Sunday, 29 October 2017

Don't Blame Antonio: We Were Lucky to get a Draw

After Slaven Bilic's side threw away a two goal lead to draw 2-2 with lowly Crystal Palce yesterday the blame has focused very firmly on Michail Antonio. With the game deep into injury time Antonio passed up the opportunity to run the game out when he had possession in the opposition's corner and instead gave the ball away softly.

Palace duly took the opportunity and scored an dramatic 97th minute equaliser with the final kick of the game. Apart from the loss of 2 valuable points, the goal took the gloss off of a good week for the club where they put an embarrassing defeat to Brighton behind them with a cracking win away to local enemies Tottenham. The goal may even tilt the balance against Bilic who is struggling to hold onto his job.

However, the ire being directed towards Antonio is distracting from some pretty awful facts about the game. Palace are a poor side yet they totally dominated the second half and deserved at least a point. The Hammers had two shots on target through the whole match compared to Palace's haul of seven. With 43% possession we managed just two corners to their eleven. Joe Hart had a great game - he needed to!

The reality is that we were bosses by a very limited side who are bottom of the league and could not hold out despite having a two goal lead. That's the form that makes for relegation worries. With our current squad that seems unthinkable but we know all about getting relegated with a strong squad as the Cole-Lampard-Defoe-Di Canio etc team proved in the past.


Saturday, 28 October 2017

An Ayew statistic that will surprise many Hammers fans!

Am I alone among Hammers fans in sometimes finding myself sighing when Andre Ayew enters the fray? Often the Ghana international looks to be running down blind alleyways with his low centre of gravity and head down combining to make it look like there is an imbalance between effort and guile.

In reality, after his first season many fans were still undecided about the relative merits of Ayew and his £20 million transfer fee seemed to hang like a mill stone around his neck. Some fans feel that we should have held on to Sofiane Feghouli instead of Ayew.

However, Ayew's high energy game is starting to pay dividends as our stunning victory over Spurs in midweek demonstrates. His MOTM award was well deserved for a brace that Chicharito would have been proud of (And needs to start delivering!). But Ayew's recent good form is perhaps more sustained than many fans appreciate as in his 15 months at the club he has been involved in more goals (10 goals and 5 assists) than any other Hammer!!!

As his goal count this season mounts (currently 4), maybe he can join Michail Antonio as a double figures forward? He achieved double figures in 4 of his 5 seasons at Marseille and also with Swansea in the Premiership before joining West Ham. With Marko Arnautovic needing to prove himself and Nathan Holland waiting in the wings, the Hammers are starting to look potent out wide.

Palace today should provide the ideal opportunity to build upon Wednesday night's performance for player and club. With Palace lacking firepower going forward, surely Slaven Bilic will go with an attacking formation?

Kick off is at 3pm.


Thursday, 19 October 2017

Hammers Look to Silver Lining...

After his 90 seconds of madness on Saturday, Andy Carroll will be serving a ban when West Ham welcome Brighton to the OS on Friday night. missing out on the three points that we looked destined for against Burnley was hugely disappointing, but for many fans Carroll's loss may be a bonus as it will likely mean that Chicharito will return to his favoured central role.

In truth the Mexican assassin has looked out of sorts since he was displaced from the central striker's position by Carroll's return. Never the less, he is joint top scorer for the club with three goals in eight games - compared with Carroll's zero return from 4 starts.

Perhaps even more interesting will be the opening created for Diafra Sakho - a player that is starting to look like his old abrasive self as he regains hard-won fitness after repeated injury woes. Sakho has delivered 3 goals from 2 starts (and seven substitute appearances) but clearly needs more game time.

With the Hammers at home and under the floodlights, it's surely time to go with two up front - with Arnautovic on the left and Antonio on the right. Add Lanzini in the middle and we have the prospect of goals galore. The one issue is who will fill the holding midfield role - with Kouyate and Obiang neck and neck while poor Mark Noble looks out of the picture.

Whatever else, Friday night will answer some important questions about Bilic's intentions for our forwards and his preferred offensive style. Chicharito and Sakho will no doubt be hoping to seize this excellent opportunity to impress the boss regarding their respective claims for the central striking role.



Typical, just bloody typical! hammers fans will be amazed to hear that Simone Zaza - the guy who couldn't score at West Ham (eleven games and no goals) has won La Liga player of the month for September!

Zaza enjoyed a decent run in the latter half of last season after escaping London for Valencia - netting six goals in 20 appearances, but this season he has been on fire with 7 goals in 8 games, including a recent hat trick against Malaga!

While Hammers fans would never wish anything but the best of fortune to ex-players (with the notable exceptions of Ince and Payet), Zaza's story raises important questions about Messers Sullivan and Gold's transfer 'deals' as Zaza's failure was compounded by contractual issues that prevented him from playing sufficient games to adjust to the unique environment of the Premiership.

Whatever next? Modi Maiga to win African player of the year? Hardly, as the Mali international has endured a torrid time since leaving West Ham and has struggled to settle in the Gulf leagues managing just 9 goals in the past 3 seasons!

Would Zaza have been a success in the Premiership if he had been handled differently by the club?


Saturday, 14 October 2017

Bilic Plays Strong Hand in Claret n Blue Cup

Slaven Bilic has fielded probably the strongest attack-minded starting XI available to him for today's clash at Turf Moor with a chance for Hammers fans to see what we can do with all our big guns up front. With Sakho and Ayew on the bench, Bilic really has options to shake things up if they don't go according to plan.


West Ham: Hart; Zabaleta, Reid, Fonte, Cresswell; Antonio, Kouyate, Lanzini, Arnautovic; Carroll, Hernandez. Subs: Adrian, Noble, Masuaku, Ogbonna, Obiang, Ayew, Sakho.

Time to Repay the Bank of Bilic!

As the Hammers return from the International break with an away trip at Burnley, it has emerged that manager Slaven Bilic runs a bizarre credit rating system to support his team selections!

Speaking in an interview this week, he explained how players get credits for performances in training as well as match day performances- with the latter considered most important.

Having splashed the cash on the high profile signings of Chicharito, Arnautovic, Zabaleta and Hart, Bilic must be feeling that his signings are all in major debt to the Bank of Bilic!

Of the four, Chicharito has delivered a few much needed goals but has not yet found a rhythm within  the team. Zabaleta is a great pro but struggles against pacey opposition, Hart hasn't done anything especially wrong but has shipped a lot of goals as our defence has been porous, while Marko Arnautovic has delivered mostly in terms of his dodgy temperament rather than penetrating attacking play.

Arnie is thus the most in debt but after a decent international break in which he scored for Austria, he will be hoping to start today and lead the charge up the table. Let's hope today brings the first evidence of a growing partnership between him and the returning Manny Lanzini as our principal shortcoming so far this season has been the lack of a coherent attacking plan.

The Hammers are 15/8 but have beaten Burnley in their last 4 encounters. Burnley are unbeaten in their last 5, so something will have to give at Turf Moor today.

We reckon 2-1 to the Hammers!


Thursday, 12 October 2017

Let the dream begin...

As Slaven Bilic prepares to resume the Hammers campaign after the International break, it's an ideal time to take stock of our season to date.

After a difficult start which found the Hammers bottom of the table after four games, Bilic has weathered the storm with a series of decent rests, albeit underpinned by patchy form during which the team have struggled to discover a convincing rhythm.  In reality, the recent results have been due to good fortune and hard endeavour rather than by virtue of quality play.

Never the less, West Ham are lurching towards mid table boredom and with a full squad of players who are mostly match fit, it's surely time to unleash an attacking five comprising Lanzini, Arnautovic, Antonio, Chicharito and Carroll. With Sakho on form to replace either striker, Mr Bilic has decent options up front.

Moreover, the return of the impressive Pedro Obiang to partner Cheik Kouyate in midfield sure maintain an increasingly tight defensive unit.

Burnley, Brighton and Palace ahead in the league with an exciting opportunity to kibble the Spuds at their temporary Wembley home and suddenly it's time for some positivity.

Who knows, maybe we can push into the top half and let the dreaming begin?

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Dream time ahead for Hammers

Ok, so yesterday was a repeat of the Baggies game a fortnight back where two unimaginative sides played out a turgid affair, with one exception, just as in last week's defeat to Spurs, Bilic was able to change the game with his substitutions.

Arthur Masuaku came on with Diafra Sakho and conspired to land a knockout punch just on full time. We are now out of the relegation zone and looking ahead with as close to a full squad as Bilic has ever enjoyed during his time at the club. The next three months will test just how good the Croat really is. 

With Salvo, Carroll and Chicharito all fit it's hard to remember when we last had such potential up front. The return of Manny Lanzini can spark pour creativity while the choice of any two of Antonio, Arnautovic, Ayew and Masuaku is tantalising. Put Kouyate and Obiang in front of a back four and we should be defensively solid.

All we need is a bit of rhythm and confidence and we can push up the table. A run of results and we can think about a top six spot...