Tony Hanna's Musings

Three down and the FA Cup

Well that was a shambles wasn’t it? Selling Fonte was financially a good bit of business but when you are left with only three experienced centre backs and two are missing and the other one is crocked after a few minutes it doesn’t quite look so clever. Whatever the injuries though, there was a distinct lack of effort on Saturday. Something we have seen all too often this season. Eleven goals conceded in our past three away games and three points above the relegation zone – these are very worrying times for our club. To add to the woes it appears defenders Winston Reid and Sam Byram are out for the rest of the season with injuries.

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I must admit to feeling as low as I ever have about supporting West Ham. Over fifty years I have seen a few relegations and some tough times but there was always the chance things would get better. I am not sure what “better” really means nowadays. Perhaps it is 11th instead of 14th. The “Payet” season was a once off – every other season seems just a grind to stay in the sanctuary of the top flight. The bottom half of the PL has become a pressure cooker which when any of these teams play each other, with some exceptions, provides football matches where at least one of the teams plays gripped in fear. Often both teams do.

I wrote an article a few years ago suggesting that relegating three teams every season was bad for the game. Most of the responses at the time suggested fans on here preferred three up, three down. Conversely for me it further enriches the rich, whilst the gap between the rich and poor grows bigger. Before the inception of the Premier League in 1992, we had the old first division that consisted of 22 clubs. Each season two teams were relegated and were replaced by the top two in division two. In the Premier League we have reduced the amount of competing teams to twenty, but increased the quantity relegated by 50% to three. The main problem here is that too many clubs go down, and with it comes the financial meltdown that results in those relegated losing their best players and most streams of high revenue. Realistically the parachute payments don’t help much because these teams can rarely keep their best players. All this uncertainty only makes the elite six stronger. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to see fresh blood in the PL each season – just not as much as we are getting. Even a compromise of the team finishing 18th joining the top five teams from the Championship in the play offs would be a better option in my view.

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With their vastly better resources this elite six are safe from relegation. No need to name them, in the Premier League era we all know who they are. That leaves 14 others and just to show the inequality this season – every one of them has a negative goal difference. The team in seventh isn’t even averaging a goal a game! Now, if over a two season period none of the newly promoted teams get relegated we get six new teams bi-annually. That is a 42% turnaround (discounting the top six) of Premier League clubs every two seasons in those circumstances – all in the name of play off revenues and keeping the big six quite firmly in their place. Even if you include the top six it is still a 30% turnaround. Whilst some of the relegated teams do bounce back and the long term familiarity of the teams in the top division may not seem to change too much, the whole process of going down and returning only stunts the ability of these clubs to form any type of assault on the top six or at least create some sort of stability. If you look back at the PL table just five years ago there are seven different teams playing in the PL now which is a 50% turnover of the standard fourteen that feed for the scraps each year.

These top clubs, especially in the Champions League, are playing the sort of football we can only envy at West Ham. The gap is widening all the time as the top players become unaffordable for the also rans, and even if you have the money you don’t have the draw of the Champions League. In a few months time there will be a World Cup. In my younger years that was the equivalent of football heaven even when England hadn’t qualified. A chance to see football at its best. In my opinion the latter stages of the CL provides a better quality game than International football nowadays.

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I can fully understand why many West Ham fans say they would prefer to win the FA Cup than avoid relegation. What other chance do we have of winning something? However, relegation might mean a drop into the abyss. We have seen what it can do to clubs like Coventry, Portsmouth and many others. From a fans perspective those who do not or cannot attend games it would mean not being able to watch our club play every week any more. A spokesperson for the club spouts every year that the aim is to win a Cup this season. Yet, when the teams are announced for the Cup ties we consistently see a weaker team selection than what is being put out in the League. There is no doubt the club has just one priority, and it is not winning a trophy – the Premier League is all that matters. That only makes business sense. I question the often used phrase “would like a good cup run” this season. I wouldn’t. There is not much point in having a good run – I want to win the bloody thing! If we are going to be half hearted about it I would prefer we just bow out in the first round we play. Anyway, what is your preference? Hypothetically, would you sacrifice say five years of playing Premier League, playing in the lower leagues for another FA Cup trophy?

The HamburgHammer Column

Another bad day at the office ? I think it's a bad office at West Ham

Inept, poor, lackluster, shambolic, spineless, pathetic – choose any adjective with a negative connotation and it should fit West Ham’s performance at Swansea. Bear in mind that this is a Swansea rummaging around the basement of the table, desperate for any point to escape relegation – so not exactly powerhouse opposition.
But there is an awful lot going on and going wrong at West Ham this season – and when your paper-thin squad gets reduced further by illnesses and injuries you shouldn’t be surprised to see a team with their backs to the wall struggling to play anything resembling Premier League quality football.

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Like in so many other games this season though, just like under Bilic during his bad run, a lot of the players look disinterested, as if the game (which should be the highlight and focus of the week and the centerpiece of their professional pride) is nothing but a distraction of their everyday routine. I can sympathise that it’s probably not wall to wall fun to be a West Ham player at the moment, but they are professionals and should act accordingly.

Also it looks like Moyes’s honeymoon is finally over. I have been an advocate of finding a manager and then giving him a long term deal to lay a foundation for a long term strategy and gameplan for the entire club. I have my doubts though if Moyes is the right man to succeed with this particular bunch of players. I always try to find positives to talk about in my column when it comes to West Ham, but like the team I’m struggling.
Rice was the best player on the pitch yesterday and when a 19 year old is the only player coming out of a game with any professional dignity it’s a worrying sign.

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Our league position is still perilous, we may still have a three point cushion, but have destroyed our goal difference in the last two games which can be a relegation clincher at the end of the season. If we have to lose we cannot afford to concede a shipload like we tend to do. We don’t just lose, we capitulate, waving white flags all over the shop.
The entire club is in turmoil, from top to bottom, and I am sick and tired of hearing claims that the fans are putting a millstone of negativity around the club’s neck, affecting the players.

Pardon my French, but this is hogwash. The fans so far have been remarkably patient and unwaveringly positive and supportive, especially the travelling parties creating a fantastic atmosphere for our away games. I don’t remember too many occasions when the team actually repaid the away supporters with a great performance on the pitch.
The fans have done their bit, it’s about time the players, the manager and yes, the bloody board gave something back – and I am not talking about letters promising all kinds of things, beer shelves or flags of former Hammers legends being draped all over the concourse. Those are minor issues that should have been sorted the moment we moved into the new place.

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Every week another thing happens that easily opens up the board for more criticism. Reid going down the way he did of course was a freak injury, a stroke of bad luck and by the looks of it he could now be out for the rest of the season and beyond. This is significant because we just recently happened to allow Fonte to leave to China, getting in some funds to balance the books.

Sorry, but surely the priority this transfer window should have been to add to our squad in preparation for the relegation battle, not make it weaker. What was the point in letting so many players leave ? And what if we get relegated ? Expect plenty of transfer requests to arrive on Sullivan’s desk within days after the final game.
Talking of relegation I would be sad, angry, disappointed, distraught, but probably not for long.

It would be much harder for me to watch games of course in terms of finding internet streams for Championship games, but that’s not really the main issue. The issue is that once you’re down there it’s incredibly hard to get back up again, especially in the current circumstances. We could easily do a Leeds, a Forest or a Bolton.
Would I be happy to see the Daves take a financial hit in case of relegation ?

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Well, not really. They are so rich that a financial hit for them is very relative. They could still keep their Bentleys including chauffeur, their crystal panthers at home would be safe and they could also still afford two warm meals a day.
But West Ham, fans and club, would suffer going down and I don’t want West Ham to suffer. Parachute payments alone won’t guarantee anything anymore.

The board may well be gone in a few years, but the fans would still be there in the Championship in their droves and that’s why I can sympathise with any fan who still feels the desire and need to march.

The frustration and anger simply needs to go somewhere. Is a march the best way to let off steam ? I don’t know. Will it help the club ? Maybe not.
Is it better instead to vent your anger at home games inside the stadium with chants and banners ? Probably not, it may affect the players, but can they honestly play any worse than they did in recent weeks and for most of the season ? And that was with solid support from the West Ham faithful throughout.

As you can gather from my ramblings, I don’t have any answers really and even if I had it wouldn’t matter really as the decision makers are elsewhere and they seem to think their decisions have been spot on and they are the best people really to make this club a success. If you define success by just staying up in the Premier League even that task becomes quite tricky with every game we fail to win.

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It’s gonna be a tense remainder of the season and not for the faint of heart. You reap what you sow and it could be argued we have sown little and sown badly in recent years.
A Championship team as anchor tenant in the Olympic Stadium. A bizarre thought. But then again our club are the masters of the bizarre and we make the surreal possible.

PS: Not much else to report on a personal level. All lower level football in Hamburg got postponed due to the weather conditions. Hamburg only drew against Mainz, edging ever closer to relegation, getting a goal disallowed after VAR ruled it offside. And my brother is off on rehab in a place in the middle of nowhere near Mölln, the Eulenspiegel town. Eulenspiegel was a legendary trickster exposing vices many hundred years ago.
Tricksters aren’t a thing of the past though, some of them are still alive and kicking, running football clubs…

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David Hautzig's Match Report

Swansea 4, West Ham 1. Objectively Pathetic.

As the famous late American baseball legend Yogi Berra said, “it’s like Déjà vu all over again”.

I remember last season at around the same time, or maybe later, we played Swansea at home. It was a game that if we won, things looked ok. If we lost, things looked bleak. I couldn’t watch because I had to be in Manhattan to do something regarding my fathers estate. When the scores app on my phone dinged, I remember the abject terror I felt as I reached into my pocket. I also remember the feeling of relief, as if someone pulled a thorn or wasp stinger from my neck, when I saw it was Kouyate who had scored. Waking up to the news that two central defenders were out due to illness and injury didn’t fill me with optimism, but hearing that Hernandez would return to the first eleven helped a wee bit. Despite having to play Sherpa for my daughter and watching the second half on my phone in the car while writing on my IPad, I persevered through my anxiety to watch and report on today’s Uber Crucial match at The Liberty Stadium. That was a bad call on my part in the end. I still wrote while I watched, so thus here it is. But I decided not to torture myself or any of you more than needed by including photos of the massacre.

A lot has been made not only of Arnautovic’s goals, but his marauding runs at the defense that often cause them to panic. The first semi opportunity of the match came in the sixth minute when Noble sent a ball into Swansea’s end of the pitch for Marko to run down. It forced Mawson to put it out for a corner. The Hammers couldn’t capitalize, and moments later they would regret it. Swansea came back down, and Andre Ayew laid the ball off for Ki. The South Korean midfielder that was on our radar in January sent a low shot that looked to take forever to get through the crowd in the box. For that reason it didn’t initially look too worrisome. When it rolled past a seemingly static Adrian and into the net, the worry was very real.

Swansea 1
West Ham 0

Swansea kept up the attack in the 16th minute when Ki won a free kick 30 yards from goal. He sent a lobbed cross into the box that Mawson was able to head towards Adrian and force a corner. The delivery came into the box, bounced around, and landed at the feet of Fernandez right in front of Adrian. The keeper made the initial stop, and when Fernandez got the ball back it looked headed into the net for a second Swansea goal. But Rice cleared the ball off the line. The relief of that moment was quickly replaced by the agony of seeing Reid down with a knee injury that saw him stretchered off and replaced by Byram. On the bright side, Fonte lost 8-0 on his debut in China.

By the time the first forty five was half over, the number of little skirmishes had reached a point where the idea of either team finishing with eleven looked less and less likely. Not that it would matter, because in the 32nd minute van deer Hoorn beat Rice to get on the end of a corner and head it past a shell shocked Adrian.

Swansea 2
West Ham 0

My best mate Jon texted me to announce he had seen enough and was done for the day. I gave it some thought. We looked inept. Apathetic. Asleep, even. Even with sixty percent of the ball we seemed unlikely to score if we played against nine men for a week. To highlight at least my lethargy, when Noble was shown yellow for no contact on King, I wasn’t even fazed.

In the second minute of ten minutes of added time, Kouyate lost the ball in midfield. It’s hard to describe exactly how. He was alone, and then the ball bounced from his foot to his chest and then to a guy in white. You probably wouldn’t see that in FIFA. The ball rolled to Ki, who let fly from 30 yards but it went high over the bar. Then Arnautovic was called for a foiled born clearly from frustration.

I know how he felt.

Swansea 2
West Ham 0

I was in the car talking to Nigel when Swansea scored their third. He told me we were unlucky in that Adrian made the initial save off the corner. But, he pointed out, Ayew got a head on the ball without even jumping in what he called “shocking defending”. I parked my car at my daughters school and reluctantly put the game back on.

West Ham should have pulled one back in the 58th minute when Arnautovic was played in by Noble. But instead of taking a quick shot with his left he tried to play the ball back to his right foot, and by the time he did Fabianski read it perfectly and stopped it with ease.

On the day when everything that could go wrong did go wrong, Kouyate got a leg into Andre Ayew in the box and down he went. Atkinson pointed at the spot, the other Ayew slammed it home, and I turned it off. Twitter told me about Antonio.

Final Score
Swansea 4
West Ham 1

If we do go down, it will be nothing less than our Board deserve. But I cannot help but think that they will find a way to benefit from that, and that’s what irks me the most. Remember that idiotic interview Sullivan gave to Jacob Steinberg in which he heaped praise upon himself for coming back up after relegation? As if it was not a blight on his record? It’s like watching a crook profit, or the bully be popular at school. The very idea of basic fairness flies out the window.

I only wish Sullivan, Brady, and Gold would follow.

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Match Thread

Match Thread: Swansea City v West Ham

Swansea City v West Ham
FA Premier League
Liberty Stadium
KO 3pm
TV: None

Teams: West Ham United: Adrian, Rice, Reid, Evra, Zabaleta, Noble ©, Kouyate, Cresswell, Lanzini, Arnautovic, Chicharito

Subs: Hart, Byram, Mario, Cullen, Browne, Antonio, Hugill

Swansea City: Fabianski, Naughton, van der Hoorn, Mawson, Fernandez © Olsson, Clucas, King, Ki, A. Ayew, J. Ayew

Subs: Nordfeldt, Bartley, Narsingh, Dyer, Britton, Carroll, Abraham

Please comment on the match as it progresses.

The GoatyGav Column

New Contract Priorities

Reading the encouraging news that Manu Lanzini is going to be offered an improved contract at the end of the Season, assuming West Ham stay up, I got to thinking about how many other players should be prioritised for retention.

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Early days to start discussing this but the earlier our best players can be tied down to contracts the better as far as I’m concerned.

Antonio has signed a fresh contract, expiring in the summer of 2021, fairly recently but is the reported £70K pr week enough to keep him? Great to see him score last weekend and, from the article he posted on the official site, I hope that he’s starting to feel happier with his lot again. In terms of character and attitude I love having him at our club. Hope he stays for the entirety of his contract and beyond. Overall he’s great to have around the place.

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Kouyate is another who’s approach and professionalism is to be admired. He’s come in for a ton of grief from fans and media whilst keeping schtum about playing through the pain of needing an op. He’s our Yaya Toure, and also reminds me of Viera, a box to box warrior who gives it absolutely everything with great character and determination. West Ham have been sloppy in possession in recent times but Check is one of those players who often looks 2nd favourite to the ball but ends up coming away with it and retaining possession – turning defence in to attack. His current deal is set to finish at the same time as Michail’s but I’d love to see him finish his career with us. The other player who is contracted with us until the end of June, 2021, is Cressers. I’m a fan and want to see him stay but whether he’s a top priority to give a new deal to is another matter.

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From what I’ve seen so far Joao Mario is decent. I’m going to sit on the fence, however, until I’ve seen him play a few more games before making my mind up. He could be quite costly but if he continues to impress, and starts to strike up better understanding with team-mates, he could prove to be a good test of Mr Sullivan’s intention to change the recruitment processes for the better and tie him down. Until more games have passed the jury’s still out for me. Others whose deals expire in June are Hart, Collins and Evra. I don’t think Joe will stay, who knows with Ginge and we’ve yet to see what Patrice will do.

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I rate Andy Carroll highly when he’s on his game. Can he honestly, in all fairness, expect a new contract with his injury record though? I’m not sure that the board would be winning any new friends if they were to offer him something beyond the end of his current agreement which runs out at the end of the 2018-19 season.

Glad to see Rice has signed until the end of the same season as AC. I’m pleased for the lad who, at 19 years of age, must be pretty chuffed with his £25K per week. I’m quietly confident he’ll be signing another, new, deal in the next season or so. Josh Cullen also has a deal in place until 30th June 2019. Would be great to see him develop further and get in to the squad for more Premier League games but has probably got a bit to do to earn a new deal.

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Mr West Ham has another two and a bit seasons left. I don’t think he’d want to go under any circumstances anyway. How brilliant is it that there’s still ‘One Club Men’ left in the game? He’s the kind of player that makes me proud to support the club and is having a very good season to boot.

Another player who I’d love to see stay would be Chicha. I wish him all the very best for the rest of the season, hope that he bags a hatful of goals and has a wonderful World Cup. Got to be a win/win if that happens with him either remaining at the club whilst fit and firing or going for a pretty packet as he’s still our player for another two years following this Summer.

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No worries with Winston Reid – currently the player committed to the club for the longest length of time. I’d like to see him remain injury free and get back to his best. That said we do need another solid CB as well as a quick, ball playing man at the centre of defence IMHO.

Zabba’s done very well for us. If there is a new deal for him, however, I suspect it will come in the Summer.

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Artur is in the same boat as Nobes, Chicha and Lanzini. If he comes back from the ban playing some of the same football he played beforehand then I suspect he will be one of the players who is offered new terms. Fernandes and Byram are the other two who have agreements until June 2020.

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One of the big ones for me and, I suspect, many others is Arnautovic. Although his still has four and a bit years to run he is a player that the club need to look after. Others with the same time left on their contracts are Og, Obiang, Hugill and Hasa… two of which I’m uncertain about and two I’m pleased to see tied down for the long term.

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On a separate subject the trip to Swansea is an important one. By the sounds of things David Moyes has put a huge amount in to the preparation for this game. With various injuries ending and key players becoming available it should be a strong 18 who travel down to the picturesque South West of Wales. I’m optimistic for a result but it will need to be another dynamic, energised performance which doesn’t allow Carlos Carvalhal’s resurgent team any time to relax and and play their stuff. No predictions from me but I’m very hopeful for a win.

COYI! West Ham 4 the 2019 Cup!

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