Two games since the break and one goal conceded will be a great tonic to our newly assembled defence and certainly their performance against a high-flying Chelsea side was accomplished and confirmed the establishment of a new status quo. Balbuena and Diop have now settled in and look like they are competent and intuitive. The cover provided by Rice and Obiang was also noteworthy. They both occupied the strip of land between defence and midfield making it impossible for Chelsea to play the killer ball or execute the knife through butter counter goal we saw back under Slaven.
Midfield looking strong
Obiang seems to absorb and deflect all manner of dangerous opposition possession and although this affected his forward game slightly on Sunday he was playing a potential top four midfield and the shire nuisance of the man had the opposition scratching their heads and Hazard running around with the ball without doing very much most of the time. I always find the ‘Hazard test’ is a good indicator of the defensive capabilities of a side. Get Hazard wrong and he tears you to pieces, manage him correctly and he runs around with the ball wasting time and possession. We certainly passed the ‘Hazard test’ this time around and it will inspire confidence and build understanding as we look to contain, beckon, bait and strike against these kind of temperamental top four-ish set ups.
Rice again showed a lot of footballing prowess and his role is becoming more defined and distinct from Obiang. Rice is a chaser, tackler and user of the ball and the immense energy which goes into his overall performance allows him to dictate passage of play and generally mop-up potentially hazardous spills when required.
The only drawback of the system we play is that it does leave us very deep and very much invites possession to the other side. Of course we know this is Pellegrini’s way and after admittedly doubting the man in the first few games I now accept he is probably mostly right but are we all completely happy being reliant on counter-attack rather than carving and creating? Results are likely to dictate our responses I think and at least we are two games unbeaten and a clean sheet.
Noble put in another captain fantastic performance and covered every inch of the Stratford turf, as long as he can maintain this level of energy and performance Noble is sure to start and rightly so.The other unsung hero of the game was the keeper Fabianski. More brilliant shot stopping from the big man and in my opinion he should have been man of the match rather than Yarmolenko who for all his recent good form needed to take that chance! I think we can probably accept Antonio missing a chance Arnie would have buried but Yarmolenko’s miss hurt!
Why put the signs up now?
Did anyone notice the strange yellow signs that have cropped up on the bouncy tarpaulin sections? I remember the first couple of games in the new stadium looking at the gap between the tiers thinking the drop is pretty dangerous.
I also remember Watford fans complete with beers bouncing on the tarpaulin too but don’t remember it happening since the first few games. Is this surely not something which has been overlooked by the health and safety people? Is this surely not the remit of the same health and safety people who have limited capacity in the stadium and been instrumental in making our lives difficult? If so how has it taken over two seasons of imminent danger for the signs to appear? Maybe they’ve always been there and I’m going mad which is a distinct possibility but still.
Lastly we can all rest safely in the knowledge that according to our beloved BBC MOTD2 pundits whose names I refuse to even utter we must be in serious contention for a top three spot as an unbeaten Chelsea drawing nil nil against us have just been talked up to sound like the best team in Europe, lets all hope we can doubly annoy beeb pundits by dampening the fortunes of their favourite side from Manchester on Saturday.
As far as goalless draws go, this was one of the more entertaining ones. I have to admit, I was half expecting us to conjure up a silly way to snatch defeat from the jaws of draw late on in the game, as on numerous previous occasions in our history, but we stood firm. As against Everton the weekend before, this was a consummate team performance – we clearly had a plan against Chelsea and every single player worked his socks off to give us a result.
Let’s not forget that Chelsea came into this game as serious title challengers, having won all league games so far this season with a frightening goal tally. To keep a clean sheet against them was no mean feat and for me this goalless draw is like gold dust to us. It keeps morale and confidence high in the dressing room and it should set us up nicely for the upcoming tasks, especially against a Manchester United team that ain’t been firing on all cylinders so far this season.
Going through the performances in a bit more detail, I can’t give any player marks below 7 to be honest. Starting with our goalkeeper who finally rewarded himself with a clean sheet after not really putting a foot wrong either in his previous games for us.
This time around he literally took one for the team, right in his boat to be precise. I wouldn’t call it the most graceful or textbook save you’re ever gonna see, he probably didn’t choose deliberately to block the shot with his precious mug, but in my book it exemplified what Lukasz Fabianski is about as a custodian. He’d rather lose a tooth or two than a clean sheet or a game of football, and I doff my cap to him for his commanding presence and courage in a West Ham shirt.
Indeed it’s been a long time since I’ve been this relaxed watching a cross fly into our box or a shot drilled towards our goal. Make no mistake: Fabianski is a very good goalkeeper (maybe it’s unfortunate for him he hasn’t got a gig at a real big club so far, well, apart from West Ham, obviously!).
He appears to be developing a nice understanding with his defenders too, creating an environment where he is boosting the confidence of his defenders while they are making him look very solid in return by doing a decent job of, well, defending, you know, the thing that’s right at the top of page 1 in their job description.
There can be no denying that Chelsea kept and moved the ball extremly well, for any neutral football fan out there they must be a joy to behold and it says a lot about our own performance that they failed to find the net with their team of superstars against our brave little West Ham United Nations Mark II team of players.
I reckon our back four have now very much cemented their starting berths for the time being, there is no reason, injury permitting, why you would want to rotate any defenders for the next few league games (the Cup game against lowly Macclesfield is a different matter though).
Successful teams tend to be those that have the luxury to field the same defenders for consecutive games. Decent performances start from the back and if our defenders continue their fine run of recent performances we will get very hard to beat. Let’s keep in mind that we have had to endure probably the toughest set of opening fixtures in the entire league. We are still in that tough opening run.
Once we start to play the more average clubs, the Huddersfields, Cardiffs and Newcastles of this world, we should see our lads climbing the table consistently.
Our midfield showed a good mixture of solidity, pace and no-nonsense tactical discipline, not always beautiful to watch, but effective. It can only be a matter of time until Declan Rice gets a much deserved contract extension which will mirror his value to our team.
Also Anderson keeps improving, maybe he just needs his first league goal to boost his confidence further.
What I liked about him was the way he was tracking back, trying to win balls and making it difficult for Chelsea to just play their way into our box.
I won’t praise Mark Noble again because frankly by now every fan should have grasped the concept that we are a better side when Nobes is in it. He is by no stretch of the imagination our best player, but he makes things a lot easier for us, allowing his teammates to do their thing, keeping focus and effort levels up in every minute he is out there on the pitch.
As for Yarmolenko I cannot fault his effort in the game, but missing that header late on was reckless and painful to watch.
With the goal gaping wide, this should have been our Golden Ticket to nick all three points and I would expect any Premier League striker worth his salt to hit the target from that kind of distance.
But let’s not get too greedy here, a point under the circumstances was a good haul. I was fearing the worst when Arnautovic didn’t even make the bench, so to see us getting that result without our Austrian good-luck charm on the pitch was a relief of epic proportions.
Kudos to Manuel Pellegrini, looks like those training sessions are beginning to rub off on the players, long may it continue. Things are certainly looking up for the Hammers now and watching our team no longer feels like a waste of time or an exercise in masochism, like it used to do far too often in recent times.
The journey for sure has become a lot more interesting again.
Hamburg football update: A pretty crap weekend from a local perspective. At least St.Pauli got a win, 1:0 away at Ingolstadt. Hamburg SV got absolutely walloped at home against lowly Regensburg, losing 0:5 (FIVE) !!!
To put this in perspective, Hamburg had started the game at the top of the league table and there were just under 45.000 fans inside the stadium watching a Bundesliga 2 fixture here. Embarrassing!
Not the fact they lost, but the way they did it.
On Friday Concordia’s first team lost their league game by a 1:2 scoreline away at Süderelbe under the lights (on the wrong side of the river, at the league’s Millwall equivalent, so to speak) while the U23s were unexpectedly off on Sunday as the opposition team unfortunately couldn’t find eleven players to take the pitch for them (Welcome to the glamourous world of lower league Hamburg football!).
At least the Cordi youngsters invited their most loyal fans into the home dressing room for some sarnies, softdrinks and beer to make amends for the cancellation of the game.
Nice gesture, lads! (And before you ask, no, I didn’t eat all the sandwiches by myself, I restrained myself and had just the one egg and mayo sandwich, washed down with one bottle of beer and that was it. Honest!)
On the face of it, today didn’t have the feel of disaster like so many weekend mornings do. West Ham apparently have never lost their opening three games at home, which is pretty surprising when you consider how many bad things have happened to the club. Add to that our recent relative success against Chelsea and the day had a rather relaxed feel by our standards. Then, an hour before kickoff, the news we were all afraid of but probably discounted became reality. No Arnie. While I wanted to soothe myself by thinking we had options and that the confidence from last week would make up for it, the fact is that without Arnautovic we don’t score as much. One statistic said of the last 15 goals we have scored the Austrian was involved in 11. Instead, the mercurial Antonio would lead the line today. Like Mercury, that situation could ebb and flow quickly based on the temperature around the pitch. In the end, both side had chances, ours were a bit better, and we can spend the day with one more point than we had when we woke up.
The first thing that was noticeable had nothing to do with the action on the pitch, but the inaction around it. The number of empty seats in the lower tiers at The London Athletics Stadium was glaring. I know, it’s pointless to keep saying it. But I did.
West Ham showed better than expected composure on the ball early on, building an attack with short crisp passing. Such things usually end with a bad touch, or a panic stricken hoof upfield. Not that it led to anything, nor was it long lasting, but it was nice to see for a wee bit.
West Ham were let off the hook slightly in the 9th minute when Chelsea won a corner. The delivery into the box found Giroud, but he didn’t get the contact he wanted and the ball bounced harmlessly to Fabianski. The Blues in Yellow kept up the attack, with Rudiger testing the new West Ham Number one keeper with a long shot that posed no real threat. Moments later Willian sent Hazard into the box with a lovely back heel pass but again Fabianski was up to the task.
The home side finally looked like a football team with a notion of attacking in the 20th minute when a long cross field pass found Anderson on the left and his run forced Chelsea to concede a corner. It would have been nice if the delivery into the box had been useful, or if West Ham created something from Luiz’s weak clearance. Alas, it was a mini false dawn.
In the 30th minute West Ham launched their first real counter attack when Anderson showed the ball handling skill he is known for as he worked himself clear down the left. He rolled a ball forward for Antonio to attack, which he did but his shot went over the bar. Minutes later West Ham were back on the front foot with Yarmolenko on the right. The ball found Antonio alone in the box but with such a tight angle he could only try to power the ball past Kepa. He didn’t succeed. At that moment it was hard not to at least wonder what would have happened had Arnautovic been up front in those two counters, because despite the clear advantage in possession to the visitors West Ham had the two clearest scoring chances of the half.
The final minute of the half put West Ham hearts in mouth when Hazard passed to Willian on the right side of the West Ham eighteen yard box. Willian then crossed to Kante but his weak header went weakly wide.
The first half ended with no additional time added. None. I don’t think I have ever seen that.
West Ham 0
Felipe Anderson did something early in the second half that made me smile. He went shoulder to shoulder to Kante, winning not only a free kick but a yellow card to last years EPL player of the year. It’s as if the reality of life in England is becoming clearer to the clever Brazilian. He even dished it out to Willian a minute later, earning himself a place in Mike Dean’s book.
Masuaku as a fullback still makes me nervous. Very nervous. In the 55th minute he had the ball inside the West Ham box. He tried to work his way out but instead lost possession over the line for a Chelsea corner. Willian’s delivery hit Luiz in the box but his diving header went over the bar.
I don’t know about you, but I wish Fabianski wouldn’t go for the long ball as often as he does. I cannot recall a single good thing coming from one of them. Mini rant over.
Chelsea had two great chances to score in the 66th minute. First, Hazard was played into the box and laid the ball off for the recently inserted Morata. Diop got a crucial touch to deny the Spaniard, but seconds later Morata found himself alone in front of Fabianski but the West Ham keeper made a point blank stop to keep West Ham on level terms.
I, for one, did not understand the Snodgrass for Anderson move. At that point of a match, at home, wouldn’t you want someone who can keep possession and possibly create a chance on the pitch? Unless, of course, the mantra of “respect the point” was ringing in your ears. Yet in the 77th minute, it was Snodgrass who created the best chance of the match and may go down as the worst miss of the season when his cross found Yarmolenko all alone in front of Kepa. He simply had to score there. He didn’t even hit the net. It was awful beyond description.
In the 81st minute Willian left Zabaleta in his fumes on the left before whipping a cross into the box. Kante got on the end of it but his header went over the bar. Nowhere near the level of miss as Yarmolenko, but a miss nonetheless.
Jon Champeon was calling the game over here, and he pointed out that Chelsea had scored beyond the 80th minute in every match this season. Thanks Jon. I really needed that at that time. When Willian lined up for a corner in minute 83 I felt the anxiety of that statistic. However, Fabianski came out confidently and smothered the ball.
When it was announced that four minutes were added on, I was as surprised as I was at the zero added on for the first half. I was also terrified. Ross Barkley tested Fabianski with a long range shot that the Polish international dove low to his left to put out for a corner. Then Snodgrass gave away a free kick on the right side of the box but Yarmolenko did his defensive work with a bicycle kick clearance.
When Chelsea put the ball out for a goal kick and the clock showed 93:49, I felt relief. I think a draw was to some degree a fair result. Chelsea dominated possession, but we had by far the best chance of the match and Yarmolenko should feel pretty lousy tonight. Two players who should feel rather pleased are Diop and Balbuena. Not only did they earn their first clean sheet of the season, but they likely cemented themselves as the starting center halves for the forseeable future. Maybe longer given their age. In the end, a point against a far better opponent is always a decent day.
And decent might be the best we can hope for currently.
2nd May 1988 – with S-Express at number one with ‘Theme from S-Express’ and Wall Street in UK cinemas, West Ham United met Chelsea for the final game at Upton Park of the 1987/88 season in front of 28,521.
Prior to kick-off, Stewart Robson was named Hammer of the Year, with Billy Bonds runner-up. The Irons, needing a win to secure top flight survival, broke the deadlock in the 16th minute – Mark Ward found Leroy Rosenior (pictured) who swivelled and fired beyond Kevin Hitchcock from just inside the area. The pair were involved again for the second goal 20 minutes later, Ward producing excellent work in his own half before sending Rosenior clear with a delightful ball in behind the Chelsea rearguard, the striker slotting past Hitchcock to double the lead.
Hammers defender Paul Hilton scored the third on 57 minutes after Tony Dorigo had blocked Rosenior’s header following Tony Gale’s flick-on from a corner. Rosenior turned from hero to villain when he lashed out at future West Ham assistant manager Steve Clarke and was sent off. Substitute Colin West reduced the arrears for Chelsea from a corner but Tony Cottee restored the three-goal advantage, making it 4-1 with a late header from a Ward cross. Cottee would be the club’s top scorer in 1987/88 with 15 goals from 44 matches. The goals, and end-of-season presentations, can be viewed in my video below.
The Hammers would finish 16th in 1987/88 while Chelsea would finish 18th. Liverpool won the league title and Wimbledon won the FA Cup.
West Ham United: Tom McAlister, Steve Potts, Paul Hilton, Tony Gale, Julian Dicks, Mark Ward, Stewart Robson, Alan Dickens, George Parris, Leroy Rosenior, Tony Cottee.
Chelsea: Kevin Hitchcock, Gareth Hall, Steve Clarke, Steve Wicks, Tony Dorigo, John Bumstead, Micky Hazard (Colin West), Joe McLaughlin, Pat Nevin, Gordon Durie, Kerry Dixon.
A decent number of players have represented both West Ham United and Chelsea. Victor Moses spent the 2015/16 season on loan with the Hammers and has proved a key player in recent seasons for the Blues. Others to have worn the colours of both clubs include:
Goalkeepers: Craig Forrest and Harry Medhurst.
Defenders: Tal Ben Haim, Scott Minto, Wayne Bridge, Ian Pearce, Joe Kirkup, Glen Johnson and Jon Harley.
Midfielders: Bill Jackson, Frank Lampard Junior, Andy Malcolm, Syd Bishop, Peter Brabrook, Alan Dickens, George Horn, Eric Parsons, Robert Bush, Scott Parker, Yossi Benayoun, Joe Cole, Jim Frost and John Sissons.
Strikers: David Speedie, Len Goulden, Billy Bridgeman, Demba Ba, Joe Payne, Clive Allen, George Hilsdon, Carlton Cole, Billy Brown, Jimmy Greaves, Pop Robson, Billy Williams, Ron Tindall and Bob Deacon.
Gianfranco Zola played for Chelsea and managed West Ham, while Sir Geoff Hurst and Dave Sexton both played for the Hammers and managed the Blues. Bobby Gould played for West Ham and went on to be assistant and caretaker manager of Chelsea. Avram Grant has managed both clubs.
Today’s focus is on a former Chelsea defender who went on to manage West Ham United. Ron Greenwood was born on the 11th November 1921 in Worsthorne, Burnley but moved to London as a child during the 1930s Depression. He was educated at the Wembley County Grammar School, which now forms part of Alperton Community School in Middlesex, leaving at the age of 14 to become an apprentice sign-writer – a centre-half, Greenwood initially joined Chelsea as an amateur whilst serving his apprenticeship. He served with an RAF mobile radio unit in France during World War Two. Greenwood joined Bradford Park Avenue in 1945 and made 59 league appearances over the next four seasons. In 1949, he moved to the club he supported as a boy, Brentford, his £9,500 fee breaking the club’s incoming transfer record. He made 147 appearances and scored one goal. Greenwood was never capped for his country, though he did make a single ‘B’ team appearance for England whilst at Brentford, in a 1-0 victory in the Netherlands on 23rd March 1952.
The 30-year-old Greenwood joined Ted Drake’s Chelsea in October 1952. He made his debut in a 2-1 home win over Tottenham on 25th October 1952 and made 11 First Division appearances as Chelsea avoided relegation by one point. He played a bigger role in 1953/54, making 34 appearances in all competitions as the Blues improved to finish eighth in the top flight. Greenwood made 21 appearances as Chelsea won the First Division title in 1954/55, the first major trophy in their history. His final appearance for the club came on Christmas Day 1954 in a 1-0 defeat at Arsenal.
After 66 appearances for Chelsea in all competitions, the 33-year-old Greenwood moved to Fulham, where he made another 42 league appearances before retiring at the end of the 1955/56 season. At the end of his playing career in 1956, Greenwood became an active freemason attending the Lodge of Proven Fellowship No. 6225, but resigned in 1977.
After retiring Greenwood moved into coaching. He coached Eastbourne United in the Metropolitan League, Oxford University (where he came to the attention of Sir Harold Thompson, a future Chairman of the FA) and the England Youth and Under-23 teams. He combined the England Under-23 post with being the assistant manager at Arsenal under George Swindin, having moved to Highbury in December 1957. He remained there until April 1961, when he was selected by chairman Reg Pratt to replace Ted Fenton as manager of West Ham United. In his autobiography Yours Sincerely, Greenwood revealed how the appointment came about, starting when he was approached by Arsenal’s club secretary Bob Wall:
“’Mr Pratt, the West Ham chairman, has been on’, he said, ‘and he’s wondering if he can approach you with a view to you becoming their manager’. I told him I thought my future was with Arsenal and asked him if George Swindin knew about the offer. ’Well…. yes’ he replied, and then added: ‘You know, I think this job may be of interest to you’. He was painting a glowing picture of Mr Pratt and it was obvious he knew him well. I got the message loud and clear. ‘All right’ I said. ‘I’ll pop across to see him’. I drove across to West Ham on the Tuesday morning and met Reg Pratt and his vice-chairman, Len Cearns, members of two families who were West Ham. We talked in a little private room just off the old Upton Park Boardroom, and I must confess that when I sat down I did not have any firm notions about the job or the club. They came straight to the point and said they wanted me to become West Ham’s manager-coach. I was perfectly frank with them and said I was enjoying my job with Arsenal and the England Under-23 side, and that the decision facing me was a difficult one. ‘But if I do take the job’, I added, ‘I would want full control of all team matters and no interference’.”
Greenwood was offered an annual salary of £2,000, revealing he was ‘more interested in the possibilities of the job than the money’ and how he ‘started thinking about the many promising young West Ham players’ he had met. Greenwood steered the Hammers to a 16th-placed finish in 1960/61 after his first few weeks at the club. He signed Johnny ‘Budgie’ Byrne from Crystal Palace in March 1962 and handed a debut to Martin Peters a month later – immediate improvement was seen as the Hammers finished 1961/62 in eighth position. 1962/63 saw the Hammers drop to 12th but Greenword had switched Geoff Hurst to a central striking role; a move which would pay long-term dividends.
The Irons finished 14th in 1963/64 but won the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s history, beating Manchester United in the semi-final at Hillsborough before defeating Preston 3-2 at Wembley. The Hammers climbed to ninth in the First Division in 1964/65 and beat TSV 1860 Munich to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup, in another Final staged at Wembley. West Ham finished 12th twice and 16th once in the following three seasons before rising to eighth in 1968/69. Greenwood sold Peters to Tottenham in 1969/70 and the Hammers finished 17th. The club finished 20th, one place above the relegation places in 1970/71 but finished 14th the following year. Greenwood claimed his highest league placing in 1972/73 as West Ham finished sixth, inspired by the goalscoring exploits of Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson.
The Hammers dropped dramatically the following season, finishing 18th. Greenwood took the decision to become General Manager of the club, with assistant John Lyall taking over. My video below tells the story of Ron Greenwood’s time as manager at West Ham United, in his own words, taking in Wembley wins in the FA Cup (1964) and the European Cup Winners’ Cup (1965) to his thoughts on key players such as Billy Bonds, Sir Trevor Brooking and Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson, as well as his replacement John Lyall.
Greenwood remained at the club until 1977 when he replaced Don Revie as England manager. The Three Lions had not qualified for a major tournament for ten years when Greenwood led his country to Euro 1980 and then the 1982 World Cup. England did not lose a game in Spain but could not progress beyond the second group stage. Greenwood retired from football after the World Cup and went on to be a regular analyst on BBC Radio. Ron Greenwood died on 9th February 2006, aged 84, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Sunday’s referee will be Mike Dean; 2018/19 is Dean’s 19th as a Premier League referee. Since West Ham United achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 Dean has refereed 21 of our league matches, officiating in nine wins for the Hammers, six draws and six defeats.
Dean refereed our final match at the Boleyn when we famously triumphed 3-2 over Manchester United. His decision to send off Sofiane Feghouli just 15 minutes into our 2-0 defeat to the Red Devils in January 2017 was later rescinded. Dean’s three Hammers appointments last season were the 3-2 win over Tottenham in the League Cup fourth round at Wembley in October, the 2-1 defeat at Manchester City in December and, most recently, our 1-1 Premier League draw with Tottenham in January.
West Ham United are without Winston Reid, Jack Wilshere, Manuel Lanzini, Chicharito and Andy Carroll, while Marko Arnautovic is a doubt. West Ham are seeking consecutive Premier League wins for the first time since January 2017. The Hammers have won three of their last four home games against Chelsea in all competitions.
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri will be without Marco van Ginkel, while left-back Emerson is a doubt. Mateo Kovacic and Pedro are both likely to be available. Jorginho has attempted 505 passes and completed 461, the most in the top flight this season prior to the weekend matches.
Possible West Ham United XI: Fabianski; Zabaleta, Balbuena, Diop, Masuaku; Rice, Obiang, Noble; Yarmolenko, Anderson; Perez.
Possible Chelsea XI: Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic; Pedro, Giroud, Hazard.