The HamburgHammer Column
What a difference two weeks make! Like London buses, no win for ages, then two against top opposition in quick succession. After a forgettable start to the season we have suddenly kickstarted our collective backsides into gear and all of a sudden things are no longer looking gloomy but rather peachy.
I shall tell you about my weird viewing experience of the game and indeed it was kind of surreal.
As it was a lunchtime kickoff I had made sure that all the grocery shopping had been done in advance, the tea was on the table two minutes before kickoff and I settled down in first my beloved West Ham vintage shirt, favourite armchair second, screwdriver at the ready, eager to watch the game.
Of course you know by now we took a very early lead after a wonderful move (with a hint of offside though, but we’ll take getting the rub of the green for once after suffering loads of similar decisions going against us in the past), finished off by a clever backheeler from Felipe Anderson. 1:0 West Ham and my tea was still too hot to drink at that point! Throughout the entire game we passed the ball around neatly and I found myself casually playing around with the screwdriver, moving it gently from one hand to the other instead of nervously clutching it as usual.
Then my brother rang for a chat, with the game in full flow, telling me about taking his family to a spontaneous holiday abroad next weekend, about the destination, the beach, my nephew looking forward to it and so forth.
I was polite enough not to tell him that I had the game on, but after 15 minutes he caught bits of the commentary in the background anyway, quickly asked about the score and hung up to let me watch in peace. Thing is, usually I would have said my apologies and finished that call right away (with the promise to call back later) in order to focus on the game, but this one felt different. We looked so composed and in control that I was feeling confident about multi-tasking, talking on the phone while watching West Ham battling against Manchester United and cursing opposition players at the same time. Unheard of!
There was still room for a sophisticated selection of German and English expletives and swearwords, but that was more related to Jose Mourinho showing up on the telly unexpectedly. You may not believe me, but when the board went up at the end of the second half, showing four minutes, I was disappointed. ONLY FOUR ???
I wanted to watch another six minutes of that. Or eight. Or 25. I didn’t want this game to end because it was such a professional, complete and scintillating team performance on our part. It was simply wonderful! I was sure we could score again if we played just a bit longer. That’s what I meant about the surreal viewing experience.
Even when the Mancs got their goal back I wasn’t a shivering wreck as in so many other similar instances. I knew deep down the win was ours.
It was just that kind of day.
Our second goal happened to be the kind of comedy gold deflection that usually hits the West Ham net, not this time though.
As with his other recently scored effort, Yarmolenko was once again doing what I reckon seems to be his trademark move, that is setting up to shoot, then delaying for a second or two, shifting with the ball, close to his feet, just a meter or two further, then shooting, ever so slightly confusing defenders and goalkeeper alike in the process.
Again, it seemed to do the trick, the ball took an almighty deflection and sailed agonisingly slowly over de Gea who could only watch the ball bulging the top corner netting. 2:0!!!
A few words about Jose Mourinho. I don’t like the guy. His idea of respect seems to be a one way street where everyone simply has to admire the things he has done, titles he’s won, trophies he’s bought, sorry brought, to his respective clubs.
He is hard enough to bear when winning. He is an utter disgrace when losing though. Of course Manchester United only lost the game because of a borderline offside (which wasn’t given), an unfortunate deflection/own goal plus a slight push in the build-up to our third goal.
It obviously had nothing to do with the fact we were all over the Red Devils for the vast majority of the game. Pull the other one, Jose! People are no longer falling for your crap post-game analyses. You’re getting boring and predictable.
It is very rare to hear Olés ringing around the London Stadium, not from Hammers fans anyway, as all too often in the past few seasons we could barely keep the ball long enough to string even three passes together.
This time though at times we kept and moved the ball as if in a training session drill and the Olés were as nice to hear as they were thoroughly deserved. Danny Murphy put it beautifully in his MotD verdict when he claimed that West Ham had been playing this one like a proper league game while Manchester United had performed as if it was merely a testimonial.
(Maybe it was one, in a way, as I can’t see Mourinho staying at Old Trafford for much longer if he doesn’t get back to winning ways soon.)
If that kind of performance is Manuel Pellegrini’s idea of how he wants us to play from now on, then, wait a second, I’ve got some dribble coming out of the corners of my mouth, hang on…okay, that’s better! Now, where was I ?
Oh yes, wonderful football, especially our third goal. That pass from Mark Noble, are you having a bubble, me old China ? If that pass had been coming from any player in a Liverpool, Chelsea or Man City shirt, the corresponding highlight reel would still be playing on SSN now.
As it is, it was only Mark Noble, his pass splitting the Man U defence like Moses did the waves of the Red Sea (and I’m not talking about the Chelsea winger who used to play for us on loan for a while) and Arnautovic found himself with acres of space and virtually the entire goalmouth to aim for.
I almost wondered if being spoilt for choice like this would confuse Arnie and he might hit the ball straight at de Gea, but as cool as a gurkerl (that’s local Austrian vernacular for cucumber) he stroked the ball into the net not long after Man United had scored what ended up being nothing more than a consolation goal for them.
No West Ham player on the day, none of the starters anyway, deserved a mark below 8. Starting with Fabianski, he didn’t really have that much to do. But he pulled off one world class reaction save from a header and as usual he was oozing confidence which must rub off on his defenders. Fabianski is the commanding presence in our penalty box we have been lacking for far too long at our club.
Our back four too are really getting to know each other it seems – and it shows on the pitch. We look extremly settled at the back now and I wouldn’t change a thing at this point: Zabaleta, Diop, Balbuena and Masuaku should be our starters, injury and suspension permitting of course.
What can I say about our midfield three of Noble, Rice and Obiang ? Not enough I suppose. To make a Manchester United midfield look this downright ordinary is quite a feat and I sincerely hope Rice will eventually sign that long-term deal and he will be our skipper one day, playing for us for many years to come. To see a 19 year old playing like a seasoned pro is a rare privilege indeed and players of that ilk certainly don’t grow on trees.
It was also good to see Felipe Anderson score his first goal as a Hammer while Arnautovic and Yarmolenko simply continue to be a pain in the bum for opposing defenders, so our attacking side of the ball looks highly promising these days as well.
And I couldn’t moan about any of our substitutes on Saturday either, effort- or otherwise. Snodgrass looks like a player reborn and I loved the touch of celebrating our third goal by hoisting the #15 Sanchez shirt.
If it was about the young Hammers fan who died at the age of just 15 it would have been a classy tribute, same as it would have been if meant for the injured Carlos Sanchez.
Here is one player who didn’t really have a textbook start to his West Ham career on the pitch, then suffering what looks like a lengthy injury-induced spell on the sidelines, yet the regular starters haven’t forgotten their despaired teammate! Looks like we have a close-knit dressing room spirit again.
On top of that t was another great example of Pellegrini’s man management skills when he gave young Grady Diangana his league debut, after shining earlier in the 8:0 Carabao Cup drubbing of Macclesfield.
So the youngsters are getting their opportunities to play in a first team squad full of confidence, team spirit and togetherness.
This should come in handy for the upcoming tasks, a tough away game at Brighton (who made us look really bad last season and are owed a generous slice of revenge) and later in the month the Carabao Cup tie at home against Tottenham. A strong opponent for sure, but with our team heading in the right direction under our current manager I actually fear no one – and it should be one hell of a game, midweek, under the lights, good crowd, local derby, that’s the way we like it! COYI!!!
Hamburg football update: The much awaited feisty Hamburg derby between HSV and St.Pauli ended in a damp squib of a goalless draw, but thankfully there has apparently been not much fighting in the streets before or after the game between both sets of fans.
Concordia’s first team won, as expected, on Friday evening against the worst club in the league by a 5:0 scoreline, the Women’s team won their home fixture the day after at a canter 11:0 (with the opposing manager asking the ref to blow the whistle ten minutes early with the score at 8:0 because his girls didn’t want to continue getting thrashed on the pitch) and the Cordi U23s can virtually kiss their promotion hopes goodbye after losing their third game of the season, 2:3 away at Glinde.
Shame about that, but otherwise things are looking up at both West Ham and Concordia!