David Hautzig's Match Report

Everton 2, West Ham 3. Joy, Happiness, Fun. That's Our West Ham Now.

I may not like golf, and I don’t, but I’ve heard of golf handicaps and I have a basic idea of what they are. If a player isn’t as good as others in his group, they can still compete on somewhat equal terms. Everton are lucky these rules don’t apply to football, because if they did West Ham would probably be allowed to start any match against them with at least 1-0 lead. Maybe 2-0 when you combine how rarely we beat them with how often Lukaku scores against us. Well, Lukaku did score.

And he should have had a brace.

And our passing was poor, if not worse.

And Emineke, admittedly all alone up there the first half, had to have set some kind of record for being called offside in a single half.

And yet another curse has been lifted on what is already the most exciting season I’ve ever had as a West Ham supporter.

The first half was largely one I wish I hadn’t had to watch, and see no reason to remember. Heck, I could make a solid argument not to even report on it. But I will, kind of. As early as the 4th minute Everton had West Ham penned into their own area, with a legitimate shout for a penalty when Oxford pulled down Stones in the area during an Everton corner.

West Ham had their first sniff at goal in the 11th minute, and as usual it was Payet. The Hammer Of The Year in waiting was allowed to gather the ball near the center circle and embark on a run straight down the middle. When Jagielka backed off, Payet let go of a low shot that looked headed for the bottom corner but rolled wide.

If I were a multi billionaire I’d buy a team, any team, and purchase Lukaku for whatever Everton wanted. Then I’d pay him a million quid per week to do whatever he wanted. Even if that included sitting on the beach all day. Just to get him away from us. After receiving a pass from Oviedo in the box, Lukaku spun around Oxford like he was more toddler than young man and fired a low shot past Adrian.

Everton 1, West Ham 0.

When Miralles was booked for diving in the 16th minute I thought the decision was harsh. Why would he have gone down on purpose in that part of the pitch? He’s a smarter player than that, I thought. But Twenty minutes later his brainpower was absolutely called into question when he recklessly and needlessly slid into Cresswell well after the ball had gone merrily on its way. Anthony Taylor had no choice but to show him a second yellow and a red, even though he took a very long time to do it.

The Hammers started to at least hang on to the ball more as the first half progressed but for all of their passing in and around the area, nothing concrete came of it until the 42nd minute when Lanzini fed Cresswell on an overlapping run. The West Ham left back then sent an inviting cross into the box, and this time Emineke timed his run well and flicked it on goal. A combination of luck and simply making himself big allowed Joel to make the stop. Moments later, Jagielka took down Payet just outside the box to give West Ham a free kick from an area we’ve seen Payet score from more than once this season. And if the goal had been twenty feet taller he would have scored again today.

Halftime. Everton 1, West Ham 0.

The second half began in much the same way as the first half ended. Pure frustration. Bilic tried to add some offense when he inserted Carroll for Oxford, the kind of attacker for defender switch when behind that always made sense to us, but not to certain former managers who shall no longer be named. Unless you want to actually call him Voldemort.

Payet won another free kick after a foul by Besic, but Antonio put his header wide despite a decent delivery. Kouyate made a key defensive stop by intercepting a ball that was destined for Lukaku running into the area. Even a man down Lukaku was waiting at our collective Claret & Blue shoulders, ready to make a run.

The game changed completely in the 56th minute. Well, for me it did. If you are superstitious. Which I am.

Lennon and Lukaku combined on a give and go right at the edge of the West Ham penalty area and Lennon split Cresswell and Kouyate to poke the ball behind a seemingly shocked Adrian.

Everton 2, West Ham 0.

I left my living room and walked into my kitchen. After some nice comments about my more free flowing report on Wednesday night, I figured the details of the final 34 minutes were no longer important. I needed to bake a loaf of bread, I have a TV in the kitchen, I was thoroughly annoyed, and I needed a distraction. When Everton were awarded a penalty in the 69th minute, I wasn’t even that bothered. Besic was very crafty with the ball and Song hadn’t learned his lesson from last year at Spuds to not poke your damned leg in from behind in the box.

The TV in the living room was still on, and oddly the sound from the two sets were around one second different, with the kitchen running behind. So I heard the announcer say Lukaku missed it while I was watching him run up to the ball. But if I told you I thought that was some cosmic sign I’d be lying. I just thought Lukaku would be angry he didn’t score his 19th.

Before CD’s, and way before MP3’s, there were records. I have always maintained that the second side of Abbey Road must be listened to in its entirety. Individual tracks not allowed. I believe that’s how the songs were written, that’s how the record was constructed, and that is how it must be played. Same here.

First, in the 78th minute Noble lofted a ball into the box. Antonio, who to be honest was not at his best today, got to it first and headed it past Joel. Three minutes later, Payet sent a cross into the box that Sakho got to before anybody else and sent the ball into the back of the net. Finally, just like the love we take being equal to the love we make, Antonio sent a ball into the box. Carroll flicked it to Sakho, who back-heeled it to Payet, who slotted it home.

Final Score. Everton 2, West Ham 3.

I was enjoying The Guardian Football Weekly Podcast yesterday while waiting for my kids to be done with school. Towards the end, Barry Glendenning said he thought Bilic was one of the few managers in the EPL that have created the kind of spirit among his players that can make the difference on a day like today. “You get the impression they would run through a wall for him” he said. The other presenters agreed and continued to offer praise to our leader. While this may be a stretch, fueled by the ecstasy of what we just experienced, but I think there are other things at work here that don’t usually get much attention in the big money, big testosterone world of sport.

Joy and fun.

Slaven Bilic, who by all accounts works his players hard, would rather go back to practicing law in Croatia than not have fun with football. And if he expects to have fun, then I’m pretty certain he wants his players to have fun and to play the game with joy. While Payet was running behind the goal after the winner, for some reason I watched Carroll running….no, galloping off the meet him. Smiles, hugs, laughter. All the endorphin making things that are soooooo often lost with players today. And have been missing for Hammer supporters for far too long. We’ve had more than a few false dawns in our recent history. These dreams, however, aren’t fading away.

Happy, happy days.

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Match Report

Ten Talking Points From Everton 2 West Ham 3

Feast your eyes….

I can’t really beat this match day thread from the magnificent Tony Hanna…

Beat Liverpool away first time in over 50 years – the beat them twice more – beat Arsenal away – beat Man City away – beat our bogie team Everton away – beat Spurs when they were looking to go top – beat Chelsea and even beat Big Sam on his return – quarter finals of the Cup and one game away from a Wembley semi-final………sorry, that can’t be West Ham can it? ….love ya Slaven!!

Indeed. I listened to the BBC London commentary from this game and even at 2-0 down I still had belief. Now when in our entire history would that have happened? And when it got to 2-2 I really thought we’d go on to win even though there wasn’t much time left. I saw the Sky scenes from the final whistle and you could see what it meant to the players. The way Payet gripped Antonio showed me yet again he is in love with this club.

1. Another goal from Michail Antonio. He scores when he wants. He’s also on Goals on Sunday tomorrow on Sky Sports 1 at 10am.
2. Why can’t we deal with Lukaku? OK, he’s a great player, but 8 goals in 8 games against us? Come on. Perhaps he should be our marquee Summer signing!
3. A team who loses a goal against a team with 10 men ought to be fined a week’s wages. But then again, when they repent their sins…
4. We are now fifth. Man U play tomorrow and if they win they overtake us again, but we’re now building a nice little gap. Southampton, in 8th are 8 points adrift.
5. We are three points behind Arsenal, six points behind Tottenham. I say no more.
6. Do we fear Chelsea at Stamford Bridge? Well, to be honest yes. But this team seems to fear no one.
7. Nine points from three games in seven days. It doesn’t get much better than that.
8. Listening to the commentary Emenike seemed to do quite well in the first half, but Carroll again made a difference when he came on.
9. Great to see Diafra Sakho on the scoresheet. I suspect he will start at Old Trafford.
10. Surely to God we have to be the first match on Match of the Day. Bet we won’t be though.

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Match Thread

Match Thread: Everton v West Ham

Everton v West Ham
Premier League
Goodison park
KO 3pm
TV: None
Radio: BBC Radio London

Team: Adrian, Cresswell, Antonio, Oxford, Ogbonna, Obiang, Noble, Kouyate, Payet, Emenike, Lanzini
Subs: Randolph, Song, Carroll, Sakho, Henry, Hendrie, Dobson

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

Match Preview

Lineup Prediction: Everton v West Ham

Subs: Randolph, Henry, Sakho, Emenike, Browne, Song, Dobson

With James Collins injured Reece Oxford is likely to take his place ahead of Doneil Henry, a player I rate very highly. In the Europa League and pre season friendlies he was outstanding. Otherwise, I would expect Sakho or Carroll to replace Emenike.

Everton are our bogey team and if we come away with a point I have to say I’d consider that to be a result. You look at the Everton team and they have underperformed this season. Lukaku is the exception. Seventeen goals is a great return from him, but he hasn’t really had the support he needs. And if James McCarthy injured Dimitri Payet for a second time, I won’t be responsible for my actions!

You have until 1.45 to enter the Predictor League

UPDATE: Oops. As many of you have pointed out, I rate Cresswell so highly I have named him twice. Obviously I meant Noble in midfield!!!

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Talking Point

Are West Ham really Injury Prone?

Blind Hammer looks at West Ham’s run of injuries and asks if there are wider and longer term factors which requires a strategic rebalancing of the squad.

The injury to James Collins is the latest example of how West Ham has had to rise against adversity to compete in a memorable season.

All teams get players injured but west Ham has suffered from clumps of injuries to key positions making cover very difficult. We currently have not only Collins injured, but Tomkins, and Reid all injured from the defensive element of our squad. Even Joey O’Brien, who has filled in from time to time in central defence is injured.

Mention of O’Brien reminds us that we have similar pressure on our right back position with Jenkinson also out for the season, Tomkins unable to cover and Byron’s suspension coming at a awkward time.

Arguably though over the season the most disruptive injuries which have cost us most points have come in our midfield and attacking areas. The most challenging part of our season was when we lost not just Payet but Lanzini, Song and Moses from our creative midfield engine. Moses and Song even now seem a hit and miss option, likely to miss as many games as they plays. Andy Carroll’s absences are well known but Sakho has also been missing since November and Valencia appears to never be able to complete more than a five game run before having to return to the side-lines with a further injury.

Fortunately we also have a robust core in Adrian, Noble, Antonio and Cresswell who seem to be able to play nearly all season without mishap. However there is no doubt that it is the absence of our creative midfield and striking options that are most difficult to cover within our squad.

Various theories abound as to the root of our apparent injury malaise. Bilic has pointed a finger at Chadwell Heath and temporarily abandoned the facility to re-locate to Rush Green. However when last we heard the squad had limped, perhaps literally, back to Chadwell Heath as Rush Green facilities are simply not up to scratch yet. In response to this dilemma Bilic has apparently been running more training sessions at the Boleyn in an attempt to escape the Chadwell Heath hoodoo. This seems eminently sensible but this may have inadvertently caused more problems.

Understandably the club have been reluctant to invest in a pitch that they will be ripping up in a few weeks/months’ time. According to reports the pitch is years overdue for renewal and the extra training sessions, allied to our cup run has seen the pitch have more than usual wear and tear. There is no direct evidence that the spate of hamstring injuries, of which Collin’s is only the latest example is due to the deteriorating pitch but it is not likely to help.

However there may be a deeper trend here which is affecting not just West Ham but all Premiership clubs. Arsenal’s defeat last weekend at Old Trafford was marked by two significant goal scorers. For Arsenal, Welbeck , their forgotten English striker, returned after missing nearly all of the season through injury. For Manchester United, despite their vast access to enormous transfer resources, they had to rely on a spectacular premiership debut by 18 year old Rashford who was playing because of injury to Anthony Martial and in the long term absence of Rooney. For both Arsenal and Manchester United injuries to key strikers have shaped their performance this season.

For Liverpool Sturridge is only now returning after months of injury. Manchester City has been similarly hit by injuries to Aguero and Silva. Everton came under pressure to sign another forward in January because of injuries to Romelu Lukaku’s.

For Southampton Charlie Austin has already been side-lined for most of his stay because of problems with his hamstring though this is probably the least surprising injury to occur in the Premiership. Whilst talking of Southampton we should also remember that they lost Rodriguez for over a year. For Chelsea Radamel Falcao is another forgotten man of Premiership strikers whose injury record prevented Marseille signing him in January.

You could make a similar list of key attacking midfielders for various clubs , Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Arsenal has been missing for most of the season, Hazard has struggle to appear consistently for Chelsea, Fellini at Manchester United and so on.

I have not researched this in detail but I am sure that if you worked down the Premiership table you would have a long list of injured strikers and attacking midfielders. The teams who have been most blessed by lack of injuries appear to be Leicester and Spurs. This fact probably underlies their respective league positions. However they appear to be the exceptions which prove the rule. Quite simply they are lucky.

Whilst it is tempting to look within West Ham for answers to the injury hoodoo the wider evidence suggests the answer may not be within the club. A more likely answer is that over the last 20 years human bodies and the demands we make on them have changed. We only have to look at the breaking of records at Athletic events over the last 20 years to realise that the science of human bodily development has improved consistently. In football this increasing athleticism, speed, power and endurance of players at the highest level is greater than it has ever been. It would seem a logical conclusion therefore that if we are developing and stressing human bodies to an extent never before seen, that breakdowns are more likely. Footballers do not have the performance luxury of Athletes or boxers who can plan and gradually increase stress on their bodies to a peak performance two or three times a year. A Premiership footballing athlete will in contrast be placing performance stress on their bodies not to or three times a year but two or three times a week. In this context it is no coincidence that it is the players at the competitive sharp end of the pitch, in attack and attacking midfielders, that are most prone to stress and injury. Players here typically have to perform whilst outnumbered by defenders who are unlikely to be gentle with their attentions. No manager in modern times have ever picked more forwards than defenders, even the most attack minded pick formation loaded with defenders. Nowadays a 4-4-2 formation is often seen as a recklessly attack minded formation but even here 2 forwards are outnumbered by 4 defenders.

So what can we do to redress this apparent plague of injuries to strikers and attacking midfielders? The restricted size of squads in the premiership to 25 players underlies why even the clubs with deepest pockets have encountered problems. They cannot in the short term buy their way out of difficulty. This is probably the best argument for retaining Transfer Windows.

However the balance and composition of these 25 man squads may have to come under scrutiny. Traditionally most clubs have looked at assembling 4 good striking options at a club. For West Ham in particular, especially if we are to play in Europe next season this seems to provide far too restricted options. Imagine the difficulties if our current squad had had to cope with an extended European run

If we retain only 4 strikers, rotation will only become an option if we remain relatively injury free to the extent enjoyed by Tottenham this year. Tottenham’s luck this year is not a reliable guide to future squad stress next year though.

. West Ham will therefore need at least 5 and possibly 6 striking options when assembling their squad next season. A similar rebalancing will have to occur with a strengthening of our midfield options. The conventional wisdom is that Samuelson may replace Moses. If we are in Europe we will require both.

Squads can be strengthened by Academy players and Oxford is an example of where this can work well. The reality though is that we are more likely to find it easier to cover in defensive positions rather than the relatively precious gems of strikers and creative midfielders who require special and rare nurturing.

My recommendations for a successful squad may look lop sided and attacking from a traditional standpoint but may be the only realistic option to enable us to face the tests of the years ahead.

David Griffith

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