The HamburgHammer Column

Genius and garbage - West Ham still in transition

The sight of Zarate trying to get rid of a resilient bin liner bothering him prior to taking a free kick was quite symbolic. He threw it away, but it settled just a metre or so away from him again before finally being removed by a steward. Against West Brom the game in itself was entertaining enough, played against the backdrop of a wet and windy afternoon in East London (being mirrored by the way by a wet and windy afternoon in Hamburg as well). Apart from the bin liner there was some football garbage to be seen on the pitch too, but also some pretty nice skills.

Our defence again looked at times all over the place culminating in the unlucky equaliser stemming frrom a deflection off Reid’s arm that gave Adrian no chance.
Our goal in the first half from that sublime unstoppable well measured gem of a freekick was a sight to behold. If it had been scored by a Man U or Arsenal player I’m sure we would hear about it for the next four weeks. As Zarate still plays for West Ham we’ll be lucky if the pundits talk about it for four hours, but it was indeed a magnificent goal.
I also liked the link up play between Zarate and Lanzini who seems to get into his role as a younger version of Payet more and more.

Obiang worked quite well playing alongside Kouyate.

Jenkinson on the other hand appears to run out of excuses, again he had a below average performance and this will not have gone unnoticed with Bilic.

Same as Carroll (again) not doing a lot really when he came on. He’s a very expensive luxury player to have and I don’t think West Ham as a club can really afford to have that kind of luxury player. I can only hope Newcastle will be desperate enough in January to make West Ham and Carroll an offer they simply cannot refuse.

Don’t get me wrong, I am aware of what Carroll can do and I’m also grateful for the goals he has in fact scored for us (some vital ones too), but in the long run he delivers too little while costing the club too much in wages to justify keeping him really.

Our whole team though right now (with exceptions in Lanzini, Adrian and to a degree Zarate, Cresswell and Kouyate) are underperforming and playing well short on confidence. Which is natural if you fail to win a game for a while. I’m sure things will improve for us again, but make no mistake: The injury to Payet has knocked us for six.

We are still trying to find a way to cope without him and we are clearly struggling. Payet was the secret missing ingredient to make our team and club tick.

With him gone we still haven’t quite found a surrogate ingredient, Lanzini may continue to grow into that role, but the dish will still not taste quite the same as it ever did with Payet in the side I’m afraid.

Bur there is no point in moaning and cursing our bad luck with injuries (who knows how long Sakho will now be out after having to leave the game early ?). We need to maintain that “us against the rest” mentality and mindset of togetherness now. We are losing a bit of touch with the top regions of the table, so we are indeed looking at a solid midtable position near the top now I reckon. Which of course is not the end of the world at all. As this is still, I believe I mentioned this several times before, a season of transition. We are moving into the OS next season and we will be a Premier League club. Considering that there is an ever decreasing number of home games left at the Boleyn I was saddened to listen to the flat atmosphere at Upton Park on the telly. Sure enough the crowd was nervous as we failed to score that vital second goal, but again this showed to me that atmosphere is very much depending on the way our team plays, not necessarily where it plays.

The atmosphere will be magnificient in the OS if our play on the pitch warrants it, it will be very much crap if the performance (and result) leaves something to be desired.

Which brings me to the final (personal) note. My parent’s house has finally been sold, there is still some legal paperwork required, but the day is not far off now when my brother and I will be handing over the keys to the new owners and then we can finally try and move on. It’s hard leaving behind all those memories (good and bad) and, yes, leaving behind a house that was a home to me and a lovely place to return to for the visits for the best part of 35 years.

Not quite as long as the Hammers have been at the Boleyn, I know, but I now start to get an idea of what a lot of you guys and gals are going through now with our upcoming move to the OS.

Man U next then, a game I will only be able to watch the first half of because I’ll have to attend the Golden Wedding anniversary of my uncle (my mom’s brother) and my auntie.
I hope we’ll get at least a point there. And please let us finish the game with no further injuries. That is something we can really do without. God bless!

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Zaman Siddiqui's Match Review

Zárate Wonder Kick Not Quite Enough

Zarate and Sakho vs. WBA

After that bombshell at White Hart Lane, it was important to see an improvement today. If we had lost 4-1 to a meagre team last week, then it would’ve been harder to strike back this week. Tottenham are a team that have enough ability to turn up and demolish teams from all walks of life. They had the same scoreline against Manchester City at their fortress, so it is testament to their fine form of late that could see them finish in the top 4 – maybe. Anyone can win the title at this point. There is no need to panic, as of yet. We are only 3 points off the top 5, so there is no need to despair. Conversely, it is also worth noting we are only a couple of points off the bottom half, so the next 4 games will be of vital importance. Three of our next four are against teams in the bottom half, so I expect a bit more ruthlessness from Bilic’s side like under Big Sam, who got us more points at this stage last season with more points against the weaker sides. For me, at the end of the day, three points is three points.

It is fair to say predicting this week’s line-up wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. Well done to anyone who did well this week in the Predictor League. Iain said: “This is one of the most difficult lineups to predict in some time.” If that’s the case, I ought to swap Fantasy Football for the Predictor League, because I only had one mistake in the starting XI – Obiang played instead of Song. There is absolutely no need to play with three CB’s against the team that has had the fewest attempts on goal in the BPL this season. Why sit back against a team that has very little to offer going forward? The other reason why I was adamant Bilic would not change to an unorthodox system is elementary. If you had a blip (like most pundits said as well) in an otherwise good season, there were be no justification for changing the style of play. Remi Garde has to do that, but not Super Slav. It was clear Tomkins wouldn’t play with his lacklustre performance, even more so, as Ogbonna hasn’t played in a while. We have a system where the two wing-backs have the freedom to get forward, and at times, they can get caught in two minds, and make defensive errors. It is hard to prevent it, but very rare. Nonetheless, they work tirelessly for us, and as such, I felt they deserved to play yesterday. The manager was likely to mix it up with the selection available. I got a bit lucky, but simply going with this abductive reasoning, it was clear that the manager had particular changes in mind. I can’t fault his decision making before the match; it was only during the match I was unhappy with the gaffer, which I will go into further detail later.

Manuel Lanzini has a mammoth task filling the boots of Payet. So far, the Jewel has done very well for himself. The 22 year old’s enthusiasm for the ball is beautiful to watch. “He always wants the ball,” the gaffer said. The Argentine is more than an Ersatz good for me, as we will see in a few years time. He is quickly becoming one of the best at our club with the likes of Liverpool chasing him. Lanzini has made more dribbles per 90 minutes than any other player for us this season. Lanzini has made 3.1, Zárate has made 2.6, and Payet and Moses have both made 2.4. You can see why he has been compared to Modric. According to WhoScored, he is also our best player (excluding Payet). The top clubs didn’t go for Payet, due to the fact he is 28. How foolish they were. I can’t even imagine the reaction they would have after missing out on Lanzini who is on loan. He gets on with our players with a few fellow Argentinians in our side, as well as the new players who have been brought in, as part of our Renaissance. Valencia said: “He’s always playing pranks and having a laugh.” On the contrary, big clubs can get players with more ease. Toby Alderweireld went to Spurs for £11.5M, as opposed to Southampton this season. He was reunited with former Ajax teammates Christian Eriksen, and Jan Vertonghen. Liverpool don’t have any first team players who have played with Lanzini, so it safe to say that there is no sentiment involved in that transfer.

Zarate celebrates goal vs. WBA

There were some facts going into the match, that had me coloured tickled pink. For one, only Joe Hart has kept more clean sheets than Boaz Myhill. Secondly, it was Reid’s 150th match for us who played as captain, as well as Jenkinson’s 50th appearance, so the pressure was on. Also, you don’t want to play a team that just beat Arsenal 2-1 last week, when you lost 4-1 the previous week. That is torture! Both teams started fairly well passing the ball around the middle of the pitch. There was a nice bit of trickery from Lanzini who got it to fellow countryman Zárate, whose shot hit the side netting. Rondon nearly scored with a tremendous strike outside the box which was only a few inches wide. The onus is on Lanzini, and boy did he deliver creating many openings for others. Gareth McAuley had both hands on Sakho, which rightfully got us a free-kick in a dangerous position. It was the other Argentine who scored right into the roof of the net. Myhill didn’t stand a chance with it, though he went in the right direction to concede in the 17th minute. Mauro has now scored in 5 of the last 6 he started in. We were in a strong position at HT. We had won all 5 games we were leading at the break before yesterday. I love the way in which Zárate focused himself before taking the shot – it was as if Zárate turned into Zola!

There was very little support for Salomon Rondon in the first half. Tony Pulis is an experienced manager, and as such, will introduce another striker. If not that, then he will still sub on more attack-minded players. I was a bit disappointed Bilic didn’t change the style of play. We were running ourselves ragged. We needed more stability to make sure West Brom didn’t get back in. The Baggies changed their formation to 4-4-2, but we didn’t respond. The 4-1-4-1 formation we had didn’t help us enough. The ball was cleared away to the substitute Lambert, whose shot hit Reid’s hand to deflect in, with the keeper on the ground unable to reach it in the 50th minute. It was very unfortunate for the skipper. This later turned into a game of two halves, as we didn’t have enough defensive quality. The Baggies consistently broke through the final third, but Bilic decided to sub Carroll on for Obiang. I felt Obiang needed more game time, and was sufficient enough to stay on. There was a save of tremendous quality from Adrián who saved Rondon’s header from close distance with his face! But in all honesty, the Venezuelan should have buried that. It was right down the middle, and he had more than enough space to head it either side. That was a very lucky escape. Speaking of which, Jonas Olsson denied us on several occasions in particular, the Sakho strike which was thumped away by the Swede’s leg. Unfortunately, Sakho was injured in the process and slowly limped off the pitch. On the balance of things, the game deserved to be a draw.

I am very concerned with our current strike force. We have Payet and Valencia out, as well as Sakho. I hope Sakho’s injury is no more than a fortnight, though I have a feeling it could be a bit longer. This means that we only have Carroll, Jelavic, and Zárate up front. We will have to change our style of play vastly to accommodate these changes. It doesn’t get easier, as we have Manchester United at Old Trafford next week. After that, we have Stoke, Swansea, and Villa.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 1, West Brom 1. Sharing The Bag Of Points.

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Should Carroll play, and if so how should he be used? Who should step in for the suspended Noble? Song or Obiang? And using what formation? Lots of people were calling for Tomkins to be dropped for Ogbanna, but according to one stat we hadn’t conceded a goal with JT at right back for Jenkinson. That question, in my opinion, was of vital importance because West Brom have been lethal in the first half so far this season. According to my good mate and Baggies supporter Andy Caulton, beware the Baggies in the first half. Just by taking first half stats alone, West Brom would be joint second, a point behind Man U. He also said they would be top of the league at putting their supporters to sleep under Pulis, a sickness we can identify with. Making the right calls on these other issues would determine whether West Ham are in a slight tailspin or pulling back on the stick to regain altitude. At the end of the day, it was neither.

I wonder if one of those statistic companies the TV folks use to throw out things like “Arsenal lead the league in goals scored while supporters are in the toilet” has records for attacks ruined by lousy first touches. Because if they did, I think we’d be pretty high up that table. In the 6th minute, Moses was sent in with a nice through ball on the right but his first touch would have needed legs made of Silly Putty (was that toy in the UK?) to reach, and the very idea of something good happening was gone.

The argument of Carroll or Sakho, which isn’t really an argument, has always been about movement. The player’s movement, the movement of those around them, and the movement of the ball. The 9th minute provided another illustration of that when Sakho sent Moses off on a break down the right. Moses fed Lanzini in the box, who then passed to Zarate on the left but his tight angle shot went into the side netting.

Another “argument”. Is the creative spark of Zarate worth the aggravation of watching him lose the ball more often than makes us comfortable? In the 13th minute, Zarate lost the ball to McClean who then passed to Rondon on the right. When Rondon let loose with his shot, I wasn’t at all concerned. I mean, the shot was the ultimate in speculative, right? As it sailed like a perfectly straight missile towards the goal, I wondered if I was watching the single hardest hit shot I’d ever seen for a goal. Thankfully, it sailed wide. But not by much.

I don’t know who it was, but someone Tweeted before the match that when Zarate starts he scores. I doubt that is more than slightly accurate, but after McAuley fouled Sakho 25 yards out and Zarate stepped up to take the free kick, I thought about that Tweet. When the camera zoomed in on him and he lifted his chin a bit in what might have been him visualizing the path of the shot, I thought even more. Then he let it go, and I’m sure he knew where it would go because the area in the top corner was only big enough for a football. And that’s where it went.

West Ham 1, West Brom 0.

Scoring certainly breeds confidence in our number ten, and after his wonder kick he was flying. In the 20th minute, his pace alone won a free kick on the left from McAuley. Lanzini stepped up to take it, but his effort went right to Myhill. Three minutes later West Ham should have doubled their lead when Cresswell sent a perfect cross into the path of Kouyate but instead of hitting the proper target, the back of the net, it went wide. A minute later Lanzini stole the ball at midfield and ran right at the heart of the Baggies defense before firing a low, swerving shot that made Myhill look more like an ice hockey goalie making a “kick save” then a football keeper. Minutes later, Lanzini and Zarate linked up again on the right before Lanzini fed Zarate in the box to force another good stop from Myhill. My note pad said “starting to rue missed chances for 2nd”.


West Ham had a couple of half chances right before half time. First, in the 44th minute Cresswell sent a low cross from the left that was likely intended for Zarate, but he forgot how to use his feet and the ball rolled past him to Sakho, who forgot to how to use his feet well and his weak shot went out for a corner. A minute later, Zarate tracked back to regain the ball he had lost and sent a through ball to Kouyate on the right. Kouyate fed Moses in the box but his shot went high.

Halftime. West Ham 1, West Brom 0.

Rickie Lambert has been linked with West Ham more times than a Kardashian girl has been linked with secretly videotaped trouble. Be that as it may, Pulis saw that his tactics weren’t working and added the former England striker to keep Rondon company up top. In the 50th minute, even if it wasn’t a direct correlation, the move worked. A curling cross by McClean was headed out by Jenkinson but only as far as Fletcher. The almost Hammer chested it down to Lambert who immediately let a shot go that deflected off of Reid’s arm and past a helpless Adrian.

West Ham 1, West Brom 1.

After the own goal, West Brom took to the offensive and for awhile looked the more likely to take the lead. In the 52nd minute a Rondon cross from the right nearly found Morrison in the box but like Zarate earlier, the connections from the brain to the feet failed and the ball rolled away. Minutes later, Lambert won a free kick from Ogbanna outside the box and then stepped up to try and finish the job. His low shot, however, was pushed out for a corner, which was then cleared by Kouyate. Two minutes later West Brom should have taken the lead when a Fletcher cross found Rondon right in front of Adrian. Nine times out of ten that becomes a goal celebration, but on this one time Adrian made himself big and was able to keep the ball out with the save of the match.

West Ham supporters love a good, attacking substitution late in a game. They got one in the 64th when Carroll came on for Obiang right before an attacking corner. A goal by AC would have been utterly poetic. A wide header by Sakho was a bit less dramatic.

If the idea of today being two dropped points was bad, what happened in the 72nd minute was significantly worse. Moses and Sakho broke on the counter, and it looked like a goal could be on offer. Moses slid the ball into the path of Sakho on the right side of the box but his shot was blocked by Olsson. Sakho, lying on the pitch, immediately signaled he had to come off. “That could be six to eight weeks by the look of it” said the TV. “Why don’t you go take a nap in traffic” was my loud reply.

West Brom continued to be on the front foot in the 78th minute when McClean found himself on the left of the West Ham penalty area with enough space to worry Reid, who had to lunge in quickly and force a corner. The delivery sailed over everyone and out to Zarate, but Yakob took one for the team and fouled the Argentine to squash any counter.

We have all been wondering when, or if, Antonio would get a chance to show what he can do. After Zarate won a free kick in the 82nd minute it was good to see the young winger finally get another chance. It just seemed odd that it was Zarate who made way. The free kick bounced to Carroll, but he couldn’t get a shot off quick enough and it bounced off any number of West Brom defenders.

West Ham came close to a stylish winner in the 89th minute when Carroll flicked the ball over the Baggies defense to Lanzini in the box, who then lobbed the ball across the box to Moses. But the Blue Loanee fired a low volley wide. Two minutes later it was West Brom’s turn to try a lob pass in the box, with Rondon looking for Lambert but the latter’s toe poke was light, weak, and easy pickin’s for Adrian.

The final chance came in the final minute of added time when Antonio passed to Lanzini near the top of the West Brom penalty area, who won a free kick. Incredibly, the satellite feed died at the moment Cresswell stepped up to take it. I’ve read that Myhill made a great save on a low shot. I hope that’s wrong because I’d rather not think we came that close on the last kick of the match.

Final Score. West Ham 1, West Brom 1.

So, no wins in four now. Not to mention we are actually behind ourselves from last season, when we had 24 points and a plus six goal differential after 14 games. I’m not suggesting we are in fact worse than last year, because I do not believe we will see the kind of relegation form we saw last season in the final 21 games. But it has made me push the personal re-set button and no longer concentrate as much on the table and points tally, but to try and see how we look on the bigger picture. Whether or not I can actually do that remains to be seen. We are playing better football overall than we have in a few years. And Bilic does prefer to attack the extra points than respect the one. We knew we would have a difficult run at some point, and being West Ham we also knew we would have difficult injuries to cope with.

How Bilic and the squad react to these things will say more about out future than the big wins earlier in the season.

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Match Thread

Match Thread: West Ham v WBA

West Ham v WBA
Upton Park
KO 3pm
TV: Sky Sports 1 (402)
Radio: BBC 5 Live

Team: Adrian; Jenkinson, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Obiang, Kouyate; Zarate, Lanzini, Moses; Sakho.
Subs: Spiegel (GK), Tomkins, Song, Cullen, Antonio, Carroll, Jelavic

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

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Match Preview

Lineup Preview: West Ham v WBA

This is one of the most difficult lineups to predict in some time, and I am sure I will have it wrong. My reasoning for the defensive changes is that something has to change following the debacle at White Hart Lane. I think Carl Jenkinson needs resting and ought to be replaced by Tomkins who did so well in the right back position earlier in the season. It’s also time to give Angelo Ogbonna another chance, now that he is fully recovered from his injury.

In midfield I imagine Song and Obiang will get 45 minutes each, in place for the suspended Noble,

I’d also drop Andy Carroll and use him as an impact substitute. Zarate deserves a start and he should get it in this match.


PS You have until 12.30 to register your prediction.

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