Sunday, January 21

Hernandez rescues point for Hammers

West Ham 1 Bournemouth 1

Hackney Wick is damp and grey on the way to Forman’s, where my pal Jackie joins me for coffee next to the smoked salmon eaters. We watch the rain ripple the River Lea rather like we’re in a Smiths video. Inside the stadium we find Michael, who’s just dined at Ken’s Café and has been talking about pandas on Radio 4, as you do, Nigel in Churchillian mode after Darkest HourFraser about to re-write the great crime novel and Alison and Scott contemplating a move to Clacton. Lisa’s there with Matt, who is wearing his Ecuadorian hat and has lost his voice — much to the relief of the ref and Arthur Masuaku. He’s feeling so ill he’s not even planning to take Lisa on a romantic mini-break to Wigan.

The Hammers have a decent first 30 minutes, with Kouyate's good work and Zabaleta’s cross setting up Arnautovic, whose shot is tipped over by Begovic. There’s one great passing move down the left, Lanzini and Kouyate looks more energetic than of late and has a good game. But Slowly Bournemouth come into it with neat passing moves and from a training ground corner routine Cook shoots just wide. The Hammers fans themselves booing Wilson.

At half-time Nigel struggles to find a place to put his banana-skin, sparking a series of quips. Lanzini goes close as West Ham make a decent start to the second half. Sub Stanislas comes on. “What could possibly go wrong?” asks Nigel. Most of the action tales place in the 71st to 73rd minutes. Not-so Junior Stanislas plays a through ball to Fraser who has drifted behind the defence. Adrian comes out but then hesitates and back pedals slightly as Fraser smashes home. It looks like a miserable defeat in the swirling rain. But from the kick of Ogbonna plays it long, Kouyate and Hernandez win headers, Arnautovic’s shot is blocked and Hernandez flicks home the loose ball. That’s what he’s good at and it's the second game in a row where WHU have scored from the kick-off.

The Irons almost grab a second as sub Byram’s pull back evades Arnie and co, but it’s a nervous final ten minutes as Adrian has to tip away a Stanislas shot and the Cherries mount a series of attacks. Lanzini goes off with a dodgy hamstring and Cresswell goes down with cramp as the Hammers hold on for a point. It’s not a disaster; under Bilic you feel we might have lost this and it keeps the points total ticking over, while Bournemout look a decent outfit under Eddie Howe.

So it’s off to the Refreshment Rooms with Michael, Fraser and Jackie for a pint of Blue moon with added fruit. So now it's an FA Cup tie at Wigan with an injury-ravaged squad to look forward to… and then a vital game against Palace. The unbeaten run is encouraging but WHU need to get some more bodies in before then.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 5; Zabaleta 6, Ogbonna 6, Collins 6, Cresswell 6 (Byram n/a), Masuaku 5; Kouyate 6 (Rice n/a), Obiang 5, Noble 6, Lanzini 6 (Hernandez 7); Arnautovic 7.  

Friday, January 19

Oh Carroll

So Andy Carroll is injury prone. Who knew? Andy's ankle has intervened in the strange tug-of-love with Chelsea. He's going to be out for at least five weeks with his latest ankle injury, after a scan revealed a hairline fracture, and that should be enough to kill any deal with Chelsea. In fact now the Blues are considering Peter Crouch… Meanwhile it would be interesting to know when Carroll did his ankle in. Was it due to coming on against Spurs or something from earlier games?

But thinking about Andy has made me realise that although he hardly ever plays he has given us a lot of memorable moments. That overhead kick against Palace, his hat-trick against Arsenal, towering headers against Chelsea and Liverpool in the final season at the Boleyn, a great dribble and shot into the top corner away to Swansea, his late winner against West Brom. Andy's not played enough of course, but it's still quite pleasing he's likely to stay and restore full employment to our medical team. 

Wednesday, January 17

Reece lightning strike tames Shrews

West Ham 1 Shrewsbury Town 0 (FA Cup 3rd round replay, after extra time)

It’s into the Clyde Best Café to meet Lisa, where we admire the menus for the “Stradford coffee house”. We’re joined by old school pal Mark and his son Duncan. Mark has to get up at 5.45am the next morning and hopes it doesn’t have to go to extra time. As if…

After a long wait for searches, we get in a minute after kick-off to meet fellow diehard Fraser, who surprisingly will pay £10 to watch a Moyes side. Matt’s working, Michael’s watching Girl From The North Country for the fourth time and Nigel’s out watching Darkest Hour. We reassure him that West Ham will never surrender.

Not a lot happens in the first half, with the West Ham side looking unfamiliar with each other. Cullen and Martinez work hard but to little effect as Shrewsbury close down space. Ayew struggles and Arthur has one of his more erratic games, as we reflect that it’s lucky Matt’s not here to shout at hm. "Is this a library?" ask the sizeable contingent of Town fans. Lanzini’s free kick at least produces a save from Henderson. 

At half time, upon being told that Mark’s son has got him tickets to the game as a Christmas present, Fraser quips, “Doesn’t your son like you?” My other old school friend Mr House the architect is making his debut at the London Stadium. We expect people make jokes about his name all the time. “Funny, it’s never struck me before,” he says in Python-esque mode.

WEST HAM'S DARKEST HOUR?
The second half sees Shrewsbury almost take the lead after a loose ball from Oxford allows Payne to break through but Joe Hart saves the one-on-one. Moyes brings on Arnie and Noble with twenty minutes left and it raises the side. Arnie fires a couple of efforts just wide, but the Shrews almost win it at the death as Nsiala heads over the bar.

We await extra time and some Churchillian oratory from Moyesy and Stuart Pearce, as the bitter cold starts to bite in what might be our darkest hour of Cup football. Noble has a looping header cleared off the line. Then Arnie bursts into the box to feed Lanzini, who twists and turns past four defenders only to se his effort chested off the line by Bolton

BURKE IN THE BOX
It looks like it’s penalties, as we ponder warming up with the Shrewsbury subs. But in the 112th minute Martinez performs some skilful ball juggling in the six-yard box to play it back to Reece Burke, who fires a fine half-volley in off the bar. Massive relief all round and it’s good to see youngsters Burke, Cullen and Martinez running to the crowd and enjoying the moment.

We see the game out and find that Carpenters Road is closed due to, “a police  incident”. So we manage to enter a deserted Westfield and make our way to the Tap for a palatable pint of Red Pye.

So we’re through to face either Wigan or Bournemouth. Not a great match but notable for very respectable attendance of 39,867. The planned Cup Final breakfast round at Nigel’s gaff in Kew is back on.


PLAYER RATINGS: Hart 6; Byram 6 (Zabaleta 6), Burke 7, Ogbonna 6, Masuaku 5; Lanzini 6, Oxford 5 (Noble 7), Obiang 6, Cullen 6; Ayew 5, (Arnautovic 7), Martinez 6.

Monday, January 15

We don't want to sell to Chelsea

One of the more outlandish transfer rumours seems to have some currency, with the Evening Standard reporting that West Ham will block any move by Chelsea to bring in Andy Carroll on loan. It does make some kind of sense from Chelsea's viewpoint. Carroll would be an impact sub and play when Morata needed resting, and might benefit from Alonso's crosses. But as his goals against West Brom proved, we need Andy at West Ham for the rest of the season, particularly as Antonio is injured and Sakho and Hernandez might leave. 

If Chelsea were to offer a large fee for a permanent move it might be tempting to sell such an injury-prone player, but that's unlikely to happen with his contract running out in 18 months. The only way a loan might happen would be if Chelsea were to loan Michy Batshuayi to West Ham in return, which could be interesting as he was a Hammers target in the summer of 2016. 

From Andy's viewpoint he will get more game time at West Ham, though of course he might pick up a medal or two from the bench at Chelsea. But when fit, I've always liked Andy, and we don't want to see his man-bun depart just yet. And there's another risk; as one person quipped, if Andy's head has been turned by Chelsea then he might get a neck injury.

Sunday, January 14

Arnie and Lanzini hammer Huddersfield

Huddersfield Town 1 West Ham 4 (four)

A great result up in Yorkshire — it seems an age since West Ham tonked anyone. Admittedly the Terriers helped gift West Ham the opener with a misguided goalkeeping clearance from Lossi. But credit to Arnautovic and then Noble for closing down so quickly. We even saw a new Shiqiri-style folded arms celebration from Nobes. A needless rabona from Lanzini when he could have played in Arnautovic nearly saw a second. But it was level at the break after Lolley cut inside from the right and curled an unstoppable shot into the corner. 

For once West Ham scored immediately after the break, with Arnautovic gathering Kouyate's header and brilliantly flicking the ball round Smith before rifling home, followed by a dodgy dancing celebration. Some neat triangles followed by Arnie powering inside saw the Austrian release Lanzini for the third. While the fourth saw the incrasingly unplayable Arnautovic bamboozle his full back on the half way line and charge into the box, with a desperate tackle from the listing Schindler only setting up Lanzini for his second. Credit to Zabalata late on for a goal-saving tackle too. 

To think that at kick-off I thought it looked like a very defensive side with three holding midfielders. It's Moyes' 200th win the Premier League and he's got Arnautovic and Lanzini firing up front and has turned it round. We even go 11th… and more importantly have overtaken the likes of Huddersfield, Newcastle and Brighton. Oh what fun it is to see West Ham win away. Irons!

Friday, January 12

Palace getting Sakho in the morning?

The Evening Standard claims that West Ham have agreed a fee of £10-£12 million with Crystal Palace for Diafra Sakho. It seems that Sakho is so homesick for France he might move to south London — which is at least a bit closer. It's always risky to sell to rivals, but there seems little choice but to trade in the disgruntled striker. 

He'll be remembered for a well-publicised car crash when his Lamborghini hit the garden wall of a West Ham fan in Hornchurch in 2016. Later there were rumours of dressing room bust-ups, while the self-imposed trip to Rennes for a medical last summer was the end. Really, his last decent season was 2014-15 in which he scored ten league goals. He only scored five in the final season at Upton Park when we finished seventh, while Sakho missed virtually the whole of last season with a back injury. 

He's scored twice in the league this season when coming on and twice in the Carabao Cup, but personally I don't want a player at the club who doesn't celebrate when he scores. A shame because he's still potentially a very good striker. 

Wednesday, January 10

LA shelling out for Little Pea?

Tonight's Evening Standard reports that new MLS club Los Angeles FC is interested in signing Javier Hernandez, though West Ham would want to recoup his £16m fee. Now Hernandez might not be in the starting line-up regularly, but I'd rather see him stay until the summer. It's taken us years to recruit a proven goalscorer so it would be a mistake to ditch Chicharito so early. Hernandez isn't Moyes' sort of player — he clearly prefers Arnautovic and Antonio working and pressing up front. But Hernandez is a very useful option to have coming off the bench. 

Javier's body language didn't look great against Spurs and Shrewsbury (in fact he looked a Little Pead off) but we do know that if he gets a chance in the box he's likely to bury it. While the possible combination of Carroll and Hernandez is as yet untested. If West Ham also sell Sakho it would leave the club relying on a converted winger in Arnautovic, the erratic Ayew and the injury-prone Antonio and Carroll. With Premier League survival at stake we need goalscorers like Hernandez.