Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Obiang Italian Exit Looming - is this a big mistake by Pellegrini?

Hammers best goal of the season?

Manuel Pellegrini has certainly brought a new broom with him to West Ham as they have already brought in 7 new players since the Summer transfer window opened. With a squad that is actually starting to bloat, it is becoming necessary to offload sone of our players to make space for further rumoured signings and to ensure financial fair play compliance.

One player who looks like he may not be staying for the Pellegrini revolution is Spanish midfielder, Pedro Obiang. Singned from Sampdoria in 2015 at age 23 he looked all set to boss our midfield after an excellent 2016/17 season but then suffered a nasty injury and missed most of the second half of the season last year.

However his return to the squad for important wins over Leicester and Everton where he came on to help seal a rare win over our bogey team was received with delight by fans. The sense amongst many fans is that next year will see him further develop feom these decent beginnings.

Now reports from Italy (Bergamo Corriere Della Sera) suggest that he may be going on a year long loan for 1 million to Serie A's Atalanta with a 9 million purchase clause if all goes well for him.

Many fans will ask if this is good business given that he is now reaching his peak at age 26 and is a proven Premiership performer who's main flaw has been to get injured last season. Otherwise, he has grown during his time at the Hammers and is a decent all rounder with good physical presence in a holding role, decent mobility, accurate passing and a good shot (as Spurs can attest to!). All said and done, he seems like an ideal Pellegrini player!

Let's hope these rumours are nonsense!

Even Sherlock Holmes Couldn't Solve The Mystery of This Hammers Transfer Madness

Just when you had written off Jordan Hugill's signing as a moment of last minute Winter window desperation, reports are emerging that the real reason for bringing him in was in case we got relegated!?!

However bonkers that sounds, it is just as plausible as that Moyes might have thought he could make a difference as the poor lad has had just 22 minutes action and during that time has looked as clued in with things as Simone Zaza!

Now it looks that he will be shipping off to Leeds or QPR for a knock down price to make room for another Andy Carroll understudy.

While thete can be no doubting that David Moyes restored stability at the club and steadied a ship that was rocking its way towards relegation, the Hugill saga along with letting Jose Fonte depart when we were short of CB options endure as moments of bizarre decision making!

All of which begs the question - will we return to our circus management antics next year despite the arrival of Pellegrini? Time will tell.

Best of luck to Jordan Hugill whatever direction he takes. It must have been a frustrating and farcical adventure for him as well!

By the way - Zaza may have been a laughing stock at West Ham but has pretty done well since switching to Valencia 18 months ago, notching 19 goals in 53 appearances - better than his big zero for the Hammers!

Monday, 16 July 2018

Payet? No way - here's where discerning Hammers should put their cash

With less than five weeks until the Premiership kicks off again, its time to start thinking about realistic aspirations for the season ahead.

With a new Pellegrini-led era upon us and a board who seem determined to make up for perceived previous parsimony in the transfer market, just about anything seems possible.

One thing that has certainly changed is that our transfer activities are bringing in players that the manager actually wants and who fit in with his set up. Last season it was apparent that Chicharito was not suited to either the Bilic or Moyes method and, as the World Cup highlighted, we ended up wasting his undoubted talent.

For these reasons, Hammers fans have reason to feel positive - sonething that has not yet transferred to the bookies! While the odds of a Dimitri Payet return are a mere 5/2, the likelihood of West Ham getting a top six finish is quoted at a 18/1, with the top four at 66/1!

With Yarmolenko and Anderson ready to set the league alight, Chicharito essentially a new signing and an astute manager at the helm who has succeeded in pretty much every club he has managed, a top six finish is by no means out of the question and surely worth a 20 quid punt - if it comes up next season you will find yourself watching top class entertainment on a free season ticket! If you go for the top four bet you could afford to be next to the board the following year!


Forget formations: with Pellegrini it's about the quality of your players!

The volume of action involving West Ham in the transfer market since Manuel Pellegrini arrived has come as a surprise to many fans but an analysis of the Chilean mastermind's history quickly reveals that the Davids have gone for a truly bold selection as new manager.

Pellegrini has been hugely successful as a coach both in South America and La Liga, as well as winning the Premiership with Man City in 2014, scoring 102 goals while conceding just 37.

Pellegrini's emphasis is undoubtedly an attacking one - often playing with two strikers in a 4-2-2-2 formation. He demands great mobility from his players - expecting each forward to drift wide to link in with  marauding full backs and create space for passing triangles with the attacking midfielders. Played correctly, it makes for an exciting spectacle and one that will undoubtedly please fans!

Pellegrini firmly believes in dominating possession and is an advocate of that old truism that the opposition cannot score without the ball! He is equally ebullient about playing your own game and has been critical of managers who base too much of their energies upon tactics designed to  stifle the opposition's game. That said, he can be very flexible and frequently shifts to a 4-2-3-1 against better sides and also at times has used a 4-1-4-1 or even a simple 4-4-2 usually to accomodate the skillset of particular players. Pellegrini sides like to defend high up and therefore he prefers players with pace and expects his teams to cover lots of yards and dominate possession - he surely would not approve of Moyes' method that often resulted in West ham conceding two thirds or more of possession - and not just against the top sides!

So, what are the implications for West Ham's set up? The loss of Andy Carroll may not be so big an issue given that he really is not a Pellegrini-style forward. Chicharito, on the other hand, should fit in much better than he did in the 4-5-1 of Moyes which exposed his lack of physicality. Ryan Fredericks has lots of pace and along with Aaron Cresswell should prosper in a more traditional full back role. In the holding role we might expect Wilshere/Noble to pair up with Obiang/Kouyate in front of the back four, while the attacking midfield of Anderson and Lanzini (after Christmas) would make for an exciting link with Arnie and Yarmolenko / Hernandez.

Add to all of that the unpredictable creative mayhem of Masuaku and Antonio and its looking very exciting up top. Pellegrini's preferred centre back pairing remains unclear and the opening game against Liverpool will tell us how close to the required standard he considers Declan Rice and the exciting French youngster Issa Diop. For such a big game one suspects he may go with the greater experience of Ogbonna and the newly arriving Balbuena - aka 'The General'.

And then there's the small issue of more arrivals to add to the mix!

I am so glad to have a season ticket for next year - it is going to be very exciting and whatever else, we will have committed attacking football from the home side at the London Stadium!

How about this? Note that the common formation building sites do not include a 4-2-2-2 function even though it is quite common in South America.


The Major Upside of West Ham's injury crisis

In typical fashion, just as it looked like West Ham might be ready to push on having put our annus horribilis behind us, our talisman gets seriously injured on World Cup duty and then we lose our principal centre back and striker. Hmmm.

However, it has become apparent that Manuel Pellegrini is not at West Ham just for the money - his transfer dealings this Summer have demonstrated that he has a point to prove and West ham are benefitting from his knowledge of the international transfer market with players arriving from all sorts of sources including leagues in Brazil, Germany, France and Italy.

With 7 in, no majir departures and every sense that more good news is to follow, this is a truly remarkable time at West Ham. Moreover, the recent injurues may also have a positive - Carroll's injury almost certainly means that we will hold on to Michail Antonio, Reid's issues will prolong Ogbonna's Hammers career, while the continued interest in creative midfield talents (e.g. Bernard) is almost certainly a function of Lanzini's absence.

Many seasoned observers will be pleased to see Antonio and Ogbonna remain. Both are proven Premiership performers and deserve the opportunity to prove that they can contribute to the Pellegrini revolution.
That said, imagine tge squad we will have for the run in next year - if we can get close to the top six our squad depth should mean that we don't fade in the final furlong like we did under SuperSlav 2 seasons ago.


Sunday, 15 July 2018

World Cup Signals Simple Solution to Long Running West Ham Dispute

England had an excellent World Cup campaign, reaching the semi finals and bringing a sense of pride back to the shirt. However, Mr Grumpy himself, Roy Keane, brought everybody back to reality when he observed that most of the England players had not won anything and that it was a pretty unlikely scenario for your first trophy to be the World Cup!

Losing for a second time to Belgium in the 3rd and 4th place play off game highlighted that whatever about being unlucky against Croatia, the are clearly better sides out there. As such, a second World Cup seems a long way off and may never happen!

As such, England should cherish their one success. In recent times there has been an ongoing debate about whether the World Cup statue should move to the new stadium. In a recent poll fans were split 50:50 on the matter! While a spot has been identified at the Olympic Stadium, Newham council have changed their minds on letting the statue go.

All of which seems ridiculous - many Hammers fans see the statue as the best reminder of where our home was and as Green street continues to change that looks likely to become even more so over time. The statue cost £730,000 when it was erected in 2003. Putting It in perspective, thats a few weeks wages for Andy Carroll!

If we can afford to pay £10million for Jordan Hugill and then never even give him a chance to show us what he is capable of, surely we can afford a second and separate statue for the new stadium?


P.S. When you host the best league in the world it is inevitable that you will eventually assemble a squad that is good enough to mount a serious challenge for the World Cup, but the statue should stay regardless.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Yarmolenko, Anderson, Wilshere...Back to the Future?

West ham have had a remarkably busy transfer period so far this Summer, with 7 major recruits. While you might debate the extent to which supporter unrest has contributed to the Pellegrini cashsplashing revolution, having a 60,000 stadium at very attractive rent does create a cash rich wealth that is needed to progress up the Premiership rankings.

However, its not all about money! In the Summer of 2007 Alan Curbishley was allowed to blitz the transger market and signed a host of desirable players including Scott Parker, Craig Bellamy, Kieron Dyer, Freddie Ljungberg and Julien Faubert. Sadly, only the first two on the list delivered on their billing with Ljungberg and Dyer especially costly mistakes.

Was Curbishley to blame? Interestingly, he had an excellent managerial record prior to that but clearly somebody lost the run of themselves. Soon after West ham were in serious trouble as the Icelandic consortium were bankrupted and the club endured its closest ever brush with a humiliating demise.

Thankfully, the ship was steadied and soon after the Davids rolled into town bringing a much smarter financial philosophy that has pushed West ham into the top 20 richest clubs on the planet.

Hopefully this season is tge one when tge club can push on. Let's hope its not another false dawn like that of 2007!


West Ham Rediscover that Lions feeling - but at a cost!

We all know that West ham won the World Cup in 1966 with the three Lions of Hurst, Moore and Peters leading the charge. However, since then its been hit and miss for West Ham players getting into the England side.

Our beloved neighbours over at Tottenham tried to bridge the gap but came up short against a modest Croatian side who look set to be mauled by France in tomorrow night's final. Put simply, an England side without a healthy dose of Hammers cannot expect to win anything significant!

With the current squad as international as West Ham have ever been, there are few players likely to break into the England set up - with the most likely in Michail Antonio possibly on the move out of the club!

As a consequence, if the Lions don't invite you to join them maybe its best to create your own and thats what West ham have done with their new sponsor, Bassett and Gold will bring a Lion logo to the claret n blue.

Frankly, its awfully Villa-like and along with the Burnley-esque home jersey not in keeping with our tradition.


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

How Unlucky England Could Have Done With Hammers Ace!

Ooogh...so close for an unfancied England side in the World Cup. A little more composure in the second half and they surely would have skipped home. But, alas, they stopped passing the ball and let Croatia back into a game that could have been all but done at half time.

On reflection, it was in the early exchanges of the second half that a youthful English side lost composure and started to look for 'safer' long ball options. That was the moment that they needed a real leader in the middle of the park to talk the centre backs into keeping their composure and maintaining a link with a forward line that was until then keeping Croatie guessing.

For my money Jack Wilshere could have provided that link. Instead, Eric Dier was brought on in an effort to get a misfiring England ticking over again but struggled as England gave up possession and stumbled home.

Having said all of that, the England side deserve much praise, surprising many with their effectiveness in a tournament that has been fantastic. Well done Mr Southgate - calm, assured and tactically astute. All said and done, the regret will be that a young side didn't beat a Croatia side that really looked there for the taking.

So its back to all things West Ham and we have every right to be optimistic for the season ahead. The influx of ball players will surely bolster our capacity to use the space of the new stadium. The performances of Premier league players also enhances our belief in the league that we watch each week.

A final thought - who would have thought Spurs could have performed so well on the biggest stage? A big push and West Ham can be up there with the best!


Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Wilshere Can Succeed Mark Noble as Captain Claret

There can be no doubting that it's been an interesting transfer widow for West Ham so far and apparently with even more new blood to arrive. However, the most exciting signing to date is Jack Wilshere from Arsenal - undoubtedly talented, his injury issues have stymied a career that looked soar.

With a bit more luck he would have made the England squad for Russia and come tomorrow night if Modric and Rakitic are bossing midfield Gareth Southgate may well wish he had brought Wilshere along!

Whatever about that, Wilshere is a proper Hammer and at just 26 should have his best years ahead of him. While we all love Mark Noble, we are having to get our heads around the reality that he can't keep putting in those amazing Duracell performances that keep our midfield ticking over (for a potent example check out Leicester last season!).

So who will step into those massive Noble shoes? Arnautovic could be an interesting possibility but he isn't historically a Hammer. Winston Reid is a big player but maybe not quite the force he was previously (let's hope he can recover with an injury-free run next season), Declan Rice is still too young but may well take on the role at some point as he is a ringer for Billy Bonds.....so what about Wilshere - a leader, intelligent and a proper Hammer!

It's going to be interesting to see how Pellegrini lines up his midfield talents - especially when Lanzini returns in January 2019 (all going well). 

Even more intriguing is how West Ham will line out against Liverpool and then Bournemouth...Will Wilshere and Noble both get a starting place? Surely that would lack pace…Will he rotate the two to keep Noble fesh and Wilshere injury-free?  How will he use Rice, Kouyate and Obiang?


Does Yarmolenko Arrival Signal the End for Antonio?

Michail Antonio is one of the few Hammers players that brings a sense of being able to change the pattern of games - having been our most potent attacking force during his first two seasons at the club (and receiving Hammer of the year in 2016/7), last season was blighted by a recurring hamstring problem and his playing time and goal tally dipped accordingly. 

That said, most observers would expect any incoming manager to include Antonio in their plans as he is a proven Premiership scoring talent. In addition to his impressive strike rate, he brings a formidable physicality that often causes chaos amongst opposition defence and, for a wide player, he is very strong in the air and can also play in a more central role if needed.

One of the biggest disappointments last season was that we really did not get to see the Lanzini-Arnautovic-Antonio-Hernandez combination that we had dreamed of at the start of the season!

However, with growing rumours that he may be Palace-bound, and the imminent arrival of Ukrainian Andriy Yarmolenko - a right sided attacking player, it looks like Antonio may be about to leave the club.

From where this observer is looking - this is surely Pellegrini's first big mistake at the club? Let’s hope that we can hold onto Michail as it would leave very exciting options up front!



Saturday, 7 July 2018

Hammers Look to Portia for Stunning Major Summer Signing!

Well, who would ever have imagined that West Ham would be faced with the dilemma of having to choose whether to allow Dimitri Payet to return to the club? Although you would have to be sceptical, reports suggest that the temperamental talent is considering a return to the Premiership, and even more unexpectedly, to West Ham United!!!

It's 18 months later and Payet is now 31 years old but his recent record at Marseille (15 goals in  46 games) has been as good as that during his time at West Ham (15 goals in 48 games) and in reality Payet's major asset is his close control and passing accuracy rather than his speed. Since his departure, Manny Lanzini has stepped up as the creative force in the hammers midfield but, with Lanzini likely to be out for most of next season, Payet would be the perfect footballing replacement! Marseille have apparently gotten into financial trouble again and selling Payet has been identified as a possible solution.

However, Hammers fans were united in their ire at the manner of Payet's departure that included the Frenchman refusing to play and forcing a cut price return to Marseille. Dubbed 'Le Snake' Payet joined a list of players deemed as traitors by the fans (Ince, Lampard, Defoe) but reports suggest that the Hammers are genuinely examing the possibility of re-signing Payet who was previously contracted until 2021. 

Whether fans can show the mercy that Portia pleaded for in the Merchant of Venice ('the quality of Mercy is not strained etc) remains to be seen but consider this: Apart from Paolo Di Canio, how many genuinely world class players have we had at the club in the last 25 years? Payet is out of the France squad due to injury but if fit would surely be a major attribute for the squad that is amongst the favourites to emerge victorious from the tournament. 

Let's test his commitment by signing him on a one year loan with a view to making that more permanent if we are happy that the relationship can work for both parties?