Tony Hanna's Musings

The transfer window, an injury crisis and our Noble captain

With only fourteen games remaining of the Premier League season just six points separate the ten teams sitting between 10th and rock bottom of the table. It is no wonder there is so much pressure every time any of these teams play each other. Every game seems like a six pointer. A couple of wins or a couple of losses on the bounce can make a huge difference. We are currently unbeaten this year and have reached the heady heights of 11th but things can change so quickly that there must be no room for complacency. Despite our lofty position we are just four points clear of the relegation zone.

Last week I gave my thoughts on the blog that a win against Bournemouth could influence the Board to keep their transfer powder dry in this January window. The extra buffer an additional two points would have provided may have allowed us to play a stronger eleven than what will now, in all probability, be selected for the Wigan cup game. However, with just one point gained on the weekend together with fresh injury concerns, David Moyes focus may have shifted back to adding a player or two to his depleted squad. With three games in eight days looming again, two of which are six pointers, I think the team for the Cup game will now have a strong influence of fringe and U23 players. The latest injury news suggests Lanzini will be out for at least 6 weeks and Arnautovic a minimum of three. Isn’t it just our luck that as soon as we start to see a brilliant attacking partnership develop we lose both players to hamstring injuries? To make things worse Andy Carroll is missing again and is likely to need surgery, there is the mystery injury to Antonio and together with an unreliable Sakho our attacking options are becoming quite limited. Even Ayew missed squad selection on the weekend due to injury.

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On the bright side I thought our first 25 minutes against Bournemouth saw us play some of our best football for quite some time. The interchange of passing and one touch stuff was very easy on the eye. But as is often the case if you don’t convert your ascendancy into goals the opposition normally find a way to get back into the game. The visitors certainly finished the stronger and a point apiece was probably a fair result. David Moyes has suggested that Joe Hart will get his opportunity again this season and I do wonder if the England keeper were to have a good game at Wigan, whether he may be in the running to take over from Adrian in the PL team? There may be an argument that Adrian was at fault for the Bournemouth goal, or at least he should have done better. Personally, I would like to think that Adrian deserves a bit more of a go – I really don’t see Hart being at the club next season. Mind you, I was very disappointed to see Adrian flicking the ball up in the air before volleying away when being pressed during Saturdays match. It smacked of old bad habits returning and the sort of antics that I am sure will not go down well with our current manager.

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One thing that did go down well, with me anyway, were some comments from Mark Noble a week or so ago in a Daily Mail interview. “I’ve known these people since I first came to the club. I want the very best for this club. I make sure, out of the players’ bonus, every staff member shares in that bonus. We can’t do it without them.” Mark was referring to the back room staff at the club and even the chef and Shirley in the kitchen. Now he is a very good player but I wish Mark was as good a footballer as he is a bloke because we would have a Messi or Ronaldo on our hands. It is lovely to see some good old fashioned values still exist in a game where greed more often grabs the headlines nowadays.

So, onto the bookies updates. It has been a much more difficult window to try and predict than usual – especially as nothing has happened for us so far! The winter window markets are always less reliable than the summer window markets and this year it seems even more difficult. My own view is that if we are to persist with a January window it should be reduced to a much shorter timeframe. The biggest argument for a winter transfer window is so clubs can buy replacements to cover long term injuries in key positions. If a two week window was in place I am sure the same deals would still get done but with much less of the hassle and uncertainty it brings to many clubs. I know deals can be complex and hard to do, but I am sure they would still get done if the alternative meant the agent misses out altogether!

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Relegation The bookies seem to think we are safe and have us at 14/1 (6.67%) for relegation with ten other teams more likely to go down than us. Those odds may well tighten up on the back of our latest injury news. As for player transfers;

Andre Ayew is an even money chance (50%) to join old club Swansea. He has had a mixed spell with West Ham and one of the problems is where does the player fit or more pertinently, what is his best position? With our current injury problems I doubt we would entertain him leaving unless we had another striker lined up as a replacement. The market does suggest that a deal may be on the cards though.

Javier Hernandez – ditto above regarding a suitable replacement, but there has been money for Chico to move to Besiktas. He is still 1-3 (75%) to remain a Hammer.

Jonjo Shelvey is now odds on to stay with Newcastle. The current price of 2/1 (33%) for the move South does suggest a deal could still be done though. If rumours are to be believed the player would welcome the switch but the Geordies would want to sign his replacement first.

Michy Batshuayi is at 9/1 (10%) to join West Ham from Chelsea and this deal looks dead in the water now. I think any real chance of that transfer happening was on the back of Carroll going the other way.

Two players who are rumoured to be possible targets but are not listed with the bookies are Inter Milan midfielder Joao Mario and Leander Dendoncker from Anderlecht.

A note to our Australian readers. The Wigan cup tie is being shown live on Foxsports ch1508 ESPN

The HamburgHammer Column

It's a question of trust - and a bare necessity

Mustn’t grumble. That’s one of those staple phrases I encountered when coming to live in Britain in 1996. And it has served me well ever since. Although supporting West Ham also sometimes shows that the phrase doesn’t fit every situation imaginable. On paper we should have beaten Bournemouth. Even on the pitch, for the first 20 minutes or so we had them under the kosh, so much so that I was expecting a comfortable win for the mighty Hammers. But we lacked the final pass, the ultimate idea in front of their goal, the clinical precision to make our superiority count.

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Unfortunately Bournemouth are too organised a team to allow you getting away with wasting opportunities. They didn’t have many chances, but when they finally had one, boy, did they make it count! At that point I was fearing the worst. But I didn’t quite expect us to do another Huddersfield, that is a goal scored within ten seconds or so from kickoff.

We could all see exactly what kind of goals Hernandez can produce if only we were able to cause more havoc in opposition teams’ boxes on a regular basis.

I also found another little thing I liked about Arnautovic, doing one of his amazing runs at the opposition, early in the first half. He ain’t afraid to take one three or four players at the same time, and you can see them being scared stiff, not knowing what he’ll do next while being strong as an ox and hard to bring down by legal means.

But sometimes even Arnautovic can’t find a teammate to play a nice 1-2 with.
So, what does he do, he simply uses an opposition player to do just that.
It looked to me as if he deliberately shot the ball at the opposition player’s foot or leg to then recollect the ball and go past him. It nearly came off too…:-))

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A point under the circumstances was a fair result. We keep up our recent run of solid form and are incredibly hard to beat now, unlike several other teams below and around us in the league table. The momentum is with us for sure, but undeniably also the bad old West Ham injury curse has returned with a vengeance, aka “The Bane of the Badger“.

Looking at the players that are currently out due to an injury or a knock or those rumoured to be headed out by way of impending transfer you could field a very decent team with that lot.

That we are at or near the top of the PL’s injury table more often than not clearly is one thing that’s holding us back. It needs to be addressed and maybe, just maybe it’d be worth it to look at our training facilitates yet again, maybe even ask neutral experts in the field, highly professional physios and those knowing about training on different playing surfaces and it’s long-term effects on muscles (we seem to be getting a significant number of muscle related injuries at West Ham).

And the injury crisis brings me to the main point of the column. What is going on in the transfer window.? I know not a whole lot has happened at other clubs, but I ain’t interested in other clubs. Surely our paperthin squad, weakened even further by constant injury struggles, needs some fresh impetus. For obvious reasons.
But also because you have to allow your gaffer, your man in charge of team affairs to build a team according to his vision.

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I have warmed to Moyes actually. I am still sorry about Bilic leaving, from a personal standpoint and because I respected that man so much due to his personality and conduct.
But Moyes seems to be a decent fit too and he seems to be willing to build something here. Most of all he needs to secure Premier League status for next season in order to even keep his job. But this is where his current contract could become an issue.

We know that both parties can terminate the deal in the summer at will. Maybe the board still have a certain other manager in mind who they want to bring in (and of course they have previous with Rafael Benitez). That would explain why they may want to keep their powder dry and not spend any money in January (which might add another 10-20 million to our transfer kitty in the summer. I refuse to call it warchest as it’d be a pretty tame war you could fight with the kind of money our board are providing on a regular basis, at least in terms of PL net spend).

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It is a dangerous game to play. Now, I don’t believe for one minute we are still in realistic danger of relegation. But we are surely suffering from a bare bones squad and as a manager, any manager, you don’t just want to escape relegation by the skin of your teeth. You want to play football in a certain way, you want competition for places in a balanced squad and you want to finish as high in the table as possible. And for that you need to be able to sign a few players. Players identified and wanted by the manager, not the club owner or his offspring.

What if we don’t sign anyone in January, but Moyes manages to lead us to a decent midtable finish regardless, but decides to walk in the summer nonetheless because he wasn’t supported by the board in January ? It’s not just Moyes that needs to convince the board he is the right man for the club, the board also need to convince Moyes that West Ham is the right club for him. You need to show some trust and I don’t mean some tweets by the Sullivan clan, praising the manager.

No, you show your trust and support by signing at least some of the players the manager wants. You certainly don’t get rid of players without consulting the manager.
And you also don’t sign South American wonderkids that may score high on FIFA18, but are not really wanted by the manager.

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We are rumoured to be interested in Samir Nasri. Well, we certainly need midfielders. He’s also a bit of a character and not a spring chicken anymore. As long as the manager is happy with adding him to our squad, why not ? I would still like us to go for Dendoncker who at around 15 million quid would constitute a shrewd signing, same as bringing in Fyodor Smolov, the Russian striker, for a similar kind of fee. But in real life, I wouldn’t expect either to end up at West Ham.

In all likelihood it’s going to be one or two loan signings on deadline day plus maybe a cheap, average, older player from God knows where. I just really hope Moyes does get to see some support from the board in the remaining few days of the transfer window. Otherwise I see a scenario where Moyes moves on in the summer, getting snapped up by another PL club with open arms and also an open chequebook.

What’s been happening over here in Hamburg ? Not that much. Well, storm Friederike struck huge parts of Europe with galeforce winds, bringing rain, snow and destruction to various parts of the continent, including the Fatherland, but luckily the north of Germany, including my hometown, wasn’t hit with the full force of the elements. We had a bit of snow and ice though, and some unpleasant weather which also caused another midseason friendly to get cancelled for Concordia who would have travelled further oop north to Eutin, alas, it wasn’t to be.

So, instead of watching some nice outdoor football I will have to focus on watching us beating Wigan in the Cup on Saturday, if I can find a stream on the internet.
Wigan promises to be another hard nut to crack, especially considering our injury woes. I’d be quite happy to fight out a credible draw and force a replay.
At least it’ll give our youngsters another shot at showing their mettle and playing themselves into the manager’s mind and plans. COYI!!!

Submit your prediction for the Wigan Athletic game

Dawud Marsh's Photo Diary

Chicharito Rescues A Draw As The Hammers Struggle to Break Down A Resilient Bournemouth

David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 1, Slimeballs 1. Not A Good Point, But Not A Bad Point Either.

I hate Bournemouth now. I mean, I really hate them. And I used to like them in that second club kind of way. It wasn’t that they were awarded a goal they shouldn’t have gotten. And to be fair, they were the better side for most of that match. Heck, even Wilson acting like a total putz afterwards wasn’t the thing that turned on the revulsion in me. It was the club itself, using their official Twitter feed to make light of the fact they got away with cheating. I never expected them to say, “hey, the goal shouldn’t have counted”, but to publicly revel in it put that club in a light I never would have expected from them. So a curse on all their houses.

The Hammers began the match on the front foot, a term I only just learned has its roots in cricket, with Arnautovic leading the way in terms of being a nuisance to the Slimeball defense. Cresswell tried a low shot from outside the box, Noble sent a volley onto the top netting, and Kouyate got his head to a cross after a short corner that Begovic saved easily.

The first real opportunity belonged to West Ham in the 14th minute when Zabaleta once again started an attack by tracking back and winning the ball in the Slimeball half. He sent a beautiful cross into the box that split the Slimeball defense before settling on Arnautovic’s right foot. It was on its way to the back of the net but Begovic did well to push it over the bar for a corner.

The Slimeballs had their first real look at goal in the 21st minute from a set piece after Kouyate was whistled for a foul against Gosling 30 yards from goal. The delivery curled over the wall and found Francis unmarked at the far post. With a tight angle he tried to roll it across the face of goal but Adrian got a toe to it and knocked it out of the danger zone.

If two minutes can be considered extended pressure, then the visitors had that in the 31st minute, starting with a free kick after Ginge was shown a yellow card for being a brick wall that Fraser ran into. Moments later, Cook tried a shot from outside the West Ham penalty area that had Adrian beaten but curled just wide. That terrified feeling of not capitalizing on the early dominance began to creep in.

As the first half ran down, West Ham asked the final question before the break when they won a corner but Begovic punched it away from danger.

West Ham 0
Slimeballs 0

The first moment of interest in the second half came when a shot attempt by Kouyate from inside the box went off the hand of Ake, but Atkinson didn’t do a thing in all likelihood because of the close range. Moments later Arnautovic won a corner but the Slimeballs cleared from danger. Lanzini then sent a ball across the face of goal but nobody was there for West Ham. Zabaleta sent a looping ball towards goal that his fellow Argentine Lanzini came an inch from getting to. The sustained pressure continued with yet another corner that Begovic was able to grab hold of, followed by an Arnautovic counter and a soft shot by Zabaleta.

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In the 60th minute, Kouyate and Arnautovic combined on a give and go, with Kouyate doing the give while Arnautovic provided the go. The Austrian was in on goal all alone, but chose to try one more touch instead of a shot and that gave Cook time to get in his way and eventually win the ball.

The 63rd minute was a moment that could be more upsetting than giving up a goal. Lanzini went down holding his hamstring, and with quite literally no other creative midfield player on the roster the good vibrations at West Ham started to fade. Hernandez replaced him, but to what effect would remain to be seen.

While the loss of Lanzini may not have been directly responsible for what happened a few minutes later, I had to wonder. Masuaku and Arnautovic were working down the left of the Slimeballs penalty area. Without any outlet to work the ball into the penalty area, the ball eventually went all the back to Adrian. He hoofed it, and West Ham no longer had the ball. And you do need the ball if you want to score a goal. Goals help you win the game.

Minutes later, the danger of reeling from injuries and the lack of creativity punished West Ham when Fraser was let loose on a run down the left. Adrian should have come out to smother it, but his indecision combined with Zabaleta getting beaten allowed Fraser to run onto a pass from Stanislas and fire it into the net.

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West Ham 0
Slimeballs 1

Last week, playing with my son on his birthday caused me to miss the Arnautovic goal at the start of the second half. Today it was writing the paragraph above. When I looked up because of Tony Gale’s excitement, the ball was behind Begovic and the game was even. The play was not that dissimilar. Ogbonna sent the ball long after the restart, Kouyate headed it forward, Arnautovic got a foot to it but Begovic couldn’t control and Chicharito banged it home. Fox In The Box. It’s what he does when allowed.

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West Ham 1
Slimeballs 1

Despite the goal, the Slimeballs went back to asking the questions. Worryingly, West Ham looked disorganized and unsure in their own area. Players looked at each other, thinking it wasn’t their job to get the ball from danger. Worryingly like the early part of the season.

The 87th minute brought a moment of fear for the home supporters when Wilson and King combined in the West Ham area but King’s end product didn’t have enough pace to trouble Adrian. To make matters worse, Cresswell then pulled up lame with yet another West Ham-string problem. Turned out to likely be an ankle issue, but bad puns are part of my strategy to manage stress from these games. So I chose not to remove it. Just so you know.

By the time the five added minutes began, with all of the injuries I was 100% ready to accept a point and lick our wounds. The Slimeballs didn’t agree with that and kept pushing forward. It appeared that the final seconds were going to take place in the visiting half. Noble played Byram down the right and the late sub earned a corner. But Noble didn’t beat the first man, and the Slimeballs had a last chance to counter. West Ham defended well, and the teams shared the spoils.

Final Score
West Ham 1
Slimeballs 1

When this run of games against the teams around us in the table began, I said seven points was what I expected. Two games into it we have four, so based on my expectations we are ahead of schedule. But for me, today was a bit like that first game against Big Sam when he returned to Upton Park with Sunderland. I wanted to win that game so badly it felt like a Cup Final. Obviously today was different. And a draw was a fair result by and large. I just wanted to beat them.

Because they are cheating, good for nothing Slimeballs.

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Match Thread

Match Thread: West Ham v Bournemouth

West Ham v Bournemouth
Premier League
London Stadium
KO 3pm
TV: None
Radio: BBC Radio London

Please use this thread to comment on the game as it progresses.

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