Match Report

Wing Backs or Wingers?

As the New Year dawns, we should all be happy, given our dreadful start to the season, at where we stand today. We have risen up the league and four of our signings have turned out to be tremendous – Fabianski, Diop, Balbuena and Anderson. And we can still look forward to players coming back from injury. I still dream about the perfect partnership between Lanzini and Arnautovic when we beat Huddersfield 4-1 away.

So, what questions can there be for discussion? We cannot take anything away from the achievement of Pellegrini, who has persevered with his formation through thick and thin. But, it remains to be seen whether he is too one dimensional. Should we, for example, have adjusted our formation when we played Manchester City at home? Or is it a good thing that when replacements and substitutions are made, players can easily slot into a system?

There seems to be a modern obsession with playing wing backs. As the name suggests, they are supposed to be both wingers and full backs. So, they need to be super fit, charging up and down the pitch. The danger is if they don’t have quite what it takes to be a defender. Antonio and Masuaku fit into that category. Cresswell is not the player he was two years ago and Zabaleta is in the twilight years of his career.

In the old days, you had wingers and then you had full backs. The winger would be a speedy guy who would make a dash for the byline and make a cross to a sturdy centre forward, who would head the ball into the net. Against Birmingham, we did have two players on the pitch who could fulfil that winger requirement – Antonio and Diangana. And of course, for most of the game we had a sturdy centre forward.

I’m asking this question for two reasons, because I think the game against Birmingham highlighted the problem. Individually, it was obvious we were far superior but overall, as a team, we didn’t seem to be able to break Birmingham down for 89 minutes of the game. It may have been because we were not using the full width of the pitch.

Andy Carroll comes in for a good deal of criticism these days, even though he is just coming back from injury. But what he needs is the type of service I describe above. Players getting to the byline and crossing the ball. Too often, they cut inside and we have seen Andy Carroll come on and not been given any service at all. Finally, yesterday, he received a cross from Antonio and showed his quality with his head.

Alongside the use of wingers, you must also ask whether having two players in defence e.g. Ogbonna/Balbuena and Diop is sufficient. Wouldn’t it be better to have three plus the wingbacks? Anyone watching the Birmingham game has to admit that Birmingham created some terrific chances, which a better team would have taken advantage of. And three at the back gives you the opportunity to attack with more freedom.

It was a surprise to see Arnautovic start. It is a risk to play such an important player and chance injury, but, perhaps he felt he needed a workout to reach match fitness after his recent injury. My impression was that he was surprised to be taken off, so hopefully he will start against Arsenal.

We should congratulate Nasri and Silva on the first starts for the club. And amusing to see that Adrian hasn’t lost his old habit of dribbling around the opposition. Declan Rice once again proved what a talent he is.

Saturday’s game against Arsenal will be a stiff test, especially for our defence. Let’s hope we can summon up the energy and intensity that will be required to win.


West Ham Publish Financial Results

The results have just been published for the year ending 31st May 2018.

Turnover was down for the year at £175m, a reduction of £8m. The majority of this was from broadcasting rights at £118m (slightly less than the previous year as our position dropped to 13th from 11th) and match receipts were £24m. The operational profit has dropped to £35m from £56m

Average league attendances (or let’s say tickets bought) were 57,000, as opposed to 35,000 at the Boleyn.

The accounts are littered with references that the figures are based on the company as a going concern (which is a negative in accounting terms), due to uncertainties about income, the principal risk being that of being relegated. At one point it is stated, ‘The retention of our standing in 2018/9 is an absolute necessity.’

Employment costs rose to £106m from £95m. Karren Brady received £898,000 and a further £438,00 as a consultancy fee for negotiating the 10% sale of shares to Albert ‘Tripp’ Smith, who also provided a £10m interest-free loan.

The shareholders did not receive a dividend, but did receive interest payments amounting to £4.5m on their £45m loan, although it would appear that included unpaid interest from previous years, as the loan rate is 4-4.5%.

There is still an ongoing investigation by HMRC regarding payments made to agents.

The club took further short-term loans of £23m from Rights and Media Ltd to finance the cost of new players. Rights and Media Ltd have made loans over the years to West Ham and other clubs such as Everton, Southampton, Fulham and Reading. Their director used to be an Irish jig dancer, but the loans actually come from a company called Vibrac Corporation, based in the British Virgin Islands. Nobody knows who finances that company.

So, I think we can say that the owners take a considerable risk, as everything can start falling apart if the club is relegated. So, when we lost our first four games, they must have been extremely worried.

Also, they have not tried to stiff the fans and the income from the 57,000 is relatively the same as it was at The Boleyn. We know there are many concessions.

Bearing in mind the risks involved and the fact that after the summer of 2021, a sale would not trigger an additional payment to the owners of the stadium, this may be a target date for a sale.

Match Report

Cicero Reincarnated

I am Marcus Tullius Cicero and I died over two thousand years ago. My last appearance in the Forum was when my head and hands were nailed separately to the Rostra, after I had been red carded by Mark Anthony.

I was invited to attend a game at the Londinium Stadium, where I was expecting to watch discus, javelin and running competitions, but , instead, watched two teams playing a new game , called football.

It reminded me of a game we had , called Harpastum. After sacrificing a sheep to Mars, the intestines would be blown up and then the teams would kick it around., whilst engaging in different forms of violence to prevent the opponents from getting to the ball. So nothing much has changed there.

The football game also reminded me of the gladiatorial contests I witnessed in the Colosseum. Although the participants in football are not armed with weapons, the plebeians seated around the Londinium Stadium shouted and sang encouragements and would appear to be happy if the opposition were hacked to death. They referred to their team as ‘The Ferra’.

There was a more salubrious area, reserved for the patricians and the main patrician watched the event behind a glass screen to prevent his assassination, presumably by a pilum (spear).

Apparently, each of the centurions engaged in the battle earned huge amounts of money. But, I reminded my host that the charioteer, Diocles earned 35 million sesterces, which in modern money is about 7 billion pounds, based on the silver content. There was also a gladiator, called Tetraites, who always won the league, with the rest of the league being dead at the end of the season.

A character called Pellegrini watched the game from a huge area on the edge of the pitch. I noticed Pellegrini had a Roman nose and I am sure I saw him the in the Forum just the other day. He reminded me of Julius Caesar in the way he urged on his men to battle.

I was informed about the rudimentary rules of the game and it seemed the centurions from the claret and blue army had just as limited an idea of the rules as myself, as a man called a referee had to be present. When gladiators fought, we didn’t need such a person, except at the end when the crowd indicated by the use of the thumbs whether the defeated gladiator would live or die.

Apparently, our claret and blue army had marched to Burnley ,which is a few leagues north of Mamucium, a few days previously, where it’s no wonder they were too tired to engage in battle and lost badly. Some blamed the quartermaster for a late arrival from a previous battle at Southampton.

West Ham seemed to start slowly and Brighton surely had more men on the pitch, or, it might have seemed that because of their bright yellow costumes. Philipus Andersus seemed full of tricks, but none seemed to work. Brighton appeared to be the better organised and their supporters who numbered but two thousand outsang the West Ham supporters, who must largely comprise somnambulists.

I must say the West Ham centurions looked as if they had never fought a battle together and their ball passing was atrocious. However, to give them their due, they did seem to get the better of Brighton as the game progressed and Brighton seemed to lack bite in front of goal.

Overall, my impression was this was a dull gamer and this belief was reinforced by a supporter who shouted , ‘This is duller than Brexit’, whatever that meant.

In the second half, Pilipus had a good run where he threaded his way through the defence, but his shot was just wide. Then, disaster struck. I had never seen a corner before and it would appear the West Ham players were just as naïve. Twice, within a short period, Brighton scored from corners, once when the goalkeeper Fabulus only manage to punch a ball out to a Brighton player and the other time when West Ham failed to cover a thing called their far post.

Then, the brilliance of Pellegrini shone through. He brought on Antonius and Noblus and the immediately the injected what we always teach in the Roman army – ENERGY, INTENSITY and CONFIDENCE. West Ham were an army transformed. Noblus made a great pass to Marcus Arnautus and he scored superbly and then a couple of minutes later Antonius got to the byline and crossed to Marcus who scored again. It was a great thing for him because he shall have his confidence back, but hopefully it won’t be for the blue army of Chelsea.

Anyway, each army kept its honour and withdrew from the battlefield with honours even. I decided I wouldn’t go to the baths and cut my wrists, but look forward to the next game.
Felix novus annus.

Please check back after the match for the results.

Match Report

The Greatest Show on Earth?

I have a soft spot for Burnley. As an eleven year old in 1960, I went to a game at White Hart Lane with my cousin. As youngsters, we were pushed to the front and got a terrific view. It was the glory years for Spurs and I loathed them, as my Dad’s friend was always gloating. Spurs went three up with three goals in three minutes. Then, it was four, but Burnley pulled one back half time. In the second half, Burnley scored twice in two minutes and equalised with ten minutes to go. What a game! The next day, the press described it as ‘The Greatest Show on Earth.’

Do you think you would see two eleven year olds on their own, attending a Premier League game today?

As the game with Burnley approaches, I have a problem. The four biggest internet service providers now block access to online servers where you could watch previously illegal streams. Apparently, a third of all football supporters have watched illegal streams. But EU law has tightened up. Now, you could be sitting comfortably in your home and a SWAT squad could batter down your front door, march you out handcuffed and imprison you.

Personally, I don’t like any laws which cannot be implemented. Is it beyond the reach of human ingenuity to enable fans to watch their teams on TV, when they play away. I know the economics are a little daunting – Sky paid £4.18 billion to screen 126 fixtures this year, which is about £33 million per game. But, they sell the games for £7.99 with a day pass to NOW TV. Couldn’t each club buy a licence, so that its season ticket holders can get access to away games at a similar price?
I am told the North West Ambulance Service has contacted West Ham to find out if Andy Carroll is starting, so they can decide how many ambulances to send. Do bookies take bets of sending offs?

I see in his statement, David Sullivan has been working round the clock on the contract for Declan Rice., just as he did to sign William Carvalho. He confirms the club wants to keep the best players coming through the Academy and that, no doubt, explains why Burke Reece was sold to Hull City.

Rice, himself, thanks the players, the fans and the manager. How rude! He didn’t thank the board.

Sullivan was working so hard on the deal that he even gave up his Christmas Day to work. I understand the Prime Minister will be contacting him, in the new year, as she wants him to produce and book and film with explicit photos, called ‘How the UK got f**ked by the EU.’

I must say that the West Ham website is completely useless and I hardly bother to read it. Its articles sound as if they have been written by Josef Goebbels. Just take a look at injury news, which was last updated on 20th December 2018. No news about Lanzini. We are not informed that Jack Wilshere will need another operation, which will keep him for the rest of the season. I wish him the very best. I think we forget how young our players are. They earn a lot, but they must be under tremendous psychological pressure. We know what happened to players like Jimmy Greaves, George Best and Gazza.

I see Karren Brady has put the mockers on Leeds United. On Friday, she predicted they would win the Championship in her notorious Sun column and on Saturday, they lost to Hull at home. By the way, Reece Burke was in the Hull team.

Anyway, back to the game. This sums up the first half – poor, awful, terrible, dreadful, ghastly, horrid, abominable, appalling, atrocious, frightful, sickening, lousy, substandard, woeful, abysmal and dire.

In the second half, although Burnley should have scored another couple in the first few minutes, we were better, largely due to Antonio. But, in the end, the performance reminded me of my barbecue. Sometimes, I light it and get a great flame, but , at other times, the coals just won’t burn.

It looks like we are a side which depends on the magic of Anderson, but today, he just wasn’t on fire. This wasn’t the Greatest Show on Earth.

Match Report

Freud watches the Hammers

I am Sigmund Freud. Human beings of the male gender have a fascination with balls, both their own and round objects from the very small to the fairly large. Their sexual aggression is suppressed by sport, which is a safety valve to allow aggression to be tamed by the capitalist and political system, which otherwise could result in unrest. Marx said religion is the opium of the people, but religion has been usurped by football.

They can throw, kick and hit balls under limitations called rules, or can watch others perform these feats , even on a small box, called a television and spend hours venting their sexual aggression by shouting and gesticulating at this inanimate object, . They have no idea that this is society’s way of repressing taboo instincts.

I have been interested in West Ham ever since they signed Marco Arnautovic, a fellow Viennese. I realised that the owners of the club were experts in the distribution of images to replace experience and had made a natural progression from pornography to football.

I was invited to watched the game between Southampton and West Ham on television by a West Ham fan who I had diagnosed as being anal retentive. He sat in front of the television wearing a West Ham shirt and with a handheld rattle, which obviously demonstrated a little too much attention to detail.

Southampton have a new manager, Ralph Hassenhuttl, also an Austrian, who has invigorated his side by the alleged use of hypnosis. Apparently, if he mentions the word ‘schweinhund’, they all start to bark.

West Ham had ten players unavailable. Antonio was playing right wing back. He made three mistakes within three minutes. I was told he didn’t normally play as a wing back, but nobody could tell me what his normal position was. To be fair, once he warmed up, he was strong as a bull and was often seen charging up the right wing. His defence, however, seemed to consist at waving his hand at the referee to indicate there had been a foul.

Everything was going through the right wing, even though the most creative player, Anderson, was on the left wing. However, once he got sight of the ball, he couldn’t do anything right and must have been suffering from castration anxiety.

West Ham’s best move came from a brilliant pass from Antonio out of defence followed by a great cut back from Cresswell. Perez, however, scuffed the ball right in front of goal. But, that’s alright. West Ham only paid £4 million for him and that’s a bargain.

Gradually, West Ham did get on top. They have a player called Rice, who seems to have been correctly potty trained, as he is able to defend and distribute the ball with flair.
However, by half time, it appeared West Ham didn’t have a player who could score.

This was completely disproved in the second half. But first of all, there was a complete mess of a goal with Diangana, who is not even a defender and was not involved in what was happening, played Southampton onside. Fabianski made a brave attempt but the ball was bundled in. I felt frustrated and, contrary to my theories, it was not sexual.

But then, joy upon joy, Anderson burst into life with a wonderful strike and West Ham are level.

Now, Carroll is on. He immediately makes an impact and I hope Southampton have an ambulance at the ready.

Then, what a goal! What a comeback! Antonio breaks from defence, then a beauty of a pass to Anderson to absolutely bury it. Wunderbar! His superego is back. What did Pellegrini do to him at half time – give him psychoanalysis or perhaps a piece of apple strudel. And then another brilliant play by Anderson with a cutback to Perez, whose shot was blocked.

Then, we seemed to be playing a new game of ‘who can give the ball away the most?’. Antonio breaks powerfully from the defence and his shot…..almost hits the corner post. Perhaps he should have gone to Specsavers.

The final whistle – the ultimate phallic symbol. There seems to be a lot of hugging between the players – the less said about that, the better.

Please check back after the match for the results.

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