West Ham Starting XI: Lukasz Fabianski; Vladimir Coufal, Kurt Zouma, Nayef Aguerd, Emerson; Tomas Soucek, Declan Rice (c), Lucas Paqueta; Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio, Pablo Fornals
Saturday, 29 April 2023
Sunday, 23 April 2023
In some classic Hammers circus-ry, Moyes men are running wild and free at the Vitality!
First up, after just five minutes, Antonio smashed a header into the top corner!
Then a few moments later some decent harrying provided turn over ball and Paqueta ghosted in at the back post to make it 2-0!!
And then, just before half time Declan Rice rifled a half cleared corner into the net.
Moyes' men may tire as the second half unfolds but we have a strong bench and can surely stumble home from here with 3 vital points
Bournemouth have hit form just at the right time and will see today's clash with West ham as a means to nailing down their Premiership survival. A win would probably give them enough points (36) to stay up.
However, their part in the relegation battle will remaincrucial as they have yet to face Leeds, Everton and Southampton. If they go into those games needing points then it will add to the pressure on those clubs and by extension benwfit the Hammers cause.
The opposite could spell real trouble for Moyes' men as they could spill points to those clubs.
In such circumstances, a draw today wouldn't be a bad result but with games running out and amongst them clashes with Man City, Liverpool and Man Utd perhaps today is a prime opportunity to grab one of the two wins that are probably needed to ensure safety.
The sooner that is nailed down the better as it will allow the Hammers to focus on Europe and work on normalising the free flowing style that was finally unleashed against Genk and in the second half of last week's battle with Arsenal.
The good news is that Antonio is on form and usually scores in bursts of 5-6 goals in quick succession. Hopefully today will see that run continue.
Poor old Gent. They were playing a blinder for 30 minutes on Thursday night having weathered the early West ham storm to take the lead in the game and overall tie. Everything was going to plan for an unlikely victory.
Then the Lion awoke. And it was angry! Suddenly Moyes' men threw caution to the wind and ....ahem....started playing footy! Facing a humiliating defeat they ditched all the disciplined tactics and decided - we are man for man much better than you lot so lets do this.
And they were.
Gent were over-run by a tidal wave of fast and skillful football. There could only be one outcome. Led by Captain Rice, Paqueta, Bowen, Antonio et al were out of control and clearly off the leash.
In truth, Gent were lucky to get out at 4-1. They had no answer to the quality of the Hammers. All of which raises the question: if we had avoided slipping into the relegation mire, would this squad have delivered earlier?
And so to today - Bournemouth. Hmmm. On paper a pretty average side but through discipkine and effort they have managed to get above the mess at the bottom. Again, on paper the Hammers can beat them today but we need to play football not a war of tactics.
Whoever wins today will be considerably liberated from relegation worries. It's a decent prize. In our case, we have other fish to fry. Alkmaar will be stern opponents, but man for man we should prevail but we need to make it about football. They are a young side so we would hope to trick them into going toe to toe.
Finally, what has been the problem this season? Moyes tactics, first season syndrome for our recent recruits, the circumstances of being in the bottom half or just the stuttering nature of a season split by the World cup and fragmented by the endless flow of mostly pointless International breaks?
Thursday, 20 April 2023
Tonight it's the return leg against KAA-Gent and a Europa Conference semi-final place up for grabs. Last week's game emphasised how there are no mugs left at this stage of any European competition as Gent demonstrated that they are disciplined at the back and could create chances up front. In all fairness, they will have been disappointed not to go into the return leg with an advantage but had to settle for a 1-1 draw.
But that wasn't to be as Danny Ings grabbed a crucial goal for the Hammers just before half time to undo a decent first half performance from the Belgians in which Orban and Cuypers both looked lively.
Despite going ahead, the Hammers continued to stutter through the second half and looked tired after their determined efforts at Craven Cottage a few days earlier. Of note, Gent's keeper looked nervous from set pieces and gifted Aguerd what looked like a comedy second goal until VAR intervened having noticed that Nayef's hand had played a significant part in shuttling the ball over the line! If that goal had stood then tonight would be a lot less interesting.
Gent kept to their task and were deservedly rewarded with s Cuypers' equaliser. They then laid siege upon the Hammers' goal but in all the huffing and puffing left a gap for Paqueta to break free before taking a tumble in the Gent box. The ref awarded a penalty and a red card and then after a review decided to rescind the red card and give a goal kick!!! Errr? Either the defender got the ball and put it out for a corner or didn't in which case it was a penalty??? Bizarre stuff indeed!
And so to tonight - the Hammers put in a cracking performance against Arsenal on Sunday, playing with style and passion. If they reach that level tonight it should be back to business as usual in Europe for Moyes' men but fatigue may be a factor. It's been very Jekyll and Hyde all season, but too often the bad side of the Hammers' persona has turned up. It took two goals to kick start the Irons against Arsenal but equally the team showed good character to not only avoid a hiding but also retrieve a well earned result!
Aguerd is available so Moyes will be less worried anout Ogbonna's absence through suspension. Gent did well from corners last week, so it seems like Zouma will be required to strengthen our aerial ability, both in defence but also from corners against their flappy keeper.
Antonio was back to his bustling best against Arsenal but may be better used as an impact sub tonight, while Ings will surely relish another crack at the Belgians sfter grabbing his first European goal last week.
In central midfield, Moyes will likely go with Rice-Downes-Paqueta as our relegation fears are starting to ease and he will want to optimise the likelihood of progressing while preventing Gent establish the rhythm they managed last week. Perhaps Soucek will come in in view of the importance of aerial superiority illustrated in last week's game.
The rest is hard to call - Moyes may want to stick with Fornals, Lanzini, Johnson and Emerson but this is a high stakes tie and may go Bowen, Benrahma, Coufal and Cresswell. Pace at the back will be important, so maybe Johnson (LB) and Kehrer (RB)? Hmmmm - Maxwell Cornet has looked good in his brief cameos since returning (apart from not scoring of course!).
Last week the Greek referee struggled with the mildly physical nature of the encounter. Tonight we have a similarly trigger-happy Israeli in charge. Let's hope a soft red for either side doesn't ruin what should be an intriguing battle. Both sides have plenty of players already carrying yellow cards so it'll be important to keep the referee happy in order to progress with a decent squad to choose from in the semi-final.
Gent ran riot away from home in Turkey in the previous round, so don't expect them to roll over easily. That said, it's midweek lights at the London Stadium and we are getting our form back. Rory Nostradamus has been swigging the absinthe and has gone for a 4-2 prediction!
Predicted West Ham Starting XI: Areola; Johnson, Zouma, Aguerd, Emerson; Downes, Rice ©, Paqueta; Bowen, Ings, Benrahma.
West ham were warned ahead of last week's clash with Gent that the referee was a bit wobbly and as predicted he dished out cards and presided over mayhem in the final minutes when the Hammers seemed to be about to snatch a victory. A stabilising influence he most certainly wasn't!
UEFA have decided to keep the tension levels high ( perhaps in an effort to liven up a pretty tepid competition!) and have appointed Israeli Card shark, Orel Grinfeld as match referee for tonights second leg.
Grinfeld has a similar 5 cards per game record to last week's man in the middle - Anastasios Sidiropoulos has dished out 120 yellow cards and four reds in 23 games, while Grinfeld has issued a total of 150 yellow and 4 red cards in 31 matches so far this season.
Will anybody be left to play for whichever side moves on to the Semi final?
Tread carefully lads!
Dear me, it seems that every 'big' club that West ham play against are then linked for the following week with a raid for Declan Rice!
A few weeks back it was Newcastle, now its been a week of Goonerama. Dean Jones in Give Me Sport (?Give Me Strength, surely) has interpreted a brief exchange between Rice and Arteta during last Sunday's clash as evidence that Rice is plotting a move to the Emirates. Zzzzzz.
I had a chat with the platform attendant at Stratford station en route to the game on Sunday but that doesn't mean i'm planning to move to work for British Rail in the near future!
Earlier in the week we had the Odegaard shirt signing 'debacle' similarly described as evidence that Rice wants to move to Arsenal. Drill into the logic of that - it's absurd and lazy journalism.
Similarly, in the days following the game West ham have been linked with ex-Gooner Matteo Guendouzi and separately, starlet Reiss Nelson. I'll happily eat my hat/ shave my head/ go on MOTD in my underwear if either actually happens!
That said, i'd happily take young Orban from KAA Gent after last week's impressive performance by the young striker...no doubt we'll have a week of speculationabout a potential move to London after tonights clash.
One Hammers star who certainly won't be heading to Goonersville is Michail Antonio who nailed most fans thoughts about Arsenal supporters in an interview on Footballers Podcast as he clarified for listeners "honestly, I don’t like Arsenal fans! I’m going to say it, I don’t like them. I don’t like Arsenal fans.....They are annoying! And they have always been annoying!"
Yes, Michail, they certainly are and it's so pervasive that there's no need to even get into specifics - THEY ARE JUST PLAIN OLD ANNOYING!
Wednesday, 19 April 2023
Football London provided a link for wannabe-Nostradamus types to predict the results of all relegation-relevant games between now and the season's end.
We told Rory Nostradamus to think negatively about West Ham results and boy did he get grumpy - predicting not a single win in our remaining fixtures!
But even with four draws Moyes men will likely stumble over the line given the accordion like nature of the bottom half of the table!
If our tealeave reader is correct then Forests home form will see them dip ahead of Leicester and Everton! That would see two shock relegation-ers!
After the heroics against Arsenal at the weekend, Hammers fans will be hoping for a few wins and in reality two victories should be easily enough but as veterans of relegation mud fights we know that the run in can throw out some crazy results!
Moreover, with 3 points for a win a sudden shift in form or fortunes could yet save Everton or Leicester.
Maintaining our superior goal difference could yet become vital.
Right, lets get back to Gent tomorrow night. They looked decent in the first leg but surely we will play better in the home leg?
Monday, 17 April 2023
Footage has emerged from after yesterday's clash showing Declan Rice getting an Arsenal shirt signed by Martin Odegaard in the tunnel leading from the pitch to the dressing room. Bizarrely, Gooners fans have interpreted that this means Rice will be switching to the Emirates in the Summer.
But why? It's an absurd conclusion!
If Rice was planning to become a Gooner he would surely just wait a few months and avoid any media speculation?
Rice has many fine qualities - as an exciting defensive midfield energy but also as a decent human being - excellent in interviews and thoughtful about what he says and does. In reality, those latter qualities are important factors underpinning the belief that he is a future England captain.
So rocking up to Odegaard is very unlikely to be in any way related to a desire to move to Arsenal. In fact it suggests that he has other thoughts entirely.
Unless, of course, he knows something about Odegaard's Arsenal future that he isn't telling?
This tawdry episode merely serves to highlight how foolish the media rumour mill has become.
Sunday, 16 April 2023
Well well well! Two down after ten minutes and with the Gunners coasting it looked all over at the London Stadium today.
The Hammers seemed to start brightly but fell foul to two bits of Arsenal attacking brilliance. They could have folded but instead put their heads down and kept going.
Arsenal are a fearsome crew when firing on all cylinders and were strutting about but got caught in possession in their own half and a deft ball through to Paqueta brought a clumsy challenge inside the box and it was game on again!
Up stepped Said Benrahma and slotted the penalty. 1-2 and there was a chink of light again. They say its the hope that kills and the Hammers took the bait with a pounding of the Arsenal defence up to half time but couldn't get on level terms.
Its a story we've seen played out before - gallant Hammers get back into the game and then over commit and get caught.
That seemed to be the case when Arsenal were awarded a 'modern' penalty as the ball struck an outrushing Michail Antonio inside the box and although there was clearly no intent, Arsenal had a penalty.
Bukayo Saka has been accurate with penalties since the world cup but amazingly slooted the ball wide and tge stadium erupted with relief and restored belief.
Soon after, Jarrod Bowen met a looping high ball into the box with a thumping shot that left Ramsdale floundering and it was 2-2.
Again, there is a well warn script for these games where Arsenal nick a late winner and the Hammers are left to cry over moral victory but no, West ham could smell the Gooners fear and were unlucky not to grab all three points as Antonio headed onto the bar in the dying moments.
And so, a draw - but for West ham one where the fans got a taste of the courage and commitment that has seemed lacking for much of the season. Just the boost needed before Gent arrive for the European quarter final second leg on Thursday followed by a big clash at Bournemouth next weekend. The Hammers relegation likelihood has dropped to just 4% after this weekend's results, which can only help our European aspirations.
For Arsenal, two points dropped but worryingly, West ham threw light on a chink in their armour and no doubt this game will give encouragement to other sides facing the Gunners in their run in.
Great to see a bloody decent toe to toe derby match for a change!
With all the talk about Arsenal's defensive injuries it emerges that David Moyes is without both Aguerd and Ogbonna for today's clash.
West Ham Utd: Fabiański, Coufal, Kehrer, Zouma, Cresswell, Rice ©, Souček, Paquetá, Bowen, Benrahma, Antonio.Subs: Areola (GK), Anang (GK), Johnson, Downes, Cornet, Emerson, Fornals, Lanzini, Ings.
With only one home win since 2006 against the Gunners you'd be forgiven for taking a pessimistic view ahead of todays's clash at the London stadium.
Moreover, with the Gunners topping the Premiership and playing expansive attacking football, sensible money is on an away win.
Moyes' men have put together a decent string of results of late but to the seasoned observer that has been founded on a fair bit of good fortune rather than any major improvement in form.
The Hammers were poor against Gent on Thursday and would not have gotten a draw against a decent Premiership side.
However, Arsenal are certainly coming under increasing pressure from Man City and with both Saliba and Zinchenko missing will feel less secure defensively. The question is whether Moyes will dare to take an offensive strategy to today's game or hope for a draw - the latter his usual preference against top six sides despite it's almost invariable lack of success.
However, there have been signs that Moyes is more open to vhanging things up - starting with two up top vs Fulham and employing subs much earlier in games.
That said, with Saka and Martinelli, the Gooners have plenty of creativity out wide. It'll be a day for the wide midfielders to drop back in support which will limit the threat from Bowen and Benrahma.
The U18s took the league title with a 2-0 win overArsenal and will be looking to complete the double in the cup final in a few weeks. Maybe the lads today can add to that tally?
The sides will be announced in the coming minutes. Don't forget that its a 2pm KO.
Saturday, 15 April 2023
There's a lot of negativity around West Ham just now as the season lurches along with the background hum of possible relegation. In reality, a draw away from home in the first leg of a European tie is a decent result but having been outplayed for much of the game while we struggled to put any chain of passes together was worrying. Here's some key talking points right now:
1. David Moyes is trying to change things - even breaking with longstanding habits like playing two up too against Fulham as well as making multiole early substitutions in games. His future at the club beyond this season is under major threat and at this point only seems plausible if we achieve Premiership safety and win the Europa Conference. You might argue that Paqueta, Scamacca and Aguerd will only reach full throttle in their second seasons in the Premiership but equally it seems that our playing style isn't working with this (expensive) squad and that Moyes' tactics aren't suiting these more expansive talents. Also, his persistence with a misfiring Tomas Soucek is impressive in its loyalty but has become a visible source of frustration for Hammers fans, especially as Flynn Downes has impressed on the limited occasions that he is unleashed from the bench. In short, one suspects that the board recognise that a new manager is likely to get more out of this squad and by playing more attractive football?
2. Three quarters of the way through the season and we still don't know our best defensive line up. After 14 changes in centre back partnerships it's uncertain whether we will go with Zouma and Aguerd or whether Oggy will partner one of thos two? Similarly, we look confused at the full back positions with a pass the parcel being plsyed out between Johnson, Coufal, Emerson and Cresswell. In reality, its hsrd to be confident in any combination of these four against the craft of Saka and Martinelli as the Gooners come to visit tomorrow. None of those four have enough pace to confidently handle what is an impressive Arsenal wing attack. We have had youngsters hovering on the margins but they have not gotten the necessary to step in st this point despite a relatively easy European adventure where they surely could and should have been blooded. Moreover, the lack of a pacet right back has stunted our best attacking threat in Jarrod Bowen who has all too often had to plough a lonely furrow on the right wing, rarely receiving quick ball or the threat of a pacey overlap to distract opposition left backs.
3. What on earth is going on with our corners - it has become like a lottery as to who will take them and as a result the quality of delivery has been really disappointing. Yes, we are efficient defending corners but in offense our set pieces rarely deliver. In part, the absence of Dawson reduces our aerial threat, but quite simply the balls in have lacked precision despite Bowen, Cresswell, Benrahma, Emerson and even Declan Rice all having a go at various points. We need to improve at the training ground and in the longer term must address this major shortcoming in the Summer.
All of that said, two wins out of nine in the Premiership and we are safe. Gent should be there for the taking next week when they come to London and then it's a semi-final where everything is possible.
It's been a weird season but could still end with success.
Friday, 14 April 2023
The Hammers have had a largely disappointing season which has left them on the edge of the relegation zone with 9 games to play.
Despite huge investment in a host of big signings, the team just haven't found any consistent form. The biggest problem has been scoring goals but in reality, Moyes' men haven't created enough chances and typically work from 40% possession.
In recent years, massed defending looking for turnover ball has delivered great results for Moyes, but sides have learned to be patient and avoid getting caught in possession. As a result, the Hammers often look disjointed in possession.
While the defensive stats suggest that Moyes men have performed well at the back, West ham have struggled to link defence with midfield to feed the (usually) lone forward.
This lack of fluidity in part relates to the inconsistency in centre back selection - Moyes has fielded 14 different CB combinations this season, using Zouma, Aguerd, Dawson, Ogbonna, Kehrer and Johnson along the way. Even Declan Rice had to drop back into CB for one match where we had no CBs left to bring on!
Injuries have been a big factor as Moyes has tried to nurse Zouma and Aguerd along. Now Moyes has the headache of choosing between Aguerd, Zouma and Ogbonna - 3 at the back is one possibility but with Cresswell slowing down and Emerson a sort of Masuaku-like hybrid left sided player, maybe it's time to push Aguerd to left back?
Aguerd has pace and is blessed with a deft touch. Moreover, he has plenty of experience at left back during his time at Rennes. It would be a bold step from Moyes, especially as our next opponents have the almost unmarkable Saka marauding down the left wing, but it could be a master stroke!
Thursday, 13 April 2023
West Ham United starting XI: Alphonse Areola; Ben Johnson, Angelo Ogbonna, Nayef Aguerd; Vladimir Coufal, Flynn Downes, Declan Rice, Manuel Lanzini, Emerson; Jarrod Bowen, Danny Ings
Subs: Lukasz Fabianski, Joseph Anang, Thilo Kehrer, Kurt Zouma, Aaron Cresswell, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Lucas Paqueta, Said Benrahma, Maxwel Cornet, Divin Mubama, Michail Antonio
So, away from their Premiership struggles, the Hammers look to keep their impressive European campaign rolling along as they visit KAA Gent for the first leg of their quarter final Europa Conference clash.
David Moyes was (relatively) upbeat in his prematch press conference and while he highlighted the importance of being ready for Arsenal on Sunday, also made it clear that he would like to progress in Europe.
Lucas Paqueta should be available after missing Saturday's win at Craven Cottage. Otherwise, Scamacca is the only absentee. Gent are fifth in the Belgian league and could prove tricky opponents. You can expect Moyes to keep it tight and look to the home return match to seal the tie.
That may be challenging as Gent have a decent front line with 20 year old Nigerian Gift Orban alongside the experienced Hugo Cuypers. The pair have been in prolific form this season with Orban netting 14 goals in 12 appearances and Cuypers with 24 goals in 46 appearances to date this season.
But the Hammers have been truly impressive in Europe this year with ten straight wins and are hungry for a trophy. With lots of options at his disposal, Moyes will likely use his subs to spread out the effort and keep the likes of Zouma, Paqueta and Rice fresh for Sunday.
The match referee is Greek and pretty card-happy! Mr Sidiropoulos has dished out 120 yellow cards and four reds in 23 games this season with eight penalties. With a few players on yellow cards, discipline will be key to success tonight - especially in mind of how last season's European campaign unravelled in the context of multiple sendings off against Lyon and Eintracht Frankfurt!
Don't forget that its a 5:45PM kick off and on BT Sport.
Suggested West Ham United XI: Areola; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Aguerd; Coufal, Downes, Lanzini, Emerson; Benrahma; Fornals, Ings.
Monday, 10 April 2023
It's time to be very honest with ourselves as we enter the business end of the season just above the drop zone. Moyes' men picked up a vital 3 points against Fulham who not only dominated with 76% possession, but had to gift the Hammers an unfortunate own-goal.
The West ham defence played very well but you'd have to think that if Mitrovic had been on the pitch that at least some of the legions of crosses that were pumped in by Fulham would have delivered big scoring opportunities. Moreover, Fabianski's late intervention in the dying minutes to prevent a certain goal was a massive moment.
As a result, a supercomputer calculates that the Hammers are now only at 7% risk of relegation. This seems VERY optimistic indeed given that West ham's game in hand is away to Man City and 3 of our 4 remaining home games are against Liverpool, Arsenal and Man Utd - sides against whom Moyes' tactics rarely deliver points.
So, if we are to get 6-7 more points we will need to get some decent results in our away fixtures at Bournemouth, Palace, Leicester and Brentford as well as at least a draw at home to Leeds. None of this looks anything like certain right now as we are really struggling to get goals and our away form has been atrocious. Nobody wants to be heading to Leicester on the final day needing a result to stay up!
The Gods of Footy were on our side against Fulham. Let's hope they keep up the good will towards us in the remaining nine games!
Wednesday, 5 April 2023
David Moyes has announced his matchday squad for tonights clash with high-fling Newcastle. It's a game that the Hammers need to pick up a result as the tight relegation battle continues to throw up all sorts of unexpected results!
Fresh off the crucial win over Southampton on Sunday, Moyes' men will be looking for at least a point but in reality, they stumbled home at the weekend courtesy of a favourable VAR decision and almost threw the points away but for the intervention of a crossbar in the closing moments of the game.
Antonio comes in for Ings, while Soucek keeps his place despite a run of poor form. Newcastle are in top form and need the points to boost their European charge, while the Hammers need points to ease the distraction of the relegation battle which is threatening to impede their European campaign.
West Ham United: Fabiański, Kehrer, Zouma, Aguerd, Emerson, Rice ©, Souček, Paquetá, Bowen, Antonio, BenrahmaSubs: Areola (GK), Cresswell, Coufal, Fornals, Lanzini, Downes, Cornet, Ings, Ogbonna