Zaman Siddiqui's Match Review

Antoniho ho ho ho!

We have struggled to reach the lofty heights of last season, but are recovering well during the festive period. Christmas is a time to spend with family members and reminisce about the good ol’ days. Back in 1986, we finished 3rd with Tony Cottee scoring 20 goals in the league, as well as Phil Parkes playing in every single match of that momentous season. He had the awareness of me holding onto a dozen mince pies (“For the love of God, please don’t drop!”). The players were at their physical peak, as were the fans (it was Summer after all!).

Surely we were going to buy some new players and improve on last season? Nope. One season you play well, the next you become complacent. Like us during Winter overindulging on the Yuletide treats, the players were out of shape. We went from being just four points short of the first division title to finishing in 15th the season after.

This season, however, we seem to have turned it around at the last minute. We could end the calendar year in the top half! 1986 was a strange year. Something that I will take away from it is that we can’t cling onto the successes of last season. Oh, and the song Candy, which Antonio danced to, as part of his goal celebration.

Another week, another mediocre opponent. We have won three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since March. That eight point gap between us and the relegation zone might seem big, but I don’t think we are done just yet. If we fail to build on our form, we might just end up where we started, Our next opponents are Leicester. We need to continue our run, as if we are trying to win the title like they did, in order to make up for our early-season malaise. We lost 4-1 to Swansea last season, now we’ve won with the same scoreline.

It was no surprise that we took the lead early on, given that Swansea have conceded the first goal in 13 Premier League games this season – only Hull have done so more often. With reports of player unrest, I have absolutely no idea why the bookies put Swansea favourite to win this match. They have lost their last three matches conceding three goals in each and every one of them. Given the space their players gave us on the ball, I feel that Swansea are going to be bottom in no time. Hull have conceded early this season on numerous occasions, but they pushed us well in our last match.

This was one of the most complete performances I have seen all season. This was our first win, which did not end with a 1-0 scoreline, so it isn’t hard to see why this game was the best all season in the league. Both teams had 14 shots with seven on target, but our defence was virtually impenetrable. We made 35 clearances, and 20 headed clearances preventing the Swans from creating a single clear-cut chance. By comparison, we had four. Swansea will be ruing a few of the chances they had, but they should also keep in mind that they rushed them. They only have themselves to blame for the shift they put in.

Taking a look at the league table, I wanted to hurl in disgust. Then again, that may be the extra portions I had. The usual suspects occupy the top six, but the teams directly below are Everton and Southampton. It is as if you have to have good finances in order to push for a spot in the top six. Either that or sell some of your best players. There have been reports that Red Bull have been looking to buy our club. Jack Sullivan has tweeted his response to it down below.

Having read HamburgHammer’s post early (being a contributor rocks!), it is evident that he holds the view that Red Bull are mainly interested in exploiting to club to grow their own brand. The majority of German fans agree with him. Whilst I do agree with HH on this, I feel that it simply won’t happen in the ways he suggested. For instance, there is absolutely no chance that we would be renamed RB West Ham. For instance, Hull City couldn’t change their name to the Hull City Tigers. A PL spokesman said the name will remain the same back in 2013 when the initial application was sent. A couple of years later, the Football Supporters Federation voted against the name change by 70/30. Tigers has nothing to do with branding whatsoever, but the FSF, nevertheless, voted against it. They just didn’t like the name – harsh in my opinion.

Given that Jack Sullivan tweeted that Red Bull put in a £650M bid in August, I feel that the same company could have made a second bid a few months after. Now, given that HH doesn’t really support Red Bull and places more emphasis on the community aspect of football, I feel that I should give a rebuttal, given that I am more interested in the football on show, and am an economist who likes the work of Milton Friedman (who is very right-wing).

Man City didn’t have much going for them as they finished 9th,14th,15th, and 8th before the City Football Group took over. They were acquired for £210M back in 2008. The club has since done very well for itself in the league, as we know all too well. But, the development in place is why they are now revered. In addition to spending mega bucks on talented players such as 20 year old Leroy Sane for a reported £37M, they want to improve on these prodigies like him. Man City have a good balance where they aren’t too reliant on their youngsters to make an impact, but also don’t mollycoddle them. There is a lot of training ahead. The construction cost of their Academy Stadium was £200M. Only us and Stoke have cheaper season tickets than them. To be fair, that seems like good value!

But, it isn’t just clubs like Man City and Chelsea who have done well recently. In February this year, Farhad Moshiri bought a 49.9% stake in the club. The club still have chairman Bill Kenwright, who was elected to the board in 1989. To finish it off, Southampton are owned by Katharina Liebherr, who is very unknown.


Some of the benefits that clubs like RB Leipzig, Everton, and Southampton now have is better youth. We were once the “Academy of Football.” Surely if we are to maintain that status, we should let Red Bull buy us? Also, RB Leipzig are one of few East German clubs to do well. Perhaps a move East of London would be a match made in heaven?


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David Hautzig's Match Report

Swansea 1, West Ham United 4. A TKO On Boxing Day.

I want Bob Bradley to succeed. Not today, obviously, but in general. In the early nineties I would go to a pub called The Abbey Tavern on Third Avenue in Manhattan, because there was a guy there with the BBC on a short wave radio and he would provide the football results. Later that decade, two barmen from The Abbey broke off and opened McCormacks across the street. It had a satellite dish on the roof, and I’d get to see around half a dozen West Ham matches there each year. Then came Fox, and now NBC, and my Hammers are in my home virtually every match. America has embraced real football. It’s virtually a phenomenon, with kids in school talking about the EPL along with the NFL, NBA, and MLB. If the first ever American manager can succeed in England, the game itself can only benefit. I still hope it happens one day, but it’s looking like Bob Bradley won’t be the beneficiary.

Despite playing against the team that has allowed the most goals this season in the Premier League, the early action was in the West Ham end. Considering that Swansea have scored more goals at home this campaign than Manchester United, that was worthy of some concern. The Hammers continued to easily lose possession, and Swansea turned that into a corner and potentially dangerous cross to Routledge in the West Ham penalty area within the first ten minutes.

In the 11th minute, Antonio lost possession near the top of the Swansea area and the home side countered. With Sigurdsson calling for the ball, Borja found himself in the West Ham box with three things that usually cause concern for a defense. The ball, time, and space. Thankfully for us Borja sent his shot wide.

It’s almost a given in football that when one side doesn’t take advantage of an opportunity they are left to rue the chance moments later. In the 13th minute, Noble sent a long pass to Carroll in the Swansea penalty area. Man Bun, as my daughter loves to call him, did what he does as well as anybody and headed the ball towards goal. Kouyate looked to have gotten a foot to it first and sent it towards goal. Fabianski did a superb imitation of Randolph at Old Trafford and let the ball go through his hands and right to Ayew. Account opened.

Swansea 0
West Ham 1

A few minutes later West Ham looked close to doubling their advantage when Noble found Payet on the left side of the Swansea area. After faking a pass to an overlapping Cresswell, Payet chipped it into the box where Kouyate got a bit of skull on it but Antonio just missed the floating ball near the far post.

West Ham continued to ask a few questions in the 23rd minute when Antonio attacked from deep inside the Swansea area, right along the end line before Swansea could clear. A minute later Noble fed Payet on the left, and after cutting to his right sent a low shot towards Fabianski that the former centerpiece of Arsenal scorn handled easily.

Despite a decent spell in the middle part of the first half, one thing seemed to keep happening when West Ham had the ball. Regardless of who had the ball at their feet, the two or three teammates around them remained virtually stationary. They would pass the ball between them with very little movement, and then lose it entirely. It made me wonder if that was a symptom of the cramp Bilic has talked about.

In the 37th minute, Swansea created a chance of their own and once again let it slip away without Randolph even having to move. Rangel broke down the right and sent a low cross to Sigurdsson, who tried to open his body and guide the ball in with his left foot. His shot went well wide and the chance was gone. Minutes later Swansea were awarded a controversial free kick from a very dangerous area. Ayew looked to have been fouled by Routledge, but Mariner saw things differently. Sigurdsson’s free kick was quite good, and it forced Randolph into a diving save and out for a corner. Near the end of the first forty-five, Routledge ran onto a pass from Sigurdsson down the left and sent a cross into the West Ham penalty area. Cork got to it, but his header sailed over the bar.

Halftime
Swansea 0
West Ham 1

The home side started the second half with two attacking substitutions, adding Montero and Llorente. One could only assume width and crosses into the box were the thinking there. Based on the opening moments, with Routledge and Cork attacking on the right before the former was flagged for offside, and Montero breaking down the left before being muscled off the ball by…..yeah, it’s true….Nordtveit, that guess looked correct.

Remember what I said earlier about ruing chances? It happened again when West Ham won a corner on what should have been a play that broke down. Noble got the ball inside the Swansea area, but couldn’t control the ball quickly enough to get a shot off. But Swansea didn’t finish the defensive work and Noble rolled the ball to Carroll. His shot from distance was deflected out for a corner. Payet’s delivery was perfect, finding Reid in a crowd and the West Ham centerback headed it past Fabianski.

Swansea 0
West Ham 2

The home side tried to dig themselves out of the hole they were in shortly after West Ham doubled their advantage. They won a few successive corners, and Sigurdsson had another chance in front of goal that went over the bar.

A few minutes later West Ham looked to have a third when Payet broke towards goal on the left along the endline. He rolled the ball to Noble, whose right footed attempt at the far corner took a deflection and went out for the first of three corners. None produced even an attempt on net. Moments later, Payet fouled Llorente and Swansea had a free kick at the edge of the West Ham eighteen yard box. Carroll was able to use his head to clear the ball from danger, a benefit we sometimes overlook when considering his value in the lineup.

In the 70th minute, Swansea again came very close to making the final minutes of the match interesting when Llorente took advantage of Noble being obstructed in the box and was able to get an uncontested cross to Sigurdsson. But once again, his shot didn’t have enough pace to beat Randolph and the Irish International was able to palm the ball over the bar.

I like Fernandes. It’s not quite a man crush, but I really like the kid. And it all starts with his passes. Not that they are the things of magic and beauty we see from Payet every now and again. What they are is decisive. They are rarely if ever rolled just slow enough for the opposition to intercept. They are quick, and like a drone know where the target is. The same can be said about his runs. He has a good instinct on where to run, and knows what to do with the ball after he gets there. In the 78th minute, a little glance from Payet told the young Swiss where to go. Payet gave him the ball to the left of Fabianski inside the Swansea box. Many players would have been forgiven if they simply attempted a cross at that point. But the 21 year old showed maturity beyond those years and let Dyer slide by him, looked up, and tried to beat Fabianski at the near post. The Swansea keeper punched the ball out, but Nordtveit sent a low shot back into the box that Antonio directed into the box. He won’t even get an assist on the goal, but Fernandes deserves a big serving of credit for it.

Swansea 0
West Ham 3

Swansea didn’t roll over and wave the white flag. They continued to press for something to feel positive about, and in the 82nd minute Randolph was forced into a good save off of Rangel after some good work by Sigurdsson. Cork had a good long range effort two minutes later that had it gone in might have made West Ham a bit twitchy.

Very bad pun warning. Just so you know.

The home side finally broke through in the 89th minute when Dyer split between Cresswell and Noble before feeding Llorente in the box for an easy tap in to soil the sheets.

Swansea 1
West Ham 3

Andy Carroll loves to play Swansea. He had scored five goals in his previous six against the Swans. Too bad that idiot whose name I don’t even remember nor care to isn’t with the club anymore. While it was fun to watch He Who Shall Not Be Named laugh at him, it would have been even better to see Slav just give him a wink or something. In the 90th minute, AC’s time in the Swansea Funhouse continued when Feghouli sent a high and probably more hopeful than purposeful cross back across the face of goal that Carroll volleyed off the pitch and behind Fabianski.

Final Score
Swansea 1
West Ham 4

So. Let’s review. Starting with the surprise of the day. Nordtveit, the much maligned Norwegian, played well. Very well in my opinion. And I’ve crucified him in the past, along with about 93% of West Ham supporters. If he can play like that until an actual right back is brought in, then Kouyate will be allowed to play in a more advanced role. Noble was solid. The defense kept their shape, and the attack looked to be finding theirs. It’s looking better. Maybe we can relax a bit.

All stuff we know. And like me, I bet some of you have been pacing the floor thinking about that since the final whistle. Maybe you’ve even been talking to yourself while gesturing with your hands. While such behavior can frighten children and even spouses, it’s understandable after the start we have endured and the fear it produced.

We are not out of the woods yet. But we are hiking in the right direction.

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Match Thread

Match Thread: Swansea City v West Ham

Swansea City v West Ham
FA Premier League
KO 3pm
TV: None
Radio: WHUFC.com

Swansea starting XI

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


Lineup Prediction

Lineup Prediction: Swansea City v West Ham

Predicted Lineup:

Randolph
Kouyate Reid Ogbonna
Antonio, Noble, Fernandes, Cresswell
Payet, Carroll, Lanzini

Subs: Adrian, Nordtveit, Fletcher, Ayew, Masuaku, Martinez, Browne

OK, we we got trounced by Swansea in the penultimate game of last season, but overall we seem to do quite well against them. And Andy Carroll usually scores against them. We’ve got three games in 6 days, so I doubt whether he will be played from the start in all three, but you never know. Obiang is suspended for the Swansea game and is likely to be replaced by Fernandes, who finally gets to play in his favoured central position. Otherwise I can’t see the team changing much. Had Oxford been fit, I suspect he might have come into the defence with Kouyate moving back into midfield, which I understand he is keen to do. Make no mistake, when Oxford is fit again, he will be pushing for a place.

In the last few games Marcus Browne, Alex Pike and Domingo Quina have all featured on the bench. I’d have thought with 12 goals in 11 games for the Development Squad Toni Martinez ought to be given a chance too. His goals are often quite spectacular.

Let’s hope we get at least a point, if not three, from this game.

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with the Swans

Hope you are having a good Christmas day. The first team have been training today at Rush Green in their preparation for their 230 mile journey to Wales to face Swansea on Boxing day. It is second year running that the loyal West Ham away army have had to make a long journey the day after Christmas. Last year it was Villa Park to play the doomed Aston Villa. That ended in a 1-1 draw through the help of Andre’s brother Jordon who picked up man of the match and earned Villa a point through his penalty.

Just before Christmas I spoke to Swansea fan Steven Carroll from SOS Fanzine to ask him some questions

1) What are your expectations for Swansea this season? Will you avoid relegation?
After finishing 12th last season and a very poor summer which included selling Andre Ayew and Ashley Williams and uninspiring signings I was expecting a struggle. We’ve performed worse than I thought so far and if I was a gambling man I’d say we are going down, a new manager and key signings in January are needed to save the season.

2) Which three teams do you think will suffer relegation and who will lift the title this season?
Hull are likely to drop, they also had a bad summer in terms of signings and look a poor side while Sunderland could well come unstuck this time, surely they can’t keep pulling a rabbit out of the hat in April and May. As for the other place I think it’ll be us unfortunately, we are a poor side, especially at the back

For the title I said Man City at the start but you have to say Chelsea are favourites now. They’re playing brilliantly and defensively are a class above the rest.

3) How do you rate West Ham’s manager Slaven Bilic as a manager?
I like Bilic, I remember being impressed by him when he was Croatia manager and he did an excellent job last season. This season has been tougher so I’m sure he’s made mistakes but it’ll probably make him a better manager.

4) What league position can West Ham realistically achieve this season?
It’s so tight in mid table that top half is still in reach. If your top players stay fit and on form it could be in reach but at the moment I’d probably say around 12th looks more likely.

*5) If you could have any current West Ham player in your first team who would you choose and why? Winston Reid because we are shocking at centre half and he would make the biggest difference. The other one would be Antonio as we’re poor out wide and he chips in with a few goals which is always handy.

6) Which Swans player will be key to your hopes this season?*
Gylfi Sigurdsson without a doubt. He’s our best player by a mile, the only player in the squad who can whip a good ball into the box. At Set pieces he’s second to none and chips in with goals. We’d be dead and buried without him.

7) What is Swansea’s achilles heel?
Where will they need to improve on the second half of the season? Defensively we’ve let in 37 in 17 games. Carry on like that and we’re doomed. Bob Bradley has tried numerous partnerships and none have worked. We need a commanding centre halfs and two new full backs ideally. Can’t see it happening though.

8) What is your view of Andre Ayew? Was it a good move for West Ham? Will he come good?
Ayew was great for us, scored12 in a poor side last year. Only issue is where is his best position. We played him mainly wide right but he doesn’t offer much width, up front he was decent but he wasn’t much of a presence there, he didn’t do much in behind a striker either so it’s a tricky one. I think it’s a good signing if you can find out his best position, he’s got a good left foot on him and is great in the air for someone if his height.

9) How do you expect Swansea to setup against West Ham on Monday/ Team/formation prediction?
Probably 4-2-3-1 but Bradley does tinker so can never be certain. It’ll probably be Fabianski, Rangel, Amat, mawson, Taylor, Britton, Fulton, Barrow, Sigurdsson, Routledge, Llorente.

*10) What is your score Prediction for Monday? *
I can see an away win 2-1. We never do well against Andy Carroll and with how bad we are at the back right now he will batter us if he gets decent service, hope I’m wrong as we badly need a win!

My Thanks to Steven for his answers and his prediction. You can find him on twitter at @StevenSOS1987 or his musing at Www.sosfanzine.com

I am happy to go along with his 2-1 win for the Hammers but would accept a draw. Merry Christmas and here’s to a great 2017. Come on you Irons!

Sean @WestHamFootball

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