Dan Coker's Match Preview
Blast from the past
West Ham United recorded a rare win at Goodison Park on the 14th December 2005. The Pussycat Dolls were number one with ‘Stickwitu’, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe topped the UK box office and, the following evening, Sir Trevor McDonald made his final ITN news broadcast after over 25 years.
Paul Konchesky had seen an effort saved by future Hammers goalkeeper Richard Wright before James Beattie flashed James McFadden’s cross beyond Roy Carroll to give Everton a ninth-minute lead in front of 35,704. The Irons were level ten minutes later when Tomas Repka’s innocuous cross from the right was turned past his own goalkeeper by Toffees centre-half David Weir.
West Ham seized the initiative in the second half and Marlon Harewood was inches away from connecting with Matty Etherington’s left-wing cross. Etherington was involved in the Hammers’ winning goal, jinking in from the left touchline, beating two players before firing in a shot which Wright could only parry into the path of Bobby Zamora (pictured above) who tucked home the loose ball with 23 minutes left to play. My video below contains the action from this match, as well as interviews with Irons manager Alan Pardew, centre-half Anton Ferdinand and matchwinner Zamora.
Pardew’s Hammers went on to finish in ninth place in the top flight that season, while David Moyes’ Everton finished 11th. Marlon Harewood was the Hammers’ top goalscorer with 16 goals from 46 matches – Danny Gabbidon was voted Hammer of the Year, with Harewood runner-up. Chelsea won the league title in 2005/06 and Liverpool beat the Irons on penalties to win the FA Cup.
Everton have certainly been the Hammers’ bogey side in recent seasons – we have only beaten the Toffees twice in the league, home or away, since April 2007, drawing six and losing 12 in the Premier League since then. The last five wins at Goodison Park have been separated by an 11-year sequence – starting in 1972 before moving on to 1983, 1994, this featured match in 2005 and 2016. Can the Hammers break the sequence or will we have to wait until 2027 for our next win on the blue side of Merseyside?
Everton: Richard Wright, Tony Hibbert (Mikel Arteta), Joseph Yobo, David Weir, Nuno Valente, Simon Davies, Phil Neville, Leon Osman, Kevin Kilbane (Duncan Ferguson), James McFadden (Marcus Bent), James Beattie.
West Ham United: Roy Carroll, Tomas Repka, Anton Ferdinand, James Collins, Paul Konchesky, Yossi Benayoun, Hayden Mullins, Carl Fletcher, Matty Etherington (Christian Dailly), Bobby Zamora (Shaun Newton), Marlon Harewood.
Former Hammer and Toffee David Unsworth is currently in charge of the Under-23s at Goodison Park. He is joined in representing both clubs by:
Goalkeepers: George Kitchen, Richard Wright.
Defenders: William Wildman, George Eccles, Lars Jacobsen, David Burrows, Bob Young, Lucas Neill, John Russell, Alex McCartney, William Kelly.
Midfielders: Harry Dawson, Don Hutchison, Joe Blythe, Mark Ward, Ray Atteveld, Niclas Alexandersson, Danny Williamson, Ian Bishop.
Strikers: Tony Cottee, Chas Crossley, Tony Weldon, Alex McDonald, Mike Newell, Enner Valencia, Nikica Jelavic.
Slaven Bilic played for both clubs and managed the Hammers. Sam Allardyce and David Moyes have managed both the Toffees and the Irons.
Today’s focus though falls on a player who played just 13 matches for West Ham before finishing his career with Everton. Thomas Hitzlsperger was born in Munich on 5th April 1982 but began his professional career in England with Aston Villa in the 2000/01 season, making his full international debut for Germany in a 2-0 friendly victory in Iran in September 2004. After 110 appearances for Villa, the central midfielder moved to VfB Stuttgart in 2005 on a Bosman free transfer.
Hitzlsperger netted his first international goals in a 13-0 European Championship qualifying win in San Marino in September 2006, just a few months after appearing for Germany at the World Cup in his home country. The fluent English speaker was a central figure in Joachim Low’s squad at the 2008 European Championships, starting all three knockout fixtures as Germany finished as runners-up to Spain. After four and a half years back in his native Germany, and one Bundesliga title in 2006/07, he joined Italian side Lazio on a six-month contract in January 2010.
Hitzlsperger, nicknamed ‘Der Hammer’ due to his ferocious shooting ability with his left foot, became Avram Grant’s first signing at West Ham United in June 2010. He had to wait eight months for his first competitive start after being sidelined with a thigh injury in pre-season training but scored on his long-awaited debut, a trademark bullet of a strike from 25 yards in the 5-1 FA Cup fifth-round win over Eddie Howe’s Burnley at the Boleyn Ground on 21st February 2011. Hitzlsperger’s right-wing corner also created the fourth goal, the inswinging cross headed home by Winston Reid for his first Hammers goal. A similarly thunderous strike led to Hitzlsperger’s first league goal for the Hammers, smashing in a loose ball to round off the scoring in the 3-0 home win over Stoke on 5th March 2011. He also slammed in a 20-yard equaliser in the 1-1 home draw against Blackburn on 7th May 2011. After 13 appearances for West Ham United and three goals, Hitzlsperger’s contract was terminated following the Hammers’ relegation to the Championship and he signed for VfL Wolfsburg in the summer of 2011. My video below shows all three of Der Hammer’s goals for the Hammers.
After one season, he returned to England and joined Everton in mid-October 2012 on a short-term deal lasting until the end of the following January. He made his debut for the Toffees as an 86th-minute substitute in a 2-1 victory against Sunderland at Goodison Park in November 2012 and made his first start when the Blues took on Reading at the Madejski Stadium the following week. On 11th January 2013 he signed an extension to his contract, keeping him at the club until the end of the season, with his last appearance for the Blues being as a sub in the home fixture against Reading in March 2013. He made nine appearances for the Toffees, without scoring.
In September 2013, aged 31 and following his release from Everton during the summer, Hitzlsperger announced his retirement from football citing the strain of “many transfers and some injuries”. He had won 52 caps for Germany, scoring six goals. Now 36, Hitzlsperger became the most high-profile footballer to date to come out as gay in January 2014.
The referee on Saturday will be Martin Atkinson. 2018/19 is Atkinson’s 14th as a Premier League referee. Since West Ham United achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 Atkinson has refereed 21 of our league matches, officiating in nine wins for the Hammers, three draws and nine defeats. Atkinson is pictured below in his most recent Hammers match, our 4-1 defeat at Swansea in March. His other Hammers appointments last season were our 1-1 home draws with Leicester and Bournemouth in November and January respectively, our 3-0 home defeat to Brighton last October and our 4-0 opening weekend defeat at Manchester United in August 2017.
Atkinson also refereed the Hammers’ FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford in March 2016, when he turned down appeals for a penalty after Marcos Rojo appeared to have tripped Dimitri Payet and failed to spot Bastian Schweinstieger’s block on Darren Randolph as Man Utd equalised late on. He also refereed our 1-0 win at Crystal Palace in October 2016, when he controversially sent off Aaron Cresswell for two very harsh yellow cards in quick succession.
Everton’s Seamus Coleman, Michael Keane, Phil Jagielka, Yerry Mina, James McCarthy, Beni Baningime and Andre Gomes are out injured for the visit of the Hammers, while Richarlison is suspended. Idrissa Gueye, Theo Walcott, Bernard and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have been passed fit. Everton are unbeaten this season but have won only once, despite leading in three of their four matches. The Toffees have won more Premier League matches (24) and scored more goals (80) against West Ham than any other team.
For West Ham United, Winston Reid, Jack Wilshere, Manuel Lanzini and Andy Carroll are on the sidelines. Chicharito is a major doubt through illness. Hammers manager Manuel Pellegrini turns 65 on Sunday. The Irons’ shot conversion rate is just 5% – only Cardiff, with 4%, have been less clinical in the Premier League this season.
Possible Everton XI: Pickford; Kenny, Holgate, Zouma, Digne; Schneiderlin, Davies; Walcott, Sigurdsson, Calvert-Lewin; Tosun.
Possible West Ham United XI: Fabianski; Zabaleta, Balbuena, Diop, Masuaku; Rice, Obiang, Noble; Yarmolenko, Anderson; Arnautovic.
Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!
Guest Post by Joshua King
With the appointment of Manuel Pellegrini in May and the splashing out of around £100 million on an array of talented players, there was plenty of reason for optimism at West Ham going into the new season. However, four straight Premier League defeats to start the season and that optimism has quickly waned. So why have West Ham struggled so far and what can be changed to turn their fortunes around? What’s Going Wrong?
Pellegrini Doesn’t Know His Best XI
So far this season it is already clear that Pellegrini isn’t sure what his best team is yet. In the 4 Premier League games to date, he has never put out the same team more than once. 17 different players have started for West Ham already with 4 changes made between games against Liverpool and Bournemouth and between Bournemouth and Arsenal games. This is partly understandable as 9 first team players have been signed over the summer and few players so far this season have shown any level of consistency to warrant a regular starting place. Having said this, you only have to look as far as teams like Watford and Wolves who have played the same team for every single game so far this season to realise that you need a consistent starting XI in order for players to gel and results to come.
High Defensive Line Combined with Low Work Rate
When he was first appointed as manager, Pellegrini promised fans attractive, attacking football that has become his trademark style over the years. Part of this system involves a defensive line that doesn’t stray beyond the 18-yard line in order to play opposition attackers offside – something we saw on a regular basis with his time at Manchester City. Trying to deploy such a line is admirable. However, attempting to use it against a deadly Liverpool side with slow centre backs in the form of Balbuena and Ogbonna is tactically naïve at best. Such a system left us brutally exposed to Liverpool’s brilliant attacking trio, eventually leading to an embarrassing 4-0 hammering. To make matters worse, a statistic has recently emerged showing that West Ham have covered only 421.59km so far this season – the third lowest distance in the division. Moreover, Wolves, Liverpool and Arsenal all completed a higher percentage of passes in their own half against West Ham compared to any other opposition this season. These statistics are damning and not consistent with a high pressing style that you would expect of a Pellegrini side. The combination of a high defensive line without significant pressure on the ball is tactical suicide and may explain why West Ham have already shipped 10 goals so far this season.
An Imbalanced Side with Lack of Mobility in Midfield
One major thing that has already become clear this season is that there is a distinct lack of balance to this West Ham side. For all the attacking talent at Pellegrini’s disposal, West Ham’s defence has been left wide open at times due to a lack of defensive cover from the midfield. So far in the Premier League, Pellegrini has deployed either 2 defensive midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 system or 2 central midfielders in a 4-4-2 system. However, against Liverpool, the holding midfielders of Noble and Rice were both brutally overrun by the 3 midfielders of Milner, Wijnaldum and Keita; so much so that Rice was even hauled off at half time. Moreover, against Bournemouth, a centre midfield partnership of Noble and Wilshere was exposed for one particular trait – a distinct lack of mobility. This was epitomised by Callum Wilson’s goal where Noble makes a pathetic attempt to keep up with the pacey striker, allowing him to run straight at the heart of the West Ham defence and score.
What Needs to Change?
We should be playing a 4-1-2-1-2 formation with Diop and Balbuena at centre back, Masuaku and Fredericks playing a slightly forward full back role, Sanchez as a libero, Anderson and Yarmolenko in wide roles, Wilshere at No 10 with Hernandez and Arnautovic up front. This formation and lineup would help solve some of the programmes they have been having…
Firstly, West Ham need to play with 2 strikers up front. As you can see in the image below, when Wolves were in possession in deeper areas, Arnautovic would press the opposition’s goalkeeper or centre backs in an attempt to win back the ball or force an error. However, far too often he did this by himself with no cohesive pressing support from the midfield behind him. This meant that Wolves were easily able to play out from the back under little pressure and pass the ball quickly into their midfield in order to start attacks.
For a pressing system to work effectively, the team must press as a collective unit in order to block off passing routes and create pressing traps. Having said this, if Hernandez were to play up front alongside Arnautovic, the pair would be able to press opposition centre backs simultaneously with the midfielders behind stepping up to block off passing routes to full backs or into the midfield. This would force opposition goalkeepers into conceding possession or attempting inaccurate long balls.
If this pressing system were to be deployed properly, the high pass completion and low distance covered statistics mentioned above would soon change. Besides pressing, Arnautovic and Hernandez linked up well against Bournemouth, particularly in the first half, and managed to create a couple of good chances. Given time, this strike partnership could provide plenty of excitement for West Ham fans in the future.
One of the major benefits of playing a diamond shape in the middle of the park is that it allows Jack Wilshere to play in his best position, which is centre attacking midfield. By playing here, he is able to have a greater influence on the game than in central defensive midfield with through balls into the 2 strikers or by spraying balls into wider areas as he did effectively against Bournemouth, particularly in the first half. Also, a diamond shape slightly alters the positions in which the wide men of Anderson and Yarmolenko play. When playing a diamond, the wide midfield players tend to play slightly narrower than usual. This allows them to attack the half spaces found between the wide channels and the central area of the pitch. It also allows the superior attacking full backs of Masuaku and Fredericks to provide overlaps and occupy the wide areas vacated by Anderson and Yarmolenko. Alternatively, if Anderson and Yarmolenko decide to move wider, then Masuaku and Fredericks can create underlapping runs.
By playing this system, every channel of the pitch is occupied at the same time. When attacking, this means that multiple passing options are always available which allows the team to overload the opposition and create opportunities going forward. Also, by covering every channel, the team are able to prevent counter attacks by winning back possession more easily when the ball is lost high up the pitch. However, if the ball cannot be won high up the pitch, the team are able to drop back into a medium block 4-4-2 shape with Wilshere dropping back alongside Sanchez.
By playing a 4-4-2 diamond formation, it means that one central midfield player occupies a deeper role in the middle of the park compared to a flat 4-4-2 shape which was seen against Liverpool. This creates a better balance to the side in providing greater protection for the centre backs by significantly reducing the space between the midfield and the back four. However, in order for the system to work, the player in this role must be disciplined in sitting in front of the 2 centre backs and rarely straying forward to join the attack. So far this season, Noble has played poorly in this position as his lack of mobility has been exposed. However, Sanchez has performed surprisingly well in this role with notable displays against both Arsenal and Wolves, deserving a place in the team for now. However, if his form were to dip, Obiang and Rice could be fighting to replace him.
It can often take time for a new group of players to gel and understand the system a manager wants. However, if West Ham don’t start to improve soon, then the pressure will only continue to mount. They now have a big game coming up against Everton where a result is desperately needed. Now it’s time to deliver!
Opposition Q & A
This weekend a still pointless West Ham travel to Goodison Park for a 4pm Sunday afternoon kick-off hoping to finally get their season under way. Ahead of the game I spoke to Everton fan, food blogger and occasional Guardian columnist and a surprisingly unconfident James Coke aka the disabled chef to talk about the up and coming fixture.
West Ham have yet to gain a point, but you’ve had quite a good start to the season, I presume you’re pretty pleased at the moment?
Sort of – It’s a step up from the dirge of big Sam, but still early days. I like Silva’s attacking philosophy but the defence is full of holes. The first four games should have all been gimmes, but although unbeaten, we’ve laboured. A slip up on Sunday and our guaranteed defeat at Arsenal would set alarm bells ringing. Whatever happens we have to give him time. Of course if we tonk you and the Arse then I’ll be delirious and be loving the guy like he’s my brother from another mother.
Everton have been similar to West Ham, and indeed a lot of clubs by appointing a new manager at the beginning of the new season, how do you rate the prospects for Everton under Marco Silva.
His CV does not jump out at you and he’s got ants in his pants, but there is potential. He’s got form in Greece, winning a championship with Olympiacos and then did well at both Hull and Watford. He clearly can get distracted so we need to bed him down and allow him time to build his squad. His record in the premiership is good but Everton is a big step up. I suspect though he’ll be given a good crack of the whip to get things right and that Everton might have a good season.
Mmm, I assume you mean a glass house. Failing to dot a few i’s and cross a few t’s is hardly robbery. Anyway were you happy to see the back of Big Sam, as opposed to the ‘Big Sam’s back!’ announcement when he became your manager?
Last season’s 4-0 rout of West Ham became a hollow victory when I saw him in the directors box about to take the reins. It stamped out any embers of hope I had for the season and I became disenfranchised and just concentrated on my fantasy team. I was disgusted with myself cheering another Salah goal (especially if he was my captain) but I just didn’t care. Sam’s passing was inevitable but it’s allowed me to re-engage again with Everton and have the confidence to drop Salah for Richarlison which has been very beneficial.
How do you rate the appointment of Manuel Pelligrini as West Ham’s manager?
Cannot knock what he did at City but that was a totally different project. Trouble is West Ham like Everton expect the best – even if we rarely get it. 4 defeats on the bounce do not bode well though and after us you’ve got Chelsea and United, so I only see the pressure continue to mount. I think you should have stuck with Moyes or gone big for someone like Eddie Howe, as I don’t think Manuel will last the pace. However he always looks the part and comes across as an alight geezer so hope he does a number for you.
Again like West Ham you have brought in a few new players during the summer, who is going to delight the Goodson faithful?
Well the pick of the bunch is Richarlison. He was doing perfect until his ‘head-kiss’ at Bournemouth, so luckily for you boys, he’ll be missing. I like the look of Digne at left back. He has had a couple of assists this season and will be a good replacement for an ageing Bainsey. The others Mina, Bernard and Gomes, look good on paper but are all injured. After the disaster of our dealings last season, I won’t get carried away and don’t know whether they’ll be lions or sheep.
Last year you disposed of two Everton lads in Ross Barkley and Wayne Rooney, any thoughts on these particular departures?
Barkley had been angling for a move for a while now so it was no great surprise. For me his consistency was suspect and he was far to greedy. He seems to have started this season well for Chelsea but I think you’ll see him move on in a season or two – he’d be good for West Ham! As for Wayne; I was deluded like the rest of them when our prodigal son came home. He had his moments (you don’t need to be reminded), but was to slow and grumpy, and couldn’t keep his cock in his pants. He had to go to safeguard the integrity of the club and Bill Kenwright.
Which West Ham players if any have you got in your fantasy league team?
Marco has been there from the start but no others, yet! Anderson looks a cracker of a player. He’ll probably join the ranks of Clash City at some stage in the season as will Cresswell, who has a sweet left foot. I might also look to bring in Fabianski as a second keeper. For the record I’ve just signed Lookman as replacement for Walcott, who is injured. I have a feeling he will be your chief tormentor on Sunday.
Where do you think Everton will finish the season? Can they break into the top six?
I don’t expect anything special but hope we can secure 7th – anything higher would be a bonus
Where can West Ham realistically hoist themselves to by the end of the season?
Last time you started this badly you went down, so you’re skating on thin ice already. However I think you’ll just avoid the drop, but you won’t finish the season under Pelligrini – 16th!
Everton is not a team we traditionally play well against, but can West Ham dig themselves out of their malaise against you this weekend? Where are you likely to slip up?
I actually think you have a good chance. We have a shed load of injuries and I can’t see you losing 5 on the bounce – it just doesn’t happen…does it? On saying that you hate playing at Goodison, and we will have a few lads looking to stake a claim. The danger for us is our defence which is porous on set pieces and is still a work in progress; so I see goals, but hoping we’ll score one more than you.
How will Everton line up against West Ham this week Team/formation?
Pickford – Digne – Kenny – Holgate – Zouma – Sigurdsson – Lookman – Schneiderlin – Tosun – Davies – Niasse
Any predictions for the score
2-2 – dubious Hammers penalty equaliser late on.
Well thanks to Jim for his time. Pleased to notice that he’s a fellow Big Sam sufferer. I would take a 2 – 2 draw at Everton anytime, so I will follow agree with Jim for once, and join him on 2 – 2. COYI
The Blind Hammer Column
Blind Hammer looks at UEFA Proposals.
It may seem odd considering European Football whilst we are languishing at the foot of the Premier League. Yet if the Pellegrini project, over time, is only moderately successful, participating in the new UEFA plans for a Third tier European competition may become a possibility.
European football, an occasional dream for so many PL clubs outside the top 6 or 7 may, for the first time, become a regular strategic ambition.
West Ham certainly has ambitions to compete in the upper reaches of mid table. It seems likely that any blub looking to finish in the top 10 could strategically embrace some more realistic European ambitions.
Details about the new competition are skimpy, which is surprising given that there are reported plans to introduce it as early as 2021. The new competition will involve 32 clubs, with 16 new places in addition to 16 clubs re-directed some the present 48 clubs in the Europa League. There will be some focus on helping clubs from smaller leagues. However it would be odd and unexpected if absolutely none of the extra 16 European places are allocated to the Premier League. UEFA are likely to have a commercial interest in extending PL representation in this new competition, especially in view of the appeal in the global brand of PL clubs.
What we know so far is that European Club Association (ECA) chairman Andrea Agnelli, who is also on Uefa’s executive committee, said the “the green light has been given” to the new competition.
Speaking at the annual general assembly of the ECA in Croatia, he said the third competition would increase the number of clubs involved in European football from 80 to 96.
Of course those of us who remember West Ham’s previous European campaigns will also realise that 3 European Competitions are not new. We competed in an era where the European Cup sat alongside a Cup Winners Cup and an Inter Cities Fairs Cup. Uefa has also experimented with the Inter toto cup in the past, a competition we also won.
The positive possibilities for teams like West Ham are obvious. This new competition is pitched as a “Third Tier” competition. It is a competition in which European Super Rich clubs will not feature, making progress in, and even possibly winning the competition a more realistic possibility.
The other main benefit is that it offers the opportunity for more consistent exposure to, and adaptation to the rigours of European Football. Not just West Ham, but many other mid-level PL Clubs have struggled to adapt to the demands of launching a European campaign whilst at the same time protecting their form against the rigours of domestic PL and Cup competition. It is no coincidence that Chelsea won the league whilst free of European commitments. The new competition could provide experience over time which could help transition to higher level European Competition.
West Ham’s involvement will not be motivated by prize money. The current Europa League rewards are derisory compared to the riches of the PL and the champions League. This inequality will almost certainly persist into the new UEFA competition.
Other problems will need serious consideration. Commercial TV rights for even Europa League matches are not guaranteed. Not all of Burnley’s early matches this year were televised. Further problems will emerge with identifying a distinctive TV schedule which does not conflict with existing commitments. It seems likely that this new competition may have to share the currently crowded Europa League Thursday scheduling.
However there will be opportunities for growth in West Ham. It is unlikely that the lack of TV interest in Burnley’s ties will be replicated with West Ham. When we were relegated to the Championship we had arguably greater domestic TV exposure from companies eager to include us in their Championship coverage.
The advantages for West Ham are not, then, in prize money. It would rather become an arena which could deliver realistic possibilities of success, an arena not dominated by the predictable dead hand of super rich Premier League clubs domination of existing silver ware.
The Devil, as ever, will be in the details of the competition. Pending this I will be extending a cautious welcome.