Match Report

Match Report: West Ham 3 Crystal Palace 0 - Thanks to Super Slaven Bilic

Andy Carroll, quoted after the game…

“No player is bigger than the club. We showed that today & come together as a team to get a result.”

Scores on the doors

Randolph 7, Cresswell 6, Reid 7, Collins 7, Ogbonna 6, Bryam 7, Noble 5, Obiang 6, Antonio 7, Lanzini 8, Carroll 8, Feghouli 7

Those of us at the game were somewhat bewildered at the end of a very tedious first half. None of us saw the second half coming. At all. But at half time Slaven Bilic substituted Angelo Ogbonna and brough on Sam Byram. We reverted to 4-4-2, with Antonio playing up front with Andy Carroll. Almost immediately, you could see and feel the difference. And it was this tactical change which won us the game.

Instead of the languidity of the first 45 minutes when no player seemed to have the desire to do anything but pass sideways or backwards, there was an urgency to our game. We play best when the players inject some pace and that’s what happened for the whole of the second half. We went at Palace in a way we didn’t in the first half and it meant that they were put on the back foot. That’s not to say they had no attacks. They did. But we had more and as the second half wore on we always looked the more likely to score. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When I saw Slaven Bilic’s team selection I was surprised to see James Collins in the lineup in a 3-4-3 formation. That’s not to say I don’t rate Collins. I do. But I did wonder whether this wold work today. I was also surprised to see Fernandes left out of the starting eleven. We had a reasonable first ten minutes, but Palace then came back into it. Given who their manager is I was surprised at the intricacy of their passing. We had more possession than they did, but we kept giving it away. Mark Noble was the worst culprit. Several people around me were saying they reckon Nobes has ‘lost it’ On this performance, especially in the first half, you would have to agree with them. Over the 90 minutes I’d say he was the weakest West Ham player on the pitch.

If you don’t believe me when I say that we had an awful first half, our first shot came on 27 minutes, and Palace’s first shot didn’t come until three minutes later. It was dire stuff. In the first half only Carroll and Lanzini really looked up for it and on it. Carroll played some delightful first touch passes and was awesome in the air. Lanzini had his little tricks but was constantly fouled just when he looked dangerous.

As the second half developed, and we got used to 4-4-2, Sofiane Feghouli came into his own. He’s another Antonio in that you wonder if he has a clue what he is to do next, but in a way that makes him even more dangerous, because if he doesn’t know what he’s about to do, neither do the opposition. He delivered a superb cross from the right which Andy Carroll was unlucky not to score from. You could almost tell something was about to happen. And happen it did.

In the 68th minute the Palace goalkeeper rushed out to the edge of his area on a suicide mission to close down Michail Antonio. At this point, just remember that last night Antonio was running a temperature… Antonio dinked the ball past the keeper, then placed a superb cross (or was it a shot?) for Feghouli to bundle into the net under severe pressure from a Palace defender. Cue mass delirium.

The most important thing after getting a goal at that stage of the match is not to give one away, and to be honest we never looked like doing so. When Loic Remy entered the fray, I was a little concerned as he has scored several against us in the past. Today he looked a shadow of his former self.

Seven minutes after the first goal it was Antonio again who proved the provider. Again from the left. Andy Carroll was waiting seven yards out from the goal level with the right post. It was like watching a ballet dancer in slow motion. Up came his legs, rising behind his body and then bam. Scissor kick, into the top right hand corner of the net. Cue not just delirium, but cue mass delirium. It was a goal to rival that Di Canio one against Wimbledon. It was no more than Carroll deserved. He was the best player on the pitch by a country mile.

The third goal was almost as good, and it came from West Ham’s second best player, Manuel Lanzini. Lanzini has it in him to replace Payet and it has to be said we didn’t miss Payet at all today.

.bq “We had Payet. Dimitri Payet. We just don’t need him anymore…”

And that’s the only mention the disloyal moneygrabbing French **** will get in this article. Lanzini took a delightfully timed pass from Antonio to dink it over the oncoming Wayne Hennessy into the net. This was Antonio’s third assist of the game, the first time a West Ham player has provided 3 assists in a game since 2000. They were also his first assists of the season, which is a bit of a surprise.

Manuel Lanzini has scored a goal in each of his four Premier League appearances against Crystal Palace; double the amount he’s scored against any other Premier League club.

Surprisingly we only had 44% of the possession. We only had three shots on target, all of which resulted in goals.

I thought this was one of the loudest crowds we’ve had at the stadium so far, but it really only came to life in the second half. The first half was a bit of a library. It’s clear that it’s up to the team to lift the crowd at the moment, rather than the other way around. At Upton Park there were games when the crowd realised the team needed a lift and they provided it. So far this season that has never happened. One other point. We were told the match was a sellout prior to the game, so no doubt we will see an attendance of 57,000 listed in the papers. No way was that a sellout. There were at least 2-5,000 empty seats.

One final word. I thought Sam Byram was a revelation today. He hasn’t played for three months, yet looked totally comfortable both in defence and attack. He made some crunching tackles, made several timely interceptions and also nearly bagged a goal. Think of the contrast between the performances of Havard Nordtveit in that position. I pray he will keep his place and get a good run of games under his belt.

We are now twelfth in the table, our highest position so far this season. Our goal difference has been reduced to -9. We can look forward to the Middlesbrough game next week with some confidence. As long as we play 4-4-2.

PS David Hautzig is away.

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Match Thread

Match Thread: West Ham v Crystal Palace

West Ham v Crystal Palace
FA Premier League
Olympic Stadium
KO 3pm
TV: None
Radio: BBC London

Crystal Palace Starting XI

Please use this thread to comment on the game as it progresses.

Lineup Prediction

Lineup Prediction: West Ham v Crystal Palace

Subs: Adrian, Fletcher, Nordtveit, Collins, Oxford, Quina, Browne

Changes will be rung today with the traitor Payet refusing to play and Antonio unfit with a flu bug. I hope (although I perhaps do not expect) to see Sam Byram return at right back in place of the hapless Nordtveit, who remains one of the worst players ever to pull on a West Ham shirt. Kouyate and Ayew are at the African Cup of nations, so we really are down the bare bones. It’s possible Reece Oxford could start, but i’d have thought the impressive Fernandes would probably be preferred in midfield.

I wonder if the events of the week will have a galvanising effect on the team and get them fired up. You’d certainly hope so.

I hope we all give James Tomkins a warm welcome back, and even give Sam Allardyce a clap. I think we’ll learn a lot about the team, and maybe ourselves today.


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Transfer Gossip

Payet Wants Out

Breaking news this morning is that Dimitri Payet looks as if he’s played his last game for West Ham. This is what Slaven Bilic told reporters at his press conference this morning…

“We have said we don’t want to sell our best players but Payet does not want to play for us. He wants to leave. We are not going to sell him. This team, the staff, we gave him everything, we were always there for him. I feel let down. I feel angry.”

And there was me thinking that Payet was different. That he really bought into the West Ham project. That he wasn’t a mercenary. How naive of me. I have a feeling of utter dejection and being completely let down by someone who had become something of a hero to us.

We never really HAD Payet, after all, did we?

UPDATE: The more I think about this, the angrier it makes me, but let’s be realistic, there’s no point in Bilic saying he won’t be sold, because when a player effectively goes on strike, there’s only ever one outcome. He leaves. We should say to him: “OK, we’ve given you everything you’ve ever asked for, and you’ve now shat on us big style. You can go, but if no club meets the asking price, you’re staying whether you like it or not. And if you don’t put every effort into it, you can whistle for your salary.”

I’d suggest that £35 million should be the minimum asking price. it is rumoured Marseilles want him back. We paid £11 million for him, so it’s unlikely they would pay £35 million. In which case, OK. Let’s see if anyone pay that for him. If not, tell him to play or rot in the reserves.

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Transfer Gossip

Rodney, you know it makes sense! An attempted ‘realistic’ take on our striker targets

Guest Post by Forever Blowing Bubbles

The January transfer window is much maligned as being one that exists exclusively for the panic buyers, with very little quality on offer. That is not strictly true, as the quality is certainly there, but not necessarily available and if so only for exorbitant prices as no one is willing to sell any top player slap bang in the middle of the season and quite rightly so! With regards to panic buys…well…we wouldn’t even be considering them in our current situation had our transfer strategy in the summer been more sound. And it is my concern that this is the route we once again find ourselves trundling down.

In the summer, it was all about the fabled £30m striker, and while I cannot fault the David’s ambition, none of the top strikers we targeted were ever going to come to us – Lacazette, Batshuayi, Bacca and the like. And here we are in January, once again pining after strikers that will never come to us, but this time for a different reason. This time it’s not the fact that we cannot hope to lure champions league players – we’re aiming much closer to the championship – but we are targeting players at clubs who simply do not want to sell…at least not right now.

Let’s start with the man who divides opinion. Jermain Defoe. A £6m bid touted, rejected out of hand. We then decide, however badly advised, to (allegedly) say “name your price”. Well, there was only ever going to be one outcome to that. “Priceless” says David Moyes and Sunderland, “Not for sale”. You Plonker. Did we really expect anything else? A £6m bid is a completely reasonable amount for a 34-year-old goal scorer who is albeit still banging them in at a regular rate, despite his age. But I genuinely don’t believe that even if we offered £15m-20m in this transfer window, as some suggest, that they would sell. Even with such a windfall, finding a striker in January to replace Defoe would not be likely and akin to suicide for the club already likely to be relegated. He is their only hope of survival. Now you could be forgiven for thinking I am against signing Mr Defoe – not at all, I think he is just what we need – but not right now for that price. We all know, despite what Sullivan says, he is not prepared to spend the money we ideally need to on strikers – past transfer windows have taught us this – and I say this as someone who is actually a fan of both his and Gold’s despite their several obvious downsides, including the current fan division they have unwittingly created over the new stadium (ask me my opinion on that some other time, if you will.) With this lack of real decisive funds in mind, if we were, as is most unlikely, to spend circa £15m on Defoe this window and in a parallel universe Sunderland were to accept – that’s our striker budget almost or completely gone. On a 34-year-old, albeit, good striker, who we will see no return on.

My suggestion is to do something we never do and actually play the long game, keeping our cards much closer to our chest. A difficult task when Mr Sullivan is more akin to a poker player who can’t help but smirk and giggle when he draws a winning hand. I am absolutely convinced that if we entered negotiations in the summer with Sunderland they would be willing to sell, for the £6m offered or maybe £10m at the most (in the current climate of overinflated fees) – a much more reasonable fee in any case. The reasons being, if they have been relegated Jermain is given a get out of jail free card and Sunderland won’t be in quite as strong a bargaining position to hold out for any more money. If they have been saved and remain in the premiership for another year, this will be most likely down to Defoe, in which case he can say “I’ve done my job, now I’m off” and still Sunderland will have got what they wanted – another year in the league, their January “priceless” stance validated for their striker – and be prepared to sell in the knowledge they have the whole season ahead of them to prepare for life without him. So a summer transfer bid sounds good, yes? Well except for the fact that still leaves us without the striker we need…

So what of our other targets? The two most widely reported are Brentford’s Scott Hogan and Celtic’s Moussa Dembele (Not the Spud). Both good choices – two young hungry strikers who are scoring goals for fun in their respective leagues. The only questions being, can they make the step up to the premier league and how quickly?

The former, Hogan, I would argue we will encounter the same or similar problems as with Defoe. Its January – the middle of a season – and although Brentford are not pushing for promotion nor fighting relegation, they are still under no pressure to sell for anything less than their required fee, which reports suggest are also around the £15m mark (we have offered £8m apparently) a huge chunk of our potential budget once again. Now unlike, Defoe, it is arguable that a £15m outlay for a promising young striker is chicken feed and I would be inclined to agree. But we come back to that problem I mentioned above. Can he make the step up? Very likely, but by no means guaranteed. More importantly, can he make the step up IMMEDIATELY? I would suggest we cannot take any Zaza-esque chances in this regard this time (though I would be loath to put the poor boy in the same category as the Italian). So for me, that’s another one out, at least until the summer, when he would have an entire pre-season to bed in with us and make the step up under less pressure.

As for the latter, Dembele. I can’t help but think this one is pie in the sky. The lad looks a real prospect. Only 20. Scores a bucket load for Celtic, who regularly play in the champions league, despite the argument that the Scottish League is incredibly inferior to ours. Why would the boy leave to come to us at the current juncture? Or even if he would, why would Celtic sell? They have absolutely no incentive to do so. If reports are true and we have bid £20m for him (not convinced personally but hey what do I know – the “insider” says so, therefore it must be kosher) and Celtic have laughed in our faces then we should back away. The boy may be worth £20m but he is still, despite his skill, an unknown quantity and the apparent £30-40m Celtic reportedly want bid before they will even come to the table to consider a transfer is far too rich for our (Sullivan’s) blood. Not for us I’m afraid. Not now, not in the summer, maybe in the future thereafter, but likely not at all.

I’ve gone and done it again, haven’t I? No strikers for us in January. Mangetout, Mangetout.

Actually, I do have one suggestion that has been mooted, but by the sounds of things not followed up by the club – who I think are missing a trick. Step forward, Mr Shane Long. People seem unsure about him, but I am happy to sing his praises if only to suggest that, in my humble opinion, he is the most sensible option available to us in this transfer window. The man is a proven premier league goal scorer who has scored wherever he’s gone, even when playing with some relatively talentless players with little service – tick. Although getting on, he’s not past it yet, and as he has slipped down the pecking order at Southampton, through no fault of his own, he is likely to be surplus to requirements and therefore actually available in January! And available for around £8-10m most likely. Big tick. He is a goal poacher, exactly what we need, to play either with Carroll or alone, and would most certainly make the most of the chances Payet and Lanzini create. I actually think he would find his best form with us considering the service our midfielders can potentially provide. Bonnet de douche Dominic! Tickedy tick tick.

Unlike Hogan or Dembele, Long would need no time to adjust to playing with us and start scoring. Something we sorely need if we are to buy in January. Unlike Defoe, his club would be willing to sell in this window, and for a relatively reasonable price as this would help fund their own transfer aims. And even if we disregard anything else, the thing that sells Long to me the most are these things – the fact that his transfer is achievable. Our summer business was blighted by chasing targets to the very deadline, which we could not and ultimately did not get. The last thing I want to see this window is us chasing the likes of Jermain Defoe to the 11th hour, when ultimately his club will just say – “no thanks” or “not in January anyway”. And there we are again, left with nobody. Long would prevent this. We could get the deal done now and swiftly.

Again this is not to say that we should not go for these other strikers at a later date. I personally believe that we should be bidding for Hogan – or some other achievable, good quality prospect or proven goal scorer in the summer. Would still love another crack at Batshuayi the bench warmer, but then perhaps we’re back to unrealistic – mustn’t gamble! And if by the time we reach the summer Shane Long has not proven he can do the business, then a bid for Jermain Defoe, for a reasonable price as suggested, would be a good bet as well as the likes of Hogan to bolster our strike force, as he still has real quality and seems to want to make amends if you believe such things.

In the meantime, you may ask is Long enough? I believe so and even if he isn’t I think its madness to suggest that the Daves are likely to splurge on more than one striker this window. I’d like that to happen but I just can’t see it myself, unless the transfer fees were lower than those currently touted. With recent reports suggesting current flops are likely to remain on the wage bill until the summer, they just won’t sanction that. And despite this I think we will have enough. If we were to get Long, we would have two decent strikers until February – he and Carroll (3 if you include Fletcher who in my opinion we should definitely not sell or put out on loan if we are only to get one new striker in. We will need him.) When AFCON ends Ayew will return, who I actually rate. I know he hasn’t shown his worth as yet, due to injury etc, but I believe he will do so. His biggest failing his not his own fault – the fact the Dave’s spent a whopping £20m on his signature – hugely overpriced – and the fact they then tried to pass him off as our marquee striker, when we know that he is an attacking midfielder/winger/second striker type player who will score goals for us if given time and in the right role. Ayew’s tenure at Swansea and in France tells us that. (I personally would like to see him moved to the left side of a front 3 where Payet normally is and put Payet in the centre behind the striker but hey ho). So there’s another forward option there. In March or thereafter we may well see the return of Sakho also, who despite all his problems, has something to prove and scores when he’s fit. In my opinion, these players with the addition of Long would push us through to the summer, when more quality reinforcements would be necessary so we no longer have to rely on those who are injury prone and this tactic would be much more realistic.

An £8-10m outlay now for guaranteed goals, with another 15-20m potentially awaiting a top quality option in the summer?
A £20m outlay now for an unproven commodity or 34-year-old (if they even did sell!) which eats up almost all of our budget so when the summer rolls around we find we can’t bolster further as we hear the cries of FFP etc…etc.. we all detest so much… Let’s not even discuss our need for a new RB or potentially even a goalkeeper in this miniscule budget…Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems. (I’m down with the kids). We need to be canny with our money and our mouths for once.

Now, I’m not a businessperson…but looking at those potential two options, I’d know which I’d choose, but I’m interested to hear what you think.

And as Del Boy would say – you know it makes sense!

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