The HamburgHammer Column

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I was late to the party this time and I missed the first goal as a result of it. When I joined the game about 17 minutes after kick-off, according to my online football score site of choice, Arnautovic had given us the 1:0 lead just one minute before I switched on the telly. So, he can still score after all…

You see, it was community work day at our local sports club again and once more I was helping to mend and put up new strawmat fences around the club premises, toiling away for six hours in what was literally like four seasons in one day: We had sunshine, hail, snow, rain and everything in between, but needs must and I was happy enough to do my bit for the community.

And I wasn’t going to disregard any speed limits just so I could get back home in time for kick-off. After all, this was simply our final league game at home for the season.

Relegation was out of the question, so was finishing in 7th place. So while of course we want to finish as high as possible in terms of league position, this one felt like a pre-season game somehow. When I joined the game in progress it looked to me like players were reluctant to tackle like they might have done if relegation had still been a realistic outcome. It all had the air of a friendly kickabout really.

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Once again it has to be said that it was pretty much a complete performance from the entire team, with no real weak links in sight. And that despite Anderson and Rice both missing the game through illness/feeling poorly.

The guys replacing them did their job and apart from one spell in the game we made Southampton look second best in almost every regard. Oh, if only we had seen that level of effort and intent in games against Huddersfield, Burnley or Everton, this season could have gone a lot more smoothly than it has.

For the first time in ages Pellegrini had actually a decent choice of players to pick from for the game. For me, the main ingredient and key to our success next season will be to somehow keep our injury situation in check. If we could just half the number of games missed by our players through injury that alone will go a long way towards giving us more consistency, more swagger, more points on the board.

Arnautovic of course was the main story of the game, nearly scoring a hattrick, after going through a long barren spell, looking once again very much like the Arnautovic of old who used to enjoy his football at West Ham, banging in goals for fun. If we can have back this player more often again I’d be as happy as the next West Ham fan to keep him at the club which might happen now anyway.

I think deep down Arnautovic knows the whole China affair was handled fairly shoddily by himself and his agent brother, he turned from our star man into Mr.Unpopular quicker than it takes to sing Bubbles and it wasn’t a good situation, not for the club, not for the player and certainly not for the fans. But everyone deserves a second chance. Including Mr.Arnautovic, provided he gives his all for the club and his teammates again, focusing on West Ham rather than pondering which club to sign for next.

The club have put a fixed release fee into his new contract apparently, just in case, but I somehow doubt that any club is going to pay that fee in the summer, rumoured to be around the £45 million mark.

And Arnautovic has recently signed a contract extension with better terms now – so at this point it makes a lot of sense for both sides to make this arrangement work.

Surround Arnautovic with decent players that allow him to score his fair share of goals and he should be happy enough to stay and contribute.

He is a very useful player to have at the club, if he is in the mood and right frame of mind, although I don’t see him as our main guy anymore or a player we cannot afford to lose.
I don’t mind him staying though…provided he has learned his lesson.

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Arnautovic was fantastic against the Saints, but he still wasn’t the best player for West Ham on Saturday, that honour goes to Ryan Fredericks. I didn’t see him put a foot wrong against Southampton, he also scored his first PL goal and even though I missed the first 16 minutes of the game, I did read up his match stats later and those were pretty amazing bordering on quite unbelievable. With Zabaleta also staying for another season I reckon RB looks like a fairly settled position for us next season.

Which I am holding high hopes for, maybe against previous experience and sample size at West Ham. I have also decided to renew my season ticket, so I shall give the ticket office a call in the next few weeks. It will make things easier also in terms of getting tickets for a game should my brother join me for one of my trips to London as that will obviously be one box to tick then.

I couldn’t take him to East London without us going to see a West Ham game.
Other boxes to tick will be jellied eels, pie and mash and an afternoon down by the sea.

Talking of my brother, we are still expecting back the results of his medical procedure – he spent five days in hospital after getting his adrenal gland removed. They sent some tissue of his away for further analysis, so we shall soon know if he needs any further treatment or if any health problem has now been fixed by removing the organ in question altogether…fingers crossed…

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I am an optimist in general which strangely enough also applies to my view on West Ham next season. Can we have the same bad luck (or worse) again with injuries ? Surely not.

Will we have the same number of refereeing calls go against us, costing us points or will we see an improvement there thanks to VAR ? We shall see.

Also, don’t forget that most of our players will stay at the club, so they should have some chemistry developing now with players knowing the running and passing patterns of their teammates which should make for better football on a more regular basis next season. Plus, the manager knows the players now and vice versa.

I know our transfer budget will be limited due to our financial constraints, but if players like Yarmolenko, Sanchez and Wilshere are available to play more often than they have this season (which shouldn’t be that difficult to achieve) we already are a stronger team that way without even signing someone.

If we manage to keep the core, the spine of our team at West Ham (Fabianski, Diop, Balbuena, Anderson, Lanzini and yes, Arnautovic too), then we have a solid foundation to build on.

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We need additions to the squad of course, with a number of players leaving, and we need to replace those players with better quality which will not be cheap. We will find a few South American under-the-radar bargains, yes. But I’m sure Pellegrini also has some transfer targets lined up who will have their market price. As usual, the summer at West Ham will be interesting to say the least. One more game left now for the first team and a great opportunity to finish the season on a high by winning yet another London derby away from home…COYI!!!

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I also have to express my heartfelt congratulations for a very solid and brave performance by the West Ham Women’s team on Saturday in the FA Cup Final at Wembley.
In the end City’s superior quality and fitness levels across the team prevailed, but we gave them an almighty scare and they had to work far harder than they probably expected.

I enjoyed watching that game a lot and funnily enough my matchday watching routine was basically the same as when following our first team: I had my West Ham shirt on, I had my screwdriver wandering from one hand to the other to calm my nerves and whenever West Ham were creating a scoring opportunity I was out of the armchair moving towards the telly, trying to get that ball over the line by sheer willpower. Alas, it was not to be this time – but surely for our women’s team this was merely the beginning of an exciting journey, not the end. All part of the learning curve.

Hopefully on a future trip the fixture calendar will be kind and I can also take in a game of Kate Longhurst and her teammates – as you all know by now I have developed quite a liking for the women’s game in the past two years and I reckon things can only get bigger and better for the ladies’ game in general. Long may it continue!

Hamburg football update:

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Things have not gone well for Hamburg football in recent weeks. Hamburg SV lost 0:3 at home to Ingolstadt in disastrous fashion and they are failing to pick up points just as it matters most as we approach the final games of the campaign. At this rate HSV will struggle to even make 3rd place which would give them a shot at promotion through the playoffs. St.Pauli also lost again and they too only have little hope left to get 3rd place. At one point there was a possibility both Hamburg clubs might get promoted this season, now it looks highly likely both will remain in Bundesliga 2. Shame.

Shame is also the keyword about Concordia’s 1:3 home defeat on Friday evening against Curslack. A lackluster performance, with players shouting abuse at their teammates and fans getting utterly frustrated and disillusioned with it all, same as the manager, all of whom shared one thought during and after the game: That nobody really wanted to be there.

A complete waste of time, money and oxygen. If there weren’t three other REALLY crap teams in the same division this season, surely Concordia would have deserved relegation this season, that’s how bad the football has been all season long.

At least the U23s won, keeping alive their slim mathematical hopes of promotion. The women’s team could rest this weekend in preparation for their final game next Sunday away at third placed Rahlstedt, a game which under normal circumstances should confirm Concordia’s second promotion in a row. If they avoid defeat they are up.
And even if they lose they can still get promoted if their rivals don’t win their remaining fixture at a canter. So, at Concordia, same as with West Ham, somehow the women have put their male counterparts in the shade with their achievements this season…