Talking Point

Why we need a result at Old Trafford

Last week, I spoke about how those famous away wins were beginning to fade into background: the results against Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City feel an age away, especially now we have gone four games without a win. What’s more worrying is that we have not had a clean sheet since the Newcastle win – that’s ten games in a row. Yes, we are consistently getting on the score sheet (bar Watford, and even when we get trashed, like at Spurs), but a top quality side relies on its back line and we desperately need a good clean sheet – something Manchester United have become very good at recently.

That is indeed a worry given that we were frequently defensively strong under Allardyce – even in the season when we almost went down, we had one of the highest number of clean sheets in the league. We are clearly an attacking threat, but the defensive frailties are a concern. However, what was more concerning about the draw against West Brom was not the defence but the attack. Bilic said a few weeks back he wanted us to shoot more but we have not taken that on board. We seem to have this weird tendency to not shoot when he should and to shoot when he shouldn’t, Mauro Zarate being the prime offender in the latter category. What was upsetting about Sunday was that we clearly deserved to win but just did not take the chances: we need to be far more lethal when it comes to these sorts of games.

Which brings me to my next point: the worrying tendency to not be able to beat teams at home: Norwich, Bournemouth, West Brom – they are teams we should be claiming three points from. We have not from any of those fixtures. I was called a pessimist before for pointing this out, but now I feel we should all be collectively concerned at our inability to be ruthless and to get three points from what, are on paper, easy games. And I have to admit I thought West Brom were one of the dullest, poorest sides that I’ve ever seen in the Premier League, hence their desire to time waste from the minute they equalised.

This brings me on to my belief that that’s why we need a result at Old Trafford: because if I am to believe that this is genuine team with a genuine hope of a top ten finish, then we should be able to muster the courage and energy of those famous, distant wins from a few months back. We should be able to show an ability to bounce back from four fixtures without a win, to bounce back from two consecutive losses away that have seen us ship six goals. Or we have to admit that the shine has gone from those early results and we now accept that we have to start performing more solidly and convincingly against lesser opposition. We have Aston Villa coming up soon, and that is a perfect opportunity to show that we can be clinical, rather than the West Ham of old that always messes up.

The Mike Ireson Column

Slaven: Chin Tickler

It’s been a funny old week.

One very poor performance against a deadly rival has spread a bit of panic amongst us.

Are we a one man team? Have our tactics been sussed out? Is it the end of the world as we know it?

The answer to all the above is no.

When we take a couple paces back and look around, the claret and blue world is actually not three bad at all.

After a smidge over a third of the way in to the season we’re sixth with 21 points.

Would we have taken that before a ball was kicked in anger at the start of the season?

Too damn right we would.

If we were to replicate the results so far in the other two thirds of the season we would end up, despite having lost 12 games, with around 60 points. That, last season, would have landed us in 6th or 7th place.

Will we take that?

Too damn right we will.

I’m feeling a bit sorry for Slaven Bilic and the team at the moment. Bilic came in to the job in a different position from the majority of recent incumbents.

He was the overwhelming choice amongst us for the job, and we have all welcomed him with open arms.

His West Ham connection and pleasant, honest personality meant he could walk down Green Street on day one of his employment knowing he was truly wanted in his job.
The same cannot be said about many of his predecessors.

Since we said goodbye to our favourite wheeler dealer, Mr Redknapp, no one has been afforded the love Slaven has received.

Glenn Roeder was in the right place at the right time to step up from reserve team coach, his name would not have featured on any of our lists of potential new managers.

Alan Pardew struggled for a long time after his arrival to convince us he was our man, again he would have been far from the top of our lists at the time of appointment.

Alan Curbishley came in with some favour due to his club connections, but the lack of a sparkling personality or track record of exciting football meant there was nothing like ‘Slavenmania’.

Gianfranco Zola, although a charming man, had the stigma of being a Chelsea man along with no proven record at the top level.

Avram Grant. Don’t. Get. Me. Started.

And Big Sam, well you all know how welcome he was.

And here we are with Slaven. Rightly given a bigger welcome than the previous six put together.

But there was always going to come a point in time when the honeymoon period came crashing to a halt. And that was last Sunday.

Have we suddenly thought he may not be the right man? Of course not.

The level of his success in the first 12 games had tickled us all under the chin and we got a bit cocksure. He should have taken those first 12 games to get himself settled in, with our expectations low to allow for him to tinker with the side until he got it working.

But what did he do? He went and got it right from game one and tore through our expectations like a wrecking ball.

If the Tottenham game had been the first of the season we’d have patted Slaven on the head and told him not to worry. It takes time to get things right.

But he had messed with our expectations. We were slightly dizzy and disorientated by some of the previous results.

But when we step back and take it all in we have to be happy.

And if you don’t believe me have a look at the bottom of the table. We are nowhere near it and our name is not Aston Villa or Newcastle United.

Keep calm everyone.


Guest Post

You, West Ham and Prostate Cancer

Guest Post by Ellie Ulrich

My name’s Ellie and I work for the men’s health charity – Prostate Cancer UK.

Next year in June, football clubs up and down the country are joining us for an epic weekend – cycling to Amsterdam and raising money for men’s health with legends such as Terry Butcher and Viv Anderson.

This is the 4th year we’ve organised this bike ride and it’s been expanding year-on-year with 2016 set to be the biggest yet – more clubs are getting involved, there are 2 starting locations and everyone’s invited to join us for a big night out in Dam Square after to celebrate.

So far we’ve got we’ve got teams signed up from Tottenham, Man City, Sheffield, Ipswich, Watford and more (check out the leader board so far)

We’d love for West Ham to be represented too, particularly because one of our starting locations is the Velodrome at the Olympic Park. Danny Dyer’s also backing the ride for us and will be endorsing it through his social media channels and we’d also really appreciate any support you could give us in promoting the ride to Hammers fans and to get on our Football to Amsterdam leader board.

There’s more information on our website

Note from Iain: If anyone wishes to coordinate a team to represent West Ham, let me know and I will pass your details onto Ellie.

The HamburgHammer Column

Genius and garbage - West Ham still in transition

The sight of Zarate trying to get rid of a resilient bin liner bothering him prior to taking a free kick was quite symbolic. He threw it away, but it settled just a metre or so away from him again before finally being removed by a steward. Against West Brom the game in itself was entertaining enough, played against the backdrop of a wet and windy afternoon in East London (being mirrored by the way by a wet and windy afternoon in Hamburg as well). Apart from the bin liner there was some football garbage to be seen on the pitch too, but also some pretty nice skills.

Our defence again looked at times all over the place culminating in the unlucky equaliser stemming frrom a deflection off Reid’s arm that gave Adrian no chance.
Our goal in the first half from that sublime unstoppable well measured gem of a freekick was a sight to behold. If it had been scored by a Man U or Arsenal player I’m sure we would hear about it for the next four weeks. As Zarate still plays for West Ham we’ll be lucky if the pundits talk about it for four hours, but it was indeed a magnificent goal.
I also liked the link up play between Zarate and Lanzini who seems to get into his role as a younger version of Payet more and more.

Obiang worked quite well playing alongside Kouyate.

Jenkinson on the other hand appears to run out of excuses, again he had a below average performance and this will not have gone unnoticed with Bilic.

Same as Carroll (again) not doing a lot really when he came on. He’s a very expensive luxury player to have and I don’t think West Ham as a club can really afford to have that kind of luxury player. I can only hope Newcastle will be desperate enough in January to make West Ham and Carroll an offer they simply cannot refuse.

Don’t get me wrong, I am aware of what Carroll can do and I’m also grateful for the goals he has in fact scored for us (some vital ones too), but in the long run he delivers too little while costing the club too much in wages to justify keeping him really.

Our whole team though right now (with exceptions in Lanzini, Adrian and to a degree Zarate, Cresswell and Kouyate) are underperforming and playing well short on confidence. Which is natural if you fail to win a game for a while. I’m sure things will improve for us again, but make no mistake: The injury to Payet has knocked us for six.

We are still trying to find a way to cope without him and we are clearly struggling. Payet was the secret missing ingredient to make our team and club tick.

With him gone we still haven’t quite found a surrogate ingredient, Lanzini may continue to grow into that role, but the dish will still not taste quite the same as it ever did with Payet in the side I’m afraid.

Bur there is no point in moaning and cursing our bad luck with injuries (who knows how long Sakho will now be out after having to leave the game early ?). We need to maintain that “us against the rest” mentality and mindset of togetherness now. We are losing a bit of touch with the top regions of the table, so we are indeed looking at a solid midtable position near the top now I reckon. Which of course is not the end of the world at all. As this is still, I believe I mentioned this several times before, a season of transition. We are moving into the OS next season and we will be a Premier League club. Considering that there is an ever decreasing number of home games left at the Boleyn I was saddened to listen to the flat atmosphere at Upton Park on the telly. Sure enough the crowd was nervous as we failed to score that vital second goal, but again this showed to me that atmosphere is very much depending on the way our team plays, not necessarily where it plays.

The atmosphere will be magnificient in the OS if our play on the pitch warrants it, it will be very much crap if the performance (and result) leaves something to be desired.

Which brings me to the final (personal) note. My parent’s house has finally been sold, there is still some legal paperwork required, but the day is not far off now when my brother and I will be handing over the keys to the new owners and then we can finally try and move on. It’s hard leaving behind all those memories (good and bad) and, yes, leaving behind a house that was a home to me and a lovely place to return to for the visits for the best part of 35 years.

Not quite as long as the Hammers have been at the Boleyn, I know, but I now start to get an idea of what a lot of you guys and gals are going through now with our upcoming move to the OS.

Man U next then, a game I will only be able to watch the first half of because I’ll have to attend the Golden Wedding anniversary of my uncle (my mom’s brother) and my auntie.
I hope we’ll get at least a point there. And please let us finish the game with no further injuries. That is something we can really do without. God bless!

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Zaman Siddiqui's Match Review

Zárate Wonder Kick Not Quite Enough

Zarate and Sakho vs. WBA

After that bombshell at White Hart Lane, it was important to see an improvement yesterday. If we had lost 4-1 to a meagre team last week, then it would’ve been harder to strike back this week. Tottenham are a team that have enough ability to turn up and demolish teams from all walks of life. They had the same scoreline against Manchester City at their fortress, so it is testament to their fine form of late that could see them finish in the top 4 – maybe. Anyone can win the title at this point. There is no need to panic, as of yet. We are only 3 points off the top 5, so there is no need to despair. Conversely, it is also worth noting we are only a couple of points off the bottom half, so the next 4 games will be of vital importance. Three of our next four are against teams in the bottom half, so I expect a bit more ruthlessness from Bilic’s side like under Big Sam, who got us more points at this stage last season with more points against the weaker sides. For me, at the end of the day, three points is three points.

It is fair to say predicting this week’s line-up wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. Well done to anyone who did well this week in the Predictor League. Iain said: “This is one of the most difficult lineups to predict in some time.” If that’s the case, I ought to swap Fantasy Football for the Predictor League, because I only had one mistake in the starting XI – Obiang played instead of Song. There is absolutely no need to play with three CB’s against the team that has had the fewest attempts on goal in the BPL this season. Why sit back against a team that has very little to offer going forward? The other reason why I was adamant Bilic would not change to an unorthodox system is elementary. If you had a blip (like most pundits said as well) in an otherwise good season, there were be no justification for changing the style of play. Remi Garde has to do that, but not Super Slav. It was clear Tomkins wouldn’t play with his lacklustre performance, even more so, as Ogbonna hasn’t played in a while. We have a system where the two wing-backs have the freedom to get forward, and at times, they can get caught in two minds, and make defensive errors. It is hard to prevent it, but very rare. Nonetheless, they work tirelessly for us, and as such, I felt they deserved to play yesterday. The manager was likely to mix it up with the selection available. I got a bit lucky, but simply going with this abductive reasoning, it was clear that the manager had particular changes in mind. I can’t fault his decision making before the match; it was only during the match I was unhappy with the gaffer, which I will go into further detail later.

Manuel Lanzini has a mammoth task filling the boots of Payet. So far, the Jewel has done very well for himself. The 22 year old’s enthusiasm for the ball is beautiful to watch. “He always wants the ball,” the gaffer said. The Argentine is more than an Ersatz good for me, as we will see in a few years time. He is quickly becoming one of the best at our club with the likes of Liverpool chasing him. Lanzini has made more dribbles per 90 minutes than any other player for us this season. Lanzini has made 3.1, Zárate has made 2.6, and Payet and Moses have both made 2.4. You can see why he has been compared to Modric. According to WhoScored, he is also our best player (excluding Payet). The top clubs didn’t go for Payet, due to the fact he is 28. How foolish they were. I can’t even imagine the reaction they would have after missing out on Lanzini who is on loan. He gets on with our players with a few fellow Argentinians in our side, as well as the new players who have been brought in, as part of our Renaissance. Valencia said: “He’s always playing pranks and having a laugh.” On the contrary, big clubs can get players with more ease. Toby Alderweireld went to Spurs for £11.5M, as opposed to Southampton this season. He was reunited with former Ajax teammates Christian Eriksen, and Jan Vertonghen. Liverpool don’t have any first team players who have played with Lanzini, so it safe to say that there is no sentiment involved in that transfer.

Zarate celebrates goal vs. WBA

There were some facts going into the match, that had me coloured tickled pink. For one, only Joe Hart has kept more clean sheets than Boaz Myhill. Secondly, it was Reid’s 150th match for us who played as captain, as well as Jenkinson’s 50th appearance, so the pressure was on. Also, you don’t want to play a team that just beat Arsenal 2-1 last week, when you lost 4-1 the previous week. That is torture! Both teams started fairly well passing the ball around the middle of the pitch. There was a nice bit of trickery from Lanzini who got it to fellow countryman Zárate, whose shot hit the side netting. Rondon nearly scored with a tremendous strike outside the box which was only a few inches wide. The onus is on Lanzini, and boy did he deliver creating many openings for others. Gareth McAuley had both hands on Sakho, which rightfully got us a free-kick in a dangerous position. It was the other Argentine who scored right into the roof of the net. Myhill didn’t stand a chance with it, though he went in the right direction to concede in the 17th minute. Mauro has now scored in 5 of the last 6 he started in. We were in a strong position at HT. We had won all 5 games we were leading at the break before yesterday. I love the way in which Zárate focused himself before taking the shot – it was as if Zárate turned into Zola!

There was very little support for Salomon Rondon in the first half. Tony Pulis is an experienced manager, and as such, will introduce another striker. If not that, then he will still sub on more attack-minded players. I was a bit disappointed Bilic didn’t change the style of play. We were running ourselves ragged. We needed more stability to make sure West Brom didn’t get back in. The Baggies changed their formation to 4-4-2, but we didn’t respond. The 4-1-4-1 formation we had didn’t help us enough. The ball was cleared away to the substitute Lambert, whose shot hit Reid’s hand to deflect in, with the keeper on the ground unable to reach it in the 50th minute. It was very unfortunate for the skipper. This later turned into a game of two halves, as we didn’t have enough defensive quality. The Baggies consistently broke through the final third, but Bilic decided to sub Carroll on for Obiang. I felt Obiang needed more game time, and was sufficient enough to stay on. There was a save of tremendous quality from Adrián who saved Rondon’s header from close distance with his face! But in all honesty, the Venezuelan should have buried that. It was right down the middle, and he had more than enough space to head it either side. That was a very lucky escape. Speaking of which, Jonas Olsson denied us on several occasions in particular, the Sakho strike which was thumped away by the Swede’s leg. Unfortunately, Sakho was injured in the process and slowly limped off the pitch. On the balance of things, the game deserved to be a draw.

I am very concerned with our current strike force. We have Payet and Valencia out, as well as Sakho. I hope Sakho’s injury is no more than a fortnight, though I have a feeling it could be a bit longer. This means that we only have Carroll, Jelavic, and Zárate up front. We will have to change our style of play vastly to accommodate these changes. It doesn’t get easier, as we have Manchester United at Old Trafford next week. After that, we have Stoke, Swansea, and Villa.

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