West Ham internal fighting, playing poorly and they could have zero points by Halloween

At the end of last season which of course didn’t end until July there seemed to finally be a light at the end of the tunnel for West Ham. A team who looked one of the favourites to be relegated picked up 12 points in their last six games and easily survived relegation. One of those matches was beating Champions League hunting Chelsea, West Ham were for real and manager David Moyes had found the tactic to connect the players, or had he?

Was the back end of last season simply a group of players, us against the world, and us against dropping down to the Championship? Did the players unite together and show what they are capable of only to not get relegated? If so West Ham have more problems than they initially thought. That kind of team spirit usually leads to the sacking of the manager six months later and everything slowly falling apart. Players can’t win every game, granted, but there needs to be the want to play 100% for the team, throw in consistency and you a decent side.

Last season West Ham had dreams of being Wolves or Sheffield United but they played much like bottom club Norwich for the majority of the season. But those final few games did suggest that the team had turned a corner and yet they went and lost their first game of the season.

A 2-0 loss at home v Newcastle is not good, but of course it isn’t the end of the world. But it was the way the team played. It was as if this game was number 60 in a long hard season and not the Hammers first. Everything seemed off even Moyes final team selection. Leaving Felipe Anderson on the bench just seemed odd. The players played without heart in a game that on paper they could have won. There was nothing here, it reminded one of their first game of the season last August, against Manchester City they put in a dire toothless display. But then again this was Manchester City. But still he performance was a foreshadow of how the majority of their season would end up.

Then there is the in fighting. Thankfully this isn’t with Moyes, he’s seen as the good guy and the players are with him, though you would be forgiven for thinking that in the Newcastle game. This is all down to ownership,David Sullivan and David Gold need to go according to West Ham fans, enough is enough. Wasted money, too much bad recruitment and of course THAT stadium move, the fans have had enough. It’s hard to blame them, change is needed and fresh owners that can pounce on ideas and inject cash into the team would be a welcome change.

Possibly the final straw for the players, especially captain Mark Noble was when the board decided to sell Grady Diangana. He tweeted his disapproval with “As captain of this football club I’m gutted, angry and sad that Grady has left, great kid with a great future!!!!!” Diangana was sold to Premier League rivals West Bromwich Albion for just £18m which is a steal if as Noble suggested he goes on to have a great future. West Ham will counter that with the pandemic they needed to raise some money.

As for Noble most football media have said he was wrong to make his feelings public, but at the same time Noble isn’t stupid and did this to highlight the fact that Sullivan and Gold need to go. At the same time all of this came on eve of their Premier League game with Newcastle and with such a poor display Noble was made the scapegoat. But Noble would have told his teammates of his feelings behind the scenes anyway.

Despite a poor league performance West Ham did beat Charlton in the Carabao Cup which was a big boost for the club in their 3-0 win. It was telling that Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko who played with pace on the flanks both started, and yet in the league match remained on the bench.

Maybe there is hope for the side to bounce back quick, but they have a very tough schedule up until October 31st. Their next league game is away to Arsenal who have an abundance of confidence right now and that will be the Gunners first home game of the season. Then they will return home to play Wolves which will be a tricky game and Wolves controlled the last match played at London Stadium near the end of last season.

Leicester is up next and that is at King Power Stadium and with the way the Foxes have started this season they look just as good as last. Then it’s time for more London rivals as they take on Tottenham away from home, by then Jose Mourinho’s side could be in need of points themselves after starting the campaign with a loss.

What follows is a double whammy. Facing the last two Premier League champions. It’s Manchester City at home first up, in a fixture that ended 5-0 to City last season. And then on Halloween it could be a right horror story when the club face the champions Liverpool at Anfield.

It’s very possible that David Moyes team could be looking for their first point as we enter November. At the same time the Hammers have proven to step up in the face of tough fixtures before just look to last Christmas as evidence for that, and then again the last few games of last season. There is that burning desire in the team that somehow lasts, and that is to prove people wrong in the heat of it, but fail against teams in which they are expected to beat.

This will be an interesting few weeks then and will show the real character of the club. David Moyes winning percentage for them simply isn’t good enough though and the writing may start to get written on the wall as early as November. For West Ham it’s time to step up once more.

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Could West Ham have finished in a Europa League place without long term injuries?


West Ham have been safe for a long time, that is the positive news the bad news is that it doesn’t feel like the club have moved on and gone onto the next level. They are set to finish the season in 11th place, though if they can beat Watford away in their last game of the season they would squeeze into the top 10 and finish the season with 52 points. Last season the Hammers finished on 42 points so there has been a significant improvement.

However with the quality that the team possess and a world class stadium to go with it and a successful manager in Manuel Pellegrini perhaps we were expecting more. But the one noticeable problem for the club has been the amount of injuries that they have had to endure. And we are not talking about players missing one of two games or even a few weeks, but chunks of the season which must have greatly affected the team.

Jack Wilshire has only just returned from an injury that he picked up in September and Andy Carroll keeps coming back in fits and bursts but has hardly played this season. But even before the season started there were problems. Manuel Lanzini got injured for Argentina in last summers World Cup- his return date, last month. The case of the highly rated Andriy Yarmolenko is another head scratcher. Injured early on his West Ham career, he wasn’t expected back until March, now he won’t take any part in the season, Winston Reid has been another casualty of the season.

The clubs training facilities at Chadwell Heath have been cited as a problem in recent years but they have another two training grounds and the first team rarely train there although it has been known. Then there is the medical staff- are they up to the job? The probability is that they are indeed and that the clubs injury list is simply down to being unlucky. But then again why does it seem that the Hammers keep missing key players that can make all the difference for long periods of time?

Certainly deciding to bring in Wilshire and Carroll made no sense in the light that these were two injury prone players well before they came to West Ham- to end up with one was a surprise, but both seems odd. Of course on their day and when fit they can be a danger for any opposition team but they simply do not get enough games to play.

One can only wonder if West Ham with their best 11 playing regularly could have challenged for more this season? Perhaps at least 7th and a final Europa League spot in England and a deep run in a cup competition would have been welcome for a side who haven’t won a major trophy since 1980.

Every club gets injuries it is part and parcel of the game, but West Ham need to address why their injuries are taking a season and not a few weeks to mend, otherwise the club no matter who they bring in will be able to go forward.


Who will replace Andriy Yarmolenko?

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As Andriy Yarmolenko was stretchered off against Tottenham Hotspur, it was quickly apparent that he would be out for a while. However, it will have surprised many to find that it will be around six months until he’s back on the pitch due to a torn Achilles tendon. The injury came at the most unfortunate of times, as the Ukrainian had gained some momentum following a tough start to life in East London.

With that game ending 1-0 to Spurs, it was the second match in a row in which West Ham failed to score. Therefore, whoever does replace him on the right wing will have to get off to a good start and help top scorer Marko Arnautovic out in front of goal. Manuel Pellegrini has favoured the 4-3-3 which saw his side’s initial upturn in form so will likely be looking to put a direct replacement into the side so he can stick with this system, meaning he’ll have a dilemma as to who he assigns the role.

The most obvious choice in the minds of many would be Michail Antonio. The former Hammer of the Year even started the season on the right flank ahead of Yarmolenko. However, it is his poor performances which allowed the Ukrainian to get himself into the starting line up. So far this season Antonio has been underwhelming, as he has been wasteful with the ball at his feet and hasn’t looked as powerful as in the past. Neither Manuel Pellegrini and West Ham’s supporters seem to be overly impressed with the Englishman at the moment, so he will have to improve upon his showings so far this campaign if he is to fill the spot for such an extended period of time.

Another option is Robert Snodgrass. Having struggled in the early stages of his West Ham career the Scotsman is very much in Pellegrini’s plans. Snodgrass has been played on the right previously this season, though it seems as though the manager sees him as a central midfielder, with his last two starts coming in the midfield three. He hasn’t been able to completely hold down a place in the starting XI yet, so a move back to the right flank could be an option for the man who Pellegrini has openly shown he is a big fan of.

Academy graduate Grady Diangana is the last option. Prior to the 8-0 win against Macclesfield Town there will have been many a West Ham fan who didn’t even know who he is. However, his two goals and eye catching performance earned plenty of plaudits and the attention of his manager. So much so that when Yarmolenko was injured, it was the 20-year-old who was picked to come off the bench for the remaining 51 minutes- even with Antonio on the bench. His performance did his chances of getting more first team opportunities no harm, as he looked comfortable against a higher level of opposition than he is used to. His confidence allowed his technical ability to shine through and he arguably should have been awarded a penalty after a challenge from Harry Winks. If Pellegrini does opt to put Diangana in it would be a real showing of faith in the youngster, though after the two games he’s played many would say he deserves the chance.

Whoever he does pick will need to have a big game on Saturday against a Leicester side who will be determined to get a result following two losses in a row. They will also be directly facing Ben Chilwell, a man whose stock has risen considerably in recent times resulting in his first ever England caps. It will be a test for whoever is chosen, but for three men who have spent time on the bench recently it’s the perfect opportunity to show the manager they deserve to take the new slot in the team.


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West Ham looking to continue their unbeaten run


Having lost their first four league games, West Ham are now on a four match unbeaten run. This is impressive in itself, but factor in that two of those results came during visits from Chelsea and Manchester United and it becomes an even more notable achievement. More importantly though, this run has given the Hammers some much needed stability following that turbulent start to the campaign.

There had been worries after those early season defeats that the Hammers could be going into Friday night’s match against Brighton & Hove Albion with no points. However, following wins against Everton and Manchester United as well as the draw against Chelsea, they go into the fixture with seven points and have climbed to 14th in the league- one place above their upcoming opponents.

Improvements have been visible all over the pitch as new signings begin to settle into the club. Andriy Yarmolenko has grown into an integral figure in the side having not started any of the first four league matches, while Felipe Anderson has truly kicked on, scoring his first goal for the club on the weekend. Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena have built a trustworthy partnership at centre back. Lukasz Fabianski has been a consistent performer for the club from the start, even when those around him haven’t been. While Lucas Perez and Ryan Fredericks both opened their accounts for the club in the Carabao Cup after their early struggles. Jack Wilshere and Carlos Sanchez have both picked up injuries, but all the other signings look as though they will have a part to play in the coming weeks.

All of this has helped to ease the pressure which had begun to build on Manuel Pellegrini. There had been questions over the Chilean’s tactics and recruitment after the stalling start to his first season in the West Ham hot seat. However, an inspired tactical change has ended that talk. Since he moved to the three-man midfield –usually fielding Declan Rice, Mark Noble and Pedro Obiang- the Hammers have been much more balanced, with the trio quickly becoming the base for the team’s upturn in form.

If there is one thing this whole episode has shown, it’s that people shouldn’t get too carried away in either a positive or negative sense. Losing four games at the beginning of the season doesn’t mean you’ll go down; equally, going undefeated in the next four in all competitions doesn’t mean you’ll be conquering Europe next season. One thing that West Ham have lacked since moving to the London Stadium is consistency and any real sense of normality. There have been numerous protests, a failed attempt at a European run, relegation battles and everything in between in the short time the club have spent there.

It is great to see the focus returning to what is happening on the pitch rather than having attention turning towards the stands. This run should act as the launch pad for the club to excel this season. There has been investment in talented players, managerial staff and people working behind the scenes, so it is brilliant to see this taking its effect. Tonight’s encounter at the Amex is a brilliant opportunity to keep the positive run going.


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Game of the Weekend: Hammers Batter the Toffees


Matchweek 5 was a forward’s feast as the English Premier League roared back into action following the end of the first international break. Defending proved too complex a task for back lines around England, with the likes of Leicester, Everton, Cardiff, and Fulham all conceding 3 or more.

My match of the weekend though comes brought to you courtesy of the Hammers of East London who beat Everton 3-1 away at Goodison Park. Highlighting both midfield effort and clinical finishing, West Ham win their first win and points of the season, while earning likely no one other than die hard Hammers fans boatloads of fantasy points.
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West Ham secure vital win against Everton


It’s finally happened; West Ham United have won their first Premier League game of the 2018/19 season. Having lost their all of their first four league matches it was important that the Hammers got something in today’s face off with Everton and they delivered in style. They silenced the Goodison Park crowd, with two goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and one from Marko Arnautovic earning a win despite Gylfi Sigurdsson’s header, as the match finished 3-1 to the visitors.

Manuel Pellegrini had time to work with his squad during the international break. He came into this match with a completely new approach, making six changes from the side that lost against Wolverhampton Wanderers and a change of shape with Mark Noble, Declan Rice and Pedro Obiang in midfield.

One of the men brought into the starting line up was Yarmolenko, who was making his first league start for the club. It was the Ukrainian winger who opened the deadlock in the 11th minute. With Everton’s full backs out of position and their centre backs stretched Obiang played the ball in behind for Arnautovic to run onto. Jordan Pickford was covering the Austrian’s view of the goal, so he unselfishly squared the ball to Yarmolenko who placed it into the net.

It was also Yarmolenko who doubled West Ham’s lead in the 31st minute, though this time it was all about his technical ability. He received the ball from Mark Noble who nipped in to meet a poor pass out from Pickford. Yarmolenko fronted up the Everton defence with it at his feet. Lucas Digne and Kurt Zouma made the mistake of showing him inwards from the right flank. He obliged and cut inside the pair, opening up a bit of space for himself. The Ukrainian then unleashed a shot with his favoured left foot which curled into the top corner.

The Hammers were looking confident after going 2-0 up, but were given a scare just 30 seconds before half time. Everton managed to work some space in West Ham’s half and played the ball to Jonjoe Kenny on the right flank. The young Englishman crossed it into the box, where Gylfi Sigurdsson got to the ball ahead of Fabian Balbuena and powered his header into the top corner, giving Lukasz Fabianski no chance. The Iceland international’s goal meant the sides went into the break with West Ham 2-1 up.

Having set up the game’s opener, Arnautovic scored a goal of his own in the 61st minute to give his side a bit of breathing space. He played a one-two with Obiang, the Spaniard then played a perfectly waited pass which the Austrian latched onto and then finished well with a first time shot that went under Pickford.

Everton did have a few chances towards the end of the match, but they were unable to make the most of them, with Cenk Tosun sending the best of their opportunities way over the bar. The final whistle secured West Ham’s first league win of the season, with the scoreline at 3-1.

What is even more satisfying than the result for the Hammers is the performance that earned it. Every player showed desire and quality in abundance, with the likes of Issa Diop, Rice, Yarmolenko and Arnautovic all putting in superb performances.

The result is also important for the mentality within the club though, as it lifts the Hammers off the bottom of the table and into 16th place. West Ham now have a big test coming up, as they face Chelsea at home but will be hoping to take the confidence from this match and get a result against their London rivals.


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The importance of West Ham’s trip to Goodison Park


The international break is over which means that the Premier League is back. West Ham supporters probably don’t know whether to be joyful about this or filled with dread. Whether they like it or not, their side will be getting back onto the pitch tomorrow as they face Everton. This is undoubtedly an important game for Manuel Pellegrini and his side, with a first Premier League point still eluding them after four matches.

During the break Pellegrini was given the ‘full support’ of the West Ham board, something which seemingly means nothing in modern football. Rather than showing a great relationship between the owners and their manager, it is perhaps more indicative of how important it is for the Hammers to start getting results in the league. With fixtures against Chelsea and Manchester United following tomorrow’s match at Goodison Park, if West Ham fail to get anything against Everton they could easily be without a point after seven matches.

There are some positives for the Hammers going into this match though. The first is that the Evertonians will be without Richarlison, their best player so far this season. He has just returned from his debut outing with Brazil, in which he scored twice against El Salvador. However, he won’t be able to use the momentum gathered from that trip, as he continues to serve the ban that was incurred after going head-to-head with Adam Smith during the 2-2 draw against AFC Bournemouth. While Everton will still be a threat without their Brazilian, West Ham certainly have a better chance of picking up points while he isn’t on the pitch.

Another positive concerns one of West Ham’s own wingers. Having struggled in the early stages of his West Ham career, Andriy Yarmolenko has had a successful international break with Ukraine. Winning both of his UEFA Nations League matches, he was involved in his side’s first goal against Czech Republic and scored a penalty against Slovakia. Most importantly though, he started two games in a row having been left on the bench for each of West Ham’s league matches to date. This will surely put him in a position to challenge Michail Antonio for a starting spot, with the former Hammer of the Year having been underwhelming so far.

While Yarmolenko has shown the benefits of going on international duty, Hammers fans will be hoping to see signs of work done on the training pitch from those who stayed in East London. There have been many times this season where the team has looked disjointed and unfit, the break has given them time to address this. If West Ham are to beat Everton, they must improve upon their lack of defensive solidity and up their work rate.

It is not only important that the Hammers get something from the game in order to get off the mark. There is a lot of unrest amongst supporters and plenty of talk about Pellegrini’s job security. A result here would certainly help begin to ease some of that. West Ham spent a lot of money in the summer, it’s time for that to start paying dividends.


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Marko Arnautovic concludes West Ham’s UEFA Nations League involvement

Marko Arnautovic

The first ever round of UEFA Nations League fixtures have come to a close. There were some incredible score lines across the board as Spain beat Croatia 6-0, Switzerland won 6-0 against Iceland and Luxembourg had a 4-0 victory over Moldova. Of the many players involved in the competition, four of them were from West Ham: Lukasz Fabianski, Andriy Yarmolenko, Robert Snodgrass and Marko Arnautovic. They had varying levels of success though.

Of the four it is Yarmolenko who’s struggled most for the Hammers this season, as he hasn’t started a single Premier League match since joining from Borussia Dortmund. However, it is the Ukrainian winger who has had the most success during the international break. Ukraine were the only team in League B Group 1 to play twice; they’re also the only side to have any points, after winning both matches, with Yarmolenko central to their success.

In the opening fixture against Czech Republic, Patrick Schick put the Czechs ahead after just four minutes. It was Yarmolenko who led the Ukrainian charge with some dangerous balls into the box following that setback. He was involved when the men in yellow equalised as he dummied Marlos’ pass which went to Evgen Konoplyanka, who cut inside and fired the ball into the bottom corner. Yarmolenko was brought off in the 66th minute, replaced by Oleksandr Zinchenko. It was the Manchester City man who scored the winner in the dying moments of the match.

The second game of Ukraine’s Nations League campaign came at home against Slovakia. Once again Yarmolenko made the difference as he scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot in the 80th minute, despite Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka getting his hand to the ball.

Next up was Lukasz Fabianski, who beat Wojciech Szczesny to the starting spot in Poland’s goal for the tie against Italy. Poland took the lead in the 40th minute when Mateusz Klich dispossessed Jorginho near the edge of Italy’s box, offloaded the ball to Robert Lewandoski, who crossed it towards the back post where Piotr Zielinski was on hand to volley into the net.

As he has done for the Hammers throughout this season, Fabianski made a number of impressive saves in the game. However, after Jakub Blaszczykowski had fouled Federico Chiesa inside the box, there was nothing the keeper could do to stop Jorginho’s penalty as he was sent the wrong way; the game ended 1-1.

Robert Snodgrass was not originally part of Scotland’s squad, but was brought into the fold when West Bromwich Albion’s Matt Phillips withdrew through injury. Snodgrass is now getting plenty of time on the pitch at West Ham, but was left on the bench for the entirety of Scotland’s 2-0 win against Albania. It was an own goal from Berat Djimsiti and a 68th minute header from Steven Naismith which earned the Scots all three points.

Marko Arnautovic was the last of West Ham’s quartet to make an appearance in the Nations League, as his Austria side faced Bosnia & Herzegovina away from home. It was a tame affair for the majority of the game. Arnautovic gave Ibrahim Sehic his biggest test of the match with a curling effort from outside the box in the 14th minute, but the Büyüksehir Belediye Erzurumpsor and Bosnia & Herzegovina keeper was able to tip it over the bar. In the end, it was AS Roma’s Edin Dzeko who made the difference as he scored in the 78th minute to earn the home side a 1-0 win.

All four of the West Ham players will now be looking ahead to the Hammers’ next fixture, Sunday’s away fixture against Everton, alongside the rest of the squad.

Andriy Yarmolenko shows he’s ready to start matches

Andriy Yarmolenko

Andriy Yarmolenko showed that he’s ready to start matches in Ukraine’s first ever UEFA Nations League match tonight. The West Ham United winger played 66 minutes of his country’s 2-1 win against Czech Republic, before being replaced by Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Since moving to East London from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, Yarmolenko has had just one start, which came in the Hammers’ 3-1 Carabao Cup win against AFC Wimbledon, in which he played 89 minutes. A lack of match fitness was cited as the reason for him not starting in the league, after he picked up injuries to his thigh and hip during pre season.

The winger has come on as a substitute in each of West Ham’s league matches. He only played 24 minutes against Liverpool and AFC Bournemouth, following that up with just 16 against Arsenal. The fact that he played a full half against Wolverhampton Wanderers shows that he is potentially progressing and this performance for his country has done his chances of a starting spot at club level no harm.

However, things looked like they weren’t going to go the way of Yarmolenko and his fellow Ukrainians early on in Prague. Just four minutes into the match they had their first setback of the game. Roma and Czech Republic forward Patrik Schick got on the ball, drove at the Ukraine defence before firing the ball past Andrij Pyatov’s outstretched hand and into the roof of the net.

Yarmolenko was already showing the threat he possessed though. He was behind his side’s biggest chance of the early stages. He drifted past Jan Boril before sending the ball into Roman Yaremchuk’s path. The Gent striker was unable to convert the chance though, as he swiped at his shot and sent it wide.

He and his side took had taken hold of the match following Schick’s opener. They maintained pressure for the majority of the first half, which paid off before the break, with Yarmolenko involved. One minute into injury time Shakhtar Donetsk’s Marlos ran into the box with the ball. He played the ball to Yarmolenko, who had overlapped him, but the West Ham winger allowed it to run through his legs and into the path of his fellow winger Evgen Konoplyanka. The Schalke man cut inside Pavel Kaderabek and smashed the ball into the near corner.

Having played a role in his side’s first goal, the 28-year-old almost had one of his own in the second half. With the ball at his feet, Yarmolenko flip-flapped the ball past Jakub Brabec. He then sent a shot destined for the far corner, but Sevilla’s Czech stopper Tomas Vaclik made a fingertip save to send it narrowly past the post.

Yarmolenko had a few more moments in the second half and will have left the field relatively happy with his performance. It was his replacement, Zinchenko, who won the game for Ukraine in the 93rd minute, just seconds before the final whistle. The Czech defence failed to deal with a cross which had been whipped into the box. Having bounced around, the ball landed at the 21-year-old’s feet, with Zinchenko stepping up to stab it into the net, sending the travelling supporters into jubilant celebrations.

Following their victory, Ukraine will face Slovakia at home on Sunday in their next test. Once that match has come to an end, Yarmolenko will head back to East London to help West Ham earn their first Premier League points of the season. With tough fixtures coming up the Hammers will need all of their players available. Yarmolenko’s performance tonight shows that if needed he is ready to come in against Everton and play his part from the start.


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