The GoatyGav Column

Youth Players And The Benefit Of Lower League Loan Experience

I sat in the stands at Adams park to watch Wycombe Wanderers host Oxford United on Saturday afternoon. Frankly I had completely forgotten that Marcus Browne had joined the U’s until the 63rd minute when he replaced James Henry.

As you’d expect from two teams playing in the lower reaches of the 3rd tier of English football the game was a physically challenging affair. When he came on Marcus made a positive impact on the game. There is no doubt that he has the technical ability to cut it at alongside experienced ‘grown men’ of League 1 but, as we so often hear from pundits and journalists, the boys who come through academies must prove that they have the attributes to cope with the physical demands of professional football.

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I’m glad to report that Marcus backed up what we know about his skill levels with a robust performance to match. Despite Oxford creating the better chances before his arrival the game was starting to swing in favour of Wycombe. With the likes of Adebayo ‘the beast’ Akinfenwa, , officially the strongest player in world football at the end of season 2016/17 earning him a, surprising, spot on FIFA 18’s opening animated sequence, to contend with Marcus did not look like a boy amongst men. His progress appears to be continuing apace at the early stages of this season despite Oxford struggling near the foot of the table.

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The question does, however, remain. What is the best way to introduce youth academy players to ‘grown up’ football? I have to admit that I was a big fan of the idea of loaning players out to foreign clubs to achieve that introduction. The example of an Oxford of a different kind, the Reece variety to be exact, was one to consider last season. The loan of the youngster to Borussia Mönchengladbach last term was, in principle, a great idea. The Bundesliga is a strong league, equal to any in physicality, and an ideal place to develop as a footballer. I know that, in Reece’s case, it didn’t go as well as we had hoped but I don’t think that the idea was a bad one and was certainly not viewed as a complete failure. Reece made a similar, initial, impact to one of his contemporaries, Declan Rice, when he made his debut. In the games that followed, however, it didn’t go as well for Reece as it did for Declan who is now establishing himself as a talented and versatile CB/CDM who is also a very capable defensive full back when called upon. Reece is now playing with the PL2 team – whose latest outing you can view on the official site. Click on the following link to view their latest outing at Brighton & Hove Albion .

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The midfield positions, at West Ham, are becoming hotly contested. It’s great to have competition for places at a club IMO. That said we’ve got two excellent midfielders coming through the ranks. The aforementioned Marcus Browne is joined by the exciting attacking midfielder Nathan Holland. Often favouring a wide berth in a 4 or 5 man midfield Nathan is the kind of player you love to watch. The young Mancunian, who joined us from Everton, has revelled in taking defenders on in the PL2 team and is listed in the first team squad this season. Although Nathan has a narrow chance of making it through to play in the first team this season let’s not forget – this is West Ham, injuries to key players are always just around the corner. Apart from the possibility of playing in cup competitions the way may open up for the youngster through others paying visits to the physio room. In Holland’s case I think it’s worthwhile him staying with the club rather than being loaned out. The Checkatrade Trophy allows the U21/23 players the opportunity to play against experienced professionals from lower leagues which I believe to be a good thing. You never know – Marcus and Nathan may well line up against each other if our youth side progress alongside Oxford United in the competition.

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I can’t avoid a mention of the terrific game on Sunday. What a massive difference it was to watch the lads against Everton compared to the previous Premier League games. Better organised and balanced, with a work ethic we’d not previously witnessed this campaign, it was a real joy to watch and well worth the £7.99 I paid for the 24 hour NowTV pass. Declan and Pedro were both worthy of 9/10 from me with Diop, Yarma and Arnie at 8/10. Nobes was great too – providing some proof of my, and other’s, theories that he’s better in centre and attacking midfield than he is in a holding role. Zabba looked solid, if not lacking pace, Anderson showed some of the class I genuinely believe he will become known for at West Ham while Artur and Balbuena did well too. A great team effort that was topped off by a fine showing from Fab who is justifying his place in the starting line up at the moment.

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Can’t wait for the Chelski game next Sunday. Depending on the time my lad’s team’s U14’s game is scheduled for that morning I may have to play my lone ‘postponement’ card to make it to the London Stadium in time. The West London team will be a big challenge. I just hope we see the same work-rates and effort that we saw Sunday afternoon.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!

Talking Point

The end of the beginning?

At some time just after 4PM Sunday, emanating from the skies above North-West England, a huge sonic-click was heard as Pellegrini’s superstars finally gelled and proved themselves a team to be reckoned with. It was a clicking I was wondering might happen as the form of all of our previous opponents was well and truly franked again at the weekend with Liverpool looking like top two contenders, Bournemouth thumping Leicester, Wolves condemning Burnley to a nicely warmed bottom spot and Goon playing well to do Toon.

I don’t know whether Pellegrini had a positive spiritual encounter when back in Chile during the international break or maybe the Feng shui of the club has dramatically improved after Sakho’s super car was finally moved (if it ever existed or indeed has ever been moved) but the positive energy coming from the team has just become a good deal more intense. There were many intricate reasons why the team clicked on this occasion, we all hope it will continue to be the way of things, so just for a change lets have a look at what went so well.

The midfield worked both as a unit and as five outstanding players.

The team selection clearly showed some semblance of what many of us have been crying out for. Three hard working defensive minded midfielders in Rice, Obiang and Noble. This facilitated Anderson and Yarmolenko to get on the front foot and also allowed Obiang to expose the centre of the Everton defence as seemingly absent. There were further chops and changes though with Fredericks and Cresswell shown no mercy from their Shearer mauling and Masuaku once again risked at left back but more about him in a bit.

Obiang was back to his best, I did wonder at times if we had forgotten who Obiang was? The man who played to a high level before the injury including the goal of the season at Wembley, it was so good to see him back with the ingenuity and quickness of mind which made goals and frankly made us look like West Ham again. Maybe the great one touch move for the first goal was almost up there with the great Carlton Cole goal away at I think Wigan several years ago.

Rice was given a start again and thoroughly justified this from the outset. The energy and passion of Rice is beginning to become fused with a hint of footballing prowess and this is a recipe for greatness. Generally working, sticking out a foot, running to chase down the ball, all things #rice did continuously against Everton and combined with Noble’s dogged harrying and Obiang’s intuition we have the makings of a central midfield which can out-think, outwork, out-pass but maybe not outrun many other midfields. For the first time this season it seems like there is a core of success building.

Anderson proved again I think that he is very likely to adjust to life in the Premier League. He resisted the temptation to run into walls and lose possession and is clearly a very skilful player who can keep the ball and therefore act as a good hold up attacker who can collect and redistribute. Sometimes I do wish he would just go for it and take a defence apart but maybe we will see this yet and currently his comfort with the ball at his feet and ability to hit cross-field passes (the one which he hit to Yarmolenko was a beauty) means he is a definite threat to opposing sides and must be utilised.

Noble did what Noble always does when he gets dropped and just shrugs of criticism and gets back to work and often finds himself reselected very swiftly. Noble is West Ham’s man we just cannot leave out as we saw against Everton, Noble’s harrying ability is a real problem for backfoot midfields and on several occasions opposition players were forced back by the presence of Noble leaving them opting for a sideways pass rather than a killer ball.

Can our full backs support Andry the enigma?

Yarmolenko has certainly shown glimpses of ability prior to the Everton game and at Goodison it really did all come together for him. Arnie’s unselfishness for the first means Andry was rewarded with a well taken opening goal and this proved to be the catalyst for the superb second which went like a laser guided dart into the top corner. This is what Yarmolenko does best if he gets possession in the opposition half of the pitch. The size and skill of Yarmolenko and Arnie with a possible Carrol to come in also means we have a physically powerful attacking unit and one which can be effectively fed by Anderson and Obiang. What a far cry from four games, no points, Avram Grant blah, blah blah!

Andry looking every inch the player we want

There is another side to this particular coin and one which, although nobody likes a moany-pants after we beat the scousers away, needs looking at now as it could create a series of knock-on problems. Yarmolenko was cheaply and cruelly dispossessed at least four times in the Everton game and in defensive duties looked very unsure. This may have happened before and should it lead to a goal it will cause our main man to be criticised and possibly scapegoated. This brings in the problem of whether we have full backs which can adequately cover and link up to counter this threat which someone like Chelsea may exploit. Fullbacks are the one area where we seem least convincing. Does it seem like Zabaletta can provide enough mobility and punch to add the final cog to the right hand side? On the other flank Masuaku today in my opinion defensively looked inept and even struggled going forward. The head-step move which got him a yellow card was an example of how irrational Arthur can be on the back foot and this limits the extent we can exploit the left flank. If there was a plus side to the full back problem which there isn’t it would be that it might only limit us to sixth or seventh rather than being a major relegation flaw. This position(s) must be a focus for January or September depending on our stomach for mid-table mediocrity or rather the stomach(s) of the powers that be. A final point of critique must be aimed at Sanchez. I know coming on away and holding a lead isn’t easy playing where he does but almost every contribution was disastrous, so bad the laws of probability suggest he will likely have a good game next week just through chance.

h3, Now we need to step it up a gear

All in all we are now in a position to be far more optimistic about the season. Again we saw a few times that we have a goalkeeper who is a stable defensive influence as well as a talented shot-stopper. Diop and Balbuena are beginning to get to know each-other and some of our better players are now being played. Even Antonio ran the ball into the corner in the last minute, gawd bless him. It now turns out that Liverpool are steamrollering people, Bournemouth are on a purple patch and there are lots of teams still to play who will not fancy taking on our front five when on form. Lets go into the Chelsea game full of cheer, full of optimism and most of all full of hope that Arnie’s knee feels better tomorrow. What truly could have been the beginning of the end has thankfully become the end of the beginning and if this carries on it will be season to remember. Well done the Hammers and COYI!

PS Carlton Cole’s goal

The HamburgHammer Column

Trick or treat ? Both! Toffees for tea

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I am a bad fan! For some weird reason I couldn’t bear to watch our game against Everton live as it happened. I was just too nervous. Too much was riding on this one.
I have long given up the foolish concept that I necessarily have to watch the game live or need to wear a certain West Ham themed shirt in order for our lads to get a much needed win on the day.

So I changed the routine for this one around completely, driving out to the riverbank on the southeasterly outskirts of town, an area nestled between dykes, sheep and orchards, to watch Women’s football, Concordia style.

Neither the first team, nor the U23s (the male versions) had won their respective games in previous days (both losing by identical 1:3 scorelines) – and I wanted to see at least one Concordia side leave the pitch victorious over the weekend. Which the Cordi girls did, only just, winning 3:1 against a shockingly bad team but it wasn’t much to write home about. So I drove back to my flat, with the West Ham game waiting for me to be enjoyed in all its glory.

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And what an entertaining game it turned out to be – and with the right team winning as well! It wouldn’t have been a West Ham performance though without your typical head in your hands, hiding behind the sofa, heart in your boots moments. In short: It wasn’t all plain sailing, it’s clear we are (still) a team in transition – and we will continue to be just that for some weeks and months to come – but at least you could see our lads developing some gradual understanding on the pitch against Everton, playing some neat combinations on the floor, some beautiful passing moves and also a very decent conversion rate on the day.
It was also very obvious that the players had done some soul-searching in the last week, playing with a lot more endeavour, desire and effort.
Which of course is just what the doctor ordered!

Congrats to Andriy Yarmolenko for getting off the mark with a brace, both of his goals were fantastic efforts. Our third was the pick of the bunch though and I simply loved the way Obiang put Arnautovic clear through. Also our back four looked a lot more solid and composed overall, the odd glitch permitting though. On the other hand I wasn’t too impressed with the way we picked up numerous bookings, although it has to be said that the referee seemed fairly lenient in that respect towards the Everton players, but we got the three points anyway which is the main thing.

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I am getting more impressed by the day by the performances of our new goalkeeper. Fabianski could turn out to be our signing of the summer eventually and hopefully we should see him spending the peak years of his career at West Ham. Very solid effort from Lukasz again. In fact I thought it was a very decent team effort all around with no West Ham player coming out of this game with egg on his face.

One win – and we’re already out of the relegation places, just like that! But of course our next games are still very much a tall order. But this rare win at Goodison has given us the most precious commodity in football – and that is confidence and swagger. Which should come in handy when we play flavour of the month, table-topping Chelsea next.

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I have no doubt that Pellegrini has a very clear idea of what he wants to do with this West Ham team and we are just at the very beginning of the journey. The glimpses I saw against Everton were quite promising. Watching that game was highly entertaining, far away from the painful chore-like dross we’ve had to endure so many times in the last two years. It’s also great of course that the mood on this blog should be a lot more upbeat now for the rest of the week. It was about time!

Final little bit of Concordia aside: Prior to the home game last Friday the club president introduced me to a new signing, a young Yank midfielder from Atlanta who is keen to make it as a professional footballer in Germany, even if a gig at a Bundesliga 3 club (equivalent of League One) could turn out to be very much his ceiling. But you gotta start somewhere and he will make his first steps in that direction at Concordia.

As his German is close to non-existent the president has asked me to translate for the guy, talk to him and help out with bits and bobs to help make him settle in his new surroundings. Which I will be happy to oblige, maybe I can convince him to watch a West Ham game on the telly as well. Or if he’s feeling homesick, some NFL football or NASCAR.

And if it helps the Concordia cause I may even put his hometeam Atlanta United on. COYI!!!

David Hautzig's Match Report

Everton 1, West Ham 3. Unexpected Pleasure.

That didn’t take long. From a summer of excitement to an autumn of discontent. About a month to my reckoning. Me? I’m back to apathy. I find it easier.

I was over for the Wolves debacle. My cat runs more in an average day than our team did. Next to me was a friend and customer, Alex. Two and a half years ago the young Alex adopted West Ham as his EPL club after I started supplying the majority of the wine at his wine bar. While at the FA Cup replay against Liverpool and saying goodbye to Upton Park, Alex texted me a photo of his new Payet kit. He was immediately given a nickname by those in attendance with me at the match, including Nigel Kahn, Dan Silver, my best mate Jon, and our overlord Iain.

“Poor Bastard”.

I had a great meal at Hawksmoor Air Street the other night with Alex, Dan, and my friend Neil Barnett. As we discussed the latest ridiculousness surrounding our club, Dan and I simply couldn’t help but laugh. At times uncontrollably. You really couldn’t make the stuff up. Alex just stared on with a glazed look in his eyes, like Mitchell McDeer in The Firm as he discovers the truth about the law firm he joined. Neil, the former presenter on Chelsea TV, joined more in the laughter than the sympathy Alex clearly needed. Today brought some unexpected smiles to go with the laughs.

Space. In Star Trek it was the final frontier. At West Ham it’s what every team we play has in abundance. In the midfield, in the box, everywhere. In the opening ten minutes Everton looked unbothered on the ball, with space and time to work. The Hammers, on the other hand, looked labored and bereft of ideas. Walcott had a shot inside the box that was blocked by Diop, and later won a corner off of Masuaku. Gana sent a good pass to Calvert Lewis that came inches from a clean breakaway. Meanwhile, any West Ham advance ended in a wayward pass to someone in blue.

And then in the 11th minute, out of nowhere, Balbuena intercepted a pass and fed Obiang. Obiang turned quickly and played a lovely give and go with Arnautovic that sent the Austrian to the races. Heading into the box with only Pickford to beat, he saw Yarmolenko streaking down the center and unselfishly…something Arnie isn’t really known for…rolled the ball into the path of Yarmolenko and the first time starter did what he was purchased to do.

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Everton 0
West Ham 1

The visitors had another chance in the 15th minute when Noble was fouled 25 yards from goal, handing West Ham a free kick. The delivery from Anderson found Diop but the young French defender couldn’t get much power on his shot and Pickford saved it easily.

Everton should have drawn level in the 25th minute when Digne went on an unchallenged run down the left before sending a terrific cross into the box that Cenk Tosun got on the end of right in front of Fabianski. Left, goal. Right, goal. He went straight. Save. Yarmolenko was guiltily of not tracking back and fighting Digne. Deep breath.

When we signed Yarmolenko, Neil Barnett told me he thought 17 million was a bargain. The little I saw of him in pre-season certainly made me take notice. Then, in his first few appearances he looked tired. Quickly. So I wasn’t sure. But on Friday, Neil predicted a West Ham victory on his satellite radio program here. Furthermore, he said Yarmolenko would be the main force behind the prediction. In the 31st minute, Pickford looked like he played for us when he sent an awful ball out that Noble intercepted and was fouled. Atkinson played advantage, and Yarmolenko took full advantage. Working to his left across the top of the eighteen yard box, he finally made enough space for himself to unleash a curling shot that rippled the top corner.

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Everton 0
West Ham 2

Yarmolenko almost went from hero to Ukrainian goat in the 36th minute when he lost control of a back pass from Rice, and Cenk Tosun jumped all over it. With Walcott on his right, the Turkish striker chose to go it alone and fired a low shot that Fabianski did well to stop. He couldn’t handle the rebound, but Balbuena was there to hoof it to safety. A minute later, Masuaku was very luck not to see red when he went up to play a long ball intended for Walcott. Instead of the ball, Masuaku played Walcott’s skull. With his studs. Lucky, lucky boy.

The two things that went through my mind as the first half wound down were this. First, 2-0 has always been my least favorite lead. I’ve lost count of the number of times we have watched 2-0 fizzle away. Second, giving up a goal at this juncture could easily be the beginning of a typical West Ham collapse. So when Kenny sent an inch perfect cross to Sigurdsson, and the latter beat Fabianski with a header, all those fears came to the surface.

Everton 1
West Ham 2

The opening ten minutes of the second half were similar to many an opening ten minutes of a match. Both sides moved forward, but with trepidation. On defense, everyone looked afraid to make a mistake. In the 57th minute, Kenny made a mistake by leaving the ball unattended. When I saw a West Ham player jump on it, I leaned forward. When I saw it was Noble, I sat back. By the way. I thought Noble had a good game, so I’m not taking a swipe at him. He’s slow. What can you do?

Oh. If Bernard had either scored or set up the equalizer after muscling Yarmolenko off the ball deep in West Ham territory, the man with the brace would have had one large bar tab to pay.

Looking back a few months ago when Obiang was seemingly on his way out, I wondered why. If reports are true, that he wanted to return to Italy but did not make a fuss about it, his professionalism should be lauded. Today, his interplay with Arnautovic will also be lauded. In the 61st minute, much like the setup for the opening goal, Obiang and Arnautovic worked a quick one-two on the outside of the Everton box. This one ended with Arnautovic poking a rolled ball from Obiang behind Pickford. Yet as so many West Ham silver linings, there was a dark cloud as Arnautovic limped off holding the back of his left knee.

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Everton 1
West Ham 3

Everton tried to answer quickly. First, Cenk Tosun got on the end of a pin ball machine period of play right in front of Fabianski but sent his shot over the bar. Then Walcott sent a low cross into the box that nobody got on the end of except Fabianski.

Everton were given a chance in the 76th minute when Walcott went to the races down the center and was pulled down by Rice. The young Irish midfielder saw yellow. Then Yarmolenko saw stars when his face was the part of the wall that stopped the free kick from Sigurdsson.

West Ham showed a desire to go for a fourth when Antonio sent a long cross field pass that Anderson ran down. A bit of skill in the area won the Brazilian a corner. Everton did well to handle it, but the intent showed by the visitors was good considering the predicament at the bottom of the table.

Everton had a golden opportunity to close the gap to one goal when Digne sent a tremendous cross into the box from the left that Niasse got on the end of after timing his run just as perfectly. His volley sounded like a rifle shot as it smashed against the crossbar and flew out. If ever there was a moment that historically had a predictable outcome it was that. Ball goes in, we hold on for dear life. But instead…..

Five minutes of added time did nothing for my confidence, despite the two goal advantage. Snodgrass gave away a free kick in the 92nd minute on the left side of the West Ham eighteen yard box, but despite Digne doing well with the delivery Niasse couldn’t get his shot on target.

There was talk on television here that Perez refused to warm up, and that’s why Antonio replaced Arnautovic. Well, if Perez hoped that move would fail and Pellegrini would crawl back to him asking for forgiveness, he will have to wait past rapture. Antonio reacted brilliantly to his demotion from starter, with outstanding hold up play and clock management.

Final Score
Everton 1
West Ham 3

Was this a glimpse of what Pellegrini is working on? Was all of his lineup shuffling waiting for this moment? Time will tell. But there wasn’t really a weak link today. Everyone did their job well. Diop and Balbuena look to be our center backs for reasonably long time. Anderson, despite a few strolls and one flop that really pissed me off, looked more in tune with the pace of the EPL. And Yarmolenko looked just plain good.

The work part of my trip last week went very well. My new partners in the UK, Red Squirrel Wines, are consummate professionals. Not to mention incredibly nice people. I was starting to wonder if they were the only good team I had in the UK. They may still be the best I’ve got, but hopefully the Hammers can inch their way back in that direction as well.

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Match Report

Ten Things We Learned from Everton 1 West Ham 3

Isn’t football great. I don’t think any of us saw that coming. Everton are no pushovers and didn’t play badly. We just played better, and we played as a team. From the back right up to the strikers. It was a complete performance.

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1. We can win at Everton. Again.
2. Find the right formation and this team can play.
3. Fabianski another Man of the Match performance.
4. Arnautovic another Man of the Match performance. Ditto for Declan Rice who was superb.
5. Yarmolenko proved he is the player we thought he could be from his sub appearances.
6. Mark Noble’s playing death has been prematurely announced.
7. Lucas Perez is a total dick for refusing to warm up. What on earth was he thinking of?
8. Anderson had his best match for us so far.
9. Antonio looked hungry when he came on.
10. I haven’t mentioned the defence yet. They all did well with one terrible lapse in the 67th minute.

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A great day to be a Hammer. We can continue to believe. We can look forward to the next two matches without fear. If we play like this, we might even get something from them.

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