Talking Point

Hammers are saturated with class but struggling for rhythm.

West Ham started the season full of hope and optimism and due to a terrible run of fixtures and a few new faces we found ourselves pointless with a small number of games gone. Then it all picked up and performances against Chelsea, Everton and Man Utd showed how much quality and aspiration we really have. But entwined within this has been some puzzling off performances. These non-performances also happened against Brighton and to a certain extent in the double header London derby albeit against a top four side currently.

This really is not intended as a bitter Monday moan as all of the prerequisites for brilliance in the team are already evident albeit some more evident than others. Now I think the team in itself has improved rapidly as the games have gone on. Arnie is one of the leading scorers in the Prem, Anderson is starting to germinate and Diangana has been discovered. Diop and Balbuena are actually very proficient and the keeper is outstanding. Therefore we need to really analyse the mechanism by which our form seems to oscillate. I would suggest the main reason is that Pellegrini’s model is not yet complete. It’s clear we don’t quite have a full set of first team players who can provide the reliability and consistency in performance we need. January may be a possibility but our chairman are often cautious of this window so any additions are likely to be on loan or moderately priced at best. Therefore we are looking at next season until we can strengthen the areas we need to. Full backs, another centre forward and an industrious centre mid who can tackle and pass.

Despite such annoyances, looking at our best performances the team we have got are still capable of better showings than the first half at Huddersfield. I think to a certain extent this has been due to pressures and strains on the centre of midfield. Noble’s suspension and Obiang’s continual state of semi-fitness has put immense pressure on Rice who has been superb this season but we are over reliant on him to pick up misplaced passes and generally win the ball in the middle. Against Huddersfield he made a rare individual error and was unlucky to be punished but was. Balbuena and Fabianski also made similar errors but got away with them so it was one of those games where only conceding one goal was actually no mean feat considering the way they came at us. I think we should be more concerned at only scoring one. At times we seem to overplay the ball or run wide when a better ball inside is waiting. We need to be more efficient and clinical, Hernandez immediately made an impact when he came on and should really have done better but fair enough. However that was basically it from him. I’m not convinced taking Diangana off helped anyone and despite Hernandez’s record how much longer can we afford him ghosting about contributing only for very small parts of the game.

Another reason we have not managed to break into a better rhythm is our lack of options from the bench. Antonio continues with a general ineptness which has not been seen in previous seasons and his decision making is still very questionable. Fredericks appears to have sustained an injury to his ankle and certainly looked crocked when last seen gingerly hopping across the field. This is a shame for him and hopefully it is just a sprain, he hadn’t completely settled in the game and with Zab not getting any younger and rumours circulating about this being his last season Fredericks can really capitalise if he ups his game. So what should we be expecting from the rest of this season and from the next couple of seasons? Continued improvement and a few winning runs could see us as high as 6th-8th with being happy with 10th a likely realistic target. The only problem with this is Pellegrini and the whole Board cash input for signings hasn’t been done to finish 10th or even 8th. Pellegrini is a manager who wins things, the board have brought him in to win things, should we expect a major restructuring with maybe Obiang, Antonio, Noble and Carrol being sold to facilitate more ‘major’ signings? Or have we basically got the team we need bar a couple of fullbacks and we just need to carry on gelling and improving? Time will tell, after the break will come a tough test which could boost our season or provide another mini dip in morale but we must come through that and be ready to put together a decent run up to and beyond the New Year.

Lads looking mean, lean and hungry!

At times it seems like we have got it cracked. Anderson beating the player on Saturday and then taking another two out with the angled ball was pure genius as was his finish. Arnie seems to dictate whole phases of games with an invincible glow to his presence as he out battles opponents and finds pockets from which he can pounce, and Diop and Balbuena look comfortable as a pairing which is crucial. The positives all outweigh the negatives and as frustratingly disappointing it is to watch us only score one goal when three or four could have easily been had I still think it was always going to be a tough game and one which we have continued our accrual of points. Lets hope Pellegrini has some ideas for when his old boys come to town as well as looking forward to a few more tough away games. If he gets it right the class of our team will show through and the rhythm will be back in the West Ham dream. COYI!

The HamburgHammer Column

Bitten by the terriers - that really was a bit of a pile of poo, innit ?

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“We’re doing a Spieleabend! Let’s have a Spieleabend, mate!” That’s a suggestion to strike fear into most of us adults beyond the age of 29. Spieleabend translates as “gaming evening” – and it doesn’t refer to games you play on a Playstation or Xbox either. This is actual boardgames, of the modern variety with plastic or wooden pieces, action cards, differently coloured tokens to be used within a framework of sophisticated rules often based on forward thinking, strategic planning and witty banter with the other participants. The rulebook in some cases can be as long and detailed as the manual of your average German car.

A Spieleabend may also involve games where you can show off your geographical knowledge – or lack of it (ideally suited for self-proclaimed smartypants like myself) or some new-fangled weird card games with even weirder rules where any strategy is kind of pointless as one random bad card dealt to your hand can set you back to square one in an instant.

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Still, I kind of had to attend because it also gave me the chance to finally arrive in the 21st century. I am now, at last, the proud owner of a proper smartphone (like 99% of my readers I presume), and my tech-savvy mate (the one who suggested the Spieleabend) helped me to set it all up, showing me some useful tricks and flicks in the process and I am sure the smartphone will come in handy for my upcoming visit to London for the Palace game.

I briefly interrupted that boardgaming bonanza though for two and a half hours to excuse myself and watch the West Ham game at home, just two miles from my mate’s flat, in the hope West Ham would get a much-needed second win on the bounce. Alas, it was not to be.

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I’ve now had some time to mull over the question whether to be happy or disappointed with the result at Huddersfield. As the headline suggests, the glass to me ultimately felt half empty. Huddersfield were a lot stronger than I anticipated though and if it weren’t for Fabianski things could have been even worse for us in the first half.

West Ham as a football team didn’t really happen in the first half, did we ?
What I found missing was the effort to press the Huddersfield players, to chase them around the pitch, the fight, the guts, the hunger.
The will to impose ourselves on the home side and show them their rightful low place in the pecking order.

What happened instead was this: Huddersfield really wanted to win and it showed. They came out of the gates like banshees right from the first whistle and scored very early. We on the other hand wanted to cruise and win the game without really bothering with shifting out of second gear.

Maybe subconsciously the lads looked at Huddersfield’s record so far this season and figured “We’ll beat that lot for sure, even with a half-hearted performance our quality will prevail and we will win regardless.” We didn’t of course. We created a number of fairly decent chances on the day, but again we weren’t quite ruthless enough and wasted most of the opportunities we had managed to craft for ourselves.

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Other than the overall lackluster performance I was feeling increasingly annoyed about Chicharito. I have a number of pet hates when watching football and high on the list is seeing players repeatedly waving their arms in the air, pleading for a handball or offside rather than playing to the whistle, trying to win back a ball or tracking back to defend.
Chicharito seemed to do it a lot, moaning and moping incessantly instead of focusing on his job of converting goalscoring opportunities.

I understand that Besiktas are interested in signing him in January and I would think that a deal at this point might be the best option for all parties concerned: Chicharito has never quite managed to hit a good run of form at our club, his style of play doesn’t really suit us, we might use his wages (plus a bit of a transfer fee) for getting in a more suitable attacking option and the player may find his luck improving elsewhere.

My expectations for this season in terms of league position remain realistic and modest, I would expect us to finish anywhere between 9th and 14th which would be reasonably decent considering it’s yet another season of transition from one manager to another. I think we have a decent platform now quality-wise and with players returning from injury, including Carroll, Wilshere and later on Lanzini as well, we should be even more creative – but we also need to make sure that our players are able and willing to show their quality when it actually counts, between the first and final whistle of our competitive fixtures, be they league or cup games.

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I ain’t asking for the world here, just players who are willing to leave it all out there on the pitch on matchday. We have some fantastic footballers in our squad now, but without 100% effort you cannot expect to win any game of football in the Premier League. It’s now another international break – does it only seem that way or do we have a lot of international games this season, occasionally interrupted by actual league games?

Ideally you want to leave the disappointment of the Huddersfield game behind you, roll up your sleeves and go again in another game the weekend after to make amends.
Instead we can look forward to the well oiled footballing machine of Manchester City which could turn out to be a terrifying prospect. Or we might show the occasional trademark unpredictability we all love so much about our club and beat the odds with a good result against the Mancunians.

I will be ready and make sure that no boardgames will get in my way this time around. Instead I shall be looking forward to my upcoming visit for the Palace game, getting ready for what will probably be my final pre-Brexit trip to London. COYI!!!

Hamburg footballing update: A fairly crap weekend from a personal point of view. Hamburg SV won to cement their place as league leaders in Bundesliga 2 while St.Pauli only managed a 1:1 draw at home against Heidenheim. They are still near the top of the table, but it was very much a case of a big opportunity lost.
Concordia lost. Both the first team and the U23s. They didn’t just lose, they were humiliated: The U23s lost 1:6 at home, got two players sent off for dissent, missed a penalty and generally looked like a pub side on the day, very unusual for them, but that surely now was the final nail in the coffin with regard to any remaining hopes for promotion.
The highlight of the first team’s away game at Sasel was the excellent currywurst (sausage with spicy curry-powdered tomato sauce) I enjoyed before kick-off.
The game ended in a 1:4 defeat and right now attending Cordi games feels a bit like doing the washing up, a chore that doesn’t involve anything resembling fun but needs to get done and got over with…

The Iron Liddy Column

For club and country: Help to get West Ham United to the top of the WW1 Remembrance League

Today I’ve been browsing the array of online articles commemorating the 100 year anniversary of Armistice Day and I came across one that was both surprising and a bit shameful.

Apparently the Woodland Trust and the National Football Museum launched a joint project on 1st July 2016 to plant trees in memory of footballers who fought in World War One. For every £20 raised by the fans of 62 football clubs a tree will be planted at England’s First World War Centenary Woodland on the edge of the Epsom Downs in Surrey, with a target of 100 trees per club.

The name of the project is For Club and Country Remembering the Greater Game and its aim is to create a living and digital legacy to remember the sacrifices made by footballers on the frontline as well as the home front effort during the First World War. As their website explains:

“The direct effects of the First World War are still felt on today’s landscape, with the UK having the least woodland cover in Europe. During and after the First World War, trees were planted in remembrance, marking the loss of life and the sacrifices made. We feel strongly that this tradition should be continued to create a living and growing legacy as a fitting tribute.”

Shockingly, in almost two and a half years the project has only raised £2,621 of its £139,000 target. I can’t believe for a moment that this is due to football fans failing to donate to such a worthwhile cause. It must be down to a lack of publicity, especially as over £500 of the money raised so far was donated since the news article about the lack of donations appeared yesterday. Clearly the PR departments of both the Woodland Trust and the National Football Museum need a kick up the butt. I’m a member of the Woodland Trust and this is the first that I’ve heard about this project!

So I’m appealing to all West Ham fans to consider making a donation in memory of the Hammers who fought and died in WW1. There are several good reasons to do this, not least because helping to restore our green and pleasant land in the name of those who died in her name is a very fitting and environmentally sound idea; but also because the ambassador of the project is none other than our very own Sir Trevor Brooking. As Sir Trev explains on the project website:

“The Woodland Trust and the National Football Museum’s For Club and Country project is the perfect way to commemorate football’s important role in the First World War.

“We’re planting groves of trees for the clubs whose players bravely fought for their country and creating something beautiful and long lasting for future generations.

“Every football fan needs to get involved and make sure their club is remembered in the football groves at Langley Vale Wood. If you love football as much as I do, please pledge just £5 to get your team represented and see your own name listed on the supporters’ roll of honour.”

So not only will you be helping to create a living, breathing tribute to those fallen men, you will also have the opportunity to add your name to the Roll of Honour alongside Sir Trevor Brooking’s name. Once the First World War commemorations conclude in 2019, your name will form part of a permanent exhibition at the National Football Museum.

If all of that isn’t reason enough to pledge whatever you can afford then consider this …… at the moment the top six clubs in the WW1 Remembrance League are as follows:

  1. Nottingham Forest – £315
  2. Tottenham Hotspur – £260
  3. Queens Park Rangers – £155
  4. Cardiff City – £150
  5. England – £140
  6. Plymouth Argyle – £105

I know! We need to climb up that table above the Spuds ASAP! Many clubs’ supporters have yet to donate anything at all, so at £72 West Ham aren’t in the relegation zone but this is a league that we can actually win. So please dig deep and pledge what you can, every little will help. Let’s make West Ham the first club to reach their £2,000 target and make Sir Trev proud of us.

This link will take you directly to the WHU donation page: For Club and Country: West Ham United

Come on you Irons!

David Hautzig's Match Report

Huddersfield 1, West Ham 1. Not The Best Point To Make.

When you think about it, the supporter narrative around our club changes at the blink on an eye. Or one result. Going into Burnley last week, the mood felt a bit grim. We had lost midweek to Spurs in the whatever the heck it’s called now Cup, ten days after losing to them in the league. We had given up a 90th minute goal to drop two points at Leicester City. Third lowest point total after ten games since EPL started. Our record signing looked a lost cause. On and on and on.

And then we beat Burnley.

Hey! You know what? Leicester got a damned lucky bounce off Balbuena’s butt, and Ogbonna should have won it at the end. Yarmolenko should have buried that cross against Chelsea. Oh, and Arnie missed a sitter against Brighton. Those are five points right there and we’d be top half! Yeah, we are just fine!

See what I mean? So today against Huddersfield, the mood was good. Optimism that we would win consecutive EPL matches for the first time since 2017 was high. Foolish of us.

You know what I learned at the start of the match? My NBC app does not support a wired connection to a TV. As I scrambled to change setups, first with AirPlay through Apple TV (which is as inconsistent as a certain football club), and then resorting to simply using my Ipad, the first three plus minutes had come and gone.

In the 4th minute, Diangana showed again why he might just be a keeper from the Academy. After beating his man with a lovely little turn around, he sent a near perfect through ball for Arnautovic. The Austrian Talisman was in all alone on Lossl. He had a choice of finding Anderson in the middle or going it alone. He tried alone, and his attempted curl around the keeper was palmed out for a corner.

Declan Rice has made very few mistakes in his short but impressive West Ham career. But when Huddersfield pressed him after a Fabianski clearance, he made one. And the home side pounced. Pritchard’s low shot didn’t look too dangerous. I thought it was about to roll wide. But when I saw the net ripple, the ever present fears of a let down after a win took over.

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Huddersfield 1
West Ham 0

Huddersfield came absurdly close to doubling their lead in the 15th minute when Billing sent what was almost certainly a cross when he let it go. But in mid-air it morphed into a shot and clanged off the far post. It bounced parallel to the line, could have hit Fabianski in the back, and went past the near post. Goal Line Technology confirmed we were still only a goal down.

As great as Diop has been, he has also been prone to the occasional mind shut down. He had another in the 25th minute with a complacent pass out of the zone and Mounie pounced. He ran at goal with just Fabianski to beat but the West Ham keeper made himself big and made a very fine save.

As the first half hit the half hour mark, West Ham were unfortunately limited to long, hopeful balls upfield. Not the possession play that had given us whatever limited success we have had this season. Add the defensive errors and the effective Huddersfield setup and a longer afternoon than expected looked in the cards.

The first half rolled towards its conclusion without much to talk about, other than a nasty looking collarbone injury to Chris Lowe. That added five minutes of added time, precisely what the visitors didn’t want. A decent cross by Snodgrass gave West Ham a final roll of the dice with a corner. But they came up snake eyes.

Huddersfield 1
West Ham 0

Pellegrini began the second half with a change, removing Diangana for Chicharito. A positive move in terms of experience, and I trust the manager to make it clear to the youngster that he didn’t do anything wrong and it wasn’t a punishment.

He almost made an immediate impact when a lucky deflection came to him in the box. His first shot was smothered by Lossl. The ball bounced high in the air, and Hernandez tried a looping header that landed on the top of the goal.

West Ham tried to implement its style on the game, but with virtually no success. The home side kept The Hammers pegged back, and when they did make it forward there were numbers to deal with. West Ham weren’t sharp, had no creativity, and looked complacent. It started to look almost exactly like the loss to Brighton. So when my best mate Jon bet me we would win, I took the wager. Why not? I would have gladly paid a few bucks for the three points, or taken some money as a salve.

In the 55th minute West Ham could have fell victim to a missed offside call when Pritchard got on the end of a long ball and went in alone on Fabianski. Diop recovered well and forced Pritchard to his left and the shot went wide. Minutes later West Ham looked brighter, and if Snodgrass and Arnautovic hadn’t run into each other in the box there might have been an end product. Instead, it all ended with a terrible high shot by Anderson.

Pellegrini made another positive change in the 65th minute when Antonio replaced Obiang. But the first chance after that came to Huddersfield when Mounie challenged Diop in the West Ham eighteen yard box and almost got a gift shot on goal. Moments later the home side won a corner, but the delivery was so bad you’d think Anderson took it.

I rarely report on substitutions as they happen because I choose to add them as points after the fact. But today was so bereft of things to talk about, well, here is another one. Zabaleta was replaced by Fredericks in the 74th minute. Unless the new signing believes in Karma, his entry had little to do with what came next. Anderson sent a cross into the box. Hernandez was denied. Then Antonio. Finally, Anderson was there to smash it into the upper corner.

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Huddersfield 1
West Ham 1

The pendulum looked to have swung all the way to Claret & Blue a minute later when West Ham won a corner. The delivery into the box was near perfect, and Diop sent a powerful header at goal that was cleared off the line by Mooy. Minutes later it was Huddersfield that gave the crowd a reason to gasp when Durm attempted a long shot that went just wide.

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I totally understand the talent that is Felipe Anderson. And I totally understand the need to keep him in the lineup as much as possible. But there are times, like his lazy pass that could have sprung Arnie in alone in the 86th minute that drives me bonkers. Rant quick, and over.

The Hammers had a couple of half chances in second half injury time when Arnautovic had the ball near the top of the Huddersfield box. He tried to thread a ball to Hernandez but Huddersfield cleared. In the dying moments, Huddersfield won a corner and the very fact they didn’t score was probably enough for me.

Final Score
Huddersfield 1
West Ham 1

We played a side that had only scored one goal at home all year, and it was an OG. Pritchard takes that shot 100 more times Fabianski saves 99 of them. If we couldn’t break that snide of not winning two consecutive matches today, I’m not that hopeful of seeing us do it anytime soon. I am not happy with the point. Nor am I happy with the display.

Neither should Pellegrini.

Match Thread

Match Thread: Huddersfield Town v West Ham

Huddersfield Town v West Ham
FA Premier League
John Smith’s Stadium
KO 3pm
TV: None

Please comment on the game as it progresses.

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