Lineup Prediction

Lineup Prediction: West Ham v West Bromwich Albion

Team: Randolph, Collins, Fonte, Reid, Obiang, Kouyate, Noble, Snodgrass, Lanzini, Antonio, Carroll
Subs: Adrian, Fernandes, Fletcher, Ayew, Feghouli, Nordtveit, Calleri

I’m really not sure what formation Bilic will go with today. It wouldn’t surprise me if we saw a return to three at the back and then a defensive midfield three in front of them. However, if Byram is fit then it could be 4-5-1.

It’s going to be a very cold afternoon and it’s going to be a game we need three points from if we are to continue our march up the table. At the moment we are five points behind WBA. If we get three points that gap reduces to two. If we lose – and bear in mind they walloped us 4-0 at The Hawthorns – they go 8 points ahead.

Maybe see you later!

You have until 1.55pm to enter the Predictor League.

Sean Whetstone writes…

West Brom supporters going to the London Stadium on Saturday are being urged to partake in a minute’s applause in memory of West Ham fan James Miles . The 28 year old season ticket holder known as ‘Jimbo’ to his friends sadly passed away last Friday, having battled against a brain tumour for a number of years.

His family and friends are hoping to spread the word among fans, in both the home and away end, to take part in on minutes applause on 28th minute.

They are also hoping to project a photo of James onto the stadium’s big screen having liaised with the club. Like many of these planned applauses, it will be completely fan led but the club will put up a photograph if the crowd responses with spontaneous applause.

His cousin Craig told the Birmingham Mail : “He was so passionate about West JimboHam. He had done a few away games when he first got his season ticket, but as he got ill he couldn’t really go to many away games. But he was always at home games, no matter what – he went to most of the player opening things such as book signings.”

Speaking about the cancer who beat him “(He had it for) four years but they think he could have had it from a young age,” Craig continued.

“They managed to get rid of one tumour but then another, more aggressive, one came back which was a grade four.

“One of our family members have sent on what they want to be put on the big screen and a picture of James and have spoken to someone who said they will sort it, so fingers crossed,” Craig added.

“We have had loads of feedback from your (Albion) fans to say they will be standing and clapping on the 28th minute.”

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Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: West Ham v West Brom

Blast from the past

15th March 1947 – Geraldo and his Orchestra featuring Joe Loss were number one with ‘The Old Lamplighter’, James Mason and Robert Newton were in UK cinemas with Odd Man Out and West Ham United striker Frank Neary (pictured) hit a hat-trick in the Hammers’ 3-2 victory over West Bromwich Albion in front of 23,928 at the Boleyn Ground.

This was Neary’s third appearance for the Hammers – he had made an impressive start, bagging braces in his first two matches during 3-0 wins over Newport and Swansea. He made it seven goals from his first three appearances by notching his hat-trick against the Baggies to claim maximum points for the hosts.

Noted for the power of his shooting, the 26-year-old Aldershot-born striker went on to score a total of 15 league goals in 14 appearances in the second half of 1946/47, becoming the Hammers’ top scorer for the campaign having only signed from QPR in January 1947 for £4,000. He appeared in three matches at the start of 1947/48 but, after reportedly hitting an opponent who had fouled him out of sight of the referee, Neary was eventually sold to Leyton Orient for £2,000 in November 1947. He went on to have a second spell at QPR, before playing for Millwall and Gravesend. He died in Cheam on 17th November 2004 at the age of 83.

Victory for the Hammers against the Baggies helped them end the 1946/47 season in 12th position in the Second Division, while West Brom would finish seventh. Manchester City topped the Second Division, Liverpool won the title and Charlton won the FA Cup.

West Ham United: George Taylor, Steve Forde, Ron Cater, Dick Walker, Norman Corbett, Sam Small, Almer Hall, Frank Neary, Ken Bainbridge, Jackie Wood, Terry Woodgate.

Club Connections

West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion have shared a decent number of players over the years; these include:

Defenders: Danny Gabbidon, David Burrows, Steve Walford, Gary Strodder.

Midfielders: Franz Carr, Morgan Amalfitano, Peter Butler, Nigel Quashie.

Strikers: Jeroen Boere, John Hartson, Sir Geoff Hurst, Frank Nouble, David Cross.

Archie Macauley played for West Ham and managed West Brom, while Bobby Gould played for the Hammers and the Baggies and also spent a period as manager at The Hawthorns.

Today’s focus falls on a player who came through the Hammers academy before spending a spell on loan at West Brom later in his career. Alan Dickens was born in Plaistow on 3rd September 1964 and was a member of West Ham United’s FA Youth Cup-winning side in 1981. He gained four England caps at youth level and played for the Under-21s. Dickens became a West Ham apprentice on the 14th July 1981 and signed pro forms on 2nd August 1982. He made his first competitive appearance under John Lyall on 18th December 1982 at the age of 18, scoring on his debut in a 2-1 win at Notts County. The central midfielder scored five more goals before the end of 1982/83 – in a 2-1 home win over Brighton on 5th March 1983, a 1-1 draw at Norwich on 26th March, a double in a 5-1 win at Swansea on 5th April and in a 2-1 home win over Sunderland four days later.

Goals and, indeed, appearances were harder to come by in 1983/84 but Dickens became more of a feature the following campaign, scoring four goals – two in the league, in a 3-2 win at Southampton in September 1984 and a 1-1 home draw with Tottenham in April 1985, and his first two goals in the FA Cup, in a 4-1 third round home win over Port Vale and a 5-1 fifth round replay home win over Wimbledon.

Dickens made 51 appearances in the glorious season of 1985/86, scoring in a 3-1 home win over QPR, a 4-2 win over Nottingham Forest, a 3-1 defeat at Liverpool and a 2-1 home win over Ipswich as the Hammers finished third in the First Division, their highest ever league placing.

The following season brought five goals, including strikes in successive games in a 2-2 draw at Watford and a 4-1 home League Cup second round second leg win over Preston. ‘Dicko’ also scored in the next round in a 3-2 win at Watford and followed that with the winner in a 1-0 victory over Everton at Upton Park. He also scored in a 4-1 win over Leicester on New Year’s Day 1987.

1986/87 saw four goals from the Hammers’ midfield maestro – he scored again at Vicarage Road as the Hammers won 2-1 at Watford before notching in a 2-1 home defeat to Millwall in the first round of the Full Members’ Cup. Further strikes followed in a 2-1 home win over Southampton in December 1987 and a 1-0 win at QPR in January 1988.

Dickens hit his highest goals total in 1988/89 but it was to be a nightmare season for the Irons as they were relegated in a season which culminated in the sacking of John Lyall. Dickens scored in a 4-1 home defeat to Arsenal in October 1988, a 2-1 League Cup second round second leg win over Sunderland, a 2-0 home win over Newcastle, a 2-2 home draw with Arsenal in the FA Cup third round, a 3-0 home win over Millwall in April 1989 and two strikes in May 1989, in a 1-0 home win over Luton and 2-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday as the Hammers tried desperately to save themselves from the dreaded drop.

Relegation saw Dickens leave the club – he signed for Chelsea for £600,000 in June 1989. He had scored 30 goals in 234 appearances for his local club. He had a three-match loan spell at West Brom in the 1992/93 season before another loan spell with Brentford. He went on to play for Colchester but his senior playing career was over at the age of 30. He went on to appear for Chesham, Hayes, Collier Row, Billericay and Purfleet before retiring in 1998. Now 52, Dickens worked as a black cab driver and was assistant manager at Barking from November 2008 until April 2012, when he was appointed manager before leaving the job in November that year.

Referee

The referee on Saturday will be Michael Oliver. Since West Ham United achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 Oliver has refereed eight of our league matches, officiating in two wins for the Hammers and six defeats.

Oliver was the man in the middle for the Irons’ 2-0 reverse at Chelsea two seasons ago and also sent off Kevin Nolan at Anfield three seasons ago. His only Hammers appointments last season were for the 2-1 home victory over Southampton in December and the 4-1 home defeat to Swansea in May. His only game in charge of the Irons this season was our 5-0 home defeat to Manchester City in the FA Cup third round last month.

Possible line-ups

West Ham United will be without Angelo Ogbonna, Arthur Masuaku, Gokhan Tore and Diafra Sakho, while Aaron Cresswell, Cheikhou Kouyate and Andy Carroll are doubts. Alvaro Arbeloa, Sam Byram and Havard Nordtveit are back in training.

West Bromwich Albion are without loanee left-back Brendan Galloway, while Jonny Evans and Claudio Yacob are doubts. The Baggies are unbeaten in their last three trips to West Ham.

Possible West Ham United XI: Randolph; Kouyate, Fonte, Reid, Cresswell; Noble, Obiang; Feghouli, Antonio, Snodgrass; Carroll.

Possible West Bromwich Albion XI: Foster; Nyom, Dawson, McAuley, Brunt; Fletcher, Livermore; Phillips, Morrison, Chadli; Rondon.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!

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Tony Hanna's Musings

Our Best Midfield?

One of the difficult problems any Premier League manager actually wants to have is who to leave out when he has a full squad of players to choose from. Much better than the problem of knocking on the doors of the physios in the search for fit players in a depleted squad or having to choose between the regular whose form has dipped or the inexperienced youngster who has shown promise. The managers from the top clubs who are involved in the Champions League have rotation policies in place that goes some way to appease the fringe players and give valuable rest time to fatigued players or those harbouring niggling injuries. The fact that they have more games to play is more often than not counter balanced with more depth in their squad of players. But when the big games come around tough decisions still have to be made.

So what of us then? Randolph looks to have cemented his place in goal and barring unforeseen circumstances you would have to think Adrian will be off to pastures new in the Summer. The defence nearly picks itself notwithstanding the continued need for a quality right back who will make the position his own, or at least a reliable back up if Slaven thinks Byram is up to the job full time. Up front Andy Carroll on current form is undroppable and if Sakho comes back from injury with a revitalised attitude towards the club he must surely play alongside him in a similar role to the one employed against the Moaning ones in the last game at our old ground? Supporting Carroll up front when we are attacking and dropping back on the right side of midfield when we are defending. Alternatively, Antonio or Ayew could be options instead of Sakho in the attacking role?

So what of the midfield then? This is the area where Slaven will have the most “desirable” headaches. These will become migraines if he needs to play 4-4-2 instead of a 3-5-2 or a 4-5-1. If we play two central midfielders who will they be? Or more to the point, who misses out?

The central midfielders include captain Mark Noble. Mr West Ham, the Canning Town lad has had his admirers and his critics this season. We rarely win without him in the side say some. He is too slow and plays too many sideways and backward passes say others. If you like Squawka stats they say he has completed 896 passes this season with a pass accuracy of 87% of which 72% were forward. So much for the sideways and backward theory then! Another profile site I read said he likes to play long balls, tackle and plays the ball off the ground often –he has no strengths and his weakness is in aerial duels. I would agree with the aerial comment but my eyes say that he is slow and can be too ponderous at times. He regularly outruns any other player in the side and has a pretty decent penalty taking record. Actually the running stat grates on me a bit as Kevin Nolan had good running stats too in the final stages of his playing career and any self-respecting football fan could see he had lost the yard of pace that in reality makes you a passenger in the Premier League. So, if you look at Mark Noble playing a game of football you can certainly observe he has his weaknesses. Something you can’t criticise is the love he shows for the club, his loyalty and the pure class the man is off the field while so many of the highly paid footballers of today’s generation are making bad headlines. But what about the invisible qualities he brings to the team? Do you believe in them? These include the ability to gel a team together on the pitch, to organise and to command the respect where our players will go the extra mile for the club and their captain. To be the managers commandant on the field of play. Is this the missing link when he is not in the team?

Cheikhou Kouyate for some would be the first name on the team sheet. Big, strong and powerful, he has the ability to go on unstoppable runs but also the craft of breaking up opposition play in vital areas. His energy is used not on continual movement like Noble, but on gut busting surges upfield when we counter attack and then downfield when play breaks down. Good in the air and quick, he is a natural athlete and his concentration on the pitch is excellent. On the downside his control and passing is the weakest of the central midfielders. He has completed 513 passes this season with an accuracy of 84% although it must be remembered he has been deployed to a central defensive role for several matches.

Pedro Obiang is the surprise packet of the season. Expected to be moved on after failing to claim a first team place last season he has matured into quite a physical presence in recent months. For a tall man his control and passing is excellent and in some ways he reminds me of a raw Yaya Toure. He can play a mean through ball as exploited by the pass leading to Carrolls goal against Southampton. In recent weeks he has shown that at his best he can dominate in that central defensive midfield role quite impressively. Like Kouyate, he is difficult to shake off the ball and his tackling and blocking is very good. Obiang has similar stats to the other two but interestingly and quite surprisingly 92% of his passes have been forward.

Looking at the rest of the set up you have to wonder where some of the others fit in when everyone is fit? Does Lanzini come into consideration for a central midfield berth? His control and passing is probably the strongest of all the three aforementioned despite his stats being almost identical to Mark Noble. He certainly appears more comfortable on the ball when pressed. Small in stature he has the ability to break quickly and also release the defence splitting pass. The downside is the engine and physical strength. Does the current set up demand that if he plays in the first eleven he is played wide? Again, look away if you don’t like Squawka stats but their player ratings for the season so far give 4.5/5 scores for Kouyate and Lanzini, a 4/5 for Obiang and a 3.5/5 for Noble.

Snodgrass, Ayew, Antonio, Feghouli and Fernandes all come into the equation for who makes up the midfield numbers, mainly in the attacking side of the optional formations. Nordtveit has failed to impress so far this season and in my opinion does not come into the equation. So, what is your preferred midfield set up and why?

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The S J Chandos Column

'Forget' Payet - Snodgrass can fill the void

So, fan idol Payet has finally departed back to France, having proven that he truly did ‘have feet of clay.’ The manner of his departure was shocking, even in this age of over priced and over rated prima donna players. It was unforgivable take a £1m ‘loyalty’ bonus then effectively go on strike to force a move. But what puzzles me is why any ambitious player would swap the PL for the French League? I know that family reasons were cited, but it surely shows a lack of ambition on Payet’s part. And I know that the French media took great initial pleasure in seeing one of their best players move back from English football, but lets see if they are so happy when Payet agitates for his next move to China? Payet has a history of only staying approximately two seasons at most of his previous clubs and I am sure that will continue to be the case. We shall see? Regardless, West Ham were wise to include a 25% sell on clause in the transfer agreement, that could bring a financial windfall at some point.

Anyway, I am reminded of the title of Jean Baudrillard’s essay delivering a scathing critique of Michel Foucault’s philosophy, ‘Forget Foucault.’ We should similarly adopt Baudrillard’s approach and ‘forget’ Payet – he certainly deserves it. It is always difficult to replace a world class talent, but it was obvious that the situation with the player was toxic and was adversely affecting squad morale. The rest of the squad allegedly wanted Payet gone and (if true) that speaks volumes. The players have now rallied around and results (the Man City match apart) have improved.

We made two good signings in the January window that will improve the quality and depth of the squad. Fonte is an highly experienced centre-back and he will help significantly once he settles in. Similarly, Snodgrass is a quality forward, who can play right across the midfield; plus he is a dead ball specialist, who will both create and convert his fair share of chances. Unlike Payet, he also contributes industry to the midfield, as he demonstrated in the excellent win over Southampton. Additionally, Andy Carroll has hit top form at just the right time. If he can just remain fit and playing (a big ‘if’ I know) Carroll will score goals, no doubt about it. Sakho will be back some time in March and hopefully Calleri will finally start proving his quality. Another big plus is that both Kouyate and Ayew are back from the ACON and will further intensify competition for starting places. So, suddenly things are starting to look positive right across the board.

I see that the ‘Bilic to be sacked’ stories resurfaced after the Man City defeat. That seems to be a default media story every time we have a bad result. On this occasion they also made great play of the fact that Mancini was present at the match. The deduction being that Mancini was being lined up as Bilic’s replacement. Firstly, I want the club to stick with Bilic. It has been a difficult season so far, but at least it has tested Bilic and shown that he has the management skills to navigate a crisis. We are in 9th place at the moment and hopefully we will go on the clinch a top 8 finish. If we do that it will be an achievement and would represent a very good recovery from our early season troubles. Secondly, even if they decided to replace Bilic (which I sincerely hope they do not) I would not be wild about Mancini as his replacement. No, lets stick with Bilic, get a good finish this season and move decisively in the summer transfer market so that we can progress further next season.

One unwanted consequence of the Payet transfer is that it led some media outlets to start questioning the club’s ambition. There were a number of articles suggesting that West Ham had reneged on promises made to Payet about signing top players last summer. Consequently, our business next summer needs to demonstrate clearly that is not the case. That means signing two or three ‘top draw’ players to add yet further quality to the depth that the squad already possesses. Hopefully, a couple of youngsters, such as Cullen and Oxford, will also improve the strength of our squad by breaking through and securing a regular first team place next season. We live in hope!

SJ. Chandos.


Match Report

Reflecting on Southampton

A tactically astute and energetic team performance secured maximum points at St Mary’s for the first time in the clubs history.

The players executed their manager’s instructions with precision and discipline, moving with purpose and fluidity as they fought their way to victory. In Slaven’s own words “The key was everything, we played a fantastic game. We had our plan and the players executed it brilliantly.”

The players

The whole team performed admirably but I wanted to pick out a few for praise, starting with Snodgrass.

His energy, closing down, organisation, discipline and technique are superb. Held the ball well, chased and closed the opposition from the front and tracked his man every time. He made the most high-intensity sprints of any player on the pitch with 81 and was a constant thorn in the side of the opposition.

He also covered more ground in the match than every player except for Noble, who covered 12.09km with Snodgrass a close second with 11.79km.

One of his best assets is his intelligence on and off the ball. His runs are calculated and his positional awareness is exemplary. He constantly communicates with his teammates, orchestrating defensive and attacking movements down his flank. He works incredibly hard and covers his full back well, this time partnering with Cresswell to great effect.

Obiang was back to his best and although his goal grabbed the headlines, it was his dominant performance in midfield that earned him man of the match. He completed 39/49 passes (79.6%), scored one goal, created one chance, one assist, one take-on, seven ball recoveries, 3/4 tackles, three interceptions and 2/2 aerial duels. He was imperious.

Randolph was again solid in the sticks. He displayed excellent shot stopping ability and held onto several shots that lesser keepers would have been forced to parry. He appeared to command his area well and his distribution was varied and accurate.

Carroll again led the line superbly. Strong, agile and his movement appears to be improving by the day. His movement for the goal was excellent and he showed great composure with the finish It’s frightening to think of what he’ll be capable of if he remains fit and injury free.

Kouyate was nothing short of heroic at right back. His athleticism, power and understated technique give him a versatility afforded to very few players. He was outstanding.

Noble deserves a mention too. He was brilliant throughout the match, providing the engine in midfield along with Obiang, as well as chipping in with some excellent passes and a well deserved (and correctly awarded) goal.

He was deployed in a slightly deeper role and this allowed him to cover the defence more effectively and utilise his range of passing. He completed 44/51 passes (86.3%) and made 11 ball recoveries.

Our captain has come in for a lot of criticism this season, with myself included, but he led by example and fought for every inch of ground he covered. Well played Nobes!

Bilic

This man has been tested on every level this season. His honesty, integrity and belief in playing attacking, expansive football are commendable and he does not always receive the praise he deserves. Southampton are a top side and Bilic set the team up perfectly to exploit their weaknesses.

As I covered in my last piece, he’s not the finished article, but he’s got all the ingredients to become one of the best managers in the league. He can be a little naïve or stick to seemingly lost causes at times, but it’s all part of his make-up and I admire his character.

For any remaining doubters out there please find the following information courtesy of our official website:

“For Bilic, Saturday was his 25th league win as West Ham United boss – no manager has reached this feat quicker than the Croatian in the club’s 122 year history.”

He’s earned our admiration and respect and if the club are serious about their vision to improve, then retaining Bilic is key.

Tactics

Bilic was bold and started with a 4-4-2. Antonio partnered Carroll up front and Snodgrass came in for Lanzini on the left wing. The work-rate and intelligence of Snodgrass aided the team in retaining their shape and prevented us becoming overloaded in midfield. Antonio and Carroll both put in tremendous shifts defending from the front, pressing Southampton’s midfield relentlessly and forcing errors.

Kouyate was excellent filling in at right back and Cresswell showed great improvement, helped along by his new wing partner Snodgrass.

Reid and Fonte looked more comfortable playing together and put in a dominant defensive display. Fonte’s passing range is superb and his composure on the ball is a huge asset to the team.

After the Manchester City defeat on Wednesday, Fonte revealed that the players felt responsible for the nature of the defeat as they failed to follow the manager’s tactics. This was not the case against Southampton as previous mistakes were rectified.

From front to back the team attacked and defended as a unit. This was a display that encapsulated Bilic’s style of play, high-energy tactical pressing, with fast fluid attacking movement. Although so far this season we’ve only enjoyed glimpses of this coming together for 90 minutes, this was as complete a performance as we’ve seen this season.

Looking ahead to West Brom

The players will take confidence into their game with West Brom and I’d be surprised if Bilic changed the formation. We may see a change in personnel if Byram is fit and chosen to play, but that would leave a tough call on Kouyate with his inclusion necessitating the withdrawal of Noble or Obiang, neither of whom deserve to be dropped.

At least this is a good problem for Bilic to have and it’s good to see competition for places, even in such an unorthodox manner.

Tony Pulis is a better tactician than people think and he’s created a strong and resolute squad of players that will be very tough to break down. They will match our physicality and not many teams in the league can boast that. They are a potent threat from set plays and will pose more of an aerial threat than any of the teams we’ve faced recently.

They will look to keep things tight and restrict the space between their lines. Snodgrass, Antonio, Carroll and Feghouli/Lanzini will need guile to create space in which to operate and transitioning quickly will be key.

The added energy, technique and composure of Snodgrass will again be a welcome addition in a match that could be defined by the finest of margins or moment of brilliance.

The team seems united, invigorated and hungry and I feel renewed confidence, rather than trepidation, going into our matches once again.

Super Slav has got his mojo back and the team looks like it’s ready to forge ahead in its new chapter and keep the momentum going, starting with West Brom.

COYI

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