The HamburgHammer Column

The bowl erupts with a spicy handful of Rice, some Cresswell and Nasri Goreng

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That was a West Ham moment for the history books: Declan Rice’s first ever goal in a competitive game for the West Ham first team. It had been a long time coming what with Declan having been a regular starter for a while now – yet when it finally happened all pre-conceived and orchestrated goal celebrations went straight into the Stratford sky – and Declan was suddenly a nine year old kid again who had just kicked a ball between two jumpers in the local park.

Or who had just been told by his parents he’d be getting a new playstation for christmas with a new puppy or kitten thrown in for good measure plus an unlimited supply of Yorkie bars for a year – it was an explosion of pure, unadulterated joy!

Young Declan didn’t know where to turn, what to do, if he should keep running, sliding down, humping the corner flag, jumping into the crowd, whatever! It was utterly infectious and you could see his smile reflected in the beaming faces of his teammates and afterwards even the pundits in the studio couldn’t knock the smiles off their boats!

If you had asked any Hammer to come up with a script for this game, picking our goalscorer in a rare 1:0 home win over Arsenal, I reckon 99% would have gone for the Rice option – the goal really was the “Ricing on the cake” of a fantastic team performance – and it turned the bowl of the London Stadium, often rightfully mocked as soulless, into the kind of cauldron we all know it can be on any special occasion or performance.

The place won’t be rocking like this when we draw 2:2 with Brighton or lose to Burnley, but it can be loud and proud for games like this one!

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Rice’s clean strike was such a glorious sight to witness and even from my armchair in Hamburg I felt the energy on the pitch and in that stadium at that very moment – it was Riceless really, pardon the pun.

For a brief moment football was good again. A young chap who had come through the Chelsea ranks (for a while) first and the West Ham ranks next just so he could develop into a very fine PL player just shy of 20 years old had finally scored his first PL goal. Not just a tap in, but a beautiful shot into the top corner.

And at that point, I’m convinced, he didn’t think about contracts, wages, bonus payments or transfers – he was just totally enjoying the moment, celebrating with his teammates on the pitch and his thousands of supporter mates in the stadium.

It was a strong performance from the entire West Ham team, a slightly less than impressive game from Arnautovic in my view, but more of that further down.

Cresswell was the left back of old, the kind of player capable of winning HOTY. Ogbonna became a worthy CB partner for the ever reliable Diop in Balbuena’s absence. Zabaleta was the experienced warrior of a hundred battles he usually is for us.

Rice not only scored, but made numerous vital interceptions including a well-timed, goal-saving effort in his own box.
Noble was everywhere and I truly believe we couldn’t have won this game without him.

Nasri showed us that there is no reason why we shouldn’t get to see the best of him in a West Ham shirt very soon – he already chipped in with great reading of the game and several key passes, linking defence and attack – and he isn’t even 100% match fit yet.
Anderson did it all, attacking, tracking back, winning back the ball – or casually re-arranging his gloves while accepting a pass before going past two opponents. It was a joy to behold.

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As for Arnautovic, let me have my say and then I’ll be done with him. He has always been a special character, I mentioned that when we signed him. As a youth footballer, later at Bremen and Stoke, he never was what you would call a textbook professional footballer or teamplayer.

A gifted technician and bulky bulldozer all rolled into one, yes, but also with a massive ego, a touch of a diva about him. Forever moody, totally disinterested in one game, then totally running the show and bringing home the win for his colours for the next one.

You take the good with the bad of course. As long as he wants to be at your club and wants to perform that is. For whatever reason he and his agent brother have now decided that the grass is apparently greener in China and he wants to leave in order to cash in quadruple wages and win trophies.
Very much in that order.

Look, I cannot blame anyone for following the money. It doesn’t even matter if he needs the money for reasons that better remain private or if he simply wants it to safeguard the future of his family for the next 260 years or just improve his personal wealth a bit quicker.

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I am a firm believer though in also doing things the right way. Which also applies to the way you leave a club. Timing, attitude, respect.

No player is bigger than the club, so if he no longer wants to be at West Ham, let him go, but it has to be on West Ham’s terms. The January window is not the best time to lose an important player who still has years to run on his current contract, so if a buying club is really keen to sign their target in January they need to come up with a fee that represents both the current market value of that player plus a January window extra amount on top.

No matter how much his agent/brother tries to argue their case, Arnautovic at this point is worth far more than £35 million, he is one of the top goalscorers in the most-watched league in the world, so as such I would set the baseline at between 50-60 million – and even that is moderate in the current footballing climate.

I wish him all the best of course, but when leaving our club prematurely, surely he cannot be allowed to do a Payet, picking one suitor (and one suitor only), basically dictating terms of any deal, the transfer fee and time of sale.

If the price meets our evaluation, then get rid quickly. At this point Arnautovic hasn’t started to throw his toys out of the pram, yet! But believe me, once he starts doing that you won’t believe how many toys he has in that pram and how far he can hurl them! You don’t want to see that. His performance on Saturday was very average by his standards I reckon.

It’s hard to tell of course if it was just one of those days where he isn’t that interested in general (he does have those) or if he had China on his mind already.

In any case I didn’t see the kind of effort, drive and willingness to run and chase as in any of his better games for us in the past.

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This was such a weird game though. We were playing Arsenal. I already mentioned that wins against them are rare. Usually they pound our goal relentlessly.

Usually we can only stop their attacking prowess by way of illegal means, resulting in a booking or five for us. Still, they usually manage to score two, three, four goals against us anyway.

I remember us beating Arsenal 1:0 at the Emirates in 2007 at the Emirates (Att. 60.098) in another classic encounter. It was a very different game of course, Zamora scored, but Green had to make what felt like 279 saves in order to maintain that clean sheet, it was wave after wave of attack from the Gooners. How we got the win that day I will never fully comprehend.

Not this time though at London Stadium (Att. 59.946). Yes, there were a few tricky moments and Arsenal are still a good side that can move box to box with the ball in no time to launch a shot at goal.

But this time our defenders were always ready with a sliding tackle or a crucial foot blocking any attempt at goal. And we had Fabianski who graced our box with a commanding presence I am still not quite used to, we are still talking about West Ham goalkeepers here.

Overall this was as comfortable a performance as it can be against Arsenal.
I have to admit, when I was working that screwdriver in my hands during the latter stages of the game, I still kept thinking, despite all the calmness, this is still West Ham, we will concede the equaliser in injury time, just our luck!
An Arsenal player will have a late desperation shot going wide, it will hit a sliding Ogbonna on his bum and trickle in, hugging the inside of the post in the process (with no defender standing on guard there, obviously!).

Not this time!

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We really played with a lot of confidence, with a bit of swagger, showing some big club mentality on that even bigger pitch. And all of that is down to Manuel Pellegrini, the old Chilean fox who has seen and heard it all in his long career, I’m sure. He’s probably got all them t-shirts neatly folded up in his cupboard to prove it.

Nothing seems to be capable of flustering or distracting him.
Not losing the first four games of the season on the trot. Not having ten vital players out with injury. Not having his topscorer angling for an untimely January transfer.

With Pellegrini this club is in good and very capable hands. Thank you Mr.Gold and Mr.Sullivan for bringing this man to West Ham and supporting him with decent funds in his first transfer window.

Very well done! Just one request: Don’t mess this up and revert to type anytime soon. Keep up the support of this very competent football man and you shall reap the rewards.

Pellegrini is just in the early stages of building this team, fulfilling his vision of playing good football at West Ham, football that’s pleasing on the eye and makes for good reading in the PL table.
I have complete trust in him to manage our squad and complete trust when it comes to letting players go and replacing them with better options.

Long may it continue! COYI!!!

Hamburg football update: Winter break is still on, but Concordia have stepped up their training regime, winning their first outdoor friendly by a 4:0 scoreline.
I didin’t see the game though as there was an inconvenient overlap with the West Ham game against Arsenal – and I didn’t want to miss Rice’s first goal while attending a rather meaningless training game…;-))

Click here to view the leaderboard

The HamburgHammer Column

2 goals, 1 Cup - and (still) plenty of injured players

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So, the new year has arrived…and West Ham haven’t slipped over the first banana skin lurking on the pavement towards Wembley aka the third round of the FA Cup.
I remember us going out against minnows too often on those occasions, Wrexham springs to mind, way back when I was still living in Barking. Or Allardyce feeding the kids to the wolves of Nottingham Forest to the tune of a 0:5 defeat.

For that reason I shall always be grateful for a cup game win for West Ham. Thrashings of lesser sides do still happen of course in the competition, but they are rare and it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things if we go into the next round after beating Brum by 2:0 or 5:1. It’s more vital that certain players got a well deserved rest while others got some much needed gametime to improve match fitness. Nasri got more than an hour and looked very promising and Carroll lasted for much longer than the 30 minutes Pellegrini had claimed he was capable of delivering.

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Some people said it was a boring game. I can’t agree. I thought Brum were very brave out there, pushing us hard all the way. Yes, we wasted opportunities galore again, but we had a lot of the ball and bear in mind this was a very unusual line up for us which needed some bedding in. And of course things didn’t get any easier when Arnautovic came off as a precautionary measure, giving Carroll a chance to show us what he can do.

He didn’t really show us anything we didn’t know already. We had the collective deja vu feeling of “here we go again” when he quickly went down like a lead balloon after what seemed like a pretty standard challenge, clutching his shoulder. As a West Ham fan you immediately think: “Is it gonna be just a minor injury (two weeks), a regular one (2-3 months) or a serious impact injury (rest of the season and way beyond) ?”

Then there was a long spell when the game pretty much passed Carroll by.
He was not quick enough, he couldn’t hold up the ball well and he missed an absolute sitter, put to him on a plate beautifully by Anderson. That’s one side of Carroll. And then he gave us his trademark leaping salmon routine. Showing us his other side. Powerful header, well placed, no doubt about it, unplayable, 2:0, game, set and match, next round, here we come!

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I have mentioned before that I reckon Carroll’s time at West Ham is coming to a natural end, with his contract expiring and the Geordie not really fitting the profile of a Pellegrini-style forward. Let’s take every contribution of his as a bonus, as a little bit of reward for all the times he was out injured for us over the years while still drawing the kind of wages you’d associate with a player who is pretty much leading the charts in all major performance categories for his team.

Which leads me back nicely to my pet topic as far as our great club is concerned – and that of course is the burden of the badger. The ridiculously long list of injured players.

I honestly don’t remember the last time a West Ham manager could pick his strongest team because there were either no injured players at all or those that were injured were only second-stringers or bench warmers anyway.

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None of us has a Scooby how good a West Ham team could be that has Diop, Balbuena, Rice, Lanzini, Wilshere, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Arnautovic and/or Hernandez together on the pitch at the same time.
I for one cannot wait to find out.

There seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel (and hopefully it’s not just the lights of another train approaching) insofar as Fredericks, Hernandez and Balbuena have all been rumoured to be nearing a return to training this week.

Of course this doesn’t necessarily mean those players will start games again straight away. But at least chances are they will be part of the upcoming matchday squads which should give us a strong bench. And that is what we need if we have to turn games around again which may be quite useful as we have been the kind of team recently to concede a goal or two first before starting to play some football with interest and intent.

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For me the persisting injury issue at our club is something that needs to be addressed by Pellegrini, at least a process needs to be started where everything at the club needs to be geared towards minimising the risk of players getting injured and improving the chances of getting players back to fitness as quickly and as effectively as possible.

I am under no illusions here, injuries are part of football, always have, always will. Some unfortunate knocks and challenges you can do little or nothing about.

But you can try to create a training environment that is state-of-the-art, not just for the sake of having a nice looking facility to present to new players but also to provide the best training and medical support you can get for a team expected to perform in the Premier League. It also requires the scouting network to monitor players thoroughly with regard to their injury history before signing them, evaluating whether a deal is worth a gamble or not.

In the short term this will cost a bit of money (as shown by plenty of clubs in England and beyond), but clubs are still building those modern training complexes and I suppose they have a good reason for it. Also in a economical sense. If you can keep your players healthy and fit, you don’t need to buy or loan replacements…money saved!
You can field your best side more often which should translate into better understanding on the pitch, better performances, more wins, better league position…more money in the bank from TV deals, merchandise sales etc.

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I think it’s something we shouldn’t even have to discuss, talking about a PL club willing to improve and go places. If you are a PL club at a certain point you need to not only keep talking about being one but acting like one too, looking like one, training like one, presenting yourself like one.
With Pellegrini in my book we have a very good, highly experienced and skilled football managaer, with a good pedigree and the knowledge of how it’s done.

I am confident he can at the very least start a process where we can begin to get the injury shenanigans under control to reach a normal degree, in comparison to other clubs. Having the highest number of injured players in the league for one season can be bad luck. If it happens several seasons in a row that excuse alone won’t wash any longer.

Arsenal coming up next weekend, a game I’m looking forward to a lot. Because most would expect Arsenal to win. We always seem to fancy those occasions and for some reason the players seem to be more up for those big local derbies. It’s a game I would expect to be high on intensity, high on incident and high on drama. Let’s hope we see a strong starting XI, a strong bench and a rocking London Stadium! COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update
Concordia have started the new year in style, winning the traditional Wandsbek Cup (indoor football tournament with ten teams from East Hamburg) for the fourth time in a row, beating the same opponent in the final for the third year in a row. I had my brother and my nephew with me and it was good fun overall. Things got a bit heated betweens certain sets of fans though and my little nephew nearly got into a shouting match with some rival fans who were saying nasty things about Concordia.
He was close to dishing out some colourful language and x-rated expletives back to them – I wonder where he got those from – but his dad and uncle told him to rise above it and focus on the fact that Concordia won their first (and most probably only) trophy of the season.
The Concordia teams are kicking off with their regular training schedules this week.
HSV and St.Pauli are still in the winter break.

The HamburgHammer Column

Too cocky for the clarets ? Hammers end 2018 with a whimper

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That was not what I had expected. And please don’t blame my brother either. He had agreed to watch the game with me (he supports the Hammers too now, due to my supporting them) and pretty much everything was pointing towards a West Ham win, stats, previous performances, run of form, even our starting XI on paper looked a handful for a team like Burnley. But this game has come as a timely reminder to NEVER get too cocky when it comes to football in general, especially when West Ham are concerned.

I won’t go too much into analysing the game, that can be dealt with fairly quickly. From the first whistle we were never at the races. There was no sense of urgency, no fight, no guts, no desire and precious little effort on our part.
Our players looked sluggish and were second to almost every ball.

Burnley, on the other hand, couldn’t believe their luck. They could pass at will, had almost the entire midfield to themselves and despite wasting numerous opportunities (some of which were saved really well by Fabianski, in my view the West Ham player who left the pitch with the most credit by far on the day) Burnley still managed to score twice. That’s a team, by the way, that had only won once in their previous twelve attempts.

Once again, as so often in our history, West Ham had managed to make a very average outfit, to put it mildly, look like Liverpool or Barcelona on one of their better days.

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I thought we had reached a stage by now where we don’t act as convenient confidence boosters for struggling sides anymore, but that’s exactly what we did. I wasn’t overly concerned when we conceded first, after all we had shown in previous games how to turn around scorelines quickly, what with the quality and pace we have in our side now.

But still there was not much of a fight. No collective rolling up of sleeves and making things difficult for Burnley. I cannot for the life of me understand how Burnley managed to keep a clean sheet against us.

Maybe it’s because we decided to head our very few goalscoring chances straight towards their keeper. I don’t think putting Heaton in goal instead of Hart made too much of a difference on the day.

We simply didn’t offer enough, at both ends of the pitch and Burnley might have kept that clean sheet even if they had played their U16 goalkeeper.
It was that bad a game from us. Burnley didn’t play like a relegation candidate, we did.

My brother and I had talked a lot early on in the game, then we began complaining and cursing, we were soon shouting and gesturing wildly at the screen, we wanted West Ham to fight back and put Burnley under pressure.

Towards the end of the game we were merely shaking our heads. I couldn’t believe our display of non-performance and my brother couldn’t either, especially after seeing the highlights of the Southampton game earlier.

It was a bad day at the office, but what’s more important: It was a big opportunity wasted and Pellegrini needs to find out why the entire team capitulated the way they did. Were they just tired and exhausted due to far too many injuries among our squad ? Did they underestimate the opposition and task at hand right from the first whistle ?

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I just hope we can use this game as part of our learning curve, making sure we approach every single game against every opposition team with the same level of desire, effort and application. If we can do that, this shambolic performance will at least serve a purpose for us for the rest of the season.
We cannot approach games against Brighton or Birmingham with the same lackluster and careless attitude.

But let’s put the Burnley game in perspective. We are still in a good position to climb the table as we enter 2019. Hopefully, with some players finally returning from injury, we can continue to grow and improve as a team.

And Pellegrini in my book is the perfect manager to make sure we do just that. I reckon he was in a foul mood after the Burnley game, he will let the players know in no uncertain terms what he thought of that performance and will push them hard in the upcoming training sessions to make amends.

We are not yet the kind of team unfortunately that will ALWAYS beat the so-called lesser teams, we simply aren’t quite there yet. But the journey will be an exciting one for sure!

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So when I usher in the new year later with a glass of bubbly and a jam filled Berliner (traditional German donut traditionally eaten after midnight at New Year) I will not dwell on the Burnley defeat anymore but focus instead on the wonderful news that Declan Rice has committed at least his near future to West Ham, surely one of the best news for the club since we brought Pellegrini to the club in the summer.
It promises to be another highly interesting year for West Ham fans worldwide – COYI!!!

I’d like to wish every single WHTID reader, author and contributor a very Happy New Year! May 2019 bring you health, joy and good fortune in abundance! It’s been a pleasure writing for you all! Looking forward to talking West Ham with you in 2019. Bring it on!

The HamburgHammer Column

Nightmare on Elk Street - Watford try to spoil Christmas for Hammers

Allow me first of all to wish everyone at WHTID, readers, lurkers, posters, contributors and authors alike a Merry Christmas and some days filled with peace and joy surrounded by friends and family members. May Santa treat you all kindly this year!

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As the big day in German Christmas festivities is indeed December 24th (which is today) it means that by the time you’re reading this I may already be on my way to my brother’s house to assist with some final preparations before we will all go to the afternoon church service, to be followed by the moderate exchange of some presents and what promises to be the traditional feast of goose, red cabbage and potatoes/dumplings with gravy, with baked apples and custard for afters.

Christmas of course could have started early with a fifth win in a row against Watford, but it wasn’t to be. This time it was us wasting numerous goalscoring opportunities, hitting the woodwork (which is actually plastic these days, innit ?), the grass or thin air, everything but the back of the net while Watford ended up being the more clinical side on the day, greedily taking all points with them from Stratford to their neck of the woods.

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Maybe it’s because I’m looking forward to Christmas a lot, but I won’t be allowing myself to get overly frustrated about this defeat. Yes, I was on the edge of my armchair for almost the entire game, my screwdriver was going into overdrive as time was ticking away and we still couldn’t put one over the line. It was a highly entertaining game, intense, end to end stuff, terrific pace – a great advert for the Premier League. But West Ham lost, not just one of our best defenders to injury but also the game as a whole.

You won’t find me jumping for joy obviously, but I will gladly put this game into perspective. Watford are indeed a much better side than I was prepared to give them credit for before kick off. I will never join the Hamburg branch of the Troy Deeney fanclub, neither in this life nor the next, but they worked incredibly hard for this and as a football fan I simply have to doff my cap to them. Overall I felt we deserved a point, but then again they scored and we didn’t, so one cannot exactly insist upon Watford not deserving the three points.

Before the game I didn’t know too much about Watford, other than there is the Elton John link of course – even people with only a passing interest in football know that!
But I wasn’t aware that Watford had so many nicknames: The Hornets, The Golden Boys, The ‘Orns and probably a few more. They also have an elk’s head on their crest. Or is it a moose or deer ?

Maybe it’s a local thing – we at West Ham have our (cursed) badgers, they have immigrants of the deer variety from Scandinavia apparently. ..;-))
At least it makes their crest quite original and unique that way…

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The great thing about Christmas, at least in England, is the fact that it is a very busy time football-wise. So rather than dwelling on the Watford defeat, our boys can nibble on their christmas puddings before taking the pitch again and making amends straight away. I am quite optimistic for a variety of reasons.
For once we seem to be a team this season that is quite good at bouncing back. The players will have hated that defeat against Watford, so they will be very much up for the next game, albeit against a born again Southampton side who will be tricky to play against, them having a new spring in their step after the arrival of Mr.Little-Hut-of-Hares.

We should have some of the injured players back for that one, Arnautovic could feature if things go well in training, Perez could be back too. I somehow don’t see us shooting blanks in two consecutive games, so fingers crossed we shall go back to winning ways soon. I have treated myself this Christmas and booked flights for the upcoming game against Newcastle which will still fall into the pre-Brexit period.

But that is still quite a few weeks away, I must dash as I have an appointment with a crispy leg of goose with dumplings and red cabbage. I hope my next column will be about a great performance and yet another win for the might Hammers again! Enjoy the festive season and thanks for reading! COYI!!!

Hamburg football update: St.Pauli won again, so they are really making a bit of a statement here in terms of promotion to the Bundesliga proper at the end of the season. Long may it continue. Hamburg SV hit a bump in the road, losing away in the northern derby at Holstein Kiel.

The next Concordia highlight will be the traditional local Indoor Tournament with ten teams from East Hamburg competing against each other on January 6th. As a special treat (and also a more useful present as a pair of socks or a voucher for a clothes shop) my brother and my nephew will join me for that event, so it should be another thing to look forward to. Concordia have won the previous two tournaments, so I’m hoping for three in a row.

The HamburgHammer Column

We're winning in the rain, just winning in the rain

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Riverside picnic with riparian entertainment – that is a key phrase from one famous episode of “Keeping up appearances”, one of my favourite British sitcoms. To this day I’m not entirely sure what exactly this kind of event would look like, but it sounds bloody impressive and is bound to include food!

Fulham of course have in Craven Cottage one of the most traditional football grounds in the entire Premier League, with bags of old-school charm and you cannot deny that the location right by the river adds to the overall appeal.

I have always had a soft spot for Fulham, the Cottagers or Lilywhites – Lilywhites always reminds me of the shop on Piccadilly Circus where in 1996 I used to buy rugby shirts, cricket bats and also had a butcher’s at the new collection of PL shirts at the start of the new season. Strange, the things you remember…

Anyway, the game had another element to it – literally, the elements. It was coming down in buckets, cats, dogs and badgers, with some stair-rods thrown in. Playing football in those conditions is challenging for the players, but it makes watching even more fascinating for the supporter, especially if he can watch from a comfy armchair in a well heated flat, a mug of steaming hot tea in one hand and screwdriver in the other…

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What West Ham gave us was a highly professional, breathtakingly clinical and well-executed team performance. We did what the hosts didn’t on the day: Take our goalscoring opportunities. Fulham had plenty, yet we kept a clean sheet, thanks to some fantastic saves by Fabianski (especially early on in the game) and solid defending on our part which obviously includes our back four in general, but especially our CB partnership of Diop and Balbuena (who was my MotM).
But every West Ham player got stuck in, including Anderson, which was nice to see.

Here is a flair player who is not above tracking back and tackling hard in midfield in order to stop a counter-attack from developing by kicking the ball into touch, good on ya, Felipe! The goals were the end product of two great passing moves, aided by shambolic defending by Fulham, but they were emphatically taken by Snodgrass and Antonio.
Go back in time to the start of the season and we score neither of both opportunities. Snodgrass and Antonio were brimming with confidence though which is why they took care of business the way they did.

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I saw a team out there that was genuinely working and functioning as a unit, players running the extra mile to help out their teammates. Our substitutions were spot on in my view which means that I would have made exactly the same choices as Pellegrini did. It’s all coming together now and for me the astonishing thing is a) how quickly it’s actually happening and b) that we are doing it with nearly an entire team out with long- and medium-term injuries.

That’s my main gripe still and while some injuries are down to freak incidents such as in the cases of Lanzini, Reid and Sanchez, those you can not do a lot about, I was not too thrilled with the signings of both Yarmolenko and Wilshere due to their well documented injury history. Personally, I wouldn’t take these gambles anymore but rather go for players who may be not as good technically but who can give you 30 games a season. Players who are out injured cost wages without being being able to contribute on the pitch.
Other clubs are potentially able to cope with that, we can’t long-term in my humble opinion. Although we seem to do pretty well right now, despite the injury curse still hanging over us.

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Jack Wilshere is an exciting footballer when fit and I love watching him play. However, both of his ankles have now been affected by separate injury issues. I have an uncomfortable inkling he might be heading towards a similar fate that Dean Ashton eventually had to suffer. I’m not saying his career is already over. There will probably be several attempts of comebacks for him on the pitch, playing a few games before succumbing to another knock, hairline crack or ankle sprain. I obviously wish it doesn’t happen like that.

I simply hope that in the not too distant future we will have a season for once where at any given time only 2 or 3 of our players are out simultaneously, and the layoff is weeks rather than months or an entire season. But that would probably involve more rigorous scouting and another overhaul of our training facilities. But that’s a different debate altogether.

Other than the injuries life is pretty good at West Ham these days, innit ? As supporters we can look forward to games rather than dreading another drubbing. We are playing football that is very pleasing on the eye, the players look motivated and as if they’re enjoying themselves a lot out there. Also, we seem to have cut down the number of silly individual mistakes (which more often than not have directly led to us conceding goals).

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For me this all comes down to Manuel Pellegrini, it begins and ends with him. Here is a manager who obviously knows what he is doing. Contrary to some of us fans, myself included, he didn’t panic when we lost four in a row at the start of the season. He had a roadmap of how he wanted us to play and followed through with teaching the players his philosophy and ideas which obviously takes a bit of time – but it’s all bearing fruit now.

Remember this is not even our best starting XI which is playing, still we are winning games now. When your team is taking the pitch full of confidence and with a bit of swagger, results will pretty much take care of themselves. It must be a much more fulfilling feeling coming to training during the week after having won another game.
I suppose as players you don’t ever get bored of winning, you get addicted, you want more of that winning feeling.

Which is why I am confident for our last fixture before christmas, the home game against Watford, a side that has gone the opposite path really, starting the season well and going downhill from there. Watford are still probably the strongest of all the sides we have played in the past four weeks. Another good performance is required to keep the points in East London and continue our amazing (and highly satisfying) winning run.

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Perez may be back again for this one, hopefully partnering Chicharito upfront, probably developing another level of chemistry between the two strikers. But even if Perez doesn’t start, Pellegrini seems to have found a way to send out a team desperate to perform and hell-bent on winning the game. At this point we look like a force to be reckoned with. Other teams don’t fancy playing us anymore. Which is a wonderful change in the weather for us. How often in recent past did we provide a much needed boost for failing teams ? Pellegrini appears to have stopped that altogether.
If you want to beat West Ham these days you need to take your chances and play well – despite the festive season West Ham are unlikely to hand out any gifts on the pitch anymore. Long may it continue…COYI!!!

Hamburg football update: Winter break for lower league football. All Concordia teams are resting up, returning to training in January and competitive football in February.
Despite a shambolic first half of the season, Concordia’s first team will keep their current manager at the helm, but they have already announced certain player movements, new (hopefully better quality) players will be brought in replacing those who rarely got minutes on the pitch anyway.
Hamburg SV and St.Pauli have both won their respective fixtures and are right in the middle of the promotion battle, HSV waving from top spot in the table, St.Pauli chasing from behind, trying to make up a six point deficit.

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