Sunday, November 22

Blades blunted by the Irons

Sheffield United 0 West Ham 1

The Hammers haven't won at Bramall Lane since 1968, so what could possibly go wrong?  The commentator on Sky bills it as "the heavy metal derby" as it's Sheffield steel up against the Irons. We hope it isn't Sabbath Bloody Sabbath against winless United.

McBurnie twice tests Fabianski early on as Sheffield start with some energy, but slowly West Ham establish a foothold. Coufal tests Ramsdale with a hard low drive after good work by Arthur Masuaku to get the cross in. Haller is winning a few knock-ons and his header finds Soucek who pokes wide when he should score. While Bowen shoots when he should have squared to Haller. At the other end McGoldrick hits a post in a scramble but is ruled offside. It's been very 'eavy but quite 'umble fare in the first half.

West Ham take the lead in the 56th minute. Fornals drive is blocked but the ball rebounds into the path of Haller on the edge of the box. Sebastian wallops it into the top corner and still looks angry despite scoring his first ever goal from outside the box. The Irons have chances to make it two, Rice hits the bar with a header and after a fine cross from Masuaku Haller pokes a great chance wide.

The Hammers almost pay when McBurnie breaks free to fire against the crossbar. But Rice has a superb game in midfield and Ogbonna is also very solid at the back. It's almost comfortable as the Hammers hold it up by the corner flag for most of the three minutes of added time. We've been up against a bottom side struggling for confidence but it's a very creditable away performance in the sort of game we'd have lost last year. And Haller even almost smiles in the post-match interview. Irons!

Thursday, November 12

West Ham's good run has been a team effort

Was interviewed outside the London Stadium for Premier League Today on Monday — the TV show goes out across the world to non-UK rights holders. The discussion with Lynsey Hooper centred on West Ham's first seven games, which were meant to see WHU with no points according to lots of pundits. It was difficult to cite any particular player as standing out, which made me realise what a team effort it's been. 

Antonio has been important because of his goals and hold-up play, essentially being two forwards in one. But it's not just Michail, Aaron Cresswell has looked reborn as a third centre back, making goals and firing in shots and had Jermain Jenas advocating an England recall for him on MOTD; Pablo Fornals has started to score goals and is also making them; Tomas Soucek and Jarrod Bowen have both played with workaholic intensity; Arthur Masuaku has come in at wing-back and fired in a series of dangerous crosses; Ogbonna has been solid; Coufal has adapted well; and Declan Rice has responded well to being made captain at such a young age. Even the fringe players who have come in such as Balbuena have done a job for the team and Fabian started our revival at Tottenham. While among the subs Manuel Lanzini has contributed the best goal of his career against Mourinho's men. 

It's a less flaky side where players perform consistently each week. Moyes has also made it difficult to get into the team. If you're a £45 million striker like Haller you have to wait for your chance. It's early days after just eight games, but there's a definite sense of the squad working together, as exemplified by that team celebration after Lanzini's equaliser at Spurs. 

Sunday, November 8

Late drama as Hammers win after worst penalty ever

West Ham 1 Fulham 0

Well, that was eventful in the end. Along with Mystic Matt I was a TV refusnik for the £14.95 pay-per-view fee, so listened on Radio London. It was a fine start for the Hammers and Masuaku and Cresswell both forced good saves from Areola. Then Bowen had a brilliant full volley tipped over the bar by the keeper before Haller hit the bar with a towering header from a corner. Fulham had mote of the ball for the rest of the half without really threatening.

The second half was disjointed but saw Cresswell hit the bar with a free kick that Areola touched while Decordova-Reid should probably have done better with a shot that Fabianski saved. The injured Ogbonna had to be replaced by Diop and then Moyes was positively cavalier by his subbing standards, bringing on Benrahma and Lanzini after 72 minutes. Benrahma fired a couple of efforts at the keeper from the left when perhaps he should have crossed, while Lanzini added some guile to midfield. 

But it looked to be heading for a goalless draw until the 91st minute when the ball was chipped into the box with Haller in an offside position. Luckily Seb didn't touch the ball and Benrahma did well to take a headed clearance and coolly set up Soucek to stroke home. Game over? No way, as the Irons retreat into their box and Fulham force a corner in the 95th minute. After a series of passes and clearances Cairney goes down in the box and Benrahma has left a foot out with a forward's challenge. Penalty to Fulham with the last kick. 

LOOK MAN, I'VE FLUFFED IT

Ademola Lookman strolls up to the ball confidently and then chips a pathetic panenka into the arms of a grateful Fabianski. I'm reminded of Paulo Di Canio's poncy penalty against Aston Villa's David James when he did the same and enraged my pal DC, through Lookman's effort was far far worse. What a massive let-off, but on chances the Irons deserved a hard-fought win, despite the poor game management at the end.

After my WhatsApp message of "Worst penalty of all time!" Michael asks when we are going to sign Lookman. "When he's 33 and more injury-prone," I suggest. Meanwhile Donald Trump insists that Fulham actually scored their penalty and this game is not over. But for those of living in reality it's a welcome three points and sees the Hammers move up to 11th, even if you do have to feel bit sorry for Scott Parker. Irons!

Friday, November 6

A stable genius writes...

Liverpool stole the league from #WestHam last season. West Ham easily WON the league if we discount ILLEGAL league tables and goals scored against West Ham, and any games where we lost the lead, as my lawsuit will prove. Let's make West Ham great again!

Tuesday, November 3

The problem with Haller

A timid performance at Anfield raises more questions about the future of Sebastien Haller. Yes, it was his  first start since lockdown and three games in the Carabao Cup, but you'd expect the basics to be there such as workrate. Jamie Carragher was pretty scathing in his Sky analysis. Seb just doesn't close down defenders in the same way Antonio does and up against a rookie defender in Nat Phillips he didn't impose himself physically at all. Haller did play a role in the moves that led to two chances for Fornals, but apart from that did very little before being subbed. 

It's still surprising to me that West Ham would have paid £45 million for a forward without pace. We know he can finish well with overhead kicks and volleys, but for that money you expect the whole package of pace, industry and skill. Moyes' system surely requires a player at the top who is very different to Haller.  

Looking at Haller's Bundesliga goals and assists there's definitely a player there, but he's looking like he no longer wants to be at West Ham. Yes, he needs men around him, but he also needs to make things happen himself. Fulham is a vital game for him; if Haller can't produce against one the division's dodgier defences then surely Moyes will be tempted to move him on in favour of a workaholic striker. 

Sunday, November 1

Unlucky to lose at Anfield

Liverpool 2 West Ham 1

It's progress of a kind to be annoyed at not getting a result at Anfield. The Irons took the lead early on when Gomez could only head Masuaku's cross straight out to Fornals, who drilled it into the corner of Alisson's net. Rice had another fine game and Liverpool didn't have a shot on target in the first half as West Ham defended resolutely. The Reds equalised through a dodgy penalty. Masuaku was unwise to make minimal contact with Salah, but the Liverpool man went down in Strictly Come Dancing fashion.

In the second half the Hammers had two good chances at 1-1, both falling to Fornals. Pablo scuffed his effort from Masuaku's inviting cross and then shot against the legs of a defender rather than pass to the unmarked Bowen. Interestingly Haler played a role in the build-up to both these chances, but for the rest of the match was largely anonymous and didn't work hard enough. Liverpool's inexperienced Nathaniel Phillips should have been tested much more and Antonio's hold-up play was badly missed.

The arrival of Jota and Shaqiri  from the bench won the game for Liverpool. Jota first had a goal disallowed just about correctly for Mane's boot going into Fabianski. The winner came in the 85th minute as Yarmolenko lost the ball (in my head I could already hear my pal Matt haranguing him) in midfield and then Shaqiri found Jota with a clever through ball. The striker raced past Coufal and West Ham's offside trap to fire home.

Subs Lanzini and Benrahma were brought on too late to alter the game but credit to West Ham for still getting a corner in added time before Phillips headed away. OK it was the champions and progress is being made, but we have to learn to get something out of games like this.

Saturday, October 31

Who will replace Antonio?

Losing Michail Antonio is a big blow and he could be out for two to four weeks with his usual hamstring problem. It would be a snub not to select Haller, and bringing on Yarmolenko and moving Bowen to a striking role didn't work against Man City. Haller deserves a chance after scoring five times this season, but from what we know from last season he can't play without support. Bowen and possibly Fornals have to get a lot closer to the big man, who also needs to look like he wants to put in a shift. A possible wildcard might be to rest Fornals and bring in Benrahma to run at a makeshift Liverpool defence — though Moyes is more likely to go for the cautious approach. It won't be easy, but without Van Dijk and their home crowd WHU should definitely try to get something at Liverpool. We played well at Anfield last season and came close so let's hope for a repeat performance without the defensive errors.