Tony Hanna's Musings

No Need to Panic just yet.

I am going to try and take out as many positives from our 4-0 defeat as possible before I state some alarming stats. Whilst no player was anywhere near their best it was not hard to look at this side and wonder what the addition of Lanzini, Antonio, Kouyate and hopefully Carvalho would make to it? Slaven Bilic has a really good squad of players this season and it his job to get the best out of it, but can anyone actually remember the last time he could pick our strongest team for a match? Iain made a comment on Sunday that Obiang, Noble and Fernandes is not a midfield that will ever play again. I am not so sure about that but I would bet that we would never win a Premier League game against a top 6 side playing that trio in a midfield triangle.

Now I watch a lot of football, not just West Ham, and I watched every preseason game that both Manchester clubs played. City were seriously under done in their first friendly against United, but one thing was very evident. United already in preseason had a real edge to them despite being outclassed against Real Madrid last week. They have come into the start of the Premier League season with a squad that is already firing on all cylinders. Whether they can keep that up for an entire season is unknown, but when any team playing them in this mood is not totally at the races it is not going to be pretty. I don’t think I have ever seen Matic play so well but he also took his turn in the relay of punishment that was sent Chico’s way. This is one thing that United and Spurs in particular do so well against teams they are dominating possession wise. Once any counter is on against them the professional foul is at a budget price, especially if you can rotate it around. The price of a warning or a yellow card is worth it if you can allow your team to reset defensively.

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So, despite our lack of possession, it was us who got caught on the break with a four on three after that man Matic broke up play intervening on an attempted pass from an idling Obiang. Not sure who’s idea it was for Masuaku to be marking Lukaku at set pieces, pure genius that one, but that was number two. However, I would be more concerned if we had been 4-0 down with half an hour to go and the opposition took the foot of the gas, rather than conceding two goals in the last 3 minutes of normal time when we were actually trying to get something out of the game.

For me, Arnie looks a really decent player and he didn’t shirk his work in his defensive duties. I am sure he will be working on his set pieces this week though! Chico was brave and despite the score line Zabaleta had a fair enough game despite his rash challenge that gave away the free kick that led to the second goal. Obiang, probably understandably looked very rusty coming back from a lengthy injury and Masuaku disappointed. I am still not convinced Cresswell is the better option but time will tell. Mas had a pretty poor game as did some others, but if Cresswell had been marking Lukaku for goal number two the result would have been the same. Many on the blog complained about the level of commitment but I didn’t see that. We had four players making their debut against a quality team that is already primed and at times we were really getting stuck in – well as much as you can in the modern game.

The one thing that I don’t understand though is why did we revert back to four at the back? Whilst the Moaners have quality all over the pitch surely their main threat was always going to be Lukaku? Collins, Reid and Fonte did the job on him last time he played against us and at the end of last season we looked a much better side playing with three centre backs? I can appreciate the desire to play four at the back at home against equivalent or lesser opposition, but three centre backs away from home against top six clubs is surely our best option? Another tactic that is becoming very prevalent from sides playing against us is the extreme desire for the high press, especially when our keeper has the ball. Teams have sussed out our weakness in playing out from the back and with the way we are set up, tactically and personnel wise, the long ball is just handing back possession to them. Not sure if Carvalho will make a difference here but I hope so as it is a problem.

Whatever our tactical problems are, and I know many of you reading this will have your own opinions, the managers and coaches of the top 6 clubs have certainly known how to target them over the past year. Since the beginning of last season we have played 15 times against top 6 sides in the Premier League and Cups. In those matches we have scored eleven goals and conceded forty four. Six times we have conceded four or more and on nine occasions we have conceded three plus goals. Only once have we stopped the opposition scoring and that was in our 1-0 win at home to Spurs. That win against Tottenham provided three of just five points gained from an available thirty nine against top six sides.

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Back to the positives. The first few weeks always throw up an array of results as all the teams are at different levels of fitness and cohesion. My view, based on over 50 years of watching football is that everything starts to take shape after about eight games. So, no need to panic just yet. City won their first five games in a breeze last season and looked unbeatable yet they finished fifteen points behind eventual winners Chelsea. After four games Hull and Boro were 7th and 9th respectively. After eight games last season the top eight clubs were the same top eight at the end of the season and the relegated clubs lay in 16th, 17th and 20th. It is not an exact science but it is a good guide of where the lay of the ground is. Our eighth game of the season is at home to Swansea on the 30th September.

A quick bookies update; The odds on Carvalho coming to West Ham are now 1-6 (about 85%). There has been good money for Adrian to stay and he is now even money (50%) to remain a Hammer. Robert Snodgrass is now odds on (4-9 or 69% chance) to move to Villa and there has been more money (5-2) for Lanzini to go to Liverpool (28% chance)

Please check back after the match for the results.

Tony Hanna's Musings

Bookies Update

Just thought I would put together a quick Bookies Update as there have been a few things happening over the past few days. One new player that has come onto the radar is William Carvalho. The Portuguese midfielder would be an excellent signing if we pulled this one off and he has always been around the 20/1 (5%) mark but over the past few days he has come into 4/1 (20%) and again into 3/1 (25%) this morning. The prices suggest we have at least made an approach but reports also suggest it is way off the release clause in the player’s contract. This signing would be massive but the pessimistic side of me says “don’t get too excited yet Tone”.

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The market move for Andre Gray to move to Watford in Sundays bookies update was spot on the money and that deal has now gone through. Crazy money even in today’s over valued market. The prices for Wilshere and Jota to become Hammers have again slightly drifted but not enough yet to think our interest has faded. Both deals are rated a little worse than even money (50%). There has been backing for Lanzini to move to Liverpool in the past four days and he has moved from 1-8 (88%) to 1-4 (80%) to stay. The second domino following the Neymar transfer is still yet to fall. All the pundits are saying that Coutinho will leave Liverpool “because once Barcelona come calling” it will be impossible for him to say no to them. That may be true but is not being entirely shown in the bookies prices as they still only rate the deal as a little better than a 50/50 chance of happening. On the other hand Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele is 1/10 (91%) to sign for the Spanish club. You would have to think if Coutinho stayed at Liverpool there would be no chance of Liverpool showing any interest in Lanzini, if indeed there was any in the first place?

There has been no odds change on Adrian departing the club. Crystal Palace are still even money (50%) to sign him with Newcastle second favourites and West Ham 3rd in the market at 5/2 (28%). There has been some money for Aston Villa to take Robert Snodgrass on loan but the favoured way is still for him to remain a Hammer (63% chance).

Elsewhere, clubs have been cooling off in their interest in Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez. Roma are still favourites to sign him at 4/5 (55%) but the chances of him staying put are increasing every day. There has also been a significant move from Spurs for one player who has been on our radar for some time. Keita Balde Diao is now a 6/4 (40%) chance to join our rivals.

Since writing my article I am pleased to say that the strong market move for William Carvalho has continued. He is now into 1/3 (75%)

Tony Hanna's Musings

Bookies Update

The last week has been a very quiet one for West Ham transfer related news and I am afraid there is not a lot to report on other than most of our possible targets have drifted in the markets (less chance of signing). Perhaps we have done all our business so far this window as G&S and Slav have suggested? I find it difficult to believe however that we do not intend dipping the toes in once or twice again? The Adrian saga of “will he” or “ won’t he” continues as Newcastle and Palace continue to be the ones most likely to do a deal should the keeper move on. This particular market has been one that has continually fluctuated since the signing of Joe Hart so it has been a hard one to predict. Two deals that were predicted back on the 22nd July on my Bookies Update article were the transfers of Neymar and Matic to PSG and the Moaning Ones respectively. Where there is smoke there is fire! The bookies update on the 19th July predicted Morata to Chelsea, Mendy and Danilo to City and deals that still seem to be on with Sigurdsson to Everton and Stewart Downing to Birmingham. This week’s update on possible West Ham targets see the same old faces but there have been changes to the markets.

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Adrian as stated above, this is a hard one to predict as the market has fluctuated more than any other since the signing of Joe Hart. Presently, Crystal Palace are favourites for his signature at 10/11 (a fraction more than 50%), with Newcastle quoted at 9/4 (30%) and we are 5/2 (28%) to keep him. Now if you add up all those percentages they came to 108% and may wonder how that can be? Someone on the blog asked this last week. In very simplistic terms it is because of the bookies percentage in the market (that ensures their profit if all punters bet an equal share relative to the odds). I will continue to show the percentages as I have been as it is much simpler for everyone to understand.

Andre Gray has been quite a drifter in the markets. Over the past two weeks he has gone from 11/8 (42%) to 5/2 (28%) and now 7/1 (12.5%) to join West Ham. Watford are the new favourites to sign him although there has been money for him to stay at Burnley. He seems to be moving off of our radar but it would still not surprise me if he is one of those players that makes a move as darkness sets in on the 31st August?

Das Bost is an interesting one as he was featured in my very first Bookies Update on the 18th June. He was 4/1 (20%) to join the Hammers back then and the bookies stopped showing any markets for him. They have started advertising the odds again and he is still 4/1. The Dutch forward is favourite to stay at Sporting CP and I would be surprised if anything came of this one to be honest.

Jack Wishere is a slight drifter from 4/6 (60%) to 4/5 (55%) and despite his injury concerns I am warming to the idea of him becoming a Hammer. At the moment we seem to be the only contenders for his signature with Arsenal at 6/5 (45%) to keep him.

Jota has also drifted slightly in the market from 1-2 (66%) to 8/11 (58%). As alluded to in my previous updates it seems most likely that if we do sign a midfielder before the window closes, it will be Jota or Wilshere unless another player not currently in the markets becomes available.

Keita Balde Diao has also drifted each week since we showed some interest a few weeks ago. Quoted at 9/2 (18%) last week he is now 8/1 (11%) as his intentions seem to indicate he wants to stay and play in Italy – just not at Lazio.

Sami Nasri was one that came on the radar last week at 10/1 (9%) and that has cooled slightly to 12/1 (7%). If he does leave City it appears most likely it will be for either an Italian or French club.

Manuel Lanzini there has been money for our jewel to stay at the Hammers I am pleased to report. Backed from 1-6 (85%) to 1-8 (92%) this week is a positive sign.

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This weeks “elsewhere” news is very light on I am afraid with more moves for players to stay with their clubs rather than leave. Chelsea have entered the race for Saints player Virgil Van Dijk despite Liverpool remaining favourites for his signature. The market suggests this one is a bit like the Adrian one – two clubs in a tug of war with the current club still a possibility of retaining the player. Any chance of Ronaldo moving back to the Theatre of Moans looks dead in the water. Sigurdsson looks nailed on to go to Everton and despite Leicester saying that there have been no offers for Riyad Mahrez the market suggest he will be on his way to either Roma or Arsenal with Spurs also showing an interest.

Onto the “first manager to leave” markets, Slav is 3rd favourite at 11/2 (15%) behind Benitez and Mark Hughes both quoted at 7/2 (22%). The bookies markets also suggest we will get 47 points this season, which is two more than last season. Thoughts?

Tony Hanna's Musings

Bookies Update

The bookies update series has proved to be a very reliable source this transfer window. All three of the major market moves paid off but it also identified potential deals that were unlikely to happen. Whilst you never say never, Batshuayi was always said to be one of our top striker targets but was never any shorter than a 6/1 (14%) chance. If we were ever a realistic chance of signing him the market never really showed it – the odds just reflecting that we probably did make enquiries. On the flip side Arnie was 20/1 (4.76%) into 9/4 (30%) in a week and then into 1/6 (85%) in one day. It was another two weeks before he signed but the money told the story.

The incoming money from transfers is not far short of the outgoing fees paid so far this window. I am led to believe the difference is only about 6m quid before taking into account other expenses including wages. Considering our transfer budget and extra TV money you would expect the club to make one or two more signings before the window closes. My guess is that providing Adrian stays we will make two more signings and one will be a striker. I just don’t believe the club would be so foolish to be relying solely on what we have now, but there again they were prepared to play square pegs in round holes for the right back position for how long? The other signing will probably be a midfielder.

The strikers that are currently on the radar are;

Andre Gray he has been short in the market for a month now which indicates a deal is certainly being considered. Over the past few days Wolves have entered the race and they are now favourites to sign him. He has drifted from 11/8 (42%) to 5/2 (28%) over the past 48 hours but that is due to Wolves strengthening in the market as a formal approach has been publicised.

Raul Jimenez his price has hardly moved in the past fortnight. Rated at 2/1 (33%) after a plunge on him at double figure odds in one day, it is odds on he will remain at Benfica. The odds suggest he is certainly being considered. I am an unforgiving supporter though and anyone who couldn’t get out of bed to catch a plane to sign for us on loan a few years back is never going to be warmly accepted by this old fuddy duddy!

If we are to bring in a midfielder it would seem at this stage that it will be either Jota or Wilshere. Both players have been in every one of my bookies updates so far which confirms that interest in them has not waned. One is a young player, untested and a gamble, the other is a proven player with an awful history of injuries. That’s settled then!

On the Adrian front I am pleased to say that all the money in recent days has been for him to stay. It is back to a flip of a coin odds with Palace being the likely destination if the big fella does decide he wants a move. Not sure about you but I really believe Adrian may have a part to play this season, so I do hope he stays a Hammer.

The only other players under double figure odds are;

Keita Balde Diao has again been in the past few of my bookies articles. He continually drifts out in the market and is now 9/2 (18%). Press reports suggest he wants to stay in Italy but the fact he has stayed in the market suggests we have at least made an approach for him.

Moussa Dembele there are a few clubs ahead of us on this one but at 8/1 (11%) he rates a mention. I watched him a few times last season and for me he is overpriced if the current valuations being muted are correct – even in today’s bazaar transfer market.

Sami Nasri is one player who has slipped onto the radar in the past week and could possibly be an alternative to my Jota / Wilshere prediction. He is an outside shot at 10/1 (9%) but if anyone has been watching the International club friendlies over the past two weeks you could only be impressed. His past attitude at City has been questionable in my opinion, often looking quite disinterested but his recent form on their tour has been very good. He might just be putting himself in the shop window?

There is still a month to go before the window shuts and as we get closer to the 31st August many clubs will become more desperate to bring in players (and shop some out). Possible deals that have become too complicated or have stalled may be completely discarded and new targets will come onto the radar out of nowhere. So whilst the bookies update articles have been pretty accurate so far expect the whole transfer market to become less predictable and more volatile as the final days approach.

Tony Hanna's Musings

What's our best starting eleven?

With under three weeks to go before the new season starts and five weeks before the transfer window shuts, let’s have a look at what has happened so far regarding transfer ins and outs at West Ham. On the goalkeeping front, should Hamburg Hammer be right and Adrian is off to pastures new, it would mean that all three of our keepers from last season have been shifted out. Whilst Spiegel was never a strong contender for first team action, Darren Randolph was our first choice keeper for much of last season due to some erratic early performances from Adrian and I think the fee we got for him from Boro was pretty good business considering we got him on a free. Personally, I will be disappointed if Adrian was not still a West Ham player come the end of this window. From our defensive list from last season only Arbeloa has gone. In midfield Nordtveit and Tore have left and up front Calleri and Valencia have been removed off the wage bill. It is still likely that Feghouli will be shipped out as well but I am becoming more and more convinced that Robert Snodgrass will be a Hammer for the upcoming season. I have not included any youngsters (Oxford etc) being loaned out or discarded as the object of this article is to ask you what your opinion is of our best eleven this coming season?

So with the likely eventuality that the quantity of players leaving the club will be seven or more, on the other side of the ledger we have signed four players so far with the likelihood that there is still one or two lesser additions on the radar. The incoming Pablo Zabaleta, Joe Hart, Arnie and Chico are all players that are likely to be strongly considered for our best eleven – or are they? What do you think? If you were Slav and you had to name what our best starting eleven is, playing in the best formation to suit, regardless of opposition or any special match day tactics, what would it be? No sitting on the fence now, no hyphens, brackets or slashes because you can’t decide between certain players, what eleven players would you choose if they are all fit and well?

For what it is worth – here is mine.

Two of the early decisions Bilic will have to make are not directly influenced by any new arrivals. The first one is at left back. Neither of our options are perfect, in fact I must admit to having hoped that Liverpool would sign Cresswell and we would get the player they signed, Hull’s Andy Robertson. He is pretty much a complete left wing back and I am sure he will shine on Merseyside. However, in the real World we have Cresswell and Masuaku. “Mas” did enough when he got his chance towards the latter half of last season to convince me he is our better option. Very tidy on the ball and rarely gives it away, he also appears better at closing opposition players down and blocking crosses. He is still only 23 and has a great deal of potential. Cresswell enjoyed a very good 15/16 season when working in tandem with Payet, but his commitment to tackling, especially since his injury, is a real weakness. Masuaku for me but I do think Bilic will start with Cresswell when the season opens. He does like to stick with incumbents and this was most evident when he took so long to admit defeat on the Antonio right back project and also playing Randolph for so long last season when clearly Adrian was worth a second chance . The other decision is one that was becoming evident last season when Obiang found his feet and blossomed into a very decent Premier League player. How do you fit Noble, Kouyate and Obiang into the same team? When faced with the problem last season Bilic moved Kouyate to full back – a move I am sure will not happen again this season. An injury to Obiang eventually relieved the selection pressure on Bilic last season and an injury to Kouyate recently will mean it is a not a decision the manager will have to face at the very start of this season. Unless we have a succession of injuries to all three players though, it is a selection problem Bilic will have to face again and I guess current form will dictate which way he goes?

If record signing Arnautovic is to be played wide left does that mean Lanzini plays more central this season? And then what happens to Ayew? At least he can play left, right and central and he will be an invaluable squad player once the inevitable injuries and suspensions occur. New signing Chico Hernandez is another interesting one. Working in tandem with wide players Antonio and Arnie is a pretty decent prospect but in games where we are under the pump Chico is not exactly a “hold the ball up” type of player. If both players are 100% fit would you choose him or Andy Carroll or perhaps Sahko? Following on from Sean’s article yesterday about Carroll, I think many of us share his frustration. However, if he is fit and firing would you choose him in our best line up? I have despite the sick note frustrations and to be honest it was harder to choose him over Sakho than Chico – simply because I am not totally convinced about our new arrival. Whilst not a bad piece of business, especially at the price, I do wonder whether the hype has got the better of reality? I hope I am wrong but I want to see him doing the business for West Ham before I get over excited. In all my examples, all the aforementioned players could indeed play together as a varied amount of formations could be utilised. However, somewhere along the line there are going to be players that miss out. Which ones?

There are lots of headaches for Bilic this season in keeping such an in depth squad all happy. They will all want to play. Long may those headaches continue as the last thing we want is another season in the top four on “Physio Room” making the bosses selection process any easier! It does look a very good squad, especially when you look at my best team when it does not include Adrian, Byram, Fonte, Cresswell, Collins, Fernandes, Snodgrass, Chico, Sakho or Ayew. On top of that we have the youngsters in Quina, Rice, Cullen, Martinez and Holland all waiting their chances.

Good luck with picking your best team. I think we can look forward to this season with great optimism.

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