January had a big impact on West Ham’s season


Things can look very different after a month. With six wins from seven games in December, there was plenty of optimism for West Ham United at the beginning of January. However, an unsettling Marko Arnautovic transfer saga, otherwise uneventful transfer window, FA Cup exit at the hands of AFC Wimbledon and a 3-0 thrashing from Wolverhampton Wanderers have changed the mood in East London.

Many supporters were hoping for a cup run and a chase for European football to add excitement to the end of this campaign. It is being said by many that the second half will be pretty boring for the Hammers though, stating the season is already in danger of fizzling out. It can be difficult for matches to maintain their level of importance unless there is a relegation battle or chase for the top places, it’s a problem which the Hammers have faced in the past and it can be argued will face again this time around.

January begun with Samir Nasri being brought in for free after his doping ban had ended. Despite initial concerns after the considerable length of time he’d spent out of the game there were promising early signs once he got onto the pitch. He’d done well on his debut against Birmingham City in the FA Cup before playing an instrumental role in the victory against his former employers Arsenal. He’s now injured though.

Then there was the Arnautovic drama. The Austrian was linked with a move to China, with his brother adding to the rumours by claiming that West Ham should let him leave. After waving the fans goodbye when taken off against Arsenal, then missing the following games against AFC Bournemouth and AFC Wimbledon it was announced that he’d signed an improved contract to keep him at the club. The contract was announced via a video which was released just after the club’s FA Cup exit, with the forward saying he was “back”. It’s impossible to tell whether his shenanigans were a contributing factor to the club’s recent form but the general feeling is that he’s unsettled those around him. The Wolves game did little to prove otherwise.

With all the talks of exits hanging over the club, there had also been a mention of players who were potentially coming to the London Stadium. Names such as Maxi Gomez have been thrown into the mix and there was mention of potentially bringing someone in on loan from Chelsea. However, when the transfer window ended there were no further recruits aside from Nasri, as Gomez remained at Celta Vigo. There was clear disappointment from many West Ham supporters at the news (or lack of it) as they felt it was an opportunity missed.

The only point gained outside of the win against the Gunners was in a 2-2 draw against Brihgton & Hove Albion. However, as frustrating as January was, it can be argued that this it’s not season ending. The three disappointing results came in the space of 10 days and with the transfer window now closed everyone can get on with the football rather than speculating over moves for now. The FA Cup exit is certainly a big blow, especially considering who is left in the competition this year and it hasn’t helped that two losses against opposition around the Hammers came either side of that shock exit.

However, February brings matches against Crystal Palace, Fulham and Newcastle United. These are all games which West Ham will feel they should be winning and if they do so it could put the men in claret and blue back in with a chance of taking seventh in the league. February –like any other month for a Premier League club- won’t be simple though; the Hammers host Liverpool tomorrow evening and will also face Manchester City. Get wins on the board and some excitement could return to the London Stadium. After all, things can look very different after a month.


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Carabao Cup helping to bring feel-good factor to the London Stadium

London Stadium

Many in England scoff at the Carabao Cup. A competition sponsored by an energy drink which is hardly ever actually seen in shops, with a blooper in pretty much every draw, the competition is a laughing stock to some. It’s one of them things in football where you want to win it if you’re in the competition, but most people aren’t that fussed when they’re knocked out of the ‘Mickey Mouse Cup’.

West Ham are still in the cup and having not won silverware for years they would absolutely love to win it. Their manager would too, as Manuel Pellegrini has openly expressed his desire to do well in the competition which he won twice during his time with Manchester City. However, this year the Carabao Cup has arguably meant more than silverware for the Hammers, as it has provided a feel good factor at the London Stadium which surely played its part in the positive recent results.

Yes, the two games so far have been against AFC Wimbledon and Macclesfield Town, from League One and League Two respectively, but that doesn’t matter. This competition has undoubtedly helped the Hammers settle into a season which has seen plenty of change regarding both the playing and managerial staff.

The match away at Kingsmeadow saw West Ham pick up their first competitive victory of the season with a 3-1 win. It wasn’t the greatest performance but it afforded Pellegrini a sigh of relief which the league hadn’t provided him by that point. Having struggled against Arsenal on his debut, Issa Diop put in a commendable performance, scoring a brilliant goal from range. Chicharito was handed a rare moment of joy as his shot in the dying moments crept into the net.

Having seen form pick up after that result, with a win against Everton and draw at home to Chelsea in the league, the Macclesfield match was an opportunity to keep the feel-good factor at the London Stadium. That was certainly achieved. After enduring tough starts to life in East London Ryan Fredericks and Lucas Perez both got their first goals in claret and blue. Robert Snodgrass continued the rejuvenation of his West Ham career as he got his first ever West Ham goals (as well as two assists).

It was also a brilliant evening for the academy: Grady Diangana made his debut, scored two goals and secured the man of the match award, Declan Rice ran the midfield when he came on for the injured Carlos Sanchez, Conor Coventry looked comfortable in the middle of the park when he came on for his debut and Joe Powell, another debutant, got two assists. Also, let’s be honest, it’s not very often we’ll see West Ham win 8-0, even if it is against the team sitting at the bottom of League Two.

As the draw for the next round approaches following today’s 3-1 win against Manchester United, West Ham’s supporters should watch on with excitement. It may not have given the club any glamour matches so far, but the Carabao Cup has undoubtedly contributed to the positivity that currently surrounds the London Stadium. Especially following the team’s upturn in form, this competition offers the Hammers a chance to inject further excitement into their season, not to mention a chance of silverware and a place in the Europa League. That’s not something to be laughed at.


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Issa Diop to kick on after Carabao Cup goal

Many people thought of Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup second round tie against AFC Wimbledon as a bit of a nothing game. However, it could be a match which has significance in Issa Diop’s West Ham career. The 21-year-old centre back, signed from Toulouse for a short-lived club record fee of £25 million had struggled before this match and looked in need of a pick up.

Following that summer transfer, he didn’t get on the pitch against Liverpool or AFC Bournemouth. He then made his debut for the club against Arsenal, putting in a relatively shaky performance which saw him score a calamitous own goal in the 3-1 loss.

On the back of that defeat, when his side conceded after just two minutes against AFC Wimbledon –as Joe Pigott got away from Diop’s centre back Angelo Ogbonna to head home- he must have had a sinking feeling. However, it was the Frenchman who got West Ham back in the game. In the 63rd minute Felipe Anderson played the ball to him. Diop took a touch out of his feet, confident strode up to the ball and smashed it into the bottom corner from outside the box.

The smile on his face following the strike told a story of its own. He put his hands together to form a triangle (his trademark celebration) and the Frenchman’s face lit up with glee as he was mobbed by his team mates. To get his side back into the game with a moment which highlighted his technical ability will have been a big confidence boost for the centre back.

Strikes from Ogbonna and Chicharito secured the win for the Hammers, but it was Diop’s performance which stood out – even without the goal. His stats from the match show just how dominant he was: 100% tackles won, 92% pass completion, seven aerial duels won and six clearances completed. It may have been against League One opposition, but this was a defensive master class.

Now, with this performance under his belt he has the perfect opportunity to kick on in West Ham’s claret and blue. Diop has already impressed during his career, captaining Toulouse and representing his country at Under 21 level. The Premier League may be a step up from this, but he has certainly got the quality to face off with the best in the league, with the confidence from that strike likely to help bring that out of him.

If selected by Manuel Pellegrini, which is likely, his next test will be against Wolverhampton Wanderers. While the Midlands side and their Portuguese contingent have only managed two points so far, they are still a dangerous outfit. However, with Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United to follow, it is important the Hammers pick up some points in this match. Facing off against the likes of Raul Jimenez and dealing with Ruben Neves’ deliveries, West Ham’s centre backs are going to be vital if the team are to be victorious.

A positive performance and result against Wolves, following the Wimbledon match, should lead to Diop’s false start being forgotten about by many. West Ham have a supremely talented player on their hands in the form of Issa Diop, now is the moment he will kick on and show it.


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West Ham drawn against AFC Wimbledon in the Carabao Cup

West Ham have been drawn against AFC Wimbledon in the Carabao Cup second round this evening. The tie which will take place at Kingsmeadow is set to be played the week commencing August 27th.

The Dons, who were ball number two are unbeaten in League One this season. They defeated Fleetwood Town 1-0 in their opener before drawing 0-0 with Coventry City. They overcame Portsmouth 2-1 to progress to the second round, thanks to Joe Pigott’s strike and an 88th minute own goal from Anton Walkes. Since reforming in 2002 -after Wimbledon FC had been relocated to Milton Keynes and became MK Dons- AFC Wimbledon have never played against the Hammers. Having regained their place in the Football League in 2011, the Dons had not progressed past the first round before this campaign.

This match could be seen as an opportunity for West Ham to give some talented youngsters, such as Josh Cullen, Nathan Holland and Xande Silva some game time. It is also a chance to continue acclimatising the club’s summer signings to their new surroundings, with the likes of Issa Diop and Lucas Perez not having played any competitive minutes for the Hammers at the time of writing. Manuel Pellegrini will be keen to progress past this round in pursuit of West Ham’s first major trophy since 1980.

Last season’s Carabao Cup campaign may not have brought a trophy, but it was eventful for the Hammers. They comfortably navigated their way past Cheltenham Town and Bolton Wanderers, winning 2-0 and 3-0 respectively. They then met Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley in the fourth round in what turned out to be one of the club’s best and most exciting matches of the season.

With 38 minutes on the clock against Spurs, West Ham found themselves 2-0 down following strikes from Moussa Sissoko and Dele Alli. However, a brace from Andre Ayew, which was completed on the hour mark, got West Ham right back into the tie. Ten minutes after the equaliser, Italian centre back Angelo Ogbonna rose above Son Heung-min, Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld to head Manuel Lanzini’s corner ball past Michel Vorm. The Hammers managed to defend their lead, setting up a quarter final tie away against Arsenal.

However, David Moyes –who had taken over from Slaven Bilic- decided to rest key players against the Gunners. Unlike his predecessor Bilic, the Scotsman’s sole aim was the Premier League. This was clear to see, as the inform Marko Arnautovic was given just seven minutes at the end of the tie. It turned out to be an anticlimactic finish to the club’s Carabao Cup campaign, as a scrappy Danny Welbeck goal in the 42nd minute secured Arsenal’s progression to the semi final from what was a very tame affair.

The Hammers have never won the League Cup before in their history, coming second place twice. However, their manager Pellegrini has been successful in the competition. The Chilean tactician won the tournament in two of his three campaigns with current Premier League champions Manchester City.

Pellegrini will be hoping he can continue his impressive record in the competition with a win against AFC Wimbledon.

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