The David Hautzig Column

My Top 11 Of The Last 10

Goalkeeper: Adrian
Sorry Fabs. If the decade were longer you’d have likely won out.

Central Defender 1: Winston Reid
*Once Sam taught him how to defend in the Premier League, he was among the first names on the team sheet.

Central Defender 2: James Collins
*As dependable as a Subaru. Built like one, too.

Right Back: Pablo Zabaleta
*I think this speaks to how woeful we have been at this position.

Left Back: Aaron Cresswell
*Better than Zabaleta, but basically the same point as above.

Right Midfield: Michail Antonio
*It’s easy to forget that Antonio has been with us for some time. And in that time, his positives are enough to give him the spot.

Central Midfield 1: Mark Noble
*There should be no reason to defend this call. So I won’t.

Central Midfield 2: Kevin Nolan
*This one is a tougher call, but his work to get us promoted and then stabilize us is the decider for me.

Left Midfield: Le Snake
*His one year of brilliance was enough.

Striker 1: Carlton Cole
*His goals got us promoted, and he was always there when we needed him. Longevity plays a part in this decision, even though Arnautovic was a better striker in a vacuum.

Striker 2: Andy Carroll
*We might not want to admit it, but his signing made us relevant in the transfer market. The end product was far les than we paid for, but he scored 34 goals. Not much. But only Cole scored more.


David Hautzig's Match Report

Gillingham 0, West Ham 2. A Win Is A Win Is A Win.

For years, I usually treated both domestic cup competitions with an equal amount of fear and disregard. Our league position was so perilous so often I could not help but see those matches as pointless because, well, they didn’t come with points. Of course there were occasional exceptions. 2006 obviously comes to mind, but Pards had us mid-table pretty much the whole season so the FA Cup was a Get One Free with the already paid for EPL season. But then Slaven Bilic held up his hands, holding an imaginary cup when asked what would mean more, the FA Cup or a top four finish. I flew over that year to say goodbye to Upton Park and to attend the incredible replay win over Liverpool. If VAR had been in place we would have made the semi-finals, of that I’m sure. The point is, my feelings about the cups have been altered. I can’t say I’d trade relegation for a trophy yet, but in time you never know.

Gillingham came in to todays match unbeaten in their last eight League One matches. They dispatched Premier League opposition Cardiff in last season’s FA Cup, and West Ham have made League One in cups the equivalent of Liverpool at Anfield of late. So the table was set for another disappointing result. Instead, West Ham did what they were supposed to as opposed to what we expected them to do.

Gillingham started the match brightly, as one might expect from a lower division side on their home pitch. They won two corners, the second from a somewhat sloppy clearance by Ogbonna. Snodgrass and Lanzini shared in the sloppiness with a bad pass and a giveaway respectively. A free kick in the eight minute required a clearance by Haller, but Gillingham kept up the pressure and won a third corner. Suffice it to say West Ham started the game at a snails pace.

In the 15th minute, Rice and Lee got into a tussle for the ball at the top of the West Ham eighteen yard box, and the other referee named Madley awarded the home side a free kick. They tried a little trickery on the set piece that didn’t come off, but neither did West Ham’s clearance. Gillingham came right back with a long range shot by O’Keefe, but Fabianski made the easy save.

Harassment is a very effective tool for a lower division side with less talent than their Premier League foe. Hanlan used that to great effect in the 22nd minute when he harassed Balbuena into a conceding a corner, and then he won the ball back for a point blank shot that Fabianski did well to save.

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The Hammers had their first look at the Gillingham penalty area in the 31st minute when Anderson recovered from a bad touch and sent the ball wide to Masuaku. The man on the left wing won a corner when Fuller blocked a cross, but West Ham did zero with the opportunity. Overall, our play could be described to that point as ugly and disjointed. Even with five in the middle the hosts dominated that area, and every single player in white looked like they assumed no work was needed to win today. With a strong starting eleven, it was hard to see where any impetus would come.

The biggest risk and thus worry about playing a strong side in a match like this, especially when your squad is as deep as a baby blow up pool, is injury. Right back is not an area West Ham are blessed with depth, so seeing Fredericks limp off was just the thing we didn’t want to see. But thems the breaks when you want a cup run.

Halftime
Gillingham 0
West Ham 0

West Ham should have scored in the first minute of the second half when Anderson sent Haller in on Bonham all alone. But in what looked like a moment of overconfidence Haller strolled in and put the ball twenty feet over the crossbar. Haller looked at the pitch as if to blame a rogue patch of dirt for his ills, but he alone was to blame for the sorry shot. Moments later Haller had another chance when he was sent in by a long ball from Diop. It looked a lost cause but Haller kept going and one timed a shot in between the post and the keeper. It bounced off the inside of the post and across the face of goal. West Ham showed more urgency in the opening minutes of the second half than the whole opening forty-five.

Despite more time on the ball and more control of the match, West Ham were not able to get themselves in a position to really bother the Gillingham defense. Bad touches, slips, and other errant moves kept being the Hammers undoing. They had a valid shout for a penalty in the 66th minute when Rice was clearly held by Ogilvie while attacking a free kick from Lanzini. Where’s VAR when you need it?

As the second half rolled on, Masuaku and Anderson started to find space down the left. The gave each other early, fast passes so that whichever one was the recipient could get into the box quickly. In the 73rd minute, Anderson rolled a pass for Masuaku to get to at the end-line. He sent a low cross into the box that just missed Fornals, but found Zabaleta. For the first time in a West Ham kit, Pablo Zabaleta took a shot that ended up behind the goalkeeper and in the net.

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Gillingham 0
West Ham 1

Gillingham did not roll over, and Hanlan won a corner in the 82nd minute. The delivery was cleared, but O’Keefe got hold of a shot that might have tested Fabianski had it not been deflected and slowed down. The Hammers won a corner of their own moments later, and if defenders interfering by holding and pulling on shirts in the box was recently deemed within the laws of the game, I didn’t get the memo. Haller was absolutely mugged trying to get into position.

Marshall worked the ball into the corner in the 89th minute and won a corner. West Ham cleared, but not far enough and Marshall was there again to work the ball back into the box. Haller in particular did a fine job defending the many aerial lobs into the penalty area, but Gillingham kept searching for the late equalizer and a replay.

Cue the joke about them being the only ones who wanted to go to The London Stadium.

With Gillingham searching and probing in added time, it was West Ham who broke in numbers as the clock ran down. Fornals was the man with the last word, rifling a shot past Bonham.

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Gillingham 0
West Ham 2

Considering our recent banana skins in cups, we have no choice but to respect the win. Two wins and two clean sheets in Moyes 2.0. Hopefully the manager was able to use today to learn a bit more about the squad and how to make it respectable again.


David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 4, Bournemouth 0. Moyes 2.0 A Good Update Thus Far.

Let me be utterly transparent, so that there is no need to read between any lines.

David Moyes is not our enemy.

David Moyes did nothing wrong.

David Moyes has not lied.

David Moyes has not treated supporters with contempt.

If anything, we should be grateful he has agreed to return and do his best to help the club escape from yet another catastrophe in all likelihood created by his past and current employers. To those clamoring for the likes of Kovac, Allegri, Pochetino, or anybody else considered a Top Shelf Manager, I ask you;

Are you mad?!?!

If they are as good as you say, then they must be of higher intellect. And if they are of higher intellect, then they have more then enough sense to avoid our owners like an infectious disease. We do not have the currency to shop in those stores. Among those we were realistically linked with, David Moyes was the best option.

I for one was surprised he said yes. If it were me, and I admittedly hold very long, bitter grudges against those who have treated me or my family badly, I would have told the board to F-OFF. And our board treated David Moyes very badly. But there he was, smiling at the cameras while acting like a gentleman and a professional. When offered the chance by a journalist to take a little dig at the man in the silly Russian hat, he wouldn’t go there. He showed class. Which none in our current Executive Branch have showed of late, if ever.

At the time of kickoff, West Ham were in historically familiar territory. The relegation zone. Most supporters and pundits were expecting Moyes to switch to a back three with wingbacks. But with only two days to train, he opted for the same formation we have used since the start of the campaign. Having said that, I was surprised that Antonio’s current hamstring issue was not met with someone else joining Haller up top. I was also surprised at the result, but I’ll take it with bells on.

West Ham won a free kick in the 13th minute that could be considered the first attempt of the match when Wilson was called for handball. But Cresswell didn’t beat his first man, and you can’t succeed on set pieces when that happens. But if skill cannot do the job, luck will do. And The Hammers had that in the 18th minute when Anderson and Snodgrass combined quite well on the right side of the Bournemouth eighteen yard box. Snodgrass picked out Noble in the box, and his deflected shot went past Ramsdale.

West Ham 1
Bournemouth 0

Snodgrass was back at it again a few minutes later, and his run at Rico came inches from being a penalty. But the foul was committed just outside the box. The delivery deflected off of Anderson and out for another corner. The Cherries cleared, but West Ham closed down with a level of intensity all over the pitch not seen this season. That work rate paid off in the 25th minute when Snodgrass and Fredericks worked the ball down the right. Fredericks sent a cross into the box and Haller finished it in a manner befitting a 45 million pound signing.

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West Ham 2
Bournemouth 0

Bournemouth had a decent spell of possession after Haller’s strike, but West Ham held their line and kept their shape, and eventually cleared the area and launched a counter. After a long ball for Haller caused Rico to put the ball out for a throw, the Hammers kept up the pressure with Noble at the forefront. It culminated with the captain dancing around Wilson on the right side. The second he got into the box, I knew what he would do. He would create contact, not dive, and win a penalty. He did just that.

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West Ham 3
Bournemouth 0

As the opening forty-five minutes wound down, Bournemouth had their best spell of the match so far. Rico tried a long range shot from just outside the West Ham eighteen yard box that Fabianski had to parry away for an eventual Bournemouth corner. But again, West Ham stayed disciplined and the corner amounted to nothing.

Halftime
West Ham 3
Bournemouth 0

The second half started with West Ham showing no letup in their pressure. Anderson sent Cresswell into the box with a little chip pass over the head of Francis, and the current version of AC won a corner. Bournemouth cleared but as soon as any visitor got on the ball he was hounded by someone in Claret & Blue. The constant harassment led to a superb run by Haller down the right. He saw Fornals making a run into the box and sent a cross his way. Had it not been for a last ditch effort by Cook to get a touch on the ball Fornals would have been in prime position to volley the ball into the back of the net.

Moments later it was again Haller launching an attack. He laid it off for Snodgrass in the box, but with the ball on his weaker right foot he took another touch instead of a hopeful shot and the moment was lost. A minute later, Snodgrass won a free kick 25 yards from goal. Cresswell stepped up to take it, and my guess is he will hope everyone watching the match was posting on Instagram or checking email as opposed to watching the match.

In pursuit of balance, I’m going to be critical about something. Anderson, despite working hard and making runs, still looked off. He made quite a few poor passes, and when given the chance to run at the Bournemouth defense he took a long range shot. But in what can only be described as delightful irony, just as Anderson was about to be replaced by Lanzini, Rice sent a peach of a long pass over the top of the Bournemouth defense that Anderson ran onto. The Brazilian brought it down, ran at Ramsdale, and slotted it home as his parting gift to the evening’s proceedings.

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West Ham 4
Bournemouth 0

The only blight on the day for West Ham came in the 75th minute when Cresswell was shown a red card for a rash challenge on Fraser. When VAR went to check, I thought it was just for posterity. But stunningly, the red card was overturned by the video referee and switched to yellow. While it would have had no effect on today, the decision certainly saved Moyes a headache on Saturday and beyond.

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Bournemouth came oh so close to ruining Fabianski’s clean sheet in the 80th minute. Fraser recovered from Cresswell’s challenge to make a run down the left. He crossed into the box for Solanke, who re-directed the ball with his head. It beat Fabianski, but hit the far post and floated into the West Ham keepers arms.

The Hammers came equally oh so close to a fifth goal minutes later when Lanzini played the roll of a striker about a foot taller than he is and got on the end of a cross in the box. His header was hard and low, but Ramsdale made a good stop. Seconds later, Cresswell danced down the left and found Fornals in the box with a low pass. But once again Ramsdale was up to the task and made the save.

There are terms and cliches used in football that sometimes just sound like ways to fill airtime and newspaper columns. Graft, courage, playing for the shirt are a few that come to mind. But today they don’t sound out of place for West Ham. In terms of work rate, closing down, and organization, today was the best performance of the season. Yet it wasn’t devoid of skill or flair. It was, simply put, a fine overall display. So, as my best mate Jon asked right after the final whistle, why did the same players play under the same formation but look that good when they looked so bad a few days earlier? I can’t answer that. But I will not let that legitimate question get in the way of this good day.

Happy New Year.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 1, Leicester City 2. The Free Fall Continues.

Dear Manuel,

I wish I could get inside your head and see what on earth is going wrong. Maybe you thought your style and tactics were still applicable to the English game? Or perhaps you were given assurances that you would be allowed to furnish the whole house, but at the last moment a few rooms were locked up and your personal moral compass wouldn’t let you say anything? To be honest, if I had your bank account and decency I would walk away. Life is too short. Go back to Chile, open up a nice bottle of Vina Echeverria Limited Edition Cabernet Sauvignon (2014 if you can get it), and call it a day. When 17th place is the new goal, that seems like the right call.

Leicester City started today with nine changes from their Boxing Day lineup, so there were some West Ham supporters on social media who thought that might just open the door for us. Not me. Had Albrighton connected properly with his strike inside the box in minute four, the home side would have been down a goal. Moments later Justin attacked down he right and sent a cross into the box that was wrongly flagged for offside. Then Iheanacho blew what might have been a one to one battle with Fabianski with a heavy touch. Meanwhile, West Ham looked like they were playing against imaginary pylons.

The beginning of todays version of the end looked to come in the tenth minute when Justin sent a ball over the top to Iheanacho. Fabianski came out to meet the Leicester City striker who was once rejected by Slaven Bilic and clattered into him. David Coote pointed to the spot, which was no surprise. When he showed Fabianski a yellow instead of a red, small favors were thanked for around the London Stadium. Gray gave the home crowd another favor with a truly tepid penalty that didn’t look that hard for our returning hero to stop.

There have been many who have called for Masuaku to be recalled into the starting lineup. Heck, he wasn’t even on the bench for weeks. There have been an equal number wondering why on earth he was given an extension to his contract. In the 22nd minute, he let loose a shot that at least counted as an attempt on target. However, he also gave away the ball a number of times before and after that shot. So which side of the argument is correct? Yes.

Both sides played possession football without any real end product, but Leicester were a bit more effective. After winning a corner in the 32nd minute, they kept the ball in and around the West Ham eighteen yard box. The “what if” of that sequence was pretty clear. If Leicester City had their best on the pitch I doubt the match would have remained scoreless.

Albrighton made a mistake in the 35th minute when he lost the ball to Anderson, who then broke on the attack. The Brazilian showed good awareness by finding Rice slightly behind the play and lobbed a cross his way. Rice tried to catch the pass with a one time volley but his shot bounced into the grass and meekly towards Schmeichel.

The second version of the likely end came in the 40th minute when Masuaku made the awful decision of trying a weak header instead of letting the ball fly out for a goal kick. Justin retrieved it and sent a ball towards the West Ham goal. It looked to be heading out, but Perez didn’t give up on it and headed it back in front of goal where Iheanacho met it with his forehead and put it behind Fabianski.

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West Ham 0
Leicester City 1

West Ham had a half chance…maybe just a quarter to be fair…when Rice sent a cross into the box for Haller. The Frenchman tried to redirect the ball with his head but it went wide. But seconds later, against the run of play for sure, Anderson went on a run down the right. He played a give and go with Fredericks and then rolled a pass to Fornals in the box. The young Spaniard continued his overall improvement of late with the best of all outcomes. His first goal in Claret & Blue.

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Halftime
West Ham 1
Leicester City 1

Masuaku is not a defender. We all know that. My guess is he knows that and wonders why on earth he is so often played at fullback. His rugby tackle on Perez in the 49th minute right outside the box gave Leicester City a free kick from a very dangerous area. Fuchs took the set piece and went low, under the wall. But Fabianski was there to gather it up.

The substitutions made by Pellegrini this season have often been met with raised eyebrows. Antonio coming on for Haller in the 55th minute had to be added to that list. Just as we were trying to figure that one out, Leicester City broke on a counter. Diop tried not once but twice to break up the attack with a foul instead of getting back into position, and was terribly ineffective both times. That allowed Perez to get on the ball and roll a pass to Gray on the left. The man who missed the early penalty redeemed himself with both a well timed run and a well placed shot.

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West Ham 1
Leicester City 2

Leicester City had an excellent chance to put West Ham out of its misery in the 68th minute. After a corner from Maddison came right back at him due to a poor clearance attempt from Anderson, he tried another cross. This one spent more time in the box and eventually landed at the feet of Morgan. The giant centerback did well to bring a high ball down, turn, and fire a good shot that Fabianski went down to his right to save.

By the 80th minute, the crowd at the London Stadium was disturbingly silent. To hear the echos of a single whistle through a television was both damning and depressing. Yet with such poor play, terrible passes, and bad runs it was hard not to feel the same thing in my basement in New York. My mind was vacillating between that awful year under Zola when we barely escaped the drop and that truly pathetic year under Grant. Even the television commentators said they could not see what West Ham were trying to do. In all honesty, the much maligned Ajeti was our hardest worker in the final ten minutes.

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Final Score
West Ham 1
Leicester City 2

In 1964, The United States Supreme Court heard a case involving free speech and whether or not something was obscene. Justice Potter Stewart said the following;

“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

Once again, everything is falling apart at West Ham United. We are free-falling towards the Championship, our captain is fighting with our best central defender DURING A MATCH, the players look like they have surrendered to their fate, and yet another managerial change is imminent. Players change, managers and back room staff change, and in our case even our stadium changed. Only one thing has been a constant this past decade, and even though it’s not always easy to pinpoint the how, I am certain whose fault it is. This season has been particularly difficult on that end, because we bought some good players over the summer and have a manager with an impressive CV. Yet I know in the end it’s their fault.

I know it when I see it.


David Hautzig's Match Report

Crystal Palace 2, West Ham 1. Was Anyone REALLY Surprised?

Last year I was in London with my family on Boxing Day. We had a lovely lunch at The White Horse in Parsons Green, and I watched us win the next evening on my IPad sitting at the kitchen table of our Airbnb. Anderson was brilliant, and I was quite optimistic about where the club was heading. This year I’m home, taking orders from customers, watching yet another Boxing Day fixture smack in the middle of a possible relegation battle. I am not in the least bit surprised by this, given that we are owned and operated by people with more failures on their CV than any of us could endure while keeping our jobs. And when it became clear that Roberto was back as goalkeeper, believe it or not I wasn’t that upset. I fully expected to lose today, so the Spaniard’s inclusion only meant a few more negatives in our goal differential. TODAY

When things are going badly, as they are yet again, I always start a match with the strange deal I make with the football gods. I’ll take a nil-nil draw, I say to them. That feeling was exasperated when I saw Roberto punch the early corner by Palace right to an Eagle waiting at the top of the eighteen yard box when literally every other keeper I have ever watched in Claret & Blue would have caught it.

Right back is an area where we are weak, and it shows the woeful transfer policy of our board. We went for a right back in Fredericks that joined from a relegated side with no transfer fee, to replace an aging right back we also signed with no transfer fee. Right backs aren’t that sexy to DS. When Zaha broke down the left with Zabaleta racing back as best he could, it was noteworthy and even impressive that Pablo got back, and used his experience to block Zaha off the ball and earn a goal kick.

From an attacking perspective, which was pretty much non existent, all we could muster in the opening twenty-five minutes was a single corner. Even with two up top, West Ham were lobbing hopeful balls over the Palace midfield. When Palace inevitably brought the ball back down to our end, it was clear they knew the weakness easiest to expose was the last line of defense. Roberto did himself no favors by continually punching instead of catching. I’d love to know why nobody on the coaching staff works on that with him.

Palace should have opened the scoring in the 31st minute when Zaha started an attack on the left. After beating Zabaleta, Noble, and Balbuena he sent a low ball across the box. Nobody was there to meet it, but Meyer got to it and rolled the ball back in front of goal for Ayew. Balbuena was challenging the man who scored the winner back in November at the London Stadium, and that bit of pressure might have meant the difference between a goal and the ball rolling just wide. Moments later, West Ham had their first attempt of the match when Antonio came in from the left and let a hard shot fly, but it flew right into the arms of Guaita.

Yes. I saw the almost catastrophic pass attempt by Roberto in the 41st minute. Ogbonna saved him. Don’t need to say much more.

Halftime
Crystal Palace 0
West Ham 0

As the second began, it was actually interesting to see how ineffective we were. Without meaning to raise the ire of some of you, it didn’t look that much different to some of our matches under He Who Shall Not Be Named. There was no cohesion to anything we did. And such sloppiness inevitably leads to mistakes, as it did in minute 54 when Cresswell completely botched a back pass and Ayew jumped all over it. Unbelievably, it was Roberto to the rescue with a decent save. Moments later Milivojevic sent a rocket of a shot over the bar.

In between those two moments, something extraordinary happened. I’m sure we will hear more about it later. Noble and Cresswell looked to be in a heated argument, with Cresswell wrapping his arms around the captain. Antonio was in the mix as well.

When the television cameras came back to the action from the replay of that incident, Antonio had the ball near the top of the Palace eighteen yard box. He rolled a wonderfully weighted pass into the path of Snodgrass, who then curled a left footed effort past Guaita.

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Crystal Palace 0
West Ham 1

The home side came very close to an immediate leveler when Van Aanholt took a hard, low shot that rolled across the face of goal. Moments later, he pulled his hamstring chasing down a pass from Zaha and had to come off, making the Palace injury list look like a West Ham one.

Palace won their fifth corner in the 66th minute when Zaha sent a beauty of a floating ball to the far post for Meyer, who volleyed it off Cresswell to win the set piece. The Hammers defended the initial delivery, only for Palace to keep coming back. With our problems on set pieces, it was easy to understand why they kept sending the ball into the box. The strategy finally worked when an Ayew headed a ball into the path of Kouyate, and the former Hammer kept up a tradition by scoring his first goal for his new club against us.

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Crystal Palace 1
West Ham 1

The Hammers had a decent chance to re-take the lead in the 76th minute when Snodgrass crossed to Lanzini in the box, who laid the ball off for Antonio fifteen yards out but his shot went high and wide. Palace had a far better chance to take the lead moments later when Zabaleta played Wickham onside, and the former West Ham target was off to the races all alone, bearing down on Roberto. The deservedly maligned Spaniard made his best save for West Ham by a country mile, coming out to meet the challenge head on. His save went high in the air, cleared out by Rice.

West Ham almost got what might have been the winner in the 87th minute. After a very impressive spell on the ball, Snodgrass was teed up right in front of goal to get his second of the game. But Riedewald made a sliding tackled to block the shot that was so good that even Snoddy himself acknowledged the play with a little clap.

But the inevitable happened in the 90th minute. And just as he did at the London Stadium, Ayew scored a late winner. After dancing around the rather static West Ham defense, his quick feet and drag back made it through the crowd. A little chip over the defenseless Roberto, and that was that.

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Final Score
Crystal Palace 2
West Ham 1

So we are now one point above the drop zone. There is zero reason to think this latest version of Porn Barons Fight The Drop won’t last until April or later. I suspect we have enough to stay up, but it’s by no means certain. And today cannot be laid at Roberto’s feet. I’m not blaming Pellegrini either. We lost to a team that is clearly better than us. We have dropped 15 points from a winning position this season, the most of any team in the league. We are clearly nowhere close to being the team or club many thought we would become. We are West Ham. And we all know what that truly means.

There you have it.


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