Sunday 27 December 2020

Make or break time for Hammers

On the pitch West ham have stuttered over recent games with unlucky defeats to Chelsea and Man United and a frustrating draw with ten man Palace.

As a result, the Hammers face towards the new year in mid table mediocrity but with such a tight league a few decent results can push them towards top six again.

Having been forced to postpone the successful back 5 formation due to Masuaku's injury, the Hammers looked light in midfield against Palce and then dominated Chelsea when they opted for the triad of Rice, Soucek and Noble. That said, the lack of penetration up front was a major factor in the Hammers being on the end of a 3-0 scoreline despite being on top for extended periods.

And so to Brighton who have been shuffling along just above the drop zone with intermittent shows of brilliance interspersed with some ineffectual showings. Put simply, if West ham want to push on to the next level and hold on to Rice and Soucek then games like today are must win affairs.

The media have Rice all but sold to Chelsea but the discerning head recognises that the lad would do better to stay at the London stadium and get experience as an established captain. Joining a crammed Chelsea squad could easily result in bench warming duties which a player at his stage must avoid. A glance at the list of emerging talents that have had career ending moves to Man City serves as a lesson in the perils of moving to a big club too soon.

As for today, Moyes has gone for Ben Johnson instead of Fornals in what is hard to predict in terms of formation. The absence of Benrahma will disappoint as the lad looks on the verge of clicking into top gear.


West Ham United: Fabianski, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Coufal, Johnson, Soucek, Rice, Noble (c), Bowen, Haller

Subs: Randolph, Benrahma, Fredericks, Dawson, Diop, Snodgrass, Fornals, Lanzini, Yarmolenko

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Bobby Bubbles Reveals: Who Were the Big Heroes at Elland Road?

So, the Hammers march on with an impressive performance where the 2-1 scoreline did not do their superiority justice against a limp Leeds side. Interestingly, the Hammers had only a third of the possession but the lion's share of good scoring opportunities and seemed unphased by the disastrous start!

Fabianski: Robbed with the penalty retake. The rule is nonsense and should be scrapped. At most he moved 2 inches from his line! Assured, as always, after that with a few important saves. Starting to challenge Phil Parkes and Ludo for top spot in Hammers keeper hall of fame? 7.5/10

Coufal: another solid performance. This man knows his skillset and uses a good footballing brain to full effect. Less prominent going forward but tenacious in defence and calm in possession. 7.5/10.

Ogbonna: Caught out for Bamford's penalty and once again in the second half, but otherwise imperious with a cracker of a headed goal to seal the win! 8.5/10.

Balbuena: Well and truly in from the cold now and looking like a 'general' once again. Almost topped off a fine performance with a goal twice in the latter stages. You gotta feel sorry for Issa Diop!  8/10.

Cresswell: Handled the changed formation well. Definitely rejuvenated! 7/10.

Benrahma: This lad really looks like he's going to set the team alight. Very skillful on the ball and carved out six shooting chances. Leeds were forced to mark him much more closely in the second half which in turn opened up space elsewhere. His first goal looks imminent!. 8/10. 

Rice: A towering presence as along with Soucek dominated midfield. Leeds had no answer. 8/10.

Soucek: Looked back to full energy and topped of a tremendous performance with a goal. 8.5/10.

Fornals: Busy night in the rejigged formation. Did well to offer support all over the field. Unlucky with a decent goal effort that went agonisingly wide. He is great at getting into positions but needs to fine tune his finishing skill! 7/10.

Bowen: Drifted a bit after a busy start. Great back tracking and clearly likes working with Coufal down the right. It would be nice to see him linking in more with Benrahma - quite a prospect!


Haller: He has improved but should've got a hat trick with the chances he had. He is doing a freat job of maitaining the legacy of enigmatic French forwards we have had at the club. Needs to rediscover his first touch and turn with the ball more! Opponents have spotted that he holds it up by going backwards. 7/10.


Good to see young Johnson getting more game time and he handled it well. Nobes calmed things but should he really accept the Captain's arm band when arriving so late? Snoddy looked game but its hard to see where he might get back in with a starting position!

This is What West Ham Need to do to Hold on to Rice and Soucek

As the vultures assemble ahead of the January transfer window, already rumours abound regarding the likely departure of West hams impressive midfield pairing with Chelsea seeking Declan Rice, while Bayern apparently are looking at Soucek.

When fans made the commitment to leave Upton Park for the London Stadium the clincher for many was the promise that we would no longer sell our best players to "bigger" clubs as we would be on a financial par with them. 

In fairness, D&G have taken a debt-ridden Championship club with a tired squad to being a top half side with a fancy stadium* (terms and conditions still apply) and a strong squad. The club is currently ranked the 17th richest in world football and that standing can only improve when the club finally takes full ownership of the stadium - something that seems ultimately inevitable. Grady Diangana apart, West ham have held on to our most important players except where the relationship has become untenable as was the case with Payet and Arnautovic.

But this time the pressure is really on as both Rice and Soucek are extremely exciting and young players. Losing Rice in particular would have major symbolism as he is seen as 'one of ours' havibg been through the academy. This is a move that could seriously undermine an already fraught relationship between many fans and the current board.

But ultimately football is a business and if West ham are to keep these talents they MUST push on. With a decent start to the season that has the Hammers loitering around the top six while other big clubs are faltering looks to be the perfect opportunity to finally break through into European football.  

Looking at the current squad the answer to West ham's situation seems clear - we need a top quality (i.e. 15-20 goals per season) striker. Imagine what the current team could achieve with a Cottee or a Defoe in their prime?

But that kind of player is increasingly rare in modern football - a true 'striker'. Said Benrahma looks like a great capture but he is not an out and out striker - the clue is in the description of forwards as "can also play out wide". A 'real' striker plays centrally and around the box. Chicarito was that kind of player but just not at the standard and past his prime. 

Otherwise, West ham look reasonably healthy and Friday nights back four realignment demonstrated that we can adapt our formation as needed and according to player availability. In addition to Rice and Soucek, with Fab, Oggy, Coufal, Bowen, Benrahma and Antonio we look a decent side. Lanzini is also getting back to speed. 

We just need a top striker and we can graduate to the higher tier - everything else is in place now. 

If we miss this moment we will surely regret it as we have constant reminders as Rice turns out for Chelsea or Man Utd etc while Soucek captains Bayern and the Czech republic.

It's time to splask the cash. 


Friday 11 December 2020

No Antonio but Benrahma Starts: Hammers ready to Nail Leeds!

There's no Antonio, but Benrahma starts as the Hammers look to be about to undergo a change in tactics with a flat back four. Unless Moyes fancies Benrahma to fill the Masuaku role - possibly the factor that has delayed Benrahma's promotion to a starting berth as he has had time to sharpen his defensive skills. Let's hope its not a repeat of the painful Antonio at right back that Bilic persisted with three seasons back. 

It's a big night for Seb Haller as he looks to make his case to lead the line. He has definitely been more energetic in recent games and will need to put in a decent shift to disrupt Leeds' tippy tappy possession game. 

It'll be fascinating to see how Fornals is used with Benrahma also on duty. Rice and Soucek will need to be assertive to stop Leeds playing through midfield. 

The Hammers have mited attacking options on the bench with Lanzini and Snoddy but no natural striker available. Hmmm. Let's hope we don't fall behind. 


Fabianski, Coufal, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Rice, Soucek, Fornals, Benrahma, Bowen, Haller 

Substitutes: Randolph, Fredericks, Johnson, Dawson, Noble, Snodgrass, Lanzini.

Cracking Contest Awaits as Hammers take on Leeds!

Let's be honest, Leeds United have never been a favourite amongst opposition fans but many were more than a little pleased to see SuperLeeds return to the top tier - if only in the hope that we might get a chance to see our side beating the premiership newbies.

However, under Marcelo Bielsa Leeds have shown that they are more then able for the top flight with a series of impressive performances this season and a decent points haul from matches that have been entertaining to watch.

And so the hammers head North hoping to build on a season that has so far been a major success. Both sides are coming off the back of unlucky defeats - West ham having fallen foul of some bad officialdom that turned the match against Man United who before Pogba's goal looked unlikey to get anything from their trip to the London stadium. Leeds, meanwhile, were very unlucky to lose to a late Chelsea strike. 

With both sides well clear of any relegation worries we can expect an open and attacking game with plenty of goals. Hammers fans will be worried by the absence of Arthur Masuaku through injury which is likely to destabilise their very successful 5 at-the-back formation. Just how David Moyes will adapt to this challenge remains to be seen. 

Similarly, there seems to be much uncertainty over the fitness of Michail Antonio with conflicting reports as to whether he will be available for tonight's clash. West ham will need to play with mobility if they are to stop Leeds free flowing football and many pundits see Masuaku's absence as a big opportunity for the impressive Said Benrahma to get a chance to strut his stuff. 

Not surprisingly there have been varying predictions from the pundits with Mark Lawrenson opting for a Leeds victory while Michael Owen fancies the Hammers to come out on top. Either way, we can expect an exciting contest with plenty of goals. The Bookies have Leeds at evens with West ham at 2 to 1 for the win. 

Kick off is at 8:00 p.m.


Wednesday 2 December 2020

Its time to stop this penalty madness


The current season is surely the weirdest of all time with empty stadia and the growing cancer that is VAR. Both players and fans are fed up of the increasingly pedantic application of rules to the exclusion of common sense as the bureaucrats have become empowered by a weapon that is bringing a farcical level of precision to gameminding.

West ham's game against Villa on Monday was a classic case in point. Traditionalists will know that the offside rule is meant to prevent the goalhanging antics thst characterise most schoolyard games of football and in essence if a forward is in line or close to it with the last defender then they should be given the benefit of the doubt and deemed on side. 

The law was never intended to be applied with the sliderule precision we saw for Villa's (almost) late equaliser. After 5 minutes of digital jiggerypokery the goal was deemed offside by a hairs breadth margin. Any sane fan would recognise the ruling, and its application, as madness. There really is a difference between what you can and should do in life!

The VAR nonsense is also reflected in the exponential growth of 'soft' penalties. So far this season the Premiership haa amassed 46 after just 10 games as we are on course to more than double the number from recent seasons. Do fans really want soccer to become a diving competition? FA supremos might do well to learn from the experience of rugby where in the past penalty kicks became too dominant and they had to increase the points value of tries. In short, penalties should be a rare occurence not a routine intrusion into the game.

And then there's the diving. Jack Grealish is a really exciting talent - which makes his diving antics all the more difficult to accept. The footage from Monday night's game of his 'delayed reaction' to a mundane challenge with Pablo Fornals is disturbing. For me such behaviour should be prioritised for punishment and VAR provides the perfect tool to discourage this blatant cheating. A 2-3 match ban would surely send out a much needed signal. 

The real purpose of VAR and related technologies is to prevent teams getting an unfair advantage, especially where such behaviour is deliberately contrived. If officialdom insists on intruding into on field matters then lets prioritise behaviour that turns many fans away from the game - one suspects that any accurate poll of fans would put diving at the top of the list of behaviours that need to be discouraged.

As for Jack Grealish, the lad needs to focus on what he is best at and on Monday night's evidence acting isn't amongst his better skills. After the Hammers very fortunate win one had to feel sorry for Villa but when you watch Grealish's embarrassing antics and his manager's post match comments maybe the rule of karma justice was applied. 

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Player Ratings as Hammers go Fifth With win over Villa!

Fabianski: Wow. Proved once again that he is our best keeper in years with a series of important saves that were key to taking all three points. Had no chance with Grealish's deflected goal.8/10

Coufal: Did really well against the roving Grealish with a series of no compromise chalkenges that were well timed. Had to curtail his attacking instincts for once. 7.5/10

Ogbonna: Another top performance. Calm and assured. Great to see him get a goal too! 8/10.

Balbuena: Solid performance again but does hoof the ball a bit too much and we needed to hold more possession.  6.5/10.

Cresswell: A bit off form and also didnt link especially well with either Masuaku or Fornals. A tough night! 6/10.

Masuaku: Never got hoing and subbed at half time to switch to a 4-5-1 to try to stop Villas midfield dominance. As it turns out we were possibly worse in the second half!. 6/10. 

Rice: Not at his best as we struggled in midfield. Still managed plenty of interceptions but didn't hold enough possession. 6.5/10.

Soucek: Looked tired and didnt get forward as much as we have come to expect. 6/10.

Fornals: Another player who struggled as Villa held so much possession. 6/10.

Bowen: One of our better performers on the night and a cheeky goal to round off a good showing. Still runs out of puff after 70 minutes but thats probably a measure of the shift he puts in up to then and we have decent options off the bench. 8/10.

Antonio: struggled to get involved and looked tentative coming back from his hammy recurrence. Will benefit from the 45 mins of action though! 6/10.


Haller: Seemed interested enough but really not in the same league as Antonio for harrying opposition defenders which was needed on the night. Did well in the air but we didn't support him enough. 7.5/110.

Benrahma: There's a good feel about this lad. Did well to assist Bowen in what was the crucial strike of the game but then forced to defend for the rest of the half which is not his forte. 7/10.

Noble: His entry had a calming effect for those watching but in all honesty we looked shambolic for the final few minutes. 6/10.

Monday 30 November 2020

Anyone feeling a bit dirty?

There's very little arguing with flying Fifth in the table but any Hammers fans starting to get big ideas might need to think again. The win is always the most important statistic in any game but in every other way Aston Villa are entitled to feel hard done by to leave the London stadium with nothing to show after dominating both halves of the game - apart from the first 2 minutes of each in which they conceded soft goals. 

But enough of Villa, what is wrong with West ham? The loss to Newcastle in the opening fixture of the season remains our worst performance, but the three wins over Fulham, Sheff United and Villa were all disappointing shows where we stumbled home with all the points but little else to be pleased with. 

Against Villa we enjoyed just one third of possession, which as the home team is genuinely troubling. Gone is the quick passing and sleak interplay that underpinned our performances against Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool (from which we only managed a point but demonstrated our credentials as a tough side to dominate). 

Winning with sub-par performances is one of the characteristics of a good side but frankly we are pushing our luck at this stage!

At the core of the problem is our poor passing accuracy. Add to that our increasing reliance on long balls out of defence (yes, that's you Fab and Balbuena) to the relatively immobile Haller. Michail Antonio looked tentative tonight but if he stays fit we can expect to get more out of long balls but in reality we need to use the back five to pass out from the back. 

Also worrying tonite was the inability of Rice and Soucek to get any real hold on midfield. We were left chasing shadows after Grealish but in reality most sides find him a handful. But Hourihane and McGinn also found it all too easy. Moyes tried to stop the rot by changing it up at half time by going 4-5-1 but to no avail. 

With Man Utd visiting on Saturday night we need to get back to the drawing board and start passing the ball a whole lot better. Then again, we do seem to up our game for them so it'll be the perfect game to match a winning result with a decent performance. 

As for tonight, its hard not to feel for a Villa side who deserved at least a point. 


Wednesday 25 November 2020

Moyes: Maker of Men!


The Man with X-Ray Eyes!

Remember when Michail Antonio was a winger? Even better, remember the excruciating pain watching Slaven Bilic's doomed experiment with Michail at right back? Bilic persisted in the face of clear evidence that Antonio lacked the defensive subtlety needed for the position and in all fairness to Michail, he kept the chin up and persisted for the team. Now look at him - one of the most feared strikers in the Premiership, both in terms of physicality and lethality in front of goal. 

Most of which is due to David Moyes' vision to put Antonio top of the house as striker. he may lack the precision of the likes of Sergio Aguero, but the man is a striking phenomenon and his is the name Hammers fans most want to see back in the starting line up for Villa nd Man United in our next two games. 

And then there's Arthur Masuaku.  The lad is immensely likeable but let's face it, he was on his way out of the club at the end of last season. As a left back, exposed and playing deep, Arthur is a time bomb waiting to go off. he has a history of zoning out at crucial times of putting his feet in where they shouldn't be risked. 

Zoom forward to November 2020 and Masuaku is another player reborn in his new role as an attacking left back wing back in a back five that has lost is previous leaky tendencies and is the foundation from which West Ham have become a really awkward team to play. Add to that Arthur's twinkle-toed first touch and the lad is a real threat going forward and links brilliantly with Cresswell and Fornals. Again, it's got to be thank you Mr Moyes for having the vision and trust in a player who has become a real asset to the team. 

Add to that Aaron Cresswell's return to form - with a series of performances that have him on the verge of the England squad again, it's been remarkable stuff! technically, the little fella is now a centre back, although really he's playing as a central left back, but whatever you call it, it's bloody working!

And so to Declan Rice. Many see his career as following that of Bobby Moore or Billy Bonds or Rio ferdinand - starting in midfield and then shifting to centre back for the mainstay of his career. No Way! Declan is far to potent as a defensive midfielder and also has, under Moyes, developed the attacking side of his game. Put simply, he'd be wasted at Centre Back!

Many fans were uninspired by the announcement that David Moyes was coming in to replace Pellegrini but at this stage you've got to admit that he has proven his ability to see where players can be best positioned. 

You have to wonder what he sees ahead for Seb Haller?

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Can We Dream or Will Murphy's Law Kick In?

After a difficult start to the season West ham's manager David Moyes will be delighted how his charges have pushed their way to an impressive 8th spot in the Premiership. One quarter of the way through the season and Hammers fans are startibg to wonder if this season might see the club finally seize a top six position!

After a brace of well chiselled out wins against Fulham and Sheffield United, in both cases without top striker Michail Antonio, Moyes seems to have found the winning formula in games that historically West Ham might have fluffed.

The current formation using a back five has brought out the very best from a previously porous backline who are also contributing to what has become an expansive attack. Moreover, with Rice and Soucek in the middle, there is much less room for opposition sides to attack. 

Things are looking good as the Hammers host Aston Villa at the weekend where a win could push them up to 5th after ten games! So perhaps its not so surprising that Danny Murphy took time on MOTD to suggest that top six status may be a realistic ambition for the club. 

However, veteran Hammers fans will note the lack of squad depth in key positions such as at striker and also centre back, while the club tradition of blowing things just when we seem on the cusp is hard to ignore. It's Murphy's law that after top performances against the Premiership 'elite' we mess up against bottom half clubs.

All the same, recent results suggest that Moyes has instilled a new steel to the side....

Monday 23 November 2020

Fans Stadium Return: Latest News and Opinion

Norn Iron fans return to Windsor Park

In what has been the most unusual season of living memory in English football, more good news has emerged this morning with Astra Zeneca's announcement that they also have a vaccine that appears effective in preventing Covid-19 infection. 

The company have revealed that results from their phase 3 trial indicate between 70 and 90% effectiveness in protecting against Coronavirus infection. This follows from similarly positive results released in recent weeks for vaccines created by Moderna and Pfizer, all of which suggests that the battle against Covid-19 has changed from defensive retreat to attack. 

Despite this good news there remain unanswered questions regarding the duration of immunity from vaccines and whether in addition to preventing Covid-19 illness whether they also prevent those in contact with the virus from spreading it to others. This latter issue is crucial to determining how rapidly we can exit from social distancing restrictions and, of course, gatherings such as football matches.

The issue of safety is also important as it will determine uptake of the vaccine by the general public, which is key to establishing herd immunity. Its worth noting that trials to date provide safety data on sizeable numbers (albeit short term) whilst effectiveness data is based upon the smaller numbers who actually become infected by the virus. 

All in all things are really looking up but what about actually getting to football matches again? The FA and government have been having talks about this issue and how things might change when the current lockdown ends in early December. 

In the meantime, Northern Ireland trialled reduced fan attendance when they allowed just over 1000 fans attend their recent international against Slovakia at Windsor Park. To date, this seems to have been a success as fans adhered to social distancing and created a decent atmosphere within the stadium despite their small numbers.

So what does this mean for West Ham fans? Realistically, widespread vaccination will not happen until a few months into 2021 and in the meantime we will learn more about the degree and duration of immunity that the vaccines provide. 

While some fans are chomping at the bit to get back into stadia, any fans with heghtened vulnerability to severe Covid illness would be best to stay patient - although distancing within the stadium can be achieved, the bigger problems will relate to congregation of fans on the way in and out of matches and its likely that food and drink will not be part of the matchday experience for some time to come. 

One fascinating development will be that reduced numbers of fans at matches will allow for much greater clarity in terms of what individuals are actually saying - as the clearly audible nature of Kevin De Bruyne's expletive-ridden outbursts at the weekend demonstrated. That should make for some amusement but we can expect stadium managers to try to dilute any outpourings with fake fan noise!

Bottom line: the boffins have really risen to the challenge but let's be patient - let the younger folk trial the initial phase of return while the veterans amongst us should observe caution. 

Sadly, for the VWH crew, our matchday experience involves flights from Ireland which brings a whole additional layer of risk with many reports suggesting that air travel is best avoided until the pandemic is under much better control.


Soon Come!

Sunday 22 November 2020

Hammers Ratings in Win at Sheffield

Fabianski: Calmness personified. Had to make 3 important saves that were key to taking all three points. Lets hope he stays fit and we can push on. 7/10

Coufal: Lacks Fredericks pace but has a much better footballing head and is forming a very useful partnership with Bowen. 7/10

Ogbonna: Really at his peak now. Amongst the best CBs in the league so far this season. 8/10.

Balbuena: Solid performance again. Merits his starting place.  6/10.

Cresswell: Really thriving in the new system. Not his best performance but he has set a very high standard of late. 6.5/10

Masuaku: One early sleepy moment but otherwise excellent. Fantastic ball control that he uses to keep possession just when we really need it. 6.5/10. 

Rice: Top player. Bossed things again. Unlucky not to score with a header. 8/10.

Soucek: Always turning up in dangerous places. Missed two decent chances but you gotta applaud him for being there. 7/10.

Fornals: Important part of our engine. Not as creative as we'd like but always involved and energetic. 7/10.

Bowen: Just a tad off his best - needs a goal to get him going. 7/10.

Haller: Very Freddie Kanoute-like with that languid style. Got stuck in in the final phase and for once won plenty of aerial duels. Brilliant strike for the goal and clearly benefitting from consistent game time. 7.5/10.

Moyes: Great to get the win, especially without Antonio. It would have been nice the see Said Benrahma for a run out but then again he did give away the penalty against Fulham. We look solid and with purpose. Time to kick on!

In Devonshire We Trust: Here's How Hammers Can Shake Off Blades Hoodoo

The Hammers head North today looking to continue the excellent form that has placed them in a decent position despite a tough opening series of fixtures. It's time to push on but as always Hammers fans will worry that after heroics against top sides we do have a tendency to stumble when we have the chance to capitalise against bottom half teams. 

And bottom half Sheffield United certainly are! What a difference a season can make - last year they impressed finishing in ninth as a solid team proved difficult opponents to break down. This season they have struggled, especially up front with just 4 goals in their 8 games and a mere point on the board. 

But all that could count for little today in a fixture that still has an edge to it after the Tevezgate business that saw the Blades relegated in the 2006-7 season and then subsequently compensated to the tune of £20 million. Add to that the drama at the end of last season's tussle at Bramall lane where the Hammers were harshly denied a late equaliser then the scene is set. 

As for today's game, the fitness of Michail Antonio is a key talking point with the general sense that Hammers battering ram may not be ready to return just yet. In addition, there is the issue of whether to start new guy Said Benrahma after his impressive cameo against Fulham (VWH are of the view that Fulham's penalty was very harsh but he will have noted that players are far more likely to hit the deck in the Premiership than the Championship!). That aside, we seem to have avoided any injuries during the break among our international players so there seems little reason to alter a functioning unit. 

The bookies have West ham at evens for the win, with the Blades 5/2 which says a lot considering they are at home and West ham have not won away to Sheffield United since 1968! Presumably that statistic underpins Mystic Mark Lawrenson's prediction of a 2-0 home win for the Blades but have no fear as Adam Devonshire - the magnificent bass maestro of supercool Bristol punk band IDLES has gone for a 0-1 away win in favour of David Moyes men. 

Meanwhile Rory Nostradamus, sometime bassist with Irish post punk Godfathers The Sons of Southern Ulster reckons that West ham struggle to keep clean sheets while the Blades are pretty blunt up top and thus has predicted a 1-2 away win. Moreover, with no crowd to urge them on, Sheffield United will miss the home advantage.  

Predicted Starting XI: Fabianski, Coufal, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Rice (c), Soucek, Fornals, Bowen, Masuaku, Haller.

Saturday 7 November 2020

Time To Push On For Buoyant Hammers

It's not quite the 1975 FA cup final, but tonight's clash between West Ham and Fulham is an important one as it can define where an in form Hammers side can set their sights. After a tough start to the sesson, David Moyes' men are mid table and ready to push on between now and Christmas. Unfortunately, as every Hammers fan knows only too well, these are the type of games where we tend to underperform!

With Michail Antonio still recovering from his hamstring problem, Seb Haller will likely get another chance to impress. His performance against Liverpool was disappointing - understandably he didn't get a lot of quality ball, but his chasing down was virtually non-existent and allowed the Reds a cosy platform to build possession from the back. 

That said,  with Rice and Soucek building a forceful midfield partnership, the Hammers will be looking to dominate possession which will suit Haller. Rice has commented in midweek how he wants to grow into a Scott Parker like presence and tonight he will have the chance to impress the three-times Hammer of the year who is at the helm for Fulham. 

The cottagers had a crucial win against the Baggies last time out but have had little else to cheer in a poor season to date, losing all but one other game so far (a draw with the Blades).

We can expect a high scoring game with the Hammers at 7/8 for the win, Fulham at 7/2 and the draw at 3/1.

Kick off is at 8pm. 

Predicted Starting XI: Fabianski, Coufal, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Cresswell, Masuaku, Rice, Soucek, Bowen, Fornals, Haller.

Saturday 12 September 2020

Here We Go: Its Circus Time Again!

It may be the weirdest period in living memory but at least there are some constants that we can anchor ourselves to and down at the London Stadium at least it's business as usual! With the club in a state of confusion, player unrest and uncertainty as to our ability to deliver a coherent game plan it's all too familiar. 

But maybe it'd be better to call it no business as usual as we have failed to address the shortcomings in our squad and haven't managed a single noteworthy signing! When Messrs Sullivan and Gold argued for the move away from Upton Park for the older heads we accepted that the payback would be that we would stop selling off our best players. Grady Diangana was a great prospect but he is no Declan Rice, so maybe that part of the deal is true but no additions to a squad that lacks a decent striker (no Antonio is NOT a striker!) and that sorely needs back up in central midfield and across the defence is really worrying. 

Our visitors for tonight's SKY TV featured clash have been canny in the transfer window and picked up decent additions in Jeff Hendricks and Callum Wilson. They took 4 points off us last season and wil fancy their chances of a flying start at the London stadium tonight. 

However, the Toon are struggling at left back which may provide an opportunity for Jarrod Bowen to strut some. Also Tomas Soucek is available to pair up with Declan Rice in midfield. We have lost our opening games for the past four seasons, so avoiding a defeat has to be the first priority, but a win would be a real boost right now and with a torrid looking fixture list next month we need a decent start in September!

As for our final league standing prediction, it really looks bottom half unless we bolster a saggy looking squad. At least our new kit looks smart!


Predicted Starting XI: Fabianski, Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Rice, Noble, Soucek, Bowen, Fornals, Antonio.

Saturday 20 June 2020

Wow! Moyes picks surprising starting XI!

If the starting XI is anything to go by then Mr Moyes has certainly been switching it about in the lost three month period!

Declan Rice slips to centre back, with Soucek and Noble in midfield, while there's no place for Seb Haller.

Up front its Antonio with Fornals, Bowen and Anderson in behind in what seems to be a 4-2-3-1 formation!

It's not what was predicted but certainly raises the interest with what looks to be a whole new set up under Moyes!

West Ham United: Fabianski; Ngakia, Rice, Diop, Cresswell, Soucek, Noble (c), Bowen, Fornals, Felipe Anderson, Antonio

Substitutes: Randolph, Fredericks, Balbuena, Johnson, Yarmolenko, Lanzini, Wilshere, Xande Silva, Ajeti

Here we go! Hammers look to kickstart survival campaign

We're back! After three months of fear, sadness and frustration, today marks the start of truly recovering some sense of normality since the COVID-19 catastrophe began.

Hovering close to relegation (currently in 17th place on goal difference!) we certainly won't be bored from now to the end of the season. With our opponents today looking towards a possible top four finish we will be hoping that all the positive vibes from the training ground will translate into fully fit and motivated players. On a positive note, Moyes' teams rarely want for effort or fitness, so we can expect them to look sharp.

As for the starting XI it's impossible to know what Moyes will do - we look better with two up front but caution calls for three in central midfield, hmmmm. If we do go for a midfield pairing who would you select from Rice, Noble and Soucek - especially now the Czech has had plenty of time to settle in. 

And that's not to mention the circus going on at right back! With Traore seemingly fit again we will need pace at the full back berths. That said, the Ngakia situation is very disappointing all round and is starting to reach the point where he could join the list of ex-players that shall not ever be mentioned!

Just how the absence of a crowd will impact upon things is also intriguing - although the new stadium is no Upton Park in terms of atmosphere, it has improved on the fortress stakes and does provide a degree of home advantage that will be seriously diluted today.

We reckon Moyes will play it cagey and it'll be a low scoring affair. With nine games to go, 38 points (i.e an average of one per game) would likely suffice and we do have a relatively attractive run in. 

If you are watching with mates don't forget to maintain social distancing, even WHEN we score :-)


Saturday 7 March 2020

Julien's Faux Pas #16: Hammers Consolidate VAR League Position

Grrrrrrr. A mighty display again today by the Hapless Hammers rewarded with three more points in the VAR league that puts the Hammers miles ahead at the top of the hard done by decision ratings. Having created the lion's share of chances, the Hammers fell to another borderline decision that did not go their way. It's starting to feel a bit hoodoo at this stage. Maybe its time to bring in the Witch Doctors to try to change our luck?

Anyhoo, here's the latest in the JFP series. 

Team News - Moyes Opts For Offensive Starting XI

The atmosphere is hotting up as we prepare for the Hammers visit to Arsenal. David Moyes was left with lots to ponder on as Tomas Soucek made an unexpectedly fast recovery from the injury he sustained at Anfield, tempting Moyes to shuffle the pack and play a tighter midfield. However, Moyes has decided to go for broke by keeping the starting eleven who impressed in last weeks victory over Southampton. Don't be surprised if we see Soucek before the end though!

Martin Atkinson is match referee.

West Ham United: Fabianski; Ngakia, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Rice, Noble (c), Fornals, Bowen, Antonio, Haller.
Subs: Randolph, Zabaleta, Balbuena, Soucek, Snodgrass, Lanzini, Anderson.


Tough Call for Moyes as Hammers Midfield is Suddenly Overcrowded!

Can you believe it - West Ham's midfield no longer picks itself! As the Hmmers head to the Emirates looking for precious points to ease their relegation fears, David Moyes has been boosted by the news that Tomas Soucek has made a speedier recovery than expected and is available for today's clash.

However, Moyes has discovered that his best formation seems to include two up top and with the arrival of Jarrod Bowen coupled with the major improvement in Pablo Fornals form, it's hard to know what Moyes will do today.

Messing with a winning team is generally discouraged, so he may start with the team that trounced Southampton and look to Soucek at the hour mark if needed. Equally, Moyes more conservative side may take over and he may drop Bowen and start with Rice-Noble-Soucek in midfield and pulling Antonio to the right wing in an effort to dampen Arsenal efforts to control the game. 

That said, West Ham are doing much better with limited possession as their physicality up top with the twin battering rams of Antonio and Haller are creating chances and maybe they can afford to let midfield slide. In addition, having more pace on the counter can help to keep the Gooners back four back in their own half. 

Some fans think Moyes should go for it as this is a game that West Ham might not expect to get anything from. But this is an Arsenal side that can be rattled and even dominated. A point would be a decent return but a win is possible if the Hammers maintain the form of the past two weeks. Moreover, with all the VAR nonsense so far this year perhaps its time that West Ham got a bit of good luck for a change?

And don't forget that Moyes has Lanzini and Anderson on the bench...


Here's Why West Ham Will Take Down the Gooners Today!

Yes it is true that West ham have played Arsenal 20 times since 2010 and managed just two wins and two draws (and 16 defeats). For sure, the Gooners are back on a run of good form and have won three of their last four home games while we have lost our last five on the trot. And indeed it is undoubtedly true that the bookies are rarely wrong and that Arsenal are 4/7 on for the win with the Hammers at a generous 9/2.

However, this is no usual Arsenal - 10th in the league and despite our troubles, the Gooners have only won one more game than us and have a similar strike rate. factor in the VAR and dodgy keeper nonsense and essentially West Ham have performed as well as our North London neighbours. 

Add to that the fact that Moyes has discovered upon a formation that works and now has some pace in the side and the Hammers look a different proposition to the toothless lot that stumbled through December to February and into the drop zone. With Antonio fully fit and developing a decent relationship with the rejuvenated Haller, along with Jarrod Bowen providing some bite from midfield, and the Hammers suddenly look capable of springing a surprise. 

Mystic Mark reckons it'll be 1-1, while Chaz Nicholas predicts a Gooners win. More importantly, the eerily accurate Rory Nostradamus has gone for a 2-1 Hammers win!


Saturday 29 February 2020

Player Ratings: West Ham 3 Southampton 1

A big, big win for the Hammers today lifts them out of the bottom three and delivers upon their better form of late. More crucial game time for Ngakia and Bowen and no injuries. Happy days!

Here's how Bobby Bubbles rated the players individually:

Fabianski: Back to business as usual. Solid, good distribution. Helped by an excellent defence in front of him as we bossed the set pieces all day long! 8/10.

Ngakia: This lad looks like an experienced pro already. tenacious in defence, never out-paced and not bad with those longer clearances out of defence! 8.5/10. 

Ogbonna: Our best defender again. Solid and almost grabbed a goal towards the end! 9/10.

Diop: Looking more like his best. Solid throughout. 8/10.

Cresswell: Solid. Took an important yellow for the team with 20 minutes remaining. 8/10.

Rice: Provides a crucial presence in front of the defence and did that with excellent discipline all day. 8/10.

Noble: Typical Nobes. Grabbing free kicks at just the right time to frustrate the opposition. And he kept it up to the final whistle. 8/10.

Fornals: Has matured into a proper Premiership player. Starting to justify his transfer fee. 8/10.

Bowen: Brilliant performance. Great goal. Maybe needs to get to know the players around him as he could have done better with some decent breaks if he had laid the ball off more often. Keen,. Game-changing defensive intervention just before the hour to keep us ahead. 8.5/10.

Antonio: Looked superlively all day and took his goal well. MOTM. 9/10.

Haller: Looked happier with Antonio alongside and won heaps of aerial duels. Great skill for the goal. Slowly edging towards double figures in goals this season. 8.5/10. 


Snoddy: Usual committed self.  
Anderson: 60 seconds of a contribution. 

Ha-Ha-Haller! 2-1 to the Cockney boys!!!

Blimey, the goalkeeperitis that has characterised West Hm's season to date has started to infect their opponents as Seb Haller has hassled Southampton's Alex McCarthy into a dreadful error and restored the Hammers lead! In fairness, Haller showed fantastic skill to turn the ball in from an acute angle but the chance was caused by limp goalkeeping from McCarthy.

It's a real ding-dong battle out there with the Hammers creating plenty of chances despite having just 36% possession. The key to all of this has been the 4-4-2 formation and having players with speed. Jarrod Bowen has looked lively and opened his account with a nicely taken strike in the 15th minute.

Defensively, we look solid so far and have outmuscled Southampton at set pieces. Issa Diop missed with a free header from a corner in the 37th minute. SuperFab looks calm and confident and could do nothing to stop Michael Obafemi's strike for Southampton.

Othewise, Antonio has been a handful and, perhaps crucially, Jack Stephens is on a yellow and will have to be careful as he squares up to Michail in the second half.

Elsewhere, both Brighton and Bournemouth are losing.


B-B-B-Bowen!!!! 1-0 to West Ham

Yesss! The Hammers look hungry with intensity and bite and that's been rewarded with the opening goal in the crunch clash at the London Stadium against Southampton.

That's his 18th of the season, as he continues the fine form he had been enjoying at Hull.

We want more

We want more

We want more!!!


Moyes Gambles with Offensive Starting XI: Ngakia and Bowen start!

Feeling tense? If not, you should be! Remember when we whinged that mid table obscurity under Big Sam was too boring? Well, here's the alternative - a nasty, scary, ugly relegation dog fight to get our teeth into!
David Moyes has opted for a pretty aggressive starting XI with Antonio and Haller up top, Jeremy Ngakia speeding (hopefully) up and down the right wing and a first start for Jarrod Bowen. SuperFab will be hoping to avoid another howler while Oggy and Diop need to get their antennae working to avoid any Brighton-like muck ups. Pablo Fornals has gotten the nod over Anderson and Lanzini but they pose useful options to spring from the bench if we need to shake it up after an hour or so. Similarly, Snoddy will be ready to get stuck in if needed.

As expected, the impressive Tomas Soucek is out due to injury. 
One thing for sure is that compared with a few weeks back we now have plenty of pace in the side. West ham are 6/4, Southampton 13/8, and the draw is 5/2. Rory Nostradamus reckons it'll be a 3-0 triumph for Moyes men!!!

 West Ham XI: Fabianski, Ngakia, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Noble(C), Rice, Bowen, Fornals, Antonio, Haller
Subs: Masuaku, Randolph, Balbuena, Zabaleta, Anderson, Lanzini, Snodgrass,