Talking Point

Stan Collymore: 'High-press? Moyes is a high priest of tedium'

Stan Collymore suggests David Moyes’ stock has fallen, that he is not the man to bring high-pressing, high-octane football to West Ham and that the Scot is struggling to win over fans as the Hammers face a battle to find consistency in their Premier League performances:

The infrastructure is all in place at West Ham. They have a modern stadium with good facilities, a fan base which wants to buy into what they do, and a decent squad as well. If you cherry-picked at least four of their players, maybe even six or seven, you’d have the nucleus of a side well capable of looking at the top half of the table rather than the bottom next season.

So the major question for me now is whether or not David Moyes is the man to lead them again next season.

And, if so, can he, along with co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold, turn the Hammers into the sort of club West Brom and Stoke had become before this season?

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The sort of club which consistently finishes ninth, 10th, 11th or 12th over four or five seasons. A lot of Moyes’ admirers will say that’s exactly where he will be pitching them but I still don’t know if I’d keep him on. Fans want high-pressing, high-octane football these days because they see it from the top sides every week on Match Of The Day and when that happens it quickly becomes a trend.

The knock-on effect when styles change is that, all of a sudden, people like Tony Pulis, Sam Allardyce and Alan Pardew can begin to look like football dinosaurs.

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And at the moment I’m not ­convinced people see Moyes in a ­different light. Is he a really good organisational manager who can put out teams which create chances and score goals?

Or is he a grind-it-out merchant, a manager who guarantees fans 19 home games of little entertainment? At times at Everton he suggested he was the former but since then his stock has fallen. That’s something Sullivan and Gold have to seriously take into consideration. They are rather conservative, that pair – remember the way they stuck with Allardyce – and I’m ­sure they will be thinking, ‘We need ­stability here’.

They realise there is a lot of money to be lost and they like money, they like being in the Premier League, they like to wear the fur jackets.

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Their history ­suggests that, unless there is a candidate who springs out of ­nowhere, who is young, aggressive and passionate, who can get West Ham fans behind them, and who has a proven track record of ­signing quality ­players, they will stick with what they know. And that will mean a thumbs-up for Moyes.

The problem for West Ham is that the teams coming up from the Championship this season will all have a lot of dough, and not just Premier League dough, either.

Wolves and Cardiff have seriously wealthy backers, as have some of the clubs aiming for the play-offs, and all will be further competition for the Hammers.

That level of competition could ultimately be West Ham’s downfall. The arrival of three teams with huge financial clout could push them closer to the Premier League trapdoor in the next couple of seasons. I’m sure Sullivan and Gold will take all that into consideration. What I would like to see from them at the end of this season – this is ­assuming they stay up, which I’m certain they will – is a statement of intent, a clear signal of their hopes for the future. That would provide transparency for supporters, something that’s been missing, and it would be good for the fans to realise what the club’s ambitions are.

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They also need to address the stadium and get the crowd closer to the pitch, even if it means spending a few million quid to get it right.

On the pitch, survival will all boil down to their remaining six fixtures and, if I were at the training ground, I’d be banging the drum about the home games. They have four of them – the mantra will be, ‘Win the home games and try to nick points away if you can’. And if West Ham get it right, as they did against Southampton in their last home match, they’ll be safe sooner rather than later.

Originally published in the Sunday People.

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The Blind Hammer Column

The Hernandez Debate - Should He Start?

Blind Hammer also looks at the enigmatic pros and cons of starting Hernandez

One of the risks of writing weekly posts is that other bloggers will submit posts of similar ilk. Great minds think alike and all that. With apologies then I submit this piece already written before FC Chandos posted yesterday. At least this can be presented as a debate. here is the piece written on Tuesday.

If West Ham survive the relegation threat which has haunted us, it will be due, in no small measure, to Hernandez’s goals. He would concede that he has not set the Premiership alight, yet his equaliser against Chelsea adds to a tally of match winning or point grabbing contributions. His away goal against Palace ensured we rescued a point despite their second half domination. In the reverse fixture Palace conceded a penalty against his threat, enabling Noble to equalise. Another effort garnered a precious point against Bournemouth. His goal against Watford highlights the important of his contribution against teams considered our rivals. In a season with an extraordinarily compressed lower table these contributions have probably ensured our survival. Without his interventions in these critical fixtures we would not only be at least 7 points worse off, but arguably, just as damagingly, adrift as we would have surrendered at least 9 points to immediate relegation rivals.
In only 3 games have Hernandez’s goals failed in a losing cause. His brace away against Southampton accompanied another South coast reversal against Brighton. His remaining goal in a losing cause registered in our home defeat to Tottenham.

Hernandez has achieved this despite niggling injuries and illness feeding prolonged absences. When played he often finds himself in a formation ill-suited to his strengths.

There seems objective evidence then that Moyes should be inking Hernandez in as one of the first names on his team sheet.
Yet even now considerable doubt surrounds Hernandez inclusion. He can plummet from hero to zero in the space of 90 minutes. He is the classic goal scoring enigma, offering little beyond goal poaching. When he is good, he is very very good; when bad he can be awful. He disappears in scraps requiring effort, muscularity and athleticism.

Luckily Marco Arnautovic has emerged as a match winner who can offer the requisite athleticism and work rate that Hernandez seems unable to provide. Consequently it is Arnautovic who has grabbed the main headlines. He has been the inspirational force in our most eye catching performances, whether it the winner in our home fixture against Chelsea, our away thumpings of Stoke and Huddersfield, or arguably our game of the decade in the home win, against enormous pre-match pressure against Southampton.
Equally importantly, until the Chelsea equaliser, our most incisive offensive partnerships have relied on Arnautovic combining with Lanzini rather than Hernandez. I can remember only the Watford game as an occasion when Hernandez joined Arnautovic on the score sheet.

Yet Hernandez is not the only player who can flit from hero to zero in a blink. Mario and Fernandez received justifiable praised for their performance against Southampton but were heavily criticised for their anonymous performance against Chelsea. Arguments are already building for their replacement by Hernandez and possibly, if fit, Lanzini.
I have sympathy for both Mario and Fernandez. Lauded for their positive performance against players like Redmond they are panned for not replicating this against players of the calibre of Hazard and William. This seems illogical to me. Stoke will provide a challenge similar to that provided by Southampton. I am not persuaded that we should jettisoned Fernandez. Against Southampton he provided the pace, energy and commitment which we are likely to require. Lambert will ensure that Stoke offer a challenge of hard work, high pressing, and physical combativeness. The game is likely to be a blood and thunder battle. In other words it may be just the sort of game in which Hernandez will struggle.

Hernandez’s accomodation actually still takes second place to greater priorities. Over the season our Leakey and ineffectual defence continues as our most punishing weakness. Any recent improvement should not blind us to our shocking defensive record. The bald stats do not lie. In the goals against table we are easily in the bottom 3. Amongst all the teams below us actually only Stoke have a worse record than us. Stoke will understand then, more than anybody, the paper thin confidence a porous defence can create. They will inevitably target this vulnerability. Only 2 games ago we conceded 7 goals to Swansea and Burnley. Despite the revelation of Declan Rice increasingly mature emergence it would be foolish to assume that these problems are behind us. Stoke will attempt to exploit this fragility. Lambert will also hope that negative volatility of campaign against the Stadium will re-emerge if West Ham fall behind and will help their cause.

All this indicates that this is another game in which the first goal will be critical. Whilst this has been billed as a “must win” it is in reality a must not lose game. Drawing against Stoke would be disappointing but not terminal. Losing might just plummet our season and snatch defeat out of the jaws of safety.

Moyes will know that in recent games Stoke have paid the price of tiring after initial first half efforts. It seems then that Hernandez is best positioned again to make a telling contribution from the bench. His particular skill set may be lethal against tiring Stoke defenders with weakened concentration. Match winning interventions from the bench are under rated. Before the season Mourinho praised the talents of Hernandez, and his goal scoring record. It was precisely his ability to transform games from the bench that he was most complementary of. What we require first and foremost against Stoke is a solid performance. It is from that position of strength that Hernandez’s talents may assist us most.

David Griffith

The S J Chandos Column

We must bring Hernandez back in to the fold!

Thankfully, we achieved the draw at Chelsea that has greatly strengthen our survival prospects. I have to say that I really enjoyed the game. Hart had his best display in a West Ham jersey (some would say it’s about time!), Ogbonna and Rice were absolute class, Arnautovic was our best player yet again and Hernandez made a vital intervention from the bench. The goal conceded was soft, in all honesty, but we fought back to equalise and both Arnautovic (for providing the assist) and Hernandez (for delivering a great strike) deserve credit. Indeed. the strike provided a timely reminder (if one was needed) of Hernandez’s proficiency in front of goal. He is that rare commodity, a penalty box predator, with the ability to convert an half chance. In that sense, Hernandez really is worth his weight in gold and needs to be retained in the squad for next season (assuming that we remain in the PL).

There have been rumours circulating that Hernandez has been unhappy at the club, with the suggestion that the player wanted a move in the January window. If so, David Moyes must ensure that there is a rapprochement and that Hernandez feels a valued part of the squad and is prepared to remain for the 2018-19 season. As stated, goal poachers like Hernandez are a rare and valuable commodity and we cannot afford to lose him. He should figure in Moyes first team plans for the remainder of the season, whether starting or joining the action from the bench. Personally, I feel that he could play a really important role in our survival and have an even bigger impact next season.

A victory over Stoke City is crucial. If Chelsea beat Southampton, and we take the three points, then we are virtually safe. After that I reckon one more victory, or even a couple of draws, should clinch the retention of our PL status. And that is to be warmly welcomed, but the board should not be lulled in any false sense of security. The malcontent of the fans has been suppressed for the good of the club, but it remains a very important factor and will re-emerge unless a new direction is taken. In my opinion, the board must authorise substantial expenditure on strengthening the squad this summer – no excuses! By my estimation, we probably need seven quality signings this summer, including: a goal keeper, full-back, centre-half, x2 midfielders and x2 strikers.

In addition, I would expect that Hart, Collins, Obiang, Snodgrass, Carroll and Hugill will all depart the club. I very much doubt that Hart will be signed permanently, Collins should join the coaching staff, Obiang will probably return to Italian football, Snodgrass will likely sign for Villa, Carroll’ s injury record necessitates his departure (hopefully back to Newcastle Utd for c.£10m – if we are very lucky) and arguably Hugill should never have been signed in the first place. That might sound harsh, but the board must be both realistic and decisive in the action taken. We have flirted with relegation (to one degree or another) over the last two seasons and it needs to stop. We need an urgent injection of quality, and improved strength in depth, to ensure that we can get back to challenging in the top ten of the PL. If we continue to struggle then it is only a matter of time before relegation claims us and (as the board well knows) that would be a disaster for the club.

The quality of the summer signings will be absolutely crucial. We need players that will take the club forward to greater things. In addition, I have great hopes that Byram, Burke, Holland, and Cullen can make a positive impact at first team level next season. We also need to see whether the likes of Oxford, Samuelson, Quina and Martinez can finally live up to their big reputations? While bubbling under at U-23 level are prospects like Trott, Johnson and Lewis, who could all come in to the reckoning in the next couple of seasons.

In short, this summer is likely to be a period of change and upheaval in first team affairs. But it is absolutely necessary and will hopefully pay dividends in the long run. Of course, the key question is who will be managing the club next season? If Moyes successfully steers the club away from relegation then it is very likely that he will be offered a new two year contract. And if that is the case, can we really deny that he deserves it? If Moyes can get back to being the manager that he was at Everton, then he could be a good, safe pair of hands. However, the question must still be asked, of the board,whether a more ambitious appointment might not be the order of the day?

We live in interesting times. If we do survive this season (as seems probable), then the board must show ambition and take strong and concerted action this coming summer. Nothing less is expected, nothing else will do!

SJ. Chandos.

Tony Hanna's Musings

A huge weekend looming

Another point and another step closer to Premier League survival. I won’t dwell too much on the game at Chelsea as David Hautzig and Hamburg Hammer have already written excellent pieces on the match. We rode our luck at times but that will always be the case against any of the top six teams in the division, especially away from home. However, it was a gritty display and after last week’s performance against Southampton it augurs well for the challenges ahead as the season draws to a close. For about twelve minutes near the end of the match it was as thrilling as it gets, like two boxers giving it all at the end of a bout. Both swinging with all their might looking for the knockout punch. Indeed, we might have stolen the points when Arnie came crashing down in the box, but alas no penalty was given. For me Kante’s tackle was a good one but I am sure not all will agree. This is why when VAR does come in they must stick by the on field referees calls in these types of moments. When there is still doubt after watching a video replay their initial on field verdict must be final, or the whole process will not work. I must admit, the only time during Sunday’s game where I vented was on the back of that short corner kick we took in the last two minutes. We had one last chance to win the game and we threw it away. If we are going to decline that opportunity and opt to waste time with a view to respecting the point, at least do it well. We would have wasted more time by kicking the ball into the crowd for a goal kick straight from the corner, rather than the debacle attempted between Cullen and Noble.

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This coming weekend is huge in relation to the relegation fight. If we can beat Stoke we will be safe in my opinion and if Chelsea can also beat Southampton it will further cement our position. Should we fail to beat Stoke and teams around us win it will still makes things very tricky. A few weeks ago in my column I gave a run down on what lies ahead for the teams in the relegation dog fight. Here is an update.

West Brom are down now and whilst it is still mathematically possible they could survive, they won’t.

Stoke are giving it their all, as are their fans, but they have let in 63 goals in 33 games (highest in the PL) and in recent times have also been fairly blunt in attack as well. They have put in decent enough performances in their last two matches – Arsenal away and Spurs at home, but have come away with nothing. Since the turn of the year they have only scored in six of their PL games and only once have they scored more than one. The bookies rate them at 2/7 (78%) for the drop. They have played one more game than us and their remaining fixtures are; West Ham (a), Burnley (h), Liverpool (a), Crystal Palace (h) and Swansea (a). They have enough winnable games left to give them hope but a loss to the Hammers would make things really tough.

Southampton put in a much improved effort on the weekend at Arsenal. Whilst the home side fielded a weakened side due to Cup commitments later this week, the Saints gave the Gunners plenty of problems especially at the back end of the game. However, they have only won once in their past nineteen PL games and that was against bottom club West Brom. The bookies price them at around even money for relegation (50%) and their run in comprises; Chelsea (H), Leicester (a), Bournemouth (h), Everton (a), Swansea (a) and Man City (h). This weekend’s game for them is huge as it will leave them with only two more home games to play this season. One will be against their local rivals who would love to put one over them and the other is against the Champions in waiting.

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Crystal Palace have the easiest run in of all the relegation candidates but they must start to win some of these or they could be drawn under. The bookies make them a 10/1 (9%) chance for relegation and they are three points behind us having played one more game. Their run is; Brighton (h), Watford (a), Leicester (h), Stoke (a) and West Brom (h). If they can’t conjure up half a dozen points from that lot they probably deserve to go down.

Huddersfield are really struggling. They scored a fortunate goal in their away game at Brighton on the weekend to earn a point but showed a distinct lack of ambition when Brighton were reduced to ten men with fifteen minutes to play. Since they beat Watford back on the 16th December they have only won twice, against West Brom and Bournemouth. Their lucky goal at Brighton on the weekend was their first in five matches. They are two points behind us and have played one more game. The bookies rate them a 6/4 (40%) chance to drop and they finish the season with; Watford (h), Everton (h), Man City (a), Chelsea (a) and Arsenal (h). Again, probably their most winnable game remaining is this weekend which highlights the importance of this coming round of fixtures.

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Swansea were a team on a roll just a few weeks ago, after looking certainties to go down before their change of manager in late December. They have failed to win in their past three PL games since they beat us 4-1 and are not out of the woods just yet. Like us, they have six games left but now trail the Hammers by two points. They are 11/2 (15%) to be relegated and their remaining fixtures are; Everton (h), Man City (a), Chelsea (h), Bournemouth (a), Southampton (h) and Stoke (h). Like us, four of their remaining six fixtures will be played on their home ground. Again, their most winnable game in the next four fixtures is this weekend. Whether Swansea stay up or go down one thing is almost certain. Their last two fixtures of the season will probably decide who does.

Brighton are 20/1 (4.76%) to go down. They are one point ahead of us and finish this season with; Crystal Palace (a), Spurs (h), Burnley (a), Man Utd (h), Man City (a) and Liverpool (a). Again, looking at their final five fixtures of the season the importance of this weekend’s clash with Palace is huge for them.

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So what of us? West Ham are now rated a 25/1 (3.85%) chance for relegation. However, a loss this weekend would severely affect the relegation markets. Our remaining games are; Stoke (h), Arsenal (a), Man City (h), Leicester (a), Man Utd (h) and Everton (H). Last week I wrote that a Man City win in the CL ties against Liverpool could see them play a weakened side against us should they reach the semi-finals. Our PL match with them would be sandwiched between the two semis. That is looking more unlikely now but a similar thing will probably happen for our match at Arsenal. They carry a 4-1 lead into their second leg tie with CSKA Moscow this week and should they prevail our match with them will be played just days before the first semi-final leg of the Europa League. The Gunners have fielded weakened teams in the past fortnight against our relegation rivals Stoke and Southampton due to them prioritising the Cup, but neither of those two have been able to take advantage of some pretty awful displays from Wenger’s team. Whilst Arsenal have stuck three goals past both of them it has hardly told the real story. Hopefully, Wenger will do the honours and field a team of similar strength for our visit.

So to conclude. This weekend is a huge game for us and Stoke, but a quick look at how the fixture list is panning out and there a few other matches this weekend that will go a long way to deciding who will be relegated this season. Let’s hope the boys can bring this one home. COYI.

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The HamburgHammer Column

A point won in West London - done the hart way

What a weird game that was! Chelsea had about a dozen clear cut opportunities to put this game way beyond West Ham. At times it looked like a training game.
Still we could have nicked the game and Chelsea would not have been in a position to complain because we were disciplined all game and put up a good fight.

Yes, it’s easy to say from my armchair we should have attacked Chelsea more or not given them so much time and space on the pitch to play their brand of football which is a beauty to watch for the neutral without a shadow of a doubt.

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The man of the match decision was not really a contest this time: Finally, Joe Hart gave us the kind of performance we were hoping he would deliver a bit more regularly this season. Of course the way you concede goals heavily depends on the way your defenders do their job, yet a good or even great goalkeeper is at his best when his defenders are beaten and the ball is destined for the top corner.

Hart pulled off about five fantastic saves that gave us the chance to come away from Stamford Bridge with any kind of credible result. Yes, I said before the game Chelsea were there for the taking. But when they outplay you virtually all game, like they did against us, then you have to take the point, make a bow, say Thank You and bugger off!
As a West Ham fan I was expecting things to go wrong at some point in the game and when Cresswell went off injured I just thought “Alright, here we go again, join the queue Aaron and remember: Out of the door. Line on the left. One cross each.” Or something like that, you get the idea!

But there were other instances when strangely we got the rub of the green. Two close offside decisions leading to goals, rightfully not given. Mark Noble who could easily have been given a second yellow after going in all guns blazing into a fierce tackle. Not given. And upfront we were as efficient as your average German factory worker.
One decent chance, one Mexican Little Pea, and boom shakalaka!!!

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Was Moyes a bit negative in his approach, especially first half though ? Maybe, but I’ll give him credit for juggling a thin squad and putting out a team that can still fight.
Injuries keep dragging us down and apart from getting a Director of Football in (pronto please as work on assembling a squad for next season should be well underway already) this area needs to be addressed sharpish.

Just imagine where our team might be in the table if we had only been in a position to play our best starting XI in just ten games or so. Maybe next season!

As it is we have put some more daylight between us and the chasing pack. Six points it is now and if you look at a team like Southampton I can see them getting six points at the most in their remaining games. Which means the Stoke game is still absolutely vital. Arnautovic should be relishing playing against his former teammates and hopefully it’ll be him scoring the goals against Stoke that will help keeping us up.

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I have made the arrangements now to fly over for the Everton game and I am absolutely certain now that we will be mathematically safe at that point anyway.
Still it should be good fun as we also play Manchester United the evening before I fly out. So it’ll be watching that game on the Custard and Jelly, a few hours of sleep (probably), three cups of Rosie and over to Blighty. At that point I will hopefully have made up my mind about whether to renew my season ticket or not.
Still undecided on that front I’m afraid.

Covering the Hamburg football scene this can be handled quickly. St.Pauli are still in a relegation battle while Hamburg SV gave themselves a fighting chance by totally unexpectedly beating 2nd placed Schalke in Hamburg by a 3:2 scoreline. It was also a weekend where I couldn’t muster the effort to watch either Concordia team.
The U23s won 4:0 at home apparently and are virtually guaranteed promotion now to the next level.

While Concordia’s first team have effectively nothing to play for anymore and that’s exactly the vibe they’re giving out, losing yet another game yesterday, 0:2.
It’s also been announced that two more regular starters will leave Concordia in the summer. On top of that the current manager will vacate his place in the dugout to get promoted upstairs to become Cordi’s new DoF, so the search for a new manager has apparently begun with immediate effect.

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So, another long week ahead now before we face Stoke, on Monday evening, under the lights. I hope it’ll be a similar atmosphere and performance like against Southampton. I hope a few of the currently injured players will at least be ready for the matchday squad, like Lanzini or Collins.

For the time being though we can all breathe a bit easier what with the point won at Chelsea. This should be a much more relaxed and jolly week at West Ham, that’s for certain! COYI!!!

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