Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A With Manchester City

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, along come Man City. Ahead of the game I had a chat with RIc Turner from bluemoon-mcfc

I suppose we would all romantically want to win by having home grown owners (look at us ffs), with youth players breaking their way into the team, and staying on to become club legends but I guess if success happens you’ll take it anyway it comes?
It would be great to see more youth players breaking through at City, and I think we’re on the verge of that with the likes of Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz recently earning making their first team debuts. The club have invested heavily in the academy, and you would hope that we will start to see the fruits of that sooner rather than later. I’m not too bothered about having home-grown owners, mind you! The previous incumbents didn’t do a great job, whereas Sheikh Mansour has been fantastic for the club!

Pep Guardiola seems to be the final piece in the “Man City jigsaw’, how do you compare him to Mancini, and Pelligrini, both of whom won the Premier League?
Mancini was incredibly popular, because he inherited a fairly shambolic Mark Hughes side and moulded them into a winning team. He promised to tear down the banner at Old Trafford mocking our lack of success, and was true to his word, ending a 35 year wait for a trophy. He was loved by the fans, but fell out with the players on a regular basis which ultimately made his position untenable. Pellegrini came in and was a calm, dignified presence, and the football we played when winning the league in his first season was breathtaking at times. However, the squad stagnated under his leadership and he seemed unable to motivate the players towards the end. I have great respect for both men for winning titles for the club, but Guardiola is on a completely different level altogether. He is a phenomenal manager, and I’m sure he’ll surpass their achievements at City.

Back in the Seventies Man City held sway over “The famous” other lot for a while, then after Big Mal’s second coming it all fell apart. Unfortunately this was compounded by Man Yoo’s greatest period of success. Aren’t you a little bit worried that Jose Mourinho will spur them on to success again?
Mourinho has enjoyed relative success at United so far, in winning the Europa League and League Cup, and they are in a stronger position now then they have been since Ferguson retired. Yet, I don’t fear them in any way. It’s hard to be concerned about your rivals when Guardiola is putting something special together at City. We are indisputably a superior team to the them at present.

What do you think about our recent managerial shenanigans: was Slaven Bilic’s sacking merited or premature? and do you think that David Moyes is a good appointment for West Ham?
I don’t think Bilic’s sacking was premature, as such, as you were clearly struggling and a change was probably needed. However, I think David Moyes was a shambolic appointment unfortunately.

I’m going to hazard a guess that you think you can win the League again this year? But can you win the Champions League to further lift yourselves out of your neighbour’s shadow?
I’m confident that we will win the league, although there’s still a long way to go of course. We’re certainly capable of winning the Champions League, but it’s a big ask given the quality of some of the other teams. PSG and Barca are in good form, whilst Bayern and Madrid will surely come strong again. You need a bit of luck and the draws to go your way, and even then it will be extremely difficult.

Where do you think West Ham can realistically finish the season?
I have a soft spot for West Ham, so take no pleasure in saying this but I fear for you this season. As mentioned, I think Moyes was a dreadful appointment so I think survival is the sole aim this season. Staying up is key, and then you can look to appoint a long term manager in the summer. Moyes is not the answer.

Which three teams do you think will suffer relegation and who do you consider your genuine rivals for the title this season?
I think Swansea, West Brom and Newcastle or yourselves will go down. United and Chelsea are our main rivals for the title.

Are you happy with the current make-up of your squad? Which positions if any do you think need strengthening?
We have some truly outstanding players at City, but the squad is far from perfect. A couple of injuries in key positions could cause us a significant problem. We need cover at left back after Benjamin Mendy’s injury, even though Fabian Delph is currently doing a great job. Another centre half is also needed, with John Stones injured and doubts over Vincent Kompany’s long-term fitness. Eliaquim Mangala simply isn’t up to it. We also need a holding midfielder. Fernandinho is crucial to the way we play, but he is now 32 and we only really have the 34 year old Yaya Toure as cover. Toure is one of the all-time City greats, but sadly his legs have gone.

How do you rate this Man City team when comparing them to your previous title winning teams?
This team haven’t won anything as yet so it’s perhaps not a fair comparison, but they have the potential to surpass the achievements of the previous title winning teams.

If Watford, Everton, and Leicester fans wouldn’t be keen on any of our players, I doubt you would fancy many of them, but which if any might sneak onto your bench?
Winston Reid always impresses when I watch West Ham.

Which Man City player is most likely to slip up and let us steal a goal?
Elaiquim Mangala, undoubtedly.

Any particular memories of Man City/West Ham games of the past?
Obviously winning the league against West Ham in the final game of the 2013/14 season was a particular highlight, and we’ve put on some pretty impressive away performances at The Olympic Stadium recently. A less fond memory is the quarter final FA Cup defeat in 2006. We’d convinced ourselves (again) that that would be “our year”, even though we an awful side at the time.

How do you expect Pep to set his team up against West Ham on Sunday/Team/formation?
I think Guardiola will rotate a few players against you, with the Manchester derby looming and Fernandinho and Leroy Sane one booking away from a suspension.
Never easy to predict Guardiola’s line-ups, but at a push I’d go for: Ederson, Danilo, Otamendi, Mangala, Delph, Gundogan, David Silva, De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Sterling, Jesus.

Prediction for score?
4-0 to City I’m afraid.

Many thanks to Ric for his time. It’s hard to disagree with his assessment of Sunday’s game. So all we can hope for is that Elaiquim Mangala is playing for City and hands us a host of goals in the manner that we hand them out! I’d be happy with a point, but will not be gambling a penny on it! Come on you Irons!

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News

Early squad news ahead of the Man City match

A familiar face returns to the Hammers starting line-up, with Adrian replacing Joe Hart. who naturally is ineligible against his parent side. Adrian now has a first class opportunity to impress, will he snatch it with both hands and could that mean trouble for Hart?

In defence, Byram, Collins and Reid are on the injury list. Although Reid is subject to a late injury test prior to the match. If Reid is not successful in proving his fitness, Ogbonna could partner with Kouyate and/or Rice in central defence. The selection is largely down to whether David Moyes goes with a flat back four (his apparent preference) or three centre-backs and two wing-backs.

The midfield selection could see Noble and/or Fernandes in midfield, along with Lanzini. Again, factor x is whether Obiang is retained or benched? Both Antonio and Arnautovic are thought to be fit, but it is unclear whether they will both start? Ayew is also fit, but may find himself starting on the bench today. Similiarly, up front both Carroll and Hernandez are thought to be struggling for fitness. As such, it is more likely Sakho will lead the forward line.

Whatever the final selection, the players must show pride in the shirt and, equally important, pride in themselves as professional footballers. And the Hammers crowd at Man City need to both make their expectations clear and really get behind the team. We showed at the LS vs Leicester City how we can inspire the players to improve performance and the away crowd need to try and do the same here. If we lose, we lose (Man City are currently the finest side in English football, that is perfectly clear), but the Hammers side need to show grit, put up a good display and fight them right to the final whistle!

SJ. Chandos.


The GoatyGav Column

The Football Equivalent Of Eddie Izzard's 'Wash & Go'?

I have many Eddie Izzard sketches that I love. ‘Death Star Canteen’, ‘Squirrel that’s left the gas on’, ’Pavolov’s Cat’ and ‘Are you happy with your wash? dog’ are among the numerous classics that have me in hysterics. Watching West Ham against Everton brought one to mind. Whilst ribbing manufacturer’s advertising campaigns Eddie enquires why a certain brand of shampoo can’t be called ‘Wash and stay here for a bit’. Replace the word ‘Wash’ with ‘Pass’ and you’ve got a great description of what was clearly happening on Wednesday night. So many players were not showing for others it became almost entirely static. I can remember more movement during games of ‘stuck in the mud’ in the school playground at nursery.

Options for players on the ball have been sparse for quite some time. While I’m critical of the sideways and backward balls played so often by West Ham this season I do acknowledge that, on occasion, there has been nothing else that players have been able to do.

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The contrast with Everton was so plainly obvious. Give and goes all over the pitch from them and immobile players following passes from us. They were hungrier – wanted it more. Their movement created triangles all over the pitch and was something to learn from. Ok – so Ayew up front on his own was a mistake by Moyes but he did recognise this and the substitution at the start of the second half changed the game and shows he’s learning about his squad all the time. In fact I sat in my Cardiff hotel room at half time wondering ‘is Moyes going to change this?’ When I saw Diafra waiting to come on I then thought ‘is Moyes going to make a like for like change?’ So he came through on both counts which is deserving of credit.

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Mr Moyes blamed individual mistakes. Had we scored the penalty which I don’t blame Lanzini for at all, rather putting it down to a brilliant save from Pickford, the momentum we’d started to gain in the early stages of the second half may well have continued. Instead of that we went three down to a great goal from hat-trick boy Rooney after Harte’s gaffe of a clearance.

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On the subject of Rooney one thing that did annoy me about Everton on Wednesday night was his blatant studding of Lanzini. Watching it back his intent was clear with a complete focus on Manu’s calf. Retrospective action called for IMO.

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In all fairness it’s my heartfelt belief that the game had already gone away from us in the first half and that was more down to the lack of movement than anything else. Obiang and Kouyate seem to have lost all the vigour that made them such assets for the team. Could they be our equivalent of England’s Lampard and Gerrard – seemingly unable to combine? Not saying that’s the root of their lack of form but the pair seem unable to find their mojo this season.

Opposition teams have got off to fast starts against us so many times this term. While switching on from the first whistle might not be the answer to all our problems I suspect it might play a big part in helping.

I’d like to see a few things in the coming games. More dynamism in our interplay is first amongst them. Otherwise Tony Cottee’s pre match comment about West Ham not going down this season will be in serious question.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!

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Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: Man City v West Ham

Blast from the past

7th September 1966 – the day actor Toby Jones was born, The Beatles were number one with ‘Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby’ and Kirk Douglas was in UK cinemas in Cast A Giant Shadow as West Ham United emerged victorious from a First Division encounter against Manchester City with an emphatic 4-1 win.

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The Hammers went into the game without a win from their first five league games and sitting fourth from bottom in the First Division table, despite welcoming back three freshly-crowned World Cup winners in Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst. All three played in this game at Manchester City, with the Irons finally getting their first win of the campaign, and in some style. Hurst bagged a brace at Maine Road in front of 31,989 and further goals from Ronnie Boyce and Johnny Sissons ensured maximum points went back with the Hammers to East London. Hurst would go on to be the club’s top scorer in 1966/67, with an incredible 41 goals from 49 appearances – he would be voted Hammer of the Year at the end of the season, with captain Moore runner-up.

West Ham would recover sufficiently from their difficult start to be in the top seven just after Christmas but fell away to finish 1966/67 in 16th place while City ended up 15th in Division One. The Hammers scored 80 league goals in 42 matches that season, but conceded 84. Manchester United won the league title and Tottenham won the FA Cup.

West Ham United: Jim Standen, Dennis Burnett, Ken Brown, Bobby Moore, John Charles, Ronnie Boyce, Martin Peters, Peter Brabrook, Johnny Byrne, Geoff Hurst, Johnny Sissons.

Club Connections

Pablo Zabaleta returns to the home of his former club for the first time since joining West Ham from Manchester City in the summer. Stuart Pearce played for both clubs and has managed Manchester City – he returns to the Etihad Stadium as an assistant coach with West Ham. England goalkeeper Joe Hart is currently on loan with the Hammers from City and is consequently ineligible to play in this game. A large group of players join them in having turned out for West Ham United and Manchester City. Divided by playing position, they include:

Goalkeepers – Perry Suckling.

Defenders – Tal Ben Haim, Tyrone Mears, Wayne Bridge.

Midfielders – Marc-Vivien Foe, Kevin Horlock, Patrick Leonard, James Cumming, Mark Ward, Eyal Berkovic, Steve Lomas, Frank Lampard Junior, John Payne, Michael Hughes, Ian Bishop, Trevor Sinclair.

Strikers – Bill Davidson, Carlos Tevez, Craig Bellamy, Phil Woosnam, Justin Fashanu, Trevor Morley, Paulo Wanchope, Clive Allen, Lionel Watson, David Cross, George Webb.

Malcolm Allison and John Bond were West Ham players who went on to manage City.

Today’s focus though falls on a player who, like Hart, has represented England, West Ham and Man City – David James. Born in Welwyn Garden City on 1st August 1970, James grew up as a Luton supporter. He signed for Watford though and, after helping the Hornets win the FA Youth Cup, made his full debut in August 1990 at the age of 20. He earned 10 caps for England Under-21s before moving to Liverpool in the summer of 1992. He won the League Cup in 1995 and received an FA Cup runners-up medal the following year before making his England debut under Glenn Hoddle in a friendly against Mexico on 29th March 1997. He signed for Aston Villa in the summer of 1999 and was once again on the losing side in an FA Cup Final, this time in 2000, the last Final to be played at the old Wembley.

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James signed for Glenn Roeder’s West Ham United in July 2001 for £3.5m but a serious knee injury picked up in a collision with Martin Keown whilst playing for England against the Netherlands at White Hart Lane would keep him out until late autumn. The 31-year-old finally made his Hammers debut in a 1-0 home defeat to Tottenham on 24th November 2001 – he went on to keep ten clean sheets in 29 appearances in his first season, a campaign which saw no other Premier League team win more matches at home than the Hammers. The club finished seventh but were to nosedive the following season, culminating in relegation. James was an ever-present in 2002/03, keeping nine clean sheets in 42 appearances during a season in which he became England’s first-choice goalkeeper, replacing David Seaman.

James remained with the club for the first half of the First Division campaign of 2003/04, seeing many of his team-mates depart in a fire sale and playing under three managers – Roeder, caretaker boss Trevor Brooking and Alan Pardew – as the Hammers adjusted to life in the second tier. ‘Jamo’ kept ten clean sheets in 31 games before returning to the Premier League with Manchester City in a £2m deal in January 2004. He had made 102 appearances for West Ham in all competitions, his final match being a 2-1 home defeat to Preston on 10th January 2004. James had retained his position as Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England number one but his return to the top flight all but secured his place as England’s goalkeeper at the upcoming Euro 2004 tournament in Portugal. My video below is a compilation of some of his saves in a West Ham shirt.

James made his Manchester City debut on 17th January 2004 in a 1-1 home draw with Blackburn and saved penalties against Wolves and Leicester that season. James said that exploring the field of sport psychology improved his skills as a goalkeeper, particularly saving penalties. On the last day of the 2004/05 season, James was playing for City who needed to beat Middlesbrough to qualify for the UEFA Cup at the opposition’s expense. With the score 1-1 with five minutes remaining, manager Stuart Pearce substituted midfielder Claudio Reyna for the substitute goalkeeper Nicky Weaver, with James moved to play up front for the remainder of the game. The unusual tactic almost worked when, in injury time, Middlesbrough defender Franck Queudrue conceded a penalty by handling a cross that was aimed at James. However, Robbie Fowler’s penalty was saved by Middlesbrough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer – Middlesbrough, not City, qualified for the UEFA Cup.

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James, who had separated from his wife, stated in the summer of 2006 that he needed to leave Manchester City to be closer to his children, who lived in London. He departed for Portsmouth for £1.2 million after making 100 appearances for City. While with Pompey, he broke the Premier League record for clean sheets and consecutive appearances. He stands fourth in the all-time Premier League appearances list with 572 games played – only Ryan Giggs, Gareth Barry and ex-Hammer Frank Lampard have played more. James moved to Bristol City in the summer of 2010 having captained Portsmouth in the FA Cup Final, James again picking up a runners-up medal after defeat at Wembley to Chelsea. The goalkeeper also played three of England’s four matches at the 2010 World Cup, having lost his place to Paul Robinson during qualification for the 2006 World Cup – former Hammer James replaced then-Hammers custodian Rob Green in the tournament held in South Africa after Green’s unfortunate error against the USA. James won 53 caps for his country.

The 42-year-old James was released by Bristol City in the summer of 2012 and signed for Bournemouth in September of that year. His final appearance for Bournemouth, and in English football, was against Walsall in a 3-1 defeat at the Bescot Stadium on 19th January 2013.

James went on to play in Iceland for IBV, teaming up with former team-mate Hermann Hreidarsson in order to gain coaching experience. James was also player-manager of Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters, owned by Sachin Tendulkar, in 2014, helping the side to runners-up position in the inaugural campaign of the ISL. James played 956 matches during his career and, now 47, he is a regular pundit on BT Sports.

Referee

Sunday’s referee will be Mike Dean; 2017/18 is Dean’s 18th as a Premier League referee. Since West Ham United achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 Dean has refereed 19 of our league matches, officiating in nine wins for the Hammers, five draws and five defeats.

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Dean refereed our final match at the Boleyn when we famously triumphed 3-2 over Manchester United. His last Premier League game involving West Ham saw him send off Sofiane Feghouli just 15 minutes into our 2-0 defeat to the Red Devils in January, a decision which was later rescinded. Dean’s most recent Hammers appointment was the 3-2 win over Tottenham in the League Cup fourth round at Wembley in October.

Possible line-ups

Manchester City will be without the injured John Stones and Benjamin Mendy, but Leroy Sane could return from illness. Raheem Sterling has scored the winning goal in the 84th minute or later four times this season, including in each of City’s last three games.

West Ham United have Sam Byram, James Collins, Jose Fonte, Andy Carroll and Chicharito on the injury list. Joe Hart is ineligible against his parent club so Adrian will make his first league appearance of the season. Winston Reid is a major doubt. West Ham have won just three of the last 20 Premier League meetings between the two clubs, drawing four and losing 13.

Possible Manchester City XI: Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Otamendi, Delph; Fernandinho, Silva; Sterling, De Bruyne, Jesus; Aguero.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; Zabaleta, Kouyate, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Antonio, Noble, Obiang, Lanzini, Masuaku; Ayew.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!

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The S J Chandos Column

is it time to return to three at the back?

Well, the squad certainly did not cover themselves in glory with another ineffectual display at Goodison. If a poor side like Everton can rip us apart like that, what is going to happen against Manchester City this coming Sunday? Arguably, Moyes must use Sunday’s match to try to find a defensive organisation that will prevent us conceding so readily. And inevitably, if he has done his research on Bilic’s tenure, he will know that the safest option is to go with is a central defensive three and two wing-backs. That system will give us the additional defensive cover that we invariably seem to lack with a flat back four.

However, current injury problems mean that Moyes selection options, in central defence, are likely to be decidedly limited. Reid is likely to be unavailable with the knock he picked up on Wednesday evening and James Collins broke down in his return game for the U-23s. I am not sure of Fonte’s current status, but if he is also injured, it means that we may need to cobble together a make shift defensive unit of Ogbonna, Rice and Kouyate. It is not ideal, but nevertheless,’ needs must’ as the saying goes. Who knows, radical change might just inadvertently lead us to hit upon a better solution to our current defensive woes?

Expectations will be low on Sunday, so it could be an opportunity for Moyes to experiment. That could see Noble and/or Fernandes considered for a return in midfield. Similarly, with Carroll’s fitness also uncertain, Sakho could start at centre-forward, perhaps with Lanzini, Antonio or Ayew playing behind him in a more central attacking role. That would also mean Martinez, in Hernandez’s continued absence, having a place on the bench.. Should Arnautovic start? Perhaps the Austrian international should be benched for this fixture to facilitate the testing of alternative options/tactics? While at right wing-back, Zabaletta is a almost certain starter and it is then a choice between Creswell and Masuaku for the left wing back slot.

Whatever Moyes’ individual selection decisions, we probably need to set up with a solid five at the back (with the wing-backs getting forward and providing width in possession), three across the middle of the park and two up front. Against Man City it is crucial that we are set up to narrow the play, cut down the options for them to pass through and get behind us. And of course cut out the silly mistakes which have plagued this season . Easier said than done, but we have to give it a real go.

It would certainly be a boost to the squad’s confidence if we could go up there and put on a solid defensive display. What we do not need is another four goal plus hammering! Perhaps if we experiment then it could unexpectedly point us in the right tactical direction to enable us to stop leaking goals and make us much more difficult to break down. Unlikely I know, given the quality of the opposition, but lets go for it!

SJ. Chandos.

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