If this was a movie it would be binned at submission for being too far fetched.
We have the return of the once great one to save the day again. We also have hero returning to the site of his recent exploits to see if he can repeat the formula from the dark side. And we have the introduction of a former hero, now into his dotage, to see if he can just one more time recreate the magic that made him famous throughout the land.
Here we are again, nearly 2 years to the day since i wrote this . And we find ourselves back in the same boat, calling the same batphone. But we also find ourselves in a better cabin on that boat.
Slaven went as he tried to work with players Sullivan bought, who were clearly not good enough. Pelle went as he made good signings , based on recommendations from his team, but couldn’t get them into a formation suited to their skillsets. Which for someone with his experience, is odd and backs up the Man City fan opinion regarding stubborness and unwillingness to change.
So once again, in comes David Moyes, And once again the team he has inherited is way better than he maybe expected. Subtle tweaks here and there are already producing results.
I have been saying for ever we need to get two up top (since Allardyce) and DM has moved Anderson into the space behind Haller to great effect. We seem to to have changed to a back 3 with pushing full backs, which definitely plays to the strengths of Fred and Arthur. However this may be curtailed with the injury to Fred during the Gillingham game. I cannot see Zaba charging up and down against Sheffield United this Friday.
Despite me doubting him massively when he signed , DM needs to find a space for Fornals. His recent performances, cannot be dismissed, and he could be Pelle’s last present to the faithful. Either Snodgrass or Lanzini needs to make way. Snods would be the easiest, however Lanzini doesn’t appear to be at it at all. His Instagram shows him in London very rarely and maybe January would be a good time to move him on for a few quid for someone who needs a playmaker.
Which brings us to the one remaining puzzle. Defensive midfield. Pushing Noble further up the pitch is always good for him (this has also been discussed by me ad infinitum). But 5 at the back and 3 towards the front (Anderson, Haller, Lanzini) leaves 2 . With Noble pushing towards Lanzini, leaves Rice in that hole. Are we good enough for one holding midfielder ? 3 center backs suggests we are . What we cannot do however is this insane substitution of subbing Noble for Sanchez. Sanchez is not equipped to play up the pitch, so invariably plays further back, which when we are chasing is counter productive and brings teams on.
DM will (and has already) upped the tempo of play. He has also dealt with the Haller issue (for now. Against better opposition we may see a switch back). He seems to have brought Diop back in from the cold, and put Noble in his natural position. So far so good.
The real test will be Friday against Sheff Utd. A team on the up, and a team that will fancy their chances against us (home or away). Another clean sheet will be a result for us. Draw or win , I’ll be happy with.
Personally I thought Moyes should have had the job longer term than he was last time. He has enough experience and is young enough to still be hungry. Lets get behind him and see this season out, and hope this time he sticks around !
Before we finish, can we just take some time to digest that Mark Noble is currently the Premier Leagues highest scoring player this decade !
Very late as is becoming the norm, and I know I’ve missed a couple of games, but Fulham at home was just that. Fulham at home. Despite their early lead, as soon as it went to 1-1 they really didn’t want to know. Since then their manager has been sacked and former hammers favourite Scott Parker has been installed, so good luck to him , he will need it.
Newcastle arrived on a decent run and were likely to be a better test than when we beat them at their place earlier in the season.
Actually, stuff that. The Geordies were also devoid of ideas and even their fans were (for them) a little quiet. Today was all about a real club legend. Billy Bonds. Six foot two, eyes of blue and all that.
The stand I usually sit in was being renamed after him, and he now sits alongside Bobby Moore and Trevor Brooking in getting this honour. This led to Gary Lineker winding up twitter suggesting the remaining stand was becoming the Mark Noble Stand. Although a little premature I think that would be better than what it probably will be. The Lycamobile stand ? The Betway ? The Kens Cafe ?
Anyway I say the stand I usually sit in, as for the first time since we moved I sat elsewhere for the game. In the prawn sandwich seats no less. Not quite a box, but very corporate. We (me and @mrsmackay) were kindly hosted by a supplier of hers to enjoy the game in a different atmosphere. This involved getting there considerably early and me seeing the “dark side” of the stadium I have never been around to that side, not even for other events.
Its very much what you would expect if you have been in the Club England section at Wembley. Lots of escalators and people knowing where they are going (except for you). We ended up in a lounge called the Forge for our lunch. Whilst munching, we enjoyed an interview, on a stage about 10ft away, about Mr Bonds, from some ex players. Namely, Alvin Martin, Ray Stewart, Stuart Slater, Pat Holland and Kenny Brown (jnr). Being the game was against Newcastle, Alvin was given the liberty of retelling his historic hatrick against the magpies (again!).
Food was 7/10. Entertainment was 8/10. Half time was interesting , listening to a guy on an acoustic guitar, playing Jump Around by House of Pain. Different, but he just about got away with it. Service was as you would expect, polite.
Anyway we filtered out early , as Bonzo was getting his presentation 20 mins before kick off. We were greeted by a great sight.
Billy was led out though an honour guard of ex players
And then was interviewed by Alvin Martin
And then cut his ribbon, to open the stand. During his lap of honour there was not a dry eye in the house, especially from the man himself. as he made his way around the stadium a tribute played on the screens.
Then there was the little matter of the game. Mark Noble is the closest we have to a Billy these days, and we are all hoping that the mantle will be taken up by Declan Rice in the future. He did himself no harm by netting a header after 7 minutes, much to the consternation of @mrsmackay who wanted a bet on him to score the first goal only to be dissuaded by yours truly! From then on there was only one winner and a mistimed tackle on Hernandez gave us a pen just before half time. Ably converted by Mr Noble. The second half was only notable for me for 2 reasons. One, Longstaff at Newcastle is being touted as better than Rice, and was hooked at half time while Declan was picking up another MOTM and more plaudits. Secondly, and more interesting was Marko entering the fray (mystery illness from Wednesday cleared up). Clearly not happy at being a sub and not the darling of the fans anymore, outside of 2 runs it was Marko pre Moyes of sulking and and waving arms. He needs to sort himself out or the manager has no option but to start him from the bench every game, which actually is doing peak Marko a disservice and could actually cost us points along the way.
So, another good day at a stadium that is slowly (very slowly) becoming home. Not sure if I could do corporate every game but it has its advantages.
My second visit of 2019 to the London Stadium also brought home the harrowing fact the in the Premier League era, Arsenal have beaten West Ham more than any other club. But the early kick off normally upsets the apple cart (and the Acca punters) and this game did its bit to keep up that tradition.
Rumours abounded around Arnie. He’s going, he’s staying, his brother is a shit stirrer, allsorts. My take is this. If he wishes to leave to play in empty stadiums, in a league that will also most likely mean he loses his international place as well, just for cash, then good luck to him. He earns more than he can spend already.
Also lets be realistic, if someone offered you twice your wages to do the same job somewhere else, you would take it. Maybe not in China, but at least your head will be turned. He left Stoke quick enough, and we are no different, such is the way of the modern footballer. They chop and change all the time. Reece Oxford is our 5th longest serving player currently !
So Arsenal, Wengerless and let off the leash. 22 game unbeaten runs, new broom, and no win in 4 away from home in the PL.
We started with probably with as good as team as we could, but this was no plucky little West Ham. All the big guns were there with the exception of Balbuena. Ogbonna has scared me this season, and early on did nothing to shake that feeling, as Rice had to get him out of a hole a couple of times as Lacazette gave him the run around. However , once the early nerves went, everyone did their job. Antonio was making the runs down the wing we got used to a few years ago. Diop seemed to get his confidence back (it took a few games with Balbuena as well, obviously doesn’t mix well with others!)
Rice and Noble dominated. Rice especially. I’m not the only one saying every game he gets better, but he does ! We have started passing instead of lumping. Nasri I thought was quiet after reading the report of the previous week but he did nothing wrong. Arnie was quiet, and I’m sure I saw Anderson make a tackle !
Just after half time (0-0), we get a bit of a ricochet ball in the box, which Nasri calmly tees up for Rice, and its top corner , one nil. Declan’s first goal for the senior team on his birthday weekend, 2 weeks after getting a new contract. Arnie take note.
After that , we looked assured and controlled the game. Arsenal had some longer range shots and did actually get the ball in the net twice, but with comically offside attempts. And that was that, no panic, no last hurrah from the opposition. A relatively painless win, except for Arnie who left early to be replaced by Carroll. He applauded all round the stadium as he left the field. I have commentated above on my opinion around this, so that’s that, or is it? Would you pay a potentially injured player 200k a week ?
Carroll looked sharper again, and closed down well, as did Snodgrass when introduced. We finally have a proper squad.
Obviously a lot of the credit has to go to the manager, who had kept banging on about installing a big team mentality into the team. But this needs to translate across to the fans as well. We can live in the past glories of being there just about in the league but always having a say in the title with a couple of big scalps a year or we can become the team that plays in front of 60k every week ,with big players, and expectations to match.
Gary Firmager used to say the worst thing to let loose at West Ham is expectation and back then he was right. But we have to accept that the fan base and the club has changed dramatically over the past few years, and we should now demand this level of team from our board.
WWW. Nothing to do with Tim Berners-Leigh but WHU’s current form stats.
Helped out by playing those around us in a fortuitous fixture list, only interrupted by the visit of Man City (describes by the Stop HammerTime podcast, as a “contractual responsibility”)
But the style of the wins has been the most encouraging. 3 goals in each ,and most of the action in the second half. So why the slow start ?
Against Palace, it was because they (Palace) came out like lunatics, having probably seen that the Cardiff game could have been all different if the penalty went in. Cardiff and Newcastle were more us feeling our way into the game. Against City that cost us the first goal.
So Palace go one nil up with a soft goal. No panic for West Ham and by half time , although still one nil down, I knew we would not only come back but would win easily. All we needed was a mistake and as all the teams around that position in the league know (including us) , it will happen.
Or you can just pop in a worldie, as the ever improving Robert Snodgrass did straight from the kick off. Surely that completes his transformation back into a West Ham player. He bent one in that didn’t look anywhere near the goal until the last second . From then on it was all WHU, with Hernandez taking a typical poachers goal to secure the lead. The game was over (nearly) when 2 minutes later Anderson bent in one that was better than Snodgrass’s and almost identical to the one he scored against Burnley.
Last month we met some Italian lads on holiday and they told me Anderson would be long periods of frustration interspersed with genius and the case seems to be in their favour. He cannot tackle despite making the run and taking the position, his passing sometimes is off, but boy can he shoot !
As we approached the end of the game we started to go backwards a bit defending our 2 goal lead. By now, with Grady and Anderson on the pitch we were a little lightweight in the tackling dept, and Palace kept coming, eventually getting their second, and making the last 10 more exciting than it needed to be.
So we go 3 for 3 and 10th in the league with struggling Fulham, Watford, Southampton and Burnley next up. 30 points for the new year would be lovely, but let’s not get too carried away.
Best encouragement for me, and worst for non Hammers, is we have proved we are not a one man show. we have won 2 games now with no Arnie. Perez is not his replacement however, and Carroll looked massively sluggish. But with the midfield chipping in with the goals, it will paper over the cracks. Noble looks like he’s back his own self as well, which is no bad thing.
January is coming and I think if we can pick up a couple of full backs maybe Byram and Masuaku can go. With Arthur it’s a shame, as the talent is there but the mistakes can no longer be ignored.
Once again Rice was awesome and this transfer window does worry me. Don’t forget anyone who is still in Europe can buy him and play him. Leaving the negotiations until the end of the season is madness, but lets hope it works.