Talking Point

“Abandon hope all ye who enter here”

I try my hardest to be optimistic about West Ham but Pellegrini is making it near impossible to view the upcoming league games after the international break with any real confidence and excitement. As West Ham fans we’ve been accustomed to peaks and troughs as a football club, with the peaks few and far between in recent history, but it looks particularly grim as we begin to look towards a busy festive schedule with tough games.

I’ve no doubt regardless of how hard some fans will have tried to stop thinking about West Ham and the miserable state of affairs going on at the club, we have all seen the speculation about Pellegrini’s future, and who might eventually replace him. You have to think the board will stick with the Chilean for as long as possible, especially given it will reportedly cost anywhere up to £20 million pounds to get rid of the 66 year old and his backroom staff. However, if the former Man City manager cannot arrest the depressing slump in form which personally I don’t think he will, he’ll have to be shown the door because of both poor results and performances that’ll see us perhaps in a relegation battle. I have no doubt I’m repeating what most fans have already seen or feel, but to achieve 1 point out of a possible 12 against Everton, Sheffield United, Newcastle and Burnley is unacceptable. I do subscribe to the view that sections of the fan base overrate our team and chances of competing for the European spots and I certainly have done for quite a while. Although, when our manager is on around £7 million a year and I believe is the best paid manager after Guardiola and Klopp, we understandably should expect better results and performances.

With the exception of Norwich at home, I’m not sure we’ve actually played well in any other game. The wins against Watford and Manchester United were more about the opposition being poor as opposed to us playing extremely well. With Spurs at home up first after the break, obviously we always want to win and especially against them but I think we’ll struggle if the manager persists with his stubborn tactics and formation which sees Haller consistently isolated.

One way or another I don’t think Pellegrini will be managing us come the end of the season but, if he is, I would expect a new man in the dugout for the start of the 2020/2021 campaign. We’ve got some great results under the Chilean’s stewardship but he is not flexible enough with changing formation and his substitutions are often poor and incredibly predictable. Questions that I imagine most of us fans have asked this campaign about Pellegrini include his bizarre inclusion of 34 year old Zabaleta who is painfully slow up against Saint Maximin who is rapid. Other decisions include Balbuena’s return to the team when Ogbonna had been our best centre half; you feel the Italian surely has to return to the starting line-up against Spurs.

In an attempt to look for a glimpse of optimism, I thought while writing this about the routes to us getting better… When the London stadium announcer declaims Fabianski’s name in a starting 11 that may well get the biggest cheer all season as he will certainly help. I tried to defend Roberto but after his outing at Turf Moor and the previous week against Newcastle he is indefensible. He is just bad, he has made some reasonable saves but he flaps at everything and gives the defence no confidence whatsoever. Our Polish No. 1 has been superb for us and has been missed massively, both last season and up until his injury he was covering up how poor the defence has been and continues to be. A statistic to prove how bad our defending has been: Burnley average 4.1 shots on target and against us had 12, likewise Newcastle were averaging 3.4 and had 9 at the London Stadium. Those statistics are a damning indictment on this team’s ability to defend.

Whether it’s in January or in the summer, the club must look for a dynamic midfield partner for Declan Rice. In interviews recently, Mark Noble has effectively admitted he did not expect to be playing as much football this season and, while he always puts in a shift, the midfield desperately needs more balance. A dynamic and energetic midfielder would lift some of the pressure off Rice who at the moment has to cover every blade of grass to cover for Noble’s lack of mobility, while also allowing the attacking players more license to stay forward a bit more at times. Look at the likes of Ndidi at Leicester, his elite defensive contribution allows the likes of Tielemans and Maddison to go forward. Even Nakamba at Aston Villa who is dynamic and wins the ball back well has improved them. We need a player like that who can play alongside Rice and immediately we would look a more balanced side, my concern is that under our current manager this crucial issue has not been addressed.

I hope everyone enjoys not having to watch West Ham this weekend but we must hope that we can get three points against Spurs. Ultimately though I think it’s going to get worse before hopefully getting better. We must keep hoping despite how difficult the board, manager and players make it!

Trust everyone is well, and has a good week!


The GoatyGav Column

Billy Big Ballsers Or Basically Besieged And Battered

I don’t know about you but it feels like 2019 has kicked the crap out of me. As a nation we’ve become the butt of numerous jokes, have endured unprecedented levels of uncertainty in our economy, have had to put up with important procedural decisions being delayed because of that uncertainty, felt at my fellow Britons’ throats in this divisive environment and have lost any kind of optimism about the short and medium term future. To top it all off the weather is bringing even more misery than usual – especially for those poor souls having to endure flooding. Overall not a million miles away from how we’re currently feeling as West Ham fans.

In last week’s article I put forward one aspect of why I believe the team’s confidence has nosedived. Like any kind of crash, however, it’s never down to one single factor.

Since his arrival Manuel Pellegrini has spoken of installing a ‘Big Team’ mentality to the squad. Frankly I like the cut of his jib in this respect. He’s very familiar with this kind of self-belief due to his previous managerial roles in the game. You don’t get as far as he has without knowing what you’re talking about and I’m sure that he has utter conviction in his belief that he can get the players in to this mind-set. But will this work for every player, at all times, or is there a negative aspect of this ‘confident’ attitude? I wonder if some of the players started to believe their own hype a little and found that, all of a sudden, they went off the boil due to their ‘I’m the man now’ arrogance. There’s a very fine line between confidence and arrogance and the latter can often have a negative effect.

As I’ve watched recent matches player’s energy levels seemed to have dropped away. Earlier in the season there was a zip and a crispness about our pass and move that’s been absent for some time. The team weren’t converting every chance but were creating so many good opportunities that it didn’t seem to matter and was enough to win games. More recently it appears that the team are desperately short on ideas as the ball appears to be moving much slower. The whole approach seems laboured and lethargic to my eyes. What’s gone on to create this I’ve no idea. Has the dressing room been hit by colds and flu bugs? Are training sessions ‘coaching’ the intensity out of the team? Are the players simply not in sufficiently top condition to give the same, energetic, performances that took us to fifth place in the Prem? Whatever the reason is the first team are in an extremely worrying trough at the moment as all concerned, staff and fans alike, are starting to look down the table, instead of up it, with major apprehension.

When the going gets tough the tough get going. Question is exactly how tough, or resilient, is this squad. This needs turning around and turning around immediately. Last time out the international break came at a most inconvenient time. The team were playing confidently and well so we really could have done without the squad breaking up to go and play for their national sides. This time it’s just about the best thing that could have happened to West Ham. Players can get away to fresh environments, play for their respective countries and come back to ‘go again’ against the Spuds on the 23rd. The upcoming fixture list looks daunting however that’s usually the time that West Ham knuckle down and ‘put it in’. Let’s hope the lads can use this change, break, or whatever you want to call it to reset and return to go at it with alacrity.

Nothing further to report on the Ladies or PL2 teams this week, as they have not played any fixtures since my last post on here, however the U21 squad travel to Exeter to play their EFL ‘Leasing.Com’ Trophy match against the team at the top of group M. Since getting off to a flyer in League two this season Exeter City have only won once in their last four League fixtures. Earning a creditable draw away to fellow League two opposition, Cambridge United, in the F.A. Cup last weekend fortunes may be turning for the Grecians ahead of the visit of Dimitri Halajko’s charges and, one suspects, a stern challenge awaits. Despite this Exeter are without players due to international duty so I’m hopeful our youngsters can put the Devon side to the sword. Halajko’s teams have played some really attacking and entertaining football so far this season. Sadly it looks like the game won’t be streamed but I’ll certainly be keeping tabs on it via the official site’s live blog and wish the boys all the best in this final group match.

Have a good (at least better) week everyone.

COYI!


The HamburgHammer Column

All around shambles - the circus is still in town, but the clowns are no longer funny

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I have to apologise to you all before I begin. This column will be neither original nor amusing, the pun quota will be non existent and the number of wise remarks low because, frankly, I’m running out of clever things to say fast here.

I am shell-shocked, dumbfounded, bemused and frustrated. But to a certain degree I feel quite indifferent too. Or maybe just numb. The slump for our club continues regardless. Our team can no longer play football. They look like complete strangers on the pitch.

We concede goals galore and the reason for that is partly our shaky backup goalkeeper. But make no mistake, Roberto is a problem, not the problem.
We don’t defend well as a team which means lack of pressing, chasing, covering the opposition players and it doesn’t apply solely to our defenders, the entire team is guilty in that respect.

As bad as we are at defending we are not much better at attacking. Or even at stringing a few passes together. Crosses are either five metres short or ten metres too long. We cover less distance than any other team in the league.
We have plenty of the ball, but appear to be clueless about what to do with it when we have it.

When you’re already down, being outplayed and outclassed in the pouring rain, at West Ham that is usually the signal for Lady Luck to casually stroll by, raise a knee and take a swing, kicking us in the teeth while giggling like a maniac. In this case both Noble and Lanzini had to leave the game with what looked like serious injuries.

And as fantastic a goalkeeper as Fabianski is, he alone couldn’t have saved us in this slump. Unless he has learned by now how to score goals upfront as well as preventing them down the other end. West Ham are the black mamba of Premier League football, lethally toxic once again. And very grumpy with it.

At least a black mamba knows how to defend itself and strike out at its opponent…we are currently more like a black rabbit with a bad limp, caught in the headlights of a speeding car on a wet road in the middle of the night.

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I don’t remember another West Ham game in the last ten years when I watched proceedings with so little interest and expectation levels at minus 7. The game was on my custard alright, but I was only glancing up occasionally, basically whenever the commentator got a bit excited about something, raising his voice.

I browsed the internet on my tablet. Flicking through the pages of the newspaper. I also was on the phone to my brother for half an hour, during halftime and the first 20 minutes of the second half. I had no shred of hope left in my mind that we might at least score a consolation goal, even if we had played on for an additional two hours. Would it even have mattered ?

Would it bowlocks!

And it began to dawn on me that once again a Burnley game could prove to be a turning point for us. Every West Ham fan for sure remembers THAT game at the London Stadium, on the day of “the march that wasn’t“ with several fans invading the pitch and a corner flag ending up in the center circle.

It might be argued that it was this game that made our board step up their efforts to sign Pellegrini and finally pipe down in terms of rabbiting to the media 24/7. Could Saturday’s horror show prove to be the beginning of the end for Pellegrini already ?

But what, or rather, who next ?

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I wish I could put my finger on what exactly it is that is wrong with our club at the moment. But I now have to concede that Pellegrini is indeed part of the wider problem. Can he still be part of the solution as well though ? I honestly don’t know.

It seems to be the most convenient and common option to follow for a club in freefall to simply change the manager. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. Let’s also not forget how incredibly tight the league still is, with merely four points separating 16th place (us) from 5th (Sheffield United) as things stand.

However, judging on our recent performances, getting any more points on the board at all will be a tall order for our team in its momentary predicament.
A team which actually is still made up of various very decent footballers on paper. Shame we still have to play on grass…

Should any of you good people have any suggestions as to how to get the club back on track, feel free to leave your masterplan in the comments below.

Or if you have anything else in your locker, however random, to cheer up your fellow supporters on this cold and miserable Monday morning (as it is here in Hamburg), please come forward and put a smile back on our collective faces because the team is failing spectacularly to do so at the moment. But still: COYI!!! (What else can we do ?)

I can’t be arsed to post the Hamburg football update this week, most of you aren’t bothered anyway and should I feel better about it later on, I might post the results in the comments in the afternoon or later this evening.

It’s no pleasure cruise being a West Ham fan in November 2019…


Match Report

Has West Ham Expired?

Forest fires are a natural event. They help to clear out or the deadwood, allowing new trees to flourish. West Ham are going down this season – that is my prediction. And it may be a good thing and the only answer. Our move to the London Stadium has turned out to be a disaster and even the first game there against Juventus exposed our problems which have dogged us since. Going down would allow us to clear out the deadwood and have a rebirth.

But, the first question which needs to be answered. Is, as some people think, West Ham actually dead , extinct, is no more, has passed on, gone to meet its maker, stiff as a board, resting in peace , pushing up daisies, kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible? This is an ex-club.(Can’t remember where I got all this from)

In the imagination, one retains a Dickensian dream of matchday. The cockney leaving the warmth of his coal fire to go over the road to watch his team. Some walked to Nathans to partake in an eel pie or having a few pints in the Boleyn Tavern prior to watching the game and having a good punch up or banging on the windows of the opposition coach. Walking past street vendors , touts , police horses and steaming horse manure.

Then watching our team of all white boys until 1968, when Clyde Best appeared. Who would have thought black people could play football? And we knew that foreign players were tricky, but all we saw of them was Bert Trautmann, a sort of Kraut.

I can lay claim to my West Ham heritage. I was born in Plaistow hospital and lived on a road off of Green Street. My grandfather attended the cup final of 1923. When I was a boy, I walked up Green Street with our cleaning lady’s husband (my Dad wasn’t interested in football). I watched my three heroes in action – all local boys, bearing in mind West Ham was in Essex in those days.

Most games I attend now are with my ten year old grandson. Now, the question I ask myself is whether he is less attached to the club than I was, bearing in mind some consider it a stiff parrot. In actual fact, he can be described as a West Ham nutcase or perhaps acorn. My son’s dream for him is to make him as enthusiastic for history or geography and the plethora of subjects waiting to be studied. Instead, he is a walking encyclopedia as far as football in concerned. If he is not watching football, he is playing it or FIFA 19.

Many clubs rebuild or move to new stadiums. In the USA, where a club is a franchise, some clubs have even moved cities. The area around the Boleyn Stadium and Newham itself have changed dranmatically. Shops such as Nathans Pie & Mash would have closed anyway, due to landlords raising rents and unaffordable rates.

From the moment, the UK won the right to stage the Olympics in 2012, the fate of West Ham was sealed. This should have been obvious to everybody who was involved in the construction of the London Stadium. Unfortunately, people such as Sebastian Coe were deaf to the calls to design the stadium so that it was adaptable to football. Instead £486 million was laid out on the original construction and then a further, disgusting £274 million on renovations.

The stadium itself is a concrete bowl and the lump of twisted metal which stands beside it, which is apparently a work of art, sums up the West Ham story.

But to say we are dead is totally incorrect. There are many negatives. We have owners who have a past which is shaming and do not engender loyalty. We have a manager who patently is too old for the job and has run out of ideas. We have a stadium where the atmosphere is deficient. We have players who are carpetbaggers, more committed to money than effort. They are unable to give that final 10% which makes all the difference.

But like the clearing in a forest created by a fire, we can rebuild and look forward to a better future. In life, patience is a virtue. A tree grows slowly, but we have tried to circumvent natural growth by lashing out money on sub-standard players and managers, not learning lessons, but making the same mistakes time and time again.


David Hautzig's Match Report

Burnley 3, West Ham 0. Welcome To Our Current Crisis.

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I wish I could be more level headed about us. As Nigel has said to me more times than I can remember, it’s in our DNA. We have an uncanny ability to take better players and managers and instead of raising the whole club to their level, we somehow drag them down to ours. When a work issue came up for me yesterday, causing me to interrupt my Saturday with the family to become a wine delivery guy (at least it’s for my mate and fellow Hammer Alex, aka Poor Bastard), I secretly wished the warehouse people could only meet me in the morning. That would have given me a reason to just skip today altogether. Instead 1pm was offered, so that was that. Without a win in our last 6, another 90 minutes of angst was staring me in the face. And that angst did not even blink.

One of the many observations, or criticisms if you will, of our current system is the way Haller has been isolated up top. Long balls galore for him to win. But that isn’t his game. In the eighth minute Snodgrass did find the Frenchman with a decent pass but Haller couldn’t find his feet and the threat was over.

A minute later the long day I feared looked to have begun. Burnley won their second corner in quick succession when Roberto inexplicably decided to punch the ball away when he should have just caught it. Burnley won that corner, although replays show it should have been a goal kick. The set piece from McNeil flew over Rice, Tarkowski headed it to Barnes right in front of the goal, and that was that. With goalkeeping and defending like that, screaming about the corner that should not have been is slightly pointless.

Burnley 1
West Ham 0

The bulk of the action remained in the West Ham half, and if Cresswell hadn’t gotten his head on another McNeill delivery Barnes might very well have made it 2-0. An injury to Noble meant Yarmolenko was inserted, but everyone started to look the same to me in those purple kits. Burnley moved the ball around, made crunching tackles, and we looked powerless to do anything about it.

There was a moment in the 27th minute that kind of summed us up. Anderson ran with the ball on the left. He had space. But he tried to roll a low pass to Haller in the box, and just like that any semblance of an attack just vanished. Minutes later a burst of speed from Fredericks on the right forced Mee to put the ball out for a West Ham corner. That in and of itself was the only thing worth mentioning because Burnley cleared the ball easily.

Yarmolenko won another corner in the 34th minute. OK. Let’s move on.

I admit I had no idea who Dwight McNeill was before today. Now I will see him in my many West Ham nightmares. His delivery into the box over a sea of West Ham defenders that Wood headed past Roberto should have made it 2-0. But VAR ruled an armpit was ahead of the pass and the goal was disallowed. Regardless, the cross was world class.

It didn’t matter in the end because Balbuena made a shocking error in the 44th minute when he completely misplayed a ball from Roberto and allowed McNeill to make a much easier pass to Wood in the box and it was officially a second goal.

Halftime
Burnley 2
West Ham 0

The second half started brighter for West Ham in relative terms. We didn’t concede a third goal from the opening kick, Yarmolenko and Haller took actual shots on goal, and we passed the ball from player to player without looking ridiculous. My stream did start to act wonky, coming in and out, and time would tell if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

Turned out it was a good thing. My phone app told me that Burnley had scored again, and that Roberto was at fault. When the stream eventually caught up with reality, I saw a howler worthy of a million YouTube hits. So for the second time in two weeks, I quit before the final whistle.

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No more details, although Nigel told me Roberto made some wonderfully ironic classy saves near the end.

Final Score
Burnley 3
West Ham 0

So. Here we are again. In full blown crisis mode, a relegation battle at our doorstep. With an international break next weekend, dollars to donuts I can guarantee that stories will emerge about any number of people. Pellegrini, Husillos, Sullivan, you name it. And if anyone acts surprised, I have a bridge to sell you. That’s how our club has behaved ever since the current regime took over. That does not mean I’m laying the current meltdown at their doorstep. I truly don’t know where the majority of the blame lies.

I just know the supporters bear the brunt of the pain.

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