Thursday, August 30

Can Anderson be the new Payet?

Saturday's game at Arsenal was my first live match of the season and despite the defeat the form of Felipe Anderson was hugely encouraging. He was the best player on the pitch and whenever he had the ball West Ham looked like causing problems. Yes, at times he goes down too easily and appeals for fouls that he won't get in the English game. But he also showed an easy mastery of the ball and some effortless flicks to gain space. 

Anderson looked more involved playing as a number ten just behind Arnie and made the goal with his give and go. In the second half he made three fantastic breaks from his own half, crossing for Arnie to fire straight at the 'keeper and again crossing for Perez to shoot wastefully wide. Felipe also made a great dribble across the box firing a shot at Cech that could easily have rebounded to a West Ham striker. 

He'll need to add goals to his game to justify his £36m price tag, but it's a joy to be watching a Brazilian in our side and you sense that he could possibly be the successor to Dimitri Payet (remember him anyone?) as the sort of special player West Ham fans love to watch.

Wednesday, August 29

Diop's drive helps see off the Dons

Wimbledon 1 West Ham 3 (Carabao Cup)

West Ham's season seemed to getting even worse when Pigott powered a header past Adrian after 75 seconds. The Hammers were helped by the fact that Wimbledon's McDonald was sent off after 18 minutes, though they still struggled to break down a determined home side. 

We have Mystic Matt to thank for the equaliser after 63 minutes, reports Lisa. Just as Matt declared, "don't give it to Diop, he's just going to smash it over!" the centre back fired home a great low drive. A fine response from Diop to his own goal at Arsenal, and the giant centre back was unlucky to hit the bar a few minutes later. The Hammers won it with Ogbonna's simple finish from a Snoddy corner and then Hernandez rounded the keeper in added time to make it 3-1.

It was encouraging to see Pellegrini take the Carabao Cup seriously. He didn't hesitate in bringing on Anderson at half-time when it looked like we might be going out. The game also showed how strong the West Ham squad is, with the B line-up full of established players. Good to see Yarmolenko and Perez complete near-full games. It was a struggle, but a welcome win and another chance for the new squad to get used to playing together. While the prospect of a Cup Final breakfast round at Nigel's house in Kew remains on.

Saturday, August 25

Poor finishing costs Hammers result at Emirates

Arsenal 3 West Ham 1

We really should have got something from this. I’m up among the Gooners for this, sitting opposite the West Ham fans in the Library. 

Ramsey has an early header correctly disallowed for the Gunners. But West Ham, wearing the new blue and yellow away kit, play pretty well in the first half, looking speedy on the break through Masuaku, Antonio, Fredericks and the excellent Anderson. Sanchez has come into midfield for the injured Noble and does the simple things well in front of the back four.

The home fans become frustrated with Arsenal’s tactic of Cech playing the ball short to his centre backs, both rapidly pressed by the Hammers forward line. After Arnie hits the side netting following a fine through ball from Snodgrass and Antonio shoots straight at Cech, the Hammers take the lead on 25 minutes. Anderson plays a one two with Arnautovic, leaving the Austrian plenty of time to slot into the corner of the net.

“How shit must you be, we’re winning away!” chant the away fans. The Irons don’t keep the lead for long enough though. Five minutes later Bellerin is given space to cross and the ball flicks off Iwobi to Monreal who finishes. Before the break West Ham have more chances with Arnie having an effort disallowed for offside and then Snodgrass fluffing a one-on-one as Wes Ham walk through the home defence.

Lacazette comes on for the Gunners and makes a difference. Fabianski has to make a couple of fine saves, most notably from Mustafi's header. Anderson's shot ricochets off Cech and Arnie injures himself as he fails to connect properly after a great Anderson break and cross. Hernandez replaces him as Pellegrini pops up in the technical area looking like Peter Capaldi trying to apply a sonic screwdriver to Arnie’s injured knee. But on 70 minutes the Gunners score a rather fortuitous second as Diop's sliced clearance causes confusion in the box and Lacazette’s chip into the box is luckily deflected in off Diop’s body.

Surely WHU can still grab an equaliser? The worst miss is when more good work from Anderson sees sub Perez shoot across the Arsenal goal. Crosses still come into the Arsenal box in added time, only for the Gunners to break and Welbeck to have an unacceptable amount of time and space to score, after Masuaku allows a cross to come in too easily.

It’s a flattering score for the Gunners. But there were signs here that this group of players could develop into a decent team, while Anderson looks like he will be a delight to watch. The defence needs to improve and the partnership of Balbuena and Diop is a work in progress, while Masuaku gets exposed in a back four. There might be a case for playing five at the back to shore things up, as with Anderson we now have a player who can break at speed. We just need to learn how to finish. A bad result, but a better performance.

PLAYER RATINGS: Fabianski 7: Fredericks 6, Diop 5, Balbuena 6, Masuaku 5; Snodgrass 5 (Yarmolenko 5), Sanchez 6, Wilshere 5, Anderson 8, Antonio 6 (Perez 5); Arnautovic 7 (Hernandez 5).

Friday, August 24

Repka banged up

And I always thought Tomas Repka would become a Doctor of Philosophy after hanging up his boots. But no, in the Czech Republic the former Hammer has been sentenced to six months in jail for posting fake escort adverts in the name of his former wife Vlad'ka Erbova. He is now appealing. 

Repka's current partner, TV star Katerina Kristelova was fined £1750 for her role in the crime. Tomas was in trouble in 2015 for not paying full child maintenance and was sentenced to 180 hours of community service. He's also been fined for drink-driving. Strange, as he seemed such a level-headed player.

Though thinking of Repka does remind me that had Tomas not returned to Sparta Prague and been replaced by Lionel Scaloni, West Ham might have won the 2006 FA Cup. Repka would surely have put both ball and man into touch rather than let Steven Gerard get anywhere near it.

It's not been a good week for ex-West Ham stars. I just hope that Christian Dailly is leading a respectable life so that he can remain the love of my life.

Thursday, August 23

Where's the money gone? Carlton Cole is bankrupt

News from the High Court that one Carlton Cole has been declared bankrupt, despite earning £30,000 a week at the peak of his 16-year career. Clearly his creditors no longer believe in Carlton Cole and there's very little Gold (Gold!) in his portfolio. CC seems to blame it all on taking bad advice. The Daily Mirror reports that Carlton is now, "mentoring young people and footballers about the pitfalls of life and money." A subject with which it seems he's very familiar. 

Tuesday, August 21

Defensive errors see Cherries pick off Hammers

West Ham 1 Bournemouth 2

Thanks to Euston being closed and the consequent chaotic railway timetables we're still in Cockermouth for his fixture, wandering lonely as a cloud around Wordsworth's childhood home. The team news reveals that Pellegrini had shown his ruthless side, axing Antonio, Fredericks and Rice from both the side and the bench. Unexpectedly Robert Snodgrass gets his first start for a season.

The first half has me dreaming of intimations of immortality as the Hammers go into the lead through Arnie's penalty. Hernandez has been tripped after latching on to Anderson's fine through ball. But even in the first half there are warning signs with Fabianski having to pull off a couple of sharp saves.

The news worsens as we wander the garden listening to the "beauteous stream" of Wordsworth's childhood. The game turns on Calum Wilson's individual goal, where he beats seemingly the entire West Ham defence. The midfield is slow, Balbuena makes an ineffective challenge as does Zabaleta, with Ogbonna out of position and Fabianski letting the strike go through him. More defensive calamity follows, with Ogbonna giving away afee kick and then failing to look at the ball as Cook outjumps him to head home. New players, but the same frailties as last season.

Still, it's not as if anyone has travelled 12,000 miles as a Prelude to disaster. Well, apart from Matt's brother Adam that is. "Reasonable first half, terrible second" texts Nigel, while Michael reveals, "it was dire…" Mystic Matt writes: " It was JUST like watching West Ham and not in a good way. We played well for 20 minutes in the first half and were shocking in the second with two incredibly soft goals." At least Fraser hasn't organised a pitch invasion, though he must have been tempted.

You have to give some credit to Eddie Howe (who looks a nice young man, says Nigel's mum) and Bournemouth who have quietly established themselves in the Premier League and benefit from the continuity West Ham lack. 

Pellegrini is right to say that some home fans shouldn't be leaving ten minutes before the end. Manuel is still testing his squad, but more changes will have to be made. Can Wilshere and Noble play together in midfield? There's a strong case for bringing in Obiang or Sanchez in midfield and Diop at the back, while Yarmolenko, not yet fully fit, surely has to start soon. Arsenal away isn't an optimistic venue, but if the squad really has improved then we must get something at the Emirates.

Tuesday, August 14

Opening day disaster at Anfield

Liverpool 4 West Ham 0

Luckily I was up on Castle Crag in the Lake District whole this was happening. There seems to be a new PL rule that WHU have to lose the opening game 4-0 as it’s happened two seasons running. It was always going to be a difficult game but Robertson was given a worrying amount of space to cross for Salah’s opener. The Irons’ defence went to sleep for the second as the excellent Milner chased a lost cause and crossed for Mane to score just before half-time. The third was offside but Keita again found too much space while poor marking gifted Sturridge the fourth from a corner. All we could muster was an Arnie effort dragged wide and a Balbuena header straight at Alisson.

Match of the Day highlighted the worrying gaps between West Ham’s defence and midfield and you wonder if Noble and Wilshere can be mobile enough at this level. Perhaps there is a case for bringing in Obiang or Sanchez. It’s also strange that Pellegrini chose to leave out big money signings Diop and Yarmolenko. Early days yet but a reaction is needed against Bournemouth.

Friday, August 10

Ten men in

So it’s ten men in now West Ham have signed Lucas Prez and defensive midfielder Carlos Sanchez. The Colombian is micknamed The Rock and comes from the rainiest city in the world. Not a lot of people know that. He’s 32 and played in a relegated Aston Villa side but has had a long career so let’s hope Pellegrini has done his homework. Threre’s a real South American feel to our squad now. Just hope WHU haven’t signed too many players as it’s going to be virtually a new team. Can’t knock our renewed sense of ambition though.

Wednesday, August 8

Hugill out, Perez in?

Jordan Hugill has left for a season-long loan at Middlesbrough as the Hammers move closer to signing Arsenal's Lucas Perez. At around £5 million Perez is a decent price considering he cost Arsenal £17 million from Deportivo two seasons ago (he was back on loan at Deportivo last season). He wouldn't be a jaw-dropping signing, but Perez would provide competition for Arnautovic and Hernandez. My Gooner pal says that Perez has a great shot when given the service, although he doesn't do a lot outside the box. So we shall see.

Meanwhile Jordan Hugill has to be one of the most bizarre signings in West Ham's history and a costly punt by David Sullivan. It seems Moyes didn't want him and now Pellegrini doesn't either. He's only been given three very short appearances as a sub and for a player who cost £8 million he just hasn't been given a chance. At least Jordan might get on the pitch under Tony Pulis and we'll have an idea whether he's any good or not. It would be nice to see Hugill do well at his hometown club and present the club with a dilemma for next season. So it's one day left of the transfer window and most of West Ham's business done, which is unusual to say the least.

Sunday, August 5

West Ham preview in the Observer

My West Ham preview can be found in today's Observer, and, strangely, it's almost optimistic. I've predicted we'll finish eighth, boosted by our new signings. Sure a few actual games will soon cure me of this though… Click on the link to read.

Friday, August 3

Silva lining

Young forward and Portugeezer Xande Silva has joined West Ham for £1.8 million from Vitoria de Guimaeres. It's our eighth signing of the summer, albeit a fairly minor one. Zande's only 21 and has starred for the Portugal under-20 side so is clearly one for the future. He'll be more on an addition to West ham's Under-23 side initially, but if he develops he should provide some depth to WHU's forward options. While Silva's signing could possibly mean the departure of Jordan Hugill. 

Having a new director of football in Mario Husillos has made a remarkable difference. The club is no longer haggling at the last minute and seeing deals like Carvalho fail to materialise. We've had eight signings get over the line in one summer. Quite remarkable, as the late David Coleman might have put it.

Thursday, August 2

Farewell Cheikhou Kouyate

So Cheikhou Kouyate has finally gone to Crystal Palace for an undisclosed fee, which is probably around £11 million. He's been a pretty good servant to West Ham over his four seasons, although he never quite became the player he could have been. He started off really well after joining in 2014-15 with the side fourth at Christmas. But then he faded with the rest of Big Sam's team. He played well during the final season at Upton Park in 2015-16 when the whole side was lifted by Payet. But like so many players he was affected by the move to the London Stadium and had a mixed couple of seasons. 

There were highlights such as a superb headed goal against Chelsea in the Carling Cup in 2016-17 and a vital winner against Swansea in a relegation six-pointer. He gave a storming performance in the 3-0 win against Southampton last season, setting up Mario's opener with a surging run. Yet in other games he was mediocre and struggled for consistency. But to be fair he generally put in a shift and played well as an emergency centre back when called upon. He scored 12 goals in 129 WHU appearances and was less injury-prone than a lot of our midfielders. He'll also be in the record books for scoring West Ham's first goal at the London Stadium against Domzale in the Europa League.

Though I'm still not sure why he played four seasons with a bandage on his wrist — it must be the longest-lasting minor injury in football. Palace will be getting a decent Premier League player who probably needs a new challenge — and a good coach like Roy Hodgson may well improve him.

Free season ticket for selling Blowing Bubbles!

Get a season ticket for FREE. Blowing Bubbles Magazine wants passionate and vocal West Ham fans to help sell the fanzine this season. Editor David Blackmore and his selling team can be found near Stratford tube and international stations before matchdays but are looking to expand their team to position sellers at locations around the London Stadium.

David says: "We're looking for West Ham fans who aren't afraid of making themselves heard, enjoy the banter with our fans and want to earn enough money to buy a season ticket next season. We sell for just under two hours before home matches and always pack up in good time to get to the ground before kick off. Our readers are a tremendously loyal bunch and make the experience enjoyable.

"But we are aware with so many more West Ham fans going to games compared to Upton Park and more ways of getting to the stadium, we need more people in different locations to ensure we are reaching more people."

Anyone interested is urged to email to register their interest.

Wednesday, August 1

E-i-adio, we've won the (Betway) Cup!

West Ham have won their first trophy of the season, the most prestigious piece of silverware in world football, the Betway Cup. We beat Mainz 7-6 on penalties. Issa Diop scored the last penalty with Mainz then firing over, while Tony Martinez scored our goal from a Snodgrass (remember him?) cross in the 1-1 draw. While Adrian both scored and saved a penalty in the shoot-out, before lifting the trophy. I remember seeing us lose the Betway Cup to Juventus two seasons ago and my daughter remarking that West Ham can't even win their own cup. Well, we can now. Wonder if 2018 will now go up alongside 1964, 1965, 1975 and 1980 on the Betway Stand?