Saturday, September 30

Another 'must-win' game…

So is this a must-win must-win game, or just the normal must-win game? Good news is that Lanzini and Antonio should be back today so it's virtually a full-strength side, with Collins and Obiang the only major injuries. Bilic is sounding rather world-weary in his Standard column and you can understand why, with Carlo Ancelotti now available and yet more media speculation about his job. Yet with games against Swansea, Burnley, Brighton and Palace coming up the season could look very different if we can get some points from what should be winnable or drawable games. We need Arnautovic to show he's worth £20 million and Lanzini to provide some creativity. While one thing Hernandez has proved this season is that if we can get him the ball in the box he'll score. COYI!

Thursday, September 28

Always believe in Carlton Cole!

The Daily Mirror claims that Crystal Palace, without a fit striker, are considering no less a man than Carlton Cole. Having played for West Ham for nine years and scored in the Play-off Final he'll always be viewed with affection by Hammers fans, though CC looked, ahem, past his best when he last played for the Irons in 2014-15, scoring three times that season. 

He's soon to be 34 and since leaving West Ham has had four games for Celtic, three games for Sacremento Republic and five for Persib Bandung in Indonesia, all without scoring. Indeed, Paddy Power has just tweeted: "Palace step up their bid to become the first PL team to go a season without scoring a goal by declaring their interest in Carlton Cole." Which is a little unfair. If Carlton plays against West Ham he'll score.

Tuesday, September 26

High art in the West Ham programme

Thanks to my pal Matt for pointing out that the West Ham programme against Huddersfield contained probably its first ever reference to Joan Miro (he's a Spanish painter, sculptor and ceramicist not a midfielder reveals Google) plus quite a few other highbrow names. 

In an interview with graphic designer Zoran Lucic, who is providing the programme artwork this season, he's asked about his influences and replies: "My influences are spread across art from graphic designers to painters, Joan Miro is a huge inspiration as is Kasimir Malevich. Alexander Rodchenko also stands out." The Serbian-born artist then goes on to mention the film Youth by Paolo Sorrentino. It's all a long way from Bill Remfry.

As for Lucic's cover artwork (assuming it's by him) it's certainly striking. So far he's made Declan Rice look a little like a character from the zombie apocalypse, which must have scared Bolton. Though there's a certain tragic nobility in his depiction of Pablo Zabaleta for the Spurs programme. You can see more of his work at

Monday, September 25

It's not all Andy's fault

Andy Carroll has come in for some rather unfair criticism since the Spurs game. Yes, he played a bad pass for the first goal, when he was still getting used to the game having come on as a sub, but an error on the half-way line shouldn't necessarily result in a goal. The defence was equally to blame, with Cresswell and Ogbonna (who probably needs a few more games to regain full sharpness after his long-term injury) failing to track Alli and Kane. 

For the second goal it wasn't exactly a Carroll "mistake" as the BBC feed called it. He lost a 50/50 challenge with Vertonghen near the halfway line, but again it shouldn't have resulted in a goal as Alli and Kane again lost Zabaleta and the there centre backs In the second half Carroll caused Spurs some problems, drawing a lot of fouls, one of which resulted in a red card for Aurier, and winning quite a few headers against three very effective centre backs. He could have had a penalty in the dying minutes too. 

What we really need to do is find a way of getting Carroll and Hernandez further up the pitch where can they can do some damage at the other end.

Sunday, September 24

Hammers show spirit but too late to deny Spurs

West Ham 2 Tottenham 3

Steve the Cornish Postie has already provided plenty of colour for the blog by posting his ticket to the wrong address, but after some frantic knocking on my neighbours' doors, I'm able to hand it over to Lisa by the H Block sign. Hopefully West Ham's delivery will be better. 

Matt and Lisa are preparing for a week of living Danishly, Ryan Air permitting. I explain that The Little Book of Hygge recommends comfy socks, slippers, a warm fire and generally relaxing like the West Ham defence. They report huge queues in the Clyde Best Cafe where they've been caught out by the early kick-off. Alison's in Brighton preparing to govern. Nigel's opted for a pre-match pastie costing the price of his house while I've found a reassuringly cheap £2.50 egg and bacon sandwich for my daughter Nell at the burger bar by Tank in Hackney Wick.

The big team news is that Carroll is dropped to the bench. For the first half an hour West Ham match Spurs for intensity and probably have the better of the game. Arnautovic is foiled in the box by a fine tackle (and some shirt tugging) from Aurier while Kane misses a good chance at the other end. The key moment comes when Antonio goes off with a groin strain and is replaced by Andy Carroll.

On half an hour big Andy is still feeling his way into the game as he plays a blind pass inside. Kouyate gets out of the way and the ball falls to Eriksen. The Spurs playmaker releases Alli, who has got behind Cresswell, and his cross is flicked in by Kane who has lost Ogbonna. 

"We just need to keep it to 1-0 at half-time," announces Mystic Morris, just as Kane doubles Spurs lead. More hesitation leads to Eriksen and Kane playing in Alli on the left, who fires against the onrushing Joe Hart. Kane has lost his marker again and taps home the rebound. 

At half-time Nigel and myself discus the Climber's Traverse of Bowfell, and West Ham have been left a similar mountain to climb. It gets worse as Kane hits the post from a free kick and as the ball is half-cleared Eriksen shoots home first time. It looks like being another Man City-style 5-0 home drubbing at this stage as Kane hits the post again.

But at least West Ham show some spirit. Zabaleta for one never stops trying, and there's some hope when Fonte flicks on a corner and Chicharito nods home with his first effort on target. A good poacher's goal. It starts to get a bit tasty when Aurier is sent off for a second yellow after clattering Carroll. To give Big Andy some credit, he's kept going after his early error and is drawing a lot of fouls. 

Chicharito draws another save from Lloris with a stinging drive. "Come on you Irons!" cries a revived crowd. Masuaku has come on for Fonte and plays wide on the left. With three minutes left Arthur gets in a superb cross that Kouyate thumps home with a towering header. 

The Hammers really give it a go for the last seven minutes, forcing corners from which Reid and Noble blaze over. There's a good case for a late penalty as Carroll is nudged when going for a header and then a late melee after Carroll is fouled again. There's not huge contact, but at Southampton just such a decision was awarded against West Ham. But Spurs hold out and despite the signs of team spirit, we can't give quality teams three-goal leads. So Swansea become yet another must-win match.

PLAYER RATINGS: Hart 6; Zabaleta 6, Fonte 5 (Masuaku 6), Reid 6, Ogbonna 4, Cresswell 5; Noble 6, Kouyate 6; Antonio 5 (Carroll 6), Hernandez 7, Arnautovic 6 (Ayew 6). 

Friday, September 22

Five tactical dilemmas for Bilic against Spurs

Seems like there's a number of tactical considerations for Slaven before Saturday's big game against Spurs…

Nobes had a fine game against Spurs last season and knows how important beating Spurs is to the fans. But even if he is West Ham through and through Mark is now 30 and has played since he was 17. He was restricted by a hernia last season but doubts remain about how much longer he has left at the top level. Kouyate and Obiang currently look the best central midfield pairing so Noble might be better used as a late substitute and an older head in midfield.


With James Collins out for a month Angelo Ogbonna will probably be recalled. Three at the back has stopped teams getting behind our defence and made Fonte look more assured, though it's left the attack a little undermanned. There's a case for having Reid and Ogbonna as a partnership, dropping Fonte and thus allowing Carroll and Hernandez to play as a pair, with Antonio and Arnautovic out wide and Kouyate and Obiang anchoring the midfield.

Chicharito has looked wasted out wide-ish, though he still managed to hit the bar against Huddersfield. Perhaps Slaven should just tell Carroll and Hernandez to stick together and never mind the defensive consequences. Certainly if West Ham play a four-man defence it could allow them to thrive as a partnership. The alternative is to drop one of them to the bench. Ether Andy or Javier would be a second-half sub who would scare the opposition.


Manuel Lanzini isn't going to play against Spurs and it doesn't look like Kouyate and Obiang will create a lot. Marco Arnautovic is a player who can produce the unexpected so perhaps he should step inside at times and assume a more central role behind the strikers. He can also shoot from long range so could trouble Spurs.

Ayew might be hit and miss in his Hammers career so far, with no-one quite sure what his best position is, but he does have energy and has the knack of scoring goals — two already this season. He could be an option should Bilic drop a striker and play a five-man midfield or play a role as an impact sub.

Wednesday, September 20

Arthur and Arnie say 'hasta la vista' to Bolton

West Ham 3 Bolton 0 (Carabao Cup)

It's into the Clyde Best Cafe with Lisa and her pals Mark, Sue and Bolton fan Alan, a man who once compared Big Sam's creation at Bolton to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and who's rather optimistically wearing his "walking down the Manny Road to see the Burnden Aces" t-shirt.

We're joined in the stadium by a tardy Matt and Fraser, who watched the West Brom game via Canadian TV, where they probably think it's the Caribou Cup. Although the ground's half full the 35,806 attendance is still more than the capacity of Upton Park — pretty impressive for a League Cup fixture.

The Hammers get off to a great start after three minutes as Arnautovic's free kick is headed in by Ogbonna. The Irons should get more as Arnie shoots at Howard's legs and Ayew hits the outside of the post when he should score after good work by Sakho. The lively Arnautovic then misses a great chance by volleying wide when clean through.

Thankfully the game is put to bed after Noble finds Arnautovic on the left with the great ball and the Austrian winger sets up Sakho for a well-taken second. Though Diafra still upsets Fraser by not celebrating with any great joy. Beevers heads straight at Adrian late on but that's indebted Bolton's only chance.

The second half sees the home side content to play out time. Haksabonovic, who has looked a neat little player on the right, is replaced by Nathan Holand, who looks like an old-fashioned winger and immediately forces a corner. Substitute Earing fails to look golden or provide any aid for Bolton.

Chicharito comes on and gets cross with some clatterings from Wheater and Beevers. "I don't like Chicharito's body language, he's looking a Little Pead off," quips Matt.

Arnautovic stops the ball in the box and can produce the unexpected. Arnie has a little bit of arrogance and a short fuse, which may well make him a bit of a cult figure with the WHU fans.

It's left to Mystic Matt to work his magic. "Masuaku just hasn't got it, he's having a really poor game," he suggests. Arthur promptly wallops a 30-yard screamer into the top corner. "Messi-uako!" exclaims a penitent Matt.

Bolton might be bottom of the Championship, but it's still a decent win and a good run-out for Rice at centre-back and several other squad players. We've looked comfortable all game, which makes a change.

Then it's off to the King Edward where we end up discussing West Ham winning the World Cup, as you do. Job done and on to the next round.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 5; Byram 5, Rice 6, Ogbonna 6, Masuaku 6; Haksabanovic 5 (Holland 5), Kouyate 5, Noble 6 (Quina 5); Arnautovic 7, Sakho 6 (Hernandez 5), Ayew 5.

Monday, September 18

Keeping Carroll fit

Some revealing comments from Slaven Bilic in his Evening Standard column about how the club and new physio Gary Lewin are trying to keep Big Andy fit. This season they have ensured that he trained for a month before playing, which seems sensible after he was rushed back last season and then injured in the Europa League. 

And rather counter-intuitively, Bilic adds, "In the early stages of his rehabilitation we pushed him a little bit harder, if he felt something we told him to go through the discomfort." Bilic also says that there are days when Carroll has to go to the gym rather than be on the training pitch and mentions Paul McGrath and Ledley King as examples of players who trained minimally but could still perform on match days, though it's easier for centre-backs. If all that fails a friend has been treating verukas by applying gaffer tape, and perhaps this might hold Andy together too.

Carroll had a storming game against Huddersfield and has now played two matches in succession. Admittedly it's still not clear if Chicharito and Carroll can function together, though it could work in a 4-4-2. While another option is having either of them on the bench to give the team a real goal threat late in games. Let's hope Andy is rested against Bolton (two games in a week may prove too much) and continues to be available for Spurs as he makes a difference. 

Sunday, September 17

Drawing drawing West Ham

West Brom 0 West Ham 0

We might have been lucky to make it as last on Match of the Day, but a point is a point even in a rubbish game. It's West Ham's second clean sheet in succession and a draw against a Pulis side is certainly an improvement on last season's 4-2 capitulation. 

Looking at the lowlights, the Hammers had the better chances. Obiang hit the bar with a tremendous 50 yard lob over Foster's head (he should be told to shoot more often) and there were calls for Foster to be sent off after he clattered into Hernandez, who was running on to Andy Carroll's deft flick. Foster had two defenders behind him so he wasn't the last man, but with the current guidelines there was a case for dismissal rather than a booking for a foot-up out-of-control challenge. Apart from that a couple of fine blocks by Reid and a tenacious run and shot by Antonio were the game's only other noteworthy incidents. The Hammers can certainly play a lot better, but the first three defeats results have to come first.

Arnautovic saw some action as a sub and Slaven now has some interesting tactical dilemmas, trying to fit in Arnie and Lanzini. Can Carroll and Henandez play together up front? Should Noble return?Probably not as Obiang and Kouyate now look our best midfield enforcers. And with Collins injured at WBA should we revert to a back four or stick to three centre-backs where Fonte looks much more comfortable? All good problems to have as Bilic prepares for Bolton and Spurs.

Tuesday, September 12

Obiang and Ayew give Slaven a birthday boost

West Ham 2 Huddersfield 0

First off it’s into the (Clyde) Best Café with my daughter Lola, newly returned from Paris though it can’t match Stratford, where we dine on egg, chips and beans. Matt and Lisa have seen the Under-18s lose and Nigel’s been touring Iceland while missing the West Han friendly against Man City — next year he hopes to go to Lidl. Meanwhile Michael the Possible Whovian is so pleased at purchasing 12 Hartnell-era Doctor Who pictures inbetween the matinee of Loot and watching Gyles Brandreth in Hamlet, that he’s celebrating with a beer, having discovered that the Best Café is licensed.

Then it’s on to the stadium where the new search procedures actually seem to speed things up and Michael enjoys a pint of Irons bitter in the concourse as we bump into West Ham author Brian Williams admiring the London Stadium’s many toilet facilities. We’re joined by Fraser (who thinks Palace were a little slow sacking De Boer as he’d have fired Big Sam after half a match), Alison, super chef Scott and Steve the Cornish postie. The PA is playing Motorhead’s Ace of Spades as we take our seats, much to the delight of headbanger Nigel.

The side Bilic has picked looks more balanced with three at the back and the Hammers start off with intensity. The returning Andy Carroll shoots across goal in the first minute. Great work by Antonio on the right sets up Chicharito for a certain goal only for the Mexican to lean back and hit the bar. Late on Kouyate miscues another good chance. 

But the side certainly seem to be playing for Slaven on his 49th birthday. Antonio is looking really pacy, Carroll is a big physical presence and Zabaleta, playing almost as a right-winger, really gets stuck in with a committed performance. Obiang is solid in front of the back four and Kouyate is doing well in a more advanced role, while three at the back ensures Fonte looks a lot more comfortable.

A surreal note to the evening is that the scoreboard is asking us to take a holiday in sodden Florida. The second half sees Huddersfield gain in confidence and we’re starting to have visions of an FC Astra-style smash and grab. But the Hammers stick at it, with a Town defender almost scoring an own goal and Antonio sending in numerous crosses. 

Bilic replaces Hernandez with Ayew, which is met with puzzlement by most fans. Or does he 
know something we don’t?

Finally we get a piece of luck. On 72 minutes Obiang’s shot takes a huge defection and loops over Lossl. The stadium erupts with relief.

Five minutes later Antonio wins a corner and from the resulting melee, Fonte prods the ball forwards and Ayew reacts well to fire home. He goes down on his knees to celebrate. We never doubted you for a minute, Captain Bilic.

“Another six goals and we’ll be out of the bottom three,” quips Nigel. There’s still time for Sakho to come on to some boos and Tom Ince to hit the bar for the visitors. Matt starts to get a little irate as the Hammers threaten to lose their clean sheet, but we survive and Joe Hart has his first clean sheet in 23 games.

We even manage to find the Railway without mishap. Spurs will be a much bigger test, but the whole side played well against a team that hadn’t conceded a goal so far. Yes, Huddersfield might struggle, but his was the performance that Bilic and his men needed. And now we’re just four points off Europe…

PLAYER RATINGS: Hart 6; Zabaleta 7, Reid 6, Collins 7, Fonte 6, Cresswell 6; Antonio 8, Obiang 7, Kouyate 6; Hernandez 6 (Ayew 7), Carroll 7 (Sakho 5).

Monday, September 11

Best to arrive early

Sounds like it's best to arrive early tonight as there's a new security process in operation where the fans will be searched before they cross the Olympic Park bridges. Judging by the "teething problems" last season, we should probably factor in some extra time for this and then seeing if the new cards work. Meanwhile we're up against a plucky newly-promoted side and relying on the fitness of Andy Carroll. What could possibly go wrong? Irons!

Sunday, September 10

More media rumours…

An interesting piece by Jacob Steinberg on West Ham in today's Observer, headlined "Sullivan salvo has truly burst fading Bilic's fragile bubble." Steinberg writes that "an increasingly demob happy" Bilic is "living on borrowed time" as the PR wars begin and that "there is little chance of his contract being extended beyond this season", while a defeat by Huddersfield could see the axe fall sooner. He covers the club's recruitment problems and adds, "Sullivan has assumed the role of director of football, which means he shares culpability with Bilic for the mess." Another point he makes is that it remains to hard to work out what style Bilic wants from his team: "Are they solid and physical? Are they a counterattacking team? Do they favour possession? One thing is indisputable; they cannot defend." Click on the link to read the complete piece.

Saturday, September 9

Did Slaven take a swipe at Sullivan?

The papers have made a lot out of comments made by Slaven Bilic about David Sullivan. Faced with a press conference bringing up questions about "the Dildo brothers" Bilic said he found the comments made by Sporting Lisbon's director funny, which seems fair enough in the sense that we now have grown adults discussing playground insults (will it now be known as Dildogate?) And having worked in the adult industry for decades, you'd think Davids Sullivan and Gold are pretty immune to cheap insults by now. Blic also said that "David Sullivan likes to talk", while adding the proviso, "It's his right to be able to." He made a pretty good attempt at defending his pursuit of Carvalho, saying that he turned down other options because Carvalho was his main priority and he didn't want to be disracted by other names. 

The comments that did betray a certain amount of irritation with Sullivan were these: "I am expecting if he [Sullivan] says something about me to call me, to say this and not go through you guys, although that is best for you." Bilic is right that Sullivan mentioning the club had the chance to sign Sanches was unhelpful and the club shouldn't be discussing who they go for in public. But that's unlikely to change  Throughout their ownership there's been a history of Sullivan making over-honest or controversial comments and then Gold doing a PR job to smooth things out. The best antidote to all this will be getting some points on the board.

Thursday, September 7

Crisis club West Ham?

There's rather a febrile atmosphere around West Ham at the moment. The inelegant dispute with Sporting Lisbon rumbles on with director Nuno Saraiva referring to Davids Sullivan and Gold as, "the Dildo Brothers" (rather a cheap insult as Ann Summers and co seem quite wholesome compared to the ways some owners have made their money) and claiming no offer was made for William Carvalho; while Sky Sports has published emails from West Ham showing a bid appears to have been made. Sullivan and Gold are threatening to sue while there are reports Sporting Lisbon plan to report West Ham to FIFA for making an illegal approach. 

Meanwhile there's the inevitable injury crisis. Manuel Lanzini withdrew from the Argentina squad with a re-occurrence of his thigh injury and is likely to miss the Huddersfield game while Ayew and Fernandes are doubtful too. 

Then there's the managerial situation with Bilic under more pressure after David Sullivan said he turned down chances to sign Renato Sanches and Gzegorz Krychowiak because he is happy with the current squad. If Bilic does go it will be because last season saw some of the least productive signings in the club's history (Zaza, Tore, Calleri, Nordtveit, Feghouli, Snodgrass and Fletcher have all departed while Fonte has disappointed). The five players signed this window really have to produce to save Slaven. 

There are even claims that some West Ham fans are planning a protest during the Huddersfield game — which seems a bit premature even by the standards of social media-fuelled indignation. Let's at least get a few home defeats in first before we do that and we can hardly return to Upton Park now it's rubble.

But having said all that remember it's just three away games into the season. If we're bottom after ten games it will look ominous. Right now there isn't much a couple of wins wouldn't put right.

Tuesday, September 5

Hart stopper

Hopefully Joe Hart might benefit from getting a couple of wins under his belt with England. He didn't have a shot to save against Malta but a clean sheet of any kind must feel a relief after being blitzed in West Ham's defence and conceding ten. He was a little slow to react to Slovakia's early goal last night but did produce a vital reaction save from Nemec's volley when the score was 1-1. Two wins will help his confidence, whatever the standard of the opposition. 

You feel a little sorry for Hart at West Ham at the moment as he's not had a settled defence to play with. Bilic has switched left backs between Masuaku and Cresswell, Reid was injured in the warm-up at Southampton, and Fonte and Collins have both played one game apiece.  At 30 Hart's reactions must still be sharp and he should be coming to his peak as a keeper. What he needs is to play in a winning side with a settled defence and feel good about himself again, then hopefully we'll see the best of him.

Monday, September 4

West Ham Fans' Verdict in the Observer

My summary of West Ham's transfer window can be found in the Observer by clicking on this link. What's striking looking at the views of the fans of the other clubs is that most of those sampled feel they've had a decent window. Only the fans of Brighton, Newcastle and Crystal Palace seem a little underwhelmed. Which proves that the Premier League is more competitive than ever. There's also a trend of spending more on younger players, while West Ham have gone for the older end of the market, which is a risk. Clubs like West Brom, Watford, Stoke, Swansea and Leicester have all recruited well, meaning it's more important than ever that our four big signings of Hart, Zabaleta, Arnautovic and Hernandez (and possibly 18-year-old Haksabonovic) produce the required form quickly. 

Sunday, September 3

Did Bilic reject Sanches?

Some strange revelations from David Sullivan. He claims that Slaven Bilic turned down the chance to sign Bayern Munich's Renato Sanches on loan — whom many observers feel is the bargain of the window for Swansea — and also Paris St Germain's Polish star Grzegorz Krychowiak, now on loan at West Brom. According to Sullivan, Slaven said, "he is happy with the squad he has." It's odd that we talk about our targets in public so much and places more pressure on Bilic should Sanches do well. Meanwhile Sporting Lisbon director Nuno Saraiva claims, in very colourful language, that West Ham were not offered William Carvalho in the last hours of deadline day. The Daily Telegraph reports that West Ham may take legal action over his comments. At least the soap opera of the window is now over and we can get on with some football. 

Friday, September 1

A tale of two strikers

So while one striker Difara Sakho was taking himself to Rennes for an unauthorised medical and then turning up at Chelmsford Races, the other striker Andy Carroll was in court seeing a geezer from Romford jailed for six years for pursuing him on a motor bike with an accomplice and appearing to point a gun at him as they attempted to steal his £22,000 wrist watch. Just another day at West Ham… 

Window shopping via Chelmsford Races

Well, a mixed transfer window for the Hammers, though credit to Diafra Sakho for making a determined bid to be this year’s Peter Odemwinjie. After first flying to Rennes for a medical the club hadn't agreed to, he returned to England and turned up at Chelmsford Racecourse where his agent Mark McKay had a horse running — it won and Diafra's £100 bet earned £550. Sakho then had a meeting with West Ham where, according to the Daily Mail, he discussed his 'personal problems' and might be on the verge of signing a new contract. 

Predictably the Hammers failed to get William Carvalho. It always looked unlikely he'd want to move to the London Stadium and we're still fairly well stocked with defensive midfielders in Kouyate and Obiang. On paper we've bought four players with a proven PL pedigree. Hernandez looks a great finisher and a steal at £16m, while despite his red card, Marko Arnautovic should offer something different up front. But on the evidence so far there are questions about how Joe Hart's confidence has been affected by letting in ten goals and if Zabaleta's experience can mask his declining pace. Montenegro superkid Haksabonovic is one for the future at £2.7m.

We've done well to shift seven players from last season's disastrous spree. Tore, Arbeloa, Calleri, Nordtveit, Feghouli, Fletcher and Snodgrass have all gone, as have Valencia and Randolph. Though I would have liked to have seen Feghouli given another season, while playing Snodgrass out of position and then selling him after just 15 games sums up the panic buying mentality. But thanks to Middlesbrough for paying £11.5 million for Randolph and Fletcher. So the net spend is around £20 million, which isn't that great in today's market. 

In theory West Ham have solved some of last season's problems for the short-term — though in practice we need results fast.