Thursday 20 April 2023

Will it be Jekyll or Hyde as Hammers chase European glory?

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.


  1. Start with a strong offense and bury Gent early and then sub out once the tie is won .

  2. Just heard moyes will be staying as w ham manager next year we have as a family for 50 years have had season tickets 12 of us Well that's it wont be renewing as from next season Cant stand the negative defensive football anymore We were never like this in the past

    1. Your not alone our family not renewing either travel miles each week to watch our team rarley putting two passes together terrible football to watch


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