to do the Business against Tame Tigers

After two decent results in the past week, suddenly this isn't quite the six pointer that it was being billed as, but undoubtedly the Hammers will need to take all three points today against Hull to get themselves back at the right end of the Premiership table.

Slaven Bilic will have the rare privilege of being able to select the same starting XI today and will almost certainly stick with Big Andy up top and Michail Antonio at right back with Manu Lanzini instead of Andre Ayew.

In goals, Dazza Randolph looks set to continue ahead of Adrian after redeeming himself for the blunder that gave Liverpool and early second half equaliser at Anfield last week by pulling off one of the saves of the season to keep out a Jordan Henderson strike - a save that ultimately earned the resilient Hammers a valuable point.

Mystic Mark Lawro reckons the Hammers will run out 2-0 winners. Given the Cockney boys difficulties keeping the sheets clean this year a 2-1 score line seems more realistic. However, either way, after a great start to the season Hull City have fallen backwards and have just two points from their last five games and haven't won in their last 14 Premiership games.

It therefore looks likely that Hull will play for a point and hope to sneak a winner. However, with Big Andy Back and the Payet-factor from set pieces, West Ham are much better equipped to deal with opponents who adopt a negative formation and look to frustrate.

West ham are 7-10 on, while Hull are 4-1 against for the win. We reckon 2-1 with another squeaky bum finish as the (still) misfiring Hammers have not really rediscovered a fluid attacking pattern and will need to play it tight and hope for a breakthrough.

Our few decent performances this season have all been against stronger opposition rather than the likes of Hull. It'll be a war of attrition and let's hope our fans can get behind the team. A few more decent results and we might make a charge up the table.

A final thought for loyal Hammer and all round decent geezer Micky Fitz, singer with punk band the Business who passed away earlier this month.
VIVA BOBBY MOORE. Hope you're up there with him mate.

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Where's the Protection Ref?

Well, it certainly wasn't pretty. After a decent-ish first half we retreated into fearful hold-what-we-have football and nearly paid a big price. At half time we (just) deserved to be ahead after a late flurry of pressure that ended with Winston Reid being upended in the box.

Will Mark Noble's penalty count as a miss and push him back behind Geoff Hurst in successful conversion rate? Or will the fact that he slotted the rebound count as a successful penalty? We suspect the former, but either way the goal forced Burnley to show their hand in the second half.

With only ten shots on goal away from home all season (!) Burnley set about trying to boss the game and, concerningly for Hammers fans, duly took over. An amazing Vokes miss from 3 yards out will go down as the best opportunity to snatch a point, but there were plenty of half chances as the Hammers retreated into deep defence of their slender lead.

Chief amongst their problems was that referee Robert Madley failed to keep Burnley honest by allowing a series of crude challenges on Dimi Payet whenever West Ham tried to counter, finally handing out a yellow to Jeff Hendrick on the fourth or fifth such occasion.

In reality, the third breakaway looked very promising with a potential 3 on 1 developing until Payet was fouled. The challenge deserved a yellow for its malice as well as for its cynicism. Payet may well tire of playing in the lower reaches of the Premiership, but undoubtedly his departure will be accelerated if he is repeatedly asked to take a kicking for the side. Nobes, Kouyate and Obiang need to get a bit more assertive with opponents and the refs if we are to stamp out the cynical targeting of our talisman. 

Otherwise, we again looked without a decent game plan despite having most of our main players available. Sakho might add another edge, but we really need some new blood in January. 

Ultimately, you can never really complain when you prevail in any six-pointer, which this game certainly was. We also kept a rare clean sheet and with no yellow cards. Three points majorly lifts the pressure on Bilic and the side. Another decent result against Hull and we can start playing with a bit more of a swagger again, hopefully...

Sunday 11 December 2016

Angry Liver Birds Ready for the Plucking...

"When reason ends, anger begins" - perhaps something Jurgen Klopp might want to consider ahead of today's tussle with West Ham where he has promised to send out an 'angry' Liverpool team. And therein lies the key to West Ham taking something from their visit to Anfield.

After a week of hands-on coaching for their brittle defence, the Hammers need to keep it tight and frustrate the temperamental Reds. Last season the Hammers pulled off a stunning 3-0 victory - their first at Anfield in over 50 years. That performance was based upon keeping it tight and then punishing Liverpool as they became increasingly frustrated and overcommitted offensively. A similar philosophy can do the trick today and lift the Hammers out of the bottom three.

Interestingly, instead of his preferred 4-2-3-1, Slaven Bilic matched Liverpool's 4-3-3, but produced a masterclass in counterattacking after taking a 3rd minute lead which forced Liverpool to push up - with disastrous results for them. A committed and disciplined back four was protected superbly by Obiang, Kouyate and Noble, allowing Dimitri Payet and Lanzini the freedom to catch Liverpool on the counter.

For once, Bilic has decent choices up front with both Ashley Fletcher and Andy Carroll available. Michail Antonio has been our biggest attacking threat this season and the good news is that he is fit to return. Bournemouth provided the Hammers with a decent insight into Liverpool's defensive frailties but the key will be to keep it tight at the back - something we have struggled with so far this season.

Many Hammers fans have forgotten that with 15 minutes to go last week we were very much still in the game and looked most likely to score until Arsenal belted us with a series of excellent strikes. We will need better luck today and a big performance from our defensive midfielders. Big Andy will likely enter for the final quarter - let's hope we are still in the game and provide a platform for him to stick it to his ex-employers!


Predicted starting XI: Randolph, Reid, Ogbonna, Collins, Cresswell, Antonio, Kouyate, Noble, Obiang, Payet, Lanzini, Fletcher. 

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Good News for Bilic At Last

The mood is pretty poor down at West Ham right now as Slaven Bilic's West Ham side try to regroup after a series of disastrous and confidence-sapping results. A humiliating 5-1 home thrashing by Arsenal has prompted a training ground review with Superslav rejecting the help of various former Hammers and opting instead to sort out the defence himself!

However, Hammers fans will be heartened by a computer-generated prediction of the end of year placings which suggests that Superslav's efforts may well deliver the goods. Currently just hovering above the relegation zone, the computer has predicted that the mighty Hammers will trundle home in 15th - a disappointing first season at their new stadium but at least not in the dreaded drop zone that would surely a massive clear out at the club.

Meanwhile, the computer ranks the top seven placings as; Winners Man City, followed by in descending order Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool. Spurs, Man United and Everton. With Man City next in the cup it seems unlikely that the Hammers can salvage something from the season with an FA cup run, but everything is possible especially as they are at home and have a month to get their leaky defence in order!

Not such  good news emerged for the fans of Hull, Swansea and Burnley who are predicted to slip into the Chumpionship unless the computer has gotten it wrong.



Tuesday 6 December 2016

Time to Bring Back Teddy

With all the talk about West Ham's defensive woes of late (29 goals in 14 games and conceding three or more on eight occasions) many observers have forgotten about the best means of defence - ATTACK!

It's hard not to notice that one reason why we are conceding so many goals is that teams have gotten the smell of weakness and have started to push forward with a confidence that they wouldn't have dared try last season. The reason is simple: they know that our attack is blunt and unlikely to punish them.

Apart from the solo efforts of Dimitri Payet and the heading prowess of Michail Antonio, we offer very little in terms of coherent attack. To counter this, opposition teams just stand off Payet and avoid giving us free kicks around the box. As evidence consider the dreadful stats for goals scored by our strikers (none by any of them until Diafra Sakho's effort ten days ago) and our average possession stats of circa 35% per game!

In simple terms, we can't hold onto the ball to mount a coherent and sustained attack. This means that opposing sides can push up and eventually (often quite quickly in fact) find holes in our defence. For example, against the Gooners, apart from Ogbonna, did Reid, Masuaku or Arbeloa make any major errors or was it that Arsenal just pressurised us into submission? (and, in fairness, did lash off some pretty amazing strikes!)

Wind back to 2014 and West Ham had a similar problem under Big Sam. Back then we defended in numbers (with a 4-6-0 formation on some occasions!) and managed the odd draw, but it was the arrival of Teddy Sheringham that changed things and added a sense of purpose to our attack that suddenly pushed the meaningful action up the field.

Teddy was so successful in his role as forwards coach that he was snapped up as first team manager at Stevenage - a job that subsequently proved impossible with resources so tight he eventually had to register himself as a player at age 49! since then he has been keeping busy by getting married to his long-term girlfriend and in the past month linked with a move to the Australian League.

It seems NOW is the time to move for bring Sheringham back and take the pressure off our defence by making our attack more potent - and frightening for opposition sides.


Monday 5 December 2016

Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse...

So it's Man City in the cup. The way we are playing right now that's quite a daunting prospect! Home 'advantage' hardly applies with our troubles adjusting to the Olympic Stadium...Still, Christmas and a few results might steady the ship...

And at least it's not Arsenal!

Is Rio Eyeing the Terminator's Job?

It's been a pretty crazy weekend. We all expected that the current series of fixtures would severely test Bilic's team, but did not quite expect two performances quite as abject as the meek 4-1 surrender at Old Trafford in midweek and the 5-1 home capitulation against Arsenal. Then, as the media vultures sensed that SuperSlav was wounded, they seized upon his vulnerability during a painfully candid post match interview.

SuperSlav did nothing to deflect attention away from his under fire side as he lamented the lack of intensity in the squad and pointed to the training ground as the source of the problem. Bilic comes as a package, having three Croatian assistants who oversee training and conditioning of the squad. He also has Hammers legendary hard man Julian Dicks as defensive coach. One presumes that his comments were aimed at his players rather than these trusted hands but the blame for any lack of intensity ultimately must rest with the coaching staff.

Then, to add to the intrigue, ex-Hammer Rio Ferdinand publicly offered to lend a hand as a defensive advisor! Just how that might relate to King Julian's role is unclear but of note Dick's signed a new two year contract last Summer. Although Dicks was famed for his passionate displays in the claret and blue, off the pitch he is quite a gentleman and presents as a composed figure during matches.

It'll be fascinating to see what comes out of this mornings training session but whatever else, Bilic has ratcheted up the pressure and his staff - both players and coaches - will need to respond. One senses that he has started the clock ticking but the big testers will be the games against Burnley (H), Hull (H), Swansea (A) and Leicester (A) which follow our trip to Anfield next weekend and will bring us into a new year. 

Sunday 4 December 2016

The Player Who Should be Top of Our January Transfer List - and he wants to PLAY for West Ham!

Still ridiculous!
For many Hammers fans the image of James Tomkins playing in Crystal Palace colours is simply repulsive. Even worse, his fine form for the Eagles since his shock Summer move from his boyhood club has only served to further emphasise how poorly West Ham did in the Summer transfer lottery.

At the core of West Ham's problems is the lack of stability in defence. What we would give for a defender who can play in the centre or at right back and who has positional sense and tackling as his main attributes. Tonks may not be so great at flying down the wing but he proved last year that he brings stability and cohesion to the defence. His versatility would also allow for consistency in defensive personnel.

Having now established himself at the heart of the Palace defence, Tonks is now weighing in with goals - three already this season which, as Hammers fans know, is more than our six strikers have managed all season!

Tomkins allegedly departed because the club couldn't guarantee him a starting spot - ironically, our injury problems have meant that he would have played in the vast majority of our games to date! At £10 million the club imagined they were getting a decent deal. Now we are constantly rumoured to be in the market for another centre back - at what price one wonders?

And then there's the identity issue - letting one of our dyed in the wool Hammers leave was truly bonkers as we faced an identity-testing move to a new stadium. Superslav says we lack dedication and intensity - hardly attributes that Tomkins could ever be accused of lacking.

While some might suggest that Tomkins would be unlikely to move back so soon, here's one Hammer who suspects that it's part of his long-term plan and with all the nonsense these days with agent, we all know that a player who wants to leave will depart no matter what their contract says.

Sadly, Hammers fans are likely to embrace that reality in the near future in respect of Mr Payet.

So, it's time to beak the news to Palace that we want our boomerang back, and soon!



To Whom is Bilic Directing Training Ground Criticism?

After another humiliating trouncing to add to the midweek thumping at Manchester United, Hammers fans are becoming increasingly disgruntled with our porous defence. Yesterday's showing was revealing example of what lies at the heart of our woes.

Apart from Angelo Ogbonna, it would be hard to criticise any of Reid, Masuaku or Arbeloa. Reid repeatedly saved our bacon with last ditch tackles, Masuaku has a hard act to follow in Cressy but was tenacious in the tackle and looked confident on the ball, while for a player of his age with so little game time this season, Alvaro Arbeloa managed admirably with the endless flow of traffic down the right wing.

The real problem this season is that our defence has lacked stability - both in personnel and formation. We have certainly been unlucky with injuries, but the chopping and changing at right back has been painful to take in. It has been hard to watch Michail Antonio's upbeat demeanour being eroded by repeatedly finding himself played out of position in a role he clearly isn't suited to.

There can be no doubt that defensive stability is developed on the training ground and Bilic is simply getting to the crux of the matter before the posse inevitably realise that something is wrong. In his post match interview, Bilic alluded to the source of our difficulties saying "Somewhere down the line we lost the intensity in training". What was less clear is who he was referring to - players, his coaching staff or himself?

SuperSlav is a hands on coach - unlike some of the top managers who engage only minimally with the squad in the day to day grind. He also brings with him an experienced team of assistants in assistant manager Nikola Jurcevic, first team coach Edin Terzic and performance coach Miljenko Rak. Are these the focus of Bilic's concerns?

In addition, there is the Julian Dicks factor. A club legend, his recruitment by Bilic soon after his arrival was a masterstroke that helped to forge a bond between the fans and the new club set up. Dicksie is famed for his high energy and direct approach to football but one wonders what he makes of our defensive merry go round?  

One senses that for all his sophistication, Superslav is an emotional man who was hurting big time after the game. He captured the thoughts of the fans but may have inadvertently revealed that he believes a fundamental shake up is needed in our coaching set up.

Friday 2 December 2016

Did George Weah Recommend Simone Zaza?

Uncannily similar running off the ball

Deep into the second half of Wednesday night's encounter with Man United there was a moment of fantastic realisation for Hammers fans . With SuperSlav's boys looking for a way back into the game, Italian hit man Simone Zaza was sent on to save the day.

Within moments he managed an amazingly awful effort on goal that actually went out for a throw in! Such was the incredible shitness of the shot that the gathered DergHammers, who had previously been silently harbouring thoughts of a Jim Jones style group suicide, burst into laughter that then progressed to full applause and a round of celebratory bevvies. Comedy at it's football finest!

All of which begs the question - how did we get him? Is Zaza really an Italian international? It isn't only his lack of prowess in front of goal that raises concern, but his general running off the ball and ability to compete is similarly unimpressive.

The last time we witnessed such hilarity was surely the Ali Dia saga. as the story goes, Southampton manager Graeme Souness signed Dia on the strength of a telephone call from somebody purporting to be the then World player of the year George Weah. Dia was spectacularly inept such that he managed to play once for the Saints coming on as a substitute, prancing around cluelessly and then being substituted himself!

However, unlike Zaza, Dia was given his marching order two weeks after his arrival and Southampton definitely did not pay anybody £25 million for his services.

Arsenal next. Hmmmm. We knew this series of fixtures would be tough. Dig in. There will be better timers ahead for sure.

Sunday 27 November 2016

Sak-Blow: Hammy Injury for Hammers Hero

David Gold has revealed that Diafra Sakho's problem is a hamstring injury and the prognosis will not be clear until a scan tomorrow. Sakho's principal injury problem over the past six months has been to his back but has also previously struggled with thigh and groin injuries.

After his excellent performance today - where he scored one and had another headed effort just glide over the bar, Sakho deserves a bit of luck. Let's hope his injury is just a grade 1 in severity as West ham really need his abrasive and direct style.

Andy Carroll continues to edge his way back and may be available for the bench on Wednesday night but Ashley Fletcher looks set to lead the line against his former club. It seems that Simone Zaza is now truly out of the frame as he is close to a mandatory buy out if he reached 14 appearances.


Jon Moss - Where have you been all of our lives?

Oops! Sorry Jon
Bet you can't wait to have another go at Man United on Wednesday? After a pretty open and exciting encounter, the Hammers came away from Ye Olde Trafford with a deserved point after an early strike from the returning Diafra Sakho was levelled by I-Zlatan. United huffed and puffed and had plenty of opportunities, but similarly West Ham had a few excellent opportunities to steal al three points as the second half witnessed a ding dong toe to toe encounter.

For once, the man in the middle was excellent. Hammers fans quite rightly feel that over the years the Old Trafford crowd have persuaded referees to award dubious decisions to the home side, but Moss was having none of their simulation and whinging for free kicks and penalties at every possible opportunity. Even better, he expelled I-Jose to the stands for petulantly kicking over a bottle while wandering outside his technical area. Hilarious!

At the back Ogbonna was excellent while Dazza Randolph was simply sensational in pulling off a series of wonderful stops to keep it level. Across midfield the Hammers passed the ball well and kept the Man United defence on their toes. Up front Diafra Sakho provided the kind of directness that has been lacking and will hopefully be ok after going off with a twinge (?) just after the hour. Ashley Fletcher clearly relished his opportunity and so nearly pulled off a dramatic winner in the final minute of normal time.

Ultimately, West Ham fans will applaud referee Jon Moss for his confident performance as he made a series of excellent calls to keep the game entirely honest. He has obviously forgiven the Hammers for Joe Cole clattering into him a few seasons back! Can we have him officiate on Wednesday as well?

Holy Moley Its Sakhoooooooooo

There has been a major shocker at Old Trafford already this afternoon - not that West Ham have scored BUT IT WAS A STRIKER WHO NETTED!!!

Diafra Sakho latched on to Dimi Payet's tantalising free kick in the second minute to put the Cockney Boys one up.

Welcome back Mr Sakhoooooooooooo

Team Sheets: Bilic Plays it Cautious as Old Trafford Series Begins

The teams have been announced for this afternoon's clash and Slaven Bilic has opted to play it tight as West Ham seek a rare victory at Old Trafford. Randolph continues in goal, while Mark Noble returns with Andre Ayew dropping to the bench. Despite all the rumours of a return, there's no place for Andy Carroll on the bench as Diafra Sakho leads the line. Many Hammers fans will be concerned to note that Michail Antonio is again in the right back role.

West Ham: Randolph, Cresswell, Kouyate, Lanzini, Obiang, Sakho, Noble, Collins, Ogbonna, Payet, Antonio.
Substitutes: Adrian, Nordtveit, Feghouli, Zaza, Ayew, Fletcher, Fernandes.
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Darmian; Herrera, Pogba, Mata; Rashford, Lingard, Ibrahimovic.
Substitutes: Romero, Blind, Fellaini, Schweinsteiger, Mkhitaryan, Young, Rooney.

In good news, the almost always wrong Mystic Mark Lawrenson reckons Man Unitred will win 2-1. At 15-2 for the win, the Hammers are a reasonable bet but the 4-1 for a draw looks the best value.

West Ham's biggest ever win against Man United was in the 1930/1 season where they romped home 5-1 - you'll get 500-1 for a similar scoreline today!


Payet to join West Man United XI?

Young Ashley Fletcher will be hoping to get a run out in either today or next Wednesday's games against his former club as West Ham visit Ye Olde Trafforde in search of much needed points. It's pretty remarkable to think that last year the Hammers were doing battle with Man United for the fourth champions league spot but are now languishing just above the drop zone on goal difference only. A heavy defeat (five goals) for Slaven Bilic's men could push them down a place into 18th!

The media have gone into overdrive about the alleged £35 million bid from Man United for Hammers talisman Dimitri Payet - a player who would surely walk into the West Man United XI!

Ahead of today's match we consider the merits of a team comprised of players who have played for both clubs making up the impressive ‘West Man United XI’.  Ultimately, will these performers be considered Hammers or Devils?



At Man United he failed to inspire confidence - epitomised by ‘the goal that never was’. Joined West Ham in 2005 after falling out over a lack of first team opportunities. Had a good initial season but sustained a back injury in Jan 2006 and slipped into a variety of difficulties that ultimately earned him a place in the ‘Troubled Bubbles XI’!  Currently with Irish League outfit Linfield. Verdict Neither.

Hammers debut at the tender age of 17, Rio soon forced his way into the regular first team squad where he continued to impress until Leeds paid a record 18 million for him in November 2000. Quickly moved to Man United where he has been a fantastic servant for a decade and was key to the many successes of the past decade.Verdict Devil.

8 appearances for Man United where he was never really given a chance. A bargain signing for 500K for West ham that led to a five year career and over 100 appearances . Versatile defender who had his finest hour when scoring twice in a 4-0 victory over Man United in 2010. Ran out of road as the Hammers regrouped after relegation and moved to Birmingham City where he remains. Verdict: Hammer.

Top man. Signed from Cork Athletic in 1952. Noel enjoyed a fruitful 8 years at West Ham with 250 appearances. Captained the Hammers to promotion back to the top flight for the first time in almost 30 years in 1958 . Sold to man Utd for almost 30K in 1960 where he captained a cup winning side and was part of two league winning teams. Verdict Hammer.

Hmmm. One that got away having impressed at youth level but nicked by Man United. He might have fared so much better had he stuck with the Hammers and gotten a better shot at first team football. Many observers would say that he has never lived up to his potential. Part of the nightmare team that saw Aston Villa relegated last year, he is currently at Cardiff City. Verdict Neither.

Industrious and gamey, the 'Guvnor'  was never found wanting in the Hammers shirt after replacing Billy Bonds in 1987. He didn’t handle his Hammers departure very well being photographed in a Man United shirt well before the deal was confirmed. Probably did not deserve the  criticisms thrown his way by Fergie and after 6 years and over 200 appearances Verdict: Devil.

Another one thrown in as a teenager at 17 into the Hammers first team. Skilful but perhaps a little ‘ghosty’ at times. Happy to do the unglamorous work and stayed loyal after relegation in 2003 before losing patience and moving to Spurs for 3.5 Million and then Man United where he has been a solid performer for ten seasons. Verdict Devil.

Trouble with a capital T during his time at Man United, Fergie tired of his disciplinary problems and Big Sam obliged for a mere 650K. Initially 'Raveldo' looked like an astute piece of business but  disciplinary and personal issues re-emerged and after 18 games for the Hammers he was moved on. Currently languishing in the reserves at Lazio. Verdict Hammer.

Arrived at Man United late in his career but proved another astute Fergie signing and achieved legendary status in stoppage time of the 1999 Champions League final. Came to the Hammers not far short of pension age but still had plenty to offer by virtue of his excellent footballing brain. Returned as forwards coach to great effect in the 2014-5 season. Time to return and sort out our attacking woes? Verdict Devil. 

Played in a different era when United were not quite the same powerhouse they are now but picked up a cup winners medal, scoring in the 1977 final against lovely Liverpool.
Moved to the Hammers in 1979 after a nasty knee injury but still managed to play a major part in the 1980 Cup final victory over Arsenal, teeing up Trevor Brooking’s ‘stunning’ header! Verdict Both.

Arrived at the Boleyn in a bizarre deal in 2006. Bemused Hammers faithful endured two-thirds of a season of Carlos trying to inspire a lacklustre side and then it all clicked into gear for the final 10 games where he couldn’t stop scoring, including a final day win at Old Trafford to keep the Hammers up! The Apache had some classy moments in the United shirt but got sidetracked by his own ego needs. Ultimately moving to City was the final straw.Verdict Hammer.

Substitutes: Luke Chadwick, Les Sealey, David Bellion, Ashley Fletcher.

So, final score 4-4. The odds of that being the score in today's game are 350-1!!! After the Swansea vs Palace 5-4 game yesterday maybe anything is truly possible?