As two Latin American signings – Pablo Zabaleta and Javier Hernandez – arrive at West Ham in the full glare of publicity this summer, two others – Enner Valencia and Jonathan Calleri – have exited to considerably less acclaim.
On paper, the Ecuadorian World Cup striker and Boca Juniors star looked decent bets for goals, so what went wrong? Blowing Bubbles columnist Emily Pulham picks through the wreckage of the South American dreams that faded and died.
“Calleri’s experience working with West Ham legend Carlos Tevez is probably the main qualification we looked for on his cv – assuming we had indeed some research on him, prior to his arrival, and the jury is still out on that one,” she writes. “Valencia looked his strongest out on the wing, but never seemed to come to life when stood directly in front of goal. Was he played out of position at West Ham, or did he struggle to get into position in general?”.
Read this and more, including Phil Parkes on Joe Hart, George Parris’s targets for the new season, and club co-owner David Gold exclusively revealing his choice to be the next owners of West Ham in the new edition of latest edition of Blowing Bubbles
Guest Post by George Mann
Ten new members have been elected to the West Ham United Independent Supporters’ Association (WHUISA) committee for the next year.
Those joining the committee will bring a breadth of experience to WHUISA. They include an ex-policeman, professional campaigners, an FOI expert and an ex West Ham United employee (but not that one).
WHUISA will now have people who live in Newham, supporters who were in favour of the move, people who are new Season Ticket Holders at the London Stadium and people who have experience on race, LGBT and disability issues on the committee.
They will sit alongside re-elected founder committee members Paul Christmas, Nigel Kahn and George Mann.
Here’s a rundown of the committee members and with a few details of why they got involved. They are all lifelong fans.
Current WHUISA joint chair. Founding (joint) chair of WHUISA and is heavily involved in reviving the Hammers Social Club. He has worked hard to make sure fans are represented with police and safety groups and has built a working relationship with those inside the club. (PC Hammer on KUMB, @MrPaulCrimbo on Twitter)
Dan is a season ticket holder in the East Stand and attends matches with five family members from three generations. He also attends most away matches and is a former SAB member. Dan is one of the lead contributors to the ‘West Ham Till I Die’ website and has written on the history and tradition of the club (@dan_coker on Twitter)
Soon to retire Met Police Officer who will be able to bring an expert eye to issues surrounding crowd control and stewarding. (@billyboy5757 on Twitter)
Season ticket holder in the East Stand with his two daughters. Mark is a disabled supporter who has campaigned to improve accessibility at the London Stadium. Academic, artist and designer. (@MarkSGower on Twitter)
Founding WHUISA member, long time SAB member. The club regard him as the ‘friendly face’ of WHUISA. (Mywhufc on KUMB, @mywhufc on Twitter)
Current WHUISA committee member. Committed to make supporting West Ham an activity for everyone regardless of race, gender, sexuality or disability. Journalist. (Big George on KUMB, @sgfmann on Twitter)
Life-long Newham resident, new season ticket holder at the LS. Primarily interested in disability but also has experience dealing with race and LGBT issues. Nila feels she can “bring some advocacy in terms of equality, diversity and inclusion” (@missnpatel on Twitter)
Sits in the 1966 area at the LS and is an away season ticket holder. Kim is a member of the Football Supporters Federation and supports initiatives such as Twenty is Plenty and safe standing areas being re-introduced. (@KimWHU on twitter)
New LS season ticket holder who travels from Crewe for each home game. John wants to grow the membership and learn from other successful trusts and ISAs in the Premier League. Works with the emergency services in the North West as part of his business. (BM Jon on Hammers Chat, @Jasiu9 on Twitter, Northern Iron on KUMB)
Ex West Ham United employee but not that one. James believes it’s “disappointing how the club are always reacting to fans’ disappointment following decisions instead of taking them into consideration in the decision making process” and is eager to work to change that.
Paul is an FOI expert as well as being a forensic examiner of minutes and records. He say says he wants to use WHUISA to ‘build bridges’ to heal the “discord and fragmentation between the fan base and the current ownership” Engineer (Sanchoz on KUMB, @P_Tizzle31 on Twitter)
Long time campaigner on many issues including West Ham. Mark was behind the WHU’s View campaign when we were at the Boleyn. Successful professional campaigner who has excellent contacts at Newham and at City Hall. (E1Hammer on KUMB, @marktw2 on Twitter)
Sue got involved with WHUISA because she “feels the owners are not working effectively with the fan base, along with not consulting widely or around the issues and concerns fans have”. Sue says she keen to see the needs of disabled fans met. Teacher with experience of team working. (@susieteach2 on Twitter)
We will elect/allocate committee roles at the AGM which is due to take place at midday on Saturday 12th August at the Hammers Supporters Club.
Blind Hammer is puzzled about Bilic’s apparent reluctance to address defensive weaknesses.
Readers of my posts here will be familiar with my concentration on the defensive fragilities of West Ham. This is the 3rd post this summer and the 6th since last year which has tried to highlight this as an issue. There is a risk that I sound like a broken record, but the point has to be hammered home. Like all on here I love West Ham. However I am baffled by the priorities and squad analysis which is highlighted by both Bilic and the Board.
First of all broken record time. 6 weeks ago I flatly and completely disagreed with the publicly stated analysis produced by the club hierarchy that West Ham flirted with relegation because they did not have sufficient strikers last season. I fail to see how any detailed analysis of last season can conclude this. West Ham was plunged into the relegation mire because we could not defend. This was the sad and unpalatable fact. Actually West Ham conceded more points from winning positions than any other team. This was the standout weakness.
Certainly there were other problems. Bilic admitted problems with intensity, commentators criticised fitness and athleticism, and there was undeniably a problem with finding a fit striker to play up front.
Despite these issues it was overwhelmingly the defence which nearly dragged us into the relegation mire. Although we eventually finished 11th, this disguised the real position. In a compressed lower table we were, like many other clubs, in the end only a few points away from the relegation trapdoor. We were certainly far closer to the relegation fight than any realistic chance of challenging the top 7.
In actual fact there were two questions with our defensive performances. The first was that we managed to regularly concede goals against competition from teams around and below us. For example we conceded a lead against Middlesbrough at home, a performance remarkable given Middlesbrough’s inability to score against most of the rest of the PL. The Watford defeat at home was particularly demoralising for the team, with promising attacking play ending up with us being hammered with 4 goals at the other end.
In addition, on most occasions we simply could not live, defensively, with top 6 teams either at home or way. The problem for our fan base is that in general we started to approach games against Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool with an element of fear and apprehension. Expecting a rout at home by 4 or more goals certainly did not help adjust to the new London Stadium.
However I am personally convinced that these terrible defensive performances have nothing whatsoever to do with playing at the London Stadium. The fact is that ever since January of 2016 we have had a leaky defence. The final year at the Boleyn was exciting but we were seeping goals all over the place. I produced an analysis last year to show how we were conceding on average 2 goals a game in the latter half of that season starting with the famous Everton away win during which, even there, we conceded 2 goals. We should remember that in our last two games at the Boleyn alone, despite the excitement of the Manchester United game, we conceded 6 goals, losing 1-4 to Swansea.
So this is a problem which has beset our team for at least 18 months. We go on quite long unwelcome runs during which we on average concede at least 2 goals a game, at times last season we were averaging a 3 goal deficit every game. There is no way on earth a side can plan for success with this defensive record. If a team has to score 3 goals on average to win, or 2 to gain a point we will be in trouble. This will be the case whatever Stella attackers we bring to the club, welcome though they be, If we had Namer, Ronaldo Messy and so on we would struggle if we continued to concede at this rate.
Thankfully, for our survival last season, Bilic adjusted to this problem. The most productive and successful tactic he deployed was to play 3 centre backs. Although this system was tried and failed in the away games against Chelsea and Manchester City early in the season it was deployed with much more success, with Collins as a component in the latter parts of the season. This was the bedrock which underpinned the famous win against Tottenham. It was also the method underlying the shut out of Everton’s Romelu Lukaku to finally stop his scoring run against us. These were important not just for morale, but the eventual critical points they provided us with. Our points total was helped by the away win at Burnley but as Bilic said at the time it might have been very different if the pressure had been on to get a result on that final day.
This makes it all the more baffling is that, as far as I can see, all the club recruitment and pre-season preparation has revolved around returning to the failed 4 at the back formation which has created so many problems. There is only limited evidence that the club has got to grips with this over the summer. Weaknesses in the Goalkeeping and right back position have been addressed. However the critical central part of our defence is completely unrefreshed and actually denuded. We have a suspect central defensive section which is just as much injury prone as our striking section. Collins, Obonna, Reid, and Fonte all have significant injury records. If we are to cover 3 positions at the back it seems irresponsible to me to rely on 4 defenders, none of which have managed to complete a season in recent history.
In comparison and in contrast we have 3 or possibly 4 striking options to cover essentially 1 loan striking position in our normal formation. Admittedly our striking options are injury prone but the same can be said for our defensive options.
It stretches my credibility that we are really intending to rely on only 4 central defenders with inconsistent fitness to cover 3 critical positions in our squad. With our present line up it will, I predict, be inevitable that we will be playing people out of position in central defence to fill the gaps.
This seems a monumental gamble to me. Yet this is a gamble that the club seem oblivious to. 2 of our brightest young guns, Burke and Oxford, have been sent out on loan, with only the promising 18 year old Rice to backup what looks largely like an aging quartet with suspect pace.
Most of you will have the advantage over me in reviewing pre-season performances. I have not been able to access any radio or audio commentaries. We should also be aware that famously pre-season performances may not be a guide to actual Premier League performance. Despite this it appears, from reports, that at no time have we reverted to 3 at the back in our pre-season preparation. I find this baffling given that the only time we looked secure last season was when we deployed this formation.
Despite the unreliability of pre-season friendlies it does not look like that we have achieved any defensive solidity against even lesser opposition. Conceding 3 in a lack lustre display against Manchester City was wearyingly predictable but surely it was not part of the plan for a largely first choice defence to concede 3 goals a few days earlier against the German equivalent of Forest Green Rovers?
Finally and in conclusion I do not insist that West Ham have to play 3 at the back. If we can play 4 at the back and achieve successful defensive solidity I will be personally delighted and race onto this site to eat humble pie. However what I do insist on is that West Ham should at the very least prepare in their squad and team formations for the option of playing 3 at the back, given the critical role this has achieved with past performances. There seems limited evidence that this has achieved sufficient priority in either squad development or the pre-season friendlies. In our first game we will face the agent of multiple previous goals conceded and defeats in the shape of Romelu Lukaku. We overcame his goalscoring prowess with the Payet inspired comeback in 2016. Apart from this The only occasion in 9 attempts that we looked as if we could cope with his threat was when we played 3 at the back against Everton in our home fixture last season. Our pre-season does not seem to have learnt any of these lessons.
Time will tell.
Guest Post by Rugby Irons
We all bring a different view to games we watch and then we generally all disagree. However the recent poor showings have unified our views. So,what is it we don’t like? Well here’s my view as if I were our Manager.
Well the problem of injuries still besets us. So I have brought in the best alternative with Gary Lewin. No sooner as he arrives the list goes up. I had hoped that by taking the whole squad away to concentrate on the team, rather than chasing the mighty dollar, I could get the team to shape up as I wanted them to. In reality I ended up with most of the stars absent, those fit ones left and the youths, to make up the numbers. So my master plan went out of the window. Even the fitness wasn’t a huge improvement. But then to make any plan to work you have everyone on board. Cue your star injured centre forward on the lash in Spain. Nice.
So it’s down to the preseason games and with the youths given their chance (presumably to ensure no more injuries) and they certainly took it. Those who doubted these players would be enjoying their humble pie but again they are short of what the owners want and lack experience. Spurs, Everton and Saints, the other teams around us have blooded kids and done well from it but I’m not sure the owners want to risk it.
The results went against the team but at this point this is where I worry. I couldn’t see what the plan was. What had the team been working on in the last three weeks? We lacked any cohesion. If the point of having Hernandez is to get a overflowing front line to supply passes into him to score, with the others adding to the goal tally, then we are miles off. We hardly had a shot and Martinez scored off his only shot. You can make all the injury excuses you like but Carroll and Sakho just can’t be considered.
Against Altona, we were a shambles. Reid should be ashamed he let the team down and made it a farce. The standard of crossing was abysmal and in terms of a shape it wasn’t there again. You look at the defence and they don’t look a unit at all.
So you go up against Citeh and every alarm bell is ringing. Now for SB he is on a hiding to nothing before a ball is kicked and he wasted the opportunity to give us hope. This isn’t about the second gear dominance of the game or the goals, but the wholly negative performance. Let’s be clear if you go 4-5-1 then you are defending. No problem with that if you can counter. We can’t.
So the strict line of five across the middle stood and watched Toure and DeBruyne split them as the Citeh had five players behind our midfield, attacking our back line. You just can’t leave it if it isn’t working but SB stuck with it. Changing players didn’t do anything. Why didn’t SB just push up the back line ten yards and defend from the 30 not the 18yard box? He put Rice on as a holding player, fair enough, and then press them back a bit. We had lost the game but he could have looked at his attack instead of his leaky defence. Ninety minutes of negative play and just one tame shot on target all game.
That’s not good form. Now don’t be fooled into arguing it was against Citeh.This should have been about what we were about. For me this has been a disastrous preseason because we haven’t progressed and with a week to go we are in a poor place. Players coming back will now be rushed into action and the ever rotating injuries will continue.
So what do I think of the squad with a week to go:
Hart : For all his noise his feet aren’t good enough. Playing out from our backline is a recipe for disaster and in his first game he now knows why Adrian was told to pack it in and Hart must be the same.
Adrian: Proved his point with strong performances and looks the part to me.
Byram: Just not big enough and doesn’t create or do enough.
Zabaleta: Looks slow and heavy but his experience makes the difference. He has still impressed.
Cresswell: Looks way off the pace now. Can hardly cross a ball enough times and being totally one footed makes him weaker. Also not strong enough.
Arthur: Looks more than just a defender but creates and crosses and has right attitude.
Fonte: Way below the standard required playing for us. He just isn’t quick or alert enough.
Ginge: He is what he is but you get a 100% of it.
Reid: If he strops all the time his play suffers.He should be the leader at the back but he’s not at it.
Burke: Did enough to be kept and developed . His shipping out shows a weakness in the club policy.
Oxford: Why isn’t he being promoted from within. Hope Germany is a positive and not a cover up.
Rice: He’s 17 and if anyone needed loaning out it was him. He is behind the others in development terms. He hasn’t played at centre half, or much at least, just thrown in as a make weight midfielder, which he has taken too.The beauty of being young and fearless.
Ogbonna: Concentration levels not there since coming back but this will improve.
Noble: Becoming Kevin Nolan, which just isn’t fair on him. Needs to be the Noble of old.
Cullen: Has done everything required and still gets shipped out. Ridiculous.
Obiang: Has been quiet but effective. I expect him to step up immediately once we start for real.
Eddy: Hasnt impressed but hasn’t had the quality around him. Will improve because he is getting games.
Koyoute. Massive loss. The real engine. Difficult to do preseason without your two best players.
Lanzini: Same as Cheikh. He will be pivotal. Needs to be protected. We have limited creativity without him.
Arnie: Has really impressed. Like Ant but the other side. Needs to up his crossing quality though.
Ant: Really need him back. His presence alone makes a difference.
Snod : He just doesn’t have it. His luck has run out and nothing goes his way. It happens.
Ayew: His work rate created things and is always lively.
Carroll: Wasted talent of his own choosing. Leave him on the beach.
Sakho: Who knows, but of late another waster.
Holland: Looked good and positive.
Martinez : To score from what he has had as service is remarkable enough. Looks a good prospect and as our second striker he will do us ok.
Hernandez: His record and quality will keep us up at least if we get him the ball.
So on paper, and fit, we look good . On the injury table we look weak all over. Without a style and pattern to get balls into their box,for the front line, you then have to worry about what defence we put out. I don’t normally do the player prediction because it’s more about how the players respond to the role they are put in. We need to be stronger at the back and lining up on the 30 yard one not 18.
If we are going one holder, two central and two wide then we must press on and push them back. With one up they must be getting the ball in the final 20 yards not on the half way line. And this is where I take issue with Slaven. Stop being so cagey. Look at your (fit) squad and its an offensive team, even if it’s a counter attacking set up we have to take a positive attitude. If you go positive we will be right behind you. Be Slaven not Sam.
And so to conclude, if the plan is to keep the ball on the floor and play counter football then the players are there to do it. But and it’s a big but , you have to be positive, especially at home. We could be in trouble by the time our first home game comes, equally we could be top of the League. All things are always possible watching West Ham. So as many of you say, preseason doesn’t matter, and of course they are right. So with a week to go I’m more worried by the injury list and attitude than recent results. I bet £10 for us to win the league. Well you have to, absolutely nothing is ever certain. I look forward to your comments and keeping the faith. Long live the Boleyn.