The HamburgHammer Column

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Some things in life are incredibly simple and straightforward: When West Ham score, I am usually a happy man and I don’t really give a hoot who the goalscorer is, I even cheer own goals by opposition players.

Sometimes though, a certain goalscorer makes that grin on my boat just that little bit wider and lasting longer. And Saturday was such a case when Andriy Yarmolenko found the top corner from a tricky angle. That was a very satisfying goal for a multitude of reasons. First of all, just a minute or two earlier Yarmolenko had been denied a certain goal of the month candidate by the goalpost. All through the first half, nothing had been going right for the fiery Ukrainian, not his various attempts to win a penalty, not his passing.
As in his previous appearance against Watford the game seemed to pass him by in the main.

Yet I had seen Yarmolenko do some fantastic things on a football pitch in the past, mainly for Borussia Dortmund and the Ukrainian national side. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I was looking very much forward to his exploits as a West Ham player. Then he did his knee in his first season and didn’t kick a ball for a long time. Still I knew he had a lot to offer and, provided he got through his rehab alright, I figured we would get to see the real Andriy Yarmolenko in claret and blue.

That goal doesn’t make him a worldbeater just yet. Nor does it mean that he is completely back at the level he is capable of reaching. But it was a start. And it was bloody nice to see the unadulterated joy and relief when he ran towards the West Ham bench (which, don’t forget, is quite a bit of distance to cover) to thank the physios who helped him on his long road to recovery. It was a beautiful script for Yarmo, but by no means the only one in our win over Norwich.

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Apart from the first 10 minutes which were very scrappy this was a very good team performance and if we had been just a bit more clinical/ruthless/focussed it could have been a proper old drubbing for Norwich (which I have a bit of a soft spot for, having been to Norwich before and finding it a really beautiful city).
Our defence, overall, looked surprisingly solid – with Masuaku being the pick of the bunch on Saturday, reliable at the back and always dangerous when going forward.

I was gobsmacked there wasn’t a booking in the first half though, including when Sébastien Haller mowed down the Norwich skipper who later had to come off. It was good to see Haller walking over to his opponent when he had to go off injured eventually. But it didn’t surprise me as everything I have heard about Haller from those who know is that he is not a nasty player at all, just very competitive, but essentially a good guy and character to have at your club.

Haller’s goal looked like an easy enough finish, but make no mistake, that’s just because he is such an intelligent player. Look at him, checking his runs in transition, checking out the position of his opponents, making sure he stays onside, waiting for the killer pass (which arrived from Masuaku) to then put the ball in the net with perfect accuracy.
I have an inkling he will be scoring plenty of goals in a similar vein this season.

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I cannot single out a West Ham player who had an indifferent game on Saturday, everyone was contributing. Our attacking play at times was breathtaking, albeit lacking in final product too often, our creative guys like Anderson, Lanzini and Haller (backheel magician!) were, well, very creative and those are the chaps you want on the pitch to get the home crowd at London Stadium off their seats. I have rarely watched a West Ham game where I felt this comfortable throughout we would get the three points.

With the table being as close as it is (we are currently just three points behind Manchester City and in 7th place, ahead of Spurs, Manchester United and Chelsea!) this promises to be a very exciting season all around, although we have already had to witness the West Ham injury curse back into the house, with Antonio looking certain to require surgery on his torn hamstring (from the Newport game) which is likely, at this point, to keep him out for 3-4 months. All the best to him of course, and a full and speedy recovery!
Perfect opportunity for Yarmolenko now to cement his place in the side, but, as per above, things are looking good for Yarmo now!

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In other news we have sold our Mexican paceman down at West Ham, Javier “Little Pea” Hernandez to Sevilla which should be confirmed later today. It does look a pretty risky move by West Ham, losing another striker at this stage when we can only replace Chicharito with a free signing basically.

The question is, however, what good does it do to keep the player (who would have been in a position to leave for nothing anyway next summer), considering he has never managed to cement a place in the starting XI and he also doesn’t seem to fit the system and style of football that Pellegrini wants to play ?

Hernandez has always been a luxury player, big name, used to score for fun while playing for Manchester United, good enough still as a super sub (if you can afford to spend £145k a week in wages for a player fulfilling that role) or as a second striker with others providing the majority of running, chasing and tracking back. I reckon he did never really fit the profile for a West Ham striker, so it’s maybe for the best to part ways in such fashion here and now.

It also gives us some money to potentially sign someone in January, if need be, and of course save the quite substantial wage packet we used to pay to Hernandez for far too little contribution on the pitch in return.

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It’s a bit of a shame that it’s another international break now, just as we have begun to hit a bit of form at West Ham. Next up, after the break, is a very tricky, but winnable tie at our fellow team playing in claret and blue, Aston Villa. At this point in time it feels really good to be a West Ham fan, let’s try to enjoy it while it lasts. Right now we have a very decent squad which is playing some wonderful football for us all to enjoy. We have even managed to keep another clean sheet!
At this rate we may struggle to find things to moan about, at least in the short term…COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Well, St.Pauli played the kind of game that West Ham fans had to suffer in the past time and time again, being 3:0 up at halftime, to see the opposition going down to 10 men after a red card – and still draw the game 3:3. A really shocking result under the circumstances!
Hamburg SV beat their neighbours from Hannover 3:0 in a game played in a friendly atmosphere as both clubs and their fanbases get on really well.
HSV continue to impress, sitting top of the table.

Concordia’s first team, like St.Pauli one day later, had a day to forget on Friday when they lost to the worst team so far this season by a 1:4 scoreline, at home as well! The only goal for Cordi came from a penalty and the away team, Buchholz, scored with basically every single chance they created, helped along the way by shocking individual errors from some Concordia players. Oh well, you win some, you lose some, I suppose!

Much better from the U23s who beat table toppers Viktoria Harburg 1:0 to snatch top spot from them while the Concordia Women’s team surprised everyone by winning their away game 5:0 which gives them a very credible midtable ranking for now – a solid position to work from in a very strong league.