The GoatyGav Column

Building from the back – Is there any other way to find a solid defence?

When a new manager arrives at a club they bring with them a certain way of doing things. Their ‘Modus Operandi, or ‘MO’ if you prefer, is driven by their own beliefs about how the game should be played. Very occasionally a manager is lucky enough to inherit players who either suit the system they would like to introduce or, if even more fortunate, add strength in areas where the said manager is lacking. When Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal he was taking on a team that had the best organised defence in the country. Bruce Rioch had already begun the work that Arsene continued but both men were the benefactors of Geroge Graham’s defensively constructed squad. Many have observed that Arsene Wenger was at his most successful during his early years managing the Gunners. A large percentage of the observations have put those cups and championships down to the strength that already existed at the back with the famous Arsenal ‘Back Four’ of Lee, Dixon, Adams and Keown. With David Seaman behind them it was a formidable back line. Without them you could speculate that Manchester United would have completely dominated the nineties and early noughties. Whether this defensively proficient team was added to by either Rioch or Wenger is still being debated but bringing in Patrick Viera added further steel to match that of Roy Keane’s addition to Alex Ferguson’s squad at Manchester United.

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Observations have put those cups and championships down to the strength that already existed at the back

Love him or loathe him Mr Allardcye made West Ham hard to beat. He organised the team in such a way that opposing sides found very hard to break down. Probably more effective than, even, Mr Allardyce is Tony Pulis in this respect. Within a very short space of time Pulis managed to turn things around for Crystal Palace and save them from, almost, certain relegation. Not just at Palace either – West Brom was another challenge. In fact the two are very similar with the Welshman, in my estimation, edging it due to slightly greater tactical knowledge. Be that as it may you have to admit, however, that our last team manager brought much needed organisation and discipline to the squad. One thing that both managers share is that they played as defenders during their career. When they arrive at new clubs they busily set about getting their respective defences organised and solid. Every player knows his job exactly. A no-nonsense, or safety first, approach is generally introduced as well as strong players in advanced positions who can ‘hold’ the ball until they’re able to bring in team mates. Wide players, and play, are preferred with lots of crosses coming in from the flanks for those strong forwards to get on the end of. A very simplistic view which, as we know, in reality is far more scientific but it’s a system that has worked very effectively. Both managers have never been relegated despite, on many occasions, being appointed by clubs in poor league positions in need of a manager to ‘make them safe’.

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Within a very short space of time Pulis managed to turn things around

Moving on to Slaven you would expect, being an ex-defender himself, that he would have come in and done something similar . Perhaps he would have been better off if he hadn’t inherited a solid back line and could have built his own. When Slaven arrived, however, the defence was not the no.1 priority. A more exciting, entertaining, brand of football was demanded by the club’s owners and many fans. That meant the signing of several players with good technical ability, who suited a system of play that involved passing through midfield, was undertaken. Lanzini and Payet as well as Angelo Ogbonna, who was used to the more technical form of defending whilst playing in Italy, joined Pedro Obiang and Michael Antonio, with Victor Moses on loan, as new signings. My personal feeling about that transfer window was that it was our best ever. Best I can remember anyway. Following that Super Slav went about getting the team playing less percentage balls and more short passes out of defence and through midfield. Personally I felt like we’d got ‘our West Ham’ back. All was rosy in the garden in our last ever season at the Boleyn Ground. Then the move and Monsieur Payet’s sulk. One of the best transfer windows in 2015 was followed by one of the worst in the Summer of ’16. Who’s fault that was is subject to debate but, all boiled down, many players flattered to deceive and we came crashing back down to earth. The rest is history which I don’t have time to cover off right now – suffice to say the honeymoon period of Slav’s first season is a distant memory.

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By comparison West Ham’s development has been a succession of speedboat turn after speedboat turn.

Overall I get the feeling that, rather than building from the back, there’s an element of sticking plaster upon sticking plaster. If the team are going to be successful in the future there needs to be a longer term plan. With manager changes every three years this becomes very difficult but not impossible. Some clubs do manage it. Southampton’s ‘Black Box’ model, like one of the steady ocean liners leaving the city’s port, contributes to a longer term overall plan. By comparison West Ham’s development has been a succession of speedboat turn after speedboat turn.

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James Collins put in more than one ‘Man of the Match’ performance during last season’s run in.

So what now? We’ve had a quarter of a season played and we linger in the bottom quarter of the table. I’m not sure it’s all doom and gloom however. Personally I feel that most of the work to do is at the back. When a defence is looking strong it’s far easier to play with more confidence and that’s Slaven’s main challenge. Going back to the ‘no nonsense’ approach I want to highlight one player who I feel made a massive contribution to our late, good, form last season. James Collins put in more than one ‘Man of the Match’ performance during 2017’s run in. He was an absolute rock. Played some of the best football of his career. Occasionally it was ‘Row Z’ clearances but his presence seemed to garner confidence at the back which permeated forwards up the pitch. Looking at Physio Room Ginge is going to be out until mid-late November. Reid and Fonte make up our other two on the injured roster. Not a great position to be in having three Centre Backs out at the same time eh? The sooner JC can get back the better so far as I’m concerned.

Overall, for me, it’s currently about regaining confidence which will only come if things are shored up at the back. Whether Declan Rice, Angelo Ogbonna and Kouyate can step up in the next couple of games, or if it’s we’re going to have to wait for the return of Ginge and Reidy, remains to be seen however I do wonder if Slav will have that much time. Sincerely hope so.

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A lesson learned but a costly one.

Looking back to last Saturday I can’t quite get over how naive the team were in the final minute of the game. I’m not a fan of watching the clock out in the corner. It’s not what you pay your money for but, frankly, crossing a ‘low percentage’ ball whilst under little pressure was a poor decision. One of a few options that he shouldn’t have had. By that I mean it really didn’t need three other players charging forward at that stage – leaving the midfield completely exposed in front of defence. A lesson learned but a costly one. We all make mistakes, and I’m certainly not going to stop being a fan of Michail Antonio, but that was a hard one to forgive at the time and I won’t repeat what I yelled when Zaha, subsequently, found the back of the net. I’m sure, however, that it will be a hard lesson for Michail as the dressing room will not have been an easy place for him to be afterwards. One that will probably stick in the memory. Apart from Antonio’s error the entire team were nervous and negative, in the second half, whilst inviting pressure and opportunities for Palace to create goal scoring chances. Work to do there.

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I like to end on a positive note and this news did give me some cheer when I read it. After he has patiently stuck to the task I’m very pleased for Reece Oxfrod who took his Bundeslige bow as a sub last weekend in a 3-1 win over Hoffenheim. Let’s hope the door of opportunity stays open for Reece in the coming weeks and he capitalises in confident fashion. Mönchengladbach’s next game is against FC Mainz on Saturday , who sit in 13th, so if Reece gets the nod it will, hopefully, be a winning home debut. Other encouraging stuff comes from the U21’s game against Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night. Another great win, this time 3-1, for the lads with a great return from Samuelson and more goals from Martinez. Very much liking what Nathan Holland is doing this season too Great stuff!

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


The GoatyGav Column

When Managers Expect From Their Players What They Put In Themselves

In any walk of life there are managers. They come in all varieties with various styles and methodologies. Some have the benefit of experiencing the position of those that they manage, much like an ex-player who becomes a manager in football, while others have little or no experience ‘walking the walk’. In a very long career in sales, which began in the school yard buying and selling little electronic games with LCD screens, I’ve worked under managers who have been in sales themselves and managers who haven’t. I’ve also managed a couple of sales teams back in the days when I worked in retail. Looking back I can remember how it felt when a member of the team was not ‘putting it in’. I expected the same level of effort and dedication that I gave when I was in sales. I would supply the right level of motivation and encouragement but found it extremely difficult when a member of ‘my’ team dragged their feet.

So take a player like Zabba. What a dream he must be to manage.
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So take a player like Zabba. What a dream he must be to manage. It’s players like that who you choose as your right hand – your leaders on the pitch. Mark Noble can never be criticised for lack of effort. A true 100%er who leads by example.

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Then take the superstars who you bring in. The ‘Di Canios’ and ‘Cantonas’ of this world. You’ll accept them not tracking back (although I would suggest that Paulo’s work rate was better than Eric’s) because they contribute so much with their skill, vision and flair.

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Supposedly we signed a superstar this summer. A record club signing with talent to burn. Ok – we knew Marko Arnautovic tended not to work to help the team out when we hadn’t got the ball but we’ll put up with that because he creates so much – right? He’s certainly as moody and unpredictable in character as PDC or ‘King Eric’, I’ll grant him that, but we knew that before he signed.

Cheikhou Kouyate, by contrast in styles, has been one of my favourite players since he arrived at West Ham in 2014. Rarely had I ever seen a player go shoulder to shoulder with Yaya Toure and come away with the ball. Box to box he would rapidly turn defence in to attack. Useful at set pieces too – you could see he enjoyed Payet’s free kicks when they weren’t going straight in the back of the net. Since the summer he’s barely recognisable to the player of former seasons. There have been flashes of his combative play but not consistently. So I’m asking myself why this should be. As far as I know he’s not struggling with injury. Could it be the current atmosphere in the dressing room?

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Another reason could be illustrated by history.

There is definitely something going wrong with the team’s motivation at present? What else could be happening other than a talented but work-shy player who isn’t contributing affecting the team’s motivation? Well another reason could be illustrated by history. When Mr Allardyce came in to the final season of his three year contract a very similar situation arose IMO. Contract talks were on hold and Mr Allardyce’s future at the club was in serious doubt. Result – a complete collapse in form after Christmas that saw us narrowly avoid relegation. I know it’s not 2018 yet but is the same effect of the 3 year deal policy, that the club’s board seem to prefer, kicking in earlier this time around? The same change in demeanor of the manager is happening to Slaven that happened to Mr Allardyce in his final season. When this happens to a manager the inevitable will ensue and players will be affected.

As for player led meetings I pay that little credence. Overly inflated media talk IMHO.

So putting myself in Slaven’s shoes how must it be, at present, managing a situation where you have a player who is creating very little whilst offering nothing to win the ball back from the opposition (apart from the odd, badly timed, ridiculous lunge that gets you sent off)? Slaven is a manager that is out there kicking every ball. You can visibly see his frustration when things break down on the pitch. It’s one of the things that endeared so many fans to him when he first arrived. The passion and frustration he showed was so similar to our own. He has a huge amount to contend with which is being added to by the fans beginning to turn as well. He needs to find the motivation to turn things around like, I suspect, he must have done at half time last night.

So I’m going to finish on a far more positive note. I can’t write without mentioning last night’s game. It was ‘real’ cup football for me. Took me back. Unlike some I don’t think we played that badly in the first half and were unlucky to go in 2-0 down. I think that the lads worked quite hard and, as a result, one or two niggling errors started to creep in to Spurs’ play in the latter part of the half. A miss-control here and a misplaced pass there seemed to sneak under the radar of many but I felt the signs were starting to show that our boys were getting to them. There were some good signs on view. Players were passing and moving and we had a few spells where we held the ball against one of the best, if not THE best, pressing team in the Premier League. It just seemed to completely break down when it got up to Carroll and Ayew. The big difference in the second half was that Carroll and Ayew were transformed. Andrew Ayew especially. The midfield seemed to gain belief and supported the strikers better, as they were sitting a little too deep in the first half, but Ayew was the catalyst. Man of the match performance in my book. Carroll was also effective. Lanzini grew in to it and created chances. Declan Rice showed great character after his, very unlucky, deflection for their second goal. Sam Byram did a great job. Cressers had a good game. Adrian had a blinder. Good performances all but I feel that an unsung hero of the evening was Edmilson Fernandes. Positive and intelligent he seemed to be the one putting us on the front foot when it came through him.

Positive and intelligent he seemed to be the one putting us on the front foot when it came through him.

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What a joy to watch – brilliant stuff.

Adrian had a blinder

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I love cup football. Nail biting, edge of your seat, 100mph, hanging on to your potatoes, do or die stuff. The league is the bread and butter but the cup is, so often, where it’s at for excitement. Absolutely love it.

COYI! WEST HAM 4 THE CUP!


The GoatyGav Column

Imperative To Hoof - Because There's A Big Target?

A conversation with a close friend, over a couple of beerios, during an England game some time ago migrated to a discussion about Andy Carroll. Not a fan of ‘Wor Andy’ my friend dismissed him as a bit of a lump up front to aim for. As the chat developed I voiced my opinion that tall players often had great touch, vision and technique. For the first time I heard the theory that, with AC in a team, the style of play would become one of hitting long, straight balls from defence in the general direction of him instead of building play and working on keeping possession. I took this on board. Since that time I’ve heard the same thing said by many other football fans. On this very site I’ve seen the ‘we always resort to hoofing it when Carroll’s in the side’ view offered by a number of posters.

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It’s only recently that I have begun to question this. Just because you have a big, tall and strong centre forward does a team have to, or always resort to, by-pass/ing midfield with balls pumped forward directly from defence to attack?

If a team has a way of playing, dictated by the manager and coaching staff, then why dispense with everything that you work on the moment a ‘target man’ is on up front?
When playing a run of games at Liverpool I don’t remember that team always resorting to route 1 . Far from it. All kinds of different goals were scored by AC in his time on Merseyside. Some great examples, admittedly including some where he has used his strength and aggressiveness, on show from the following video. The footwork in goal number 11 illustrates the point fittingly: -

The footwork in goal number 11 illustrates the point fittingly.

AC has great touch and technique. He is quite capable, adept even, at manipulating a football on the ground. The ‘good feet for a big man’ tag, albeit a cliché that belongs back in the ‘70’s IMO, is extremely apt in Andy Carroll’s case.

Towards the end of last season, and at the start of this campaign, I’ve become increasingly frustrated with West Ham passing the ball backwards from good attacking positions back towards Joe Hart before it’s ‘wellied’ straight back towards the opposing 18 yard box. I’ve seen it happen from free kicks past the half-way line for goodness sake. And, from memory, when Hart has ‘sent it’ downfield it’s never been diagonally to the flanks. I can’t see that our coaches are telling the players to pass backwards to their keeper. So where does it come from? It’s seldom successful, except for on Saturday when Antonio ran on to a long ball from Hart (although that was following a neat Kouyate interception and quick ball to catch Burnley while they were exposed so could, with a little licence, be described as a swift counter attack), and, I suspect, even our 6’5’ Geordie striker has got pretty fed up with it along with so many of the rest of us.

More positively writing this piece has given me a good excuse to share the footage of that amazing goal from last season (any excuse quite frankly): -

Ok – since Lanzini has come back from injury we’ve started to see far, far less of this turgid, agricultural style employed. Count our lucky stars that the ‘Jewel’ has returned but I still wonder why the temptation has been to use such tactics. Is it really because there’s a unit to get on the end of the high, lofted balls? The team really should have far more confidence than that. Seldom should a team play that way just because a Peter Crouch or Andy Carroll are in the side. There’s far more to their game than that and teams of professional footballers should not be influenced to play that way. They’re not the only ones either. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is another technically excellent player as the following goal, which I rate as one of the best ever, demonstrates : -

I know much of the conversation, this week, has been around the pony-tailed one in Claret & Blue however i think this gives a slightly different slant on an old theory. Long range bombardment really doesn’t have to be the way to play, or even get the most from, the likes of Mr Carroll.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


The GoatyGav Column

Managerial Witch-Hunts - Par For The Course?

Being a top level Football manager nowadays is a high pressure job. Like any other manager you get flack from all angles. Flack from higher management. Flack from colleagues. Flack from staff and flack from customers. Internally and externally there’s usually stuff hitting the fan from everywhere. When it comes to the Premier League, and other top Football leagues, this is intensified hugely. It really isn’t a job for the faint hearted. The scrutiny is massive with examination of every aspect under the microscope. In all fairness, with contracts at several £M to do the job, that’s fair game and to be expected.

Elsewhere, unlike many other clubs, our opponents this weekend have stuck by their man.

On top of all of the analysis, to the nth degree, there’s then all the speculation to put up with. This is the part where things can get a little nasty in my opinion. Rumours about who said what to who begin and gain momentum. Before you know it the Chinese whisper effect has kicked in and the manager is about to get the sack. Some, so called fans, even begin to hope for the team to lose to speed up a Manager’s demise. Something I never have, and would never, call for. Plain stupidity, and ‘turning on your own’ to do so IMHO.

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It’s not unreasonable to expect that a Football manager will lose his job if he doesn’t do well. Hard as it may seem to believe even a Manager who won the Premier League the previous season, and progresses his team beyond the group stages of the Champion’s League, is not immune to the tin tack if their team is loitering in or around the relegation zone for too long. Success will buy you a certain amount of time, nowadays, but a losing streak will do the opposite. So what constitutes a witch-hunt and, conversely, what is justifiable criticism? Personally I believe that the true barometer is what gets said at games. Dissatisfaction will creep in and you’ll hear it. I totally get fan frustration at matches. Although I’ve never done it myself even booing a team can happen. On two occasions the OS/LS crowd have booed the substitution of Chicha. Both times, however, those subs have proven exactly the right thing to do. Whether Javier is being utilised correctly in match may be another matter and, perhaps, has drawn justifiable criticism. I’m sure that situation will continue to be scrutinised in the coming games which may lead to even more ‘speculation’ and ‘rumours’ of Hernandez wanting away.

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If England don’t win the World Cup as, by the time next Summer’s tournament comes around, they will be expected to do then the same media outlets raising expectation will be calling for Gareth Southgate’s head. Optimism ahead of a major tournament is ok but when it becomes unrealistic then it’s damaging. I’d far rather hear “let’s qualify through the group and take it from there,” than “we’re going to win the World Cup,” when next Summer comes around.

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So I ask a couple of questions. Where’s the balance and realism gone in fan expectation at West Ham and where do you draw the line between fair criticism and a witch-hunt? SJ Chandos’ great piece about John Lyall earlier this week outlined what a mistake it was to let him go – especially in the manner that he was dismissed. At the time of his dismissal he was the longest serving manager in the game. Alex Ferguson had contacted John Lyall on more than one occasion for advice. Under his tenure West Ham won trophies and had their highest ever league position finish to a season. I wonder what West Ham would have achieved were it not for sacking one of their greatest managers and, like SJ Suggests, how John Lyall might have brought on the next West Ham manager to follow him. We can only speculate but I’ll strongly suggest that we wouldn’t have been following ‘Division 1’ football in the Premier League’s inaugural season. One poster outlined the ‘Lyall Out’ chants that could be heard by the fans in that final year – despite the overwhelming support he got, with his name being sung to the rafters, in his final home game against Luton and the 5 wins in the final 7 games.

Last season Slaven publically called out the Arsene Wenger witch-hunt for what it was. Elsewhere, unlike many other clubs, our opponents this weekend have stuck by their man. Sean Dyche remained in charge at Burnley despite being relegated and, low and behold, bounced straight back the following season. Newcastle have hardly been the model of managerial stability for the last few years however they did the same with Rafa Benitez and were similarly rewarded with an immediate return to the top flight. The same club made mistakes beforehand by getting rid of good managers before they’d really got a chance to influence a season properly. Despite not being his biggest fan I saw Mike Ashley’s dismissal of Sam Allardyce as a prime example of ‘hitting the panic button’ early.

I wonder how the next couple of months are going to play out for Slaven Bilic. I suspect that we’ll pick up sufficient points to keep most happy. The run of games that we have were described as ‘winnable’ however, if the team don’t do well in this period, pressure could become significant enough for the board to act. Inwardly I’m sure Slaven has been affected by the media pressure but like John Lyall all those years ago he is dignified, professional and calm under pressure. You can only admire the way that Super Slav deals with the intensely difficult situation that he has found himself in. The results so far this season, as in ’88-’89, have been poor. Let’s hope this season doesn’t finish the same way that one did. The injury list in that relegation campaign bordered on the ridiculous but, unlike back then, you can’t go out and buy replacement players at any point (despite Frankie Mac struggling before getting injured himself after his return from Celtic). Conversely the squads, nowadays, are much larger to help cope with the loss of players to the physio room.

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Lastly, completely off topic, I saw a brief interview with Reece Oxford on SSN last night. From what he said he’s fighting hard to get in to the team at Menchengladbach. Best of luck to him – great lad who I hope has a successful time in Germany.

COYI – West Ham 4 The Cup!


The GoatyGav Column

Player Chemistry – When Partnerships Click

On a day when England could qualify for the forthcoming World Cup in Russia I was thinking back to the great understanding that Sir Trev and Kevin Keegan cultivated in their time together for the National side. On so many occasions the pair of them came up with important goals made for and scored by each other. I’ve searched for footage but not been able to find the TV interview where they tested the ‘telepathic understanding’ claims using shapes on cards. Sir Trev and Kevin got remarkable scores in the experiment however Keegan later admitted that he had cheated as he could see the shapes on the cards being held up in the reflection in the TV Camera’s lense in the studio.

Keegan later admitted that he had cheated as he could see the shapes on the cards

Some examples of the pairing working so well can be viewed on Youtube at the following links. The first of which was a lovely 1-2 to set up the second goal against Scotland at Wembley.

& Keegan for Brooking before Keegan for Brooking’s lovely strike, that got wedged in the top corner of the net, when hugely up against it away in Hungary in a vital World Cup qualifier in 1981.

The 2-0 win against Italy was another great example.

It’s a beautiful thing when two players with great footballing intelligence combine in this way. For me Brooking and Keegan typified this ‘chemistry’ and became a terrific partnership. So often either would put the ball exactly where the other wanted it. In the overwhelming majority of occasions this would have been in front of the other player, maintaining the momentum of an attack, which I don’t think we see often enough nowadays. Passes played behind players make me groan at times. Yes there’s a time and a place for it however it generally gives the opposition time to re-shape and start to press which puts pressure on the team in possession. Not that I suspect it will make much difference to our national team but I will always encourage kids I coach to play passes in front of the player on the other end of the ball.

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Sir Trev and Keegan were brought on too late in the day against Spain, in the 0-0 draw that prevented our progress, in the last game of the World Cup in ’82 IMO. A shame that injuries prevented them spending much time together on the pitch in that particular tournament. For me one of those games that you remember exactly where you were.

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I wish the pair’s partnership could have been for club and country but I’m not too sure that Mr Len would have forked out the amount it would have taken to bring Kevin Keegan to West Ham back in those days. Perhaps those teams in the early ’80’s would have achieved so much more if he had’ve come.

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In terms of partnerships that did flourish at West Ham those old enough to remember the famous ‘Boys of ‘86’ will fondly recall the lethal Cottee/McAvennie strike partnership that was so effective and took us to the brink of the League Title. There were other great partnerships in that side between those like Alan Dickens and Alan Devonshire, Dickens also combined beautifully with Mark Ward too. I remember Geoff Pike linking up well with almost any player – extremely underrated IMHO. At the back you had our great captain, and all round top bloke, Alvin Martin alongside the charismatic Tony Gale who was solid as a rock – the pair of them combining to form a formidable partnership for the season. I could go on – there were so many that ‘Cliked’ in that best ever league campaign.

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It’s, potentially, a lethal combination that could yield a great number of goals

Of course it doesn’t always work. Players that you think would be great together just don’t seem to be able to gain an understanding. By now I think you’ve probably guessed where I’m going with this in relation the current season. Although it’s too early to call, and they’ve not had sufficient time to gel, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all expected much more of an Andy Carroll/Javiez Hernandez partnership. The long ball tactic that has been employed so many times this term, with the flick on or lay off coming from AC, just hasn’t been read by Chicha and/or Chicha hasn’t got it where he’s wanted it. It’s something that I would expect the pair of them to have been working on as it’s, potentially, a lethal combination that could yield a great number of goals. Instead of that the two of them look like strangers up there. If this partnership doesn’t come to fruition it will be a crying shame. I’m still hopeful, though, as there’s time for it to ‘Click’. Like Cottee and McAvennie I get the feeling that there’s a hint of ‘this town’s not big enough for the two of us’ sentiment knocking around. Looking back those two got over the gunslinger ‘style cramping’. Perhaps the international break might give the pair enough space, and Slaven enough time to find a better formation, for them to flourish by feeding off each other. Playing in correct positions to get the best out of your key players is important and it’s clear that Slaven is, very much, still finding out about the current squad with it’s quality additions this Summer. Food for thought for him ahead of the Burnley game.

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Could this be the start of something good between the pair of them?

I’m not a big fan of the ‘5 reasons why’ type internet posts. Whilst they bring up some interesting stats they very rarely give the whole picture on a specific subject. To a degree that was the case on the official club site this week in their “5 Reasons Why West Ham United’s Defensive Record Has Improved” “click here” :https://tinyurl.com/y9els4fk . That said it was an interesting piece that suggested that Reid and Fonte are developing a good combination at Centre Back. If you’ve read it I’d like to hear your thoughts on it and if you haven’t then please give it a look if you have time. I did think there was an element of blue sky optimism about the stats quoted. For one thing it doesn’t really consider the teams that we’ve been playing in September compared with August but the specific part about Reid and Fonte still stood out. There’s no denying that Fonte has looked better lately. Could this be the start of something good between the pair of them? Hope so – especially with Ginge out for a while.

Back to England Luthuania shouldn’t pose to difficult a question. A genuine ‘good luck’ to Scotland from me. Would be great to see a Scottish team at a World Cup finals again. Same goes for Northern Ireland who I’ve enjoyed watching. Between the ROI and Wales it’s only going to be one of the two who qualify, by the looks of things, so it’s down to a straight shootout between them in the final game to decide who goes through or gains a place in the play offs.

COYI – West Ham 4 The Cup!


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