David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 0, Chelsea 0. Sometimes Decent Is Good.

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.

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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.

Halftime
West Ham 0
Chelsea 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Final Score
West Ham 0
Chelsea 0

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.


Book Review

Match Thread: West Ham v Chelsea

West Ham v Chelsea
FA Premier League
London Stadium
KO 1.30pm
TV: Sky Sports Main Event
Radio: BBC 5 Live

Please use this thread to comment as the match progresses.


Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: West Ham v Chelsea

Blast from the past

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.

Club Connections

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.

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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.

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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.

Referee

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.

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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.

Possible line-ups

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.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!


The Blind Hammer Column

Whither Wilshere-Dyer or Parker?

*Blind Hammer suggests the example of Scott Parker should provide comfort for Wilshere *

On Sunday we saw, much too all our relief, the first tangible returns from a record breaking summer investment. What was not anticipated then was that the “gelling” of an effective midfield would be facilitated by the forced removal of Jack Wilshere.

Our early matches were tough. Liverpool and Arsenal are rarely happy hunting grounds. The good form of both Bournemouth and Wolves have placed our reversals against them in some context.

Nevertheless this should not blind us to our early structural weaknesses. We were terrifyingly open, conceding more efforts on goal than any team but Burnley. We forced Fabianski to make more saves than any other PL goalkeeper.

Finally the combination of Rice, Noble and Obiang appears to have provided the solidity and protection our overstretched defence craved. Noble received wide praise for the way he organised this midfield. He spread play but crucially organised, allowing both Rice and Obiang to flourish. Rice added defensive solidity whilst Obiang reminded us that he can provide lovely interchanges on his day. Above all this unit provided the platform for our offensive trio to flourish with security.

Yet if Wilshere had not succumbed to yet another ankle injury it is unlikely that this midfield would have clicked. Wilshere’s position as one of the club’s highest wage earners indicated he was central to Pellegrini’s plans. Noble in particular seemed under pressure for his place.
Pellegrini hinted as much in pre-season. He commented that whilst Noble remained club captain and was an important squad member he would not necessarily feature regularly.

In early lack lustre performances Noble and Wilshere seemed unable to effectively partner. Yet
Few believed that the removal of Wilshere was the key.

For the next 6 weeks Wilshere’s problematic ankle will provide an opportunity for Noble to, yet again, defy his critics and cement his place. Assuming we overcome Macclesfield, (probably tempting fate) Wilshere will most probably find his route back to first team action through the Carabao Cup. This is precisely the opposite of what we expected in pre-season, Noble, not Wilshere, was aimed more for a Carabao Cup campaign.

Wilshere was the heir apparent to Noble. Like Noble a lifelong West Ham supporter, he had youth on his side to cement a place leading midfield. He was envisioned as eventual club captain. Now only a few games in and Rice is looking the more likely heir apparent.

Despite his current setback, Wilshere’s wages means his eventual finding of some effective form remains important.

Arguably he could succeed in an advanced rather than deeper role. If so he is competing more with Anderson and the returning Lanzini rather than Noble.

If nothing else Wilshere has previously shown dogged determination to overcome injuries. He should not be written off too early. His day may still come. If he wants inspiration he should, as a West Ham supporter, remember Scott Parker as motivation.

Parker, like Wilshere, arrived with an indifferent injury record. Parker, like Wilshere, suffered early injury at West Ham. Yet Parker, like Wilshere, had classy ability . This eventually, allowed him to flourish to an exceptional level. Parker was a shining light in an otherwise dysfunctional team. He achieved the extraordinary feat of winning the PFA player of the year award playing in a struggling, eventually relegated team.

Wilshere has the chance to shine over the next few years in a team with more secure investment. Most imminently he has the chance to shine in the later rounds of the Carabao Cup. For the first time in years West Ham have the squad strength to mount a realistic challenge. If Wilshere can inspire glory in the cup, his wages can be justified by success in this competition alone.

Yet another Hammer from the past hangs as a less favourable spectre over Wilshere. What we need in the months and years ahead is the reincarnation of Scott Parker rather than the ultimatley failed investment in Kieron dyer. Much will depend not on just on Wilshere’s deterrmination, but also on the treatment room and the soundness of West Ham’s initial medical assessment. .

COYI
David Griffith


The S J Chandos Column

Click! - Now consistency is the objective!

Well, the squad did choose the Everton match to ‘click’ and produced a very good away performance and victory. I am sure that most Hammers fans felt a overwhelming sense of relief at the final whistle. As I stated in last week’s article, the club needed the result on a number of levels, not least of which was the need to take the ‘wind out of the sails’ of the media and social media negative feeding frenzy around our club. Even in the midst of such a notable away victory, Sky still felt the need to make the allegation about Perez supposedly refusing to warm up to come on as a substitute in the second half. Both Pellegrini and Perez have since refuted the allegation and that is the end of it. But it does demonstrate how our club appears to be the media’s current favourite PL target for controversial stories/headlines. At the end of the day, it is only sustained good performances and results will change that.

The result vindicated the selection of Rice and Obiang in a dual defensive midfield partnership. They really impressed and combined well with ‘old war horse’ Mark Noble in a more advanced midfield role. Both players deserve credit for recovering from underwhelming starts to the season (Rice’s substitution against Liverpool and Obiang’s initial non-selection) and are now underlining their obvious qualities. We all knew Obiang’s credentials in this role, but it is a relatively new one for Rice, after playing at centre-back in his debut season. The youngster has had to adjust to the demands of the role, but he is obviously a quick learner and that is one of the things that I like about Rice, his ability to learn his lessons and quickly put them in to practice. That is a sign of footballing intelligence and sheer class. All things being equal, Rice is going to become a top player and we need to ensure that he is signed to a new, long-term contract. So, my advice to the board is to stop quibbling about the £30,000 a week and get the deal done as soon as possible.

That said, one thing that does trouble me slightly is our current lack of overall strength-in-depth in midfield. With Wilshere’s reported ankle injury, we definitely lack options there if stretched. We are fine at present with Obiang-Rice- Noble, with Sanchez for cover, as long as they all stay fit. If not, then we could find ourselves in the grip of a injury crisis. What are the available options then? Utilise Zabaletta in midfield or draft in Oxford? In retrospect, was it the correct decision to loan out Cullen, Browne and Fernandes? We need to keep a watching brief on that situation.

The Everton win also underlined the true potential of Anderson, Arnautovic and Yarmolenko as our front three. We all know Arnautovic’s ability and he is almost proving a bargain buy at £25m. The truth is that in Arnautovic, we have a player who is easily a ‘top four’ type of quality striker. Hence, why Man Utd were actively sniffing around him in the summer. Respect to David Moyes, last season, for spotting the Austrian’s ability to play centrally and converting him from his accustomed wide role. We all know Yarmolenko’s track record and it was never really a gamble to sign him from Dortmand. He was obviously struggling at the beginning of the season from both his disrupted pre-season and the legacy of a lack of playing time in Germany last season. As a consequence, Yarmolenko had a bit of a ‘stop-start’ commencement to his West Ham career. However, he really demonstrated what he is all about on Sunday and his fitness and form (plus goal scoring) will only improve. Finally, Anderson illustrated the skill and technique at his command and the reasons why we paid a club record fee to Lazio for his signature. He appears most effective when directly running at defenders. When he does that he causes chaos in their ranks and they are forced to double mark him, which frees up extra space for his colleagues to exploit. Anderson probably needs to work on two aspects of his game, his decisions in making the key pass/assist and his finishing. There is little doubt that he can become a top class creative force, but can he also weigh-in with his share of goals? We shall see?

Another pleasing factor was the improved cohesion in defence. The defence obviously benefited from the assurance of Rice-Obiang playing in front of them, but they also looked more solid in their own right. Fabianski is proving a very reliable custodian and a presence that breeds confidence in his defenders. In addition, Diop looks stronger and more commanding with each appearance. Diop’s centre-back partner on this occasion, Balbuena, also looked solid and competent. Yes, he probably should have beaten Sigurdsson to the header, for Everton’s goal, but apart from that he did not put a foot wrong. I had anticipated that Pellegrini would go with a Diop-Ogbonna CB partnership and that could yet emerge as the preferred option. Nevertheless, it is always good to have strength in-depth and competition for places, although I have a feeling that CB selection this season could become a case of Diop plus one other.

With regard to the full-backs, I must admit that I prefer Fredericks-Cresswell as a combination. However, you can not knock either Zabaletta or Masuaku on the basis of Sunday’s performance. At the end of the day, it is very much a squad game these days and the name of the managerial game is using the resources available in the squad to the best effect over the course of the entire season. And it is almost a certainty that both Fredericks and Cresswell will get their fair share of game time this season.

In terms of other squad members that have not hitherto featured much, one can only hope that they buckle down and fight for a starting slot and prove their point on the pitch. I am principally thinking of the likes of Perez and Hernandez. They are both very talented strikers and when their chance comes they need to be ready to grab it with both hands. That will give Pellegrini the type of selection headache that managers welcome. In that respect, I like the attitude of Antonio, who has reportedly stated his determination to play himself back in to his best form and secure more playing time. That is the type of positive attitude we want to see right throughout the squad.

Finally, having put the Toffees to the sword, we now face a tough (home) double-header against Chelsea and Man Utd. As stated, we saw the side ‘click’ last Sunday – now we need to see something else – consistency. That needs to be the objective. We need to demonstrate that we have turned a corner and can replicate or even supersede the Everton performance. As a challenge, both matches are a step up from the Toffees, but that is what it is all about – pitting yourself against the PL top four and getting results.

They are admittedly very tough back-to-back fixtures, but the performances/results should tell us something definitive about the mettle of Pellegrini’s Hammers. I am going to be uncharacteristically cautious and predict two very entertaining score draws! COYI.

SJ. Chandos.


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