Talking Point

The Evolution of Chica and Bilic

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Rolling back the clock to a time when the English leagues were dominated by strength and power, the evolution of football in England has been one of the most radical changes in any sport.

From the abolition of the back-pass rule, forcing defensive units to become more aware and adaptable on the ball, to the injection of pace and technique from foreign shores, football is a game ever-changing, radicalising and moving forward. Rarely, if ever, does one succeed in such an environment by reverting to ways of old.

However, taking a past tactic and reinventing it is an art form in itself and one lead by the genius of managers such as Diego Simeone and Jurgen Klopp.

Only when you come to very boundaries of mastery is it possible to enforce evolution. Identity is a bi-product of this and synonymous with the greatest managerial minds of our time.

Where some have influenced the sport as a whole, others evolutionary rebellion was more narrow, focusing on change within existing systems, rather than the invention of an entirely new philosophy.

Any revolution requires special players, ones that believe wholeheartedly in the manager’s philosophy and are willing to back it to the hilt. In Guardiola’s time at Bayern Munich, the journalist following the team interviewed several players about the way Pep had changed their position and playing style, sometimes having them play three or four different positions in as many games. Asking them where they would prefer to play, the response from every player was the same, “I will play wherever the manager asks me to play”. This wasn’t paper talk and blind support, it was a collection of the worlds best players opening their minds and embracing the vision of the coach with utter dedication, believing this will make them better as a team and as individuals. This is also about understanding the players, what they are capable of and how they perform best as a team.

Bilic inherited a defensive, direct team with a brief to play attacking, entertaining football and in his first season, he delivered in spades. However, losing such a key piece of the puzzle in Payet – and to a lesser extent Moses – robbed Bilic of the glue that held his masterpiece together. Payet’s creative genius and vision, along with Moses’ pace were never replaced and replicating the blueprint of that incredible season became impossible.

The truth about what followed – the disastrous transfer window, the problematic season, the problems with the board etc – we may never know, but whether of his own making, or the boards, Bilic soldiered on making do with what he had. This league is probably the most unforgiving in the world and he’s got us through two seasons successfully which should not be overlooked.

Overall, I think my point is this. Maybe Bilic is tactically naive and maybe he is coming to the end of his time at West Ham, but maybe he’s not. Maybe he’s one or two steps away from creating something special and a legacy that we can carry forward.

There’s no doubting the challenges he’s faced but he’s always carried himself with dignity, honesty and integrity. That’s the kind of manager I want in charge of West Ham and although I don’t know the answer to the question I raised above, I know that I want to give him time and the opportunity to show us what he’s been trying to build.

The evolution of Chica

Boasting an impressive CV, Hernandez has represented two of the biggest clubs in world football, playing alongside some of the worlds finest players and under some well-celebrated managers. He’s played in numerous systems but wherever he’s been, he’s been celebrated for his goal scoring. However, this isn’t the only aspect of his game that’s impressive and I want to take a look a little closer into certain opinions/myths that surround him and how to get the best out of him.

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The demands placed on Hernandez in his time at Man Utd and Real Madrid were very different to those at Bayer Leverkusen and West Ham.

At Utd and Madrid the demand was to score when given the opportunity; to finish, plain and simple. This is far from plain or simple considering the skills necessary to create the space and time the runs needed to score at the highest level, however, pressing and tracking were far less prominent – in most games – as both teams had a tendency to dominate the ball and possession.

Moving along to his time at Leverkusen, Hernandez was required to adapt his game, becoming a starting striker – where he had been an impact substitute previously – and also add new dimensions to his playing style. These new dimensions were mostly based on tracking back, defending from the front and managing his game over 90 minutes.

In a recent interview for the club website, Hernandez professed to being happy to evolve as a player, as well as a person, in his quest to improve throughout his career. I believe this and his time at Leverkusen and now with us goes a long way to prove it.

A number of top journalists have criticised Bilic for playing him as a lone striker, stating the lack of precedence for their critique. This simply isn’t true and if they’d done their homework, they’d know that he was deployed there on a number of occasions for Leverkusen and also at Utd and Madrid, although to a lesser extent and it’s not as relevant due to the gulf in quality and resources between the teams.

Chica is capable of playing as a lone striker as long as he receives the service he thrives on. He needs players around him with speed and guile capable of unlocking defences and rewarding his clever movement with pinpoint passes.

The truth of the matter, for me, is that we currently don’t have the personnel available to get the best out of these kinds of tactics, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-2-1. The one thing, above all else that’s required to play fluid, passing football or fast counter attacking football, is quality passers.

At our best we had Payet, Lanzini, Song and Noble in his prime – Payet alone averaged four key passes and three accurate crosses per game, our current best is Cresswell with 1.5 key passes and 2.2 crosses. These players could open up a defensive line with one brilliant through ball and on top of that, they had the vision and ability to do so time and again. How Hernandez would have thrived in that memorable season.

Sadly, however, this is no longer the case with a slightly rusty Noble (although IMO the man of the match against Spurs, he was a class act), Obiang, Kouyate and Fernandez the current crop.

Obiang came back to form against Huddersfield but for all of his talents, he lacks the ability to consistently choose the right pass and execute it, as do the other midfielders mentioned. This is where Lanzini comes in and when he’s back nobody will benefit more than Hernandez, but for now, we need a solution without him.

Avoiding the dark ages

Modern football has become about dominating the midfield and at the moment we’re underpowered in this crucial department.

Without being able to keep possession our only viable outlet is Carroll. This limits our play but also creates opportunities. It may be predictable, but it can be effective. We need to be careful is our use of this because it restricts a number of our players and isn’t suitable against all teams. Used in the right way it can be highly effective but we need to use it effectively and I don’t believe it should be our plan A.

Playing direct football to a target man doesn’t have to be a throwback to the dark ages though. Yes, football has come a long was technically and in terms of fitness and speed, but not all teams can be filled with the players necessary to succeed playing out-and-out modern football. It’s all about playing to your strengths and finding a way to blend styles successfully. Even Guardiola had to adapt his tactics and philosophies on his journey from Spain to Germany and now to England. He hasn’t tried to enforce his famous Barcelona blueprint on his new teams, he’s reinvented them to suit the competition while staying true to his personal philosophies and beliefs. This is what Bilic needs to achieve with his players. They all need to commit body and soul to this vision and philosophy, giving their all to achieve it. This can only happen with belief.

I think we’re in for a real battle until January but we’ll do ok. If the board back Bilic – as they absolutely should and there is no excuse for not doing so unless they choose to part company with him – and we land Carvalho, Denilo or another high-quality central midfielder with excellent passing and the ability to break up play, then I believe Bilic will have the final and arguably most important piece of his puzzle, his masterpiece.

Only by giving him this opportunity can we truly know and personally, I want to find out.


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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A With Swansea

This weekend West Ham welcome Swansea City to the Olympic Stadium, where we can hopefully put ourselves back on the track that Spurs knocked us off. Ahead of the game I chatted to Matthew Bound and AzurriSwan from to discuss the match.

You’ve had a poor run of home defeats so far this season; do you look forward to playing away?
Is that meant in general or for your game? If you mean Saturday then no.
It’s not so much the playing away as the day out though we do know how to park the bus away from home now.

Where do you think Swansea will finish at the end of the campaign?
Hopefully above the bottom 3 which is getting monotonous now, we haven’t really progressed to become a steady PL team which is a disappointment,
We must start scoring goals but realistically eleventh or twelfth would do.

Where do you think West Ham can realistically finish the season?
I can’t say I’ve seen much of you so far this season but I don’t think you have anything to fear, mid-table I suppose but no more.
The Hammers have a good squad on paper and should finish in the top ten.

Which three teams do you think will suffer relegation and who will lift the title this season?
Hopefully B/Mouth, Brighton and Southampton, with Man City to win it.
Palace, Bournemouth and Brighton to go down with Man City for the title.

Are you happy with your transfer dealings during the window? I suppose the return of Wilfred Bony caught our attention, but what about the rest?
Not really, uninspiring mediocre players and no real investment in areas where it is needed
Delays in the transfer of Sigurdsson caused tardiness in bringing players in. We were associated with what seems dozens of targets but each one seemed either to be bought by teams making higher offers or us showing a lack of ambition.

How do the fans rate Paul Clement as manager? Do you think he will last, or will he be discarded if you find yourselves in the bottom three?
I hope he does well and I’m sure he will be a success, whether the |Board and fans give him time is debatable, they (the board) gambled last season with Bradley but had the sense albeit late imo to get rid and if they see the golden egg of PL money being at risk I’m sure they’ll do what’s necessary to protect their investment .
PC seems to be the right man for the job suggesting that he wants to bring back the Swansea Way of a few years ago…great football…but at the moment he is concentrating on not conceding with little happening up front…irate supporters who want to be entertained not being so!

How do you rate West Ham’s Slaven Bilic as our manager?
He had a very good 1st season with you but seems to have lost his way , whether that’s down to your owners shenanigans during the summer I don’t know but it looks a bit fractured within at the moment
Slaven Bilic is a very passionate man and knows his job.

Any particular memories of West Ham/Swansea games of the past?
The FA Cup replay game in 1999 at the Vetch when Psycho Thomas (Martin) won the game for us 1-0, cold night under the lights and a packed out Vetch, how games were meant to be played.
Recently, the last time we played at Upton Park winning 4-1 at the end of the season having expected another thrashing due to resting international players.

If you could have any current West Ham player in your first team who would you choose and why?
Hernandez, he’s bulked up out of all recognition, he’s quick and talented and you’ve got one hell of a player.
Carroll because he appears to give 100%.

Which Swansea player(s) will be key to your hopes this season?
Unless Sanches comes good then its got to be Abrahams and Bony as a partnership
Bony, Abraham and Mesa.

How do you expect Swansea to setup against West Ham on Saturday/ Team/formation prediction?
5 at the back and hope to catch you on the break . Score 1 – 1
Probably park the bus with 5 at the back, frustrate you and break away with a winner. 0 -1

Thank you for your comments lads. Reading through them it seems that Swansea fans are having a worse time than us. I’m hoping for a 2 – 0 home victory. Come on you Irons!

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Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: West Ham v Swansea

Blast from the past

Christmas Eve 1955 – Sir Laurence Olivier was in UK cinemas as Richard III, Dickie Valentine was number one with ‘Christmas Alphabet’ and another Dickie, West Ham United inside-forward John Dick, was amongst the goals in a 5-1 victory over this weekend’s opponents Swansea City (or Swansea Town as they were then known) in front of 15,857 at Upton Park.

Dick was joined on the scoresheet that Christmas Eve afternoon by outside-forward Harry Hooper (pictured below), striker Billy Dare, right-back John Bond (who would later go on to manage Swansea in the 1980s) and winger Ken Tucker. The Hammers were struggling two places above the Second Division relegation zone in 19th place so the win provided some much-needed Christmas cheer in the East End. Dare would go on to be the Hammers’ top scorer of 1955/56, with 25 goals in 49 matches.

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Ted Fenton’s Hammers would finish 16th in the Second Division in 1955/56, while Ronnie Burgess’ Swansea would end the campaign in 10th. Sheffield Wednesday topped the Second Division, Manchester United won the First Division title and Manchester City won the FA Cup.

West Ham United: Ernie Gregory, John Bond, Malcolm Allison, Noel Cantwell, Frank O’Farrell, Andy Malcolm, Harry Hooper, Billy Dare, Ken Tucker, Brian Moore, John Dick.

Club Connections

West Ham United’s Andre Ayew could face his previous club. A small number of players join him in having worn the shirts of both West Ham United and Swansea City. These include:

Goalkeeper: Noel Dwyer.

Defenders: Andy Melville and Shaun Byrne.

Midfielders: Frank Lampard Junior and Matthew Rush.

Strikers: Tudor Martin, Frank Nouble and Lee Chapman.

John Bond also represented both clubs, playing for the Hammers and managing the Swans.

Today’s focus though is on a player who turned out for West Ham before representing Swansea later in his career. Jimmy Carr was an outside-left who was born on 19th December 1893 in Maryhill, Glasgow. He joined Watford in 1908 at the age of 14 and made his Southern League debut as a 16-year-old. The 20-year-old Carr moved to West Ham United in 1914 and made his debut in a 1-1 home draw with Swindon on 26th September 1914. With the perfect build for a winger at 5’7 in height and weighing in at 10st, he scored his only Hammers goal in his sixth appearance, a 2-0 win over Plymouth at Upton Park on 5th December 1914. His ninth and final appearance for the Irons was on the 30th January 1915, in a 1-1 draw at Swindon, the same opposition and result as his debut.

During World War One, Carr was enlisted into the Army as a Private and played as a guest for Portsmouth and Kilmarnock in the Wartime Leagues. After the cessation of hostilities, Carr joined Reading in 1919, spending four years in Berkshire and making over 100 appearances for the club before moving to Southampton (he is pictured right during his Reading days). Three years at The Dell (where he would be an FA Cup Semi-Finalist in 1925) was followed by the 32-year-old Carr’s switch to Swansea Town, as they were then known, in May 1926.

Carr scored one goal in seven appearances for the Swans but, with the end of his career approaching, he took the unprecedented step of placing an advertisement in the Athletic News, stating that he would ‘assist a club outside the League in exchange for a business’. Carr was soon playing for Southall and running The Red Lion Hotel in the town. Jimmy Carr passed away in Harrow on 26th June 1980, at the age of 86.


Saturday’s referee will be Roger East; the Wiltshire-based official has been taking charge of Premier League fixtures since 2012 but has only taken charge of three previous West Ham matches in the top flight, those being the 1-1 home draw with Stoke in April 2015, the 3-2 home defeat to Leicester in March 2017 and, more recently, the 0-0 draw with Everton in April.

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The 52-year-old has also refereed the Hammers in the FA Cup, for the fourth round replay win over Liverpool in February 2016 and for the 2-1 quarter-final replay defeat to Manchester United in April of the same year. He also sent off Portsmouth’s Liam Lawrence and West Ham’s Frederic Piquionne in the Irons’ 4-3 home win over Pompey in September 2011.

Possible line-ups

Slaven Bilic should have Manuel Lanzini back in the squad after injury – the Argentine has only appeared once this season, as a half-time substitute at Newcastle last month. Michail Antonio will be in the squad while James Collins could have a late fitness test. Pedro Obiang is still sidelined and Edimilson Fernandes is a doubt. Arthur Masuaku impressed from the bench in a more advanced role against Tottenham and could be challenging Marko Arnautovic, who was again below par in a Premier League game for his new club. Andre Ayew also comes into the reckoning against his former club. Pablo Zabaleta is one yellow card away from a one-match suspension.

Swansea City will be without injured centre-half Kyle Bartley, while winger Nathan Dyer is lacking match fitness. Midfield man Sung-Yong Ki will be playing for the Swans’ Under-23 side against Celtic while his team-mates are in action at London Stadium as he continues his recovery from a knee injury. Roque Mesa, Renato Sanches and Tammy Abraham are pushing for starts after appearing from the bench against Watford last weekend.

Possible West Ham United XI: Hart; Fonte, Reid, Ogbonna; Zabaleta, Kouyate, Noble, Cresswell; Lanzini, Carroll, Chicharito.

Possible Swansea City XI: Fabianski; van der Hoorn, Fernandez, Mawson; Naughton, Carroll, Mesa, Sanches, Olsson; Ayew, Abraham.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!

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The GoatyGav Column

Flawed Geniuses - West Ham’s Self Destructive Mavericks

Watching West Ham’s top five goals against the Spudz, to try and cheer myself up a bit, last up was Ravel Morrison’s superb solo effort at WHL in 2013. From Mo Diame’s lovely touch to bring it under deep in our half, followed by the lovely lay off to Ravel with the outside of his boot which was the start of one of the more memorable goals in our history, what resulted typified Morrison’s great potential.

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With only one game from nine so far this season, in a struggling Atlas team in Liga MX, Mexico’s top division, on loan from Lazio, Ravel is yet to break through. Should he get his chance I hope he goes on to do well and realise his potential. The Atlas fans were excited about his arrival despite vice-president Alberto de la Torres revealing that there is a ‘good behaviour’ clause in the loan deal. The fact that he’s only featured once for the team might suggest it’s not going well however the aforementioned clause doesn’t mince words stating that he’ll be sent straight home should Ravel digress in any way so perhaps he’s still in their plans.

Very much like Paul Gascoine it appears that Ravel has been unable to shake off bad influences from ‘hangers on’. Ravel’s formative years put him in with a crowd who Sir Alex Ferguson was keen to distance him from – so much so that he decided to do what he considered in the best interests of Ravel by selling him to West Ham to be looked after by Sam Allardyce. A compliment from the Manchester United manager to Mr Allardyce’s abilities to get the best out of players.

Sadly it didn’t work out for Ravel at West Ham as his Salford ‘friends’ continued to influence him. He is a grown man and, therefore, can’t blame others for his own failings however it can’t be easy for the fella with ‘outside influences’ taking effect.

After loan spells at Birmingham, QPR & Cardiff West Ham released Ravel and he signed for Lazio in 2015. He returned to QPR on loan. Signing for an Italian club may not have been far away enough from Manchester. If not then his current loan to Mexico should do the trick. If not then how far away does he have to go? Will he end his career in New Zealand perhaps?

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On the subject of flawed geniuses Paulo Di Canio, for me, was on that level. Blessed with incredible skill, although much of it developed with hard graft and dedication, and as much as I worship him as a player, there’s no doubting that he’s hit the self destruct on more than one occasion during his career. You wonder whether he would have featured for Italy and become an international legend as well as a West Ham one if he’d have been more able to manage interpersonal relationships with those in authority within his national team’s hierarchy. Whatever your opinion he definitely possesses eccentricities in similar ways to Gazza and Ravel.

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There are elements of this with our record signing, Marko Aranoutovic, but there’s definitely a line between ‘Flawed Genius’ and ‘Moody and sulky players

To a degree it must be difficult growing up in the, bubble like, world of a top level footballer. Some handle the strains well. Others struggle with it for varying reasons. Be they alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling problems, infidelity, anger or mental issues with so much time and money at their disposal it can certainly be a case of ‘too much too young’ for many. Whilst there is certainly far more resource put in to managing these issues by clubs, associations and academies nowadays the number of players who fall foul are still significant. There are elements of this with our record signing, Marko Aranoutovic, but there’s definitely a line between ‘Flawed Genius’ and ‘Moody and sulky players with a bit of a screw loose with very few falling in to the former classification. Which group Marko falls in to remains to be seen. Others who have been close to that line might include the likes of Stuart Slater and, going back to players from the ‘50’s, Malcolm Allsion. I’m sure that you could name plenty more and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and debates on the matter.

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the great tribute that our club put on in honour of the legendary irishman, warmly recognised and appreciated by Sir Bobby Charlton

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Differing subtly from your common badges of honour history bestows a great deal of Kudos on the flawed genius. They’re written and spoken about extensively by those who knew them and those who didn’t. For me it’s one of the most interesting conversations in sport. I remember speaking with a Manchester United fan about George Best. Part of the conversation was due to the fact that Manchester United visited Upton Park the game after his sad passing and the great tribute that our club put on in honour of the legendary Irishman, warmly recognised and appreciated by Sir Bobby Charlton, but much of that conversation centered around whether George would have been the same player without his imperfections. Nobody can say for sure but one thing is for certain. The spectacle of our great game is enriched hugely by these flawed geniuses who become giants of the game.

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Guest Post

WHUISA Committee Meeting: Saturday 30th September, 11am

Guest Post by WHUISA Committee

The first WHUISA Committee meeting of the new season will take place at the White Post Cafe, Schwartz Wharf (Building 4), 92 White Post Lane, London E9 5EN.

All members are welcome.

Start at 11am. We aim to finish by 12:30pm. 

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Agenda as follows:

1. Apologies for absence

2. Minutes of last meeting

3. Constitution/Mission Statement/Equality Statement
Paul Christmas
Open for discussion

4. Membership
Open for discussion.

5. Website
Open for discussion

6. Data Protection
Open for discussion.

7. Away Fans
Paul Christmas
Open for discussion.

8. Third Kit
Open for discussion.

9. Associations/Trusts
Open for discussion.

10. Fansbet
Open for discussion.

11. Brighton & Hove Albion Game
Paul Turner
Open for discussion.

12. Actions between meetings
Paul Christmas
Open for discussion.

13. AOB
Paul Christmas
Open for discussion.

14. Date and venue for next meeting

You can become a member of WHUISA by clicking here.

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