Tuesday, July 31

What is West Ham's strongest side?

It's quite hard to pick a best eleven from the WHU squad after the summer signings. My line-up would probably be this: Fabianski; Fredericks, Diop, Balbuena, Cresswell; Anderson, Obiang, Wilshere, Yarmolenko; Arnautovic, Hernandez. Plus a very strong bench selected from Noble, Antonio, Zabaleta, Kouyate, Rice, Ogbonna, Masuaku, Hugill and Adrian. Plus there are long-term injured players Lanzini, Carroll and Reid to come into contention eventually. 

There might be a case for playing Zabaleta instead of Fredericks for his experience and retaining Noble for his leadership instead of Obiang, while Kouyate is another option if he stays. There's not much between Adrian and Fabianski and Rice could also warrant a place in midfield or defence for some games and Ogbonna is another option at the back. While Masuaku is better going forward than Cresswell but might struggle in a four-man defence. Antonio, if he gets fit and stays, will be a great impact sub to bring on. Some of the new signings might take time to adjust, so it's all pretty fluid. It's quite a quandary selecting the best X1, but apart from looking short of strikers, it's a significantly stronger squad this season.

Thursday, July 26

Good win at Villa

Meanwhile an impressive 3-1 win for the Hammers at Aston Villa in last night's friendly. Anderson played a lovely reverse ball to set Masuaku free and create Arnie's goal, giving us a glimpse of those Brazilian feet. Also good to see Antonio get on the scoresheet through a typically strong run and good finish. As was the case with Robert Snodgrass, who netted against his former club and just might have a role under Pellegrini. Manuel seems to be having a look at the entire squad, which is good, and has given the likes of Haksabonovic game time and tried and tried Declan Rice in central midfield. Meanwhile Arnie has started off in goalscoring form with the winner at Wycombe, a brace at Preston and another last night. It's all about fitness rather than results, but so far so good.

Who will play the holding role for West Ham?

Reports on Sky Sports suggest that Crystal Palace are interested in signing Cheikhou Kouyate and that West Ham are in talks with Sampdoria about the sale of Pedro Obiang. While we could probably afford to lose one of these players, to sell both would leave the Hammers looking very light in central midfield. We'd have just Mark Noble, Jack Wilshere and possibly Declan Rice to play in front of the defence and would surely have to buy another defensive midfielder. Admittedly the WHU defence might need less protection with the new signings, but the squad needs a tackler behind all the attacking players.

I'd certainly keep Obiang — we struggled without him last season and he's an underrated player. Kouyate's been with us four seasons and had his moments, such as scoring the decisive goal in the relegation six-pointer against Swansea two seasons ago. He looked good in the Payet side — but then so did everyone — but has never quite become the Patrick Vieira type of player we hoped. So perhaps now is the right time to do a deal with Palace.

Wednesday, July 25

Four-Irons in the soul

The Evening Standard has outed Francesco Molinari as an unlikely Hammers fan after his Open triumph. The brilliant golfer adopted West Ham when he moved to London and his fellow Italian and golfing buddy Gianfranco Zola was manager. So he's no fair-weather fan, as he then lived through the Avram Grant relegation, but has since remained loyal to West Ham. Quite appropriate he should now be toasting success with the Claret Jug.

Saturday, July 21

Hammers in the Heart offers to sponsor London Stadium as no one else will…

Interesting to see the recent revelation that the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) has spent nearly £450,000 employing two separate agencies to find a name sponsor for the London Stadium. The result after two seasons is sweet FA, as we say in the corporate sponsorship trade. This suggests the price being asked is much too high. Surely it's better to drop the price and get some income coming in? Or let West Ham find a company? In fact this blog is prepared to make a bid of at least £100 per season (plus a free copy of Goodbye To Boleyn and a cup of tea in Ken's Cafe) to name it the Hammers in the Heart Stadium and save the LLDC £450,000 in agency fees. Would anyone else like to better my bid?

Friday, July 20

Who are the players likely to leave West Ham?

Now that West Ham’s unprecedented £100m spending splurge appears to be over you wonder who will be sold from the squad to try and recoup some of the money before August 9. Jordan Hugill must be a likely candidate to be sold, having cost £8m but never started a game — symbolising all that was wrong with the pre-director of football scattergun approach to signings. He should still be worth at least £5 million and is a proven Championship scorer. You feel sorry for the way the lad has been treated, but he’s unlikely to play under Pellegrini. 

Another person likely to go is Sam Byram, now Fredericks has been signed. He still has admirers from his days at Leeds and could do a job in the Championship. Robert Snodgrass is another signing who hasn’t really been given a chance and would be in demand with lower level clubs, having done well at Aston Villa on loan last season. Josh Cullen will also surely depart to the lower leagues for a similar fee to the £1.5m raised from selling Reece Burke to Hull City.

Bigger names to depart might be Antonio, now Anderson has arrived. Though personally, despite two seasons of injuries, I think Mikhail’s too good a player to let go to the likes of Crystal Palace. Cheikhou Kouyate might also be a candidate to depart if Obiang remains the main holding midfielder. He’s been up and down in form for two seasons and might fetch £15 million as a Senegal international.

Two other candidates for selling would be Andy Carroll and Winston Reid, though with both being out for three months it’s unlikely anyone will come in for them. Ogbonna could raise a fair price but is too good a player to leave, despite the arrival of Diop and Balbuena. Adrian would fetch a decent price too, but I’d prefer to keep both him and Fabianski. Edimilson Fernandes is another squad player who might raise a bit of cash, but really our squad is still quite small by Premier League standards and there’s not a huge amount of room for manoeuvre.

What the club mustn’t do is cash in on Arnautovic and get an easy £50 million from Man United. But these are interesting times and it will be intriguing to see who finally departs.

Sunday, July 15

The General and Prince Felipe arrive

And still the signings keep coming. First it's Fabian Balbeuna from Corinithians, the Paraguayan centre back who is nicknamed The General (which should go down well with the ICF) and has his own goal celebration. Today comes the real statement signing, Felipe Anderson arriving from Lazio for a massive £36 million. It really will be just like watching Brazil and I like the fact that he started out at Santos, Pele's old club. 

I'm almost thinking it's time to stop now seven signings have been made, as we don't want to destabalise the existing squad too much. But credit at last to Sullivan and Gold. The Burnley match protests seem to have shocked them into some big spending — around £100 million so far. Players will need to be shipped out too. But with Fabianski, Fredericks, Diop, Balbuena, Wilshere, Yarmolenko and Anderson it's going to be an exciting season. We might even be too good to go down…

Thursday, July 12

Oh Carroll!

Well, it wouldn't be a proper pre-season without news of another long-term injury for Andy Carroll — and now Winston Reid is out too. Both have failed to fully recover from last season's injuries and require further surgery, ruling both Andy and Winston out for three months. You've got to feel for Carroll, his body just doesn't seem up to the demands of top level football anymore. While Winston is now 30 and you wonder if he's also in decline, though as a defender he should have a good few years left. It's a cruel game for both of them. So that's one pre-season game played and already Lanzini, Carroll and Reid are crocked. At lest we're getting our injury crisis in early. Nurse, the screens.

Wednesday, July 11

Yar Yar Yarmolenko!

Never mind some minor World Cup fixture. West Ham have made another big signing in Andriy Yarmolenko. The 28-year-old Borussia Dortmund winger/striker has cost a rumoured £17.5 million. He's certainly got a good scoring record, being the Ukraine national team's second top all-time top scorer with 35 goals, behind Shevchenko. He also bagged 99 in 228 appearances for Dynamo Kiev. Yarmolenko wasn't an unqualified success at Dortmund, netting three in 18 games, though he did score in the Champions League against Spurs. But he does seem a quality player and added to Fabianski, Fredericks, Diop and Wilshere a much reshaped side is starting to emerge. And if nothing else he should be better than our last Ukrainian, Sergei Rebrov.

Monday, July 9

Hit the road Jack

So the Jack Wilshere signing has happened. He's arriving on a three-year-deal and he's been talking about growing up as a West Ham supporter. Jack will have to be managed carefully, but he does seem to be very much a West Ham type of player and possess the  flair the Irons' fans appreciate. Wilshere's on a free, so despite big wages (hopefully appearance-related) he's surely worth a punt. At 26, he's got a point to prove. Something gives me a feeling this might work out rather well.

Pre-season loss for Pellegrini's men

Pre-season friendlies are much more about fitness than results, but Pellegrini's first game in charge has ended with a 3-2 defeat to FC Winterthur in Switzerland, with Andy Carroll scoring but also missing a penalty and Mark Noble netting the other goal. My pal Fraser watched it on the live feed, which is certainly dedicated in the middle of the World Cup.

Fraser writes: "After all the talk of him wanting to play 4-4-2, he instead opts for 4-5-1. Still that’s an improvement on the thankfully short-lived anti-football era of Moyes, with his preference for no recognised forwards in the line-up.Maybe with Pellegrini wanting to run different starting elevens in each half of his first pre-season friendly today, he didn’t have the available personnel to play two forwards in each half. But it shows we desperately need another striker. With the defensive howlers on view, we need another centre back too. Encouragingly Pellegrini does seem to want to give everyone a chance. So there were 45 minutes each from previously rarely glimpsed players like Snodgrass, Samuelsen, Haksabanovic, Byram, Oxford and Hugill, as well as a bunch of the kids." 

Those kids included Conor Coventry, who has presumably been sent to West Ham. World Cup ‘heroes’ Fabianski, Kouyate and Chicharito were sensibly rested, as were Arnie and Cresswell, with the still recovering Antonio and Reid not risked. Diop and Fredericks both got half a match and apparently even Snodgrass looked sharp — might he still have a future at West Ham under Pellegrini?

Friday, July 6

Wilshere's coming home?

Strong rumours West Ham will be signing Arsenal's Jack Wilshere soon. I've always thought he's a West Ham-type player and indeed he comes from a family of West Ham supporters in Hitchin. On the other hand, he'd be an old-style West Ham signing, a Harry Redknapp-stye gamble as Arsenal are getting rid of him because of his poor injury record. Wilshere looked like he'd be the future of both Arsenal and England at one point. 

To be more positive, he did make 38 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal last season and on a free transfer, even at £100k a week, he'd prove a bargain if he kept fit. With Lanzini out for most of the season, Wilshere looks a natural for the playmaker's role and his family connections should ensure he plays for the shirt. A younger option would be Aston Villa's Grealish, who might cost £30m, but it doesn't seem WHU are in that league yet. 

Yes there are still fitness doubts, but emotionally Jack Wilshere seems a good fit for West Ham — I'd look forward to seeing him at the London Stadium. And he did once open the new art block at my daughters' primary school, so he seems to be quite a decent bloke too.

Wednesday, July 4

The World Cup statue's staying home

Great news from last night's meeting of Newham Council. The World Cup statue's staying home. Bike from Boleyn comment: "We're so thrilled to say that today Newham Council made the decision to save our statue. Our beloved statue known to many as the 'Bobby Moore statue ', the 'Champions statue ' or the 'World Cup statue' will be staying put in the heart of the Boleyn community, where it belongs. Thank you to everyone involved in making it happen. We're so proud, grateful and can't wait to continue starting our rides at this well-loved landmark. Hip-hip-hooray! "

Tuesday, July 3

England's dreaming

As a West Ham fan it's very difficult to feel optimistic about any football match and in particular an assured march to the World Cup Final. As W B Yeats, the bloke who started all those wine bars, might put it, "the centre forward fails to hold, things fall apart…" I didn't get where I am today by feeling optimistic. And we'll never win the World Cup unless we play three Hammers.

 PS I never doubted you for a moment, Captain Southgate!