Thursday, January 17

The programme's progress

National crisis averted. My West Ham versus Arsenal programme has arrived, promptly dispatched by Programme Master. The sellers at the London Stadium seem to be selling out by 2.45pm (has no-one told the printers we now get 60,000?) and this left me in danger of crashing out of the stadium with no programme. Ordering it online cost me £1.95 in postage, but it was worth it as getting a programme is one of this May's red lines. Without a programme the game wouldn't have counted and West Ham would still be on 28 points…

Wednesday, January 16

Should West Ham pay over the odds for a striker?

It seems West Ham could be left striker light after the window. Marko Arnautovic's body language suggests he wants a move and there is the argument, voiced by Ian Wright and Jermaine Jenas, that a sulking Arnie could ruin the dressing room spirit. If Shanghai upped their offer to £45m it would be hard to turn down for a soon to be 30-year-old player whose brother insists he wants to leave for the sake of his wallet, sorry I mean challenging for titles. 

Meanwhile Valencia are after Chicharito and the player is apparently keen to go. Much could depend on man management here. Could Pellegrini persuade either of our wantaway strikers that the PL is the place to be and why not give it another five months and see if West Ham can win the FA Cup or finish seventh? And would they go on strike if denied a move?

If just Arnie left there might be a case for making do with Hernandez, Antonio, Carroll and Perez as strikers. With 31 points on the board WHU should be out of the relegation scrap. Strikers bought in the transfer window tend to be massively overpriced, with Bournemouth mentioning a stonking £75 million as a price for Callum Wilson. Or they are panic buys — anyone remember Jordan Hugill? 

There are a lot of options to ponder. Perhaps a deal for Tammy Abraham (wanted by Wolves) might be the answer as at least he's young? Or playing Nasri behind the main striker? Though if two strikers left it would leave the Hammers desperately short up front and relying on Andy Carroll staying fit. Don't panic, Mr Mainwaring, don't panic!

Monday, January 14

Nasri still exudes class

The performance of Samir Nasri against Arsenal was highly promising. He needs more time to get match fitness after 18 month ban, but his class shone though and he looks hungry to play. Like all quality players Nasri seems to have time on the ball and was nicely unhurried in the way he calmly laid the ball off, most notably for Anderson's shot wide in the first half and then the winner from Declan Rice. It was hard on Robert Snodgrass to be dropped (and we certainly missed his corners as Anderson still can't taken them) but Nasri certainly gave the side something extra with his intricate passing. At 31 he's still got a few years left and whisper it quietly but West Ham might just have got a world-class player for nothing.

Saturday, January 12

Rice cracker defeats Arsenal

Declan salutes the fans at the final whistle…      Picture: Michael the Whovian
West Ham 1 Arsenal 0

Well, a great team performance and lovely to see Declan Rice get his teenage kicks through scoring the winner. Credit to Anderson for the initial pull back from the goalline. A weak defensive header saw Nasri lay it off perfectly into the path of Rice who scored with a thumping shot. Declan celebrated like he enjoys playing for West Ham, the first teenager to score for WHU in ten years since Junior Stanislas. It was also a good moment for Nasri who looked like he can still be a quality performer against his old club.

It's in to the Best Cafe early doors with a tardy daughter Nell for a late brunch and a dash to the London Stadium, where disastrously we find the programmes have sold out. Matt and Lisa are sitting at the back of Row Z to allow his nephew and wife to join us along with Nigel, Fraser, Scott and Aussie visitor Connor.

At the kick-off a pessimistic Michael mentions he's never seen us beat Arsenal. Fabianski has to make a decent stop from Lacazette early on but the Irons improve for the rest of the half, with Antonio causing problems, Nasri hitting the side netting, Anderson shooting just wide and Rice missing with a free header. Arnautovic is involved although looks understandably preoccupied at times, but the side look up for this and so does the crowd. And without the Vicar's Son alongside us even the ref seems to be having a good game.

We wonder if West Ham have scored too early after 48 minutes. But Arsenal don't threaten that often and Pellegrini makes sensible substitutions with Carroll on for Arnie (who gives a farewell clap to the crowd?) and Snodgrass replacing the tiring Nasri. 

Cresswell has a fine game at left-back and makes one great saving tackle and Obiang replaces the crocked Antonio. The Gunners' best effort sees Iwobi shoot just past the post. Nigel says he can see us getting at least a point as we enter added time, which is usually the kiss of death, but despite a disallowed header from Koscielny we hold on as Bubbles envelops the stadium and then Twist and Shout comes on the PA. An early day tonic. Irons!

PLAYER RATINGS: Fabianski 7; Zabaleta 7, Diop 7, Ogbonna 7, Cresswell 8; Anderson 7, Rice 9, Noble 7, Antonio 7 (Obiang 6), Nasri 7 (Snodgrass 6); Arnautovic 6 (Carroll 6).

Wilshere's tale of woe

Quite an insightful piece by James Olley on Jack Wilshere in the Evening Standard this week. His ankle problems seemed to start with a hairline fracture of his ankle when he was 16. He was told to cure it through rest over that summer, but later discovered it hadn't healed properly. He then got a kick on the same ankle which required surgery at the end of the 2010-11 season. The piece also points to the fact that he played 54 games in 2010-11 when he was just 19. Since then he's been on and off the treatment table and often rushed back too soon. 

He's looked like a poor West Ham signing with that injury record, but you've got to feel sorry for Wilshere too. For a professional athlete it's never easy when your body won't function properly, as Andy Murray has just found out. Let's hope his last chance at recovery finally succeeds.

Friday, January 11

West Ham should not be dictated to by agents

Not every encouraging noises from Marko Arnautovic's agent, his brother Danijel. He says that it is Marko's "great desire that West Ham accept the offer from China" and that "he wants to go to a new market and challenge for titles". You half expect him to add that Marko has supported Shanghai SIPG since he was a nipper in Vienna. 

You really hope this doesn't develop into a Payet-style situation. Ever since Arnie did the crossed Hammers sign at his former fans at Stoke last season it's been clear that loyalty might not be his strong suit. But he doesn't strike me as the sort of player who if selected would deliberately not try either. It could all be leverage in order to get a better deal too. West Ham can't be dictated to by agents and it's time to get tough. He's under contract and should stay. If he really wants to go to a not very good Chinese league that could be arranged in the summer if the Chinese offer silly money. That way the club would have time to sign a replacement. For the moment we need him to try and challenge for the FA Cup and Europa League.

Thursday, January 10

Chinese whispers about Arnie

Bad news that an unnamed Chinese team has made a £35 million bid for Marko Arnautovic. West Ham are not under any pressure to sell and although every player has his price, we really need to keep hold of Arnie and make a strong bid for the FA Cup or Europa League. You can't see that football-wise he'd be interested in leaving the Premier League for China, although he is 30 in April and his agent/brother might be tempted by the cash on offer. More disturbing rumours come in the Sun, claiming that Man City see Declan Rice as the long-term successor to Fernandinho, who is 33. At least we now have Declan on a long-term contract. The board needs to show its ambition. if West Ham are to reach 'the next level' the Irons need to hang on to top players like Arnautovic and Rice.