EPL Player of the Week – Javier Hernandez (West Ham)

hernandezWest Ham have been having a fair to middling season in truth. At times criticised for poor performances, the Hammers have nonetheless staved off any threat of a relegation scrap thus far and find themselves ninth in the Premier League table. While they sit quite a distance from the European places – indeed, points-wise they are closer to the drop zone – they have managed to pull some decent results out of the bag, and this past weekend’s thriller at home against Huddersfield could be labeled many things, but never boring! Manuel Pellegrini has used his experience and past success in English football (one Premier League title and two League Cup trophies) to instill a sense of purpose throughout the side.

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EPL Game of the Weekend – West Ham vs Huddersfield

westhamhuddersfieldLife really can be cruel at times. Sometimes, no matter what you try and do, things just don’t come off – nothing works, and all you are left with is frustration and confusion. Depending on which side of the London Stadium you were sitting in on Saturday, that could be either the exact opposite of what happened, or the embodiment of your weekend. For the neutral of course, while West Ham taking on Huddersfield may not necessarily seem like the most must-watch game of the weekend, this was an absolute cracker. It could be argued that, like West Ham fans, the neutrals felt the opposite of the aforementioned frustration. Huddersfield, however, really look in danger – they somehow managed to claw defeat from the grasp of victory, and hopes of a miracle continue to fade with each passing match. Continue reading

EPL Best XI – Week 31

nobleThere was only half a round of games in the Premier League this past weekend, what with FA Cup action also going on, and so with just ten teams taking part picking a best XI may be slightly different to usual. Sunday’s action was fun-packed, as Everton raised some eyebrows by beating Chelsea 2-0 at Goodison Park – their first home victory since mid-January – putting a big dent in Chelsea’s top-four ambitions. Liverpool were tested more than many will have been expecting at Craven Cottage, a late James Milner penalty putting them top of the table with a 2-1 win against Fulham. On Saturday, Bournemouth played out a 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle, Leicester won 2-1 at Burnley and West Ham beat Huddersfield in a 4-3 thriller.

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Valencia hopeful on securing a deal for Javier Hernandez

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Valencia are on the verge of securing a cut price deal for West Ham striker Javier Hernandez, within the La Liga January transfer window, according to media reports in Spain.

Hernandez, 30, has slipped down the pecking order at the London Stadium, and now the Mexican international looks to be heading for the exit.

However any move for the former Manchester United forward is dependent on the movement of other players, involving both The Hammers and Marcelino’s Valencia.

The La Liga side confirmed that Michy Batshuayi’s loan move at the club has been terminated earlier than anticipated, and they are not hopeful in securing a permanent deal for the Belgian international – with other clubs already negotiating with Chelsea for his signature.

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West Ham’s winning run comes to an end against Watford

Watford Troy Deeney

Writing about West Ham’s winning run and the last time they matched it was fun while it lasted. The latest win -which came against Fulham- took the club to four wins for the first time since 2014. However, that run came to an end yesterday in frustrating fashion, as the Hammers lost 2-0 at home against Watford.

The game was open from the very start, with both sides creating chances which should have been taken. It was Watford who were gifted the best chance of the first half though. Roberto Pereyra played a one-two with Gerard Deulofeu which saw him enter the West Ham box. Fabian Balbuena attempted to tackle the Argentine, but made a mess of it, giving away a penalty and sustaining an injury that forced him off just a few minutes later.

It was pantomime villain Troy Deeney who stepped up to take the penalty following the delay while Balbuena received treatment. The Watford captain emphatically drilled the ball into the top corner to make it 1-0 before going off to celebrate in front of the Hammers fans. Lukasz Fabianski is renowned for his heroics in penalty situations, but he was given no hope by Deeney’s strike.

Javier Hernandez almost got a goal back before the break, but Ben Foster was able to reach the Mexican’s volley which had been destined for the bottom corner. He also hit an air shot when Felipe Anderson played him the ball after some great trickery in the second half and had an effort stopped by a block from Abdoulaye Doucouré.

However, it will be Michail Antonio who’s most frustrated to have not got on the score sheet. Early in the second half he latched onto a Robert Snodgrass corner, glancing it across goal with his head. He’d got the slightest of touches on the ball, which was only enough to make it connect with the post before bouncing to the feet of a Watford defender.

His second encounter with the woodwork was even harder to take. Grady Diangana had worked himself some space impressively on the right wing before forcing the ball into the box. Snodgrass’ initial header was deflected off of Craig Cathcart and saved by Foster. Antonio got onto the ball with the goal gaping in front of him, but he was only able to send his header against the bar from a few yards out.

Summarising West Ham’s night, just two and a half minutes later Watford scored a second to secure the win. Pereyra and Deulofeu linked up well again before the latter slotted the ball into the bottom corner in the 87th minute. Having dominated the game for large periods the Hammers had found themselves on the losing side without a goal to their name, the finishing touch which had been so prevalent in their last four games having deserted them.

Following this defeat, West Ham sit 12th in the table going into Christmas, though they remain just three points behind yesterday’s opposition who jump to seventh. Next up for the Hammers is an away trip to Southampton on December 27th. The Saints have recorded back to back wins of their own following the arrival of Ralph Hasenhüttl.

 

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Chicharito making his mark for West Ham

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Javier Hernandez has started more league matches in the last week than he had in the entirety of this season combined. It wasn’t so long ago that he’d been linked with a move away from the London Stadium, but it now seems unimaginable that he wouldn’t be in the starting line up.

The build up of fixtures was likely to be a factor in the rotation which played a part in reinstating him to the starting line up, but his performances have ensured it hasn’t resulted in him coming back out of it. With the Hammers currently missing the likes of Marko Arnautovic, Andriy Yarmolenko and long term absentee Manuel Lanzini, Chicharito has truly stepped up to help his side. December was coined as the most important period of West Ham’s season and the Mexican has been integral in making sure that period has begun with success.

The first match came away against an in form Newcastle United, in which Hernandez was handed his first start since a draw with Leicester in October. He opened the scoring just 11 minutes into the game at St. James’ Park, as he latched onto a pinpoint ball in from Robert Snodgrass and played it first time past Martin Dúbravka. It was the type of goal which the Mexican has become so well known for throughout his career. Having missed a few chances, he got his second of the game when he got onto the end of Arnoutovic’s header, raced forward and calmly slotted the ball away at the near post, getting the second of the Hammers’ three goals.

Chicharito started again in the next game, which came against Cardiff City. He may not have scored but  the striker was a constant threat for the 64 minutes he was on the pitch. West Ham managed three goals again, as they earned their first back to back victories since January 2017.

West Ham were desperate to keep their run going against Crystal Palace and Hernandez helped to ensure that happened. The Hammers had gone 1-0 down in the sixth minute, but as Andy Carroll replaced the injured Lucas Perez they got into the game a lot more. After Snodgrass had drawn the sides level with his first league goal for West Ham, Hernandez was able to put the Hammers in front.

It was a goal which highlighted his poacher’s instincts for all to see. Felipe Anderson struck a free kick to Wayne Hennessy’s left. The Welsh stopper was able to palm it away from the goal, but while everyone in the wall had been focused on trying to stop the initial hit, Hernandez ran behind them and into the perfect position to get the rebound, striking the ball into the roof of the net. This goal helped West Ham to their third win in a row, something they hadn’t achieved for over two years.

With the games coming thick and fast, this is the perfect time for the Mexican to find form, especially with Arnautovic currently out injured. He’s always been able to get goals no matter where he’s been in his career, but having struggled since joining the club in 2017 there were fears that things wouldn’t work out for Hernandez in East London. Manuel Pellegrini has seemingly managed to get the best out of him and his team mates though. With an impressive run of games behind him, everyone involved with West Ham will hope this form continues against Fulham on Saturday.

 

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Time’s up for Chicharito

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Just over three and a half years ago, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez was scoring the goal for Real Madrid that sent them into the Champions League semi-finals at the expense of city rivals, Atletico.

Having enjoyed great success whilst at Manchester United, his time on loan from them at Los Blancos was another feather in his cap, but just 36 short months later everything is remarkably different for the Mexican.

Not even a starring role for his country at the World Cup in Russia seems to have stopped the rot at club level. Continue reading

West Ham secure first win of the season

It has been a tough start to the season for West Ham, with the club having lost each of their first three league matches. The Carabao Cup offered a chance for them to get their season started, as they faced League One outfit AFC Wimbledon in the Second Round. The team may have made hard work of it at times, but the Hammers secured a 3-1 win at Kingsmeadow and their first win of the season.

The game didn’t get off to a great start for West Ham. In just the second minute Joe Pigott rose above Angelo Ogbonna to head in Mitchell Pinnock’s corner. Adrian got a hand to the ball but was only able to push it into the roof of the net. As the Wimbledon striker peeled away in celebration there will have been a sinking feeling of de ja vu for the Hammers faithful.

However, West Ham were helped out in the 18th minute. Having been booked just five minutes earlier, Rodney McDonald was sent off for a second bookable offence after fouling Javier Hernandez just outside of the box. West Ham were unable to get a goal in the first half though, with the score remaining 1-0 at half time. The scoreline seemingly forced Manuel Pellegrini’s hand, as he brought Pedro Obiang off for Felipe Anderson at half time, a decision which undoubtedly helped to change the game in West Ham’s favour.

The Dons managed to keep West Ham at bay for just over an hour, but the Hammers’ resilience eventually paid off. In the 63rd minute, Anderson played the ball across to Issa Diop, who took a touch out of his feet and smashed the ball into the bottom corner from outside the box. The relief on Pellegrini’s face was clear to see. There was even more joy from Diop though. Having struggled so far in a West Ham shirt, the happiness at getting his first goal for the club was there for all to witness as he brought out his trademark celebration.

Ogbonna could have done a lot better with Wimbledon’s goal, but he made up for that in the 83rd minute. Robert Snodgrass sent a corner ball into the box, with it somehow evading all of Wimbledon’s defenders. The Italian defender was able to capitalise on the loose defending and volleyed it into the gaping net to get the Hammers ahead for the first time in the match.

The victory was secured beyond any reasonable doubt in the 92nd minute. Arthur Masuaku played a ball in behind the Dons defence for Chicharito to run onto. The Mexican rounded Wimbledon goalkeeper Tom King before sending the ball into the goal via the legs of William Nightingale.

This was the final blow of the game, as the referee’s whistle soon confirmed West Ham’s 3-1 victory. The result sees the Hammers progress to the Carabao Cup Round Three, the draw for which will take place at seven o’clock tomorrow night. The fixture for the round will be played during the week commencing 24th September.

In the meantime, the club will be hoping that the momentum from this win can be transferred over to positive league form. Having lost against Liverpool, AFC Bournemouth and Arsenal, the Hammers will now face Wolverhampton Wanderers at home on Saturday. It will be a tough test, but with matches against Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United following this fixture, it is important to get some points on the board sooner rather than later.

Last night’s result won’t do that, but it has got West Ham through to the next round and added some positivity to a tough start.

 

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Ten of European footballs most in – form strikers

 

Euro 2016

There is a quartet of strikers in European football who invariably outshine all others.

Nevertheless aside from Barcelona’s attacking triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, along with Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid, there are currently many other in-form European based strikers, who play for clubs competing in the UEFA Champions League.

As well as showcasing their skills in European football’s elite club competition, the following list, which is far from exhaustive, profiles ten strikers performing extremely among the continent’s top leagues.

Sergio Aguero

Prolific is the only way to describe the 28-year-old Manchester City striker’s goal – scoring form this season, as in just six appearances, Aguero has scored 11 goals.

The first three of those arrived against Steaua Bucharest, as despite also missing two penalties, he inspired his team to a 5-0 victory over the Romanian side in the first leg of their Champions League Play-Off tie.

Subsequently Aguero scored a second Champions League hat – trick as Manchester City opened their group stage campaign with a 4-0 home win over Borrussia Monchengladbach.

Aguero has been able to replicate his razor sharp finishing on the continent in the English Premier League.  He most recently did so against Swansea City as he returned from serving a three-game domestic suspension, after being found guilty of violent misconduct for elbowing West Ham’s Winston Reid, to score twice against the Welsh side and continue his rich vein of form.

Islam Slimani

The 28-year-old Algerian internationalist striker has seamlessly settled into Leicester City’s side, since joining the current English Premier League Champions for £29m from Sporting Lisbon at the end of August.

In addition to scoring two headers to help Claudio Ranieri’s side to a 3-0 league victory over Burnley, Slimani further displayed his aerial prowess against Porto in the Champions League.

Specifically he guided a fine diving header beyond Iker Casillas to give Leicester a 1-0 win.

That goal was Slimani’s sixth in matches with Porto during 2016, since he scored five times in three appearances for his former club Sporting Lisbon against Dragoes, and earned him the title of becoming the first Algerian to score for more than one club in the Champions League.

Son Heung Min

In his last five appearances for Tottenham, the 24-year-old South Korean has scored five goals, including his first in the Champions League against CSKA Moscow.

That proved to be the winning goal, as Son collected a fine Erik Lamela pass to finish composedly, very similar to the way in which he did when scoring double in the English Premier League against Stoke and Middlesbrough.

In doing so the former Bayer Leverkusen striker has established himself top scorer for Spurs, with him enjoying an extended run in Mauricio’s Pochettino’s side.

Alexis Sanchez

A key member of Arsene Wenger’s ever improving Arsenal team, Sanchez is currently amidst a wonderful run of form, whereby he is vividly portraying his great awareness, electrifying pace and wealth of technical skill.

That was most recently in evidence during Arsenal’s 3-0 English Premier League victory over Chelsea, the diminutive Chilean was a vocal point of many of the Gunners best attacking moves.

In addition to his four league goals this season, three of which have arrived away from the Emirates Stadium Sanchez’s late equaliser against Paris Saint Germain earned his team a valuable point from their opening Champions League group stage game.

Arkadiusz Milik

The monumental challenge of replacing Gonzalo Higuain as Napoli’s leading striker is one that the 22-year-old Polish internationalist is currently embracing wonderfully well.

At present Milik is averaging a goal a game for Partenopei, having scored six times in six appearances for the Serie A club, whom he joined from Ajax.

In addition to scoring braces against AC Milan and Bologna, Milik also achieved that feat in the Champions League to inspire Napoli to an excellent 2-1 away victory over Dynamo Kiev

Edinson Cavani

Since the summer departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani has assumed the role of Paris Saint Germain’s leading striker, with the Uruguayan having scored five goals in three Ligue 1 appearances.

Furthermore the former Napoli player also put his team ahead in their opening Champions League group stage game against Arsenal, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

A week prior to that game, Cavani scored twice for Uruguay to help his country to a 4-0 win over Paraguay, as Los Charruas moved to the top of the 2018 World Cup Qualification’s South American section.

Javier Hernandez

Despite missing Bayer Leverkusen’s opening league match of the season due a broken hand, Chicarito has subsequently recovered from that injury to play an important role for Roger Schmidt’s team.

Hernandez has been particularly influential for Leverkusen in their last two matches.

Specifically whilst the former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker’s hat-trick powered Leverkusen to a 3-2 Bundesliga victory over Mainz 05, he earned his team a creditable 1-1 draw away to Monaco in the Champions League by scoring a late equalising goal.

Gonzalo Higuain

Since becoming the third most expensive player in the history of world football, after joining Juventus from Napoli for €90m, Higuain has made an extremely positive impression for the Turin giants.

On his debut for La Vecchia Signoro, Higuain scored the winning goal as the current Serie A champions beat Fiorentina 2-1.

Since then the former Real Madrid striker has found the net four times in seven appearances, as his partnership with fellow Argentinean Paulo Dybala continues to evolve.

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang

Borussia Dortmund’s top scorer for the past two seasons, Aubameyang has commenced the current campaign tremendously well, whereby the former St-Etienne player has scored seven goals in just six appearances.

In addition to scoring in both of his club’s Champions League group stage games, against Legia Warsaw and Real Madrid, Aubameyang, who despite beginning his career at AC Milan did not play a competitive game for I Rossoneri , has also exercised great predatory instinct to help Dortmund win four of their first five Bundesliga games.

The Gabonese international striker is currently enhancing his reputation as one of the finest all round strikers in European football, with his two Champions League goals this term, adding to the three he scored during Dortmund’s run to the last 16 of the 2014-2015 edition of the competition.

One striker to outscore Aubameyang in the aforementioned run was Ciro Immobile, with the 26-year-old’s four group stage goals, vital in helping Dortmund progress to a the knock-out stage.  However Immobile has since left the club and is currently Lazio’s top scorer in Serie A with two goals, albeit four behind the division’s leading marksman Mauro Icardi.

Antoine Greizmann

The Euro 2016 player of the tournament and golden boot winner is currently the joint top scorer in La Liga, alongside Barcelona’s Luis Suarez, with five goals.

The most recent of those was against Deportivo La Coruna, as a typically cool Greizmann finish gave Diego Simeone’s side a 1-0 victory and propelled them to third place in Spain’s top flight.

Given his excellent current form, Greizmann’s prospects of surpassing his best La Liga goals haul for a season of 22, appear extremely healthy.

Ultimately whilst each of the ten strikers profiled possess many different qualities, they share an innate ability to score goals and spearhead the attacks of their respective teams extremely well.