The GoatyGav Column

Drubbing Has Not Defeated The, Sebastien Inspired, Sanguine Spirit

That was tough viewing in the second half. My brother and I were very pleased with what we saw in the first forty-five minutes. Apart from the goal, once again conceded from the left side of the pitch which caught the defence flat footed, the signs were very encouraging. The half time beer, like the football that preceded it, was crisp and lively with only the fizzy quality of both the Amstel and Walker’s run and cross unpleasant on the palate.

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The key cause for my optimism for the forthcoming season, however, is the contribution of Haller’s debut. He barely put a foot wrong and was instrumental in virtually all of what was good about the first half. Despite not training with the team for very long and having had less of a pre-season to many other players he was my West Ham man of the match by some distance. I thought that Arnie could provide a positive impact on a match however Haller is going to leave the Austrian former West Ham player’s contributions in the shade.
I can understand fans jitters when it comes to early season form. Once bitten twice shy is an easily induced position to hold after four straight defeats at the start of last season but I really don’t think we should be concerned. The start of 2019-20 sees a completely different situation for the team. With a total of six incoming players, of which only four are outfield, there’s nowhere near as much new blood to our starting line-up and with a more established team we’ll be a far more cohesive unit coming out of the blocks this time around.
So why such a poor second half than first then? Well it was simply a question of Man City improving as the game went on. Frankly I’m pleased the game finished when it did as we could easily have conceded more. That said our final ball and finishing were both well below the standard of our opponents. For me that was the biggest difference on Saturday afternoon.

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All that said there is still the ‘one half’ syndrome that has plagued the team for years now. Seldom has the team played well in both halves of a match. This is something that really does need addressing. I’m not convinced it’s down to fitness. Maybe we have players who feel that they can take their foot off the gas for periods during the game? Perhaps it’s a confidence thing? There was definitely an element of the latter on Saturday as the City players seemed to anticipate practically everything we did when in possession – a fact backed up by the stated stat of their 13 interceptions. Tactical fouls by City or not there’s no getting away from the fact that we played poorly in the latter half of the game compared to the earlier one. The streetwise nature of Pep’s team, with their thirteen fouls to our five, was a factor in the win but not a major one.
The stats from the game opens one’s eyes. An improved 44/56 possession ratio is an improvement on previous encounters with the PL Champions. Territorially we weren’t so inferior either – with 23.4% of play in City’s final third and 49.6% in the middle. Overall passes of 403 vs 547 with accuracy of 80.6% vs 86.5% (Source: Skysports) looks better than previous games too. There is, however, only one stat that matters. The amount of goals conceded in the last five games against City, compared to those scored, doesn’t make great reading.

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The VAR thing’s been done to death. Personally I think it’s a good thing. If it means fairer outcomes and help for ref then it’s got my approval.

I expect us to look far better against a decent Brighton next week. If the team can just keep an intensity going for the 90 minutes I genuinely think we’ll come away with all three points and be far happier Hammers come five o’clock on Saturday. Frankly the sooner we can get result against the Citizens out of our system the better.
I’ll be writing next week’s piece from Barcelona. I feel a cheeky stadium tour coming on for my boys, my younger lad’s mate who is with us, and I despite it being a ‘family’ holiday. You never know – I might even treat M’Julie to a trip to the Camp Nou. She really doesn’t know how lucky she is having such a considerate husband as me.

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Elsewhere I binge watched the Jack Sullivan documentaries on the BBC this weekend. Was even featured in episode 9 for a split second, with phone to my ear, at the start when they were showing some of the Ladies semi-final at Adams Park. There’s definitely a more engaged West Ham Women fan in me this season than at the start of last. If I had time to use it I’d have got a ST for the WSL games at Rush Green as well as the men’s first team this term. I will, however, try and get to as many games as I can to shout the girls on. I know that a number of last season’s squad have moved on to make way for new players but I was pleased to see the familiar faces from 2018-19 that are still on the roster. I look forward to their first game on the first of September and wish them all the best for the forthcoming season.

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Lastly, but definitely not least, I’d like to go on record to wish Dan Coker and his family my heartiest congratulations on his new arrival. Such a special time – made up for you mate :D . All the best with it – hope the babe settles in to a decent sleeping pattern as soon as possible.

COME ON YOU RIP ROARIN’ IRONS!


The GoatyGav Column

The Value Of A Signing

I was quite excited when Andy Carroll joined West Ham. At the time I felt like we were beginning to punch above our weight bringing the England striker to the club. Maybe on a higher level still Dimitri Payet was another example of a forward that raised the bar within the squad. You could argue that both players, during the time they spent on the pitch, were excellent value but, for different reasons, it’s not necessarily just about the minutes that they actually end up playing.

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In the case of AC I think you can probably see where I’m going with this. Having played so few games for us Carroll, sadly, could never be described as having provided decent value for money. Over six full season the Geordie target man played only a hundred and twenty-six games. Regardless of the fee paid by the club his wages alone meant that his contribution of thirty-three goals in those matches, in all competitions, turned out a poor investment. Should he have played more often it might have been a different story however.

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I think it’s safe to say that most West Ham fans were saddened by how things ended up with Payet. One aspect of his time at our club that I do find interesting was Slaven Bilic’s ability to get the best out of him. I’m not so sure that Dimitri doesn’t rue his move away from West Ham. It’s my firm held belief that he enjoyed his best football whilst with us in East London before things went sour and that, in no small part, owes to Slaven’s tutelage and management. All things considered you’d have to say that he was tremendous value for money for the club despite his signature song now being dedicated to a piece of claret carpet.

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The value of a signing is influenced hugely by how much a manager can get out of a player. Looking back at Alex Ferguson’s time at Manchester United you would have to say that he was a top level manager when it came to motivating his playing staff. In the main Sir Alex’s recruits were not stellar signings. Quite often I was surprised that particular players were brought in at Old Trafford during his reign. Considering the likes of Schmeichel, Solskjaer, Bruce, Evra, Stam and Irwin the value for money was phenomenal but even the, already, highly rated, recruits like Ronaldo, Cantona, Rooney Cole and Van Nistelrooy reached their potential under the expert guidance of Alex Ferguson.

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Part of this ability to eke out the best in players is the, deep rooted, knowledge of exactly how those players are going to fit in to the team and the qualities that they’re going to bring to the side. It’s a form of footballing intelligence that some managers seem to have in spades while others struggle with. Another aspect of the eventual value brought in by a player is the attitude/mentality they possess. In the case of Alex Ferguson this was as important as the player’s skill. How the player is going to apply themselves when they do arrive at a club is never a given but clever recruitment will ‘play the numbers’ to give the best chance of a favourable outcome.

Of course the chances of succeeding with player signings increases hugely with a manager’s ability to improve that player. Some top managers are masters of this. Pep Guardiola and Ferguson were both prime examples of that ability where others like Jose Mourinho have been more about top signings slotting in and doing a job.

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Had Andy Carroll have signed for Manuel Pellegrini the Chilean manager may well have managed him better. It’s a hypothetical argument, I know, and we’ll never know but it’s certainly true to say that some gaffers know how to get the best out of their players and things may well have been different for Wor Andy. Andriy Yarmolenko, despite being a different type of player, will hopefully be the beneficiary of MP’s ability to get more out of players than previous managers at the club. Given time, and If he can just avoid any further breakdowns, he may prove superb value.

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I’m confident that we have a manager at West Ham who falls in to the category of those who get more out of their recruits. It’s not always an instant hit. Sometimes players coming to the club take time to settle in to a side after a period of adjustment. At times last season the challenges that certain situations have brought Pellegrini have proven difficult but the professionalism with which he’s handled those situations, coming out the other side with players still contributing to the team, has been both admirable and favourable to other gaffers at West Ham in the past. Whoever we sign this summer I have faith that the manager will have applied all of his expertise in identifying as players with a high probability of delivering for us on the pitch. He’s one of those with that kind of savvy so in Manuel I trust.

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

So Do You Want A Multi-Billionaire Owner?

So Do You Want A Multi-Billionaire Owner?
It’s not always easy finding new subjects for a regular column. One of the aspects that needs to be considered is if a topic has been covered before. As I looked back through my more recent posts I decided to read one of them again – along with the comments made.

One article that I returned to was posted on the 18th December last year entitled ‘The Eye Of The Beholder, What We See in Players And A Tribute To Luca Campanaro’. As I read through the comments I happened upon one posted by ‘The Academy’. I had replied to The Academy’s comment as, it appeared that, he may have refereed the match that the U14s team I manage played in the previous weekend – where the Minute Silence was observed for Luca. I’m glad I checked back as, by the reply I’ve now read five months later, it turns out that The Academy was, indeed, the referee for the match in question. Small world isn’t it? Thanks for your kind comments about the team mate – the boys always make me feel proud. Your encouragement at Half Time and Full Time were greatly appreciated. If you’re around at any of the tournaments this Summer I may see you there.

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The main reason I went back so far was because I was positive that I’d already written about the pros and cons of having a mega-rich investor take over the club. As I don’t generally do closed season transfer speculation, choosing only to comment when a player actually joins the club, the Summer months tend to be a quieter time with posts not forthcoming on as regular a base as they are during the football season. The subject matter of the articles, therefore, tend to look at club issues from a more structural and behind the scenes view.

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In two season’s time David Sullivan and David Gold, the owners of West Ham at the time we moved to the OS/LS, will be in a position where they can sell the club without incurring any financial ‘legacy’ penalties. This fact, alone, considerably increases the likelihood of West Ham being sold at that time. As much as the club owners profess to be ‘in love’ with the club and are fans like the rest of us they are, at heart, businessmen. If I were cynical, which I’m not but if I were, I would suggest that the plan has been to take the club to the Olympic Stadium, make some money out of selling the Boleyn Ground, before selling the club on at a huge profit when able to do so while making some extra bunce in interest payments in the interim. Only time will tell if this will come to pass but, regardless of the speculation and as a supporter of West Ham, you have to ask yourself if this is the outcome that you want. Are the current owners that bad? Are you enjoying life as a West Ham fan or would you prefer it if a mega-rich investor ploughed over a billion quid in to the club, and team, to ‘buy’ success?

I was listening to Johnny Vaughan being interviewed on the radio a few months ago. A fully paid up Chelsea fan the celebrity spoke extensively about his longing for a time when he felt closer to the club and it’s struggle for success. He went on to describe how exciting it was to put one over on the big teams and never know what result you were likely to get from games against teams around you in the league. By contrast he doesn’t have the same enthusiasm about games against teams in the lower echelons due to the expectation of victory which usually transpires. Big victories meant so much more. Players seemed less mercenary and more like ‘one of our boys’. Going to matches was a more exciting experience and one that Vaughan longs for a return to. At present Manchester City fans are basking in the glory of their various titles but, I believe, it won’t be long before many of them will start to feel the same way.

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For me nothing is ever going to take away from enjoyment of good football. No matter how ‘corporate’ things get at our club I’ll always be vociferous in my support from the stands, enjoy a few beers on match days and encourage the right brand of the game to be played. Frankly the club is already becoming a more commercial animal. You only have to look at operations like the merchandising and club shop, sponsorship deals (although I think the mascot sponsorship is an outrageous liberty), corporate hospitality, food & drink and general environment that the LS is located within to get far more of a ‘big club’ feel to West Ham. An observation backed up by a Manchester United supporting friend who joined me for the Arsenal game this season.

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Actions like the current one by UEFA, against Manchester City and Chelsea, might prove prohibitive, and a dis-incentive, for a mega rich investor anyway. We may never see the kind of investment that those in the top six clubs have enjoyed in recent years because the obstacles being put in the way of team investment may be sufficient to put the investors off. Notwithstanding UEFA’s actions under financial fair play the goose continues to be fattened. A sale during the Summer of 2021 looks a distinct possibility despite Aleksander Ceferin’s best efforts to exercise the rules to bring English clubs to heel.

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Signing off I wanted to congratulate the youth team on making it to the semi-fianls of the HKFC CITI Soccer 7s Tournament. Losing out to Rangers 1-0 the boys did very well and showed some lovely stuff in the group stages. Newcastle United pipped Rangers in the final to retain their title. Seven a side is a quick and entertaining format of the game that’s great to watch. I look forward to seeing West Ham compete again in next year’s tournament.

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

Building Towards A Brighter Future

Reading Saturday’s match programme this morning (Monday) set me to thinking about West Ham’s true intentions to grow the squad and challenge in the League. Selling our best players is, and always has been, the main reason the club has never kicked on with a sustained strategy in my opinion. There is more to it than just that as new signings help to convince our top, existing, players to stick around. You’re probably going to struggle to keep hold of your most talented playing assets without that second aspect of investment however it’s all about keeping what you’ve got and building upon it in my view.

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Tim Crane’s “for the record” in this week’s programme included details of the sale of Danny Shea who was sold to Blackburn Rovers, for a record fee of two thousand pounds in 1913. Blackburn won the league the year Shea joined them as existing champions. Shea was in the programme because of being the record goalscorer against Southampton with eight goals in total – six of which were at the Dell, a record in itself. The inside forward, from Wapping, wasn’t the first top player to be sold however he’s much further from being the last. Like Shea many of the top players have gone on to win honours with clubs they’ve moved on to. The promise of bigger and better things have often proven too hard to resist so how can this trend of being a selling club be changed? With this view in mind I see a huge crossroads for West Ham this Summer.

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Should the club return to type then bigger clubs will be filling their boots during the next transfer window. The rich pickings of the likes of Declan Rice, Felipe Anderson and Issa Diop are receiving high profile in the Football media at present but how much growth and progress would those players make at a top six Premier League, or top-tier European League, team make? Ok, you could argue that’s a question that’s always faced players who are being tempted away from the Claret and Blue, so why would anything be any different, to convince them to stay, now? Well – quite a few variables now exist that may sway the scales in our favour.

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Manuel Pellegrini is a respected manager in world football. The former Chilean central defender has been managing for over thirty years, in six countries, winning league championships, taking the helm of such illustrious clubs as River Plate and Real Madrid, taking Malaga to a Champion’s League quarter final and Villareal to a quarter and a semi-final, both of who were also selling clubs as well as winning the Premier League with Manchester City. At West Ham Pellegrini has got the team playing ‘The West Ham Way’ which has, in turn, started to create a positive response from the fifty seven thousand strong home crowds while getting the best out of many of the playing staff. There’s a clear identity to the team and home form has delivered thirty one points this term. There’s progress being made and those, coveted, players know it.

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When the club’s owners have been determined they’ve shown that, with the exception of a certain French international from the island of Reunion, they have often managed to hang on to their top players. The quality of the squad is improving all of the time and it’s morale is directly proportional to that quality.

When you put it all together I’m hopeful that, all things considered, our high performers can be convinced to stick around and be part of something special. Manuel Pellegrini plays a big part of the attraction of staying at our club. West Ham’s owners need to begin succession planning for when MP finally moves on so that progress can continue beyond his departure.

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Away from the first team the West Ham ladies’ season reached a crescendo at Wembley on Saturday. The girls ‘done us proud’ shouted on by several thousand Hammers fans. The progress that the women have made this season is tremendous. In the semi-final at Adams Park they gave me one of, if not the, most memorable games I’ve attended this season (which included a fantastic ‘big’ birthday corporate hospitality gig with family and friends). I’ve resolved to attend more West Ham ladies matches next season when I expect they’ll have another great campaign to make us all proud once again.

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The bittersweet combination of victory, against Southampton at the London Stadium, and loss, at Wembley, was added to by the brave, but sadly unsuccessful, effort of the PL2 team to avoid relegation last week. Despite beating league champions, Everton, 2-1 in a superb performance the lads couldn’t escape the drop. Not many teams are relegated whilst being second top scorers in a league but our boys were really unlucky to go down with that record. At Under eighteen level further progress has been made with some extremely encouraging signs from many of squad. Once again this May West Ham fans can continue their fix of, post-season, football with the youth team appearing at the Hong Kong 7 a side tournament which will be streamed on-line. I really enjoyed watching all the West Ham games last year and look forward to watching again from 17th to 19th May.

Have a good week all. Let’s hope we can finish the season off with a good win against Watford next weekend.
COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

How Does The Teamsheet Affect Your Expectation?

It’s been a topsy-turvy season. The only constant has been inconsistency. If you were to generalise then you’d say that home form has been better than what we’ve witnessed on the road but the over-arching trend has been one of uncertainty as to which West Ham were, or are, going to turn up. Notwithstanding this statement of the bleedin’ obvious certain indicators have had a little influence on how we’ve played in season 2018-19.

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Go compare the general mood of the West Ham faithful between the Everton and Spuds games. When the teamsheet hit against the Blue Scouse you could literally feel the combined groan of those in and around the London stadium. We weren’t happy. Perez starting up top with Arnie and Obiang behind them didn’t inspire confidence and the looks on the faces of fellow Hammers reflected that nervousness (or did I misread despairing looks for nervousness?). The full line-up was Super Fabianski, Zabba, Diop, Ogbonna, Cressers, Snodders, Obiang, Declan, Manu, Perez, Arnie. A team with no kind of anything. No real bite (Declan excepted). No incisive finisher. No width to speak of. No pace. Not much balance to speak of. Hit the fast forward from 30th March to last Saturday and my reaction, in contrast to Everton, was “that eleven are gonna have a proper go at this today.” It looked menacing. Fab, Fredericks, Diop, Balbuena, Artur, Declan, Michail, Nobes, Snodders, Anderson, Arnie. Pace to burn, plenty of bite, great shape, solid pairing at the back (I’m not sure we need three there – just the right two, but that’s a discussion for another time), attacking intent and energy. Granted that some of the same players were in both sides, and put in very different shifts between the two games, but the shape of the team was far better and well composed.

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Ok – so benefit of hindsight is a great thing. I’ve used among the two most extreme examples that this season could probably throw up. I have to admit that sometimes it looks really good on paper and delivers a load of rubbish but as things progress at the club, with Manuel Pellegrini’s influence constantly growing, it’s becoming easier to predict the kind of performance we’re going to get when seeing the starting eleven.

So how do you generally view it? How much do you read in to the team announcements? How much importance do you place on the players on the bench? I’ve not really mentioned that yet but do you take in to consideration how much impact the substitutes may have? This can be a tactic to affect games all on it’s own.

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Going back to the Spuds game it’s generally the case that we’re going to have a go at them anyway but looking at that line-up I felt positive from the off. Perhaps that’s it. It’s just a feeling of positivity that the intent there is to take the game to the opposition. As it transpired we pressed them surprisingly high up the pitch which stifled their ability to control the game. All credit to Pellegrini and the boys for that. Job well done.

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When you consider individual performances last weekend it was also like chalk and cheese compared to recent matches. Diop’s man of the match awards were well merited. Already the pundits are talking about ‘big’ clubs coming in for him along with Rice and Anderson this Summer. That’s not such a bad thing in my humble opinion. It’s now down to Pellegrini and his team to convince those players that West Ham is going to be the place to be next season. Elsewhere Balbuena looked solid, with a great goal-line clearance as the clock was running out. Fabianski was awesome as always. Rice looked back ‘on it’ after a couple of below par games for his high standards. Fredericks was tremendous and just needs a few games to build his confidence under the guidance of the hugely experienced Zabba. Artur combined well with Felippe. Nobes was Nobes against the Spuds. It looks like Antonio’s hamstring issues have been consigned to the past and he has his pace and power back. Great to see him enjoying his football again. Overall great cheer for those Hammers inside, and out, of the, impressive, new stadium of our neighbours from Harringey. Let’s hope for a good end to the season with a couple more energetic performances and, hopefully, the points.

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Last, but definitely not least, I want to wish the West Ham Women all the very best for their big final this Saturday. In their last game against Bristol City, who sit a couple of places above our Ladies in the league, they showed great character again to come back from a goal down to win 2-1. Absolutely gutted that I won’t be able to see the game and very annoyed at the F.A. for their poor scheduling of the match. And they’re trying to raise the profile of the Women’s game? Try harder I say! There’s a great spirit in and around Matt Beard’s squad and I hope that the Ladies all play a blinder this weekend. Win or Lose they can be rightly proud of themselves and know that they’ve had a great season and things are looking very positive for their future.

COYI!


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