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!


The GoatyGav Column

Talking Solutions Not Problems – What Would You Do?

With two points gained from the last twenty one possible there have been many theories put forward about what’s currently going wrong at West Ham. The conversations have started to go around and around while the groundswell of opinion appears to be turning against Manuel Pellegrini. While I haven’t, personally, got to the stage where I’d like to see him replaced even I have to admit that it’s getting close to the time when the owners are going to be forced to consider a new manager or face the likelihood of relegation.

Considering that it will cost the club’s owners a huge wedge, should they decide to offload the Chilean, I think it’s likely that it will be a while before that happens. That being the case, and with many of you WHTIDers tired of the continual negativity, perhaps the focus should shift towards the highlighting and discussion of the possible solutions and not what’s going awry. Whilst I appreciate the viewpoint that it’s important to understand what’s going wrong, before any attempt should be made to put it right, I don’t think it’s particularly constructive to continue to go round and round in circles labouring the same points time and again.

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A couple of weeks ago this column’s topic of discussion was around the size of the impact of Fabianski’s injury on the team. I see the goalkeeper issue, and how it’s affected team confidence, as the biggest contributor to our current plight. So what’s a possible solution? Roberto to make way for David Martin has to be, at least, considered by the gaffer. Even if the Spaniard plays a flawless run of games the defence, and deeper midfield, would take a long time to gain full confidence. The psychological effect that it’s having on the players would take far longer to get over than the current man between the sticks’ form could ever. Something has to change and Martin’s introduction is the only option that could affect change quickly.

Another factor that I’ve noticed is the influence of the home support. Despite my own efforts to ‘sing my heart out for the lads’ (well – I did grow up in the North West after all) it’s been far too quiet for my liking in recent games. The change has been noticeable in my humble. When the chips are down we, the match going fans, need to play our part. That said our incredible away support have continued to make their positive contribution but to no avail. In fact you could argue that the team have been worse on the road than at the bowl. Notwithstanding that fact, however, it can, surely, only help if we’re urging the boys on.

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In my eyes some first teamers are more guilty of ‘giving up’ than others. Attitude, not talent, is far more likely to get you there and players like Nobes, Snodders, Declan and Antonio set the bar for others to follow. Naming and shaming I have no equivocation in holding Felipe Anderson up as not playing with the heart and desire needed to get us out of this. “Yeah Gav, but isn’t that pointing out the problem?” I hear you say. Well I guess you know where I’m going with the solution don’t you? Anderson needs to be benched for at least two, preferably three, games for me. Pellegrini needs to let him know that his current level is simply not good enough. When he pulled out of that tackle later in the second half, surrendering possession for the umpteenth time, it topped off a truly woeful performance and said everything about the South American’s brittle temperament. Perhaps Nathan Holland isn’t near being ready for first team action but he’d be a huge improvement on Felipe at the moment. While we’re at it how about Anthony Scully in for Haller? Wish I was joking!

While those who aren’t putting it in need to be given a break those who are should be held up as an example. For me Declan did everything he possibly could in the match. Nobes gave everything too but struggled to impose himself as he usually does in games against the Spuds. Many made Antonio their man of the match and, for me, rightly so. If you’re going to take a positive from the match it should be the fact that Michail has returned and, in the time he spent on the pitch, we won 2-1 in a very large part to his contribution.

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The last point I will make is that of team shape. Seb Haller has started to look poor but I really can’t blame him for that. In fact I wouldn’t blame him if he wondered what on Earth he’d done coming to West Ham. With two up front he started to look like the player we signed so, despite Manuel Pellegrini’s reluctance to do so, I’d like to see another striker joining him. Would be great if that man was Antonio but I don’t think that sticking him straight on for ninety minutes would be wise at this stage.

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Next up Frank Lampard Jr’s Chelsea and, Frankly, I’m not too hopeful. That said I’ll be willing the boys on, in spirit, in the knowledge that our brilliant away fans will be doing the same at the match.

COYI!


The GoatyGav Column

Welcome Respite For England Supporting Hammers Fans

“We support, We support, We support our National Team, We support our National Team!” was often the reply to Manchester United fans, at Old Stretford, who sang about Ronaldo running rings around the English team. Truth be told that wasn’t my favourite retort to that chant. I had to admire the Stokies version. It went like this “He dives like a tart, he cries like a kiiiiid, your boy Ronaldo Loves Real Madrid!”

I enjoyed both of the England games over the last few days. Frankly it was a welcome respite from one of the worst runs of games for West Ham in quite some time. Most likely the worst since Mr Allardyce, pretty much, gave up at Christmas 2014 in the knowledge that he wasn’t going to get his contract renewed the following summer. I felt that was a shame as he could, potentially, have left a decent legacy and an enhanced reputation with us fans if he’d have made more of an effort to see things through to the end of that season from a strong fourth place. Personally I would have found it more easy, or at least quicker, to let his ‘deluded’ and ‘West Ham Way’ comments go if he’d have gone out on a high. Speaking of Mr Allardyce, and England, I genuinely believe that the best thing to happen to our national team was his dismissal after the controversial ‘Football for Sale’ investigation in to corruption in the English game.

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Gareth Southgate is a breath of fresh air. That said four games ago it was like the sky was falling in. We’d just gone down 2-1 away to an extremely impressive Czech Republic. In the game I watched the Czechs played some of the best football that England have been up against in many a year. Personally I saw no shame, at all, in the loss as it was a brilliant game to behold. It was also a great opportunity for Gareth Southgate, and his squad, to draw learning from. I’m convinced that those lessons were heeded and the learnings adopted to strengthen for the future.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not getting carried away. At least I’m not getting as carried away as the Kosovo manager was with our (most of our) Nation’s men’s footballing representatives. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard another manager evangelise the way that Bernard Challandes did last night. For those who haven’t heard the “best team,” comments yet you can watch the post match interview below (the “Best Team” part begins around 5.00 mins onwards) : -

Despite holding that smidgen of my optimism in check I have to admit that I’m really, really looking forward to next year’s European Championships. Those that remember the last, and the previous, time a tournament was in this country could but only be excited about the prospect. All three group matches will be played at ‘home’ at Wembley. Add to that the fact that England go in to the group stage draw as a tier 1 seed the team’s chances have taken a real boost from both the outcome, and manner, of their qualification.

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During that qualification campaign our own Declan Rice has been introduced in to the England first team fold. During his seven caps to date Deccers has had his ups and downs. After a steady start he has experienced criticism for his more recent run outs for the Three Lions. Some of that criticism, I feel, is warranted and some not. Against Kosovo he did very little wrong. When he got caught out of position, further up the field, several pundits picked up on the fact that he needed to focus on what he’s good at in his holding midfield role and stick to that job with more discipline. Last night I think his positional awareness was bang on. Rice has shown he’s worked hard and learned. From other areas our number fourty-one has had the ‘sideways and backwards’ finger of criticism raised against him. It seemed to escape many of those detractors notice that the twenty year old drove positively from his own half for twenty five yards before laying off to Sterling for Kane’s goal. It’s a question of the right ball, not always the forward one, and the lad is learning and growing in this respect all the time. Some only seem to be able to see the negative in certain players and, it appears, Lee Dixon and Roy Keane, along with others, are in this mind-set where Declan is concerned.

Back to West Ham the ladies had a toughie away to Man City. I watched the game on BBC Red Button and, to be fair to the Ironesses, our ladies played some decent stuff. It was the incisiveness in the final third and clinical finishing that was the big difference between the two teams as Man City ran out 5-0 winners. This is not a game to dwell upon for Matt Beard and his charges. On to the next one against Lewes at Rush Green on Wednesday night and then again at home vs Reading on Sunday.

No game to report for the PL2 team however a stiff test in the shape of a visit to Stoke City this coming weekend will be a real test for Dimi Halajko’s boys. Best of luck to them for that one.

Enjoy the rest of the week. COYI!


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