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.