Saturday 24 April 2021

Anyone Feeling Nervous? The Starting XI Will Hardly Calm Them

This really is a huge game for West Ham as one of our principal rivals for a Champions League place come to the London Stadium for a solid gold six-pointer!

The Hammers lack of ambition in the January transfer window is really catching up on them as David Moyes is scraping the barrell to find a coherent starting XI. 

In come Balbuena and Fredericks in a makeshift defence without a recognised left back. Amazingly, Moyes has had to field two goalkeepers on a thin bench.

That said, the Hammers recent home form is excellent with 13 of the last 15 points taken. However, Chelsea's away form is also excellent as Thomas Tuchel has instilled real steel into his squad.

Lanzini, Benrahma and Yarmolenko are on the bench as options if we need to chase the game. 

In all honesty, you'd take a point now if offered, especially after Liverpool's earlier draw with Newcastle.

Starting XI: Fabianski, Coufal, Balbuena, Diop, Ogbonna, Fredericks, Noble, Soucek, Fornals, Lingard, Bowen


Substitutes: Randolph, Trott, Johnson, Alves, Coventry, Lanzini, Yarmolenko, Benrahma, Odubeko

Sunday 18 April 2021

Julien's Faux Pas #18: Back at the Big Top

West Ham have often been referred to as the neutral fans favourite team, mostly because of our penchant or lively open football

and a decent dose of farce!

And so it was that the Hammers turned on the comedy big style yesterday in a 2-3 thriller at St James' park, going two down with ten men, then staging an audacious comeback before throwing it all away again.

our last four games have been totally mental, involving 22 goals!

We'll surely win the most entertaining team award this year. 

But that won't get us into Europe.

Hilarious Hammers Nail Top Comedy Award!

For those of a certain vintage there is a scene from the end of the original Star Trek that sits in the memory, appearing in night terrors as the face of torment that transcends the galaxies.

And so it was for David Moyes yesterday as the Happy Hammers made the long trip up to St James' Park for a potential banana skin against the toon, with Steve Bruce's relegation-threatened troops buoyed by a recent win and the return of Alain Saint-Maximin and Hammers-tormentor, Callum Wilson.

Who knows what happy gas was circulating in the team bus but for no apparent reason Moyes men decided to don the circus masks and put on a stunning display of acrobatic self destruction picking up a needless sending off for Craig Dawson followed by two hilarious own goal stunts.

Technically, Newcastle's second goal was not an OG but in all fairness if Joelinton hadn't poked the ball home from two feet no doubt one of our defenders would have obliged instead!

And then, just when logical fans (err, do they actually exist?) were writing the game off as a lost cause - two goals behind, down to ten men and playing with a depleted side, the Hammers kicked into gear, made it to half time and regrouped. 

Oggy looked more comfortable back in his standard CB position while Coufal just kept haggling away and Bowen was like a wasp buzzing about. Diop made amends for his earlier blunder and then the error-prone Ciaran Clarke gave away a needless penalty with a bizarre hand ball. Lingardinho slotted the penalty and with ten minutes left we looked the more likely to push on.

Then disaster struck as Oggy got muscled off the ball and Newcastle sub Willock headed home for the winner.

No point for Moyes men, but lots to ponder as we are leaking goals like never before this season. Next week's game against Chelsea is even more crucial now. 

It's the younger Hammers fans i feel sorry for, as us veterans are long-since hardened to this sort of circus behaviour. 

It's never boring!



Saturday 17 April 2021

Here's how West ham can turn this around in the second half...

If this was a record it would be blank on both sides like the famous wit and wisdom of Margaret Thatcher. 

Down to ten men and scoring against ourselves there really doesn't seem any way back.

The only solace, when you think you have no chance is when you again have hope...

I just made that up. It sounds good, but actually its just nonsense.

A bit like our first half showing.

Thursday 15 April 2021

The Secret to West Ham's Success: Feng Sui!!!


There really is a bright atmosphere around West ham this season. Positivity and happiness has replaced the dark mood that had taken over in the period after the Hammers moved to their new home at the London Stadium.

But all that is in the past as the current side is pushing for a top four finish that most would have dismissed as unthinkable at the start of the season. 

The arrival of Jesse Lingard has been a key factor, along with the fantastic contributions of newbies Soucek, Coufal and Dawson. There is a real buzz about the squad right now and with seven games to go history beckons!

All of which has prompted theories regarding the secret to the Hammers new found success and in a recent interview Lingard revealed a surprising factor - feng sui!

In an interview with beIN Sports Lingard revealed "I think environment is a big thing, Since I’ve moved to London I’m in an apartment where I’m high. There’s lots of light, I can see all the buildings in London, it makes you more bright and fresh.”

And bright and fresh the Hammers certainly are right now. Further evidence that Moyes men can push on to top four glory can be found in the lucky colours for 2021 - its pretty clear that the Hammers famous claret n blue can be seen amongst the lucky shades for the year. Moreover metal is the element of power this year - certainly something Moyes has instilled in his troops! Even more interesting is that May is the lucky month for this year.

Sometimes forces align, and all the signs are that Moyes men will succeed this year. 

Computer Still Says NO!!! Fifth spot predicted for Hammers

There really can be no doubting the metal of the current Hammers side. When most observers have predicted that Moyes' men would run out of steam during the Premiership's run in, a depleted squad has simply refused to buckle under the pressure and kept its eyes firmly on a top four finish that would bring Champions League action to the London Stadium!

The wins away to a difficult Wolves side, and at home to fellow top four chasers Leicester - both without three of our key players have underpinned the spirit within the squad.

6 weeks back we did an analysis of what would be needed for a top six and a top four finish with estimates that 18 wins would likely secure a top six spot with twenty needed for top four status.

And so, with seven games remaining, Moyes men are on 16 wins. While the home game against Chelsea without Rice and probably Antonio, has special significance, in reality four more wins should be enough.

The Hammers have a history of getting unexpected results against big clubs followed by slip ups against less formidable opponents, but David Moyes seems to have gotten to grips with that traditional inconsistency and worked out how to get results against mid table sides - both home and away.

With 5 of the final 7 games against bottom half sides, 4 wins is certainly doable. However, a computer analysis published today in the Athletic suggests that the Hammers will slip up and finish fifth with 66 points i.e. attaining 11 more points to add to our current 55. 

But with key players likely to return for the final 3-4 games the Hammers run in looks relatively positive with the final 3 games against Brighton, West Brom and Southampton all very winnable. 

It looks like this will go down to the wire which will please this tough Hammers squad who have demonstrated great resilience all season. 

We can do this!

Tuesday 13 April 2021

Arthur Masuaku: Asset or Liability?

As the Hammers continue their quest for Champion's League football next season they are facing a tough time with injuries depleting an already thin squad. With Declan Rice and Michail Antonio sidelined for at least a few weeks, David Moyes men dug deep to overcome fellow high flyers Leicester at the weekend in a 3-2 thriller. 

One major positive on the injury front has been the return of Arthur Masuaku to his left sided berth where he slips into a back five formation that allows him to push forward while helping out at left back. This is a system that was very effective for the Hammers up to him being sidelined for surgery in December and has again worked as since his return the Hammers have picked up vital wins at Wolves and then at home to Leicester at the weekend.

However, not all fans are pleased to see Arthur return with some referring to him as a 'liability' while a more objective analysis indicates that he conceded possession 11 times during the game, including needlessly losing the ball in the run up to Leicester's opener that sparked a nervy-tingling comeback!

That said, many other fans hold Arthur in high regard as he is skillful, cheeky, brave and passionate. He struggled at times with focus when asked to play at left back earlier in his career but David Moyes recognised his value as a left sided midfielder come defender and he became a revelation once positioned further forward. 

Moreover, during Sunday's game Arthur was instrumental in West Ham's best play - first whipping in a tantalising cross that Jarrod Bowen almost netted (before painfully crashing into the goalposts) before then sending a similar cross in that caused the chaos in the Leicester box that opened things up for Lingard's classy opening goal. Then at the start of the second half he nicked possession as Leicester attempted some defensive tippy-tappy which initiated the sequence that led up to Bowen's crucial goal. 

add to that another second half cameo where he rounded three Leicester players in a move that had the trickery of his famous move against Spurs a few season's back.

But then there was the error that cost Leicester's first goal. For sure, Arthur got robbed but frankly the CBs should have done better against Ikeanacho and unusually Fabianski flapped as the well hit shot went right through him. Not a good moment for Arthur or the rest of our defence!

That said, what about the bigger picture? Arthur has great pace that is vital when opposition sides break against us. This allows us to throw players up for set pieces, which as we know with Soucek, Dawson et al is a real source of goals. He also provides excellent cover for Cresswell - would Arsenal have gotten three goals against us all from the left flank if Arthur was back for that game? 

He also holds possession when others would lamp the ball forwards as he has a fantastic pair of pins - neck and neck with Benrahma for the best close control in the squad.

He is also classic West ham - naughty, amusing, unpredictable and determined to play ball. The foundation of our success this year has been our courage to take chances going forwards - no settling for possession-keeping sidewards passing, when we see an opening we go for it - probably because we know we can defend well if we lose possession. In modern footy you have to take chances on the break as sides are too organised if you give them time to get set up. Turnover ball is key. That's why Bowen, Benrahma, Masuaku and even Lingard lose possession a lot. It's also why we consistently carve teams open on the break when things click.

David Moyes is recognised for his ability to organise a team defensively with committed and disciplined teamwork. Less appreciated is his awareness of how to frustrate opposition teams and create decent scoring chances despite conceding the Lion's share of possession - a ploy that requires courage and risk taking. When he returned for his second spell we expected hard work and endeavour - having succeeded in setting up his defence he has now added craft and guile in attack. Ask fans of other clubs if they like to watch West Ham games for entertainment and exciting football - right now every game is toe to toe which is stressful but definitely not boring!

There will always be room for entertainers at West ham and any fans who can't live with that need to catch themselves on. Arthur is nicknamed King dribbler for his ballet-like skills....Long live the king! 


Julien's Faux pas #17: The ghosts of January's Transfer Window Are Back to Haunt the Hammers

The craziness continues as with just seven games to go the Hammers are still well in contention for a Campion's League place and (mathematically) could still win the league outright! With wins away to Wolves and at home to Leicester, David Moyes men simply won't give in to the doubters and continue to defy all expert prediction.

However, in the background things are turning against the Hammers as injuries to Declan Rice, Michail Antonio and now Aaron Cresswell threaten to expose the lack of ambition the club had during the January transfer window wen it was pretty obvious that we needed back up in terms of a striker and in central midfield in case of injury.

Instead we sold an above average striker in Seb Haller without replacing him and failed to prepare for Rice or Soucek succumbing to injury. Now it's truly down to the bare bones as Sunday's subs bench demonstrated. 

That said, Moyes' men stick together and can play in a variety of formations to get the best possible result from what is available. We hunt as a pack and defend like our lives depend upon it - anything is possible with such good team spirit. With seven games to go, the visits of Chelsea and Everton are key but in all likelihood 20 wins will seal 4th position - that's 4 wins from the remaining 7 games, 5 of which are against sides struggling in the relegation battle. 

The bookies have us the least likely of Liverpool (4/5), Chelsea (5/6) and Leicester (5/6) to finish in the top four at 9/4 against but we have defied to odds again and again this season so who knows....and it's been reported today that the players will get an average 350K bonus each if the Hammers make it to Champion's league - but i doubt if anybody thinks they need a financial incentive as the squad really is full of love right now.



Sunday 11 April 2021

Hammers open up race for top four as Foxes Flounder

Even with Rice and Antonio out through injury, David Moyes' men forged ahead with a superb victory over 3rd placed Leicester. 

As a consequence. The Foxes are now dragged back into the battle for a top four spot as they will need to hold off the challenges of Liverpool, Everton, Chelsea and Spurs.

For West ham, they are now just a point behind Leicester with arguably an easier run in over the final seven games. 

Today was a victory for the squad as they showed how they can still get results even without key players.

Here's how Bobby Bubbles rated our heroes:

Lukasz Fabianski (7): Unusually, he had a few wobbles and will feel he might have stopped Leicesters first goal. 

Vladimir Coufal (8): Brilliant again. A class act. Had one amusing rush of blood to the head when he broke free in the first half but ran out of puff!

Craig Dawson (7.5):  Solid performance once again. 
An amazing find. 

Issa Diop (8): Looking like the player who wowed last season. Clearly benefitting from regular action.  

Aaron Cresswell (7.5): We looked so vulnerable when he exited with what looked like a hamstring injury. Fingers crossed that he is ok. 

Arthur Masuaku (8): He makes a massive difference with his pace and trickery. Got caught out for the first goal but otherwise calm in possession and boy does he get back quickly wnen opponents counter.

Mark Noble (8.5): His best game for the Hammers in a long time. Really stepped up just when we most needed him. Crucial block towards the end to top off a great day.

Tomas Soucek (8): Also stepped up and played  crucial role in bossing midfield. Adjusted well to a more defensive role with his usual partner in crime absent.

Jarrod Bowen (9): A few weeks back we were criticising him for a lack of edge and conceding possession too easily. He has really upped his game since then and drawing free kicks while popping up with the winning goal. A day to remember!

Pablo Fornals (8): Really provides the gel between defence and attack. Buzzed around today. He has truly become a Premiership standard player. 

Jesse Lingard (9): Words fail. The story just gets better and better. Two goals and an abrasive edge throughout the game that stopped Leicester getting their rhythm for most of the game until that stressful final 20 minutes. 


Ben Johnson: still learning - tends to get caught out of position but time will hopefully improve that aspect of his game.

Said Benrahma: Only on for a short spell but adds energy and almost unlocked a 4th goal. 

Fabien Balbuena: Very solid in a rare appesrance. Its a measure of our strength at CB that he cannot get game time but did his cause no harm today. 

Look Who's Back - As If Hammers Fans didn't have enough to worry about

Today's game against Leicester City is a truly massive one for West Ham. With results not going favourably for the Hammers yesterday as Chelsea and Liverpool both won, David Moyes' men really need a result today to maintain their push for a top four finish.

It'll be a tense game where Brendan Rodgers and David Moyes tactical nous will be a key battle. It looks likely to be a close affair where small margins could be crucial.

Just the game you want an able referee who lets the game be about the players. Sadly, today's match has the volatile presence of Mike 'it has to be about me' Dean as the man in the middle. It really beggars belief that after a career dogged by idiotic decisions Mr Dean continues to officiate at the highest level. 

February's nonsense sending off of Tomas Soucek was just one of a litany of howlers that Dean has made. Let's hope that today he gets it wrong in the other direction but either way it seems unlikely that he will be the almost anonymous facilitatory presence that the game deserves. 

This week just keeps getting worse.


Has Declan Rice Played His Last Game For West Ham?

There can be no doubting that this season has been a revelation at West Ham. Perched in the middle of the battle for a Champions League spot, David Moyes men are simply on fire!

A key element of the Hammers success has been in the transfer market where a series of astute deals has delivered a side that can score goals while being solid at the back. 

In addition, the development of Declan Rice has been the foundation of a side that is physically imposing. With Soucek and Rice in midfield the Hammers are a match for any side right now. 

But inevitably this has led to much speculation about the future of young Rice who is recognised as one the the biggest talents in world football. In short, the Hammers must progress to the next level if they want to hold on to their talismanic midfield general.

But the business end of the season is where bigger clubs flex their muscle best and the value of a deep squad comes to light. Sadly, West ham missed the opportunity in the January window to bring in back up for the injury-prone Michail Antonio as well as a mobile midfielder in case of an injury to either Soucek or Rice.

And that oversight is likely to prove very costly as the Hammers move in to the final phase of the season with both Rice and Antonio sidelined for 4 to 6 weeks. In reality, the season may be over for either or both of them. 

If the Hammers can pull of an amazing feat of staying in the top four then it will be a big bargaining position when the negotiations around the futures of Rice and Lingard happen over the Summer break. If not, it could well be back to the drawing board for David Moyes.

Right now, the betting money would be on the Hammers to trundle in with a gallant 7th or 8th final standing, and that would likely signal the start of the vultures descending upon our talented squad where Rice, Soucek and Coufal would be very attractive acquisitions for Europe's top clubs.

However, David Moyes has developed a variety of solutions along the way this season to deal with the lack of squad depth and the return of Arthur Masuaku allows for a reversion to the back five system that was so successful in the pre-Christmas period. This also allows for a roving front three from Lingard, Bowen, Benrahma and Fornals that can be a headache to defend against. 

Leicester today is a massive game. If West ham could pull off a sensational victory it would open up the battle for 3rd. However, the Foxes are a formidable unit and will see this as an opportunity to get out of sight of Moyes pesky troops and avenge the 3-0 thumping they received from the Hammers earlier in the season.

This is a game where you'd love to have a full house of fans to try to tilt the balance in the home sides direction! Let's hope that we can maintain our form despite these injuries and avoid becoming victims of our own success. If the Hammers can make the top four then why would Rice or any other players want to leave as West ham would be the team on the up - bring in two strikers snd a midfielder and we would genuinely compete with almost any side.

Kick off is 2pm.