We could be facing Mauro Zarate and Valon Behrami this afternoon. Zarate in particular will be looking to make a point to West Ham, as he feels he was never really given enough game time to prove himself at Upton Park. He had some very good games with us but Sam Allardyce was never a fan. He wasn’t an Allardyce type of player and he never wanted him at the club in the first place. He only played 22 games, scoring a more than creditable five goals. If I recall correctly, all five were gems.
On 23 July 2008, West Ham signed Valon Behrami from Lazio, with the player signing a five-year contract for a fee of £5 million.I thought he was a brilliant player and was gutted when he moved to Fiorentina in January 2011. He played 58 games for us, scoring four goals but he suffered a couple of bad injuries. Since he left us he has played for Fiorentina, Napoli and Hamburg, and hasn’t scored a single goal for any of them. I remain a fan, though.
In terms of our lineup, I covered the options earlier in the week. Andy Carroll, it seems, won’t figure and will be lucky to make the Chelsea game. Andre Ayew is back in contention and Bilic now has some big selection headached with Ayew, Feghouli, Lanzini and Snodgrass competing for two positions. This is my predicted lineup…
Randolph, Cresswell, Byram, Reid, Fonte, Obiang, Kouyate, Noble, Lanzini, Antonio, Snodgrass
And the bench…
Adrian, Collins, Ayew, Fletcher, Calleri, Feghouli, Fernandes
Feghouli would be very unhappy if he is left out of the starting eleven, given that he has improved with every game and has chipped in with a couple of goals.
Watford have some terrible injury problems, with seven first teamers doubtful for this afternoon.
You have until 4.25pm to enter the Predictor League.
Mark Noble has done a fascinating two part interview with European football journalist Graham Hunter.
Graham introduces the first part on his blog
JUNE 20, 2007. That was the day England faced their Dutch counterparts in a European Under-21 Championship semi-final and were only sent home after an all-out penalty battle royal. A record was set, with the 25 spot-kicks required to separate the sides still standing as the longest penalty shoot out in UEFA history. It was also the day that Mark Noble, who scored twice in that shoot out, was left in tears as his side fell just short of the final. But don’t worry, the midfielder was later consoled by a few sympathetic northerners he met on holiday. He was happy to be put on the spot for his country in Heerenveen, having practised penalties repeatedly in training sessions before the tournament. “Every day after training, every player took a penalty and [head coach] Stuart Pearce stood there with a pad and pen and took notes,” Mark says in the podcast:
“Mark, scored. James Milner, scored. Tom Huddlestone, scored. He went through the line, bang, bang, bang, bang… I never missed.” It is a habit he has continued throughout his career, with Mark now established as the penalty taker for West Ham United – and in this Big Interview he gives a wonderfully honest account of how he handles that responsibility.
Listen to part one HERE
This is Graham’s introduction to the second part of the interview…
MARK Noble grew up with a football field for a back garden. Or at least he did once his dad had a secret gate installed behind the house, so that Mark could take a ball and sneak on to the grounds of a school. It was not too long before he was stepping out at Upton Park. Or should that be the Boleyn Ground? Either way, in Part Two of his Big Interview, Mark talks about that famous old stadium and the final game there, against Manchester United under the lights. Mark has kept a photograph from that night – a picture of the West Ham fans looking on as he shields the ball to help see out the game. He remains connected to his support, his community, and Mark talks eloquently about the social housing projects being undertaken by the Legacy Foundation, which he founded alongside two other London boys: Bobby Zamora and Rio Ferdinand. Mark is a good footballer and a good man.
Listen to part two: HERE
Mud, glorious mud. This is our 5-1 demolition of Manchester City (those were the days!) at Maine Road in 1970. I seem to remember the Boleyn Ground pitch could get pretty muddy, but surely not as bad as this.
OK, OK, it’s only Tuesday, but I’m already looking forward to Saturday’s away game against Watford. It’s the sort of game we should be aiming to get three points from. Given that we have virtually all our players available for selection – Sakho being the exception – I thought it would be useful to try to decide what our strongest lineup might be. There are various dilemmas for Slaven Bilic, not least who to play in midfield.
I’m wondering whether Adrian might be nearing a recall given that despite some fine performances there are still the odd doubts about Darren Randolph. I’m probably wrong, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
Reid and Fonte are the clear first choices as central defenders in a four man defence. Cresswell is first choice left back, although Masuaku is a good challenger for him. At right back it is less clear. Personally, I think Sam Byram is a great player but he never seems to get a run in the side, either because he is thwarted by injury or the manager thinks he’s too young. Kouyate has filled in in this position in the last few games, but he didn’t have a happy game against West Bromwich Albion, and is clearly itching to get back to his preferred midfield berth. I give Byram the nod against Watford.
If we accept that Antonio and Snodgrass will play out wide, then there are three central midfield places up for grabs. Kouyate, Noble and Obiang would seem to be the obvious choices, although that might be considered quite a defensive choice. Sofiane Feghouli seems to be getting better with each game, and having scored against WBA he will feel hard done by if he’s dropped to the bench. Lanzini is back in form plus Andre Ayew is back and seems to be raring to go, but I can’t see how he can command a place unless we move to a 4-4-1-1 formation – but even then, that would mean he would play instead of Lanzini or Snodgrass. I just can’t see it.
Of course if we were to play a more attacking formation one of Noble/Obiang/Kouyate would have to be dropped. On current form you’d have to say that Mark Noble’s place might well be in jeopardy, but can you really drop your team captain? I know Zaman got a lot of flak when he retweeted another site’s tweet, which suggested just that, but I’m afraid it’s a route Bilic will inevitably have to consider going down.
Andy Carroll. Who else?
So if the entire first team squad is fit, this is my first eleven and bench…
Randolph, Reid, Fonte, Cresswell, Byram, Kouyate, Obiang/Noble, Snodgrass, Antonio, Lanzini, Carroll
Adrian, Collins, Fernandes, Sakho, Feghouli, Ayew, Obiang/Noble