Subs: Adrian, Collins, Masuaku, Carroll, Feghouli, Zaza, Nordtveit
Some tricky selection decisions for Slaven Bilic today. Hints are being dropped that Andy Carroll may start. I think that Ashley Fletcher ought to retain his starting place. He’s been the one bright spark in our season so far and his goal on Wednesday will have given him tremendous confidence coming into this game. To be dropped to the bench would not only be grossly unfair but also threaten that confidence. OK, Carroll scored a hattrick against Arsenal last year, but let’s bring him on in the second half if we need to.
In midfield we are without Cresswell and Antonio. Fernandes or Masuaku will play on the left, with either Ayew or Feghouli coming in on the right. There are rumours of a training ground bustup between Bilic and Ayew over his fitness, so there’s a questionmark over whether he will feature.
I can’t come to the game today, which I’ve very annoyed about! I agreed to speak at a dinner in Hertfordshire tonight thinking I’d have plenty of time to get there after the game finishes. Then they moved it to 5.30. Typical.
You have until 4.25 to enter the Predictor League.
Guest post by Steve Kreeger
We’ve all been there as England fans, constant expectation that every game we’ll perform, every minute of the 90 we’ll have flashes of brilliance and excitement and stories to talk about the next day at work.
As a (sometimes) happy Hammer, the day of a big game clash brings the same hype feeling for me, whether at the game live, or clearing the fridge of beer (ale actually, definitely ale) to sit in front of Sky Sports for the afternoon/evening, anticipating and expecting.
But I wonder if after last year – do we expect too much?
Big new stadium, lots of summer signings, new club crest, excitement built over months and months…
Yes we’ve got injuries. Yes we’ve not had a great run in the league and can’t seem to score despite chances galore from Payet (who incidentally has the 2nd highest number of chances created in the whole of 2016, second to Ozil), but still we expect, still we all have hope and build hype that we’ll get something from the game on Wednesday night – it was after all a cup quarter final.
But yet again, we were poor against Man United. We were lucky to get that equaliser, carved again by our talisman who no doubt will be on his way in 5 weeks time, finished well by Fletcher, who did indeed play his socks off, but you can see needs some time in the first team to get stronger, but he did well. No matter what form we’re in we always tend to bring a great game out the bag against the big teams — which makes the prospective of the last 2 games against Man U and the next 2 games against Arsenal and Liverpool really exciting and you could forgive us all for thinking (expecting?) we’ll get something (possibly) out of all of them.
However, we’ve not played very well all season. On Wednesday night we were awful – Man United played really well, yes, and they had a strong team out, but we delayed on the ball, we tried to play out of defensive trouble too many times, instead of trying to pass it out of trouble, or even just “Big Sam it” and hoof it up the field. Far too many times we tried to trick or dribble our way out. Payet, Antonio, Cresswell, they all did it. Lets not get me onto Masuaku on my first post…
We have the worst record for defensive errors leading to goals in the league, for the entire year – not just this season. The last 12 months.
Last year we were on fire. I remember Howard Webb saying on a Match of the Day at some point that if West Ham hadn’t had such bad decisions against us and disallowed goals we’d be title contenders based on the points that those decisions likely denied us. We were on fire.
This season though, we seem to not have that desire, that hunger, that team spirit. I think a lot of it is down to the bad summer signings (and too many of them) who simply haven’t gelled in the team. In my opinion, a lot can then be said as to why we’re not playing as a solid unit.
Last year Noble was tipped for England. This year he’s touch and go as to whether I’d pick him week in week out if I was Slav.
If the rumours are true, January could see a big shift in the team dynamic — but that could be the revelation we need, or it could signal relegation…I sincerely hope not. We need to find our team unity again.
I still believe… I still expect… COYI
Guest post by Paul Christmas
You are all invited to the next meeting of the West Ham Independent Supporters Association which will take place this Saturday upstairs at the Hammers Supporters Club in Castle Street starting at 1pm. Entry is free. We shall be able to update you on our activities over the last couple of weeks as an association as well as forward plan our launch.
With kick off at 5.30 it is envisaged that the meeting should last about an hour or so. That way we all have time to travel over to the OS to get ready for the destruction of Arsenal.
Your attendance and input is, as always, welcomed and vital to the association as it gets off the ground.
I look forward to seeing you.