West Ham have never won their first three games in the Premier League but with 2 down and a 0 point Palace rolling into town, things were looking good for another small piece of history this weekend. Not to mention the chance to remain top of the league through the International break.
Getting into the ground was considerably easier this time around, but getting there 90 minutes before kick off helps !
Welcome home. well I don’t know about home but definitely welcome back. 18 odd months since my last attendance at a live football match, Monday evening was a time to see if it was all worth it. It also means these missives should be more regular. Hard to report on something that you watched on the TV.
I’ll be honest, after nearly 35 years of continuous attendance, a season off actually worked well for me, and it was good to do other things at the weekends. Like watch West Ham on the telly !
So last season was beyond all expectation and with little or no change to the team we started this year beating a team that beat us twice last year, and winning away, and winning our first game of the season for a few years.
However, our opponents today had beaten Man City in the FA Cup final, and the Charity Shield and just missed out on top four (as did we, grrrr) . But in our favour was the fact that last time we played them we, destroyed them at their own ground.
Getting in was an absolute shambles, one it appears shared by a few other clubs this season. We have moved to digital tickets. Taking away the accessibility issue of this, that should not be too difficult a transition, with options to print, etc. But also asking people who are not qualified to verify COVID staus was always going to be ridiculous. What if I show them someone else’s status, or show them mine in my digital wallet, but the date validation data has past. Are they really going to spend all that time with each supporter, while queues were getting somewhat silly . I queued nearly 30 minutes to get in. Due to it being the first game, most people were OK with this. I imagine in December with some rain flying about, this will not be sustainable in any way. I understand Spurs have already announced “random” checks to speed this up. Not to mention that this was to “keep us safe”. I can honestly say that since March 2020, that was the tightest crowd of non masked individuals I had spent my time with . Sort of defeats the point.
Also there is a safety issue. The queues were out to the edge of the concourse all round the ground , meaning you had to push through other queues to get to your own. With people waiting up to 40 minutes to get in they were getting concerned about other people pushing in and there we have the issue. Tempers can flare easily in these situations, and I think being the first game, probably kept a lid on this. Once again, a league cup game in late October may have a different outcome.
The game itself was different entirely. We dominated from start to finish, and the score reflected that. Yes they had someone sent off (VAR actually being used properly, eg for catching a clear and obvious refereeing error), but in reality we were by far the better team.
The atmosphere was almost Upton Park ish, but maybe that’s what happens when you haven’t been to a game for 18 months ! Even the stadium announcer got in on the act singing the Antonio song, when he broke Di Canio’s record for most Premier League goals. That said, I would still prefer a real striker, who can complement our fantastic attacking force. One injury blows that all up, and backup is essential.
If we manage to secure a striker, Lingard and Zouma before the 1st Sept, I will be a happy boy, but we know how that goes over here. The board over promise and deliver nothing. We are still crowing about signing Dawson as a new signing, despite him being on loan all last season.
Palace up next and we should remain top of the pile going into the break. No complaints with that.
MOTM: Fornals. The fella just holds everything together and has been rewarded by getting called up for Spain in the upcoming break. Well played Senor.
As usual West Ham fail to capitalise on a good run of form and throw away a lead to a decent enough team, but not quite at our level.
As with most Hodgson’s teams, there was a straight 4-4-2 across the board, where defence and midfield play close together meaning we have to break down. Once or twice we did get through, and as you might have seen in the build up for our goal,once we do, it was plain sailing.
Anderson and Lanzini were nowhere near their best, therefore creativity was at a premium. In fact the whole team seem to have a bout of wooliness, that stifled any smart play. Haller had chances to score that he didn’t take , and they got very lucky with a rebound. The penalty was also slightly contentious but more likely to be given than turned down. So all in all, happy with the draw.
Aha, but we didn’t draw, we lost. TO VAR. I’m OK with VAR, but for clear and obvious errors only. It’s an assist, not a judge. For a player to be adjudged 5 mm onside , there needs to be something else with the same amount accuracy. The ability to match exactly when the ball is kicked/headed/whatever. Unless you can 100% match these two, any of these too close calls cannot be made, and you have to go with the on the pitch decision (which was offside). From where I sat, it looked offside as well, but there you go. Lose 2-1 and move on.
We are seventh in a league that outside the top one, looks pretty open.
Before someone tells me I only write about wins, I have only made one of our two previous home games this season and that was the predictable white wash by City on the opening day, and there was literally nothing to write about.
I arrived at this game quietly confident (and had been for a couple of weeks). We have been not only playing well but seem to be settled in our style and cadence. This hasn’t been seen for some time. Man U on the other hand seem to be struggling with team selection and a (for them) poor transfer window. This also hasn’t been seen for a while.
I watched Man U in their Thursday night European game and thought they huffed and puffed, but in Greenwood they had a player, who could get in amongst our defence.
Talking of which, the preferred line up seems to be Ogbonna and Diop in the centre back berths. I have warmed back to Ogbonna since his most recent run in the team. He has stopped the silly mistakes and seems confident to be the leader over Diop, whereas with Reid or Collins he wouldn’t despite being the better player. There were some interesting words being said about Balbuena by MP, so lets trust the manager on that one. And 5 games unbeaten suggests he is right.
There were 2 enforced changes this week, Cresswell coming in for Masuaku at left back and Fornals getting the nod over Wilshere for the Lanzini position. Fornals, sort of yes. Cresswell however seem to split the support, who were vocal in their support for either Zaba or Johnson, both right backs.
Longer readers will remember my obsession with round pegs in round holes, so I was happy with the selection. I don’t get the stick Cress gets although I admit he was a better player pre injury. We are not enamoured with high quality left backs !
Our visitors decided not to play Greenwood, which suited me and with no Pogba, and the aging Mata and Matic playing, seemed quiet understrength.
The first half was a pretty dull affair up until just before half time, a Noble – Anderson interchange ended up with the ball at Yarmalenko’s feet, and he duly slotted it away.
I did have a lot of words to follow that wordpress dained not to save, so I’ll be brief.
Second half, West Ham were the better team by far, especially after Rashford left the field with an injury. Cresswell topped off a good game on this comeback by raising the spirit of Dimitri Payet to drill in a free kick late on in the half.
Nearly everyone played well, Noble was outstanding. Fornals, not so. He needs to rise to the pace of the game. I was very surprised to see Anderson and not Fornals being replaced by Wilshere. But I suppose MP thought the game was won and he needed the gametime. MOTM was Ogbonna, commanding at the back and looking like a leader.
The press have gone to town on Man Utd with no praise for us, as usual. We are now back to back winners against Man U in the league at home. Yesterday was plainly a good team performance against a not so good one, but this time I dont feel it was a bad day at the office for our visitors. It’s more endemic and could be the new standard unless things change quickly. There is a malaise in Manchester , which I think was displayed by the subplot of Phil Jones and Ed Woodward. Why Greenwood never got a chance I don’t know.
Apparently Sky was full of Roy Keane trapping off. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
On the way I met a group of lost early 20’s Man U fans, and each one shook my hand, so at least real fans got it. These are lads who have only known success, so fair play. Also had my photo taken by a crazy Ukranian who was shouting about Yarmalenko.
Oxford and Bournemouth up next. Both away. Would be nice to get an unbeaten September in.
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.
Once again a late submission, but times are busy these days.
A game we really needed to win as our opponents are not having the best of seasons and we need to close the gap on the middle tier, as we hit our supposedly easier run of games (including city in the middle), which takes us to December.
Injuries mean Grady held his place on the right (ahead of Antonio) and Obiang came in for suspended Noble. Anderson also started of Antonio, for reasons best known to the manager. He has had no issues dropping players for poor performances previously, and surely Felipe is in that category.
Anyway we get going and seem to be in no problems , moving the ball around comfortably and they don’t overload the midfield which probably does us a favour.
After 10 mins Marko robbed an outgoing ball from their defence to slot home the first, and to be honest it was going to be a case of how many. But Burnley defended well and in spells had the ball, but didn’t trouble the hammers. Until just before half time when with pretty much their first shot on target they scored.
We retook the lead when Anderson bent one round Joe Hart, only to be pegged back again from a corner (again).
For the last 30 mins we brought on Hernandez and having 2 up top made such a difference. I know I have been banging on about this for some time , but we really need to bite the bullet and just bloody do it. It gives Marko licence to go wide if needed and it was him linking up with Anderson that got our 3rd, sealed with a typical assured finish by Hernandez in injury time to take all the points and cushion the gap to the bottom 3.
So , is the heat off Anderson ? From this house, no it’s not. Still not willing to put in a tackle. He woke up once he realised the competition wasn’t much. We cannot carry flat track bullies, but maybe the 2 up top option will give him more space in front to do his stuff, but the jury is still out.
Balbuena and Diop were fantastic again ,but need more help because letting in 2 goals at home normally means 0 points.
Rice is getting better and better and I imagine that contract is getting more expensive. It also looks like Zaba might be on his way come the end of the season, so Frederick’s needs to up his game if the cup game against Totts reserves was anything to go by.
I’ll be brief as its a late file (not feeling too clever). Lets get to the ending first , the spuds won their cup final, but once again , like Wolves a draw would have been a fair result.
We started Cresswell for Masuaku (required) and Snodgrass came in for the injured Obiang. The bench was attack heavy, so we needed to play well.
We actually did. Just one lack of concentration by Declan Rice just before half time let Lamella in to score the only goal of the game. Maybe this might bring him on that bit more (as would giving him the contract he wants!).
Cresswell gave us balance at the back, however having Anderson in front of him hindered him somewhat. The fella was useless, like really poor. When you have 3 attempts at a corner and cannot get it over the first man, you really need to take a look at yourself. Noble used to do this and we took him out of the firing line. But at least Noble would win a tackle and not dally around doing the root of nothing. Once flash goal against Man U doesn’t make a season, and the boss needs to pull this fella in before he really flops at the club. Especially when our U23 player Grady Diangana came on early for the injured Yarmalenko and didn’t look out of place at all. Which doesn’t bode well for Antonio, who didn’t see game time until well into the second half.
It was nice to see 2 up top with the introduction of Hernandez ion the second half to play alongside Arnie, but it may have been too little too late.
One thing that I did see, which I hope was just the ref having a a bad day at the office, was Harry Kane seemed to get away with murder. Diving, shoving, fouling, all not penalised. It was like Shearer had never retired.
MOTM by a mile was Diop. He’s forming a great partnership with Balbuena and long may that continue. I just hope that some of these poor results but massive reviews for him, don’t turn his head.
Free scoring West Ham. Words never said in these pages before. But after 11 in a week and 2 comfortable wins at home in the bag, maybe we have changed into a more attacking force on a permanent basis.
Some may argue that 8-0 against Macclesfield doesn’t count. My argument is that not many pro games between any two teams irrespective of their position end up 8-0 , let alone one where the favourite hands out 3 debuts to u-21 players. Anyway, onto the main game. West Ham Man U games always seem to have something about them, whether its “Hands up if you are out of the FA cup” Fabian Bartez or Sweinstiger throwing people and balls into the goal. And obviously the last ever game at Upton Park. Winston Reid, nuff said.
Confidence was high coming into the game and the visitors seem to be in turmoil. Why I just don’t know. The reason I say I don’t know is that the squad and players available should not be having any issues. Seems to be mainly around Pogba and the lack of decent centre backs. Obviously Jose thought a defensive Pogba would cover the defensive frailties. Pogba and the rest of world seem to think he’s better further up the pitch. But Sky making it headline news with cameras at Carrington ? Ridiculous. Would Fergie have them there ?
We started out of the blocks quickly and West Ham took the lead after 5 minutes with Anderson giving me a heart mumour, with his cheeky flick around De Gea.
Man U, as well as having an unfamiliar kit (pink ? Ecru? c.WHU 1996 ?) had an unfamiliar style. No swagger, no plan, and seemingly, no care. Is this the new Man U, or are the players staging a rebellion to off the manager ?
To be fair to them, they came back into it, forcing a couple of good saves from Fabianski. But we seem to be back on top by the end of the half, and we rode our luck as a Yarmalenko shot defected against Lindelof for our second. The second half was very much United but we seem to be really happy for them to have the ball, as we were dominating everywhere. Diop threw a tackle in on Lukaku that WHU forums are describing a Moore eske. Noble made Pogba look very poor, and PP ended up being subbed off after 70 mins. Masuaku and Anderson were linking up well on the left, to keep us ticking over. Yarma was subbed off rightly for Snodgrass. And what a sub. That fella was everywhere for the remainder of the game, harrying and breaking up play. Rashford made an impact after coming on and took his goal well.
Normally that would be a sign for WHU to collapse, but the new look hammers don’t do that, and a great pass from Noble sent Arnie through for our 3rd, and more importantly 3 points.
We rounded the game off by bringing on Wednesday’s 2 goal debutante Grady Diangana for a couple of minutes experience.
The stadium was lit, which really makes a change, and we deserved the win despite all the papers today banging on about Man U and their implosions.
MOTM was Noble by a mile. Every time this fella gets written off , he comes back and earns his stripes all over again. Having Rice just behind him, frees him into his best position.
Rice ? Just give him the contract. I understand after the Oxford fiasco, that giving a young lad a few bob can turn his head, but this is different. He now has plenty of games under his belt ,and seems to mature with every game. He also seems to be a magnet for the ball by his positioning and that is rare. If this drags out to January, we will lose him, plain and simple.
Its very interesting how MP has upgraded the team. Fabianski is a massive upgrade on the popular Adrian. Diop and Balbuena are streets ahead of Ogbonna plus 1. I think there will be a clear out in Jan ,and I see Antonio being near that door as well. He just doesn’t look right in the team any more. What’s really interesting is that all of those players were nailed on starters when fit last year, and not players I thought would be fringe this year.
Long may it continue. Phone was flat yesterday so pictures are courtesy of the Evening Standard.
I’ll just pop this in the corner off my wrong foot.
It’s not there Dave ?
If you get away quick Paul, Noble wont follow you all the way home as well.
3 games since David Moyes took over and the shoots of recovery were there to see against Man City last week. But we lost and still found ourselves adrift at the wrong end of the table. This game is usually tough, but maybe we could just improve again and realise the potential in the team.