David Hautzig's Match Report

West Brom 0, West Ham 0. Thank God That's Over.

100.

When I heard that before the match, I was stunned. But not for the reason one might think. After five years, the natural reaction would be that a century was a low number. But I was actually surprised the number was that high. Whenever Man Bun suits up for us, I think of it as a footballing unicorn. Not to mention the semi controversy that his health and inclusion has caused. While his presence does indeed cause panic attacks in defenders, it also causes Hernandez to play out left and invite the very kind of football that many supporters loathe. Which is precisely what everyone got.

West Ham had the first good chance for either side in the seventh minute when Antonio passed to Zabaleta on the right, who then sent a looping pass to Carroll at the top of the box. But a poor first touch by our number nine saw the ball roll away before Carroll could even attempt a shot. The Hammers earned a corner moments later but the Baggies cleared easily, forcing Zabaleta into a professional foul and a yellow card to stop a West Brom counter.

The home side might look back at the 11th minute and wonder how they didn’t take the lead. Brunt completely wrong footed Obiang on the right side of the West Ham penalty area and tried to pass to Gibbs in the box. Reid got a foot on that pass, but only enough to slow the ball down on its journey. It still arrived at Gibbs, but so did Reid to get another foot in and send Gibbs shot out for a corner. The ensuing piece came to Barry, but his header went onto the top netting of the goal.

The other day, Joe Hart gave a bit of a warning to supporters of both sides, and possibly even neutrals who might have considered watching the match. It won’t be a contest that will please the purists he said. The middle stretch of the first half made that comment seem tame. Awful deliveries on set pieces by Cresswell, giveaways on seemingly simple passes by center halves on both sides, and sloppy ball handling by all with the possible exception of the ball boys and girls. They were in fine form retrieving the dross on display.

Why do we love….and I mean love….Antonio? The 27th minute put that on display. After receiving the ball from Obiang on the right side of midfield, we went on one of his freight train runs. And then he lost the ball inside the box. And then he won it back. And then he fired it on goal. It was saved rather easily by Foster, but an A+ for effort wouldn’t be an overstatement by any means.

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Moments later, Obiang tried an ambitious shot from just inside the West Brom half when he saw Foster off his line. The keeper had that look that said he knew this might not end well for him, but the ball skimmed off the cross bar and Foster was saved from embarrassment. Who could have possibly imagined that it would be the closest thing to a goal we saw all day? Other than West Brom supporters, that is.

West Brom wasted a terrific chance in the 38th minute when Phillips beat Fonte down the left and sent a low cross into the box that Morrison got his head to. But maybe he didn’t expect it to reach him that quickly because he headed it wide of the goal.

Halftime:
West Brom 0
West Ham 0

The Hammers had an early chance when a Cresswell corner found Fonte in the box. But Fonte didn’t find anything but the advertising boards with his header. He made up for it somewhat a minute later with a good tackle on Phillips followed by a pass to Hernandez.

Hernandez. Riiiiight. That striker we signed. Real poacher in the box. Forgot about him.

Ahem.

At the end of the first half, my NBC stream died so I missed the injuries to Collins and Obiang. When Ginge went down in the 57th minute, Tony Gale was kind enough to give me and the other viewers the skinny on the issue. But instead of a like for like substitution with Ogbonna coming on, Arnautovic marked his return from stupidity. Zabaleta was moved to the left so the shape stayed the same. But that’s not his natural side, so Bilic left himself open to even more questions.

In the 66th minute, a long ball to Carroll was flicked to the left and both Hernandez and Foster were off to the races. Foster slid out, got the ball and a piece of Hernandez who went flying. Foster saw yellow, which caused Reid to go into a rage that could have ended worse for the West Ham center back than for the man who committed the foul in question. In the end, the decision was correct and West Ham made nothing of the free kick Hernandez won.

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When Bilic took off Hernandez for Ayew against Huddersfield, many supporters not only questioned the move but also thought if it backfired it could cost Bilic his job. It ended well on Monday, but I got into a discussion with Sean Whetstone the other day in which Sean wondered if Ayew had earned himself a start. I didn’t think so, and on this one rare occasion I got it right. But the same substitution today had to ignite not only a similar question as Monday, but also the very nature of how Hernandez has been used. Then Sakho replaced Carroll, which worried me on a defensive level more than anything, and the last ten minutes had a potential new look.

In the 88th minute, my wife said she was going to make her homemade Mac and Cheese for lunch. The key is her Bechamel Sauce. Panko bread crumbs on top. That was by far the most exciting moment in quite a long time. Trust me.

Full Time
West Brom 0
West Ham 0

I guess considering I predicted a 2-0 loss, I should be satisfied with a point and a second clean sheet. And to a degree I am. But all of the concerns I had after the Newcastle game remain. Other than that, it’s probably best to just say I’m glad those two hours are behind us.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

Newcastle 3, West Ham 0. Is The End Near?

Ahhhh the poetic parallels to my day. As the drums of discontent over our first two matches and the seeming collapse of the Carvalho transfer were beating, I had to drive an hour away to an instrument shop to pick up the drum set my wife had purchased for our son. I can actually hear some of you giggling at the knowledge that a ten year old boy will have access to a full drum set in my house, likely mumbling “you poor bastard” under your breath. I am admittedly terrified to my core. But that’s why this report is later than usual.

It’s not like Newcastle have had a better start than us. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say their start and transfer window has put them in a more precarious position than us. Losing to Forest in the cup midweek certainly didn’t help their self esteem. When you consider the consequences for their manager, our manager, and our owners coveting of their manager, today had a lot of subplots. And it may now lead to a dramatic conclusion.

The prevailing theme on social media before the match began, at least from our perspective, was the lack of pace and creativity in our midfield. Without Lanzini, that’s to be expected. And be concerned about. In the 7th minute, Ritchie took advantage of that when he sped past Noble down the right. He found Joselu in the box but his attempt went wide. Moments later Hart sent West Ham supporters worldwide into meltdown when he mishandled the ball, inviting Joselu to attack but Hart recovered and cleared the ball from danger. A few minutes later, a Newcastle corner fell to Clark inside the box. He tried to find a sliver of daylight to get the ball on goal, but Ogbonna closed down well and won a free kick to relieve the pressure. However, the pressure continued in the 17th minute when another Ritchie cross found Joselu but his header was deflected out for a corner.

The opening twenty minutes were poor at best for West Ham. We were unable to string even three passes together, let alone put any pressure on a side that hasn’t scored yet this season. To make matters worse, the visitors who had conceded more goals than any other EPL side thus far looked likely to keep that trait in tact. Add the silly yellow picked up by Hernandez and the possible injury to Ayew, and the Claret and Blue world was looking quite dark.

West Ham had their first opportunity of the match in the 30th minute after some good work by Noble on the right side of the Newcastle penalty area. He beat Mbemba and then sent a good cross that Ayew headed towards Cresswell. But the West Ham left back could only send a half volley high over the bar.

With all that has been said about giving youth a chance, it has been wonderful to see Rice given a chance and do well. But every time he saw the ball, Newcastle were on him like flies on…..yeah. In the 36th minute, Rice buckled under the pressure of Ritchie and lost possession. Ritchie sent Atsu down the left, and Atsu rolled the ball to Joselu in the center of the box for the easy tap in past Hart.

Newcastle 1
West Ham 0

I got into the car at halftime and listened until Newcastle scored their second. My Apple Watch dinged to inform me of the third. Since I’m not a journalist by trade, as I sat in a terrific little noodle place eating lunch while my daughter and a friend galavant around town doing teenage girl stuff, I decided there was no compelling reason to watch the horror on DVR when I got home. In fact, writing about what’s on my mind might be cathartic. Nor did I feel the urge to add photos to help you all relive the day. I didn’t ask to watch my colonoscopy, did I?

Let’s get right to the elephant in the room. Slaven Bilic. Some pundits have said that his club managerial career is defined by a good first year, followed by a severe dip in form. To that end, the Claret & Blue universe all seemed to be in agreement that he had one superb year followed by a problematic year. This season would be the tie breaker. Regardless of your feelings about the board, it’s almost impossible to say Slaven hasn’t been given the tools he needs to put out at least a competent side. Yet the body of evidence over his time at West Ham to date has now taken a downward turn, and the past two league matches have been troubling. If I saw anything that told me this was still a positive work in progress I’d support him. 100%. But if I had to predict the immediate future based on the recent past, his job would be in danger.

I know talking about replacing a manager is about as toxic a subject as there is in football, and I can think of at least two good friends who will disagree with me vehemently. But as I sit with my roast pork and dumpling soup, I think it’s time to bid adieu to the classy, honest, intellectual man that is Slaven Bilic I so wish that wasn’t true, but it’s in the best interest of the club. To ignore the evidence is too risky. Far worse than the hurt, financial and otherwise, that jettisoning Bilic would bring.

Come On You Irons

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David Hautzig's Match Report

Southampton 3, West Ham 2. Cursed At The Saints.

The very first match I ever wrote a report for was Southampton at home four years ago. We had come off a good away win against Palace, including a great half volley goal by new signing Zarate, and things looked promising. And then we stunk, losing 1-3. I allowed my rather raw emotions get the better of me, declaring the loss a huge step backwards for us. Of course I was wrong. Then again, I was right. We still don’t know what direction we are headed as a club, or if we are even on the move at all. Thus, today’s should-have-been-a-home-match-if-it-wasn’t-for-some-absurd-legacy-to-running-in-circles-to-the-left would either tell us last week was a blip against a powerhouse, a worrying trend, or just another day in Claret & Blue. The starting eleven added even more mixed emotions. I was pleased for Declan Rice, yet felt Obiang was treated harshly. Ten minutes before kickoff came the news that Reid welcomed his new six year deal by hurting his ankle…of course he did… paving the way for Ogbonna to start. I’m so discouraged by our defensive play, I doubt it would have changed a thing had he played.

In the opening minutes, a long ball found its way to Hernandez, and with only Yoshida between him and the goal a little excitement seemed in the cards. But a bad touch by who we hope will be our main goal scorer ended the threat. In the 9th minute, Antonio found Arnautovic, who made a diagonal run into the box. But instead of shooting back across the keeper he tried to tuck it in the near corner and shot it wide.

Tell the truth. Every time you heard that Southampton hadn’t scored at home since April, spanning about 900 minutes, you knew we would be the side that ended that drought. In the 12th minute, the inevitable happened when Redmond played Gabbiadini into the box. Fonte completely missed the run of Gabbiadini behind him, and Ogbonna made no move despite seeing the run, and the man who opened the scoring last season at St. Mary’s did it again by doing what Arnautovic should have done minutes earlier.

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Southampton 1
West Ham 0

West Ham had a chance to score an equalizer in the 22nd minute when Hernandez sent a looping cross into the box that Arnautovic came across to meet with a diving header but Foster was there to push it out for a corner. The corner was taken by Arnautovic. That’s all I will say about that.

I had a season ticket to The New York Rangers ice hockey team for over twenty years, so I’ve seen my share of rough and tumble action. But by the 27th minute, there could have been three red cards handed out by Lee Mason. Tadic early on for a nasty challenge on Chicharito, Lemina for an elbow on Arnautovic, and Noble for a studs up challenge on Lemina. It all came to a head in the 31st minute when Arnautovic lost his mind and elbowed Stephens for a straight red card and a three-match ban. So to put a new spin on old joke from over here, I turned on a football match and a hockey game broke out.

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In the 37th minute, Davis made a run into the box. I bet Fonte was simply trying to give him a little cuddle. Like welcoming someone you haven’t seen in years as they come into your home. But Lee Mason obviously didn’t understand the social element there and pointed to the spot. I’m sure Tadic understood what Fonte was doing but didn’t want to be rude to Mason, so he took the penalty without incident.

Southampton 2
West Ham 0

Antonio made some news this past week when he defended the actions of Coutinho at Liverpool and the very nature of player power. Well, power is something the guy knows a lot about because he has it in abundance. With the ball at his feet at the top of is box, he fought off three Southampton players to get a shot off that Foster could only palm away, and Hernandez pounced to open his West Ham account.

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Halftime
Southampton 2
West Ham 1

The start of the second half saw no personnel changes from Bilic, but the shape changed to Antonio playing the role of lone striker with Hernandez wide left. Just wanted to point it out because writing about the actual action felt too depressing.

The first real chance of the second half fell to the home side when Gabbiadini and Cedric criss-crossed inside the West Ham penalty area, but Cedric’s finish was poor and he chipped it high and wide. A few minutes later a long throw into the box was headed by Ayew into Stephens. West Ham players threw their arms into the air demanding a handball decision, and replays showed Stephens did put his arm out. But Mason didn’t see it, so he didn’t call it.

The Saints came an inch away from a third goal in the 60th minute when Gabbiadini had a look around from 30 yards and decided to let it fly. It sent Hart diving to his left, but it was the crossbar that made the save. A few minutes later, it was Hernandez who tried a long-range effort but it went wide. Southampton came back down the field and this time it was Tadic with a shot from the top of the eighteen yard box that Hart saw all the way and made the save.

The 67th minute saw Bilic finally make a change, with Sakho and Fernandes inserted and Antonio and Ayew withdrawn. Antonio made sense if only to protect his hamstring. Ayew, however, made little sense to me at the time. If I was chasing a game down a man, I’d rather have the poaching possibility that Ayew offers than the defensive support someone like Noble can deliver.

West Ham asked a tough question in the 72nd minute when Hernandez sent in a cross that Sakho was able to head towards goal. It rolled wide and Fernandes tried to get it back into the box but Southampton cleared. But a minute later, a lovely cross in from Cresswell was headed goal ward by Sakho. Foster got a hand on it and knocked it off the bar, but Hernandez was there to score a prototypical poachers goal.

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Southampton 2
West Ham 2

The fact that Southampton had to make two attacking substitutions, Austin and Long, in the 81st minute is testament to how the home side let what should have been a nailed on three points turn into a real football match. A minute later Southampton missed a golden opportunity to regain the lead when Ward Prowse sent the ball into the box and Yoshida just missed a possible tap in.

In the 89th minute, the crossbar came to West Ham’s rescue again when Redmond tried a long range missile that went off Hart’s hand before it clanged off the bar.

Just when we thought an amazing escape with a point was in the cards, the man you never think would make a mistake in such a critical moment did just that. Zabaleta put his forearm into the back of Yoshida, and Mason immediately pointed to the spot. Austin stepped up and coolly put it past Hart.

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Final Score
Southampton 3
West Ham 2

For my summary paragraph here, in the first half I planned to refer back to the season under Grant, when we lost our first three matches and never recovered. After such a hopeful few weeks during the summer with all of the signings, it felt horrifyingly familiar to all of those seasons we spent weeks on end fearful for our top-flight status. Then in the second half I felt emboldened to write about our amazing fighting spirit, which did show itself. Now, I don’t know what to write or even think. I know, it’s only two games. And we seem to have signed an actual goal scorer. But when defensive mistakes are so commonplace they become expected, it’s not heresy to ask questions of both the players in those positions but the people in charge of instructing them. They shouldn’t happen. But they do.

A lot.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

Manchester United 4, West Ham United 0. Glad That's Done.

I felt kind of caught between two lines of thought when I woke up this morning. When we started the season two years ago at Arsenal, I was full of dread. The boring safety net was jettisoned, and the unknown of the swashbuckling attorney and fashion model was wreaking havoc on my intestines. And then he proved me wrong. Last season, I wasn’t exactly optimistic…..I don’t do that sort of thing….but I was calm. Intellectually curious about what the season would bring. And then he proved me wrong again. Both years delivered the polar opposite of what I was prepared for and anticipating. The last time we had a window that at least in hindsight was a rip roaring success was two years ago, Slaven’s rookie campaign. But hindsight is important there. None of us knew that Lanzini, Ogbonna, and that other guy would be as influential and successful as they were when they arrived. One could say the same thing for the summer of Sakho, Valencia, and Kouyate. This summer has been markedly different. While only time will tell if our newest Hammers will prove to be what we desperately hope they will be, it’s hard to cast aspersions on the people that brought them in over the business done. And if reports are accurate, another could be on the way.

If I had to choose which way my emotions were leaning going into today, I’m sorry to say they were on the anxious side. That’s more about my choice to start every West Ham related activity depressed and hope for a pleasant surprise than actual dissection of the squad. Based on what I saw, optimism would have been ridiculous.

One of the attributes we all know about Arnautovic is his attitude. Either reprehensible or brilliant, depending on your point of view. In the 4th minute, we got our first glimpse of his mindset when he appeared to have caught Valencia with his arm while trying to turn with the ball. While Valencia tried to show Atkinson his dental work, Arnautovic went on the run and caught up to a pass from Masuaku. While nothing came of it, it did bring a wry smile to my face.

By the tenth minute, Manchester United looked to have settled in and started to dominate possession. West Ham were trapped in their final third, and the hope for the visitors was likely to simply survive the onslaught. Pogba went around Masuaku like our left back was standing still, Noble brought down Rashford right at the edge of the area, and when Manchester United won a corner in the 15th minute it already felt like a rough day was in the cards. Yet the hosts didn’t manage a shot on target, so if West Ham wanted to look for a silver lining that would have to suffice.

Manchester United probably should have opened the scoring in the 20th minute when Mata broke down the left and tried to slip the ball past Hart at the near post. The former Citeh keeper slid out to block the shot, but Mata regained possession and slid the ball into the box towards Lukaku. Those words usually end with me typing “and Lukaku scored”. But a tangle of bodies and feet got in the way and West Ham cleared the ball from danger.

Temporarily.

This may sound odd due to its obvious nature, but the absence of Lanzini and any creativity in the midfield was beyond transparent. West Ham couldn’t string together more than a fistful of passes, and even those had no purpose. So that begged the question we have asked for a looooong time. If Lanzini isn’t out there for whatever reason, who can we turn to? I’m excited about the prospect of Carvalho arriving week. But unless he has artistry in his locker along with his strength I fear we will need more.

In the 27th minute, Pogba showed why on his day he is one of the best. He looped a pass behind the defense to Mata running towards Hart. The Spaniard sent the ball across the mouth of goal with Lukaku the intended target but Reid was able to get there in the nick of time and clear.

When Mourinho made Matic a primary target, it raised a few eyebrows. Why would Conte let him go? True, he wasn’t an automatic pick last season when Chelsea won the title. Yet to sell him to a rival at the top of the table to a guy who knows how to get the best of him? In the 33rd minute, we got a firsthand glimpse of what The Special One was thinking. Matic won the ball from Obiang in midfield and immediately sent Rashford on a run. Rashford slid the ball to Lukaku streaking into the box, who then beat Hart at the near post for a pinball goal. Lukaku scored, but Matic made it happen.

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Manchester United 1
West Ham 0

Despite the brutal one sided nature on the first half, West Ham should have equalized in the final seconds of first half injury time. Hernandez headed the ball to the right side of Manchester United penalty area where Ayew ran it down and slid it back into the box. Noble back heeled it into the center of the area to Fernandes, but his shot from ten yards in front of goal went straight at deGea.

Halftime
Manchester United 1
West Ham 0

The second half continued the theme of the first half, albeit in a more muted form to start. But in the 50th minute, with the speed of a spider you’re trying to catch in your kitchen, Lukaku sent Rashford blazing down the left past Zabaleta but his shot went over the bar. Two minutes later, Mkhitaryan stepped over a free kick from 30 yards out and sent the ball into the box for Lukaku to easily head the ball past Hart. I couldn’t help but think about goal differential less than hour into the first week.

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Manchester United 2
West Ham 0

In the 59th minute, the Hammers had a mini revival. At least in spirit. Masuaku sent an arching pass into the box where Arnautovic did well to stay onside and force deGea to palm the ball over the crossbar. Minutes later, Ayew came close to a ball headed into the box by the recently introduced Sakho before it rolled wide. As bad as things have been, the game of inches could have had this all even at two on another day. In another universe, but whatever.

If anybody doubts that Rashford is going play this game at a high level for a long time, they should apologize somehow. The man-child went on a marauding run down the left in the 65th minute and unleashed a wicked shot that beat Hart and clanged off the far post.

When Sakho came on, he was joined by Declan Rice. In the 68th minute, the lad showed skill and composure when he found Hernandez cutting across the right side. Hernandez tried a cross but there was nobody there to reach it. On a day there was very little to cheer about, it was nice to see a young player not look terrified of the intimidating surroundings of Old Trafford.

In the 71st minute…..my wife called about something from a store. I attempted to politely answer her questions and sound interested in what she was saying. During that phone exchange, Blind came close to a third. Over the bar on the bounce, I think. Not sure from who.

West Ham could have pegged one back in the 78th minute when Masuaku sent a cross field pass that dropped to Arnautovic unmarked on the right, 15 yards from goal. The final product was not worth describing.

In the 88th minute, Mkhitaryan made a one touch pass to send Martial into the box to score the third goal for the hosts. A minute later, Pogba scored their fourth. No reason to go into more detail. I want to mow the lawn now. More fun than this, I’m guessing.

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Final Score
Manchester United 4
West Ham 0

Let’s be honest. It was a score line that accurately represented the flow of the match and the relative quality of the two sides. The vast majority of us expected precisely nothing from today. And that is precisely what we got. To be honest, I’m glad we got this fixture out of the way because Manchester United are my pick to win the league. We lacked creativity in the midfield, and it showed. And if we don’t add some, all the great work of this transfer window could be for nothing.

And we all know who will pay the price for that.

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Burnley 1, West Ham 2. Are You Ready For The Summer?

Last day of the season. A season that most of us cannot wait to see in our rear view mirror. What could today have offered to at least give us something to pay attention to for 90 minutes? Youth. Almost all of my friends on Twitter and various podcasts have agreed that the additional three million pounds we could earn if we finish 11th, which realistically is the highest we could end up due to goal differential, would pale in comparison to the experience a couple of kids could get. I wanted to do a match report that acted as one of those cameras focused on a single player or two. I wanted to follow Rice or Quina. Calleri’s not even in the squad, so Fletcher should have started, right? Then yesterday David Gold put out that truly idiotic Tweet about not playing kids, which made the starting eleven no shock. Thus, since the result itself was of little consequence I saw no reason to focus on details. If something notable happened, I’ll mention it. To be honest, I’m actually looking forward to things like yard work and laundry on the weekends as opposed to what we have experienced.

In the 6th minute, Feghouli had a decent look at goal after a Lanzini cross and forced a save from Heaton. I’m undecided on Feghouli. Good article the other day on The West Ham Way about him. Worth a read if you haven’t seen it.

Cresswell has not had a memorable campaign. No news there. A lot has been down to poor decisions. Like in the 14th minute when he was sent in by Ogbonna down the left. But he tried a low cross that The Road Runner wouldn’t have reached let alone Ayew, while Snodgrass was unmarked ten yards out from goal. The former Hull man looked rightfully annoyed.

23rd minute. Poor touch from Lanzini led to Burnley counter. Burnley counter led to poor defending from West Ham. Poor defending from West Ham led to Vokes goal.

Burnley 1
West Ham 0

Whoa. In the 24th minute West Ham looked very good in scoring an equalizer. Fernandes threaded a ball in between a bunch of Burnley defenders to find Ayew, who back heeled the ball to Feghouli running into the box, and the Algerian Freebie finished it. Take a bow guys.

Burnley 1
West Ham 1

Bobby Madley stinks. He really stinks. Westwood should have been sent off in the 31st minute for a high boot into Ginge’s thigh. And that was just one of many reasons the man should consider a career change.

OK Sofiane. I want to like you. I even think there’s an argument that in a stronger side you could be valuable. But considering how good your finish was to score, your sky bound shot in the 33rd from the same area was terrible.

Halftime
Burnley 1
West Ham 1

For all the complaining we do about offside calls, I must say it’s a tough job for the linesman. Early in the second half Ayew was flagged offside and I had no idea how that could be. He was. Other than 100% video technology taking over that call I cannot see how it can improve.

Remember what I said about Feghouli before? How he might be with more quality around him? Ayew might be the same. Clever players need more clever players around them. Their minds work on different wavelengths than players who get “stuck in”. Both are needed. I’m just stream of consciousness writing now.

Something occurred to me around minute 65 when Byram made a nice sliding tackle to break up a Burnley counter and then headed the ball clear from inside our eighteen-yard box. He’s a good young player. I’d be more than happy with him as our second choice right back next season. Slaven was wrong, in my opinion, to screw with the kids confidence by playing everyone but Jack Sullivan at right back earlier in the year.

Back to Ayew. The man is lucky. Which is fine. Famous quote here from an old baseball manager, “I’d rather be lucky than good”. He likely is both. But when the ball bounced softly off the crossbar after a good effort from Fernandes, all Ayew had to do was stand there and put it in. He’s had similar good fortunes not hiding this season.

Burnley 1
West Ham 2

You know what I felt when Lanzini stepped up to take a free kick from 25 yards out in the 82nd minute? The same kind of excited energy I felt when Darth Dimitri used to step up. That’s gotta be a good sign.

Four minutes of added time? From what? At least Rice will have made his senior debut for us in those mysterious minutes.

Final Score
Burnley 1
West Ham 2

We won on the last day of the season for the first time in years. We finished 11th on 45 points. We ended eleven points clear of the drop zone, in stark contrast to the fear I felt going into the Spurs match two weeks ago as Swansea was surging and we were dropping. In a vacuum, that’s not that bad for a season of utter turmoil and angst.

But we don’t live in a vacuum, do we?

There is no way any of you are more interested in what happened at Turf Moor today than what will happen behind the scenes in Stratford starting tomorrow. Bilic in or Bilic out? Batshuayi? Zabaleta? A new keeper? That guy from Belgium? All possible ingredients in what we hope will be a better meal next season. Or as some believe, more decoys while less expensive options are worked on behind the scenes to serve us dressed up fast food.

Here I go again with my damned metaphors. And to make it more annoying, I’m going to delve into my silly food comparisons again.

Our board say they will build a Michelin Starred operation. I believe they sincerely want that to happen. But when chefs set out to do that, they never compromise on the food they use. Every detail is meticulously thought out. Things we might consider mundane, like butter or onions, are sourced as if the success of the entire operation rests on that choice. If something costs more, they simply build that into their financial structure. Guests at such restaurants accept that as part of the deal and don’t blink when the bill comes.

This is not a judgment on my part. Our board do not have to do such things if they don’t want to, or have concluded they can’t based on their comfort level with the financial reality at the club. They are, by and large, good businessmen. Karen Brady could not have achieved what she has without being a very smart woman. If they do spend large sums of money on fees and wages to attract players we would be genuinely excited, and probably a little shocked to see join, then that would be a departure from their past. Can it happen? Yes. Should we expect it? Only if disappointment is an emotion you seek out.

I think Slaven will be back. I think the board will be more judicious in their dealings with the press and supporters regarding transfers this summer. But next season I will only expect a meal that I enjoy, served in a timely manner by pleasant and professional servers. Anything beyond that will be treated as a pleasant surprise.

Have a good summer.


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