The GoatyGav Column

When You Could Lose But You Draw and When You Could Draw But You Win

A recent manager of ours stated that winning football is entertaining football. We’re all familiar with the term ‘soft underbelly’ which is how many teams have viewed West Ham in the past. To his credit, and notwithstanding his drawbacks, that same manager instilled a resilient organisation which was low on risk and high on defensive rigidity. So rigid, in fact, that there was one particular occasion when a ten man opposition, playing two up front, couldn’t influence a change in our shape or system despite being in a winning position.

Those deluded amongst us were extremely unhappy because we believed that another ‘way’ was possible without surrendering defensive solidity. Well it turns out that we were right.

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Going back to the ‘soft underbelly’ that our club has been accused of historically it’s safe to say we’re well on the way to developing a gritty, determined and well organised rear-guard instead.

Manuel Pellegrini was a centre back as a player. In a thirteen year career he ran out 315 times (source Wikipedia – nb. other sources quote over 400 games played) for Universidad de Chile playing once for his national team at the end of his career. The influence that his playing days have had on his managerial expertise are now beginning to shine through with the burgeoning partnership between Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna.

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At times the current centre back pairing have ridden their luck a little however there’s no doubt that the two of them are beginning to work as a partnership. Looking back the chemistry in central defence in all top teams have been instrumental to that team’s success. It helps when a back two have a decent keeper behind them and that’s another key piece in West Ham’s current defensive jigsaw.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to get over-excited just yet. The only, real, top team that we’ve played this season banged in five against us but it can’t be denied that there has been more than one example where the boys have won, and drawn, games that they would have historically drawn or lost. Many of those points that have been picked up have featured clean sheets. The stat of ten scored and two conceded in the last six, with shutouts in the last four, illustrates the importance of the back line’s contribution as much as the teams effectiveness going forward.

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Looking back to my childhood, when Liverpool dominated in England as well as Europe, I remember the monotony of the, ground out, results that ‘The Reds’ achieved by winning games that other teams would have drawn and drawing games that other teams would have lost. Although at nowhere near the same level there is definitely an element of that resilience in West Ham’s recent performances. Going back to the type of resilience that Mr Allardyce installed at West Ham it seems that we really can tuck right in to our cake instead of gazing longingly at it. My excitement before the game last weekend was not just based on our chances of a win but the likelihood of an exciting match. Ok – so it didn’t deliver on both counts but the fact that my, and many others’, anticipation of a hum-dinger was in such evidence tells a story in itself. These really are good times to be a West Ham fan – long may they continue.

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This week sees the League Cup third round. Pellegrini takes his charges to the Kassam Stadium to face an in form Oxford United. I’d have liked to have gone to the game, which is just up the road for me, but I’m, unfortunately, away at Label Expo with work. I sincerely hope that we progress to the fourth round, and beyond, but nothing should be taken for granted against the League One outfit. I’m fairly confident that the gaffer will play a team of mixed experience. I should think that Ben Johnson will stand a decent chance of some game-time. Apart from the academy right back I sincerely hope that Nathan Holland gets some minutes. The former Everton academy winger has looked very impressive since returning from an injury last season. In his most recent PL2 outing he scored a superb solo goal, that has subsequently helped the team go three points clear at the top of the league, which I thought was straight out of the top drawer. You can view the goal and match highlights of the game away at Middlesborough U23s last Friday at the following link to the club page (Holland’s goal from 0.35 mins)… .

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The West Ham ladies, by all accounts, gave a good showing of themselves away to a strong Chelsea team this weekend but didn’t manage to reply in kind to the West London team’s two goals. Despite that the Ironesses sit in fifth place, level on points with this Sunday’s opponents, ahead of the game at the London Stadium this weekend. I’m unable to make it to watch the match but I wish our girls all the best for the game and hope that they get a great crowd to cheer them on. With prices at such reasonable rates, and up to six kids able to go for free with each adult, I hope that the turnout is excellent, they play well and come away with all three points.

Have a great week all.

Come On You Rip Roarin’ Irons!

Dawud Marsh's Photo Diary

Yarmolenko and Cresswell Secure Victory Over Man United

David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 2, Manchester United 0. The Rising Tide In East London.

When I was in London a couple of weeks ago over the DAMNED INTERNATIONAL BREAK THAT DENIED ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO TO A MATCH I had dinner with Nigel Kahn and his family. On the train to his home that night, we talked sport. A little Ashes, but mostly football. Nigel is never one to make rash judgements about anything related to West Ham (BFS not withstanding). So getting hyped up over our decent start was not in the cards. He did, however, say that IF we got a result at Villa he would pay extra attention to todays match. “If we beat United, then I might think a European place is possible”. The Red Devils came into The London Stadium without a win in their previous eight matches away from home, and we played very well against them last season in both fixtures. So optimism would not have been inappropriate today. In fact, it might even be called for now.

Instead of the normal slow, almost sleepy start we have become accustomed to, West Ham began the match with energy and speed. In the opening minutes the home side forced the visitors to lose the ball three or four times, including an unforced error to give West Ham a corner. The delivery from Fornals was poor, but the intent was good to see.

Early yellow cards have a way of making me very, very anxious. Especially when the card is shown to someone who does have a history of silly fouls. So when Ogbonna was booked in the 14th minute for a body check worthy of the NHL on Pereira, my vision of the future looked a bit more bleak.

Manchester United won their first corner of the match in 18th minute when Mata sent a long ball for James to chase. Fredericks got there first and put it out. West Ham handled the set piece, and eventually countered when Anderson set up Yarmolenko at the top of the eighteen yard box but his shot was weak and easily dealt with by daGea.

Manchester United should have taken the lead in the 21st minute when Rashford was sent in alone on Fabianski. But for some reason, the young England International slowed down. That allowed another young England International named Rice to catch up and dispossess his England teammate. But the action was all in the West Ham half, and the home side was finding it difficult to get on the ball.

The match swayed back and forth in terms of possession, with neither side asking any real questions of the opposing keeper. United won their fourth corner of the half in the 32nd minute, but the delivery was cleared for a West Ham counter. Fornals got to a long through ball first, but Wan-Bissaka made a crucial sliding tackle to end the attack.

The Hammers first half chance came in the 36th minute when the home side, or more accurately Noble, won a free kick on the left side of the Manchester United half. Fornals sent a looping pass to the top of the box that Noble connected with. However he didn’t get the power behind it that he wanted and daGea handled it with relative ease.

As the first half seemed to be lumbering to a scoreless scoreline, a man who has been inexplicably slated on social media showed why his innate skill cannot and should not be ignored. Noble stayed on the ball near the top of the United eighteen yard box. A quick turn to his left opened up some space, and he rolled a pass to Anderson. After quite a few misplaced passes in the opening 45 minutes, the Brazilian showed his innate skill with a lovely one touch pass to Yarmolenko. We have seen the man’s ability to curl a ball with his left foot before. I’ll never get bored of it, I can tell you that.

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West Ham 1
Manchester United 0

The opening minutes of the second half should have seen an early equalizer from United when Cresswell stood virtually still as Matic went by him and rolled the ball to Pereira. The Brazilian sent a low cross that Mata should have poked past Fabianski but somehow he put it wide. Moments later Yarmolenko found the ball on his left foot again at the top of the United eighteen yard box, but this time the curl was not so curly and it landed in the arms of daGea.

The Hammers won a corner in the 56th minute, and a set piece clearly worked on in training almost came off. Fornals took it short to Anderson, who then almost found the run of Cresswell in the box. A few seconds later, it was the visitors on the run. Rashford and Mata tried to work together to get the ball to James, but the West Ham back line held firm and all United could manage was a weak attempt that Fabianski gathered up.

West Ham had a good chance to double their lead in the 63rd minute. After a spell of possession, Yarmolenko worked the ball to Anderson on the right side of the box. The angle was tight so the chance would have needed a bit of brilliance to go in. Instead it was the leg of daGea that got in the way.

Manchester United won a corner in the 68th minute, and they came close to an equalizer when Maguire ran into the box and forced a fine save from Fabianski. There was a lot of jostling inside the box, and I half expected a penalty to be awarded. Between the save and the lack of a whistle, we all breathed a sigh of relief.

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I wish I could understand the psychology of being a supporter when you are in the lead late in a match. In some ways the anxiety is worse than when you trail. But when Wilshere won a free kick 25 yards from goal, my stomach was in full somersault mode. Cresswell sent his shot well over the bar, so the relief I so desperately needed did not come. Moments later United earned a corner after Fabianski won a race with James to the ball but could not hold on to that ball. Thankfully Yarmolenko was there to deflect the attempt on goal out for the set piece.

I remember years ago Cresswell scored a beauty of a free kick against…was it Newcastle? I remember thinking, and probably writing at the time he should take more free kicks. Anyway, West Ham won another free kick after a foul on Noble by Young, this one from about 30 yards out. Just like a few minutes ago, the left back everyone has written off stepped up. Close your eyes and imagine it was Payet.

Final Score
West Ham 2
Manchester United 0

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I’ll probably call Nigel this weekend to see if his thought process is the same as it was on the train. Me? Well, if Betway existed here in the USA I still wouldn’twager on a top six finish. Sean and Nigel pointed out on Moore Than Just A Podcast that when you compare this seasons results so far with the corresponding fixtures from last season, we are actually about even. But there is definitely a different feel. Heck, we didn’t really look that good today yet we won. We kept a fourth clean sheet in a row for the first time since dinosaurs roamed around Stratford. Despite not scoring, Haller was still a force that kept Manchester United’s defense on edge. And I think Fornals will benefit and grow from the minutes he will get due to Lanzini’s injury. Unlike other seasons in which we played far better than expected, this one looks to be based on a strong foundation of young, skillful players being complemented by leaders such as Noble and Zabaleta.

It’s weird to be happy, isn’t it?

Match Thread

Match Thread: West Ham v Manchester United

West Ham v Manchester United
FA Premier League
London Stadium
KO 2pm
TV: Sky Sports
Radio: BBC 5 Live

Please use this thread to comment on the match as it progresses.

Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Manchester United

After failing to maintain our winning run at Villa last week, West Ham return to London and welcome Manchester United to the London Stadium early Sunday game. Ahead of the game I caught up with my old spar, TV documentary maker and Cockney Red John Farren, currently residing in Donegal to discuss the match: a fixture that has over the years given us some great games and memories.
Hi John, when we spoke just under a year ago, you were hoping that West Ham would be victorious, which you hoped would precipitate the sacking of the ex ‘Special One’. Given that’s what happened, you must have been quite pleased with the outcome?
Beyond ecstatic. Toxic bloke, shit football. We are watchable again.

Is former fan favourite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the man to turn around your fortunes?
I think he’s gotta get 2 full seasons. But the problems go much deeper than the team. The Glazers, the debt, oh dear.

The nature of professional football these days is that there is an extremely high turnover of players, and all clubs are guilty of taking on the occasional bit of dross. Of the players who’ve been and gone over the past few seasons, who have you been must pleased to see move on?
Lukaku. Sanchez. Obvs.

And conversely are there any players that you think the manager didn’t get the best out of?
Herrera was a loss.

Both Manchester and West Ham Uniteds are known for their development squads, what do you know about the players who are just starting to make themselves known at Old Trafford?
I’m delighted we didn’t go mad in the market. I’m chuffed to see academy kids getting game time. I’m sick of everyone thinking you can buy instant success. That said we do need midfield cover. Greenwood looked good in preseason games and is supposedly the best finisher since Solskjaer himself. He’s staying in my fantasy team, where he has zero points.

How do Manchester United fans compare former greats Roy Keane and Bryan Robson as players, and as people?
I love Keano. Loved those ghosted autobiogs. Wouldn’t want to spend 5 mins inside his head tho. Made a doco once about former players choosing the hardest hard men of football. The midfield was McKay, Souness, Keane by almost universal acclaim. Many United fans prefer Robson.

Talking off old players, West Ham fans will remember Paul Ince and Rio Ferdinand in different ways, but how do Man United fans rate these to former West Ham players.
Rio was a borderline great, once he lost his concentration lapses.
Incey? To quote Keano “Incey. Likes to be called the Guvnor. I call him Incey”. Should have stayed at the Boleyn. But then, so should your club.

Are there any West Ham players that could improve your team?
Lanzini. Rice. Would both start every week. I love Antonio but he’d be a squad man.

I am big fan of Marcus Rashford, but can he push on to the next level, and start scoring 25 goals per season?
I think so.

Are you going to be able to force your way back into the top four this season, or do you think this is still for the future? Where do you think you will finish the season?
Fourth. Or fifth. Or sixth. But I agree with Gary Neville, it’s about rebuilding, a long term project and a pattern of play, not buying ageing stars and coming Fourth.

What are your predictions for the top four positions in order?
City, Liverpool, Spurs and one of us, the Arse or Chelsea

Early days of course, but who is going to be relegated at the end of the season?

Where can the Mighty Claret and Blue end the season?
Burnley should do ok. Despite the Dildo brothers, gotta love Pellegrini. Good to see you playing footy. Eighth? Top ten.

How will you line up on Sunday?
4-3-3. Hopefully Greenwood gets some game time. He scored the winner on Thursday!

And finally what is your prediction for the score?
2-1 United. Rashford 2 goals.

Well many thanks to John for his thoughts and time. For my part, I hope, and think that we can return to winning ways. 2 – 1 to West Ham. COYI

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