The GoatyGav Column

Has the current squad got enough?

I don’t do transfer speculation often – generally preferring to reserve my opinions about players until their official signing has been announced on the WHUFC site. As a club West Ham are linked with hundreds of potential new players in each window. The rumour mill, fuelled by pure speculation in most cases, goes in to overdrive. But despite my reticence in commenting on prospective club targets I do think it worthwhile discussing what’s missing from the current squad and areas that are in need of further strengthening.

Since Cheikhou Kouyate and, to a lesser degree Pedro Obiang, moved on the biggest miss, for me, has been a dynamic and combative box to box midfielder. I know that many saw Check as having suffered bad form for a good season and a half before he was sold to Crystal Palace but I thought the wrong player was allowed to leave with Obiang having less impact on games than his Senegalese midfield contemporary. I know that many will disagree however I’m always of the belief that good players don’t suddenly become bad players and the phrase “form is temporary, class is permanent,” is one that I strongly believe in. I see Check’s sale as a mistake, borne of impatience, which Crystal Palace are now benefitting from.

So here we are today needing a ‘beast’ to dominate the middle of the park the way that Check used to. This area is where I believe that the board and team management should be looking to invest as the number one priority. I’ve heard, and seen, a few players identified to fulfil this role and it’s here that I’d like to see your next signing made. Personally I think that attacking midfield is already more than well catered for. If we could just get some of our more gifted manipulators of a football, in those areas, linking up and working better together then much of the excitement that I felt at the start of the season would return for sure.

With the recent, repeated, injury to Ben Johnson we’re also looking slightly light at full back. Now that Fredericks is out the requirement has become more of an imperative. Elsewhere in defence, namely at centre back, I believe that we are well catered for. With the return to fitness of Winston Reid we now have four central defenders of quality who should be trusted to do the job for us. Whether that should be as a back three or as a pairing is another discussion but, with some excellent young prospects like Alese, currently out on loan at Accrington Stanley, and Akinola, having just made a huge impact in his first game back after a year out with injury, this is a very healthy state of affairs at the base of the outfield spine. Which links rather nicely to our third area needing an addition to the squad.

I could feel the collective hearts of our fanbase sink when ‘Super Fab’ broke down again in the game on Friday. David Martin has done well, with the exception of the one mistake made after he replaced Lucasz, however another experienced keeper is needed. Whether Darren Randolph will eventually sign or not isn’t really known. No disrespect but the amount being discussed for a transfer fee I do find quite surprising. Despite all this the good news is that, according to the official site, a scan has shown that Fab may only be out for a couple of weeks. Let’s hope so.

Lastly I think that further striker backup should be sought. Should Seb Haller pick up an injury, and considering he gets kicked up in the air every time he plays this is a likely scenario, we will be looking extremely light. Yes, Antonio can play there and is nearing a return, however he’s really not at all effective up front on his own and I can’t see a starting line-up with him and Ajeti any time soon.

So that’s it IMO. Seventeen more days to make four key signings. I doubt we’ll end up seeing all four positions strengthened but those are the ones I believe are most important. Overall I think we’ll have enough to stay up however that wasn’t what I had envisaged at the beginning of the season. I hope the boys push on and start putting points on the board towards a top half finish.

Away from the first team the ladies thought they’d secured a draw but lost two-one to Tottenham Women. The same score as the reverse fixture but this time the local rivals clinched victory deep in to injury time to take all three points.

Without squad captain Connor Coventry and dynamic winger Nathan Holland the U23’s winning run came to an end with a three-three draw away at Reading. Holland linked up with former Hammer Marcus Browne who’s on loan to Oxford from Middlesboro. With Oxford three-nil down at half time, to fellow promotion chasers Rochdale, Holland was introduced and had a positive impact with Oxford winning the second half one-nil. Coventry was a starter for Lincoln City who drew one all away to Shrewbury. It will be interesting to see how the loanees get on for the rest of the season.

Have a good week all

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

Things To Be Thankful To Manuel Pellegrini For

I mentioned it at the time but I felt it was a shame that Pellegrini failed to get West Ham in to the top six to eight in the Premier League. I realise that he wasn’t everyone’s cuppa but I liked the way he handled himself. When he first joined I thought that the ‘project’ undertaken was one that would take us to the next level of securing European football by finishing sixth or seventh, which often delivers a Europa League place with a view to top four finishes thereafter. I also said that people should look at what MP did at Malaga and Villareal, with relatively limited budgets, to get both sides to semi-finals of Champion’s Leagues outside of his title win with Man City and the record points total delivered at Real Madrid.

Everywhere Pellegrini has been he’s bought wisely. With big, and more modest, budgets he’s had an eye for a good player and has been extremely successful in the transfer markets. West Ham has been no exception to this. Good money has been spent but the quality of those brought in has been extremely high. I believe with all my heart that the squad that Manuel has left behind is one of the strongest we’ve seen at the club.

Before anyone accuses me of wearing the rose tinteds I would also like to put on record my huge disappointment in the football that was being delivered of late. The squad looked dispirited, lacked confidence and performances have been lacklustre to say the least. I’ll never really know if the ‘dressing room was lost’ or if something else was going on but I do have eyes and could clearly see the lack of commitment and effort on the pitch from many of the players.

At the start of this season I was more optimistic than I can remember being about the campaign compared to previous years. In the first half a dozen matches it appeared that the team were going to push on from the strong finish of the previous term. Then Fabianski got injured, confidence and belief visually ebbed away and never seemed to return. Perhaps MP has learned that he requires bigger budgets to play the kind of football that he, patently, believes in, and sticks rigidly to, to be successful in the Premier League.

All things boiled down, however, we did manage to attract a top manager, with winning credentials, to our club and that has to be viewed as a positive. So it’s a big thank you, from me, to Manuel Pellegrini for what he’s done for West Ham United and the condition he’s left us in. Thanks for showing faith, and playing a huge part in the development of, Declan Rice. We’ve got a holding midfielder of true Premiership quality who, if he continues to develop, will become one of the best in the game. Thanks for bringing Lucasz Fabianski, Felipe Anderson, Sebastien Haller, Pablo Fornals, Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena to our club. Ok, maybe not Roberto, who I do feel extremely sorry for, but a manager will never get every single one of his signings right. Whatever Manuel moves on to do I wish him all the best. He’s a top manager and, I’m sure, will go on to further successes in the future.

No game for the Ladies last weekend as sickness ravaged the squad to the point where the scheduled match with Everton Women was postponed. Hopefully the Ironesses will be fully recovered for their visit to Tottenham Women scheduled for Sunday. The prospect of three points against Tottenham are always highly motivational however a win in that one, by a two goal margin, and the ladies will go above their opponents in the table. I’m sure they’ll be more than up for it when next Sunday arrives.

Happy tidings to report for the mighty Under twenty-threes. Yesterday saw the lads play their home match against title rivals, Manchester United, at Dagenham. A brilliant team performance saw the young Hammers run out two-nil winners against a Manyoo team who were on an amazing seven game winning run. Unsure of whether Nathan Holland would be risked ahead of his loan to Oxford United the former Everton youngster put the game to bed by scoring the second goal, after his assist for the first, before moving to the Kassam Stadium for the remainder of the season. I wish him every success in his time at title challenging Oxford where I’m sure he’ll do really well. Holland is the type of player that I really enjoy watching when running at opposition defenders. He creates opportunities for others as well as bagging his fair share of goals himself and, like Grady Diangana, I’d love to see him eventually make the grade at West Ham. The Under twenty-threes have now opened up a four point lead over the Red Devils having played fourteen of the twenty two game season. The only negative from yesterday was Jo Anang collecting a second yellow card in the game and being, subsequently, dismissed. However it was great to see centre back Akinola return to the fold after a year long lay off. The next couple of games are going to be very important without the keeper and Holland and I wish Dan Halajko’s charges all the best for those challenging matches. Next up a visit to eighth placed Reading.

Have a good week all.

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

My Best Eleven Of The Decade

It’s all about opinions so here’s my first eleven of the 2010’s. No natural full backs, I know, just our four best defensive players in my opinion with Rice and Check able to do a job to the left and right of JC & Diop. Over both stints with us I’d have definitely included Joe Cole but, sadly due to injury, doesn’t get in on merit for his brief, injury blighted, time with us in 2012-‘13 & ’13-’14.

1. Lukasz Fabianski
2. James Collins
3. Issa Diop
4. Cheikhou Kouyate
5. Declan Rice
6. Mark Noble
7. Scott Parker
8. Marko Arnautovic
9. Michail Antonio
10. Manuel Lanzini
11. Dimitri Payet

Subs: -
San Miguel Adrian
Aaron Cresswell
Pablo Zabaletta
Felipe Anderson
Victor Moses
Diafra Sakho
Andy Carroll


The GoatyGav Column

Hate To Say We Told You So – Fan’s Calls For Haller Strike Partner Are Answered In Kind

In his first few games for West Ham Seb Haller looked the real deal. Even against Man City his movement and interplay with others looked decent and gave us hope that we would, once again, be looking at a striker capable of 15+ top flight goals per season. Carlton Cole’s haul of fifteen, in the 2011-12 season, consisted of fourteen in the Championship and before that Marlon Harewood managed eighteen in the same division, with four others, then sixteen in total, fourteen of which were in the top flight, in consecutive seasons between 2004-’06. The last time a striker managed the feat was in the 1999-2000 season when the mercurial Paulo di Canio netted sixteen in the Premier League.

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It became clear that the negative comments being made towards our record signing were starting to have an effect on him when he spoke out publicly about some sections of support placing blame at his door for the team’s poor form. I remember commenting a few times about how Seb must be wondering what he’s left a successful team, who are playing in Europe, for. The Sun newspaper report broke the story that Haller was upset that he was being portrayed as lazy, that fans were unhappy with his work ethic and expected more from him. I wonder if opinions have changed since the change of shape of the team at St Mary’s last Saturday evening?

In the first half of last weekend’s game you could have been mistaken for thinking that Haller and Antonio had been playing up front together for years. It was a real joy to behold. If their partnership is allowed to flourish we could have a truly potent strike force on our hands. In today’s game it’s very rare that you get the likes of a, 1985-’86 equivalent, Cottee/McAvennie haul but I’d really like to see our current two be given time together to cause the same kind of havoc in opposition defences that they did against Southampton.

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For those who were stating that “there’s a reason the top clubs weren’t in for Haller this Summer,” I’m over the moon for the Frenchman to have shoved those words firmly down the throats of his detractors. In your face nay-sayers!

All Super Seb needed was someone to play off. It’s as plain as day that he cannot operate as a lone striker. He played in an extremely effective front three at Frankfurt. He often acted as a foil for Luka Jovi? or Ante Rebi? with the triumvirate netting an incredible fifty-seven times during last season with Seb hitting twenty of them. This is not a selfish striker but a true team player and a massive asset to our club. He has been adapting to the Premier League and, if allowed to play alongside another front man like he did last weekend, is only going to improve for us.

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Another player who has taken time to adapt but is now showing signs of improvement is Pablo Fornals. He is a truly classy midfielder for me. Technically gifted with great vision and awareness along with a tremendous strike I can only see him getting better and better. With Mark Noble playing so many games, missing very few minutes this season and even fewer in the last six matches, the central midfield area is one that we are going to need plenty of backup in. This season to date Nobes has started fifteen of our seventeen outings in the Prem as well as our solitary League Cup sojourn.

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I know that the lads were hanging on towards the end of the game on Saturday however the overall performance was light years better than we’ve been watching lately. There was a pace and purpose in our passing that I’ve not seen for quite some time – long may it continue!

The ladies match against Bristol City, scheduled for yesterday, was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch (amazing – eh?) however the highlights of the emphatic seven-nil win against Crystal Palace can now be viewed on the official site. click here for the official site page with the video content. Leanne Kiernan headed the opener following a well worked corner, Laura Vetterlein glanced the next home directly from another corner, Adriana Leon capitalised on a sloppy keeper clearance for the third, a sweet strike from outside the box for the fourth was hit by Kenza Dali, a good team goal finished by Kate Longhurst provided the fifth, an absolute top draw peach of a lob, and certain goal of the season contender, from Dali for the sixth and some very sharp, slick play before a cool finish from Longhurst for the last one showed the gap in class between the two teams.

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Despite an impressive four-nil win it wasn’t all good news for the PL2 team earlier today (as I write). Sadly Ben Johnson left the field with an injury having already suffering a long lay off since the start of this league campaign. Backup at Right Back is needed in the first team squad and after Ben’s encouraging pre-season performances with the first team his hamstring injury has kept him out for months so it was good news he was making his second comeback game. Limping off after fifteen minutes the poor lad looked disconsolate and may be in for another lengthy lay off. With the lightening quick Wilfred Zaha in the offing for the opposition in our next Premier League match it’s a blow we could have done without.

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A gap now until our next match will hopefully provide the players with some rest and recuperation ahead of the visit to Selhurst Park on Boxing Day. Let’s hope the boys can do the business in South London to bring Christmas joy to us Hammers.

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

When You’re In The Trenches You Need Graft Not Craft

Compare the sight of Felipe Anderson strolling around and Robert Snodgrass chasing everything on Monday night was like comparing chalk and cheese. Not that there was much craft on show from any of the players you could easily identify those who were fully committed to the cause and those who were, candidly speaking, passengers.

Towards the end of last season Anderson could be seen tracking back and putting in challenges with the best of them. He seemed to start to understand the concept that there is an expectation for him to defend and to attack. On Monday night that went straight out of the window. It wasn’t just that he strolled around while we were out of possession. He could be seen holding back when we had the ball with opportunities to catch, a defensively poor, Arsenal out of shape. The entire team seems incapable of quick counter attacking. The slow, patient build up, with the ball moving from one side of the pitch to the other, has been drilled in to the players to the extent that it’s become our distinct MO which many teams are finding easy to defend against with an increasing regularity.

At the start of the game Anderson seemed to take up a number ten ‘role in the hole’ which suits him much better. As the game progressed, however, he drifted out to the flanks, mainly the left, and had less and less of an influence.

Don’t get me wrong. Anderson was not alone in his low work rate but there were those few, who it was plain to identify, put in a shift and left nothing on the pitch. I’ve already mentioned Robert Snodgrass but Declan Rice and Mark Noble also worked their socks off for the team. After a slight dip in form around the time of the recent England call ups ‘Deccers’ has started to put in man of the match winning performances again. I watched the Southampton game with my nephew, Tim, who, quite correctly, observed that Rice didn’t give the ball away once but won it on numerous occasions.

Manuel Pellegrini now finds himself in new territory. He’s never experienced a relegation scrap in the top tier of English football. As many of you will know I’ve backed him as much as possible as I would really love to see him succeed at our club. His teams play nice, entertaining, football and he’s been successful with similarly positioned teams as West Ham in Malaga and Villareal. A battle for survival in the Premier League, however, is a different kettle of fish altogether.

Right now we need players with the same attitude and approach as the Snodgrasses, Rices and Nobles of this world. Battlers who will bust a gut for the cause. Come 5.30 on Saturday you can count on, an improved, Southampton being ready to go to war. If the same attitude of many of the players is brought at St Mary’s then I can’t see us coming away with anything.

Although under different circumstances than the West Ham players find themselves in the Everton team’s effort levels last weekend should be held as an example for what is needed. The pride that the Evertonians showed in the shirt was plain for all to see. The fact that ex-player, Duncan Ferguson, took charge in the manager’s seat for the game was a huge contributing factor to the performance of the home team at Goodison Park but the lessons to be drawn remain. They wanted the result more than Chelsea did and made sure they gave everything they had to try and ensure a winning outcome. Comparing the performance of the blue half of Merseyside and Manuel Pellegrini’s charges is like comparing night and day.

Away from the first team, which is where many of us would choose to be at the moment, the U23, PL2, team played out an entertaining draw with Fulham. Two nil up at half time, through goals from Amadou Diallo and Dan Kemp, the boys in Claret and Blue were well on top. After a goal from Fulham Joe Powell finished off a brilliant move by Halajko’s team to go three one up on eighty minutes. Two late strikes from Fulham, however, meant that the honours ended even and our boys left feeling they let the game slip. Despite this they still head the division but now only by a single point from an in form Mancheter United.

Elsewhere the women went one up at Liverpool on five minutes when Adriana Leon scored. The West Ham ladies continued to dominate for much of the remainder of the first half, and had opportunities to go further ahead, before Liverpool began to grow in to the game. The match ebbed and flowed in the second half before Liverpool got themselves a, slightly fortuitous, equaliser. The final whistle went and the spoils were shared in a one all draw leaving the Ironesses in eighth place. With a win and a draw, in the last two games, ending Matt Beard’s teams losing streak they go up against Bristol City next Sunday. Best of luck to the girls.

Addendum: Since writing this the ladies recorded a resounding 7-0 win against Crystal Palace in the Continental sponsored League Cup. Sadly they haven’t qualified for the knockout stages of the competition but a big congrats to Matt Beard and his team on a great final game – terrific stuff.

COYI!


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