Monday, April 30

City overwhelm passive Hammers

A rare moment of hope as Cresswell score

West Ham 1 Man City 4

I’m with daughter Nell and Citeh fan John at the German deli in Hackney Wick where there’s a huge queue for the bratwurst. Then the gas runs out and there’s flustered staff and a lack of change for refunds. It seems to predict West Ham’s day, which goes from bad to wurst.

It’s on to the London Stadium where Matt reports similar chaos in the Best Café. Mystifyingly Moyes has dropped Masuaku for the 36-year-old Evra, depriving us of our best crosser.

West Ham start off passively, sitting back but without any pressing. Moyes’ game plan soon disintegrates as Sane’s shot takes a fortunate deflection off Evra’s head to beat the helpless Adrian. City’s second is a comedy of errors as Adrian rushes from goal and is stranded by Sane. Ogbonna appears to clear the danger but then Cresswell allows Sterling an age to play in De Bruyne, whose hard low cross is bundled in by a combination of Rice, with his angles all wrong, and poor old Zabaleta.

Arnautovic does have the ball in the City net after bundling over Ederson, but the goal is disallowed, probably correctly. Arnie and Lanzini combine nicely to almost set up Cresswell. But that seems to rouse West Ham a little as Lanzini starts to make some decent runs. Fernandes should have a penalty when he’s brought down in the box, but the ref gives it outside the box. It doesn’t matter because Cresswell fires in a fine free-kick. It’s been a better last 15 minutes before the break, but West Ham have just made City angry.

After the break Jesus plays a brilliant ball through to Sterling who pulls back for Jesus to score. Sterling has a penalty appeal wrongly turned down. A few minutes later Sterling sets up Fernandinho for the fourth. City’s passing is on a different planet to West Ham and De Bruyne is a joy to watch, with Sane and Sterling brilliant on the flanks. And at least City fan John is enjoying it. But even so, it’s a horribly passive performance from the Irons.

"Pre-season starts in July!" shouts one irate fan. Three subs come on and Mario miscontrolling a great cross from Masuaku seems to sum up our malaise. The lack of alternatives to Noble and Kouyate in central midfield becomes even more glaring. Chicharito strolls around obviously annoyed not to have been give a starting slot after scoring against Chelsea, but there’s still no excuse for his unprofessional performance here, as Alan Shearer later points out on MOTD. Hugill would at least show enthusiasm.

Thankfully City take it easy after that. If WHU don’t show more passion we’re going down. We retreat to the Railway for pints of Doom Bar to match the fact we’re doomed. At least we get a seat and it’s reasonably priced compared to the Refreshment Rooms. We muse in moribund fashion over the sale of James Tomkins, which is when our demise seemed to start, and reminisce about the good old days of sacking Avram Grant after the Wigan game. 

We didn’t expect anything against City, but even so, West Ham have to be so much better against Leicester if we are to survive.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 5; Zabaleta 4, Ogbonna 5, Rice 5, Evra 4 (Masuaku 5), Cresswell 5; Fernandes 5 (Hernandez 3), Kouyate 4, Noble 4, Lanzini 5 (Mario 4); Arnautovic 5.

Friday, April 27

Bike From Boleyn before the Man City match

Keep the World Cup statue at Upton Park! It's the Bike from Boleyn ride on Sunday before the Man City game. The local primary school are now on board with about 50 school kids plus their parents cycling to the London Stadium for a football training/coaching session at the Community Track with West Ham Foundation. As it may be a slow cycle riders will be leaving from the World Cup statue at 10.45am and singing "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" as they go.

Thursday, April 26

Arnie is Hammer of the Year

It's hard to believe that the diffident winger who was sent off at Southampton and booed off against Brighton is now the Hammer of the Year. It's been a remarkable turnaround for Marko Arnautovic under David Moyes. We might not like Moyes' cautious approach but Arnie has really responded to being switched to a central striking role and being told that if he doesn't run he doesn't play. Ten goals so far is impressive and Moyes has to get some credit. 

Marko started to become a cult figure after scoring the winner against Chelsea and getting into the crowd to celebrate (not easy to cover that distance at the London Stadium) and then cemented his status by crossing his arms at Stoke and then celebrating scoring in front of the incandescent Stokies and being sworn at by Mark Hughes as he trudged off. The only problem with Arnie being Hammer of the Year is that he seems to thrive on paranoia and thinking that no-one likes him. Perhaps we should have voted him bottom of the poll in order to really fire him up for the final four games.

Monday, April 23

Moyes has to call out mistakes

One or two West Ham fans have been critical of David Moyes for singling out Declan Rice for public criticism after the Arsenal match, but I think he has to be honest about mistakes. It would be pointless to claim that it wasn't an error by Rice that lead to the second goal. What Moyes said was reasonably positive, in that he stated that a young player had made a mistake and that's how young players learn. He also said that Joe Hart had made a mistake after the Stoke game so he's been consistent. If Moyes had glossed over the error he would also have got huge amounts of stick on social media, where everyone is permanently outraged.

Declan otherwise had a sound game, but he'll have learned a valuable lesson, that if there's any doubt put your head on it even if you think you hear the goalkeeper call. Had he headed it clear we might have held on for a draw. Rice has played really well in the previous two games and with great maturity for a 19-year-old — he's got a big future at West Ham if he keeps learning.

Sunday, April 22

Hammers collapse in last ten minutes

Arsenal 4 West Ham 1

It's in to the East Stand at the Emirates where I'm sitting among the Gooners with Aubrey, a former pro footballer in the Cyprus second division who is a mate of Alfie's dad David. Despite the Wenger finale there are are still a surprising number of empty seats in the upper tiers. Nigel's also among the Gooners where he's shaken Bob Wilson's hand and says the level of moaning is impressive.

It's a fairly decent performance in the first half. Arsenal, without Ozil, look distracted by the Europa League with Iwobi getting a lot of stick from the home fans. Their only real effort is a Xhaka free kick that Hart fists away. Arnautovic and Mario cause problems at the back for the Gunners. Arnie has one effort beaten away by Ospina and is denied by a fine Mustafa tackle. "Arsene Wenger, he left 'cos you're shit!" chant the Hammers fans.

It's a slower start to the second half for the Hammers and Arsenal break the deadlock with a strike from the edge of the box from Monreal. Had Masuaku been alert on his post he might have stopped it. Moyes actually gives Lanzini and Hernandez half an hour and after Kouyate heads over a spell of West Ham pressure results in Lanzini feeding Arnie, who fires a memorable equaliser into the corner before running to the away section. He's had a good game alone up front and deserves it.

Bubbles reverberates around the sunny Emirates. Hart makes two brilliant saves and it looks like the Hammers might hold on for a point or even win it with ten minutes to go. The Irons win two corners, only for a poor delivery to see a break from Arsenal and Zabaleta booked for an agricultural challenge. Aubameyang comes on and seems to raise the home side. 

The game hinges on the second as Rice ducks below Ramsey's cross and the ball drifts on past Hart. Has the keeper shouted for him to leave it? It's a comedy goal, though Rice has done well for the rest of the game. Looking at it on Match of the Day Hart is shouting, "I said 'away'!"

The Hammers then collapse. Lacazette gets past Cresswell to fire home past Joe Hart's near post with the aid of a deflection and then scores a fourth after selling Carollr a dummy and calmly stroking home. 

We've blown a good chance for a point here against a depleted Arsenal side. The only good news is that Stoke have only drawn and it's nice to have a cup of tea with Nigel and Gooner Carolyn at my gaff afterwards. It's not the despair I can't take…

PLAYER RATINGS: Hart 7; Zabaleta 5, Ogbonna 6, Rice 5. Cresswell 5, Masuaku 6 (Carroll n/a); Fernandes 6 (Lanzini 6), Kouyate 6, Noble 5, Mario 6 (Hernandez 5); Arnautovic 8.

Saturday, April 21

Wenger out!

It's obviously a daunting prospect to be about to face West Ham, but there was surely no need for Arsene Wenger to resign. My favourite Wenger moment was when Marlon Harewood scored an 88th winner against Arsenal in 2006 and Alan Pardew gave it a Bruce Forsyth fist pump. Wenger then completely lost it and lunged at Pardew, threatening to beat him round the head with a lump of steamed broccoli before smothering him with his duvet coat.

Still, you have to admit that Wenger was a half-decent manager. Arsenal fans complaining about 'only' winning three FA Cups in four years have always amused me — any manager who did that at West Ham would get a statue by the River Lea and a lifetime's free shopping at Ann Summers. 

Arsenal will now be right up for tomorrow's game instead of playing to an apathetic half-empty stadium. The lads have to stay calm and not let the nostalgia-fest interfere with their game plan. We gave Arsene his last defeat at Highbury and first loss at the Emirates. Let's hope West Ham can ruin his party again.

Tuesday, April 17

Super sub Carroll saves Hammers

West Ham 1 Stoke City 1

This could be a bad omen. Nigel has two programmes, as I’ve bought him one after a missed call and he’s also got his own. It’s all about fine margins in programme buying.

It’s a timid team selection from David Moyes with Hernandez on the bench and a five-man midfield as Fraser and Matt suggest he’s picked a team not to lose.

The first half is a poor affair of misplaced passes and nervous players, which slowly subdues the crowd. West Ham’s best chance is when Zabaleta pulls back for Arnie to fire into the face of Butland. Cresswell tests Butland with a free kick and on a rare Stoke attack Diouf fires straight at Hart. Arthur’s crossing isn’t getting beyond Stoke’s three giant centre backs, though Arnie does pull a chance wide after good a link-up with Mario.

At half-time we’re reduced to discussing Nigel’s quiz question of naming two Beatles songs that don’t have the lyrics in the title. We get A Day in the Life, at least. Nigel then goes vaudeville with his quip about, which is a site for short eyes.

The second half sees more West Ham pressure. Creswell has another free kick well-saved. Arnie heads home from a Cresswell cross but is marginally offside. Fernandes shoots home from the edge of the box but Arnautovic has dawdled getting onside and it’s ruled out. 

Declan Rice looks assured at the back and has some effect helping out in attack. But Stoke continually foul in midfield while ref Michael Oliver seems remarkably reluctant to issue yellow cards. The count of 36 fouls in the game is the joint highest in the Premier League this season.

Moyes is as usual glacial in making substitutions, but finally brings on Hernandez with 14 minutes left. There’s been a warning as Stoke break for Diouf shoot over. It all goes terribly wrong on 79 minutes as Hart spills Shaqiri’s tame shot straight into the path of veteran striker Peter Crouch who gratefully prods home. It’s a terrible bit of keeping.  In the last four games Hart has made errors against Burnley and Stoke, while having a great game at Chelsea and being untested against Southampton. Adrian should surely return for the rest of the season.

The crowd stick with the Irons and the side do keep relatively calm and carry on attacking. The Vicar’s Son starts to mutter about a “s**t team, s**t manager and s**t stadium.” Stoke seem destined to secure a scrappy away win and put us right back in it. In desperation Moyes brings on Carroll and Lanzini. It all looks over until Cresswell crosses and Andy Carroll expertly volleys the dropping ball into the corner. Great technique as the London Stadium erupts with relief. There’s even time for a disallowed goal as Hernandez nets only for Carroll to be penalised for handball. But a draw keeps us seven points ahead of Stoke and Southampton.

It’s off to the Refreshment Rooms, where there’s some Moyes-style dithering over who is in the round. Michael gets excited by the Bundesliga manager extolling “the high art of rotation” before going into a Withnail-esque diatribe against the Refreshment Rooms and Stratford in general. Nigel reminisces about legendary WHU reserve keeper Colin Mackleworth. We’re then joined by Gavin and Ilona. Gavin had expected us to win 4-0 but has been cheered by someone giving him a half and half scarf for tonight’s game and a fitting souvenir of a feast of defensive football.

It’s disappointing not to win, but also not the disaster it could have been. While the resurrection of Andy Carroll hopefully gives us another option for the rest of the season.

PLAYER RATINGS: Hart 4; Zabaleta 6, Rice 7, Ogbonna 6, Cresswell 7, Masuaku 5 (Lanzini 6); Fernandes 5 (Hernandez 6), Noble 6, Kouyate 5, Mario 5 (Carroll 7); Arnautovic 6.