The GoatyGav Column

Moving To A Samba Groove

I find myself, sometimes, thinking out loud. I often think that my articles take the same tone as when I’m having these audible internal conversations. My wife thinks I’m talking to her and, upon occasion, I have to explain that I’m having a discussion with myself again. Not sure what that says about the state of my mental health but, there you have it, it might go a little way to explaining my processes when writing on here.

One such subject I often find myself mulling over is Felipe Anderson’s natural tendency towards passing the ball and then standing still. It completely goes against all that I was ever told to do when playing football and all I teach when coaching the, now U15, kids I have the privilege of working with. At first I became quite animated while voicing my displeasure at, what I perceived to be, this laziness and unwillingness to create opportunities through, off the ball, movement. Now, however, I’m starting to gain a greater appreciation of South American, and more specifically Brazilian, footballing characteristics. I’m trying to remember when West Ham have ever had a Brazilian ‘Fantasista’ so I guess it’s something relatively new.

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To incorporate the ‘fantasista’ player there must be at least one Meia-Armardor, or ‘holding-playmakers’ if you prefer. With that in mind is it any surprise that Anderson has tended to influence games at the same time as the rise of Declan Rice. I’m certainly warming to Felipe Anderson, not just because of his ‘ghosting’ runs but, because he is starting to make his presence felt by tracking back and helping the team to regain possession. When he first joined the club he used to get back to help defend with all the enthusiasm of a teenager asked to tidy their bedroom. He could still do with strengthening his upper body as he’s a little lightweight and, occasionally, muscled off the ball but his technique is second to none. The mazy run from one flank to t’other, before releasing Fredericks in a threatening position, on Saturday was amazing. Weirdly footage of the run was not shared by either Match Of The Day or the club’s website’s own ‘highlights’. The site has, however, released an ‘Anderson’s Man Of The Match Performance’ video which you can view below (the, width of the pitch, run can be seen from 0.59 mins to 1.11 mins) : -

Whet’s the appetite doesn’t it? I really can’t wait for the Manyoo game now. The only thing that I’d really like to see develop is the understanding between Lanzini, Anderson and Haller. Although not just exclusively those three I feel that the trio will become a force in the Premiership if they truly ‘click’. There have been little morsels to tease us with but when they really get to know each other’s game, their runs and movement then it’s going to be extremely exciting. Already that buzz of anticipation when Anderson or Lanzini get on the ball is starting to get up to the same levels as when Brooking, Devonshire or, more lately, Payet were menacing opposition defenders.

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So should Felipe stick and not run after passing the ball in the future I won’t be on his case. I’m not convinced that we’ll ever see a complete transition to ‘Samba’ football at West Ham. If anything it wouldn’t work in the hussle and bustle of English football but you can’t deny the South American influence that’s on view in the bowl nowadays. Manuel Pellegrini’s ‘project’ is still in it’s development phase – a work in progress. The team are still not dominating possession the way that he’d clearly like us to. In fact the stats from Saturday surprised me when I saw that Norwich edged it at 51% but things are definitely going in the right direction and are more in line with ‘The West Ham Way’.

Other players apart I’m definitely starting to dig Anderson’s Samba groove. May it continue to rock the bowl for several years to come.

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Today, as I write, saw the departure of Javier Hernandez. He’s a player I like who always acted professionally, respectfully and with dignity and, from what I could gather, was a positive influence while at our club. I wish him all the best in Seville and would like to go on record to thank him for his efforts for West Ham. I will certainly welcome Chicha back should he ever return to play at the bowl again.

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Lastly I’d like to wish Aji Alese all the best for his loan to Accrington Stanley. I think he’s a real prospect and would love for him to come back to the club in January having had a successful experience at the League 1 club. He won’t, however, be joining up with the club until after his excursion with the England U19 squad over the next couple of weeks – for which I’d also like to wish him luck.

Come On You Rip Roarin’ Irons!


The GoatyGav Column

Sorting By Priorities

It’s a subject that I’ve spent quite some time discussing on WHTID over the years but one that I still believe is current, relevant and very important. How much importance should the Cups, and more specifically the League (Carabao) Cup, be given by Pellegrini and the team?

When you trace Tottingham’s rise as a team you can almost pinpoint their League Cup victory as a turning point in their progression to a regular top four side. Some may argue that’s not true and that their side started to move up the pecking order a number of seasons after lifting the ‘Carling Cup’, as the competition was known in 2007-08, but, for me, they, notably, grew in squad strength from that point forward.

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Although not in the League Cup Chelsea also had a ‘crossing of the Rubicon’ moment after they won the F.A. Cup in 1996-97, following up that victory with League Cup honours the following season and going on to attract investment from Mr Abramovic.

At present our squad is stronger to the point where we’re able to field strong starting line-ups while giving some senior players a rest. In past seasons I wouldn’t have said this was true. The risk of losing senior players in the early rounds was bigger due to the fact that we’d already racked up a lengthy injury list to a squad that had less depth.

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Outside of the progression of the club there’s also the kudos and excitement, in my mind, of playing under the floodlights in European competition. I don’t care what they say about the Europa League I love being involved in it. Childhood memories of sitting by the radio listening to West Ham’s Cup Winner’s Cup exploits still gives me butterflies and goose pimples. I want that feeling again and a League Cup win would deliver it.

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It’s not like a Cup win would be a pipe-dream either. With so many of the top six clubs fielding weaker sides in the earlier rounds a good cup run for any other Premier League side would be a distinct reality should that team decide to prioritise a set competition. Get to the Semi-Final and, who knows, we could go all the way.

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At present we have a manager who has given West Ham increased pulling power with respects prospective players. This would be greatly enhanced should the OS/LS/London Bowl (I look forward to the day the naming rights are sold for a set period of time and we can settle on calling it one name) play host to teams in Europe.

The League Cup, barring the Wartime League Cup which I’m not sure counts, is a competition that West Ham have never won. I’d like to see that put right. Now I’m, by no means, suggesting that the League Cup is in any way a bigger or better competition than the F.A. Cup however there are, by comparison, some advantages for the lesser domestic competition. Firstly you play less rounds to get to a final. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, a League Cup win can be less detrimental to a season than it’s more illustrious and historical alternative. To reach an F.A. Cup final you have to keep producing over the course of, almost, an entire season. This season’s League Cup is over on the 1st March, 2020. The oft described ‘distraction’ can be out of the way at an earlier stage allowing focus to be placed back on League form. In fact a win in the first major domestic competition of the season has often proven a huge boost to team confidence.

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Don’t get me wrong. I’d sooner be sat here this time next year with another F.A. Cup win than with League Cup honours however, insofar as priorities are concerned, I really want us to be gunning for a great run – starting with Oxford United away on the 24th September.

Come On You Rip Roarin’ Irons!


The GoatyGav Column

Fairness – A Bridge Too VAR?

This week’s article is going to be a short one due to the holiday demands of kids wanting to get to the beach and the inflatable assault course in the sea. M’Julie and I will be sticking to sunbathing on the beach.

Once again this weekend’s game has been heavily influenced by VAR. This time after Brighton had a goal chalked off for offside. It was marginal but clear – not in the ‘daylight’ sense however. Listening to the likes of Ian Wright anyone would think that the offside rule had just changed to hamper strikers. Does he not realise that the rule is the same – just that strikers are now being found to be offside, according to the same laws. The ‘armpit’ offside brigade would like to see the rule changed so that clear daylight can be seen between the defender and offside attacker. Problem is the same ‘armpit’ argument exists in the clear daylight scenario. You have to draw the line somewhere and, simply put, offside is offside.

I had to laugh listening to a Man City fan phone in to BBC Radio London after the game on Saturday evening. This supporter was not calling to discuss the goal disallowed in injury time but was bemoaning a nailed-on (you’ll never find me using the term ‘stonewall’ incorrectly – does my head in) penalty that the VAR officials decided not to review. Kind of ironic after the Rodri foul, with absolutely no attempt to play the ball, on Haller, that Mike Dean was looking directly at from no more than ten yards away, that led to the City fifth goal the previous week. Not only was it a foul Seb Haller got completely clattered in the most blatant of fashion to the point I believe a yellow card was warranted. How the VAR team could let that one go is beyond me. The main point is, however, are we going to get what we hoped for, and were discussing at length on this blog during the pre-season, in that VAR will prove to be a leveller where decisions have previously gone the way of ‘bigger’ clubs? Early evidence might suggest that the review teams sat at Stockley Park are also choosing to ignore situations which would have benefitted those outside of the Premier League’s top six? Going back to the Haller Poleaxing it certainly seems there is some evidence to suggest it. All of the subsequent media coverage of that goal appears to be ignoring the barefaced clattering too. Now if that had’ve been the other way around with, say, Declan Rice playing Aguero instead of the ball we’d have been watching the footage of it, from every possible angle, on Match Of The Day whilst listening to their commentary team condemning Rice for such an awful challenge. Tell me I’m wrong?

Overall I’m a fan of the technology. It’s only going to improve. Suggestions of a ‘hawkeye’ style system with technology installed in boots, along with an amendment to the off-side law to make the front foot (or back foot if the player has their back to goal) the object of the decision are positive ones. Goal-line technology has been fully accepted and widely viewed as the fair way to way to judge if a goal has been scored or not. Same goes for VAR IMHO.

The argument, that I hear from former professional striker pundits, to say “but it’s only very marginal,” just doesn’t cut it. You have a rule and you stick to it otherwise you introduce ambiguity and, appropriately to this article, further opportunity to side with the bigger boys.
Right – back to that Estrella Damm on the balcony. See you all next week.

COME ON YOU RIP ROARIN’ IRONS!


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!


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