Player Analysis

We Need to Talk About Kouyate

I’m worried.

Cheikhou Kouyate is one of those people who brings sunshine into your life. Always cheerful. An infectious smile. A raucous laugh. He’s a conduit for positivity. And he’s a bloody good player.

But I’m worried that despite his smiles, he’s not happy. He’s made clear he prefers to play in midfield, yet this season he’s been part of a back three, and is now playing at right back. He doesn’t complain. He just gets on with it, and says he’s happy to do whatever he needs to for the team. Just as you would expect. A man like him is worth his weight in gold to the team, and in theory saves us millions, because if we didn’t have him we’d probably need an extra defender in the squad.

However, Kouyate was bought as a rampaging midfielder, and that’s where we get the best out of him. His mistakes are few, he rarely has a bad or an average game, and is an absolute beast. I can pay him no bigger compliment than to say that he often reminds me of Patrick Vieira. The trouble is we now have an in form Pedro Obiang, who plays in a very similar way to Kouyate. So long as we play a midfield four, it’s difficult to see how Noble, Obiang and Kouyate can all play together.

So if I were Slaven Bilic (and there’s a thought…) I might well sit down for a little heart to heart with Kouyate and check (see what I did there?) that he is OK and isn’t going to want to throw his toys out of his pram at any point. It would be unthinkable to lose him in the summer.

Talking Point

In Praise of Arthur Masuaku

Even though I am part of the media, I sometimes scratch my head in bewilderment at some of the stories which sports media journalists manufacture. Several outlets are reporting today that West Ham are willing to take a massive financial hit on Arthur Masuaku and sell him in the summer – or even give him away.

When Masuaku came into the team after Cresswell was injured he was, for me, an absolute revelation. He built up a tremendous understanding with whoever played in front of him and showed some brilliant skills. Indeed, in the first part of the season I remember putting him forward as a candidate for Hammer of the Year.

His attacking abilities are superb. He can dribble and beat an opponent at will. Defensively he is slightly less convincing and has a tendency to panic, but overall I have been hugely impressed with him.

He had one dodgy game in which nothing went right for him, and it is on that one game (was it Arsenal?) that too many people now judge him. He’s never been able to redeem himself as he’s been injured ever since. He’s on his way back to fitness now and I hope he is given another chance in the first team before too long. To write him off now is ridiculous.

it is said his former club of Olympiakos would have first refusal. Madness. We have two excellent left backs, both of whom can play in more advanced roles in a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 formation. If Masuaku is happy to compete for the left back position, why on earth would we even think of selling him?

Talking Point

My Top Ten Hammers

This is what is known as a ‘Dubai filler’…

In the last thread I said that Dimitri Payet was well on the way to becoming a Hammers legend – someone who might in the future feature in an all time Top 5 Hammers. Well for lack of anything else to write about, I decided to compile my list of my all time Top 10 Hammers. Well, I say ‘all time’, what I really mean is my Top Ten Hammers that I have actually seen play for West Ham. Having said that I will include Bobby Moore, even though I never saw him play for West Ham, as my first game was in March 1974, after he had left the club. I’ll play him as my joker!

1. Bobby Moore
2. Billy Bonds
3. Trevor Brooking
4. Paolo Di Canio
5. Alan Devonshire
6. Tony Cottee
7. Alvin Martin
8. Julian Dicks
9. Rio Ferdinand
10. Dimitri Payet

Yes, I know, I know, how could I include Payet after what I wrote yesterday? Harold Wilson once said ’a week is a long time in politics". Well, a day is a long time in consistent football commentary!

So that’s my top ten. Am I mad?

Talking Point

Payet: Not Missing You Already

There was no greater fan of Payet than me. He was beginning to rival Paolo Di Canio in the hero stakes. He was undoubtedly in the top 5 players I have ever seen play for West Ham. I felt that he really bought into the whole West Ham project. How could I have been so naive? Admittedly, he hadn’t shown his form of last season but he was still capable of producing more than the odd moment of magic. He was fast on the way to becoming a West Ham legend.

And then he blew it.

I cannot remember a West Ham player going from hero to zero in such a short time. Refusing to play for a team which had embraced him, nurtured him, given him everything he could have ever wanted, was beyond the pale. Unforgivable. From the moment he refused to play, I never wanted to see him in a West Ham shirt again. He became a non person to me. A traitor. Strong words, maybe, but I felt jilted.

Since then we have looked like a changed team. We’ve won most of our games and apart from the two Manchester City games, we look transformed. We’ve actually played as a team, like the players know each other and pulled together. We may not be performing quite as we did last season, but if anyone had told us at the end of November that we’d now be in 9th or 10th place I’m not sure many of us would have believed them. This is due to many reasons, but the main one is that our attacking midfield players have stepped up to the plate and performed brilliantly. It wouldn’t be possible to replace Payet with a single player. But Snodgrass can take the set pieces and dribble. Lanzini can score from distance and run a defence. Feghouli had improved with every game he has played and like Antonio causes panic to occur in the opposing defence. These three players have performed in a way where few of us have missed Payet.

But there is one other piece to the jigsaw, which has seen us change from a relegation-threatened team to one which with a fair wind could challenge for a Europa League place, and his name is Andy Carroll. Payet out, Carroll in. That’s why we’re doing so well now. If Andy Carroll had played on Saturday I have little doubt we’d have beaten West Bromwich Albion. For me Carroll has been the missing link. His form has been nothing short of a revelation. If he gets called up for England it will be no more than he deserves. But the main thing is that he keeps fit and keeps banging in the goals for West Ham. However it’s his all round play which is so important. He wins everything in the air, he has a great first touch and can hold the ball up in a way few others can. And what’s more he’s scoring goals.

What’s not to like.

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Dimitri who?
That’s football…

Tony Hanna's Musings

The Break, Predictors and Question Time

Well after the game against West Brom we have two weeks to amuse ourselves until the next game at Watford. Normally it is the International breaks that test our patience but of course this time it is because next weekend is Cup week. It would be nice to be able sit back and watch Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea or the Moaning ones getting knocked out but when you look at their fixtures it is difficult to see any of them not making the quarter finals? Even Man City got a favourable draw and despite the unusualness of the top clubs all getting drawn away, somehow they all managed to avoid each other! Feel free to complain about our luck with Cup draws.

Looking forward to the game against Watford and it will be interesting to see if Andy Carroll is fit to play? Protecting a player from a groin niggle would be the natural course of action for any manager but Andy’s history has often told us things are always more complicated than that. It looks like Fonte and Snodgrass have settled well into the team and Kouyate is proving to be as versatile as Antonio. The latter appears to have dropped his form in the last few and I do wonder if he is struggling a bit with burn out? If that is the case then this trip to Dubai and the two week break should do him the World of good. Whilst we have all been harping on about the right back position for longer than we care, what is becoming as much as a problem is the form of Aaron Cresswell at left back. In my opinion he has never been a top class defender but his attacking threat down the left and his excellent crossing ability has always covered the cracks in his defensive game. I am not sure whether the injury he suffered earlier this season is behind it or whether it is a confidence thing? Either way it is fast becoming another problem for Slaven Bilic.

I had a few moments to spare the other day and I completed a Premier League predictor table. If you want to have a go yourself click here. It calculates the ongoing league table depending on the results you put into it. Just a bit of fun and only takes about ten minutes to complete and you will end up with all the finishing positions for the end of the season. For what is worth my predictions ended up with Chelsea winning the PL and just five points separating Man City, Spurs, Liverpool and Arsenal in that order. If I am right then Arsenal and the Moaners will miss out on the Champions League spots. Down the other end Sunderland, Leicester and Middlesbrough go down but anything could happen there as only four points separated 18th and 13th. I had West Ham to finish 11th and at this point in time I would be fairly happy with that considering all the turmoil at the club this season. If you have a go, post your predictions on here and I will look back at this thread at the end of the season to see who fared the best and report back.

Later this week Eddie Bovington has agreed to take part in a Q&A with me. I will post it as an article hopefully during this two week break. Eddie played in the Cup Final win against Preston in 1964 and made 184 appearances for the Hammers in the 1960’s. If any of our readers want to put forward any of their own questions to Eddie just let me know on this thread. If we get a few good ones I will pick the best three to go alongside the ones I have already prepared.

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