The Blind Hammer Column

Carroll - A New Life Under VAR?

*Blind Hammer looks at a new twist in the long running Carroll saga *

Last Saturday’s wearyingly predictable defeat at the hands of Manchester city was, in the end, somewhat more interesting for what it showed about Pellegrini’s thinking about his squad.

Like most, before the game, I commented that Cresswell must be training an absolute stinker to enable Masuaku to force his way in. The relative defensive calmness Cresswell offered in the second half made the decision to start Masuaku even odder. All Managers appear to have blind spots, remember Billic persistence with Antonio at right back? Yet Pellegrini’s hooking at half time seems to indicate his myopia will not persist.

The other striking decision was Noble’s exclusion in favour of Obiang, Confirming the suspicion that Pellegrini sees our Club Captain as a squad rather than a starting option.

However, arguably, of most interest was Pellegrini’s decision to deploy both Hernandez and Perez from a bench top heavy with strikers, in preference to the rowdier talents of Carroll.

There was a time that Carroll’s return from injury would presage an automatic stroll into the forward line with an immediate adjustment in style to suit his talents.

No more, Carroll’s previous squad authority was conspicuously absent. This was despite the fact that, once 3-0 in arrears there seemed little point in risking the talents of Arnautovi?. He should have been preserved for the upcoming challenges of Newcastle, Cardiff and Palace. Pellegrini’s lack of pragmatism in protecting Arnautovi? from injury, despite a hopeless match position, does give me some concern.

Arnautovi? consequent, unnecessary, struggle to recover fitness has sparked speculation that Carroll may feature against his erstwhile teammates at Newcastle. Pellegrini’s preference for both Hernandez and Perez against City belies this. Currently both seem ahead of Carroll in the pecking order. A bench position seems the most Carroll can hope for.

Carroll’s reported £85,000 wages has prompted some to claim that he should therefore be release in January at whatever price.

Yet despite all the previous disappointments Carroll may, with the advent of VAR, just become an Ace in the hole in the second half of this season and potentially as VAR expands, in the seasons ahead.

We saw, last summer, how in the World cup, England deployed the advantages of VAR to become lethally effective from set pieces. Ironically it was future Hammer Carlos Sanchez who was suckered into grappling with Harry Kane and conceded a crucial penalty.

As VAR enters the game it will transform the potential for creating havoc from set pieces. Whilst VAR will provide some peril for Strikers, especially those who dive, in all other respects it will heap more pressure on defenders. The option to grapple opponents will become not just less effective but also self defeating. The ability of defenders such as Leicester’s Morgan and Huth to rely upon the strengths of their arms in holding attackers will diminish.

VAR will radically transform the relative risks of holding in the penalty area. Forwards who hold a defender will at worse concede a free kick and possibly a yellow card for persistent offending. A defender, in contrast, risks a penalty every time they grapple with forwards. Referee’s past tendency to give defenders the benefit of the doubt will come under increased pressure.

Carroll’s extraordinary physical characteristics may just then become one of West Ham’s most potent weapons in the upcoming age of VAR. There is no doubt that, physically, he is one of the most difficult forwards to deal with. Certainly in a VAR age I would far rather have Carroll as an option for us rather than see him deployed against us.

The first opportunity to test this hypothesis will come in the New Year and the FA Cup. VAR will continue its trial at Premiership Grounds. Carroll’s £85,000 a week wages translates into just over £4 million a year. This is relative small potatoes in today’s transfer market valuations. VAR may just provide the opportunity to revive Carroll’s flagging career and finally provide some value for money.

David Griffith

The GoatyGav Column

Nasri, Man City and Cup Fever

Samir Nasri – Who Is Looking To Sign Him?

Always in the market for a bargain. Our owners are businessmen at heart and a big part of running a profitable business is cutting your costs. So when a striker with Premier League experience, who has won titles and plied his trade in the Champion’s League, becomes available on a free surely any club owner worth his salt much be looking to take advantage? Well, as we all know, football is no ordinary business.

Nasri was found guilty of an anti-doping charge involving micronutrients being delivered in excessive amounts via sterile water administered through a drip. While feeling ill on holiday his former girlfriend, Dr Sarabjit Anand, provided an initial diagnosis over the phone. The drip was subsequently set up in his hotel room and the 500 millilitres of hydration received. Wada rules state that a limit of 50 ml infusion is allowed over a 6 hour period for active athletes. During the time Nasri was on the drip he posted pictures from the hotel room which were later used in the case against him. Fundamentally Nasri didn’t use a banned substance rather employed a prohibited method in accordance with sub-section M2, par. 2 of the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) prohibited list. Putting that aside would he really be what the Manager is looking for?

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So who’s signing would Nasri be should he arrive at West Ham? Manuel Pellegrini has managed the player before at Manchester City. If it’s true that the manager gets the final say on signings then it would seem that he would be the one pushing to get the player on board. When Pellegrini arrived in the Summer many commented that he wouldn’t be prepared to put up with any decisions being made outside of his control regarding comings and goings. So one can only presume that he’s the one trying to make the deal happen.

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Either way it’s going to depend on Samir Nasri coming up to speed in training and impressing sufficiently to get a deal with us. Personally I always saw him as being an average forward playing in a good team – both at Arsenal and Man City. I know that others disagree. There’s no disputing he has explosive pace and likes to take players on but, at 31 years of age, can he even get back to former levels of play? If Marco Arnautovic does move on in January I certainly hope that Nasri is not seen as his replacement as this would be a clear step in the wrong direction for my money.

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On the subject of last weekend’s fixture I, like many others, have mixed feelings. In terms of scoring opportunities we had 8 shots at goal compared to Man City’s 8. I’m not sure where the Xg (expected goals) ratings came from but, quite frankly, the big difference is that City are composed and clinical in front of goal. Perhaps that was it, or maybe it was the dominance they enjoyed in possession, but there’s no disputing that they are looking every bit the champions that they are and favourites for the title again this time around. A little annoying that a sublime moment of skill was ommitte from the MOTD coverage. Anderson’s ‘Flip Flap’ or ‘Elastico’, if you prefer, on the touchline in front of us in the West Stand (still have to re-orientate myself between the BM & STB stands in comparison to the Boleyn Ground) was a thing to behold. I’ll be recording the ‘Showboat’ on next Saturday morning’s Soccer AM as I’m sure it will make it on there.

The most irritating aspect of the match was the way in which they seemed to waltz through our back line. It was like a knife through butter for the majority of the goals so I sincerely hope that lessons are learned.

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In the second half we improved defensively. I know it doesn’t make a massive difference but I think a clean sheet in that second half would have left us feeling a little better. So when Gabriel Jesus was put through before he crossed the ball, in an offside position, I felt it we were robbed of that, last 45, clean sheet. Scott Ledger wasn’t quite up with play and so didn’t spot the marginal, but clear, off side when Mahrez played it through to him. No massive thing in the great scheme of things but 4-0 certainly looks worse than 3.

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We now face a run of games that provide a decent chance of putting points on the board. Our next opponents could displace us in 13th position if they win this evening. If that’s the case we would have the opportunity to pull away from them again and put further distance between ourselves and the bottom of the table. As ever I’m optimistic. I genuinely think things are moving in the right direction and am hopeful of a top half finish after the season’s final whistle goes in May.

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Speaking of May, and the Cup, I’m looking forward to this time next week when the draw for the 3rd round will be made. After some interesting looking ties those progressing will be hoping to draw the big boys in the next phase. For me the 3rd round is my favourite weekend of the footballing calendar. Our best chance of a trophy win is now in this competition and so I’m hoping that the draw pairs us opponents in a kindly manner.

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COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!

Talking Point

Should We Expect More? For Sure!

One of the things I wrote in my last blog was that we shouldn’t let Man City destroy us, both on the day and in the aftermath. I for one have found this far more difficult to see through in practice as the team was exposed, albeit by the best, but exposed quite badly as not being able to cope with powerful midfields. We saw this against Liverpool also early in the season and put it down to inexperience. Then many of us suggested bringing in some holding players who can tackle and chase might be an idea as our midfields, assembled mainly of wingers, continued to fold under scrutiny. This was finally achieved with the three of Obiang, Noble and Rice who have looked solid when playing together. Then injury problems for Obiang and disciplinary problems for Noble had left us short in the middle but with promising signs of team ability, which brings me to the point of this mini-rant, what was Pellegrini playing at on Saturday? Masuaku again at left back, unforgivable to the point I’m fed up even discussing it. Hernandez for Diangana, very questionable. The contribution of Perez, quite extraordinary, almost as extraordinary as bringing him on in the first place. At times it was almost as if the manager was just having a laugh.

It was clear Man City are class and we also have plenty to be optimistic about but this tendency of Pellegrini to make tactically naïve decisions and get rewarded with a spanking is starting to become statistically significant. With so much focussed towards a global reputation as a major team we are all too often seen not even making a game of it against the Man City’s and Liverpool’s and this makes talk of 66,000 super-crowds slightly pointless if are getting hammered by anyone decent. The following run of games is a season defining opportunity to really play well and build as a team and improve league position. After an encouraging couple of games at Leicester and at home to Burnley, avoiding a thrashing by Citeh really was a key priority and it was only partially achieved because they took their foot off the gas and in all fairness we didn’t play that badly.

Diangana was lively and I don’t know why he was taken off early. Declan Rice had another good game and is invaluable in midfield, the centre-backs and the keeper still look like a solid unit and one which would benefit from a decent left-back. Midfield options should be returning against Newcastle and I would really want to see Noble starting in a game like that to bring in a bit of solidity and purpose. I would disagree Antonio was man of the match for us but he did improve slightly and with Carrol and Wilshere to return maybe this will allow us to increase the number of chances provided to Arnie and others. Despite all of this we are still short in areas, our results show this.

Not this again?

Is the possible signing of Nasri really the sort of business we should be doing? If he was fully fit and playing I wouldn’t question it but this particular deal just reminds me of the day Gold and Sullivan took over, slating ‘Mr Egbertson’ for vanity signings and unrealistic wage payments for luxury players. Combined with the rumours over Chicharito’s true wage and the money we either are, are not or might pay Rice and Arnie we have to consider why such a deal for someone like Nasri is really necessary.

West Ham has always been and remains a club made great by its fans and its players, wouldn’t it be nice if the owners and the manager could just step up and take us up that one notch to where we deserve to be. One way or another it seems market forces will dictate that we are becoming a big club whether we like it or not, lets just keep hoping and campaigning that we become a big club based on quality and training not one cobbled together from superstar has-beens with no particular purpose. If we hit December and January right we can be in the top half with a couple of exciting new signings ready to push forward into 2019. Its what we deserve and for once lets hope the expectation of the fans is realised both on and off the pitch in the next couple of months. COYI

A bit of nostalgia to cheers us up

And for those who are interested in horse racing

Me and my mate Bob have been trying to create a website dedicated to finding winners to jumps races, its only a bit of fun and no guarantees but anyone who fancies an alternative website to the usual we are doing tips and analysis for all major Saturday races and festivals. Hope you have a winner! Also on twitter follow #bobandbaz.

National Hunt Horse Racing Tips and Analysis


The HamburgHammer Column

That was no champagne supernova from West Ham, but I won't look back in anger

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When I saw the camera zooming in on Noel Gallagher in the crowd at the London Stadium during our by now customary thrashing at the hands of Manchester City, several thoughts were running through my head:

a) He really loves his football, doesn’t he ?
b) Does he cut his own hair or are there no reasonably priced hairdressers still in business in Manchester ?
c) Like with any other Man City fan, I don’ begrudge him City’s wonderful style of football and their current success – they supported their club during their lengthy crap spells, they are proper fans through thick and thin and why shouldn’t they enjoy the ride ?

Plus of course, for a pun-dit like me (see what I did there ?) the Oasis songbook alone affords your average football fan a multitude of colourful puns and plays on words that can be put to good use for any football-related analysis.

See my headline for starters. Cigarettes and alcohol probably were the choices of post-game remedy for many disappointed Hammers on Saturday evening.

Some mights say that we just gotta roll with it, move forward little by little. We need to stop crying our heart out, our board surely have a Masterplan lying around somewhere and if we stand by the team we may not live forever, but might probably be able to keep the dream alive, do you know what I mean ?

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Most of the game has been discussed at length in the previous threads. It was men against boys. It looked very much like a preseason training kickabout.
The goals Man City scored against us looked EXACTLY like moves from a preseason training kickabout. I was only surprised at how little time it took Man City to race into a 3:0 lead. Nobody can really be surprised at Manchester City scoring four goals in 90 minutes against anyone.
That’s how good they are.

Stuff that! They are superb. They are not just on another level. Maybe not even on just another planet. But possibly on another planet in another galaxy far far away. So I won’t be moping and moaning the fact we lost by a scoreline of 0:4. Of course our defending looked abysmal, albeit against top quality opposition. Still, we didn’t defend the way a PL team should.
I will cut our team some serious slack though, offensively we did ask a few questions of them, creating some good openings, but again, our conversion rate in terms of decent goalscoring opportunities was terrible. Against lesser opposition we must now begin to tuck those chances away, our lads will need to work their socks off in order to start winning games and climbing that table.

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There is a lot of business ahead for us in the January window, both in terms of getting rid of unwanted players (like Oxford), and addressing our squad imbalance, not least due to mounting injury issues. We need another fullback or two (ones that can actually defend), a defensive midfielder and a creative option too by the looks of it as it could well be that Lanzini may have to sit out the rest of the season after all.

Better to allow the injury to heal properly I suppose instead of rushing him back too early…with a knee injury being able to walk and run between cones again is the easy bit, but getting back to a level where you can play football in a highly competitive environment such as the PL is a different matter entirely.

I suppose this is what might have happened with Lanzini: Reasonably quick and steady progress which has hit a wall suddenly, just as Lanzini is returning to the football pitch for some more intense training drills.

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Not long to go now before another trip to the airport for my pre-Christmas West Ham trip for the Palace game. I may have to actually break my vow of never buying merchandise again from the club shop while the current board are still in charge – I met my brother recently and he told me that his son, my nephew, was crestfallen because little Daniel had finally outgrown his Farewell Boleyn West Ham shirt with his name and #2 on the back.

He apparently wore that shirt a lot on various occasions because he absolutely loved it (not many kids in his school wearing claret and blue as you can imagine), so I suppose I may have to get him a bigger West Ham garment, maybe a goalkeeper’s shirt this time. Or a sweatshirt or something like that…I’m just glad I seem to have succeeded in at least making West Ham his favourite club in England, I may not be able to stop him from supporting PSG, AC Milan or Real Madrid one day, but I have pretty much nullified the chance he will ever cheer for Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United or Spurs…it’s important to cherish the little things in life…LOL


Hamburg football update: St.Pauli failed to protect a 1:0 lead and conceded a late equaliser, drawing 1:1 at Regensburg. They are in third place in the Bundesliga 2 table, only three points away from table toppers Cologne and well on course for a promotion battle. Hamburg SV will play Union Berlin later this evening. They need a draw or a win to take top spot away from Cologne.

Concordia’s first team finally won a game again, 3:1 at home against Rugenbergen. The result has helped the lads to pull away from the relegation zone for now, with only one more league and one cup game to play this year before the winter break. The U23s won 3:1 away to Reinbek, but their chances of promotion remain strictly mathematical at this point as they have lost five games already this season. History pretty much dictates that you don’t get promoted to the next level if you lose five games or more in any given season. But we’ll see.
And the Cordi women’s team got called off as the opposition team couldn’t find 11 fit players to start the game. This now means that the game will be awarded to Concordia with a 3:0 scoreline which is a bit unfair as goal difference may well be crucial when deciding which team gets promoted or not. I know that the girls were keen to play and win by a higher margin, so that 3:0 win by armchair decision doesn’t really do them any favours…

Dawud Marsh's Photo Diary

Hammers Thrashed at London Stadium By Rampant Man City As Arnie Limps Off

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