Tony Hanna's Musings
Have you ever known anyone that has had a change in circumstances and moved from their old two bed flat or tiny 3 bed terraced house into a lovely large house in the country? You get an invite and as you arrive you are duly impressed with the large garden and there before you is a stunningly beautiful country manor house. The wow factor hits home. Then you walk inside and the only furniture is the same stuff from the previous abode! All of a sudden the wow has gone and you don’t know what to say. Perhaps this analogy can best describe our football club? The move was supposed to bring in a new era of plush furniture and all we got was some second hand cupboards. Past their best but still sturdy and useful, but you know the woodworm has already started to infiltrate the poor things. Now, Snodgrass and Fonte are decent players. Players that in any other circumstances I would be over joyed with. I actually think they are upgrades on what we have now if you compare to Feghouli and Ogbonna. But it is like replacing the Tallboy with the missing leg with some chipboard put it together yourself unit. Two and a half and three and a half year contracts for a 33 and a 29 year old? What happened to the Chairman’s promise to only buy players with a sell on value in the future? What other progressive club continually buys players around the 30 year age mark and gives them long term contracts? I actually think that Payet leaving was a financial blessing for the club. It may have robbed us of another season littered with some magical moments but he was on a five year deal worth around 6.5m quid each year! In March, Payet will be 30 years old and the likelihood would be that for at least three, probably four of those contracted years, he would have been a passenger and a financial hindrance on our spending power. The top clubs can financially afford to make gambles and even mistakes like this and it is of course the inducement used to get top players to sign and stay with the club long term in the first place. But can we? I think not.
Onto the pitch and it has all been a bit up and down hasn’t it? Well actually it is getting quite easy to predict when you look closely. Discounting draws the following happens more often than not. We play a top ten side at home (OS) and we get beat. We play a bottom ten side at home and we win. We play a top ten side away and we have a small chance of some crumbs. We play a bottom side away and anything can happen. Burnley are the only top ten side we have beaten all season and the reality is they will be bottom half themselves come the end of the weekend! This does not auger well when you look at our remaining home fixtures for the rest of the season. Most Premier league teams nowadays play one of two ways. They play a high pressing game or they play a sit back and contain game, relying on the counter attack. The former can be played home or away and demands that the team work hard together and in unison. It requires the players to hunt in packs and play virtually how as kids we were told you shouldn’t play. “Don’t bunch up, get some width, stay in your positions”. I can still hear the school PE teacher screaming those instructions at primary school. Not in the Premier League though. Bunching and pressing the man in possession can be your teams main tactic. The second option is the containing one. Easy to play away but much more difficult at home when there is more emphasis on the home team to take the game to their opponents and with a baying crowd infuriated at any lack of endeavour. Interestingly, Leicester managed to play this style even at home last season with a very understanding home crowd. Their patience was very well rewarded. I am still trying to work out what style we are playing this season? It seems we try a bit of both without any true commitment to either. We have certainly looked better away from home with the containing style whilst many of our home wins have been remarkably ugly. I actually think it is just the fact that we have better players than most of the lower teams and despite the lack of effective tactics we ride our luck with our class edge. Not many of the lower tier can boast the likes of Carroll, Kouyate, Lanzini, Antonio and for some time Payet?
I firmly believe that this season the second tier of the PL is the worst in some seasons. Last season was a serious blip with a few of the big boys floundering but normal service has since resumed. Last season from a fair way out, only four teams ever looked like getting relegated. I actually think if we were playing like we are now, in last season’s league, we would be serious relegation contenders. This season the relegation battle is really open slather and even we are not completely out of the mix.
There has been a lot of chat about who Bilic will drop out of the central midfield positions? Some have called for Noble to be axed but I doubt the boss will do that to his captain. Obiang, despite a poor game against City has been very good in recent months. Kouyate is really one of the first on the team sheet for me. So who will miss out? In my opinion Slav will probably try reverting back to his favourite three at the back system. This allows both Noble and Obiang to remain in the side and Kouyate can play at the back with Fonte and Reid. This system takes a lot of pressure away from the under performing Cresswell but it does pose the problem of who plays right wing back? This problem however, may be easier for Bilic to solve rather than the prospect of leaving out one of the three aforementioned players. Whether he goes with this format against Southampton we shall see, but I think he will revert to this system sooner rather than later. What do you think?
Guest Post by Paul Christmas (Joint Chairman of WHUISA)
I attended the West Ham Supporter Advisory Board meeting on 24th January at the London Stadium and the attendees were as listed on the minutes at https://www.whufc.com/sites/default/files/inline-files/SAB%20meeting%20minutes%20270117.pdf
Over two hundred people from our six hundred strong membership took the time to send their points of view. The documents filled two A4 files and I took every response into the meeting.
On behalf of the members I made a number of your points during the meeting with examples to hand on each topic which are listed in the minutes. I was able to speak on to your behalf but had a huge amount of information.
Twice I was asked to hand over all documents from the membership which I did not do. I was not going to provide the club with your personal data. Further the consensus of opinion amongst our members was that many people had previously written to the club and had not received a response at all. I include myself in this as I sent a registered post letter to the chairmen in late December which has not been acknowledged. On this basis what is there to say there would be no response to our evidence? I was not prepared to pass everything to the club without a check and balance being made on your behalf.
This is supported by the club admitting they had problems handling correspondence from fans from the start of the season and had now changed their system. However this should not have happened in the first place and the club should have been ready from day 1 in the new stadium to cope with queries. That damage has now been done and is one of the reasons why WHUISA was formed in order to take fan’s complaints direct to the club and get answers relayed back to them without them being lost or left unanswered. West Ham is one of the few major clubs in the country that did not have an official supporters association or Trust. We now have one.
WHUISA are pro-fan and not anti-board. We want to help the club with the issues raised but with the large volume of paperwork and the ‘devil being in the detail’ I was not able to get all points across in the meeting. To this end I have requested a meeting with the club to present our evidence in a formal manner which can be fed back to you byWHUISA and the club working together in an agreed and appropriate way. I await their response.
This was my first SAB meeting and I was left wondering for the future of the SAB. It is well known that a week earlier there was a meeting between the club and West Ham oriented websites / bloggers and internet TV. If, as we were told the SAB ‘is the forum for going forward’ why is there ongoing direct contact between the club and this group? Surely they should be part of the SAB? By being separate and having first chance to meet the club surely this undermines the credibility of the SAB and what it is meant to stand for.
Further a meeting between the club and this group has been earmarked for April a full month before the SAB are due to meet again at the end of May. I questioned this and requested that the SAB meet monthly to get a firm grip on the issues but this was not forthcoming. It was stated at the meeting the intention would be to merge the 2 groups but with separate meetings already planned it seems this will not happen until next season which seems too late.
Further due to firmly established nature of the association WHUISA politely requested but were not afforded a 2nd representative at this SAB meeting. Taking an active part in the meeting and taking notes is not easy for 1 person at all. This will be why there is a delay in getting this to you as I work full time and have other responsibilities. However as can be seen from the minutes Bondholders had three representatives while Club London, East Upper, East Lower and Bobby Moore Upper each had 2. Disability supporters were rightly represented by two people due to the differing nature of disability. It is understood some groups attending the website meeting in the previous week also had wto or more representatives.
The SAB is the club’s primary form of direct correspondence with its fans but I was unsure on behalf of whom a number of SAB members spoke. The group has come from previous meetings and being hand-picked. During the meeting the gentleman representing the BML made a point about the outer coverings around the pitch which was very commendable. However as a season ticket holder in the BML I, and indeed anyone in the group of 40 who I go to the matches with, did not know in advance he was representing the BML. There had not been any chance prior to the meeting for us to meet / put forward any views or opinions we may have had.
I shall state very clearly now that I am not singling this man out at all for any criticism and he was not at any fault in any way. He has been put in this situation by the club.This also applies to other members of the SAB, for whom I have the utmost respect for, at the meeting. For the majority at such a high profile meeting it was unclear exactly on whose behalf and under what mandate they speaking for during the meeting. I, on the other hand, have 600 people I represent and had sought their opinion and received over 200 replies. I thought that the new SAB would be about people speaking on behalf of a significant number of fellow fans. To this end I can understand the 2 SAB members speaking on behalf of fellow disabled people and I think it is disgraceful that there is not an official disability supporters association. I encouraged all other SAB members to join WHUISA so the fan’s voice could be heard in the correct and proper way through official channels with openness and transparency. WHUISA have asked for more people to come forward to represent other groups in the West Ham family and have been contacted by a disabled person while we would be happy to have the 2 reps at the meeting on board.
WHUISA has structure and integrity. We are a new association but are ready to work on the issues facing us all in the new stadium through open, honest and productive channels of communication with West Ham United Football Club as well as to foster a relationship of accountability.
WHUISA shall update you when we have further news but in the meantime your feedback on the above issues is most welcome.
Before we start analysing this match, it’s important that we appreciate and understand the quality of our opposition. The result hurt, of course it did, and the last thing we wanted was another decimation at the hands of Manchester City. However, the result needs context.
1. I don’t believe there are many teams that could have matched or beaten Man City in the form we encountered. As Darren Lewis of the Sun mentioned, this is not the barometer by which West Ham should be judged.
2. Gabriel Jesus, Sane and Stirling are the fastest, most skilful front line of any team I can think of, certainly in the Prem.
3. We played poorly and gifted them opportunities. Sadly for us, so high is their skill level that they converted each of the three opportunities into goals.
4. Despite their domination in possession, they were restricted to four shots on goal. However, they scored with three of these.
This isn’t designed to defend the performance, but the gulf in ability, cost of acquisition and wages has to be noted. Jesus and Sane alone cost almost £70 million and it tips over £110 million when you include Stirling.
To achieve results against teams with far superior financial power requires something special from the players and the manager. Unfortunately, it didn’t come together as we all hoped but we shouldn’t forget that we were very long odds to win or draw this game.
The acid test
It’s not fair to judge the manager or the players based solely on this performance. Better teams than ours have and will be beaten by similar margins, so let’s not hit the self-destruct button just yet.
There are also contributing factors that compound the effect of the defeat and make it feel worse than it is.
These factors are:
We wanted to show the world that things are going to be OK without our leading creator. Had we finished the game losing by one or two goals, we’d feel justified in our beliefs that we can still achieve great things without him. Sadly, that’s not necessarily true. However much we want to ignore it, Payet is the most creative player in Europe and we don’t have a player of his talent’s at the club anymore. Lanzini is a rough diamond that needs to develop, and I think he will, but we lost something very special in Payet and we need time to adapt and overcome, which we will.
Recovering from the cup defeat
The 5-0 defeat we suffered in the cup is fresh in the memory and everyone would have wanted to rectify that. In some ways it must have added extra pressure to what was already a very difficult game.
We are all so desperate to see him succeeded, but we have to cut him some slack. He is far from the finished article and has made mistakes and sometimes it appears as if he’s done little to rectify them. The team, for a long time, has been defensively poor and we are conceding too many goals. There appears to be a lack of tactical clarity implemented by the manager and players sometimes look lost and uncomfortable in their positions. The players are not without blame, of course, as they have failed to execute the game plan effectively.
I believe Bilic is similar in some ways to Lanzini. He has all the abilities to become a be one of the best, and on his day can compete with anyone. However, consistency is the key and Bilic needs time to grow and learn. He, similar to Lanzini, needs stability, support and a wide berth in order to succeed. I hope he gets it, but we must be patient as there will be a lot more highs and lows as we forge ahead in our quest for stability.
Sadly, Cresswell hasn’t fully recovered from his injury and has been underperforming since his return. He has been at fault for several goals and desperately needs and injection of confidence and some competition to up his game. Masuaku will hopefully provide the latter on his return from injury.
Byram had a good game against Middlesbrough, but he received more defensive cover from Feghouli, which helped. Unfortunately, against Man City he wasn’t at his best and Feghouli didn’t provide the cover that he had previously. This compounded Byram’s problems and left him exposed against one of the best attacks in Europe.
Teams like Spurs, Everton and Chelsea epitomise the importance of having high calibre full backs/wing backs. Ours are developing and will need time, but I think we have some promising talent.
For me, it also highlights how important our need to get cover for Byram was in January. I understand if no suitable players were available, but Jenkinson or Debuchy on loan for the rest of the season didn’t seem beyond us?
Snodgrass had an excellent debut. His technique, ability to retain the ball and his desire to defend and organise were exemplary. He has been performing to the same high levels for Hull all season and although he played just 31 minutes (including injury time), we got to see what he brings to the team.
He completed 15 of his 16 passes in his short time on the pitch. Noble was our best passer completing 35 out of 43, which highlights how effective Snodgrass was in this key area.
His ability to hold on to the ball also gave our attacking players time to transition, which allowed us more options going forward. His share of possession was 1.9% which almost doubled Feghouli’s 1% in the 60 minutes he was on the pitch. Noble was again our leading player in this area with 4.4% but he played the whole game, where Snodgrass was limited to 31 minutes.
Despite a couple of errors and the fact he is finding his feet – in a baptism of fire – Fonte made some great passes under severe pressure and gave his all. He also chipped in with five interceptions, four clearances, three headed clearances and one tackle. I believe this partnership will grow to become one of the strongest in the league and if our full backs can develop in a similar fashion, then the future is bright.
I thought Bilic would start with a back three against Man City. The extra defensive cover combined with more players in midfield appeared a more calculated choice. Everton and Spurs have also been successful against Man City in this formation and it’s a system that we have experience playing.
It’s unfair to say Bilic went with the wrong system, but the choice not to change it, especially at half time, was a curious one.
Sane and Stirling’s blistering pace was exposing our flanks. The precision passing orchestrated by Silva, Toure and De Brunye carved through our midfield and the speed at which they transitioned into our defensive third was frightening.
With Byram and Cresswell finding it difficult to contain the threat, Fonte and Reid were often pulled out of position creating numerous pockets of space for them to exploit. It was a masterpiece of movement from the away side, but we should have addressed this tactically and switching to a back three seemed the logical choice.
Bilic decided to stick with the same formation after half-time, possibly believing that the player’s lack of execution and pressing was the issue, not the formation itself. Unfortunately, we encountered the same problems and little changed until the inclusion of Snodgrass and Fernandes.
The heat maps from the game show that Man City’s attacking players Jesus, Sane, Sterling, De Brunye and Silva operated almost exclusively on our flanks. Fonte, Reid, Cresswell, Byram, Lanzini and Feghouli are highlighted on our heat map, showing how deep we were defending, especially on our right.
It also shows how high Cresswell’s average position was and when we compare this to their attacking heat map, we can see how heavily they targeted this area.
We need to put this match behind us and move on. Southampton will prove a stern test on Saturday but one that we can win.
Southampton are a fantastic football club and they have to be admired for the way they run the club and conduct their affairs. They have a wonderful system for recruiting talented players and managers and despite consistently losing both they continue to perform.
They share many similarities with Sevilla and their business model. Both are superb footballing institutions. But I digress…
All praise aside, there is work to be done to pick the team up and focus on Saturday’s game. We bounced back with a 3-0 win against Crystal Palace after our last heavy defeat to Man City, so we’ve set precedent.
Bilic and the team will have a few days on the training pitch and Fonte and Reid will have more sessions to get to know each other. It’s important to remember that this was their first game together, that Fonte wasn’t fully match fit and that these partnerships take time to develop.
Mistakes from Wednesday will be analysed and improved upon. I’d be surprised if we didn’t see Snodgrass start in place of Feghouli, who will provide better cover for Byram, as well as energy, technique and skill. I don’t expect to see any more changes, but if Kouyate were fit then personally I’d consider starting him in place of Noble.
This will be a tough match and Southampton are a quick, energetic team and they’ll be hungry to get points on the board.
If we can put the Man City game behind us, focus on the fundamentals and give our all, then I think we stand every chance of securing a victory.
Whatever the result, I know we’ll hear the deafening chorus of our away fans shaking the rafters at St Mary’s and I know we’ll all be cheering along, wherever we are.
Onwards and upwards!
Dan Coker's Match Preview
Blast from the past
1st September 1984 – the late George Michael was number one with ‘Careless Whisper’, Michael Douglas was in UK cinemas in Romancing The Stone and West Ham United were defeating Southampton 3-2 in front of 18,442 at The Dell.
The Hammers recorded their first win of the season at the third attempt with victory on the South Coast with Paul Goddard (pictured below) scoring twice and Alan Dickens once. Joe Jordan and David Armstrong replied for the Saints but it was the Hammers who took maximum points back to London.
West Ham United would finish the 1984/85 First Division season in 16th position, while Southampton would end up fifth in a campaign which saw Everton win the title and Manchester United win the FA Cup. Tony Cottee would finish as the Hammers’ top scorer with 24 goals in 50 matches; the young striker would finish runner-up to future Saint Paul Allen in the Hammer of the Year voting.
Southampton: Peter Shilton, Ivan Golac (Alan Curtis), Mark Wright, Mark Whitlock, Mick Mills, Reuben Agboola, Steve Williams, David Armstrong, Danny Wallace, Joe Jordan, Steve Moran.
West Ham United: Tom McAlister, Ray Stewart, Alvin Martin, Tony Gale, Steve Walford, Geoff Pike, Paul Allen, Alan Dickens, Paul Goddard (Paul Hilton), Bobby Barnes, Tony Cottee.
Jose Fonte and Michail Antonio are likely starters at the home of their former club. An array of West Ham United’s good, bad and ugly have also turned out for Southampton:
Goalkeepers: Richard Wright, George Kitchen.
Defenders: Richard Hall, Joe Kirkup, Wayne Bridge, Neil Ruddock, Bill Adams, Ian Pearce, Darren Powell, Albie Roles, Horace Glover, Calum Davenport.
Midfielders: Luis Boa Morte, Nigel Quashie, Eyal Berkovic, Robbie Slater, Paul Allen.
Strikers: Vic Watson, Justin Fashanu, David Speedie, Iain Dowie, David Connolly, Ted MacDougall, Henri Camara, Alex McDonald, Frank Costello, Fred Harrison, Walter Pollard, Arthur Wilson, Jimmy Harris, Jack Foster.
In addition, George Kay played for the Hammers and managed the Saints while Harry Redknapp and Alan Pardew have managed both clubs.
Today’s focus though falls on a Scottish player who had a loan spell with Southampton from West Ham. Christian Dailly was born on the 23rd October 1973 in Dundee and started his professional career at Dundee United. He moved south of the border to sign for Derby in 1996 before joining Blackburn. The 27-year-old signed for Harry Redknapp’s West Ham United in January 2001 for a fee of £1.75m and made his debut in a 1-1 draw at Charlton on the 22nd January 2001. His next game saw him play the full 90 minutes of the famous 1-0 FA Cup fourth round win at Manchester United and he recorded 15 appearances in total before the season’s end. The summer of 2001 saw Redknapp replaced by Glenn Roeder, with Dailly playing every minute of every game in every competition at centre-half as the Hammers finished seventh. 2002/03 was a total disaster though, the Hammers relegated with a Premier League record 42 points.
Dailly scored his first goal for the Hammers in a 1-0 home win over Reading on 13th September 2003, the third match of Sir Trevor Brooking’s second spell as caretaker manager. His second goal of the campaign was the winner in a 2-1 home victory over Rotherham on 31st January 2004, by which time Alan Pardew had taken over as manager. The most famous of his four Hammers goals was undoubtedly the tie-clinching strike over Ipswich in the play-off semi-final second leg, played in front of a raucous Upton Park. Dailly was winded as the ball struck him in the penalty area following a Matthew Etherington corner, but he regained sufficient composure to steer the ball in via a deflection before sinking to the ground, doubled over in pain, as Upton Park erupted around him. The Hammers would go on to lose the Final against Crystal Palace and miss out on an immediate Premier League return.
The Hammers captain would pick up a serious injury just two matches into 2004/05 and missed almost the entirety of the campaign. He returned as a substitute on the final day of the regular season at Watford after nine months out before appearing from the bench in the second lef of the play-off semi-final at Ipswich and in the Final itself, against Preston in Cardiff. The Irons would emerge victorious, club captain Dailly lifting the Championship Play-Off trophy alongside team skipper Nigel Reo-Coker.
Dailly started the 2005/06 Premier League campaign at right-back against Blackburn but most of his appearances that season were as a substitute in a holding midfield role. He scored his fourth and final goal for the club in a 4-2 League Cup second round win at Sheffield Wednesday on 20th September 2005. Dailly came off the bench in the 2006 FA Cup Final but could not prevent the Hammers agonisingly losing out to Liverpool in one of the greatest modern day Finals the competition has seen. The Scot would see more game time under Pardew’s replacement, Alan Curbishley, starting nine games in two months between the new manager’s appointment in late December 2006 and late February 2007. The 4-0 defeat at Charlton on 24th February 2007 would transpire to be the 33-year-old’s final appearance in a Hammers shirt. Dailly had scored four goals in 191 appearances for West Ham United, become the love of most fans’ lives and ensured everyone of a claret and blue persuasion wanted curly hair too-oo..!
After six and a half seasons in east London, Dailly joined Southampton on loan for two months in September 2007. He made his Saints debut in a 3-2 defeat to Barnsley on 22nd September 2007. Despite only making 11 appearances for the club, some impressive displays helped Dailly became a cult favourite at St Mary’s.
Dailly left the Hammers permanently in the winter of 2008, signing for Glasgow Rangers. After 18 months with the Ibrox club, he returned to London to spend two seasons at Charlton. Brief spells at Portsmouth and Southend followed before Dailly retired from the game in July 2012 at the age of 38. Now 43, Dailly also won 67 caps for Scotland, scoring six goals and captaining his country on 12 occasions. His son, 17-year-old Harvey Dailly, is currently on the books of Christian’s first club, Dundee United.
This Saturday’s referee is 48-year-old Graham Scott. The Oxfordshire-based official will be taking charge of only his tenth Premier League match. He was, however, the man in the middle for our 2-1 League Cup victory over Cheltenham in August 2013 but also sent off Callum McNaughton in the defender’s only Hammers appearance as the club were knocked out of the same competition by Aldershot in August 2011.
Southampton have James Ward-Prowse and Jay Rodriguez rated as doubts. Alex McCarthy, Virgil van Dijk, Matt Targett, Jeremy Pied and Charlie Austin remain sidelined. New signing Manolo Gabbiadini could make his Saints debut up front.
West Ham United could welcome back Cheikhou Kouyate from international duty, while Robert Snodgrass could claim a starting berth. Alvaro Arbeloa, Angelo Ogbonna, Arthur Masuaku, Havard Nordtveit, Gokhan Tore and Diafra Sakho remain out.
Possible Southampton XI: Forster; Soares, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand; Romeu, Clasie; Redmond, Davis, Tadic; Gabbiadini.
Possible West Ham United XI: Randolph; Byram, Fonte, Reid, Cresswell; Noble, Kouyate; Snodgrass, Antonio, Lanzini; Carroll.
Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!
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