The GoatyGav Column

Drubbing Has Not Defeated The, Sebastien Inspired, Sanguine Spirit

That was tough viewing in the second half. My brother and I were very pleased with what we saw in the first forty-five minutes. Apart from the goal, once again conceded from the left side of the pitch which caught the defence flat footed, the signs were very encouraging. The half time beer, like the football that preceded it, was crisp and lively with only the fizzy quality of both the Amstel and Walker’s run and cross unpleasant on the palate.

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The key cause for my optimism for the forthcoming season, however, is the contribution of Haller’s debut. He barely put a foot wrong and was instrumental in virtually all of what was good about the first half. Despite not training with the team for very long and having had less of a pre-season to many other players he was my West Ham man of the match by some distance. I thought that Arnie could provide a positive impact on a match however Haller is going to leave the Austrian former West Ham player’s contributions in the shade.
I can understand fans jitters when it comes to early season form. Once bitten twice shy is an easily induced position to hold after four straight defeats at the start of last season but I really don’t think we should be concerned. The start of 2019-20 sees a completely different situation for the team. With a total of six incoming players, of which only four are outfield, there’s nowhere near as much new blood to our starting line-up and with a more established team we’ll be a far more cohesive unit coming out of the blocks this time around.
So why such a poor second half than first then? Well it was simply a question of Man City improving as the game went on. Frankly I’m pleased the game finished when it did as we could easily have conceded more. That said our final ball and finishing were both well below the standard of our opponents. For me that was the biggest difference on Saturday afternoon.

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All that said there is still the ‘one half’ syndrome that has plagued the team for years now. Seldom has the team played well in both halves of a match. This is something that really does need addressing. I’m not convinced it’s down to fitness. Maybe we have players who feel that they can take their foot off the gas for periods during the game? Perhaps it’s a confidence thing? There was definitely an element of the latter on Saturday as the City players seemed to anticipate practically everything we did when in possession – a fact backed up by the stated stat of their 13 interceptions. Tactical fouls by City or not there’s no getting away from the fact that we played poorly in the latter half of the game compared to the earlier one. The streetwise nature of Pep’s team, with their thirteen fouls to our five, was a factor in the win but not a major one.
The stats from the game opens one’s eyes. An improved 44/56 possession ratio is an improvement on previous encounters with the PL Champions. Territorially we weren’t so inferior either – with 23.4% of play in City’s final third and 49.6% in the middle. Overall passes of 403 vs 547 with accuracy of 80.6% vs 86.5% (Source: Skysports) looks better than previous games too. There is, however, only one stat that matters. The amount of goals conceded in the last five games against City, compared to those scored, doesn’t make great reading.

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The VAR thing’s been done to death. Personally I think it’s a good thing. If it means fairer outcomes and help for ref then it’s got my approval.

I expect us to look far better against a decent Brighton next week. If the team can just keep an intensity going for the 90 minutes I genuinely think we’ll come away with all three points and be far happier Hammers come five o’clock on Saturday. Frankly the sooner we can get result against the Citizens out of our system the better.
I’ll be writing next week’s piece from Barcelona. I feel a cheeky stadium tour coming on for my boys, my younger lad’s mate who is with us, and I despite it being a ‘family’ holiday. You never know – I might even treat M’Julie to a trip to the Camp Nou. She really doesn’t know how lucky she is having such a considerate husband as me.

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Elsewhere I binge watched the Jack Sullivan documentaries on the BBC this weekend. Was even featured in episode 9 for a split second, with phone to my ear, at the start when they were showing some of the Ladies semi-final at Adams Park. There’s definitely a more engaged West Ham Women fan in me this season than at the start of last. If I had time to use it I’d have got a ST for the WSL games at Rush Green as well as the men’s first team this term. I will, however, try and get to as many games as I can to shout the girls on. I know that a number of last season’s squad have moved on to make way for new players but I was pleased to see the familiar faces from 2018-19 that are still on the roster. I look forward to their first game on the first of September and wish them all the best for the forthcoming season.

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Lastly, but definitely not least, I’d like to go on record to wish Dan Coker and his family my heartiest congratulations on his new arrival. Such a special time – made up for you mate :D . All the best with it – hope the babe settles in to a decent sleeping pattern as soon as possible.

COME ON YOU RIP ROARIN’ IRONS!


The HamburgHammer Column

City taking our pocket money again - but they're not on our route every week

The new season begins, every fan up and down the country is ready, excited, hopeful it’ll be maybe a better season than the one before.
Us West Ham nuts were especially eager to see the new signings in action and maybe giving the current league champions a run for their money.

And what do they do, on your own patch as well ?
They bully you, make you look stupid and exposed in the second half and stroll away at the end with your pocket money jingling mercilessly in their fingers. While you’re heading back home, empty handed, gaze fixed at your shoes, tail between your legs…

That first defeat of the season was hard to take, harder to watch and unfortunately it was the same old capitulation against Manchester City at the London Stadium we’ve seen before. In all the previous games between the sides in London so far, it’s never really been much of a contest.
We should be used to it by now, but as fans we simply don’t want to get used to it. The defeat didn’t come as a surprise.
The manner of it was a bitter pill to swallow, but we shall regroup and move on.

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This time, we at least played well first half. Really well, actually. We went at them, ran, chased and pressed, created chances too, put plenty of effort in, failed to score and then conceded a very unlucky first goal down the other end.

Then second half arrived and we were suddenly lacking the energy displayed in the first half. And so Man City started to do their thing, taking opposing teams apart at will, with two or three clinical passes, pouncing on any mistake or weakness, with the same kind of empathy that a pack of hounds might show when being in sight of the fox they’ve been hunting down for the best part of an hour.

First half was a football game, second half was a training exercise. I hope we learned our lesson.

Then again, we won’t be playing opposition like City every week, a thoroughly well-assembled team of superstar players, on the pitch and on the bench, million for million a world-class squad, managed by one of the best tacticians in world football. 0:5 defeats at home shouldn’t happen. But they do happen of course.

It’s down to the gulf in finances leading to a gulf in quality between teams playing in the PL. In truth, City are now playing pretty much in a league of their own, only briefly entered by teams like Liverpool. Or Manchester United or Chelsea whenever they have a good season.

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We shouldn’t read too much into that result or over-react. Second half wasn’t good enough, granted. But I still feel very confident about our squad this season, despite the Man City drubbing.

Haller already looks highly promising and given the right support upfront will be fantastic for us.
Fornals may need a bit longer to adjust to the pace of PL football, but he will be good for us too. The young Swiss striker Ajete will be another option for us I am extremely excited about, same as the kid we picked up from Portugal in defence.

Pellegrini’s plan clearly is to play positive and attack-minded football, sacrificing clean sheets at the back in the process. Going for a barnstorming 4:3 win rather than drawing 0:0.
I like this approach. I was unhappy during the Allardyce reign because of his ludicrous “Respect the point” philosophy. As a football fan, I don’t want to be bored senseless.
It’s called “The beautiful game” for a reason. I am not sure the football gods had Catenaccio in mind when inventing the game. Of course you lose some games this way, but I’d rather lose occasionally while trying to win every game, to be brutally honest.

West Ham fans have been crying out for our team to try and play the kind of football that’s pleasing on the eye, the West Ham way, trying to score goals at every opportunity. We are doing that now under Pellegrini. It’s not gonna work all the time and defending indeed is not our forte. Hopefully that can be improved on though in training.
However, I am grateful that Pellegrini is trying to inject a philosophy into our club of playing attractive football. Given some more time for the players to gel, the results will follow, that is my firm belief.

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A quick word on VAR. I said before I am a fan, I understand though that it will take some time to get everyone adjusted and tuned into how it works. I felt that the delays were tolerable, in most cases there wasn’t even much of a delay to begin with. There are still calls that are incredibly close, even after watching several replays some of those offside decisions looked 50/50 to me and it’s not much easier for the actual guy doing the VAR. But I am happy with VAR finally be up and running in the PL as well and I am certain people will come to appreciate its merits in the near future. You still win some and lose some, but overall it will, hopefully, make for a more level playing field in the league.

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Next game away to Brighton won’t be easy, no PL game is these days. And Brighton have started the season on fire, taking Watford to the cleaners. They will be tough opposition, playing their first home game this season against us, but I’m expecting a reaction from our lads on the pitch, I’m also expecting changes to our line-up, especially as Felipe Anderson was limping off which made it look as if he might be out for a week or two at least. Good opportunity for Yarmolenko or Fornals to step up to the plate.

COYI!!!

Hamburg football update: I know that especially our own Nigel Kahn is waiting eagerly for this segment…;-))
Let me tell you, I am aware that most on here don’t give a hoot about any football results from Hamburg, be that the two big clubs or that little club of mine that’s kicking balls about pitches at the 5th level of the league pyramid in Germany: Concordia.

However, I am deliberately putting this bit at the end, so people can choose to ignore it or read on. And I know some of you have been to Hamburg before and have at least a fleeting interest in German football, we even have a Freiburg supporter on here.

So, here we go. For the big clubs it was cup weekend. St.Pauli were playing in a feisty North German derby away at Luebeck, a game craved by the fans and cursed by the local authorities and police forces who had to oversee that game. Fortunately, St.Pauli managed a narrow win after extra time and penalties against their bitter rivals from the fourth tier of German football (think of it like Millwall, we no longer play them regularly, but when we play them in the cup it’s potential carnage).

Hamburg SV were away too, against a club fighting for its very existence off the pitch at present for monetary reasons, Chemnitz from East Germany. Hamburg SV didn’t show much swagger on the pitch though and only just prevailed. A poor showing, but a win nonetheless. Just like St.Pauli they had to survive a penalty shootout.

It was a highly successful weekend for Concordia too, starting with the home game of the first team on Friday evening, in the pouring rain, beating one of the top sides in the division, Victoria, by a 2:1 scoreline. The game had everything, good passing, feisty challenges, a red card, a penalty and the right team winning of course.

If you fancy it, the highlights of that game can be watched in the clip below. Six points out of a possible nine represent a very decent start to the season for this new Cordi team. They look like a talented group of players, all showing the right attitude and application straight off the bat. You can clearly see a difference in terms of team spirit and effort already, compared to the previous nightmare of a season.

Then, yesterday, the Cordi U23s also won at home, 5:1, compensating for that horrible 1:7 away defeat in last weekend’s game. They are also on six points from three games now and ready to gun for promotion again.

The Cordi women’s team didn’t play, they are kicking off their league season with an away game next Sunday.


Match Report

Pellegrini - Our First World War General

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.


David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 0, Manchester City 5. Glad It's Over.

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.

Halftime
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.

West Ham 0
Manchester City 2

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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.

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West Ham 0
Manchester City 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.

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West Ham 0
Manchester City 4

In added time, Sterling scored again, sealing his hat trick. Diop was flat footed. Yuk.

Final Score
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.

I’m glad we got this one out of the way.


Match Thread

Match Thread: West Ham v Manchester City

West Ham v Manchester City
FA Premier League
London Stadium
KO 12.30pm
TV: BT Sport
Radio: talkSport

Think of me in an Edinburgh bar watching this, no doubt the only Hammers supporter there. Hey ho.

Please use this thread to comment on the match as it progresses.


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