Thursday, August 31

Who's getting Sakho in the morning?

Some extraordinary goings on with Diafra Sakho. it was reported he'd gone to Rennes yesterday to have a medical, even though the clubs have not agreed a fee. Is he trying to become the Peter Odemwinjie of this transfer window? David Gold has tweeted "Diafra Sakho is not for sale in this transfer window he is an integral part of our first team squad and will play a part in our recovery." Further reports claim Crystal Palace are now interested in making a £10m bid. 

It's strange if he's trying to force a move as he's finally fit and has figured as a sub in all three league games and scored against Cheltenham in the League Cup (though he didn't celebrate much, which now looks significant). He's now told Sky Sports News: "I want a fresh start and want to go back to playing regular football. I have no issues with West Ham or West Ham fans. This is purely a footballing decision. I want to go back to France."

After taking the club's wages for a season when he was out with a back problem you'd think Diafra owed us a little more loyalty. West Ham certainly need cover for Hernandez and Andy Carroll and it's going to be very difficult to find a replacement if Sakho goes. On the other hand do we want an unhappy player around the club until January? We'd surely be better off giving Martinez a chance.

Tuesday, August 29

Four games for Bilic to save his job?

In today's Evening Standard, Ken Dyer, who normally gets his West Ham facts right, writes that the West Ham board have given Slaven Bilic four games to save his job. He has been told that results must improve in September, with three home matches against Huddersfield, Spurs and Swansea (plus a League Cup tie against Bolton) and an away match at West Brom. 

In defence of Bilic, he's not been able to field a full team yet. Players returning from injury like Antonio, Kouyate and Lanzini will benefit from getting some game time at Newcastle and a two-week international break. Winston Reid and even Andy Carroll might be back for Huddersfield. It also has to be remembered that new signings Hart, Zabaleta, Arnautovic and Hernandez have had only had three games (two for red card Arnie) to learn how to play in this team.

But what I do want to see is some evidence that Bilic knows how to organise a defence. He inherited a fairly solid back four from Sam Allardyce, but last season saw us looking shocking defensively and ten conceded in three games this time tells its own story. There's a lack of pace at the back and perhaps it's time to turn to a five-man defence again so teams can't get behind us. While creatively we have to find a way of feeding Hernandez with chances.

Slaven clearly feels we need a new defensive shield in the form of William Carvalho. If Carvalho doesn't arrive then Kouyate and Obiang might be a better bet than the promising young Declan Rice and 30-year-old Mark Noble.

The other thing we need to see is a lot more desire from the team. The board were apparently alarmed by what they saw on Saturday, and rightly so. The players now need to do what Newcastle did, close down the opposition relentlessly and show they want to play for the manager.

Monday, August 28

Snoddy blames Slaven for his departure

Interesting to read Robert Snodgrass's comments after joining Aston Villa on loan. He blames Slaven Bilic for his poor form, insisting he was either a right winger or a number 10.  “I went to West Ham and I had a manager that played me out of position. To be honest with you it was very tough to take, " Snodgrass told the press. "I spoke to the manager and said to him, 'You wanted me to try and replace Payet, it's not my position'. I couldn't have made that any more clear. When I spoke to him this season I said 'I need to play my position, I need a run of games in my position'." 

There are two sides to every story of course, and players are always looking for excuses, but Snodgrass doesn't appear impressed by Bilic's man-managemnt: "I haven't enjoyed not knowing what's happening. Nobody's spoken to me at West Ham really and it's a weird feeling. I've always had a British-based manager who has talked to me and had a good relationship with, so to have that feeling back is a good feeling."

Which all seems to indicate the Snodgrass was a £10m panic buy and wasn't used correctly when at the club. He's not a great player, but he is normally a useful one, and we should have seen more from him than we did.

Sunday, August 27

Giving goals to Newcastle

Newcastle 3 West Ham 0

This is getting worrying. Three away games to start was always going to be difficult, but we really should have got something from a match at struggling Newcastle. Bilic seems to have lost the art of selecting the right side. Declan Rice has done really well, but playing four games in a row is a big ask for a kid and surely a game this important called for the experience of Obiang or Kouyate in midfield? It was young Rice's mistake which led to Toon's opener and he was taken off at half-time. While Fernandes was a strange selection with Obiang, Kouyate and Sakho on the bench.

At least Lanzini came on for the second half and Cresswell and Hernandez did produce a great double save from Elliot in a decent ten-minute spell after the break. But as Bilic said, for 80 minutes of the match West Ham were not good enough. It was terrible marking for Clark's goal and the offside rap failed for the third. The side just couldn't cope with Newcastle's closing down.

The Irons have two weeks to regroup and need to get some points from Huddersfield at home and the match at West Brom and then the two home games against Spurs and Swansea. If not we'll be in a relegation struggle and the board may press the panic button and dispense with Slaven. 

Saturday, August 26

Should Sakho start at Newcastle?

Slaven Bilic has, for once, the option of playing a extra striker at St James' Park. Diafra Sakho has made a strong case for inclusion through hitting the bar at Southampton before Hernandez scored and then scoring one and making one at Cheltenham. Sakho and Hernandez might be an effective combination to judge by their performance together at Southampton. It would mean playing Antonio in a wider role and possibly dropping Ayew, but it's an option for Bilic. Though it's perhaps more likely he will go with just Chicharito up front and bring on Sakho in the second half. If Sakho really has recovered from his back problems then it will be like having a new striker in the squad. If WHU can choose from Hernandez, Sakho, Antonio, Ayew and Carroll for strikers then it's a great improvement on the bad old days of Jonathan Calleri. 

Friday, August 25

Snoddy goes to Villa

The recruitment policy at West Ham appears to be make it up as you go along. Robert Snodgrass has signed on a season-long loan for Aston Villa, so the replacement for Dimitri Payet has now been replaced by Marko Arnautovic after seven months. Seven of last season's signings have now departed.

Presumably the club spend a long time scouting potential signings and the manager must have faith in the players he buys. So why shift Snodgrass after just 15 games? Is that long enough to judge a player? Admittedly he didn't impress last season, but he came into a struggling team, was often played out of position and would surely have improved this time round. The same player had scored nine goals for Hull in the first half of the season.

Perhaps Snodgrass might be the sort of player who excels at teams like Leeds, Norwich and Hull but doesn't cope well with not being the star man. But he's not really had a chance at West Ham. As it is we've spent £10 million on a player who has played 15 games — which is bad business by anyone's standards.

Thursday, August 24

Job done at Cheltenham

Cheltenham 0 West Ham 2 (Carabao Cup)

Off to the Oxford Arms in Camden to watch this one with Fraser, eschewing the delights of Champs in Ilford, and Matt who has decided not to return his season ticket in protest at the sale of Sofiane Feghouli. Michael the Whovian is away scouting in Sweden and Nigel's mourning the silencing of Big Ben. 

The Liverpool game is on the main screens for the plastic Scousers so we watch the Hammers game on a side screen accompanied by a commentator gushing about Emre Can, which is all a little surreal. Cheltenham compete well as Matt reminisces about watching famous West Ham League Cup defeats in pubs full of MUFC fans. 

West Ham nearly go ahead when Ogbonna has a great header cleared off the line and Flatt saves well from Sakho's close range prod. The breakthrough comes on 40 minutes when Sakho controls Noble's through ball to swivel sharply and poke past the keeper. Three minutes later Sakho finds Ayew on the right and as Flatt leaves him acres of space to shoot at he rolls the ball across the Flattt-footed keeper and into the net. 

Late on Pell's effort flashes across the Hammers' goal but generally the Irons remain in control for the rest of the match. And there's a very nice sunset over the stadium. The passing is disappointing in the second half and nobody really wants to fill their boots. On the positive side Sakho has looked sharp and scored his first goal since the final match at Upton Park, Rice has played a full 90 minutes, Byram has got some crosses in from the right and Fernandes has at least tried to get some moves going from out wide. Plus Kouyate comes on for the last 17 minutes and will hopefully get some action at Newcastle. 

"We'll remember this as the start of our 50-match unbeaten run," quips Matt as we leave. Outside we find a fleet of fire engines — we seem to have missed a fire in a building site, so engrossed have we been in the Carabau Cup. Or maybe it's just celebrating West Ham fans setting off flares.

So it's Bolton at home in the next round and at least the athletics hasn't cost us a place in the League Cup. Now comes our first six-pointer of the season at Newcastle…

Wednesday, August 23

Addicted to the Irons

Looking at the hour-long debate on cannabis use on BBC News 24 last night, it struck me there's some parallels with being a West Ham supporter. Cannabis was much milder in the 1970s and 1980s but today's skunk is apparently much harder stuff capable of causing long-term psychological harm. West Ham seemed milder in the 1970s too. There were even a couple of legal highs in 1975 and 1980. The old West Ham just had a bit of TC but the modern version, purchased from a dealer in Stratford, has been cut with Chicharitos, purple Harts, blue Zabaletas, red Arnies, 57,000 white seats and numerous DG tweets. If over-indulged in it's capable of inducing depression, mood swings and psychosis. Young people, be very careful before you dabble in WHUFC — it's strong stuff.

Tuesday, August 22

Time for Ginge to return to West Ham defence?

More bad news. Winston Reid is going to miss the Newcastle game with the calf strain he picked up during the warm-up at Southampton. So now is surely the time to bring in Ginger Pele James Collins to partner Angelo Ogbonna. Collins is invariably the man for a crisis and had a great game in the must-win game against Swansea back in April. He also brings some inspirational leadership qualities to the back-line.

Jose Fonte had a poor game at St Mary's, being at fault for the first goal and the first penalty. He's proving a real enigma during his West Ham career. Fonte was captain of the Southampton side that finished sixth two seasons ago and won the European Championship with Portugal. Most Southampton fans would have him back. Yet he's looked poor during his spell at WHU. Is it a matter of age (he's 33) or settling in to a new club? Perhaps significantly he had his best spell when West Ham played a back five towards the end of last season when he wasn't taking on strikers running behind the defence. I wouldn't give up on him, but he needs to improve fast.

Whatever the line-up, the Hammers need to sort out their central defensive problems and long term, after the ageing Ginge and Fonte have moved on, we also have to decide whether to give Declan Rice (his favoured position is centre back) or the on-loan Reece Burke and Reece Oxford the chance to cement a place in the back four.

Sunday, August 20

Hammers pay the ultimate penalty

Southampton 3 West Ham 2

Having watched Match of the Day I still can't see that it was a penalty. Yes, Zabaleta puts pressure on Yoshida as he goes up, but if every coming together for an aerial challenge were a penalty Lee Mason would end up awarding thirty spot-kicks a game. A point gained from 2-0 down with ten men would have set up our season. But as it is we're bottom after two away matches and defensive mistakes have again cost WHU.

You knew it was all likely to go wrong when Winston Reid injured his calf in the warm-up and had to be replaced by Ogbonna. Fonte was outpaced by Gabbiadini running behind him for the opener (that was the Saints' first home goal in nine hours of football) and had no need to pull back Davis for the penalty that made it 2-0. I'd thought the crowd goading him might inspire Jose, but again it looked like time was catching up with him. 

Marco Arnautovic had looked lively early on, putting a good chance wide after a great through ball from Antonio and then producing a fine save from Forster after Hernandez whipped in a good cross. So it was inexplicable that he then put his elbow into Stephens' neck and rightfully earned a red card. Noble could also have seen red for a rash challenge and the Hammers had some more luck when Gabbiadini hit the bar.

But at least the side looked annoyed at 2-0 down with ten men and staged a great comeback. Antonio showed real strength to turn and shoot and Hernandez proved just what a fine poacher he is by tapping in the rebound off Forster before the break.The equaliser was a great goal. Cresswell produced a fine cross and sub Diafra Sakho was unlucky to see his header tipped on to the bar by Forster. But Hernandez was brilliant in the way he reacted to poke home with the outside of his boot.

Redmond hit the top of the bar late on but it looked like a deserved draw until the Hammers fell victim to that late Lee Masonic conspiracy. Charlie Austin rolled it home after Nobes had told him Joe Hart knew where he was going to put it. We can't even get our gamesmanship right at the moment.

If Jose Mourinho is letting his horses run free, some of ours look set for a spell with Steptoe and Son. The positives were the form of Antonio and Hernandez, but now the Hammers really have to get a result at Newcastle. 

Saturday, August 19

Plenty of options for Slaven at the Saints

Today's match at Southampton should offer a more reliable measure of how West Ham will do this season as a lot of teams will be beaten at Old Trafford. Bilic has quite a few selection options to consider. I'd play Cresswell over Masuaku at left-back and there might even be a case for bringing in Fonte to a five-man defence. He'd get a lot of stick from the home fans and that just might inspire him to have a good match and prove 'the immutable law of of the ex'. 

Antonio is fit so has to come in to he side and will certainly provide more energy up front, presumably at the expense of Fernandes or Ayew. It was also good to see Sakho get on the pitch at Old Trafford. He's a fine striker when fit, so at some stage it would be interesting to see him partner Hernandez. While young Daclan Rice might also have put himself in contention. After coming on for Mark Noble he completed 22 passes, didn't give the ball away once, and looked entirely at home against Pogba and Matic. Whoever plays, with four away games in a row, we have to get something from St Mary's. Irons!

Farewell Feggy

Arrived back from my holidays to discover that another of last summer's buys has gone. Sofiane Feghouli has been sold to Galatasary for £3.8 million. He actually had a decent second half of last season and ended up with four goals. If Bilic had faith in the player it's a little strange that he hasn't given him a second season as a squad player at least. More evidence perhaps that we're making up our transfer policy as we go along. Yes, Sofiane could be frustrating, but his performances in games like the 3-0 win against Palace suggested he would at least offer an option as a conventional right winger coming off the bench. Farewell Feggy —  and we certainly won't forget your kissing of the green plastic after scoring against NK Domzale in the Europa League.

Tuesday, August 15

Hammered at Old Trafford

Manchester United 4 West Ham 0

Managed to watch this while on holiday at the Grapes in Hexam, surrounded by disappointed Toon Army members who had just lost to Spurs. Once Obiang was robbed by Matic and United broke to allow Lukaku to score it was all over. Very disappointing to concede the second to a set piece and why was Masusku marking Lukaku? Zabaleta made one great saving tackle and showed a good attitude though was exposed by Rashford's pace, while Arnautocic did at least have a header on to De Gea's bar. But little else to offer from West Ham apart from a Fernandes shot saved by De Gea just before half-time. On a vaguely positive note sub Declan Rice looked confident on the ball when he came on and sprayed some fine passes.

Still, United had spent £125m on Lukaku and Matic and may well win the league on this form. Hopefully the new signings will bed in for WHU and be strengthened by the possible signing of William Carvalho and the return of Lanzini, Antonio and Kouyate. A terrible start but there's a long way to go yet.

Friday, August 11

A new season beckons

Well, the new season has kicked off and Arsenal have scored four at home while I have, possibly rather foolishly, predicted that West Ham will finish eighth in the Observer fan previews. Though it might be 18th, who knows? Been up in the Lake District so not much news has filtered through, apart from the fact that West Ham have signed Montenegro wonderkid Sead Haksabonovic from Swedish side Halmstads BK for £2.7 million. It makes a change to sign an 18-year-old and anyone who can make their debut at 15 surely has to be a bit special. Should be fun hearing Paul Merson try to pronounce his name, though it will cost a bit to have it on the back of a WHU shirt if they still charge by the letter. And now the Hammers prepare to kick off at Old Trafford on my birthday. What could possibly go wrong? Have to hope Little Pea stays fit and makes Jose feel green. Come on you Irons!

Thursday, August 3

Tuesday, August 1

What future for Robert Snodgrass?

With all the new signings will there be a future at West Ham for Robert Snodgrass? Teams like Sunderland and Middlesbrough are already rumoured to be interested in him, though I'm not sure we should give up on a £10 million investment. He didn't play well after joining us last season, his main contribution being an assist in Kouyate's vital goal against Swansea. Too often he misplaced passes and didn't look at all at home in a claret and blue shirt. 

But we should remember that new signings are often better in their second season and he will now have had a full pre-season with WHU. Snodgrass had scored five Premier League goals from open play (including a cracking free kick against Everton) plus a couple of penalties for Hull in the first half of last season, so we know he can do it in the Premier League. 

It's also worth noting that he's scored 78 goals in his career and was popular with the fans at Leeds, Norwich and Hull. Might a goal get him going at West Ham? We're going to need a strong squad and although Snoddy might not start, he gives West Ham options as a right winger or as a creative player behind the strikers if Lanzini is out. Rather than sell him at a loss it's surely better to give him another season to show he can produce for the Irons.