Match Preview

Formation - Food for Thought

A lot of discussions have gone on around the different formations available to Bilic, especially now with Masuaku out. We need to address the fundamental mistakes we’ve been making in recent games, but that aside, we also need to make the most of the players available to us.

With that in mind, I thought I’d post my thoughts on a fairly unorthodox formation available to Bilic.

My thoughts are:

Feghouli has great defensive pedigree and pace to cover the flank
Oxford/Obiang would be able to hold centrally in front of the back three in order to cover the advancing fullbacks on either wing
Noble will provide cover for any defensive slips by Feghouli
Antonio can utilise his pace and power without being confined to closed spaces, relying on his close control
Payet will not be required to cover a flank and will find space between the lines
Lanzini’s energy will be utilised, along with his passing and ability to hold the ball, from a central positon
If needed the DM could drop to form a back four with Ogbonna covering left back with Feghouli pressing forward – covering ourselves defensively
The team will have broader attacking and defensive units and this should help us maintain solidarity, leaving our most creative players to unlock the game

Food for thought, or just madness?


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The Mike Ireson Column

Jeff Stelling speaks to WHTID

Coincidence is a funny old thing isn’t it.

A few weeks ago on these pages I wrote about betraying Jeff Stelling and trying out new rival BT Score (only to return back to the fold fairly swiftly).

And last Saturday, like many of you, Jeff and Matt Le Tissier ruined my afternoon by heaping much bad news upon us from The Hawthorns.

On Sunday I was watching my stepson play in an under 17 Hampshire Cup match. Running the line in front of me was the opposition goalkeepers Dad. Nothing Unusual there I hear you say, and indeed you would be right, but this linesman was one half of the previous afternoon’s double act of doom, Jeff Stelling.

Afterwards, despite my stepson scoring the winning shootout penalty past his son, Jeff very kindly agreed to share a few thoughts on West Ham for WHTID.

Here is what he had to say –

MI: Looking at West Ham’s poor start to the season do you think this is just a blip or did we overachieve last season?

JS: You know I look at the number of changes to the back four, injuries, transfers, I mean it’s a worry. I think we said on the programme on Saturday that in 12 of the last 15 Premier League games they have conceded 2 or more goals, and you’re not going to win many games if you need to score 3 everytime. So look, they have some wonderful attacking players and I think it is just a blip, but if you look at the table at the moment it is worrying. It did strike me that every time West Ham signed somebody they were a forward or attacking player, so that is a concern that’s for sure. But you’ve still got a lot of people to come back from injury, and I always think that when Andy Carroll comes back, and fingers crossed he stays fit, then he will make a major difference because he just gives you a different option. And defensively he gives you a bit more solidity, at set plays you can bring the big fella back.

MI: So are we just too top heavy with attacking players?

JS: Yes you’re right you probably are a bit top heavy, but it’s the West Ham style isn’t it, the West Ham way if you like and as long as you win more than you lose you’ll probably be happy.

MI: Is Slaven Bilic the right man for the job?

JS: Yes, definitely, I think he showed last season that he was the man. 3 or 4 indifferent results doesn’t mean he is not a good coach. I think when he masterminded those wins last season when you go places like Arsenal and win, you think he is quality and I really couldn’t think that anyone would be unhappy with him.

MI: And the move to the Olympic Stadium so far has been a troubled one both on and off the pitch, is the new stadium detrimental to the team?

JS: Yeah it might be, Matt Le Tissier was saying that when Southampton moved to St Mary’s they did take a long time to adjust. There are similarities but obviously The Dell wasn’t as passionate as Upton Park, but it was similar, a tight little ground, the fans were right on top of the players and of course you move to a nice big swish stadium and the feel is very different. Particularly for opposition sides, you used to go to Upton Park on a Tuesday night and it was intimidating. I haven’t been to the new ground but I’m not quite sure you can replicate that atmosphere.

MI: Lastly can you give us a prediction for where you think West Ham will finish this season?

JS: Top 10 easily. I have no doubts they will finish top 10. You know it’s really early days yet, nobody should panic this early on.

Thanks again to Jeff for taking the time to speak and let’s hope he can deliver better news on upcoming Saturday afternoons.


Please check back after the match for the results.

Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: West Ham v Southampton

Blast from the past

Early 1974 – the Three-Day Week and IRA bombings dominated the headlines. By Good Friday on the 12th April, Harold Wilson had just been reinstated as Prime Minister as Labour formed a minority government, a state of emergency had been declared in Northern Ireland and ABBA had just won the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo’.

Terry Jacks was number one with ‘Seasons In The Sun’ and Hammer horror Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter was in cinemas as an 11am kick-off saw West Ham United take on Southampton in a relegation rumble front of 34,163 on Good Friday at The Boleyn Ground. It was to be a particularly good Friday for the Hammers and a great one for Clyde Best (pictured above) and Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson as both strikers bagged a brace to lead West Ham to a 4-1 win over the Saints in the old First Division, with Mick Channon netting for the visitors.

The Saints ended up occupying 20th place, thereby filling the final relegation spot of 1973/74 having accumulated 36 points, just one less than the Hammers had accrued in 18th position. Billy Bonds was voted Hammer of the Year for the second time, Leeds were First Division champions and Liverpool won the FA Cup.

West Ham United: Mervyn Day, John McDowell, Mick McGiven, Tommy Taylor, Kevin Lock, Frank Lampard, Billy Bonds, Trevor Brooking, Graham Paddon, Clyde Best, Bryan Robson.

Southampton: Eric Martin, Bob McCarthy, Paul Bennett, Jim Steele, Steve Mills, Hugh Fisher (Paul Gilchrist), Brian O’Neil, Terry Paine, Mick Channon, Peter Osgood, Bobby Stokes.

Club Connections

An array of West Ham United’s good, bad and ugly have also turned out for Southampton:

Goalkeepers: Richard Wright, George Kitchen.

Defenders: Richard Hall, Joe Kirkup, Wayne Bridge, Christian Dailly, Neil Ruddock, Bill Adams, Ian Pearce, Darren Powell, Albie Roles, Horace Glover.

Midfielders: Nigel Quashie, Paul Allen, Eyal Berkovic, Robbie Slater, Luis Boa Morte.

Strikers: Vic Watson, Justin Fashanu, David Speedie, Iain Dowie, David Connolly, Ted MacDougall, Henri Camara, Alex McDonald, Frank Costello, Fred Harrison, Walter Pollard, Arthur Wilson, Jimmy Harris, Jack Foster.

In addition, George Kay played for the Hammers and managed the Saints while Harry Redknapp and Alan Pardew have managed both clubs.

Today’s focus though falls on a centre-back who had two spells with the Hammers and a loan stint with the Saints. Calum Davenport was born on the 1st January 1983 in Bedford and started his professional career at Coventry in 2001. Davenport joined Tottenham in August 2004 at the age of 21 and was almost immediately loaned to West Ham United, then playing a second successive season in the second tier.

The 6’4 defender made his debut for Alan Pardew’s West Ham on 11th September 2004, in a 2-1 win at Sheffield United and made 10 appearances for the Hammers during his temporary stint. He went on to have a loan spell with Southampton, making 12 appearances before another loan move to Norwich. Having represented England at Under-19, Under-20 and Under-21 level, he finally made his Premier League debut for Spurs 20 months after signing for the club.

The 24-year-old returned to West Ham, this time in a permanent deal as he became one of Alan Curbishley’s first signings in January 2007 for a reported fee of £3m. He made his second debut for the Hammers and had a goal disallowed in a 2-2 draw at Newcastle on 20th January 2007. The Irons struggled but eventually survived in 2006/07 – Davenport found it difficult to dislodge Anton Ferdinand and Matthew Upson the following season and was loaned out to Championship side Watford in January 2008. A fractured bone in his neck suffered on his debut put paid to any hopes of a permanent move to Vicarage Road.

Injuries saw Davenport start the 2008/09 season in the Hammers’ first team and he impressed, scoring with a header from a Julien Faubert corner in a 4-1 home win over Paul Ince’s Blackburn on 30th August 2008, his only goal for the club. He made his final appearance in claret and blue on Boxing Day 2008, in a 4-1 win at Portsmouth. After 24 appearances and one goal for West Ham United, his playing career with the Hammers was over, although he was to remain on the books for a further 15 months.

Davenport joined Sunderland on loan in February 2009 but returned to east London for the start of the 2009/10 season. Unfortunately, a bizarre turn of events was to spell disaster for Davenport and his professional footballing career. In the early hours of 22nd August 2009, Davenport and his mother were stabbed at her home in Kempston, Bedfordshire. Davenport was stabbed in the legs, lost 50% of the blood from his body and underwent emergency surgery. Two men were arrested on the same day in connection with the stabbings and, at Bedford Magistrates Court on the 24th August 2009, 25-year-old Worrell Whitehurst, the boyfriend of Davenport’s sister, was remanded in custody charged with grievous bodily harm with intent in connection with the attack on Davenport and with assault occasioning actual bodily harm to his mother. Whitehurst was jailed for six years on 12th July 2010 for the attack on Davenport, after he had admitted causing grievous bodily harm with intent; he also admitted a charge of unlawfully wounding Davenport’s mother.

Within four days of taking over the club in January 2010, David Sullivan and David Gold suspended Davenport’s wages until completion of the court case alleging breach of contract on his part when he was involved in the assault. His contract was terminated by mutual consent two months later. Davenport was eventually cleared of all charges in regard to an alleged assault on his sister. He had spells on trial at Nottingham Forest and Leeds but ended up at United Counties side Wootton Blue Cross and has since played for Elstow Abbey – Davenport, now 33, was expelled from the club on 22nd March 2015 for an alleged assault which had occurred in the changing-room.


The referee on Sunday will be Jonathan Moss. The Yorkshire-based official has sent off a player in each of his last six appointments involving the Hammers – the 4-3 defeat to Bournemouth in August 2015 saw Carl Jenkinson sent off, while the 2-1 win over Chelsea last October saw Nemanja Matic dismissed (then-Blues manager Jose Mourinho was also sent to the stands). Moss issued a red card to Jordan Ayew of Aston Villa in February with the Hammers going on to win 2-0 while, going further back, Burnley’s Michael Duff was also sent off by Moss in our 1-0 home win over the Clarets in May 2015.

Moss also issued a red card to Cheikhou Kouyate in the 5-1 FA Cup fifth round win at Blackburn in February, although this was later rescinded. The 45-year-old’s most recent Hammers appointment was the hugely controversial 2-2 draw at Leicester in April when he sent off Jamie Vardy and awarded two penalties, the second arriving deep into stoppage time as the Foxes rescued a precious point.

Possible line-ups

Arthur Masuaku joins Aaron Cresswell, Andre Ayew, Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho on the injured list. Alvaro Arbeloa may not yet be in a position fitness-wise to play so soon after completing 90 minutes on Wednesday against Accrington so Havard Nordtveit could play at right-back, as he did at West Brom, with Sam Byram coming in at left-back. Winston Reid could be back in contention after a knock kept him out of the trip to The Hawthorns last weekend.

For Southampton, Sofiane Boufal and Jeremy Pied are both ruled out through injury, while Jay Rodriguez is also set to miss out with a knock. Stick with the Hammers if we go behind on Sunday – the team scoring first in this fixture has gone on to lose in each of the last three seasons.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; Nordtveit, Collins, Ogbonna, Byram; Kouyate, Noble; Antonio, Lanzini, Payet; Zaza.

Possible Southampton XI: Forster; Soares, Fonte, van Dijk, Bertrand; Clasie, Romeu, Davis; Redmond, Austin, Tadic.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!

Please check back after the match for the results.

Talking Point

Should We Play With a Sweeper Against Southampton?

As the Southampton game looms large, Slaven Bilic must be scratching his head wondering what on earth he does about a defence which has shipped 11 goals in the last three Premier League games. The trouble is, he’s fast running out of options.

wonder if there is a temptation to shore things up by reintroducing a sweeper – a system has has deployed before. This would mean plonking either Havard Nordtveit or Reece Oxford in front of the back four. Oh how he must rue selling James Tomkins. Of course this means we’d have to play with one fewer attacking player, but given we don’t see to have a striker capable of scoring, perhaps it’s best to leave that to Antonio, Lanzini and Payet.

We will have to play the next match or two without an established left back, given the injury to Masuaku. I imagine Byram or Arbeloa will cover that position, although Ogbonna has been known to play there in the past.

So I see Sunday as looking something like this…


Please check back after the match for the results.

The S J Chandos Column

Was Fernandes the biggest plus Factor arising from the Accrington Stanley match?

It was interesting to read accounts of Slaven Bilic’s post-match conference yesterday evening. Amongst the positives, he praised Payet’s match winning free-kick; emphasised the fact that we actually won the match (while keeping a clean sheet) and thought it a good thing that we had been drawn to play Chelsea, at home in a one-off tie, in the 4th Round. He also indicated that Arthur Makuaku’s knee injury was not a serious one (thank goodness for that!) and commented on Arbeloa playing a first full match, whilst relishing the ‘experience and quality’ that the World Cup winning right-back would bring to the defence. However, Bilic reserved his greatest praise for the performance of 20 year old debutante, Edmilison Fernandes, of whom he stated: ‘Of all the players on the pitch, I am most pleased with Fernandes. He is a good player, he is young but he has the quality and confidence to play forward. He came out with a big plus.’

On the critical side, Bilic acknowledged that the performance was not good enough and there was much room for improvement. Indeed, Bilic sounded relieved to have stopped the rot and argued that: ‘The most important thing is that we won the game and only by winning games, especially with clean sheets, will we get the confidence back that is obviously missing at the moment. It is logical after the last couple of weeks and it is only with wins that we will get it back.’

Certainly, it was an illustration of the importance that Bilic attached to the win that he put the trio of Lanzini, Payet and Antonio on as 2nd half substitutes. On Payet’s match winning free-kick, Bilic observed that: ‘Dimi has done a few of them for us and for France. Everyone knows that when we have a free-kick in that position that he can do it. It is a great moment from a great player.’

So, overall, it was another disappointing team performance, but hopefully Bilic is right and the win and a clean sheet is the most important thing. There are a number of factors that could be said to be contributing to our poor start this season, such as: early injuries to key players, the process of assimilating 13 new players in to the first team squad, the alleged lopsided nature of our summer transfer business (with its supposed over-emphasis upon attacking additions) and fall-out from the post-transition issues that have arisen at the London Stadium. However, it is true that confidence is an enormous factor in football and it provides a viable explanation for the team’s current poor form.

If Bilic is correct, then we may have to just ‘grind out’ a winning run. And in the course of doing so, the squad will begin to gel and the confidence and form will return. We shall see?

Finally, it has been reported on social media that 18 year old midfielder, Marcus Browne, sent out a cryptic tweet in the aftermath last night’s match (subsequently deleted) that seemed to indicate that ‘the youth are hungry’ for first team opportunities. This was then re-tweeted by Reece Oxford, presumably in aggreement? Normally, both Browne and Oxford would have been involved in this type of 3rd round League Cup match, but the fact is that Bilic stuck to a more experienced team because of the supreme importance that he attached to getting the result. They need to understand the overriding imperative motivating the manager’s selections for this match. Both players have a big future at the club and their first team opportunities will come this season.

SJ. Chandos.

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