The HamburgHammer Column
And…they’re off! Like horses or dogs bolting along the track after a sluggish start we have finally hit some stride getting our first win of the season, plus some other nice firsts added on top, making it a really great weekend for West Ham: It was our first win in August since 2016. It was the first goal for our new star striker and record signing Sébastien Haller who scored a brace actually, with two proper striker finishes, one an easy tap-in (but you need to be in the right spot at the right time) and then a lovely bicycle kick, showing both skill and, again, positional awareness.
Which means that West Ham are now officially the first team with 150 different goal-scorers in the Premier League.
For this game my routines were all over the place: First I had to use my West Ham matchday screwdriver for rescuing a trapped wasp from the lighting department of my bathroom cabinet by unscrewing its top board (I usually only use this screwdriver for watching football as most of you will know by now).
Then I forgot to put the kettle on to make some tea for the game (I suppose the heat inside and outside my flat made me yearn for cold beverages rather than steaming hot ones) and I almost forgot to put on a West Ham shirt…but at the end of the day it worked anyway.
What a game this was! I have seen plenty of PL games over the years, but this is already in my personal Top 10 for the simple fact that you couldn’t take your eyes off this one!
In the first 70 seconds we had Watford out of the blocks straight away, with an early and decent shout for a penalty at our end (which got denied), only for West Ham winning a penalty claim of their own with the next move of the game when Manuel Lanzini got caught down the other end after a quick counter attack masterminded by Haller.
Who would take this one though ? Our regular taker, Captain Fantastic, with his dead leg finally back from the deceased, or new boy Haller (also available again after nursing a knock) who is a brilliant sniper from the spot in his own right. No real contest there, Mark Noble took the ball and put us ahead with one of his textbook shots.
Now, let’s get this out of the way here and now: We are a much better team with Noble in it. His contributions sometimes go unnoticed because he tends to do mainly the hidden work on the pitch, the little, yet oh so vital things and he also provides direction and motivation by the bucketload for his teammates. It’s a thankless task sometimes and he’s not getting enough praise and acknowledgment for it in my eyes.
You usually only realise how bloody good Noble is once he is suspended or out injured. When Watford got carte blanche for one of their quick counter strikes which led to the equaliser, with 3 or 4 West Ham players merely jogging back down the pitch, watching the Hornets’ attack unfold with mild interest, Nobes was absolutely spitting fire and rightly so. I reckon he will let these players know again in training this week that such a lackluster effort is unacceptable at West Ham. Jogging is for the local park, in the PL you run.
Numerous times you could see our skipper during the contest, pointing with his arm in a certain direction, identifying a potential pass, or space to run into for his teammates. Like a conductor leading an orchestra with his baton, creating wonderful music for the audience to enjoy, Mark Noble directed our play. Not to forget he is basically a diehard West Ham fan who happens to be on the pitch in order to play for West Ham…
He really made us tick all game long and allowed our creative players to do their thing, with Lanzini and Anderson playing some wonderful stuff, but lacking end product in the first 45 minutes unfortunately. We looked really dangerous though when attacking at pace, but so did Watford which made the game such a great spectacle to watch.
Our defence at this point is still a work in progress, we still looked shaky at times, but only conceded the one goal (although how Watford’s Hughes managed to miss an open net for what would have been their second goal, I will never know). I keep saying how important it is to have consistency at the back, so I would like to see us play the same back four again as often as possible now, so the lads can find some chemistry. If they don’t we can still bring in Balbuena, Cresswell or Zabaleta again.
Haller almost scored a beauty in the first half with an acrobatic scorpion-style back heeler in mid-air that nearly fooled Foster, but thankfully Haller managed to bury two slightly easier opportunities in the second half. When he started hitting the badge with his hand after scoring, I had to cringe for the briefest of moments as I was having a flashback to seeing a certain Austrian fella kissing the badge, but Haller obviously is a different person, so I suppose he can celebrate any way he feels comfortable with…he can even do the crossed hammers or dance around the corner flag next time…;-))
One significant factor that led us on the road to victory was Antonio replacing Yarmolenko. The Ukrainian was very enthusiastic throughout, but it showed that he’s been out for such a long time and that he still isn’t quite up to speed yet. Now, talking of speed, Antonio didn’t waste much time when he came on, causing some instant havoc and making the Watford defence look like ours at times. We showed some classy moves, attacking with pace.
If we had been a bit more ruthless tucking away some of our various other chances created after winning the ball and breaking away quickly (Anderson for instance), we could have given Watford a right old bashing. But three points is three points. And it was nice to see what could lie ahead this season, especially if we can manage to sort out our defence along the way. I for one am fairly optimistic it can be done. Looking at the early league table, level on points with Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham, we can easily improve our position in the league further with a few more wins. And with the worst game out of the way already (Man City), I’d expect us to give it a right good go from now on.
We have a midweek encounter awaiting us in the League Cup tomorrow, somewhere in Wales, Newport to be precise. Fun fact: Newport is the birthplace of James “Ginger Pele“ Collins.
With so many players available for selection and desperate for gametime now, Pellegrini can mix and match things a bit, maybe give Ajete and Chicharito a start. Yarmolenko and Sanchez too probably, with Fornals providing the creative spark. With Snodgrass adding a bit of graft and guts.
Games like these always have the warning “BANANA SKIN” spelled out in giant imaginary letters, of course.
But if our shambolic exit at the hands of Wimbledon last season should yield one positive despite everything else, it should remind our players that it can and will happen again if we are not taking that game and opposition team seriously. Yes, they are not PL quality. But Newport are at home, they are fired up for what could, at least for some of their players, be the biggest game in their careers and their ground will be rocking with a partisan atmosphere for as long as we haven’t scored against them.
I hope our lads turn up and show the Newportonians (or whatever they are called) they should stick to playing rugby maybe…;-))
Hamburg football update: HSV won 4:2 away at Karlsruhe, a truly vital three points gained which helped them to cement their top spot in the league table. Next up is the much loved derby against Hannover…
You can watch how St.Pauli are getting on against Kiel later this evening on BT Sport 3 if you fancy some German football (7:30pm UK time).
Expect a feisty Northern derby in a packed football stadium, a game which the hosts from the red light district cannot afford to lose, given their bad start to the season.
The Concordia first team lost 0:1 away at Niendorf, in a game where hardly any pass found a teammate. Plenty of endeavour, not much football under a mercilessly burning sun.
The Cordi U23s beat St.Pauli’s fifth string by a 6:0 scoreline which was surprising as St.Pauli were top of the table before the start of the game.
The Cordi Women’s team unfortunately lost their first home game this season 1:3. The girls need to come to terms with the fact that every team they’re facing now will be stronger than any of the teams they played against last season. Steep learning curve ahead.