Tuesday, October 17

Is this West Ham's best side?

Amid all the fuss over elbowgate it's been almost forgotten just what an attacking side Slaven Bilic fielded at Burnley. Slaven had just Kouyate as a holding midfielder, alongside the very attack-minded Manuel Lanzini and two wingers in Antonio and Arnautovic, plus two strikers in Carroll and Hernandez. As my pal Matt tweeted, could this be West Ham's best side?

Slaven made some big decisions, such as dropping Mark Noble to the bench. Nobes is a big presence at the club. Having watched Iron Men, where he shakes the hand of every member of staff when arriving at training, he's a good influence at the club and grew up playing football at Hermit Road, where West Ham once played. But he's getting older and perhaps can no longer be an automatic selection. Bilic also dropped Obiang, another solid holding midfielder. 

Yet the frustrating thing is that through indiscipline we never get to see the side Bilic wants to field. A combination of reckless elbows from Arnautovic and Carroll, plus a bout of flu for Arnie before the Swansea match and Lanzini's early injury, means we've yet to see what looks like an exciting line-up for a full 90 minutes.  

Saturday, October 14

A merited point after Carroll's catastrophe

Burnley 1 West Ham 1

It's always disappointing to concede an equaliser with five minutes to go, but in the circumstances this was a decent away point. Down to ten men after Andy Carroll's dismissal on 27 minutes, West Ham defended stoutly until Wood scored with a fine header. There was perhaps a little debate about Carroll's first booking for use of the elbow, but to jump again with his elbow out 99 seconds later jumping for a ball he didn't have to win was stupid and probably cost the Hammers all three points. It was, as Pablo Zabaleta called it, "a nasty challenge", while the incident was in midfield where it wasn't that vital he won the ball.

The Irons got lucky when Gudmundsson hit the post and the ball rolled into Hart's arms, but WHU also created some chances on the break even when down to ten men, with Antonio forcing a great save after a lovely move involving Lanzini and Hernandez. Credit to Antonio early on for reacting sharply to take the ball round Pope after Mee misjudged Hart's punt and put the Hammers ahead. Good to see him get his first goal of the season. 

At least West Ham are now unbeaten in two and if they can get a result against Brighton that run will be extended. But indiscipline is costing West Ham and Bilic was right to criticise Andy Carroll after the match, who as an experienced professional should not have let his teammates down.

Battle of the claret and blues

A difficult match away to Burnley today. Many thought the Clarets might struggle having sold Michael Keane and Andre Gray, two of their best players last season. But young James Tarkowski has had an exceptional season in defence while new striker Chris Wood looks like a no-nonsense centre-forward who will score anywhere. 

So plenty for Bilic to think about, with Burnley having gained more away points so far than in the whole of last season. However, they have struggled to break teams down at home, which might suit the Hammers. 

There's still the question of who starts up front. Sakho has made a strong case for inclusion, while there are doubts about playing Carroll and Hernandez together — though there's no reason they can't play off each other if the service is right and they stick closer to the box than they did against Swansea. We have to hope that Lanzini provides the creativity West Ham have lacked so far and that Arnautovic returns to provide something muscular and different on the left. Come on you Irons!

Thursday, October 12

Respecting the points

Just missed out on Spurs away tickets along with most of my pals, bar Full-Time Matt, as I've only got six priority points. Yes, it's probably the only fair way of allocating tickets, though it seems a bit of a Catch 22 situation in that you can now only get points for away games by attending away games, which you can't get to without enough points. 

We did wonder if the club would start awarding points for cultural events. If my fellow season-ticket holder Michael the Whovian was awarded tickets for theatre shows he'd be off the scale as he has an away season ticket for the West End. Maybe gigs could count? Will WHU give me points for seeing Nick Cave at the O2? Michael's Marc Almond gigs must be worth something as would Matt's hipster outings to the Camden Crawl, while Fraser probably saw Frank Sinatra perform Bubbles. Though my mate Nigel might have to be deducted points for seeing Status Quo.

As it is, I'm booked to see the Ian Dury musical Reasons to be Cheerful at the Stratford Theatre Royal the night of the Spurs game, so at least might get to meet Billericay Dickie. Never wanted to go to Wembley anyway

Monday, October 9

West Ham player scores in World Cup shocker

Interesting to note that one Robert Snodgrass took his goal well when scoring Scotland's equaliser for Scotland at Slovenia, a draw that ended Scotland's dream of World Cup qualification. Snoddy is still a West Ham player, even if he is on a season's loan at Aston Villa. He also opened his account for Villa with a fine volley in the 4-0 win at Burton and his arrival has coincided with an upsurge in the Villains' form. He's a better player than we saw during his 15 games at West Ham. Bilic appears to have given up on him, but if there was a change of manager at West Ham next summer when Bilic's contract expires, might he be given another chance by a new boss as a useful squad player? Stranger things have happened.

Friday, October 6

Blowing Bubbles with Pele

Good interview with Pele in the latest issue of Blowing Bubbles in which he speaks about Bobby Moore. The three-time World Cup winner teases West Ham fans with the thought that he could have teamed up alongside close friend and adversary Bobby Moore in claret and blue. 

Pele resisted the advances of Europe’s finest clubs in the 1960s and 1970s to stay with his beloved Santos, before a stint with New York Cosmos, and he speaks of his close relationship with Moore.

“I never wanted to leave Brazil – but I loved Bobby,” he says. "He was a great player, a talented player and I kept telling people ‘look at this guy, he’s like a Brazilian’ – good ball control, great dribbling ability. He was a very nice guy, a fair player and I always compare him with the likes of Beckenbauer and Cruyff.”

Moore and Pele, famously pictured swapping shirts after the England v Brazil game at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, did play together in America in the 1970s, and then again in legendary all-star football film Escape to Victory.

To find our more about this, as well as Pele’s views on Cristiano Ronaldo, his enduring love affair with the World Cup – and winning it three times – as well as all the latest news, views and discussions around West Ham, read the latest edition of Blowing Bubbles, out now. Click on the link for details.

Hart's heroics will help Hammers

Good to see Joe Hart get some credit for a great double save late on against Slovenia that was instrumental in securing England's World Cup qualification. He was brave to dive at the striker's feet and despite being hurt then reacted really quickly to leap up and save the second effort with his foot. Yes, it was a poor match but without Hart England could have lost. He's actually kept clean sheets in four out of five of his last games for club and country, so that should be good for his confidence. A lot of papers are still clamouring for Butland to replace Hart as England goalie, but right now he's got the shirt and he's not letting go of it easily.