Talking Point

Moyes annoys

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything West Ham related, and while I might have missed expressing my thoughts, I haven’t missed this football club continuing to be bad. Since my last post we’ve been hit by a global pandemic and the lockdown period for many was very strange and posed a multitude of problems, be it financial, physical or mental issues or all of the above. Football became secondary during this difficult time and while football without fans is undoubtedly very different (and worse), I had enjoyed seeing German football return and slowly started to remind myself of the fixtures West Ham had to play.

Despite the Sky commentators repeatedly mentioning that Moyes was happy with the level of fitness following two friendlies against QPR and Crystal Palace, I have thought the team has looked sluggish and fatigued at various stages of both the 2-0 losses to Wolves and Spurs. When the club announced the re-appointment of David Moyes, I wasn’t particularly happy; I tweeted saying that it was without question an uninspiring appointment. I was, however, willing to give him a chance. The Scotsman’s win percentage as manager is lower than Avram Grant and my Dad and I have both agreed that is a pretty damning statistic. I knew that Moyes would not set us up to play attractive football as he was brought in like last time to keep us up first and foremost, and then build upon the foundation he had set. We looked really poor against Nuno’s Wolves and I appreciated that most teams would look rusty in the first game back, but simple passes, positioning and fitness all looked a real problem for us, whereas Wolves looked a structured and polished outfit.

The 2-0 loss to Spurs is a poor result but there was a little bit of improvement from Wolves. We looked slightly more organised and while Declan Rice was fantastic at centre back in the previous game, the team was definitely buoyed by his return to the midfield. I sat in the living room watching the game and just felt we never looked like scoring, and defensively weren’t good enough to keep the Spurs attackers quiet for the duration of the game (Spurs didn’t even need to be especially good). I’ve caught snippets of the two games that Aston Villa who in my eyes are our main rival for that third relegation spot and, while they’ve only accrued two points, not only is that two more points than us since the restart but they really look up for the fight and ready to give it their all for the fans. Yes, on paper following the Chelsea game we might have ‘easier’ games than some of our relegation rivals, but having watched us sit incredibly deep in both games and genuinely posing no attacking threat with a manager who is never proactive in making substitutions, I don’t have much hope we’ll be in the Premier League next season. There were three players for us against Spurs who I felt could be happy with their individual contributions, Fabianski, Rice and Jarrod Bowen. Declan Rice has been outstanding for us this season and my hopes of him replacing Noble as captain are fading because like the fans he deserves so much better than what West Ham are offering at the moment.

Despite the fact that I am becoming increasingly concerned we will be swapping Anfield for Stoke’s ‘Bet365 Stadium’ next season, I’ll try to outline some positives. Since the restart we’ve been without club record signing, Sebastien Haller as well as our best centre back this season in Angelo Ogbonna. I believe both the Frenchman and Italian international should be back fit for our game against Lampard’s men at the London Stadium, and they both improve us. While Michail Antonio always puts in a shift for the team, he isn’t a player who can play up front on his own, he doesn’t know the intricacies of the role. There’s also no doubting that while Issa Diop has had a shaky season, he looks more assured alongside Ogbonna. We will also be the third team Chelsea will have played in the space of six days, and so perhaps we can take advantage of that with more rest time. If we can create a bit more in the final third in the upcoming games, I back Haller to score some goals because he has been missed in the opening two games.

At random points of my days I start thinking about what the squad will look like if we are relegated, and there’s no doubt that it will be very different. Virtually the whole midfield and attack would go as well as maybe all of our centre backs. At least with championship football we would get rid of players on high wages who either don’t warrant that money and or aren’t fully committed to the team. Maybe Xande Silva will become a star man, Josh Cullen might finally get a proper run in the team, somehow Noble will still be starting despite his mobility or lack thereof in central midfield now seriously hindering the team. Will Moyes be the manager irrespective of the division we are in? I really hope not but most likely because the board will do what is cheapest and most convenient for them which is keep this outdated manager that didn’t get touched by another club in the time between being sacked by us and returning to East London.

West Ham are sadly a sinking ship and we shall continue to sink under Gold & Sullivan’s ownership and, with Moyes at the helm, it’s a ship that might not return to sea level for a long time. If we don’t go down this season, next season at the very least will be another real struggle. The pain, when will it end?

Talking Point

West Ham need The Mamba mentality

Before discussing anything sport and or West Ham related, I would like to send my deepest condolences to the 9 people who were tragically killed in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles last Sunday. Two of the 9 in the helicopter that crashed were Kobe Bryant the legendary basketball player and his 13 year old daughter called Gianna. People die every day but the death of such a prominent figure not only in basketball but in sport as a whole really resonated with me, and made me consider things in a different way.

I cannot claim to have grown up an avid basketball fan, it is football and West Ham that consumed my childhood and now adult life. However at University I joined the men’s basketball team, not as a player just as a social member I’d like to add! I began to watch more basketball and learn more about the players and the sport, and Kobe Bryant was clearly a legend of the game who transcended the sport as people who have no interest in basketball probably had heard this man’s name.

This past weekend has been interesting for me, apart from the sadness of learning about Bryant’s death on Sunday, on Saturday I was at the London Stadium to watch us exit the 4th round of the FA Cup at the hands of Slaven Bilic’s Baggies. As we have been for the vast majority of this season, we were extremely poor. A combination of injuries, a lack of confidence and quality is really costing us and could see us be relegated which would not be surprising given the mismanagement of the club from the top to the bottom. Balbuena was misplacing incredibly simple passes and looks devoid of confidence, Zabaleta is a great pro but why was he given a contract extension? These are two examples in the defence alone that are symbolic of the embarrassment that is West Ham at the moment.

The Sullivan and Gold era has been discussed a lot recently given it’s been 10 years since they took over, and I’m sure most West Ham fans are pleased to see more media outlets discuss the shambolic lack of investment in the training ground and lack of scouting and recruitment system. There are league 1 teams with better training facilities than us, the reports of the club employing one scout are laughable but not at all surprising. We all know to stand a chance of avoiding the drop this season, we need the current players to roll their sleeves up and dig in but also at least one player to arrive before the January deadline. I’m sat here trying to be positive and if you look at most of my articles, I usually find something but it is very bleak at the moment and the fans do not deserve it.

Too many players have regressed or aren’t good enough at this football club. I sat in my seat on Saturday and at half time said to my brother and Dad something along the lines of ‘how the f**k did Carlos Sanchez become a professional footballer?’ No other Premier League team would include Sanchez in a squad, let alone start him in games but because we’ve sold so many players and the board have dithered in the market for so long, our central midfield options are pathetic. Lanzini looks a shadow of his former self, and the fact Fornals continues to be subbed by Moyes instead of the Argentinian worries me. To sum up my scrambled thoughts, we have a great keeper who’s sadly been injured for too much of the season, and then the defence, midfield and attack includes some talented players but they look lost and I don’t know how much Moyes will benefit them/us fans.

To summarise, Kobe was known as the black Mamba and was especially known for a mamba mentality, indeed his book is titled ‘The Mamba Mentality’. On his book tour in 2016, the man himself described what it really means ‘To sum up what Mamba Mentality is, it means to be able “to constantly try to be the best version of yourself," Bryant said. It’s a constant quest to try to better today than you were yesterday.’ I think we all can learn from Bryant’s words, whether you apply that to everyday life, being kinder to friends and family and chasing your dreams, or whether you aspire to be an athlete like him. All I know is I really hope the West Ham players have seen what Kobe represented, and they work harder to try get us out of the mess we are in.

Hope everyone is well, and has a great week.

Talking Point

The Moyes is back in town

Year have come and gone and Moyes has returned for his second spell as manager. First of all I hope everyone had a good Christmas with family and friends, and equally I hope the club and all West Ham fans reading this have a prosperous 2020.

My thoughts with regards to David Moyes coming back in weren’t particularly positive to be honest but he has done well thus far with two wins, a total of six goals and two clean sheets. When I considered it all, I was not that annoyed that Moyes had been appointed because I felt confident he would make us tougher to beat (perhaps not difficult following Pellegrini’s ability to coach a defence) and we would work harder on and off the ball. With the two David’s opting for the Scotsman I felt it was just a regressive decision and a bit uninspiring. However, as I thought about it even more and discussed it with my Dad as well as friends, Moyes was the sensible choice and anybody I ideally wanted (Niko Kovac) would not be silly enough to come and work under the owners and will eventually get a better and more attractive offer.

The Bournemouth game was really important in the end as teams around us had all got good results, and so to win in such emphatic fashion was pleasing to see. Noble was very good, you could clearly see despite only having had at maximum two sessions under the new manager, the players were pressing and putting in a lot more effort. Haller’s goal following a surprisingly accurate Fredericks cross was superb, and hopefully under Moyes we put in more crosses for the Frenchman and he prospers. That goal sandwiched in between Noble’s brace was a reminder to us but perhaps more other teams and fans in the Prem that we have a very talented striker who hopefully kicks on as Moyes directs us up the table. Anderson this season has not hit the heights he did last season and until the game on New Year’s day had not scored a goal, and he had been criticised a fair amount on social media. However, against Bournemouth I felt he was very good and the goal capped off a much better performance. Perhaps he was slightly sloppy in possession on a couple of occasions or a pass did not quite reach the intended target, but I would argue some of that comes with the nature of his position and style as he is a player tasked with making penetrative forward passes. Again under Moyes I think and hope we will see a much better version of Felipe, because like most of our players he looked lost and devoid of confidence under Pellegrini.

The Gillingham game was always likely to be difficult as the lower league teams almost always want a Cup run and to beat Premier League sides unless they are battling promotion perhaps. In the first half with a strong team in a new formation which I imagine we’ll see more of, we were shockingly bad in my opinion. I have no doubt Moyes told the players they needed to do better and in the second half we were better and created chances, ultimately winning with a professional performance in which the defence did especially well up against a lot of corners and long throws. If I were being generous to Mr Pellegrini, the best we would have achieved under him vs Gillingham would have been a replay at London Stadium but under Moyes we showed a resilience to dig in when required and get the job done.

Talking more generally about West Ham at the moment I’m very pleased to see Pablo Fornals settle in more and be contributing to goals and assists. In a lot of ways I differ to the 23 year old Spaniard both physically and in terms of playing style, he’s a skilful attacking player and I’m generally a holding midfielder and he’s obviously a hell of a lot better than me! However both Pablo and I in our last outings on a football pitch registered a goal and assist; having said that I’d rather be contributing to an FA Cup tie than a Monday six a side league but we can’t have it all. I’d like to think my assist though was more legitimate than Pablo’s as I intercepted a pass and played through my West Ham supporting friend called Will who’s in good goal scoring form. Whereas the No. 18 rather scuffed an attempted shot which found its way into the path of Zabaleta. Moral of this paragraph: Fornals has been very good and will continue to improve hopefully, and maybe I should be playing alongside Pablo instead of Lanzini!

Ultimately, Moyesy has got off to a good start and the players appear to like him. We are already working harder than we were and I have faith that the former Everton and Manchester United man will steer us away from the drop zone. The pressing has been good and the occasional long ball over the top towards Haller can definitely work. It’ll be tough with the upcoming fixtures looking difficult so we’ll see where we are with Moyes after that. We certainly need reinforcements in this window, by the time this article goes out Randolph has probably been announced, maybe a right back will come in on loan due to Fredericks’ as well as possibly a centre back and a striker. But the position we desperately need to address and thankfully appears to be of primary concern is central midfield as Rice needs a dynamic box to box style player and if we get that we’ll be alright I think. By the time this is out, Gedson Fernandes might have arrived. I hope he solves some problems but if he’s the only midfield arrival he’ll have a lot of pressure on his shoulders.

Hope everyone is well, and has a good week.

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!

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