Talking Point

Pandemonium with Pellegrini...

The last three games West Ham have played in many ways encapsulate what it is always like to support the club. An extremely disappointing loss to Mourinho’s Spurs who in my opinion were given too many plaudits. Spurs weren’t particularly good, rather it was us playing embarrassingly bad football for the vast majority of the game. If Pellegrini couldn’t get the players motivated for a London derby against Spurs, did he still deserve the job and also how were we going to get anything other than a battering at Stamford Bridge? The Chelsea performance was good and the players worked hard for each other with Antonio really setting the precedent with his infectious work rate. I was definitely pleased we had got three points in West London and a first win at Stamford Bridge in 17 years, but like everyone my concerns about the team and the manager did not suddenly disappear.

I sat watching the Wolves game with my friend who is a season ticket holder at the London Stadium, and while I enjoyed his company and the couple of beers we had, I did not enjoy the game of football we watched. While it was by no means the worst performance I’ve seen Pellegrini’s men put in, all things considered it was pretty depressing. Wolves are a team who in David Sullivan’s mind we should be better than because we have a ‘world class’ stadium and Champions League football was our goal after the stadium move, but in reality we should be competing with them and we are not at the moment. Considering how easy under Pellegrini it has often been for teams to bypass our midfield and defence, we started the game looking somewhat organised.

All football fans inevitably disagree on performances of players but here are some of my brief thoughts on West Ham players at Molineux. Martin couldn’t do a lot for either goal, made a couple of key saves in the second half. Fredericks is a bit hit and miss, yes he has pace but does he offer enough going forward? I’m not sure he does. Balbuena and Ogbonna did alright but the Italian has by far been the best defender and his omission from the team following the loss to Everton was a baffling decision by Pellegrini. Cresswell has been good but Traore’s pace was too much for him, Rice solid as ever but had to cover for Noble far too much and this was one of Noble’s worst performances in a while. Snodgrass always works his socks off, delivery was poor and should have scored after a lovely Fornals pass to make it 1-1. Fornals was one of the brighter sparks and he looks to be finding his feet a bit which is positive. Anderson was probably our best player and was always showing for the ball, hopefully he can get find the levels he found for us last season. Haller is a talented striker and I think he will be a success in this league, part of his struggles have been Pellegrini’s persistence with him up front alone with not enough support. Haller and Antonio together for a run of games is something we shall hopefully see, but I do agree that the Frenchman needs to work much harder given Antonio’s performance at Chelsea. If I was Haller I’d be frustrated that as soon as Ajeti came on more crosses seemed to come into the box which on Pellegrini’s part makes no sense. Yarmolenko was rubbish when he came on and I was happy to see Holland get a chance, he looked pretty bright but a loan spell is probably what he wants in order to improve.

One of my main frustrations with our 66 year old manager is his stubbornness and to some extent I think arrogance. There’s no doubt he’s achieved a lot in his career in the dugout and he has managed some top clubs. West Ham do not have the finances that the Chilean had at Man City but he’s always been keen to say we need a ‘big club’ mentality, we are not Man City and we ultimately cannot play teams off the park and I genuinely believe Pellegrini thinks to some extent we can. We have some talented attacking players on paper but he’s continued to ignore serious problems such as central midfield and the defence. Is his logic we’ll concede 3 but score 4? At Man City with the talent at his disposal (a la Aguero, Sterling, De Bruyne) you can outscore teams but that is not possible for us. I’m not sure what the team do in training because it seems other teams work on how to play against whomever they face next but we play the same way each week, it’s a case of ‘my way or the highway’ for Pellegrini with the same formation that doesn’t work, the same subs that more often than not don’t work and it’s the same excuses post match. Should a man who is paid £7 million a year be repeatedly saying things such as ‘I don’t know why we put in this performance’? If you are one of the best paid managers in the league you owe it to the fans to work out what is going wrong and correct it but there are no signs of change under his tutelage which concerns me deeply.

Up next its Arsenal at home under the lights, another London derby and given that Arsenal’s defence is definitely an area of weakness let’s hope that the boss allows Haller and Antonio to run riot together but I’m not overly confident for us moving forward unfortunately.

Hope everyone is well.

Talking Point

“Abandon hope all ye who enter here”

I try my hardest to be optimistic about West Ham but Pellegrini is making it near impossible to view the upcoming league games after the international break with any real confidence and excitement. As West Ham fans we’ve been accustomed to peaks and troughs as a football club, with the peaks few and far between in recent history, but it looks particularly grim as we begin to look towards a busy festive schedule with tough games.

I’ve no doubt regardless of how hard some fans will have tried to stop thinking about West Ham and the miserable state of affairs going on at the club, we have all seen the speculation about Pellegrini’s future, and who might eventually replace him. You have to think the board will stick with the Chilean for as long as possible, especially given it will reportedly cost anywhere up to £20 million pounds to get rid of the 66 year old and his backroom staff. However, if the former Man City manager cannot arrest the depressing slump in form which personally I don’t think he will, he’ll have to be shown the door because of both poor results and performances that’ll see us perhaps in a relegation battle. I have no doubt I’m repeating what most fans have already seen or feel, but to achieve 1 point out of a possible 12 against Everton, Sheffield United, Newcastle and Burnley is unacceptable. I do subscribe to the view that sections of the fan base overrate our team and chances of competing for the European spots and I certainly have done for quite a while. Although, when our manager is on around £7 million a year and I believe is the best paid manager after Guardiola and Klopp, we understandably should expect better results and performances.

With the exception of Norwich at home, I’m not sure we’ve actually played well in any other game. The wins against Watford and Manchester United were more about the opposition being poor as opposed to us playing extremely well. With Spurs at home up first after the break, obviously we always want to win and especially against them but I think we’ll struggle if the manager persists with his stubborn tactics and formation which sees Haller consistently isolated.

One way or another I don’t think Pellegrini will be managing us come the end of the season but, if he is, I would expect a new man in the dugout for the start of the 2020/2021 campaign. We’ve got some great results under the Chilean’s stewardship but he is not flexible enough with changing formation and his substitutions are often poor and incredibly predictable. Questions that I imagine most of us fans have asked this campaign about Pellegrini include his bizarre inclusion of 34 year old Zabaleta who is painfully slow up against Saint Maximin who is rapid. Other decisions include Balbuena’s return to the team when Ogbonna had been our best centre half; you feel the Italian surely has to return to the starting line-up against Spurs.

In an attempt to look for a glimpse of optimism, I thought while writing this about the routes to us getting better… When the London stadium announcer declaims Fabianski’s name in a starting 11 that may well get the biggest cheer all season as he will certainly help. I tried to defend Roberto but after his outing at Turf Moor and the previous week against Newcastle he is indefensible. He is just bad, he has made some reasonable saves but he flaps at everything and gives the defence no confidence whatsoever. Our Polish No. 1 has been superb for us and has been missed massively, both last season and up until his injury he was covering up how poor the defence has been and continues to be. A statistic to prove how bad our defending has been: Burnley average 4.1 shots on target and against us had 12, likewise Newcastle were averaging 3.4 and had 9 at the London Stadium. Those statistics are a damning indictment on this team’s ability to defend.

Whether it’s in January or in the summer, the club must look for a dynamic midfield partner for Declan Rice. In interviews recently, Mark Noble has effectively admitted he did not expect to be playing as much football this season and, while he always puts in a shift, the midfield desperately needs more balance. A dynamic and energetic midfielder would lift some of the pressure off Rice who at the moment has to cover every blade of grass to cover for Noble’s lack of mobility, while also allowing the attacking players more license to stay forward a bit more at times. Look at the likes of Ndidi at Leicester, his elite defensive contribution allows the likes of Tielemans and Maddison to go forward. Even Nakamba at Aston Villa who is dynamic and wins the ball back well has improved them. We need a player like that who can play alongside Rice and immediately we would look a more balanced side, my concern is that under our current manager this crucial issue has not been addressed.

I hope everyone enjoys not having to watch West Ham this weekend but we must hope that we can get three points against Spurs. Ultimately though I think it’s going to get worse before hopefully getting better. We must keep hoping despite how difficult the board, manager and players make it!

Trust everyone is well, and has a good week!

Talking Point

The Joker Is Wilder

West Ham’s embarrassingly poor performance against Everton on Saturday afternoon slightly soured what was a fantastic week from a personal point of view. While Pellegrini was preparing the team for what resulted in a very poor display on Merseyside, I was down in Winchester for the week celebrating graduating with a 2:1 in English Literature.

Me and a friend had to check out of our hotel by midday, we then headed into town and I went to a pub opposite my first year accommodation to watch the football. I missed the opening 8 minutes of the game as the bloke behind the bar took a while to change the channel from the rugby to BT. I’d missed Roberto make a great stop from Tom Davies but, as the game came on the screen, I could see Everton were starting to take control.

In general I try to remain as positive and optimistic with West Ham as is possible, but surely last weekend’s performance was one of the worst under Pellegrini’s stewardship? The fact the Chilean stated after the game that if he could have done, he would have taken all 11 players off speaks volumes. Creative players we have such as Lanzini, Anderson, Yarmolenko, Fornals etc. will blow hot and cold, and in the case of the young Spaniard he still needs time to adapt and assimilate in the culture. Some of the abuse so called ‘fans’ hurl at the players is laughable; in the case of Fornals he’s not had the easiest start but we have to continue to support him and hopefully he will gain confidence and improve week on week. Anderson was extremely poor and I was not particularly surprised when he was brought off for Yarmolenko at the half time break. Lanzini was also very poor, and moving forward these players must get closer to Haller in order to support him.

After Everton’s superb finish right at the conclusion of the game, I left the pub and headed for the train station annoyed at such an abject performance and wondered what we could do to return to winning ways in the next game. Is it time to properly see what Ajeti can do and play two up front against Wilder’s organised Sheffield United? Our record signing, Sebastien Haller has proved that he can work extremely well alongside a strike partner given his fruitful partnership with Jovic who now plies his trade at Real Madrid. We need to see more of Ajeti, I think he could be quite good but given he’s been limited to league cup games and until Saturday no league minutes, perhaps Pellegrini does not rate him. Sheffield United will be extremely organised and have a great defensive record already, Haller will struggle up against three centre backs if Pellegrini opts for the same formation and the creative players do not get close enough to him. Defenders nowadays are quite rarely confronted with the task of marking two strikers as most teams play with one up top, so I’d love to see Ajeti get his first start on Saturday.

The defence generally has been ok with Ogbonna in particular playing consistently well. The only weak areas are the goal keeper and the left back position. Roberto clearly isn’t as good as Fabianski but he made some decent stops whilst also being partially at fault for Bernard’s opening goal. With the veteran keeper we have to hope with more games he gains more and more confidence, but the return of our Polish No. 1 will be a wonderful Christmas/New Year present. The chop and changing of Cresswell and Masuaku is far from ideal as well; it seems one has a string of decent games and everyone agrees they should stay in the team, then that one gets injured and the other one comes in and has a good run of games but then they get injured and so on… Whoever starts at left back on Saturday I hope can remain fit and have a solid run of games because ideally the defence should remain unchanged for as long as possible.

We definitely will need to be at our best against Sheffield United because they counter attack well and do not give up many chances. The fact we will have had a fair amount more recovery time than Wilder’s men should theoretically help but with West Ham you never know! If we can get Haller good chances you have to hope he will score, but that means players like Anderson, Lanzini and Yarmolenko need to play well and put in maximum effort from minute 1 to minute 94. After such a bad performance against Everton you have to hope that the players will want to respond with a good performance and 3 points. In my previous articles I’ve predicted whether I feel we’ll win and since doing that we’ve only beaten Norwich! I’m far less confident given how structured the newly promoted side are, and how well we will have to play to break them down, so I’ll go for a 1-1 draw in the hope of not predicting a win means we will come out victors.

Hope everyone is well, and has a good week!

My graduation ceremony for anyone interested was at Winchester cathedral on Friday and Dame Judi Dench was receiving an honorary degree. It was great to see such a legendary actor and British icon. Also got to shake Alan Titchmarsh’s hand as he was the Chancellor of the University but will no longer be as of now. As I shook the gardener’s hand I lied to him and said I had read one of his novels and really enjoyed it!

Talking Point

Haller to halt Hodgson's Eagles?

The last three matches of football involving Pellegrini’s men have been fascinating, and illustrate where we are as a team. I do not want to touch on the disappointing loss to Oxford too much, what I gathered from that was players on the periphery who often sit on the bench in league matches are no closer to challenging what is now an established first team.

By all accounts he’s a top professional and has undoubtedly carved a great career for himself in English football but 34 year old Zabaleta cannot keep up with the pace of the game anymore. Equally, given he’s reportedly on quite high wages, one has to wonder why Carlos Sanchez is still at the club when he is not very good. It was an extremely poor performance and the only positive that I can identify is Nathan Holland getting minutes. I feel sorry for the very promising Holland that he had to feature in such a bad showing but, from reports, he was a bright spark while he was on the pitch.

Bournemouth became a really significant game following the embarrassing cup exit. Others have already spoken illuminatingly about the game so I’ll try to avoid going over well-trodden ground. It was my Dad’s birthday on Saturday, and we went for a walk as the 3pm kick offs rolled around. I was pretty nervous given our relatively poor record at the Vitality Stadium. Yarmolenko’s wonderful finish in the 10th minute settled my nerves but halfway through the walk my Mum informed me of King’s equalising goal. It sounded like a decent game as I read the match feed with both sides attacking well, a good advertisement for Premier League football. I was mightily impressed by our first goal, Yarmolenko’s left foot is brilliant and he took the goal very well but Haller’s touch from Anderson’s lofted pass was exquisite. The Frenchman plucked the ball brilliantly as he had to jump for it. The club’s record signing might not have scored since the Norwich game but he’s integral to our build up play, and I firmly believe more goals will come for him.

Looking ahead to the Crystal Palace fixture, I’m very excited as I’ll be going to the London Stadium with a few mates, one of which is a Palace fan. My Palace supporting friend is apprehensive given we have a good record against the South London side at home in recent times. Anderson’s goal last season against Hodgson’s side was superb, and hopefully he can open his account for the season on Saturday. Lanzini also enjoys playing against Palace having scored a few goals against the Eagles in the past. Palace have defended reasonably well thus far this season but have lacked creativity and any real impetus up front. Having said that, it will not be easy as we look to extend our unbeaten run. If we can limit their obvious danger man in Zaha, then I believe our talent in the forward areas should be too much for Palace. It’s safe to say my friend Dan certainly does not look forward to the match up of Joel Ward trying to defend against Felipe Anderson!

Both sides will be missing at least one key player this weekend, with our No. 1 sadly being ruled out for a couple of months, and Palace’s captain and midfield anchor, Milivojevic, is suspended. Palace like to play on the counter so we will need to ensure that, while we are likely to have the lion’s share of possession, we do not get caught out. Fabianski’s injury is a massive blow for us given the incredibly high standards he’s been playing at. The Pole was genuinely one of the best shot stoppers in the division last season and has continued that form into this season. Hopefully the 34 year old recovers quickly, but all fans have to support Roberto now. Roberto has flattered to deceive thus far but a run of consistent game time will hopefully boost his confidence and we’ll see good performances. Fans are clearly entitled to an opinion, and most fans are slightly concerned about Roberto, but to hear that some supporters booed him on Saturday is extremely poor. There is a substantial difference between thinking a player is not very good and not supporting them. We must get behind the Spaniard because booing him and abusing him on social media will not help his confidence.

I hope following the full time whistle on Saturday we will be on 15 points going into the international break, and I can repeatedly remind Dan that we just beat his side convincingly! Our defence has looked pretty solid in recent weeks with Cresswell playing well and scoring two in two games, Fredericks has looked good and Diop and Ogbonna have worked well as a duo. A clean sheet would do Roberto the world of good, and I look forward to seeing our talented attacking players in the flesh again.

By no means do I think Palace will be an easy game as Hodgson has done an admirable job with limited resources but, as I’ve previously stated, I think nullifying Zaha goes a long way to them creating very little and us getting a clean sheet. I believe we will win, the team has never lost a game when I’ve watched the game live so I hope that does not change. I’ll go with a prediction of 2-0 to us, goals from Haller and a rare goal for the brilliant Declan Rice!

Hope everyone is well, and has a good week.

Talking Point

Anderson fillip

We are only four games into the season, and I’ve already seen some West Ham fans predicting our final league position and who we may or may not finish above! The opening day hammering from Man City is the exception to what has been a positive start for Pellegrini’s men, and there is definitely reason to be optimistic.

After the first weekend of Premier League football, we were rooted to the bottom of the table with a -5 goal difference but since then we have drawn one and won two conceding only twice and netting six times. While I think our defence this season might at times be slightly unconvincing, I have no doubt Issa Diop will continue to improve. The former Toulouse defender is integral to the back four, and has been a mainstay ever since coming into the side early on last season away at Arsenal. While he might have his defensive frailties, Arthur Masuaku was brilliant against Norwich achieving an assist for Haller’s first home goal and an 8.8 rating on ‘’ earning him a place in the team of the week. There’s definitely room for improvement in both Masuaku and Frederick’s games, and I have no doubt that both players are working hard to get better. The more games we play with a consistent back four will certainly help both full backs, and they will hopefully contribute to more clean sheets as well as providing added impetus on the right and left flanks.

It speaks volumes about the performances of the team in recent weeks that £25 million pounds worth of talent in Pablo Fornals can hardly get a look in. The Spaniard has admitted he needs time to adapt to the intensity of the Premier League, but the competition for places is fantastic and must please all fans. Manuel Lanzini has started the season in wonderful form accruing 2 assists and has created 14 chances which is only two behind Kevin De Bruyne, not bad company given the Argentinian spent the majority of last season out injured. Pellegrini often praises Wilshere as well, so Fornals will have to ensure he takes his chance when he next features.

The only real negative for the club and fans so far this season is Michail Antonio’s hamstring injury. Antonio looked to be in good form after coming off the bench in both the Brighton and Watford games, and making a really positive impact particularly at Vicarage Road. Whilst it’s unfortunate that the former Nottingham Forest wide man will be out for a reported three months, a positive is that Andriy Yarmolenko appears to be returning to form. With more game time we have to hope that the Ukrainian will continue to get better and chip in with goals and assists because if he’s firing we’ll be very dangerous on both wings.

After his performance against Norwich, Felipe Anderson deserves his own paragraph! He worked really well down the left side with Masuaku and when he plays like he did against the Canaries he’s an absolute joy to watch. The pace, skill and effectiveness of our Brazilian winger was tremendous to see. I was on a train from Hemel Hempstead back into Euston while we were playing Norwich, and I checked Twitter to see one of his nutmegs and I laughed at loud it was that good (probably looked a bit weird to other passengers). Anderson was inspiring and I have no doubt that most Premier League teams would love to have him, but fortunately he’s all ours!

In terms of other players so far this season and particularly against Norwich, I’ll briefly mention them. I feel very safe with Fabianski in goal and he’s just a very good keeper, and by all accounts he put in a stellar display the other night against Arnautovic’s Austria! Declan Rice continues to go from strength to strength and while some fans from other teams might criticise him in an England shirt, he’s still only 20 and very rarely puts a foot wrong. I thought he did his job very well against Bulgaria, nevertheless he’s loved by West Ham fans and that’s all that matters. Mark Noble puts in his trademark performances and leads in exemplary fashion, is it a coincidence we’ve won two games since he’s been back in? I think not! Let’s not forget our new talisman, Sebastien Haller. I already love the Frenchman to be honest, he’s scored three so far but he offers so much as well as goals. It’s actually amusing watching English pundits who know very little of him describe him. The likes of Shearer describing him as a big target man on Match of the Day after the Watford win, but he’s far more than a big lad. Haller can hold the ball up, but he’s also very skilful and brings the likes of Anderson, Lanzini etc. into the game. While hopefully scoring a lot of goals for us, I firmly believe he’ll be one of the most creative forwards in the league.

A positive start overall for us and in my last article I predicted a win against Norwich, I think we should leave Villa Park with three points as well. I saw a statistic that Aston Villa have allowed their opponents the most shots per game so far this season with 19.25. We will need to defend well as Villa will be desperate for their second win, but I think we’ll have too much for them going forward. Haller hat trick maybe, let’s hope so!

Hope everyone is well, have a good week.

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