The S J Chandos Column
Can we make it five wins back-to-back ? (As SJ finds a new Stratford watering hole!)
West Ham have been in excellent form of late and, as we are all no doubt aware, victory over Watford will give us our fifth consecutive win. It has been a real roller coaster of a season so far, but credit where it is due, Pellegrini finally seems to be getting his playing style/system across to the squad. What makes recent results all the more remarkable is the fact that they have been achieved with some of our best players sidelined.
Can you imagine how good we would be if Yarmolenko and Lanzini were fit and starring in this team? I have said right from the summer that Lanzini is the key missing component and his addition to this side would take us to a totally different level. Am I putting too much confidence in Lanzini? I think not. He is the creative and goal scoring central, attacking, midfielder that we have been missing and I am hopeful that his addition could boost our chances of league/cup success next season.
Nevertheless, we must still acknowledge the sterling job that the fit players are doing at present. Balbuena and Diop look very solid, Zabaletta is defying his years week in/week out, Rice is going from strength to strength, Anderson is realising his huge potential and Snodgrass is looking absolute class. In addition, Antonio has also started playing like his former self, Hernandez has been far sharper and Noble just keeps on delivering in the middle of the park (as much as his detractors claim otherwise).
The fact is that a depleted squad has very much come in to its own and Pellegrini deserves every credit for bringing that about. Yet, this four match winning run has come as West Ham have faced a number of team currently positioned in the middle/bottom half of the table. We have beaten, Newcastle Utd, Cardiff City, Palace, and Fulham in recent weeks. And after Saturday’s match vs Watford, we then face Southampton (A), Burnley (A) and Brighton (H); before playing Arsenal (H) on 12/01/19. There is every prospect that we could end up going eight matches unbeaten, in this period, and take a massive step towards ensuring a top half finish.
However, that probably does reflects where we are this season, too good for the bottom 10 teams and competitive against the sides up to about sixth place; but probably falling short when facing the top six teams. Yes, we have had excellent results against Man Utd (H) and Chelsea (H); but this has been balanced up by heavy defeats against the likes of Man City (H), Arsenal (A) and Liverpool (A); plus that painful double header (H) reverse to Spurs in the Cup and PL.
Yet, we are where we are and there is definitely now a foundation upon which to build. I am not one of those complacently predicting that West Ham will not add to the squad this January. In view of the injury situation in the squad, it is probably necessary to bring in at least two or three additions. While I admit that these will more than likely be loan signings, I think that they are necessary to keep the club moving forward. Personally, I would like to see Pellegrini bring in another full-back, a midfielder and a striker, possibly on a loan, with a view to a permanent deal basis. The fact is that we are doing ok right now, but if we sustain another two or three major injuries that would severely stretch our squad. We need to plan in anticipation of that eventuality.
Anyway, I am just enjoying this winning run and a I sincerely hope that it continues up to and beyond the Arsenal match. We have all been Hammers fans long enough to know that these type of winning runs are few and far between and we should just enjoy them when they come along. And that is exactly what I am doing.
Recent results have been made all the more enjoyable because I have found a really nice new bolt hole for a pre and post-match drink. It is one of the few places in the Stratford area, on a match day, that is not absolutely rammed out. I do not know about others, but I am getting too old for packed pubs, standing room only and fighting for a drink. In recent weeks I have been going with friends to the Meza Bar: East, which is attached to the Theatre Royal East (Gerry Raffles Square, E15). It has a great atmosphere, the staff are really friendly and it has a good menu and selection of draught/keg beers on tap. Apparently quite a few Hammers fans used to use it, but they lost the custom when they closed for a major refurbishment over the summer and autumn. I understand that they would like to try and attract that custom back.
A friend of mine spoke to the manager recently and he has since asked me to encourage WHTID readers/contributors to try the re-vamped bar. To encourage Hammers fans back on Saturday (22 December 2018) they are offering a Burger/Chips/all the trimmings and any pint of draught beer deal for a special price of £10 incl. That is good value when you consider the outrageous price of food and drink in the London Stadium. To get the deal you need to ask for the ‘Win Burger’ deal and show your season ticket/match ticket to the bar staff.
If you like rowdy football pubs and launching in to loud renditions of bubbles, whilst standing on your chair, then the Meza East Bar is not for you. After all it is attached to a theatre and you do need to respect the theatre going client base who also frequent the place. However, if you want a nice friendly drink with friends and family, in a pleasant environment, it could be just what you are looking for.
Give it a try!