Before the referendum, Boris Johnson wrote two articles, one outlining the benefits of the EU and the other urging us to leave. The rest is history.
I feel the same about the game against Manchester City. I’ll start, therefore ,with the positive. The game against Manchester City should be considered an extension of our series of friendlies, as it will be irrelevant to our run in the Premier league. When the opposition can field a side, where the substitute bench is worth £280 million, it was always highly unlikely we would achieve even a draw.
I thought the outcome(negative) would be determined in the first twenty minutes, but I was wrong. We showed real commitment, hassled them on the ball and made them make several mistakes. We demonstrated, unlike many games last season, we could actually pass the ball, although the final pass in their half was lacking. With a bit of luck, we could have got them rattled.
I liked the look of Haller. He controlled the ball well on several occasions and showed commitment in defence. He could become the replacement for Andy Carroll who doesn’t get injured. Fredericks also demonstrated he was progressing well and Kyle Walker showed him how he could use his speed to devastating effect.
I can’t understand why we don’t make more use of free kicks we get just inside the opposition half. They should be used, as one would use a corner. Instead, we make a short pass and within a few seconds the opposition has the ball. Also, we need to stop that lunatic one two (usually between Snodgrass and Anderson), which may work in practice, but has never worked in real play.
I thought the crowd were excellent until the first goal. They were completely bemused by VAR and the end of the game, one felt one should have watched the game on TV, in order to understanding the VAR decisions. Why can’t the VAR replays be shown on the TV and the decisions explained to the crowd? The VAR decision were correct, especially where Rice encroached on the penalty area and was first to the ball after Fabianski had saved.
The referee definitely favoured Manchester City. Time after time, he refused to yellow card players who were making cynical fouls to stop attacks. The slow motion replays I watched after the game reinforced my view.
That’s about it on the positive side.
After the game, Pellegrini said we had to show more strength in defence. This annoyed me intensely, as under his watch, we played a suicide formation. As our general, he should show more flexibility. Instead , he reminded me of a First World War commander, sending his forces forward and ignoring the devastating results. There is no doubt in my mind that we need to play three at the back and have full backs who can defend.
Cresswell is a disaster. How many comments were there about him pre-season? He has completely lost his ability to defend and most of the time can be seen lurking halfway up the pitch looking lost. Pellegrini, who must be deaf and probably can’t read English, so doesn’t read the criticism, made him captain instead. Why did we not bring in a proper full back during the transfer window?
In our next games, we need to capture the spirit of those first twenty minutes. We need to ensure we don’t give the opposition too much time on the ball. Also, we need to learn a lesson from Man City and speed up our play as we get nearer the opposition goal. Man City are a brilliant side and I hope this debacle is quickly put aside.
With so many of the pre-season matches televised over here on ESPN, it would have been a good idea for me to have my little pre-season and maybe do a report or two. You know, as a warm up. Obviously like any pre-season, the result of my writing would not have mattered. Just getting that game time in, letting both of my pointer fingers get some minutes under their belts would have been useful. It didn’t happen. Thankfully, the transfer deadline has passed. And with Iain busy up in Edinburgh chatting with movers and shakers he didn’t have time to line up a replacement for me from KUMB or Claret & Hugh.
So here I is, ready to rock and roll for my seventh season spinning my words for you folks.
August is not a time for optimism. The last time we won in the muggiest of months was in 2016 against Bournemouth. Gokhan Tore assisted on the goal, which should add perspective. So to expect more than a performance worthy of our praise would be a stretch to say the least. It’s arguable if we got that, even in spurts.
The first attempt of the match came in the tenth minute when Mahrez forced Fabianski into a diving save to his right. But the fact that it was the Champions first real look at goal, and that the Hammers had looked comfortable on the ball and even pressed City into a few mistakes was encouraging. I bet in their minds a few of the visitors were even annoyed we refused to let them do what they wanted to do.
Manchester City probably should have taken the lead in the 21st minute when Mahrez got the ball from Sterling inside the West Ham eighteen yard box, beat Cresswell, and had an open look at goal. He should have scored. He didn’t even hit the net. The Hammers countered moments later, but Wilshere tried to roll the ball to Anderson on the right but gave it away instead.
The inevitable happened in the 25th minute when Walker went past Cresswell like the left back was standing still. He latched on to a perfectly weighted pass and sent a low cross into the box. Diop tried to slide in for the block, but deflected the ball into the path of Jesus who flicked it past Fabianski.
West Ham 0
Manchester City 1
The goal seemed to wake up the title holders. They pressed Fredericks into a bad giveaway in the box, and then Walker fed Mahrez on the right but the ball into the box just missed Jesus for what very well might have been an early brace.
West Ham tried to assert some authority and get back into the match, and for a second it looked like the home side might have had a penalty shout when Zinchenko took down Lanzini in the box. But replays, both at home and likely in the new VAR headquarters, showed it was a good tackle. Moments later Haller got the ball ten yards from goal and tried a half bicycle kick, a bicycle kick with training wheels if you will, but it was an easy stop for Ederson.
City played their free flowing football as the opening forty-five minutes ticked on, and the Hammers on the whole looked a bit deflated. They put most of the side behind the ball, with Haller and sometimes Antonio up the field hoping for a long pass. De Bruyne tested Fabianski with a quick strike from 15 yards out, but the Hammer Of The Year made easy work of it.
In the 41st minute, West Ham won a free kick from just inside the Manchester City half. While the desire to play the ball on the floor to a goal scoring opportunity is laudable, at times a ball into the box is warranted. I, for one, was hoping for a hopeful delivery into the box. Instead we got three or four short passes before losing possession.
The one thing Diop needs to work on is his decision making. It’s as if his mind and his feet have regular arguments on the pitch, and those fractions of seconds lead to problems. In first half injury time, Diop got the ball in the West Ham box. Internal conflict ensued, and he gave the ball right to Jesus. The Brazilian tried to lob the ball over Fabianski but didn’t get the required height and West Ham were spared.
West Ham 0
Manchester City 1
I kind of expected a substitution for the start of the second half. Fornals coming on was one of them. But with Zinchenko looking vulnerable I thought Pellegrini would stick with Antonio a bit longer. That’s why I sell wine, I guess.
The Champions doubled their lead in the 51st minute when De Bruyne led an attack down the middle. His ability to hold the ball, to keep a run going until the last possible second is impressive. He rolled a pass to Sterling on his left, who calmly slotted it past Fabianski. Then, while writing this paragraph, history was made. Manchester City scored a third after some lovely work on the left. But there was a call for VAR, and the armpit…..yeah, the armpit….of Sterling was an armpit hair offside and the goal was disallowed. Technically, he was off. But in terms of the spirit of the game, it was so close and there is no way a human being could have seen that. Well, maybe Iron Man with those gizmos in his suit, but sadly he is no longer with us.
Yet that moment in history may have also been a sneak peak into something many supporters of so called smaller clubs have said for years. The big sides get all those breaks, and now the playing field may have leveled a bit. You would not be wrong to wonder if the exact same play had been on the other side of the pitch, would the flag have gone up simply because the linesman would likely assume such a goal could not be scored against a behemoth like City?
West Ham had a free kick from the left side of the City eighteen yard box in the 60th minute, and Snodgrass was the man to take it. His delivery was good, Haller got on the end of it, but it went over the bar.
The home side made their third and final substitution in the 65th minute when Anderson came off due to an apparent injury. On came Chicharito in his shiny new number 9 kit. From a Man Bun to a platinum blonde from a bottle, that number has seen some interesting times.
As the second half moved into it’s final chapter, West Ham came inches from making the match interesting. Chicharito got on the end of a cross and forced Ederson into Good Save Number 1. The rebound came out to Lanzini who tried to head it into the near corner, but Ederson made Good Save Number 2 with his right hand, and even kept the ball in play to deny West Ham a corner.
Seconds later, Manchester City came back down the pitch. Mahrez sent a ball over the West Ham back line and onto the run of Sterling. The England international received the ball and cooly lobbed it over Fabianski. VAR took a look again, but this time the goal stood. The fine margins that could have seen it 1-2 with some excitement at the end turned on its head to 0-3.
In the 83rd minute Fabianski made a very bad clearance right to Mahrez. Diop did the best he could I guess under the circumstances but it was still a penalty. Aguero did not strike the ball well, and Fabianski made the save. Buuuuuuuuutttttt. VAR saw Rice encroach, and the penalty was retaken. No mistake that time.
In added time, Sterling scored again, sealing his hat trick. Diop was flat footed. Yuk.
West Ham 0
Manchester City 5
I’m going to go against my own grain here and throw some positivity out there. We played better on the attack against them than I can recall since Pep arrived there. We lacked that final ball into the area, but our possession stats suggest the style of play will work against the majority of the sides we will face this season. But the goals we conceded were partly due to our frailties at the back. It’s one thing to lose by two, even three, on the opening weekend. But five leaves a bad taste, even against these guys.
Hello and welcome to my first preview of the 2019/20 campaign as I enter my sixth season of writing for WHTID. I’m also delighted to announce that my wife and I have welcomed our first baby into the world over the summer break. Our son, Joey, was born last Friday, 2nd August, at 7.16pm weighing 9lb 6oz. A new addition to the West Ham family!
Blast from the past
13th December 1930 – Ramsay MacDonald was Labour Prime Minister as the country navigated its way through the Great Depression, former Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody was born the day before and composer Peter Warlock died four days later as West Ham United emerged victorious from a First Division encounter against Manchester City with a 2-0 win in front of 19,875.
The Hammers came into the game on the back of a nine-game unbeaten run (consisting of six wins and three draws) which had started back in mid-October with a 5-1 home win over Manchester United. City arrived in east London with two England internationals in their team, centre-half Sam Cowan and outside-left Eric Brook, while future Manchester United manager Matt Busby played for the visitors at right-half. West Ham, meanwhile, were without two of their own England internationals, goalkeeper Ted Hufton and legendary goalscorer Vic Watson. Viv Gibbins, who would be the Irons’ top goalscorer in this 1930/31 season with 19 goals from 22 appearances, was also absent.
The hosts, however, did have their other three England internationals on display in Jim Barrett, Stan Earle and Jimmy Ruffell – indeed, it was outside-left Ruffell (pictured) who scored both West Ham’s goals in this 2-0 triumph over Manchester City. He would hit 13 goals in 38 appearances during the 1930/31 season. What was now a ten-match unbeaten run for the Irons came to an abrupt end the following week with a 6-1 savaging at Sunderland.
This victory over the Sky Blues though was West Ham’s tenth win from their first 19 fixtures of the 1930/31 campaign and elevated the club into third place in the First Division table 12 days before Christmas. However, only four victories from the remaining 23 fixtures saw Syd King’s Hammers slump to an eventual 18th-place finish, only five points clear of relegation. Peter Hodge’s City ended up in eighth place – Manchester United were relegated in bottom position. Arsenal won the league title and West Brom won the FA Cup.
West Ham United: Bob Dixon, Alfred Earl, Reg Wade, Jimmy Collins, Fred Norris, Albert Cadwell, Tommy Yews, Stan Earle, Jim Barrett, Wilf James, Jimmy Ruffell.
Manchester City: Len Langford, John Ridley, Laurie Barnett, Matt Busby, Sam Cowan, Jackie Bray, Ernie Toseland, Bobby Marshall, Dave Halliday, Fred Tilson, Eric Brook.
Pablo Zabaleta and Manuel Pellegrini welcome their former club. A large group of players join them in having represented West Ham United and Manchester City. Divided by playing position, they include:
Goalkeepers – Joe Hart, Perry Suckling, David James.
Defenders – Tal Ben Haim, Tyrone Mears, Wayne Bridge.
Midfielders – Samir Nasri, Marc-Vivien Foe, Kevin Horlock, Patrick Leonard, James Cumming, Eyal Berkovic, Steve Lomas, Frank Lampard Junior, John Payne, Michael Hughes, Ian Bishop, Trevor Sinclair.
Strikers – Paulo Wanchope, Bill Davidson, Carlos Tevez, Craig Bellamy, Phil Woosnam, Justin Fashanu, Trevor Morley, Clive Allen, Lionel Watson, David Cross, George Webb.
Stuart Pearce played for both clubs and has managed Manchester City. Malcolm Allison and John Bond were also West Ham players who went on to manage City.
Today’s focus though falls on a player who spent four-and-a-half seasons with West Ham before moving to Manchester City – Mark Ward. Born in Prescot, Lancashire on 10th October 1962, Ward started his career in the youth team at Everton but, at 5’6, was told he was too small to play top-flight football. He signed for non-league Northwich Victoria in 1981 and worked in a bakery. After two years with the Vics, Ward signed for Second Division Oldham in 1983 and spent two seasons at Boundary Park under Joe Royle. By the summer of 1985, John Lyall had seen enough of the tenacious 22-year-old right-winger to bring him to the Boleyn Ground for an initial fee of £225,000.
‘Wardie’ made his Hammers debut on the opening day of the 1985/86 campaign in a 1-0 defeat at Birmingham on 17th August 1985 and scored his first goal for the club in a 2-1 win at Oxford on 9th November 1985. Ward’s first Upton Park goal came a week later in another 2-1 win, this time over Watford. He played a prominent part in West Ham United’s highest-ever top-flight finish that season as the Hammers finished third – his ever-present record of 52 appearances in 1985/86 was the joint-most of any player in the squad, alongside Phil Parkes and Tony Gale. Surpassing 25 appearances ensured former club Oldham received an extra £25,000 as part of the transfer, taking the total fee to £250,000. Ward’s crosses created plenty of goals for sharp-shooters Tony Cottee and Frank McAvennie, while a strong work ethic ensured he tracked back to support Ray Stewart behind him at right-back. His third and final goal of the campaign came in a 2-1 home win over Manchester United on 2nd February 1986.
Ward was voted runner-up to Billy Bonds in the Hammer of the Year voting for 1986/87 but the Hammers slumped to a 15th-place finish – he made 49 appearances, again scoring three goals. Two of these strikes came in the League Cup, the first in a 1-1 second round first leg draw at Preston on 23rd September 1986 and the second in a 3-2 win at Watford in the next round on 29th October. His only league goal came in a 1-1 home draw against Newcastle on 2nd May 1987.
The diminutive Ward was sent off twice before Christmas in the 1987/88 season, in a 1-1 draw at Wimbledon on 12th September and a 2-1 home win over Southampton on 5th December. He made 42 appearances during a campaign which saw the Irons finish 16th, scoring once, in a 1-1 home draw against Oxford on 5th March 1988. Ward made 41 appearances in 1988/89 but West Ham would be relegated from the top flight – he scored twice, the first in a 1-0 win at Wimbledon on 10th September 1988 and the other in a 2-1 victory at Newcastle on 3rd May 1989. He was sent off for the third time in his Hammers career in a 1-0 FA Cup fifth round win at Charlton on 18th February 1989.
With McAvennie and Cottee both departing before the 1988/89 season, and the sacking of Lyall at the end of that campaign, Ward became unsettled and ultimately clashed with new manager Lou Macari. Ward scored in a 1-1 draw at Hull on 2nd September 1989 and bagged a brace in a 2-0 triumph at Sheffield United on 14th October. Later that month, however, Ward missed the team coach travelling to Aston Villa for a League Cup third round tie and the PFA were called in to mediate. Ward went on to score in a 5-4 defeat at Blackburn on 25th November and scored his fifth goal of the season in a 2-1 defeat at Bradford on 9th December 1989 – it would be his final goal for the club. Determined to get away from Upton Park, his last appearance in a West Ham shirt came in a 1-0 defeat at Ipswich on Boxing Day 1989. After 14 goals in 209 appearances for West Ham United, Ward returned to the First Division to sign for Howard Kendall’s Manchester City in a £1m-rated swap deal that saw Ian Bishop and Trevor Morley move to east London. 11 of Ward’s 14 goals for West Ham United can be viewed in the video below.
Ward made his debut for City on 30th December 1989 in a 2-0 win over Millwall at Maine Road and scored his first goal for the club in a 2-1 victory at Aston Villa on 1st April 1990. He made it three goals in as many matches by also scoring in a 1-1 draw at Millwall the following weekend and in a 3-1 win at QPR four days after that. Ward only missed two games in 1990/91, scoring 13 goals as the Sky Blues finished fifth. His final goal for City came in a 2-2 draw at Arsenal on 17th April 1991, with his last appearance for the club coming in a 1-0 defeat at local rivals Manchester United on 4th May 1991. After 18 months at Manchester City, in which he scored 16 goals in 67 appearances, Ward moved back to his native Merseyside to sign for Everton for £1.1m – the club which had released him as a schoolboy.
After two-and-a-half seasons at Goodison Park, Ward went on to represent Birmingham as a player-coach from 1994 to 1996, with whom he won the Football League Trophy in 1995 and was named in the Second Division PFA Team of the Year for 1994/95, before joining Huddersfield. He also played for Ayr United, Wigan, Dundee and Valur in Iceland before ending his career with spells at Altrincham and Leigh RMI.
Since retiring from playing in 1999, Ward managed Altrincham from 2000 to 2001. He became involved in the supply of cocaine in Liverpool and was arrested after 4kg of cocaine was found during a raid at a house in Merseyside in May 2005. Ward was jailed for eight years in October 2005 – he was released from HM Prison Kirkham in May 2009, having served four years in Kirkham and in HM Prison Liverpool. Now 56, Ward is a regular at events involving the Boys of ’86 and attended games at London Stadium last season.
Saturday’s referee will be Mike Dean; 2019/20 is Dean’s 20th as a Premier League referee. Since West Ham United achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 Dean has refereed 23 of our league matches, officiating in ten wins for the Hammers, seven draws and six defeats.
Dean refereed our final match at the Boleyn when we famously triumphed 3-2 over Manchester United. His decision to send off Sofiane Feghouli just 15 minutes into our 2-0 defeat to the Red Devils in January 2017 was later rescinded. Dean’s two Hammers appointments last season were the goalless home draw with Chelsea last September and, most recently, our 2-0 win at Fulham in December.
The VAR Official is David Coote.
West Ham United have captain Mark Noble on the injury list, but last season’s Hammer of the Year Lukasz Fabianski is available. The Hammers have lost their four previous matches against Manchester City at London Stadium by an aggregate score of 17-1, Aaron Cresswell scoring the Irons’ goal. Indeed, City are the only visiting team to have won four times at London Stadium. The Irons are beginning the season against an established top-six side for the sixth successive year. They lost four of their previous five, with the exception being a 2-0 win at Arsenal under Slaven Bilic in 2015.
Manchester City will be without Benjamin Mendy and Leroy Sane. Pep Guardiola has a doubt over Fernandinho but Aymeric Laporte could be available. Right-back Joao Cancelo could make his debut for the Sky Blues. David Silva has scored five and assisted two goals in his six away matches against West Ham for City in all competitions, scoring in all three of the matches he’s played at London Stadium. The Sky Blues are unbeaten in their last ten opening Premier League fixtures, winning nine.
Possible West Ham United XI: Fabianski; Fredericks, Balbuena, Diop, Cresswell; Rice, Wilshere; Lanzini, Fornals, Anderson; Haller.
Possible Manchester City XI: Ederson; Cancelo, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko; Rodri, De Bruyne, David Silva; Bernardo Silva, Jesus, Sterling.
Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!
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There is little doubt in my mind that we now have the strongest squad we have had in the last fiftee years. Our midfield is as strong as any outside the top four. My only real worry is that we are a little light on backup strikers.
There’s no doubt who is number one, so Fabianski gets the nod
Diop and Balbuena were outstanding last season and will undoubtedly start the season as our first choice pairing.
Ben Johnson could be the surprise of the season but Ryan Fredericks will be seeking to cement his first choice position. He will start as number one at right back, but I wonder whether that’s where he’ll finish. On the left hand side I would play Aaron Cresswell, but I suspect the manager may disagree, with Masuaku starting as first choice.
Here’s where the fun starts. Rice is an automatic choice and Wilshere has had a fantastic pre-season. Manuel Lanzini will surely the the other first choice midfield if we’re playing 4-3-3, but it may be that Fornals then takes one of the forward positions.
Haller will obviously be an automatic choice, with Anderson on the left. Yarmolenko has looked good but I would have thought Michael Antonio ought to get the nod against Manchester City.
So here’s our first eleve to start with…