Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with The Blades

NOTE FROM IAIN: The Predictor League for Sheffield United today is open HERE. Entries can be submitted until 12 noon.

After the enforced international break, West Ham return to action this weekend with a Sunday lunchtime visit to South Yorkshire where we meet Sheffield United. Before the game I spoke to lifelong Blades fan Jack Simpson, who growing up between Millwall and Crystal Palace understandably decided to follow his dad and support Sheffield United, to discuss the game and the season.

Hi Jack. Last season was a great return to the Premier League after a long absence for Sheffield United. You must have been delighted with your final position of 9th in the league? Apart from your high position what were your highlights of the 19/20 season?
Would it be cheeky at this stage to say seeing David Moyes’ face when Michael Oliver got word that Declan Rice had handled the ball in the lead up to Robert Snodgrass’ last minute equaliser, sorry, non-equaliser, at Bramall Lane? But no, in all seriousness, there were so many. From Billy Sharp’s equaliser against Bournemouth on the opening day, to coming back from 2-0 down to draw in the last minute at Stamford Bridge, to beating both Tottenham and Chelsea three-zip in the space of nine days after the COVID break, it was definitely a memorable one. But the overriding feeling is just of pride at how we went toe-to-toe with everyone and were not overawed in the vast majority of games. Up until the COVID break, Europe was actually a possibility. The team was basically the same the same 11 that got us promoted. Many, as the famous Blades song goes, saw them as “journeymen” from the Championship and League One, and favourites for the drop, but we were incredible.

This season is not at the moment looking so good. Is it a case of ‘2nd season blues’, or was it that you massively over-performed last year? What is the main reason for the disparity between then and now?
We definitely over-performed last season. We were riding the crest of the wave of confidence from the promotion season and that basically lasted all the way up to the enforced COVID break. There were definitely signs after the resumption that our powers were on the wane, and our last three games of the season showed that. After beating Chelsea 3-0 at Brammall Lane, we proceeded to lose our next three without scoring a goal. I think we have lost 10 out of our last 11 Premier League games across both seasons. Crucial to our success last year was the fact the team stayed largely unchanged; we were very lucky with injuries. Everyone knew their roles, which is crucial when you play a system like ours. And those that did play, most of whom had never played in the Premier League before, were playing the football of their lives, hitting eight out of ten pretty much every game. This has definitely not been the case this year. Hearing the news that Jack O’Connell, our left overlapping centre back and arguably best player, would be out for the season was a hammer blow. He has left a glaring hole in that left side of defence, with at least four of the goals we have conceded coming from opposition headers, he would usually be covering. Injuries to midfielder Jon Fleck (the bloke you lot wanted to sign a couple of seasons ago) and striker Lys Mousset (the bloke who shinned one in against you lot at the Olympic Stadium last year) have not helped either. Equally, some of our best players from last season such as Oli Norwood, George Baldock and Enda Stevens, are suffering from a severe drop in form and have hit nowhere near the heights of last season. We also don’t score many goals. We’ve only scored four all season, and only two of them have been from open play. To be honest, we weren’t free scorers last year, we got only 39 goals across the season’s 38 games. Only difference is, last year we had the fourth best defence in the division, conceding only 39 goals. This year we have the joint fifth worse defence, having shipped 14 goals.

Of course Chris Wilder is the same man as last year (although I saw in the press that he has taken up drinking again recently), does he still have the confidence and backing of the fans?
In Chris Wilder, we trust. The club was at its lowest ebb when he answered the call to come and manage us. We had just finished 12th in League One, our fifth season in the third tier, and fan morale was at an all time low. To be honest, it was bloody lucky our chairman, Kevin McCabe (remember him Hammers fans?), did call him when he did. Folklore has it, and this has been confirmed by Wilder, that he was on the train down to London to be unveiled as Charlton’s new manager when his phone rang. He didn’t start that well either. He lost three his first four games, leaving the Blades bottom of League One. The last one coming in a miserable day down at the New Den. However, since then he has not looked back. Promotion with 100 points in the first season and then promotion to the Prem in his third. What makes it even better is he is a Blade through and through. Was a ball boy and player, twice, at the club. He was even seen at the odd home and away game, when the team he was managing wasn’t playing. There have been slight murmurings in the fanbase for the first time that he might not be the man for the job, but this is very much from the not so silent minority. He is Sheffield United’s greatest ever manager – most fans will agree – and if anyone is going to get us out of this sticky situation, it is Tufty.

How do you rate West Ham’s David Moyes as manager?
David Moyes has surprised me. Maybe it was a bit lazy, but I, like many football journalists and pundits, had him down as one of the favourites in the sack race at the start of the season. However, West Ham have started the season really well. Alongside us, you’ve probably had the hardest set of opening fixtures to the season of anyone. A haul of 11 points after those run of games is pretty impressive. I’ve only seen West Ham once this season. It was against Arsenal and I was impressed. You were arguably the better team and thought you were really unlucky not to get something out of it. I think the jury is still out a bit on David Moyes, he hasn’t pulled up trees since his halcyon days at Everton, and wonder whether he could take you to a position any higher than mid-table mediocrity. But imagine most Hammers fans can’t have too many complaints this season so far.
Managerial skills aside, I do rate his opening Real Sociedad interview as one of the funniest football interviews I have seen.

You’ve spent big on Rhian Brewster, amongst others – how are your new signings fitting in?
I think the stat (don’t quote me on this) that he only touched the ball just over a dozen times across his first two games, says it all really. He has not set the world alight yet, as many Blades fans hoped/prayed he might have have done. In his defence though, his first three games have seen us play Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea, and we haven’t shown much in the way of attacking enterprise across those fixtures. He does look like he is working his way into Premier League football, having never played a Premier League game since coming to the Blades for £20m in September: he’s looked slightly overwhelmed with it all so far. Blades fans are keeping their fingers crossed he will grow into the role and start firing on all cylinders, as we are desperate for a striker that can score. The summer also saw us spend money on goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, with the England Under-21 signing for £18m after appearances etc. Ramsdale, who we sold three years ago to Bournemouth for just £800,000, has been the focus of criticism from a section of the support after some questionable decisions between the sticks in recent weeks. But this must be seen with the caveat that he has had a bloody lot to do. Most of the criticism is from Blades fans that constantly compare him to England international and now Manchester United second-choice Dean Henderson, who was on loan at Brammall Lane for two seasons and was a fans’ favourite. Ramsdale will get better and will hopefully have a bit less to do in the coming weeks. Other notable signings saw us bring in Ethan Ampadu on loan from Chelsea, who has shown glimpses but been in and out of the team, and Derby full-backs Jayden Bogle and Max Lowe join for a combined fee of £11m. Bogle has yet to feature, and poor Max Lowe had a torrid time against Chelsea’s Ziyech and Reece James last time out. Arguably our best signing of the season so far has been Oli Burke from West Brom. He has shown a lot of promise with his raw speed and endeavour in the early weeks of the season. However, he has been mysteriously left out of the team in recent weeks.

Where do you need to urgently improve your team over the next transfer window?
Goalkeeper, defence, midfield, up front. Ok, maybe that’s a bit drastic but…We definitely need to bring in some form of replacement for Jack O’Connell in the left centre back position. We currently have our left wing back Enda Stevens playing there. Stevens is many things, but a Premier League standard centre back, he is not.Think the one of the big mistakes of Chris Wilder’s summer business was not bringing in a creative/attacking midfielder. The first eight games have shown, particularly with Fleck out that this is where we are missing someone. Jon Lundstram’s decision not to sign a contract has further exacerbated this. We were pursuing Reading’s Jon Swift all summer but that fizzled out because we weren’t willing to pay the £6m pricetag.

All West Ham fans know from experience what is like to be firmly ensconced at the bottom of the table at this stage of the year. Do Sheffield Utd have the wherewithal to stay up this year. Where do you hope/think you will end the season?
I’m a glass half full kind of fan, so I’m going to say we sneak out of the bottom three with a few games to go. The next ten games are crucial. If we go into the January transfer window still in with a shout, I back Wilder to bring in the recruits to pull us out of trouble. The Blades have been in this position before, 30 years ago now. In 1990/91, in our first season in the old first division under Dave ‘Harry’ Bassett, we didn’t record a win for our first 16 games of the season, and had only 4 points by mid-December. Incredibly, the second half of the season was kinder to us and we ended up finishing 13th.

While we’re at it who are your three picks for the drop, come May?
Think it is a dogfight between us, Fulham, West Brom and Burnley. As I said, I think we will sneak it, so will go for them three.

The top of the table is looking a bit alien at the moment. Are Liverpool going to be knocked back of their perch? Who are your favourites to win the League, and who will fill the next three places?
Yeah, it’s been such an odd season so far hasn’t it. Definitely didn’t see Aston Villa having the start they have had, they were awful last season. Leicester have started well again, and don’t think they will fade as badly as they did last year. Chelsea look a lot better than they did last campaign, and think bringing Thiago Silva in was a masterstroke.
Still don’t think you can look past Man City and Liverpool for the top two though. If I’m going to go out on a limb, I think Liverpool might do it again. Behind them; Chelsea, Tottenham and Leicester.

Of course the last time you were relegated was the season that West Ham understandably forgot to dot a couple of “i’s” and cross the odd “t” here and there on Carlos Tevez’s contact, but that’s all ‘water under the bridge’ now……isn’t it?
Was waiting for a question on ‘He who must not be named”. Well, I think most Blades fans had started to forget about it up until last year, when we were greeted by streams of Claret and Blue clad people wearing Carlos Tevez facemasks in the Stratford area. The truth is, that while the feelings aren’t as raw anymore, there will always be animosity over the Tevez affair I’m afraid. That’s animosity towards West Ham and the FA. Think Blades fans still struggle to understand why West Ham were only punished with a £5m fine, when teams had previously been docked points for lesser offences. “But we paid you £20m in the end,” I imagine most Hammers fans reading this will say. “But that was at a time when Kevin Blackwell was our manager,” most Blades will reply.

Still a bit raw then! Any particular memories of West Ham v Sheffield Utd games of the past?
For obvious reasons, which I’ve tried to avoid going into detail in in the previous question, it has been a while since we’ve played West Ham. Remember more about what happened before and after the game last year than what actually happened on the pitch. But to be fair that might have been because it was quite hard to see the pitch. You guys do like to sit far back, don’t you? It was the first time I have had a pre-match drink in a hotel bar, the Holiday Inn in Westfield. And then that walk from the Olympic Stadium to Stratford tube station might be one of the longest post-match walks I have done. Don’t think I got on the Jubilee Line until half seven. Between then and 2007, I’m trying to remember. There was League Cup win for us on penalties, when Michael Doyle hit the winner and did the old Cockney Shuffle, but don’t think there has been anything other than that. Can still remember both matches from the last time we were in the Premier League. There was the 1-0 to West Ham at Upton Park, where Rob Kozluk had a perfectly ok goal ruled out in the closing minutes to deny us a crucial point (I suppose it does all even out in the end, doesn’t it?). Then there was the fateful day when we smashed you lot 3-0 at the Lane and thought we had secured our Premier League status. Can’t remember how that season ended. Do have a vague recollection of a 3-3 at Bramall Lane where Jon Harley scored an absolute screamer for you, and then there was an FA Cup third round tie where we drew 1-1 at Upton Park in the mid-noughties. Marlon Harewood scored against us, again.

Which West Ham player, if any would you like to see in your team, and why?
Does Robert Snodgrass still play for you?(checks internet). It might sound weird, but he seems to always play well against us, and usually scores too. As discussed above, an all action offensive midfielder who can drive with the ball is something we are missing. Don’t think he has played much for you this season and wouldn’t mind if it stayed that way. To be honest, I would pick most of the West Ham team right now. Would have Manuel Lanzini in my Blades team any day. A little creative midfielder would be perfect. But if I had to pick one, it would have to be Michail Antonio. Think most Prem clubs would want him. Even if he did used to play for the pigs (Sheffield Wednesday), have always thought he was a top player. Can pretty much play any position, gives you everything on the pitch, and his upper body seems to get bigger every season.

He is a beast! How will Sheffield Utd line up against us this weekend? Players/formation please?
Few injury worries with Jon Egan, Enda Stevens and Rhian Brewster. There are murmurs Fleck could be back in contention too. Ampadu could play in midfield or left centre back, I’ve gone with him in midfield.
Goalkeeper: Ramsdale
Centre backs: Chris Basham, Jon Egan, Enda Stevens
RWB: George Baldock
LWB: Max Lowe/Ben Osborn
CM: Sander Berge Ethan Ampadu Jon Fleck (fingers crossed, if not Jon Lundstram)
FW: Oli McBurnie Rhian Brewster

Finally, last season you took 4 points off us. Will you be able to notch your first win of the season against us on Sunday? Prediction for score?
It’s a huge game for us, absolute must-win. I think we will do it. We will definitely concede, so I’m going for 2-1. Who better to turn our season around than against those dodgy geezers from East London.

Well many thanks to Jack for probably the most thorough response to a Q&A during the last three years: I think this could have doubled up as an episode of ‘In Treatment’! I must confess to having an admiration of Chris Wilder, and would like him to turn around their fortunes – starting after this weekend! I’m going for a 1-2 away victory, more if Antonio is playing! COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Fulham

NOTE FROM IAIN: The Predictor League for Fulham on Saturday is open HERE. Entries can be submitted until 5pm on Saturday.

Unfortunately, missing Michail Antonio West Ham stuttered a bit against Liverpool last weekend. This week we welcome Fulham to the London Stadium for a Saturday evening kick-off. Before the game I called across the street to ask what my neighbor, and long-suffering Fulham fan Jan du Boulay thinks of the season so far, and this game in particular.
Hi Jan. Welcome back to the Premier League. You were ultimately promoted via the Play-off final, but at what stage did you think you had a good chance of being promoted?
Thank you, though most people thought Brentford would edge the final I was quietly confident despite our league results against them but would say I only thought we had a good chance when the second Joe Bryan goal went in!

You’ve finally got off the mark in the League on Monday night against West Brom, is this season going to be a struggle, or will you now start to push on?
I think it’s going to be a struggle though a clean sheet was really important, we have a fantastic keeper and am hoping the centre backs will settle in quickly now, we have the players going forward it has always been our defence that is the issue.

Fulham have made a squad load of signings over the summer, which of last year’s stars will remain stalwarts of the team this season?
Mitrovic of course, though he seems to have become more a provider than scorer recently and Tom Cairney who when in form can pick a pass and score some important(and special) goals.

Which players have stood out for you so far this year, and who has yet to step up to the mark?
Anguissa who had a fantastic season in Spain and he has carried that in to the premiership, looks to have really developed from when he joined us though towards the end of that premiership season he started to show his quality. Lookman has been great, dangerous and happy to run at players which is great to watch and also stretches opposition giving other players more space. Ola Aina after his cracking goal at the weekend.

How is West Ham’s old player, Scott Parker coping this season after last year’s success? Will his long term tenure ultimately depend on keeping you up this year?
I think he is coping ok considering the pressure he will have been under, getting a win will have been a huge relief for him and everyone else at the club. His success in getting us up in his first full season should be celebrated and I am hopeful we have enough success that there is no question mark over his future. I believe consistency is so important(after our disastrous 3 manager season) so am hoping that we stay up and Parker stays on.

Early days yet, but do you think you will still be in the Premier League next year? What position do you think Fulham will finish come next May, and who are your early picks for relegation?
If we do we will just scrape in around 16th or 17th, I would think we are in there with any 3 of the current other bottom 5, Burnley BHA Sheffield Utd and WBA.

While we’re at it who are going to occupy the top four places?
Liverpool Spurs Man City Man Utd (not in that order)

West Ham fans of my age will have fond memories of our cup final victory over you a generation ago: do you have any particular memories of West Ham v Fulham matches in the past?
There are a few (not many!) but it has to be the win with Sylvan Legwinksi (who I bumped into once around this time: he was shocked anyone recognised him!) and Steed Malbranque scoring, both fantastic players. That team with Rufus Brevett (who you will all know well) and Barry Hayles have a lot of good memories for me as does the shock and disbelief when we signed Edwin van der Sar. Also I just double checked and John Collins and Collins John were both on the field late on in that game!

Ha ha. Which, if any of the current West Ham team would you like to see playing for Fulham, and why?
I’d take Ryan Fredericks back, he was a fantastic player for us. I admire Michael Antonio for his versatility strength and all round work rate.

How will Fulham line up against us on Saturday? Players/formation please.
Loftus Cheek

Will play with a 4 3 3 I think which might well end up more 4 5 1.

Finally, are you confident that you can build on you recent victory when you come to the East of the Capital? Prediction for score please.
I think it will be a tough game and being a realist will go with home win though I think we will score, 3-1.

Well many thanks to Jan for his time and thoughts. It’s strange how we’ve never seen the best out of Fulham players like Frederick’s and especially Luis Boa More, who was great for them. Although I suppose there was my near namesake Tony Gale! Anyway, I hope he’s right and we can return once more to winning ways. I’m going for 2-0. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Liverpool

NOTE FROM IAIN: The Predictor League for Liverpool on Saturday is open HERE. Entries can be submitted until 3.30pm this afternoon.

West Ham’s run of difficult games continues this weekend, when we travel to Anfield to play against the Champions Liverpool for a Saturday evening kick-off. Ahead of the game I spoke to live-long (about 40 years to those asking) Liverpool fan and Scouser, Ged McNicholl to talk about the game and the season.

Hi Gerard, last season Liverpool finally won the League after being ‘knocked off their perch’ for 30 our so years. What was your reaction to this?

Disbelief for a few hours! And a slow elation. It was strange feeling because momentum was lost, other things were more important/in perspective in people’s lives, and it was a given for so long when the games weren’t being played.

You’ve had a few managers in the meantime, what qualifies for Jurgen Klopp have that the rest didn’t?
I think his strong relationship with the players is fundamental, they seem to want to play for him and for the rest of the team – he seems to have built a togetherness. The others lost the respect of players, something he hasn’t seemed to have done. Also, the fans love him which helps broaden that togetherness, he’s light hearted and has used humour from the off, on his first few days he was out in pubs in town and speaking to the public.

After a mixed start to the season, to the rest of the league Liverpool moving into 2nd place has an ominous look about it. Are you surprised to see your City rivals Everton above you? Will this last?
No and no. They’ve made some great signings, also I think the empty stadiums is having an impact on the players psychologically, Liverpool seem less energised at times, something they get from fans at the home games, conversely when teams are used to pressure from the stands it can stifle them and make them more cautious – I think Everton have benefited from this.

After drawing against West Ham last week, and then beating Marseille midweek, Manchester City look like they are finally hitting their stride: do you see them as your biggest challengers to retaining your title?
I still do, I think they’ll find their stride and more points will be dropped all round this season. Albeit Chelsea are our other big threat again.

Early days yet, but how do you envisage the top 4 looking come the end of the season?
Us, Chelsea, City and probably Leicester.

It looks like Virgil van Dijk will be missing for quite a while, are Liverpool going to struggle in his absence? Do you have the squad to take his injury in your stride?
We will struggle and we’ll leak a lot more goals, VVD is so good that there is rarely a squad player who can cover. Hopefully Fabinho can recover and settle into that role.

What, if anything do you know about your latest transfer signings, Jota, Alcantara, and Tsimitas? Will they improve your squad?
I only know what I’ve seen in recent weeks, Jota is hungry and has already scored a couple, so I think he’ll be nuisance to opposition, but probably to us too at times. Thiago is obviously more experienced and considered, great vision around the pitch and I think he’ll have the greatest impact in dictating a game.

You must have been impressed by West Ham battering Leicester a few weeks ago. Is your rival’s ex-manager David Moyes going to be the man to take us forward. Where do you think West Ham can realistically aim this season?
There’s obviously something in Moyes which stops teams keeping hold of him, but that trend will influence if he stays for longer than a couple of seasons this time. I think you could finish the top half of mid table this season.

*Who are your early picks for relegation?
Man United! Probably Sheffield United, West Brom and Fulham. I think Burnley may have enough to stay up.

Mo Salah recently reached his 100 goal milestone for you: where do you place him in the Anfield Pantheon of strikers, and is Saido Mane a better player?
I think Mane is a better player, he’s got more in his locker and when he drops back he influences the game more. Salah is obviously up there, but the Pantheon of strikers is often players where the fans form a connection… Fowler, Torres, Rush etc

How are Liverpool going to line up against us this weekend? Players/formation?
Anyone’s guess now, I’m not sure who will even be fully back from injury.

Finally, are you confident of victory in Saturday, will Liverpool be able to end our small unbeaten run? Prediction for score please.
I think we’ll win, but I don’t think it’ll be a convincing performance, probably scrappy and maybe lack lustre. Alison is back so I’m hopeful we’ll keep a clean sheet, so 3-0.

Well thanks to Ged for his time and thoughts, interesting to note how he thinks an unconvincing performance from them will leave us battered 3-0! Given our history against Liverpool at Anfield, you can’t blame his optimism. I think if Antonio was there to bully their defence we might have got a victory, without him I’ll have to settle for a draw. 2-2. COYI!

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Manchester City

NOTE FROM IAIN: The Predictor League for Manchester City on Saturday is now open HERE. Entries can be submitted until 10am on Saturday.

Wow! All West Ham fans will still be buzzing after the final 15 minutes or so against Spurs. Our current short unbeaten run faces a stiff challenge this weekend, when our beloved team welcome the footballing powerhouse that is Manchester City. The last time we got any change from them was a draw back in January 2016. Ahead of the weekend I spoke to lifelong Manchester City fan John Ratledge to discuss the game and the season.

Hi John. It’s a rare occasion when West Ham sit above Manchester City in the table (albeit having played one more game) – very early days yet, but how would you sum up the season so far?
I would firstly point out that the corona pandemic is most certainly going to be the biggest factor for everyone this season and the relentless schedule of matches for City caused by our involvement in all competitions will, I feel have a detrimental effect on our performances. Together with our injury problems at the end of the last season adversely affecting those earlier game, having players missing through isolation didn’t help. We are gradually getting players back now and so performances have improved.

The drawback of being so successful means you have to play more games of course: are you going to be able to sustain the joint battles of an attempt to regain the Premier League title, with another for at the Champions League?
Which would be your priority?

The Premier League will always be the one to win as far as I am concerned. I am not a fan of the Champions League and even more so the morons at Uefa.

Of the recent crazy results, which gave you the most pleasure: your city rivals losing 1-6 to Spurs, of Liverpool’s thrashing by Aston Villa?
Man United’s loss to Spurs and Liverpool’s defeat at Villa were both immensely amusing to all Blues supporters.

Your own beating by Leicester showed up your defensive frailties (I can’t remember the last time I saw a team give away a hat-trick of penalties). Pep has spent a lot of money on your defense, has he spent wisely?
I think that the Leicester game was an aberration, as you said how can you give away 3 penalties in one game, basically inexperience and Kyle Walker having no brain. We now have Ruben Dias and he’s looking good, I think we’ll be fine. Pep is definitely the man for us, spending wisely depends on your perspective, you never really know how a player will perform until he’s playing in the team.

Talking off transfers, is Ferran Torres going to be able to replace David Silva?
No one can replace David Silva.

Is Pep still held in high regards by the Man City faithful?
Pep – Absolutely adored by the fans.

Manchester City fans have been spoilt with the parade of great players turning out for you over the past few years. Who have been your top 3 picks, and why?
Top Picks. Kevin de Bruyne (nuff said). Sergio of course (world class). And the above named El Mago.

I’m assuming that’s David Silva. Would any of your stars from the late 60’s through to late 70’s got in the teams of this current era?
No – the game has changed so much over the years, the players of yesteryear had their time and the game has moved on.

As I said, it’s early days yet, but who are your picks for the top 4 places at the end of the season, in order? Are Liverpool going to retain the title?
Top Four: City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton (wild card)

Similarly who are your early picks for the drop?
I think it will be: Brighton, West Brom and Fulham

Your ‘quiet’ city neighbours are currently a point behind us both, or as I prefer to say 15th. Any comments on their fortunes?
United? Couldn’t care less!

Given your midweek game against Porto how do you think Manchester City will turn out against us this Saturday? Players/formation please.
4 3 3
Walker Laporte Dias Ake
Mahrez Fernandino Foden
Sterling Aguero Torres (De Bruyne if fit)

Finally, If the algebra of football scores computed properly, your defeat against Leicester 2-5, combined with our 3-0 beating of them should see West Ham comfortably beating you by about 5 or 6 goals. Should I go down the bookies? Prediction for score please?
Do I need to remind you about our recent visits to your gaff, all I will say is that if you score before we do you’ll maybe have a chance of a point – but don’t count on it!!!

Thanks to John for his time and thoughts. I think I’d be as confident as him if I were in his shoes, but I’m hoping that they may feel the strains of their midweek game against Porto, allied with the turbo-charge that Lanzini’s goal should give us, I’m going to get down the bookies and put a tenner on us winning 3 – 1. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Spurs

This weekend West Ham follow up their victory against Leicester, with another potentially difficult opponent, away at Spurs, who will be bidding after their demolition of Manchester United. Ahead of the game I once again chatted to lifelong Tottenham fan Ode Ogwu to discuss the game, and the season.
Hi Ode, last time we spoke it was just after the restart to the 19/20 season, when you beat us, although I thought you were a tad fortunate. Ultimately Spurs came 6th in the table, which must be looked back on as a step back after your successive Champions League entries. How do you sum up the 19/20 season?
Transitional – the squad that got us to the champions league was already on the decline and last season exemplified that. The need for a rebuild was clear. Hopefully we have gone some way to fix that in the recent transfer window.

Jose Mourinho has been with you for nigh on a year. Has he had time to impose his favoured style of play on the Spurs team yet? Will you be happy if/when he does?
I’d rather Mourino rebuild the squad than almost anyone else, he knows what a winning team looks like. Let Mourino put a side together of his making and then I think we can evaluate him. He’s been backed this summer and as a consequence expectations are high.

You’ve had a reasonable start, despite losing to Everton, but you mullered Manchester United last time out, how do you think things will pan out this season – where do you think Spurs will finish the season?
It’s the hope that kills you! Personally I try to play it down. I know a lot of Spurs fans are going early, giving it large. I’m both excited and nervous. On paper we look strong but so do others. I think we should be competing for top four and a trophy, I’m not going to say more than that. Secretly I’m hoping for complete domination.

While we’re at it you might as well give us your predictions for the final top four places, in order please.
Such strange beginning’s to the season but here goes:
Liverpool, Man City, Tottenham & Everton
I could easily put Chelsea and Arsenal in there. Ask me after Xmas when form is more settled.

What has happened to Dele Ali?
He exploded onto the scene and set the bar really high. His particular skill set is quite specific, I think. He needs to be playing further up the pitch, he is not a midfielder in my mind. But changes in formation / tactical set up have seen him drop into midfield but arguably we have better players than him to do that. Now with the introduction of Bale it looks like we will stick with 4 3 3 set up with Kane, Son and Bale. In midfield the creative spots will go first to Le Celso and Ndombele over Ali. But we have lots of options to play in different formations with different players and Ali will just have to stake his claim in the side , which is a good thing.

West Ham have had two good wins on the trot, is David Moyes going to lead West Ham to a better finish than last season? What position do you think West Ham can realistically reach this season?
I thought you would do better than you actually did last year. Declan Rice, Bowen and Michail Antonio are looking good. Soucek from what I’ve seen, looks decent. I would be looking for you to push for top half and a really good season pushing for Europa league spots – that would be a great season – but so many strong sides in contention. What goes against you from what I can see, is the mood within the club and issues with the board. I’m not sure you had the greatest transfer window although you’ve got the boy Benrahma over the line, who could be a good signing, a creative player. At the same time I could see you struggling again particularly if you get unlucky with injuries. Too early to tell.

Gareth Bale has returned to White Hart Lane. Will he have the same impact on you as he did in his last spell there?
We hope so. He’s been a great player. I don’t expect him to be the same player who left but whatever this version is I expect it to be at a high level. At the moment it just feels great having him back, a real pick up for the club. We dream of great things.

What if anything do you think about your latest signing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg? What about selling on Kyle Walker-Peters?
He fills a position we desperately needed fixing – centre mid. To that extent he has fitted in seamlessly and we look better for it. Sorry to see Walker Peters leave, was really holding out for him to make it at Spurs. He’s a good player and is holding down his position at Southampton. From a pragmatic point of view it was a good deal for us and we’ve strengthened at full back too. Overall we’re stronger. But always sorry to see one of your better ‘own ones’ leave.

Who are you early picks for the drop? Relegation candidates in order please?
Too early to say, but here goes:
18th Sheffield Utd 19th Burnley & 20th Fulham.

“How are Tottenham likely to set themselves up against us on Sunday? Players/Formation.*
4 3 3 in front of Loris:
Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Reguilon.
Hojbjerg, Ndombele, Sissoko.
Son, Kane, Lamela.
Bench: Bale, Moura, Vinicius (new CF), Doherty, Davis, Hart, Winks.

Cheers, very detailed! Finally do Spurs have a chance of gaining any points against a ‘flying’ West Ham this weekend? Prediction for score please?
It could be close with Bale coming off the bench to seal it 3-1 – get in there! Listen, you’re on fire, we look good, could be a draw!

Thanks to Ode for his thoughts. I think it could go either way, but you have to be a dreamer to follow West Ham, so 1 – 2 away win! COYI

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