The GoatyGav Column

Fairness – A Bridge Too VAR?

This week’s article is going to be a short one due to the holiday demands of kids wanting to get to the beach and the inflatable assault course in the sea. M’Julie and I will be sticking to sunbathing on the beach.

Once again this weekend’s game has been heavily influenced by VAR. This time after Brighton had a goal chalked off for offside. It was marginal but clear – not in the ‘daylight’ sense however. Listening to the likes of Ian Wright anyone would think that the offside rule had just changed to hamper strikers. Does he not realise that the rule is the same – just that strikers are now being found to be offside, according to the same laws. The ‘armpit’ offside brigade would like to see the rule changed so that clear daylight can be seen between the defender and offside attacker. Problem is the same ‘armpit’ argument exists in the clear daylight scenario. You have to draw the line somewhere and, simply put, offside is offside.

I had to laugh listening to a Man City fan phone in to BBC Radio London after the game on Saturday evening. This supporter was not calling to discuss the goal disallowed in injury time but was bemoaning a nailed-on (you’ll never find me using the term ‘stonewall’ incorrectly – does my head in) penalty that the VAR officials decided not to review. Kind of ironic after the Rodri foul, with absolutely no attempt to play the ball, on Haller, that Mike Dean was looking directly at from no more than ten yards away, that led to the City fifth goal the previous week. Not only was it a foul Seb Haller got completely clattered in the most blatant of fashion to the point I believe a yellow card was warranted. How the VAR team could let that one go is beyond me. The main point is, however, are we going to get what we hoped for, and were discussing at length on this blog during the pre-season, in that VAR will prove to be a leveller where decisions have previously gone the way of ‘bigger’ clubs? Early evidence might suggest that the review teams sat at Stockley Park are also choosing to ignore situations which would have benefitted those outside of the Premier League’s top six? Going back to the Haller Poleaxing it certainly seems there is some evidence to suggest it. All of the subsequent media coverage of that goal appears to be ignoring the barefaced clattering too. Now if that had’ve been the other way around with, say, Declan Rice playing Aguero instead of the ball we’d have been watching the footage of it, from every possible angle, on Match Of The Day whilst listening to their commentary team condemning Rice for such an awful challenge. Tell me I’m wrong?

Overall I’m a fan of the technology. It’s only going to improve. Suggestions of a ‘hawkeye’ style system with technology installed in boots, along with an amendment to the off-side law to make the front foot (or back foot if the player has their back to goal) the object of the decision are positive ones. Goal-line technology has been fully accepted and widely viewed as the fair way to way to judge if a goal has been scored or not. Same goes for VAR IMHO.

The argument, that I hear from former professional striker pundits, to say “but it’s only very marginal,” just doesn’t cut it. You have a rule and you stick to it otherwise you introduce ambiguity and, appropriately to this article, further opportunity to side with the bigger boys.
Right – back to that Estrella Damm on the balcony. See you all next week.


The HamburgHammer Column

Dead Leg United 1 : Seagulls 1 - A good point collected down at the beach!

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The Brighton fixture was one of those unusual games for me that do happen every once in a while. I tend to watch every West Ham offering religiously, my eyes fixed on the TV screen, from the first to the final whistle. And it started out reasonably normal on Saturday at 4pm local Hamburg time, with me following my usual “matchday-watching-on-the-telly-routine“ to a T: West Ham shirt of choice on, check! Favourite West Ham mug filled with steaming hot tea, check! Screwdriver at the ready, check!

So I was about to settle down in my armchair to watch the mighty Hammers attacking Brighton on their own manor when suddenly the dog and bone was making a noise, it was my favourite/only brother calling in, delivering a most welcome bit of splendid news, he had been to yet another screening/CT scan which had yielded a negative result (for traces of cancer), hence making it very positive news actually, as you can all imagine.

I had the game on in the background, with the sound down, while chatting away to my bro for over an hour, discussing the latest German and Hamburg football news, Brexit (as you do!), the latest updates with regard to my nephew etc.

Suddenly Brighton were 1:0 up, ah, nevermind, still plenty of time left to turn things around, but three minutes later or so (when I checked the screen again) it was 0:0 once more, so VAR had done us a favour apparently. Phew!

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Whenever I did have a butcher’s at the game during the phone call, it didn’t really keep me glued to the screen for long though, at least not in the first half! We were clearly struggling against a very impressive Brighton team with our emergency line-up, having to replace Haller, Anderson and Noble.

I mean, three players/starters out with a dead leg, what are the odds ? I have had my fair share of dead legs in my lifetime and while I have never been in the position having to play professional football with one, obviously, the dead legs I used to experience were certainly painful affairs and multi-coloured in appearance, but they never really seemed to have a long-term impact on my ability to run or move.
Yes, I actually did move at pace, quicker than walking speed, in previous years, occasionally, if absolutely necessary…LOL

Anyway, second half came and with it Antonio replacing Wilshere and suddenly the game was picking up in terms of action and incident, starting to look like a proper old game. I had finished the phone call by the 55th minute or so.

When we took the lead (against the run of play really) I was absolutely delighted as it was crowning a well executed counter attacking move. Manuel Lanzini was the main protagonist though, putting the goal on a plate for our lone striker Chicharito, but then again Lanzini was on fire all game, absolutely brilliant! He truly looked like the Lanzini before his knee injury and as we all know that used to be a fantastic player.
Long may it continue! Who could have guessed at the start of the season that Chicharito of all people would score our first goal of the new campaign.
Say what you like, he got his chance and he buried it! Kudos, Little Pea!

But our defence is still what it is, so it didn’t come as a massive surprise we conceded the equaliser not long after. There was more action on both ends of the pitch now with astonishing misses from Brighton, some dodgy defending by Masuaku and Diop plus Antonio fluffing a late opportunity to snatch all three points from the Seagull’s beak. Earlier he had blasted a shot from distance into Row U – amazing how much elevation professional footballers can get on their shots sometimes…;-))

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At the end of the day a draw was probably a fair result. You won’t find me moaning over an away point in the PL. There really aren’t easy away games in this league (anymore). Brighton look like a very tidy outfit this season and their early form is quite impressive. I would expect them to do well this term and other teams will be very fortunate to get a win when travelling down the English Channel coast.

Considering we had Noble, Haller and Anderson out it was a decent away performance overall and a very valuable point won.
That’s how you get yourself away from the bottom of the table. Dark days ahead though, by all accounts, for Newcastle, Southampton and Watford this season. Talking of which, Watford away will be our next game and I’m really looking forward to that one, especially with Haller and Anderson likely to return from injury, Noble too perhaps.

Surely the league table as of now seems to indicate that no team has pulled away from the others massively yet (hard to do after just two games played), it’s still early days and once we will have won our first game (or two) we can climb the table quickly. That, however, will require more solid and focussed defending from our lads. Surely something worth working on extra hard in training…

Our younger prospects seem to have started the season really well, with the U23s beating Newcastle away while some of our loan players have done us proud too, goalkeeper Nathan Trott helping Wimbledon to a draw while Grady Diangana put his name on the scoresheet twice for West Brom after coming on in the second half.

Good stuff! Next week will hopefully bring us some positive news from the injury front for the Hammers, those will of course be nowhere near as brilliant as the news about my brother’s health, but obviously far more relevant for West Ham fans far and wide…;-)) COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Mixed bag for the Hamburg teams. Hamburg SV beat Bochum on Friday evening and are gracing the top of the table now with 7 points out of 9. Fantastic early season form right there!

St.Pauli on the other hand failed to protect a 1:0 lead away at promotion favourites Stuttgart, conceding a 90th minute losing goal in a 1:2 defeat. With just one point gained from three games, they are staring down the wrong end of the table with the pressure rising already. Long season ahead for them, it seems…

All three Concordia teams were active on Sunday at separate times in different locations, but I didn’t quite make the tripleheader. My brother was joining me for the first and main one, the league game of our first team, playing at USC Paloma at 10.45am – and the lads treated us to a mesmerising 7:2 away win in the pouring summer rain. Great team performance, smiling faces among the Cordi faithful and second place in the table after four games. This is how it must have felt like for the Man City fans when they beat us 5:0…

Afterwards I dropped off my bro at his front door at the other end of town, so unfortunately I couldn’t make the season debut of the Cordi Women’s team who earned a 1:1 draw away at HEBC at 1pm with the day finishing off with the Cordi U23s playing away at Rahlstedt at 3.30pm. The latter one was a 3:3 draw and despite Cordi not winning it was a highly entertaining contest. Lower league football at its best!

Talking Point

Keeping the Faith is Getting Harder

Guest Post by Rugby Irons

So our tinker man has shuffled the pack and still picked a near losing hand. I sense more supporters are starting to question our Manager’s performances, and I think it’s right to do so . Every player is scrutinised so why not the manager?

A team manager is basically judged in three areas – Preparation, tactics and squad selection.

We had a long mileage pre-season which didn’t seem to achieve progress in the two prime aims. If it’s for fitness then it failed. Two games in and we already look tired, leggy and of course injured. If it was to prepare for new players coming into the squad, that didn’t happen either. We seem to have not learnt any lessons from last season. In terms of what is done on the training ground it looks short of intensity and does anyone really know what MP’s team plan is from one game to the next?

Which brings us to tactics. It’s a fantasy to believe just because we have good, promising flair players, we can just outscore the opposition each week. One shot in the first half yesterday to their seven could not be clearer. MP looks like he doesn’t have a plan that the team knows how to operate. If you rough up Wilshere and Anderson, then we cease to function. Our transition becomes easy to stifle. If you play one up then they have to be a threat but (bar his goal) Chico is way too weak . He needs a supply of chances that will not come. I had hoped the flair players would win more freekicks but we can’t even do that properly. Stop the pointless tap to freekicks and get the ball in or at least shoot. We simply lack a structure that the players can understand.

And so to the selections. Fab picks himself. If you go four at the back (and he will) because any three he picks wouldn’t have the pace, then you can’t pick Cresswell and you must pick Fred. Any two from the three centre halves is only going to give you some strengths but equally some weakness. MP stupidly didn’t address the most basic problem of sorting the defence and so we haven’t progressed. Every team we play know this and will all fancy scoring. I sense our first clean sheet is still a long way away.

The middle is full of flair but you have to have the ball first and we simply don’t retain it long enough. Rice cannot do it all. In attack Haller has impressed in his bringing the others into play but without him you simply can’t pick Chico to lead the line. He was terrible yesterday, and his goal doesn’t change that. You have to go with a threat, and that’s Antonio. And frankly not picking Ajeti for Sanchez was pointless. Give the lad 10 minutes and find out what you have. MP doesn’t use his subs well as a rule, and he must improve on this.

There is no doubt the ability is there but the lack of intensity that we had last season hasn’t changed. There is no real heart in the team and that’s also why we can’t put two good halves together. All the potential is there but now Pelligrini has to raise their game and more importantly raise his own. His calm mumbling manner is not working. Collectively we need a real big kick up the backside, and now, before the rot sets in. It may seem we are only two games in but in truth it’s more like two seasons as nothing has really changed.
We should be looking at 6 points from the next two league games and a Cup win, but only time will tell as to whether Pellegrini can pick and motivate the right players for the job. I really hope so.

David Hautzig's Match Report

Brighton 1, West Ham 1. Just Take It.

Before the season began, I was a guest presenter on Moore Than Just A Podcast with Sean and Nigel. We discussed the opening fixtures, and as I looked at them it wasn’t Manchester City that scared me. Nor was it Manchester United in a few weeks. It was the fixtures in between that brought on my normal levels of fear. It’s the matches agains the likes of Brighton, Watford, Norwich, and Villa that we have historically fell well below expectations. My mood started to spiral downwards as I envisioned a total of like two points going to Old Trafford. Add to that the news that our two most prolific signings were injured, I sipped my coffee in dread. In the end, it was a result I could live with.

The opening minute gave us a possible warning of what the day could bring. Brighton won a free kick seconds after the start, and the delivery into the box went over the smaller West Ham defense and found Burn. His free header went over the bar, and the offside flag went up. But the danger was there for all Hammers to see. Set pieces could equal disaster.

In the opening ten minutes or so, you could see the kind of quick passing game Pellegrini has asked his players to implement. And it is pleasant on the eye. But there still is a void in the final third. That’s where the passing seems to break down. The optimist says that when that part of our game is polished we will be a force. The pessimist….HI!….sees a lot of danger in losing the ball with too many men forward.

A lot was made about the left back position during the window. With Cresswell and Masuaku the choices on hand, it seemed to boil down to either a decent defender who is poor going forward, or a weak defender who is better on the wing. The weak defender in this case handed Brighton a chance to open the scoring in the 22nd minute when a truly awful clearance was easily intercepted by Gross. His hard shot was palmed over the bar by Fabianski for a corner. The ensuing set piece found the head of Duffy, but Fabianski made the save. Moments later Rice gave the ball away in midfield, which led to a good strike by March that Fabianski did well to save.

The sloppy play by West Ham finally led to what in every other year would have been an opening goal by Trossard. The goal was a direct result of Masuaku looking completely lost in the West Ham eighteen yard box and Trossard losing him. But VAR showed Burn to be clearly offside on the initial free kick that started the whole play. No goal. Nigel texted our group that it still took too long. For the record, I like VAR and I’m 100% happy it’s in the game. I’ll wait a few seconds to get decisions right.

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After a reasonably bright start, West Ham started to unravel as the first half plowed on. Long balls lost, runs into the abyss, sloppy defending. Brighton had possession and moved the ball around the West Ham area, a sight Brighton fans likely enjoy after years of Chris Hughton. Masuaku conceded a corner in the 40th minute, and with such a height advantage in the box it required Fabianski to take charge and punch the ball away.

Late in the first half Snodgrass made a forceful run down the right and got to the byline. His low cross was deflected out to Rice at the top of the box. He tried to one time it but missed horribly and skied it to Marwood, a coffee place and bar near the train station.

Like that place. So a shameless plug inserted here.

Brighton 0
West Ham 0

The second half brought one substitute, with Wilshere giving way to Antonio. For all the talk about our choices in midfield, the center of the pitch was pretty awful from the Claret and Blue in the first half. Not that any part of the pitch was positive, mind you. And it didn’t look any better as the second half began. The idea of a draw felt soothing because a win looked impossible.

Another West Ham giveaway on the left side sent Brighton in on an attack with numbers in the 56th minute. Dunk laid the ball off beautifully for Trossard alone in front of the West Ham goal. A touch and it’s in. But the moment got the better of him and he skied it over the bar. Yet another let off for The Hammers.

In the 60th minute I sent a text to our group chat saying that it was time to see what the Ajeti kid could do. I pressed send on my iPhone, and immediately my football app dinged showing me a goal by West Ham. The app was a few seconds ahead of my stream. I looked up to see Lanzini break through the Brighton midfield and lay a perfectly weighted ball for Chicharito who put it past Ryan.

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Brighton 0
West Ham 1

Brighton answered the disappointment well, with good attempts from both Dunk and Trossard. In the 65th minute, Brighton got what they deserved based on the run of play when Murray bullied Diop off the ball. Ogbonna got turned completely around and lost Trossard, who drilled a shot past Fabianski for the equalizer.

Brighton 1
West Ham 1

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I have an idea. Anytime Antonio attempts a long shot like he did in the 71st minute he has to pay a fine. For the life of me I cannot recall ONE that was EVER close to being on target. A minute later Maupay was teed up in front of Fabianski for what should have been a second Brighton goal, but the one time rumored West Ham transfer target put the ball high over the crossbar. So I guess it’s a malady that affects more than just our guys.

In the 75th minute, Yarmolenko sent a ball forward that Antonio chased along with Dunk. Dunk looked to get a piece of Antonio’s leg, sending the West Ham winger to the turf. VAR looked at it while play continued and deemed the no call the right decision. Moments later Propper had an open header in the West Ham box and should have scored but bounced it right to Fabianski.

In the 86th minute, Lanzini made a truly stunning 60 plus yard run. Weaving through more Brighton players than one could count, he eventually passed to Snodgrass in the box. A good low shot by the Scot forced an impressive save from Ryan.

West Ham’s defensive frailty was on display again in the 90th minute when Ogbonna gave away a cheap corner when a simple clearance should have been well within his capacity. Thankfully the Hammers back line took care of it. A minute later Antonio won a corner out of absolutely nothing, and then almost scored from a ball played back into the box after the delivery was cleared.

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Final Score
Brighton 1
West Ham 1

At the final whistle, I thought about Sam Allardyce. OK, not really. I just wanted to get a rise out of some of you. But one artifact from his reign, at least in my circle of West Ham friends, are the arguments over a draw. Respect it, loathe it, somewhere in between. George from Moore Than Just A Podcast immediately said “take that”. My best mate Jon was not as impressed, saying he did not respect that point. Mr. Reasonable himself, Nigel, pointed out it was our first point ever at Brighton in the EPL. Considering our record not only there but in August overall I’ll go with Nigel and George. We were poor for much of the opening half, but much improved in the second. Brighton were the better side, which in and of itself should be annoying on paper, and will feel the three points were there to be had.

I’ll sleep well knowing they didn’t pry it away from us.

Match Thread

Match Thread: Brighton v West Ham

Brighto v West Ham
FA Premier League
Amex Stadium
KO 3pm
TV: None

Please comment on the match as it progresses.

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