The HamburgHammer Column

The new season begins, every fan up and down the country is ready, excited, hopeful it’ll be maybe a better season than the one before.
Us West Ham nuts were especially eager to see the new signings in action and maybe giving the current league champions a run for their money.

And what do they do, on your own patch as well ?
They bully you, make you look stupid and exposed in the second half and stroll away at the end with your pocket money jingling mercilessly in their fingers. While you’re heading back home, empty handed, gaze fixed at your shoes, tail between your legs…

That first defeat of the season was hard to take, harder to watch and unfortunately it was the same old capitulation against Manchester City at the London Stadium we’ve seen before. In all the previous games between the sides in London so far, it’s never really been much of a contest.
We should be used to it by now, but as fans we simply don’t want to get used to it. The defeat didn’t come as a surprise.
The manner of it was a bitter pill to swallow, but we shall regroup and move on.

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This time, we at least played well first half. Really well, actually. We went at them, ran, chased and pressed, created chances too, put plenty of effort in, failed to score and then conceded a very unlucky first goal down the other end.

Then second half arrived and we were suddenly lacking the energy displayed in the first half. And so Man City started to do their thing, taking opposing teams apart at will, with two or three clinical passes, pouncing on any mistake or weakness, with the same kind of empathy that a pack of hounds might show when being in sight of the fox they’ve been hunting down for the best part of an hour.

First half was a football game, second half was a training exercise. I hope we learned our lesson.

Then again, we won’t be playing opposition like City every week, a thoroughly well-assembled team of superstar players, on the pitch and on the bench, million for million a world-class squad, managed by one of the best tacticians in world football. 0:5 defeats at home shouldn’t happen. But they do happen of course.

It’s down to the gulf in finances leading to a gulf in quality between teams playing in the PL. In truth, City are now playing pretty much in a league of their own, only briefly entered by teams like Liverpool. Or Manchester United or Chelsea whenever they have a good season.

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We shouldn’t read too much into that result or over-react. Second half wasn’t good enough, granted. But I still feel very confident about our squad this season, despite the Man City drubbing.

Haller already looks highly promising and given the right support upfront will be fantastic for us.
Fornals may need a bit longer to adjust to the pace of PL football, but he will be good for us too. The young Swiss striker Ajete will be another option for us I am extremely excited about, same as the kid we picked up from Portugal in defence.

Pellegrini’s plan clearly is to play positive and attack-minded football, sacrificing clean sheets at the back in the process. Going for a barnstorming 4:3 win rather than drawing 0:0.
I like this approach. I was unhappy during the Allardyce reign because of his ludicrous “Respect the point” philosophy. As a football fan, I don’t want to be bored senseless.
It’s called “The beautiful game” for a reason. I am not sure the football gods had Catenaccio in mind when inventing the game. Of course you lose some games this way, but I’d rather lose occasionally while trying to win every game, to be brutally honest.

West Ham fans have been crying out for our team to try and play the kind of football that’s pleasing on the eye, the West Ham way, trying to score goals at every opportunity. We are doing that now under Pellegrini. It’s not gonna work all the time and defending indeed is not our forte. Hopefully that can be improved on though in training.
However, I am grateful that Pellegrini is trying to inject a philosophy into our club of playing attractive football. Given some more time for the players to gel, the results will follow, that is my firm belief.

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A quick word on VAR. I said before I am a fan, I understand though that it will take some time to get everyone adjusted and tuned into how it works. I felt that the delays were tolerable, in most cases there wasn’t even much of a delay to begin with. There are still calls that are incredibly close, even after watching several replays some of those offside decisions looked 50/50 to me and it’s not much easier for the actual guy doing the VAR. But I am happy with VAR finally be up and running in the PL as well and I am certain people will come to appreciate its merits in the near future. You still win some and lose some, but overall it will, hopefully, make for a more level playing field in the league.

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Next game away to Brighton won’t be easy, no PL game is these days. And Brighton have started the season on fire, taking Watford to the cleaners. They will be tough opposition, playing their first home game this season against us, but I’m expecting a reaction from our lads on the pitch, I’m also expecting changes to our line-up, especially as Felipe Anderson was limping off which made it look as if he might be out for a week or two at least. Good opportunity for Yarmolenko or Fornals to step up to the plate.

COYI!!!

Hamburg football update: I know that especially our own Nigel Kahn is waiting eagerly for this segment…;-))
Let me tell you, I am aware that most on here don’t give a hoot about any football results from Hamburg, be that the two big clubs or that little club of mine that’s kicking balls about pitches at the 5th level of the league pyramid in Germany: Concordia.

However, I am deliberately putting this bit at the end, so people can choose to ignore it or read on. And I know some of you have been to Hamburg before and have at least a fleeting interest in German football, we even have a Freiburg supporter on here.

So, here we go. For the big clubs it was cup weekend. St.Pauli were playing in a feisty North German derby away at Luebeck, a game craved by the fans and cursed by the local authorities and police forces who had to oversee that game. Fortunately, St.Pauli managed a narrow win after extra time and penalties against their bitter rivals from the fourth tier of German football (think of it like Millwall, we no longer play them regularly, but when we play them in the cup it’s potential carnage).

Hamburg SV were away too, against a club fighting for its very existence off the pitch at present for monetary reasons, Chemnitz from East Germany. Hamburg SV didn’t show much swagger on the pitch though and only just prevailed. A poor showing, but a win nonetheless. Just like St.Pauli they had to survive a penalty shootout.

It was a highly successful weekend for Concordia too, starting with the home game of the first team on Friday evening, in the pouring rain, beating one of the top sides in the division, Victoria, by a 2:1 scoreline. The game had everything, good passing, feisty challenges, a red card, a penalty and the right team winning of course.

If you fancy it, the highlights of that game can be watched in the clip below. Six points out of a possible nine represent a very decent start to the season for this new Cordi team. They look like a talented group of players, all showing the right attitude and application straight off the bat. You can clearly see a difference in terms of team spirit and effort already, compared to the previous nightmare of a season.

Then, yesterday, the Cordi U23s also won at home, 5:1, compensating for that horrible 1:7 away defeat in last weekend’s game. They are also on six points from three games now and ready to gun for promotion again.

The Cordi women’s team didn’t play, they are kicking off their league season with an away game next Sunday.