Premier League Game of the Week: West Bromwich Albion 1-5 Crystal Palace

It started with an own goal, granted but it ended with the redemption of Christian Benteke as Crystal Palace bagged a superb victory over West Bromwich Albion winning 5-1.

Crystal Palace have been hit and miss this season, for every win over Manchester United at Old Trafford there has been defeats against Newcastle and Burnley and the result has seen Roy Hodgson’s team already become a mid table team. Too good to get involved in a relegation dog fight but too inconsistent to push for Europe. At the weekend there was evidence for the former.

The own goal to open the scoring was like a stake in the heart for Slaven Bilic’s team who unlike Palace are going to face a fight for survival. Coming into this game West Brom had lost 60% of their games, but had given up wins for draws, with just one victory so far this season which came against Sheffield United the one team even worse than the Baggies.

But the home side struck back quick through a neat shot by Conor Gallagher who was incidentally set up by Darnell Furlong who had scored the own goal moments before, the first redemption of the match. But much credit would also have to go to Semi Ajayi whose world class pass to open up Palace set up the goal.

It was a first half that West Brom played well in, four shots on target to Palace’s one, and the half finished 1-1. But there would still be problems for West Brom after Matheus Pereira was sent off. He fell in a clash and on first look it looked like he caught his studs on Patrick van Aanholt. It seemed harmless enough but perhaps VAR was right to call back the incident. Pereira had his eyes locked on the Palace player and was sent off. Without that there could have been much optimism for Bilic, but he would never have foreseen for what was to come. It would be a painful 45 minutes that would see a further 4 goals with 10 men.

The red card had hampered the home side and took the wind out of them, and it was something Palace could feel as the 2nd half kicked off. Soon it would be 2-1 to Palace after a beautiful strike from Wilfried Zaha who is living up to his £80 million price tag from last summer, when there were reports he would leave the club. Zaha would go on to score again.

But perhaps it was a day for Christian Benteke to remember, his goals were not memorable but they were important for a player who has come under a lot of pressure for not producing the goods at Palace, well now he scored 2 goals in one game and his confidence looked reinstalled. It was telling how West Brom had given up, after having their five shots on target in the first period they managed none in the second half to Palace’s five.

Next week it is back to the hard grind for Palace who face league leaders Tottenham, at least they are at home but the Eagles will have to bear in mind that Jose Mourinho’s team have lost just once this season.

For West Brom they are in 19th with six points. Fulham give them hope and it means a win could see Bilic’s team escape the bottom three next weekend. The problem is they face a tricky tie away to Newcastle. You sense that Bilic’s time is running out though and he will have to start picking up the points.

As for Roy Hodgson,the veteran manager is having a very solid season and maybe the form of Benteke and Zaha will make it a memorable one.

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Slaven Bilic criticises West Ham’s stadium move, was he right?

Former West Ham player Slaven Bilic has criticised West Ham’s move to London Stadium. Bilic who commands much respect from the West Ham faithful is bringing his side West Bromwich Albion to the Hammers new ground to play out their FA Cup 4th round tie at the weekend.

Bilic played for West Ham at their old stadium the Boleyn Ground and also managed the team, in fact he was in charge when the club played their last ever season at the historic ground. Bilic said: It’s not an excuse, but if you ask me if it was better to play at Upton Park or not then there’s no discussion,” he said. ”It was more home, it was more hostile. Not one opposition player enjoyed it when they had to go to Upton Park. That’s a fact. The Olympic Stadium is very different for an away team. You enjoy it more.”

The Croatian went on to say,”what also changes are the fans. It’s like pubs; now you have modern bars. When you take people out of the pub and go to them, they don’t feel comfortable. They prefer pubs where it is packed and you are shoulder to shoulder. Like what Roy Keane said about the ‘prawn sandwich brigade’ – it leads to that. You don’t want to lose that hostile home advantage and there are very few of those traditional clubs left in the Premier League because the league forces you to become more a corporation than a football club.”

Bilic did not mix his words, but is he right about the new stadium? Well fans of the club do seem to think so, and whilst the stadium is modern and state of the art compared to the old ground it has completely lost it’s sense of atmosphere.

It’s a difficult situation for clubs now who don’t want to be seen playing in old stadiums that feel well past their prime and there does seem to be a pressure in the digital age to move on. Change of course is natural and in 100 years time West Ham most probably won’t even be at the London Stadium.

A reason they could move is that they don’t actually own the stadium and it is being paid by taxpayers, which is a disgrace in all honesty, though that argument is for a different day and topic. It does seem as if the clubs owners have made a mistake in moving though. Surely the biggest asset of moving ground would be for money reasons but it is reported once all rent has been paid that the club only make an extra £2m in revenues.

Was that worth such a drastic change, in losing that intimidating atmosphere at the club? At the same time even when they were at their old ground they had won nothing in over 35 years, so maybe the closeness of the fans to the pitch worked for some games, but overall did staying at Boleyn Ground really make that much difference?

Perhaps the problem is in ownership, David Sullivan and David Gold are true supporters and love the club but at the same time maybe there time with the club is up. Maybe change is needed on a vast scale. Relegation could well be a possibility this season and playing in the Championship in a 60,000 concrete bowl with less atmosphere doesn’t sound too appetising. If Sullivan and Gold do indeed love the club maybe they need to sell up.

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Euro Fantasy League Podcast – Episode 3 – Managers and Contract Talks

The lads find out while recording that Ronald Koeman has been sacked as Everton manager. They discuss managerial casualties, Kevin de Bruyne’s influence and begin negotiations on Dave’s new contract.

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A spell of continuous improvement for West Ham

Euro 2016

Defensive fragility defines poor start to the season

This season started very disappointingly for West Ham United, whereby Slaven Bilic’s side struggled throughout the months of both August and September.

Specifically, whilst losing their UEFA Europa League qualifying play-off to Astra Giurgiu for a second successive year, West Ham collected just three points from their first six English Premier League games.

In the process of doing so, they conceded 16 goals, with West Ham’s defensive fragility being compounded by a lack of cohesion, creativity and inventiveness in their attacking play.

Whilst goalkeeper Adrian delivered several unconvincing displays, with his decision-making and handling in particularly lacking conviction, the 29-year-old Spaniard was left severely exposed by a back four, who were guilty of haphazard and irresponsible defending.

Payet produces cataclysmic moment

However since witnessing his team lose 3-0 at home to Southampton at the end of September, when they were comprehensively outplayed, Bilic has galvanised his players to embark upon a markedly improved run of form, which began with a sublime solo goal by the mercurially talented Dimitri Payet.

With West Ham 1-0 down at home to Middlesbrough, Payet brilliantly drifted past several defenders, before angling a fine finish beyond Victor Valdes.  Although unable to score a winning goal, West Ham earned a valuable point to end a run of four successive league defeats.

Subsequently Payet’s moment of individual magic has proved to be the catalyst for West Ham’s players to collectively rediscover their belief and confidence, as testified by their last two English Premier League performances.

Successive league wins for the Hammers

After securing their first away win of the season by beating Crystal Palace 1-0 at Selhurst Park, as Manuel Lanzini scored following excellent work undertaken by Aaron Cresswell, West Ham then overcame Sunderland.

In order to do so, they showed great determination, perseverance and resolve, since despite being frustrated by a resolute Sunderland defence for the majority of the game, West Ham once again won 1-0 courtesy of a 94th minute goal by Winston Reid.

The 28-year-old New Zealander scored with a powerful 18-yard shot to inject further momentum into West Ham’s season.

Progression in League Cup

That improved yet further as they progressed to the quarter finals of the English League Cup by thoroughly deservedly beating Chelsea 2-1.

Whilst Cheikou Kouyate gave West Ham the lead with an excellent header, Edmilson Fernandes scored a second goal, before Gary Cahill replied for Chelsea.  Nevertheless by reassuming control of the game, West Ham emerged victorious after producing a cohesive, high-octane and intense performance, which was wonderfully appreciated by their loyal supporters.

Bilic oversees a marked upturn in West Ham’s fortunes

Therefore by winning two and drawing one of their three English Premier League games during October, whilst also reaching the quarter finals of the League cup, West Ham are amidst a spell of continuous improvement, which Slaven Bilic will aspire to mastermind a continuation of against Everton, whom the 48-year-old Croatian served as a player.

It is Ronald Koeman’s side whom West Ham are next due to play in the English Premier League, with the Hammers aim being to end the month of October unbeaten and move towards the top half of the league table, so that they can once challenge to qualify for European competition.

Although West Ham’s outlook for the season was bleak a month ago, it is now far brighter with their prospects of enjoying a strong campaign having greatly improved as a result of a excellent run of results.

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Is it time for Andy Carroll and West Ham to part ways after latest injury?


The news that Andy Carroll has injured his knee and could be out for at least four weeks will be no surprise to West Ham United fans.

The 27 year old has endured a succession of injuries during his time in London and one can only wonder what type of effect this will have on Carroll’s longevity as a professional football player.

Carroll joined the Hammers in 2012 and has roughly since then played just two seasons. Not counting the beginning of this season from a possible 152 games he has participated in 80.

To their credit West Ham have never spoken out about the players constant injuries and have always backed him, and so they should do. Carroll arguably had his best season with the club last term and he netted 9 league goals his best return in five years.

Carroll’s lack of goals is a different matter and a different story to be told elsewhere but it’s the fact right now that the player simply isn’t able to play to nearly a full season which is more of a worry.

Time and again the player has missed crucial matches and it can’t be ignored that he is on a reported £100,000 a week salary. He will earn then during his lay off almost half a million pounds. Of course it’s quite ridiculous to criticise Carroll for this but can his club not be?

West Ham paid their fee for a player and it is quite clear that Carroll has huge physical problems leading to sustained injuries. Has the club ever investigated why Carroll keeps getting injured? Is it not time to part with a player who is arguably holding up another place for a squad member?

This isn’t to say of course that Carroll should be simply tossed aside- he is on his day a quality player, but the Hammers do not want to be hampered in their quest of chasing a good finish and doing their best in the Europa League. In short they need a fixed team of players that get plenty of time playing with each other.

Carroll appeared to send a tongue in cheek tweet earlier that suggested he is still a 15-20 goal man- however he hasn’t achieved this feat ever in the Premier League and we would have to go back to his Championship days in 2010 for evidence of him scoring as many.

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic is optimistic on Carroll’s latest setback, claiming that the striker could be back sooner than planned. But when will Carroll’s next injury surface?

West Ham and Slaven Bilic must avoid honeymoon curse in new Premier League campaign

Manchester City v West Ham United - Premier League

When Slaven Bilic took over from Sam Allardyce as manager of West Ham United last season there was a huge relief. And the pay off was pretty immense.

Bilic had his team playing positive football with no fears and the Hammers faithful looked like they had found exactly the right man in what was to be their final season at the Boleyn Ground in nearly 100 years of football.

And they had- The Hammers certainly had wobbles but they also recorded the most points ever in a Premier League campaign- and they didn’t just do it, they eased over that winning line with games to spare. They also secured European football for this season via the Europa League and the future in a new 60,000 plus stadium does look bright for the East Londoners.

But how bright will that be? Football analysts will be aware of the so called honeymoon period in for managers. Look at the recent case of Alan Pardew- so successful and respected when he switched mid season from Newcastle United to Crystal Palace- and there can be no doubts that he made the right decision. Palace had a new self belief about them and went on a string of brilliant results to push themselves into the top half of the table.

However last season despite some terrific results Pardew’s team were lost at sea somewhat and the reality soon came thundering in of Pardew and Palace’s limitations. Last season they finished 15th. Champions Leicester City almost finished with double those points.

So back to West Ham and with a new stadium and the popularity of Bilic as manager, players and fans both love the former Hammers player, there is, on the face of it, space for optimism.

However if pre season and their Europa League first leg match is anything to go by then fans will be slightly worried. The Irons have recorded just a single win from those six matches. The other worrying factor is that the Hammers have not been able to arrange a match against a top side in anyone of those fixtures.

They will of course play Juventus on August 7th to officially ‘open’ their new Olympic Stadium.

Until then they have other matters to contend with as they prepare to come back from a 2-1 deficit against Slovakians NK Domzale in the Europa League qualifier in London, just three days prior to the friendly match.

A shock exit at this stage could well be the lay of the land for the season ahead. West Ham’s ambitions under Bilic at this time will be to get near the ball park figure of their total points haul and try to win for the first time in 36 years some silverware. It will be interesting if Bilic and his team can escape the honeymoon curse that has fallen on many a manager.

Can West Ham achieve a top-four finish in the Premier League this season?


West Ham United’s impressive comeback against Everton on the weekend left them just one point off fourth-placed Manchester City in the Premier League in the table, while extending their winning run in the division to three games. The Londoners are starting to talk about the prospect of finishing in the top-four to bring Champions League football to the Olympic Stadium next season, and given the sides they have beaten in the last seven months, should United be considered as genuine top-four contenders?

New manager Slaven Bilic has taken the plaudits this season for his hard work on turning a previously misfiring West Ham outfit into a side challenging at the top. They have pulled off wins against a number of giants in the division, and have proven hard to beat throughout the campaign. Only Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur have lost fewer games than West Ham, and they’ve lost just two of their last 16 for their troubles.

Premier League wins against stellar opposition
(9/8/15) Arsenal 0-2 West Ham United
(29/8/15) Liverpool 0-3 West Ham United
(19/9/15) Manchester City 1-2 West Ham United
(24/10/15) West Ham United 2-1 Chelsea
(2/1/16) West Ham United 2-0 Liverpool
(2/3/16) West Ham United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur

West Ham have kept in touching distance of a top-four spot, but they do have a difficult run of games to come so it certainly won’t be easy. The Hammers will be hoping Manchester City slip-up at least once in their 10 remaining Premier League games, and United defender Angelo Ogbonna believes the Londoners can achieve the impossible and finish in a Champions League spot, but also exercised caution given there’s still 27 points for them to play for.

“When I signed for West Ham (£8M from Juventus) I knew what could be achieved but I didn’t want to tell anyone. I understand why the fans are dreaming about this because this is a big chance for us, but we should not focus too much on our position in the table. We need to keep our feet on the ground,” he said. Teammate Mark Noble believes this season is the side’s best chance of pipping City and others to the top-four given how inconsistent the giants in the Premier League have been, and added how he and the team will fight tooth and nail to help the side to glory.

Where will West Ham United finish in the Premier League this season? Could the Londoners really end the campaign in a Champions League spot?