Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A With Stoke

This weekend West Ham welcome Stoke City to the London Stadium for a Monday Night game. We will be looking to future cement our tenure in the Premier League with a win against a team who are looking increasingly likely to go down. Ahead of the game I spoke to long time friend and hard core Stoke fan Neil Adams, currently living in exile in Thailand, to discuss Stoke’s current malaise and the game.
Hi Neil. It’s not looking too good for Stoke at the moment to say the least: are you resigned to going down, or as it’s so close do you think you can still escape?
After the home defeat against Everton a couple of weeks ago, I have been resigned to going down. Our last games are against teams who will also be scrapping for survival, so I just can’t see us staying up. 4 points adrift and terrible goal difference. Of course, there’s always hope!

Like West Ham you have parted company with your manager, albeit at a later stage of the season, are you glad to see him go? How do you sum up the Hughes years? What went wrong in the end for him?

Yes, glad to see him go. A lot of Stoke fans seem to have forgotten that he actually brought some great football to the Potteries during his second year and made a couple of decent signings. He initially, at least, greatly evolved our football from the Pulis era, which was what most Stoke fans were crying out for. But that petered our and the last season and a half were dire and he was lucky to last as long as he did.
What went wrong? Just about everything. He spent a lot of money on some poor signings – Wimmer, Imbula, Berahino, Jese – without improving the squad and our defence went to pieces. The same back four who have been tight and resolute under Lambert were a disjointed shambles under Hughes, leaving us with a shocking goal difference. And despite his attempts to bring in a decent striker, we are left with a well-past-his-best Crouch, a barely premiership standard Diouf and two sulky ‘big name’ signings who don’t even make the squad half the time due to various misdemeanors or personal problems off the field (Jese and Berahino). At least Diouf tries, which is what many of the shop window signings seemed to have stopped doing under Hughes. No attack, poor defence, Apart from that, perfect.
I should mention 2 defining moments that signalled the end for Sparky. One was his decision to ‘throw in the hat’ by fielding a weakened team away to Chelsea (we lost by a demoralising 5 goals to nil) so that his best players would be fresh to face relegation rivals Newcastle at home a few days later. We lost that one 0-1 and were abject. The gamble backfired badly. The other was the classic ‘dead man walking’ quote from Hughes just before he left: ‘if they sack me, who else is going to do the job?’ Brilliant!

I expect you wish you had held on to Tony Pulis, even though he did not appear to be a fan of the type of football played by the Great Stanley Matthews?
Not at all. I don’t think most of us could have stood another season (let alone another 4) of Pulis-ball. He was just what we needed when we went up in 2009 and I believe most Stokies are grateful for what he did for the club. But his style of football became unwatchable and he seemed unable to evolve his style of play. Ask any West Brom fan!

How do you rate Paul Lambert so far as your manager?
Well, he’s a slight improvement, but it’s come too late. He has brought a new determination to the team, more discipline, and tighter defence. But his record of one win in 10 shows he is no magician. He made some poor decisions, like playing Charlie Adam against Everton (he got sent off as expected and we lost as a result), but at least he is making sure we go down with a fight.

What do you reckon to the job David Moyes has done for West Ham, and in football generally?
I think Moyes is one of the many merry-go-round British managers who do a below average job, get sacked, then turn up somewhere else and do another below-average job. You are welcome to him!

Who have been the players that have lived up to expectation this season, and conversely who have disappointed?
You mean at Stoke? Shaqiri (just), Joe Allen (our best, most hard-working player), Jack Butland and loan signing Kurt Zouma. Martins Indi has recently come good and new signing Moritz Bauer has done well. Everyone else has disappointed, but special mention must go to Berahino and Jese Rodriques,

What have been the highlights (if any) and lowlights of the season?
Beating Arsenal 1-0 early in the season gave us all hope but that really is about it. The rest has all be one long and very low lowlight.

Apart from Marco Arnautovic, are there any West Ham players who you would like to see at Stoke?
Ha! Very funny! You can keep Arnautovic, too! He had some great games at Stoke, but some poor ones too, and his shooting was wayward a lot of the time. He can shine, yes, but he is not a team player and his self-centred, brattish attitude sometimes lets him and the team down. We’ve got enough of those characters at Stoke already. To be honest, I don’t see any West Ham player doing much to improve our squad. No offence, but you haven’t exactly lit up the Premiership this year, have you?!

The top of the table seems settled, but who’s going down this season, and where do you see Stoke and West Ham finishing?
I think West Ham will stay up. Stoke, Southampton and West Brom down.

It’s a big 6 pointer between us on Monday night, what’s your prediction for the:
Team/formation/score?

I predict a frustrating draw, 1-1. I think Stoke will stick with this line up:
Butland
Johnson Shawcross Indi Pieters
Sobhi Allen Ndiaye Bauer
Shaqiri
Diouf

Well many thanks to Neil for his thoughts. He doesn’t seem to believe that Stoke have any chance of staying up! I think he is being a bit optimistic on Stoke’s behalf going for a draw, I think we should be able to back up our away thrashing of them with a good win. 2-0 to the Hammers. COYI!

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A With The Saints

This Saturday West Ham welcome Southampton to the London Stadium. We have been pretty woeful of late, and we are desperate to get back on the winning path. Before the game I spoke to friend and Saints season ticket holder Simon Lacey from Dance Company New Adventures to discuss the game.
Hi Simon, the last time we chatted was just before the 2nd fixture of the season. I guess like me you’ve been pretty disappointed with the way your league campaign has gone?
It’s been a near-disaster with it hard to remember any good moments!

Also like us you have parted with your manager mid-season, albeit you did wait a tad longer. Are you happy with Pelligrini going? Likewise what are your feelings about his replacement Mark Hughes?
I’m not a sacker by instinct – was against getting rid of Puel after finishing 8th and being cheated out of a League Cup final win by officials supporting the glory hunters at United at the end of last season – but Pelligrini had to go as he could not motivate the players or show any signs of turning things around. Hughes has only been appointed until the end of the season and if he keeps us up then I will be happy about that, whether he then stays depends on how we have stayed up I would say – if its a scramble and as much to do with the inadequacies of other teams then I wouldn’t want an extension, if we play well and its not a dog-fight to the end then he can be considered.

At least you have the comfort of still being in the FA Cup: how do you rate your chances in that?
We are clearly the rank outsiders, but having said that I think we got the preferred draw for us in that Chelsea are the team we are most likely to luck a 1-0 win against. Spurs have home advantage and would probably turn us over, so the hope is that Mourinho can bore them into submission and we get revenge for last year in the final and relive the glory day of 76! Bigger on hope than expectation though.

Be honest: an FA Cup win or staying in the league? The decision is yours!
Some of my family are saying, FA Cup win but Prem for me; don’t want to watch a minimum of one season of championship fare again with the inevitable loss of any players deemed worthy of playing in the Prem, although not many are springing to mind after this season!

How worried are you about your final fixtures? Any potential banana skins (excepting us – of course!)
They are all worries at this stage as we are currently bottom three; the majority of fixtures this season we have managed to turn into banana skins so again, they all are! City at home on the last day of the season – hhmmmm!

Who do you think will end up being relegated: are you staying with your original choice of Brighton, Swansea, and Palace?
Don’t expect any of those three will drop, possibly Swansea if the old doubts re-emerge and they lose the Carvallho coming-in effect – we still have them to play so have to target that game for 3 points to keep them in the mix. The Baggies have gone and I think Stoke will go too. If it is not us, then the most-likely to join these two are probably Huddersfield then yourself. Hughton has done well at Brighton and Palace & Roy will be fine if Zaha is fit for enough games; put the latter in any of the teams battling it out and I’d fancy them to survive.

I suppose like most neutrals you will be happy that Manchester City look like they are going to walk away with the league?
Who is going to go into the Champions League with them?
Spurs, Liverpool and probably United. City are easily the best and great to watch so happy for them be Champs and (he says though bated breath in both cases) ex-Saints FC at Anfield and Spurs are impressive and good on the eye too.

Which opposing teams/players have impressed you at St Mary’s this season?
Its been hard to focus on that and not the deficiencies of our own rabble but Leicester (under Puel of course) have been the only team that have really turned us over although Spurs were very dominant and Palace showed great resilience and organisation; both the latter games losses after being ahead.

Conversely which of your players have lived up to expectation, and who have not?
The full backs Bertrand and Cedric have been good and others have played well occasionally. McCarthy has looked much better in goal than his more illustrious team mate Forster – that is one thing we share with West Ham, supposedly big-time England goalkeepers who have not impressed – ‘big-ego Charlies’ more like! Just check the squad out for who has not lived up to expectation over the whole season other than those previously mentioned, but they have been badly managed/motivated and the hope is that Sparky lives up to his name in that respect.

What’s your highlight of the season so far?
That takes some thinking but probably seeing your lot off at St Mary’s eventually, having thrown away a 2 goal lead.

How do you expect Southampton to set up against West Ham on Saturday/Team/formation prediction?
I hope 4-4-2-ish as in the Cup against Wigan i.e. with 2 forwards Carillo and Gabbiadini and one of them being a little deeper or wider. When points are the only thing that matters you have to get the ball in and around the box quickly, whether through longer balls or faster and more incisive passing. Other than that, the goalie and back 4 pick themselves (unless Yoshida is fully-fit), Lamina and one of Hjoberg and Romeo in central midfield, Tadic and one of Ward-Prowse, Buffalo and Redmond as the more creative midfielders.

Prediction for score?
It’s not a prediction but a hope, away win and 0-1 with a goal that should have been disallowed for offside will suffice at this stage. I do have one further comment and that is in support of VAR – if it had been in use, the blind/incompetent officials at Watford would have disallowed Watford’s late equaliser when punched into the net by the cheat (red card and suspension too to follow) and we would have had the 3 points deserved for probably our best away performance of the season – would I care if it took 5 minutes to decide and as a fan at the ground I didn’t know what was going on – methinks not!

Many thanks to Simon for his time, we’re meeting up on Sunday and I hope to have the bigger smile on my face! I’m going for a 1 – 0 victory to West Ham, but like him more in hope than expectation. COYI.

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A With Burnley

After last week’s debacle of a game, this weekend West Ham take on our Northern Claret and Blue cousins at the Olympic Stadium. Ahead of proceedings I had a chat with hard-core Burnley fan Tony Scholes editor of uptheclarets to discuss everything Claret and Blue.
Hi Tony, the last time we spoke was earlier in the season, when Burnley had got off to a cracking start. Now you sit in 7th place with a historically safe 40 points, you must be delighted with your progress this season.
It’s been an incredible season for us so far. To reach 40 points with nine games to go is something we could never have dared think possible. We’ve even come through a difficult spell when we were suddenly facing all the top teams with quite often seven of our regular starters missing with injury. We finally ended that run without a win last Saturday against Everton and we’ve only been below 7th in the league for one week since mid-October.

Conversely West Ham are one of 6 teams above West Brom who are separated by 3 points: who do you think is going to go down?
This is a difficult one to answer. There was a time earlier in the season when it seemed Crystal Palace were a certainty, then it was Swansea and now it is West Brom. I do think West Brom will go but I’m not sure of the other two. Huddersfield lack the quality needed and I think they will be very fortunate to escape whilst Stoke are just not pulling away as most expected.

Sean Dyche is yet again proving that he can put out a team that is seemingly greater than the sum of its parts. Are you getting the credit you deserve? And do you worry that a bigger team is eventually going to make a move for him?
I don’t think clubs like ours ever get the credit they deserve. We played really well in the Everton win but on Match of the Day the analysis was exclusively reserved for Everton and Sam Allardyce. That’s how it is; we know it will never change. I was worried earlier in the season when so many Premier League clubs were looking for new managers. Thankfully, and incredibly, none came knocking at the door. Sean was on a one year rolling contract at the time; he’s now signed a deal until the end of the 2021/22 season which is brilliant news.

Last time we met Slaven Bilic was still our manager. How do you rate his replacement David Moyes?
Moyes did an excellent job just down the road at Preston and that landed him the Everton job and you would have to say that he was excellent there too. Then came that turbulent period. Manchester United would have been a struggle for whoever replaced Ferguson and it was surely the biggest career mistake of all to go to Sunderland. He’s certainly been a good manager. He’s just had a difficult three years or so.

Presumably Man City have got the title sewn up, I suppose most neutrals can accept that?
It will be crazy if they don’t win the league. They are a fantastic side with some incredibly talented players. We’ve played them three times this season having drawn them in the FA Cup. They scored two goals in that cup tie against us that almost had me applauding, so brilliant were they.

Who do you think will join them in the Champions League next season?
The other three for the Champions League will come from the next four because any teams from Arsenal down won’t be making it. I suspect Chelsea will be the one to miss out which would leave the two Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Spurs to qualify.

Which opposing teams/players have impressed you this season at Turf Moor?
I could end this right now with Manchester City. They were breathtaking at times but we hung in there and got a point in the end and not many have done that this season.
Other than City, I’d say Spurs. We don’t seem to be able to play well against them. They had some fortune early in the game with a bit of Dele Alli, winning a ridiculous penalty just a couple of minutes after he’d received a yellow card, but they were worthy winners by the end.

Which Burnley players have lived up to expectation, and who has failed to deliver?
So many players have lived up to expectation and beyond that. I hate singling out players but Nick Pope in goal, coming in when Tom Heaton suffered his shoulder injury, and James Tarkowski in defence have exceeded all our expectations. It’s always a team game at Burnley and rarely can you suggest a player has failed to deliver, and certainly not in this season. The one big disappointment has been Jon Walters. I thought he’d do a great job for us but unfortunately he’s been out for much of the season.

Last time we chatted you stated that you rated Michail Antonio, now that he has had a few games what do you think about Marko Arnoutavic?
I did, and Antonio promptly scored against us. I saw Arnautovic play twice against us for Stoke last season. At the bet365 Stadium he was, at times, outstanding. At Turf Moor later in the season he was downright dreadful. I hope he’s the latter on Saturday.

What do you find the most annoying thing about modern football?
Too many things to list but when I first started watching football we had a 3 p.m. kick off every Saturday afternoon, first team one week and the reserves the next. And we didn’t have to watch football in an athletics stadium either.

How do you expect Burnley to setup against West Ham on Saturday/ Team/formation?
If you’d asked me this last week I would have said almost certainly it would have been a 4-4-1-1 formation but we shifted to a 4-4-2 for the second half last week and it was effective. I suspect we’ll start with the 4-4-1-1 though.

Finally what is your prediction for the final score?
It’s about time we won an away game and it’s about time we got another clean sheet. We’ve been done with dodgy decisions in each of our last two visits to West Ham with 1-0 defeats coming courtesy of penalties. The last one at the Boleyn Ground was a pen, no argument there, but the red card was ludicrous. The penalty last season should have been a free kick our way. I’d like it if we got a penalty ourselves, our first of the season, and won it 1-0.

Many thanks to Tony for his thoughtful replies, again Tony’s musings on football can be found at uptheclarets. Well we are in need of a win, and I am hoping that we can break out of our current malaise this weekend. So a not too confident prediction of 2-1 to West Ham. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A With Swansea

Another Saturday 3pm kick-off – I could get used to this! This weekend West Ham travel down to South Wales to play Swansea, for whom Andre Ayew will be trying his hardest to impress. Ahead of the game I spoke to IanABS94, PGFWhite, and Ottawa Swan of The Jack Army to discuss the match and other things.
Congratulations on your FA Cup victory during the week: Win the FA Cup and go down or get knocked out and stay up? The choice is yours?
Stay up for sure
5-4-1/3-5-2 Prediction: 1-1

Are you confident that you can make it two victories within a week against West Ham?
Optimistic, won’t be easy but home form is hard to bet against at the moment.
We’re not playing West Ham twice in a week!
Absolutely – we’ve been pretty solid at home with Carvahal.

We’ve both pressed the panic button and sacked our managers, I presume you are happy with your change? Tell us a bit about Carlos Carvalha.
Eccentric but in a good way. For the first time since Laudrup we have a manager who wants to be attacking and on the front foot.
He’s an enigma.
He’s attack-minded (sometime a little too much so e.g. Brighton) which makes it far more entertaining to watch than any recent manager and clearly has motivated the players to punch above their weight. He is adventurous with substitutions and flexible with formations to match up against the top clubs but not yet sure about the success of his tactics against the lower clubs. He’s got great turns of phrase for press conferences.

How do you rate our replacement for Slaven Bilic – David Moyes?
You needed a change but not sure Moyes is the answer. Similar to Pardew, not much to be impressed by.
He’s got experience at the highest level and should develop West Ham over the coming few seasons.
Boring and uninspired (and is presumably like that for the players).

It’s so tight at the bottom, who do you think (hope) will go down this season?
West Brom, Stoke & Huddersfield
Think: West Brom, Swans, Huddersfield. Hope: Stoke, Southampton, Brighton
West Brom, Crystal Palace and Huddersfield

Where do you think Swansea will finish at the end of the campaign?
12th-17th
18th
Just above relegation zone (again)

Where do you think West Ham can realistically finish the season?
12th-17th
11th
Bottom half but not relegated

Which teams will follow Man City into the Champions League?
United, Liverpool, Spurs
Man U, Chelsea,Spurs
Liverpool, Spurs and Man United

Are you happy with your transfer dealings during the window? You took back Andre Ayew from us, who no doubt tried his best for us, but couldn’t consistently show the form he did for you: are you happy with this bit of business?
He’s a quality player who didn’t seem to get a run of games for you. He was good for us but he’s a bit of a square peg in a round hole unless you’re willing to accommodate him.
Our transfer dealings have been shite for a number of seasons.
No, we failed to bring in a Sigurdson replacement and we needed a right back and a left back. Too soon to say about the other Ayew, he doesn’t seem to have as much to prove as he had when he first was with us.

Any particular memories of West Ham/Swansea games of the past?
Beating you 4-1 in what was supposed to be your final match at Upton Park
David Cross scoring for the Hammers, triggering 20 West Ham fans going crazy and getting kicked out of the North Bank. Trevor Brooking also scored in a3-1 victory at the Vetch Field. Swans winning 4-1 at Upton Park when the Hammers were chasing European football.
No

If you could have any current West Ham player in your first team who would you choose and why?
Lanzini, #10 with quality, something we haven’t replaced after selling Gylfi.
Arnatouvic. He’s big, direct and scores goals
Lanzini – fantastic playmaker

Which other teams/players how impressed you down at Swansea this season?
Man City I guess. We’ve been pretty poor (shit) until recently at home so no team would be “impressive”.
Man City
Burnley – they really have come together as a team this year, even though they are on a bad run at the moment.

Which Swansea player(s) has played better than expected, and who has not lived up to reputation?
Jordan Ayew has been fantastic lately, he’s always had the quality but he’s had the tendency to be inconsistent. Lately he’s been nothing but consistent in delivering good performances.
Better – Jordon Ayew Disappointed – Tammy Abraham_
Nathan Dyer since he came back from injury (has still got a great turn of speed), Jordan Ayew (although he still misses the killer pass sometimes by going it alone near the penalty box) and KI who seems to be really motivated by our new manager. Mesa (now out on loan) was a dud for us and Clucas has not lived up to expectations.

How do you expect Swansea to setup against West Ham on Saturday/ Team/formation prediction?
3-5-2 with both Ayew’s up top.
5-4-1/3-5-2 Prediction: 1-1
After getting burned at Brighton with three at the back I expect us to set up 4-3-1-2

Any tips for Hammers fans making the trip down to Swansea on Saturday?
It’s gonna be f******* cold!
Wear your long-johns!
Take a very warm coat and scarf

Well thanks to Ian |(who is keeping his eyes on The Swans from Canada) and the lads for their time. Interesting how two of them would prefer to stay up rather than win the cup, whereas Martin the Wigan fan of a few weeks back wouldn’t trade their FA Cup win for anything. I think that we can gain another crucial win against a team near us in the bottom half. Hopefully they will be feeling the exertions of their mid-week game a bit and so I am putting my money on a 1-2 win to the Hammers. COYI.

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A With Liverpool

This weekend West Ham travel to Anfield: the ground we’ve had the least success at over the past 50 years. Liverpool can run a bit hot and cold, but apart from losing to West Brom in the FA Cup they have been playing well, and scoring profusely. Ahead of the game I spoke to an old friend and scouser in exile (In Lincoln) to discuss the fixture.
Hi Ray, a game against West Ham at home must be the dream game for Liverpool fans given the paucity of our results against you over the years, so I assume you’re feeling confident about this one?
Absolutely confident

Liverpool have had some great results lately, has Jurgen Kloop finally managed to stamp his credo on the team, or are we destined to see Liverpool flatter to deceive again?
Not on Saturday.

Liverpool are sat in 3rd place with the same points as Chelsea in fourth, do you think the top four places are nailed on now?
As long as we are in there I’m not bothered about the rest.

Where do you think West Ham can realistically finish the season?
I reckon a solid 15th

Which three teams do you think will suffer relegation and can anyone stop Man City winning the Premiership?
Too tight to call at the bottom, as for the other …No way Jose!

We’ve spoken about Jurgen Klopp, how do you rate West Ham’s manager the ex-Evertonian David Moyes (I seem to remember his record against Liverpool was not so good)?
A good start, flatters to deceive.

Philippe Coutinho has now departed for Barcelona, as did Luis Suarez, have you reconciled yourself to Liverpool being no longer the club of choice in England, let alone Europe?
Been like that for a while I’m afraid!

How about Daniel Sturridge going out on loan to West Brom, what do you think about that, I know he has the fitness reliability of Andy Carroll, but he did actually score some goals – do you think Kloop just doesn’t fancy him?
For some reason, I reckon he just doesn’t like Brummies.

Mo Salah has made a great impact on your season, who else has impressed, and conversely, who has disappointed?
Can has impressed, disappointments have been Wijnaldum, Moreno, Mignolet, Karius, etc, etc.

Which players from other teams in the League have impressed you this season?
De Gea, Zaha, De Bruyne, Sterling, Firminho

Apart from that forgettable day at the FA Cup Final in Cardiff, any particular memories of West Ham/Liverpool games of the past?
No

If you could have any current West Ham player in your first team who would you choose and why?
Zaballeta for his haircut

Which Liverpool players in your current squad would stand comparison with the great Liverpool players of the past?
Mo Salah, Robertson, Gomez.

*A bit surprised that you are rating Gomez and Robertson so early on in their careers. So how do you expect Liverpool to setup against West Ham on Saturday/ Team/formation prediction? *
3,4,3

Prediction for score?
4-0
Thanks to Ray for his comments – classic Liverpool arrogance! You can see that he doesn’t rate us at all! Much as it breaks my heart to predict a loss I’m going to go for a 1-0 win to them, but will still throw a tenner on us to win by the same amount. COYI.

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