Tuesday, 30 December 2014


It's been a while since I've done one of these, so apologies if it is awful.

First off, what a season it has been for West Ham so far! Sitting in 6th place half way through the season is an impressive start, compare this to last season and it is almost beyond belief and it definitely didn't prepare me for this. We have seen an influx of new players who have all been very influential in our progress forward. Firstly at the back the signing of Cresswell and loan option of Jenkinson have been a real coup, there may still be a few question marks over them defensively but they are both young, learning and still really adjusting, yet going forward they provide width and pace and both have excellent deliveries on them. Then you look at our midfield where the main man of note would be Alex Song, his class overall tends to shine through where he makes everything seem effortless, although now and then he could seem like he is trying a bit too hard, then you have Kouyate who is similar to Diame in ways but a bit more consistency about him, although he doesn't offer quite as much of a goal threat, he is very solid, then you have Almalfitano, who when we signed I wasn't sure about at all as he seemed to go missing for West Brom last year, but he seems to have slotted into our side very well. Lastly up front you have Sakho and Valencia, the latter not quite setting the world alight with goals, although the ones he have scored have been pretty good! They also offer the perfect starts of our defending as they have the energy to close down opposition defenders to rush them into making a mistake. On top of that you have Carroll and Downing who are like shadows of the players Liverpool wanted out of their club, Downing at the top of a diamond has seen him become one of the most creative players in the Premiership and with Carroll staying fit is like an extra signing.

Highlights of the season for me have definitely been the home games against Liverpool and Manchester City, which highlighted a big improvement in the way we set up as a team and how our team don't fear anyone. Yes we lost out to Chelsea without doing much, but they have world class players in every position and it is always going to be tough against them and I fully expect them to win the league comfortably.

I'd also like to mention Adrian, he has been a rock at the back for us and has undoubtedly kept us in games by himself with multiple saves throughout games.

With the January window opening, it appears Zarate is off to QPR, I feel for the guy as I feel he's never really being given a full chance to show what he can do, but the fact it is a loan and QPR will probably play him a lot (hopefully), then it could have it's benefits, it could show us that he could be a very good player who deserves a chance in Claret and Blue, or he could flop and we could see we need to let him go. My main concern this window though is Winston Reid, he still appears no closer to signing a new contract and if that is the case, then surely we would be listening to offers now rather than letting him go for free. Which makes me believe we need at least 1 quality centre back in although I'd like 2 to cover any injuries, I like Collins and Tomkins, also Kouyate could work as a backup, but I feel both James' have mistakes in them that can sometimes prove to be costly. Overall though, I'm not really sure what else we would need, maybe another striker to put pressure on the main 3 we have, as I don't feel Carlton Cole shows that!

I do have one concern though Sullivan our co-chairman recently spoke to Soccer AM how Sam did not want Sakho but he persisted and it appears to have paid off, this worries me that there is a bit of a power struggle over transfers, especially with Zarate stating he wasn't the managers signing. I know from when they owned Birmingham how outspoken Sullivan can be and he was similar under previous managers for us and renowned himself with going to the press when things were not going West Ham's way. I just worry that one day this could all come to blows and see if things end sourly.

Lastly I am going to try to guess where we may come this season, I honestly cannot see us being in the top 4, I feel the main contenders are a bit too strong for us and will probably not suffer as much during the AFCON. I do however feel we could qualify for Europe and I think Sam will be hoping that is the case to prove a lot of his doubters wrong. So I am going to plump for 7th.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Dear Sam

Sam Allardyce,

You recently mentioned in an article that you had received a letter from a fan backing you and was happy to have someone fight your corner, you also noted that you would not walk away from your position and were happy to have the Chairmen's backing at this time and are looking for every possible way to get the club out of the situation that is currently looming, of being in a horrid relegation battle.

Now don't get me wrong, although you are a manager I dislike, you do have credibility about you. As you always mention yourself, teams do not get relegated under you (although I feel if you do stay in your current position that may change), you did get us promoted back at the first time of asking and you did reach a good solid 10th place last season built on a superb home record where we were almost impossible to beat, my highlight of the year watching us come back from a goal down to win 3-1. So yes I will give you credit for that.

Here is where some of that credibility fails me though, the squad you managed to hold in the Championship, was hands down on paper, far too good for that league and a lot of people said even Premiership sides may have envied our midfield...yet this side only managed to finish 3rd and won the play-off final, which was a fantastic day, but the game itself was not convincing, sitting at Wembley I was fearful of Blackpool a lot. Then the first season back up and we did very well, possibly a high from getting promoted and on top of that the loan signing of Andy Carroll proved a big help. But then again, the team Alan Pardew had that won the playoff final, on paper was probably not as good as yours, on top of that, the following year Pardew guided us to 9th and also guided us to the FA Cup final, a game a lot of people felt we should win. He suffered a familiar feeling that I am getting now, the side struggled the next year and suffered one of our worst starts in our history, yet I was sad to see Pardew go at the time, yet yourself, I would be happy to see leave. Here's my reasons why, firstly the tradition of West Ham that I fell in love with when my brother first started showing me football was the way we played, not always the prettiest, but they wanted to pass the ball and play quick attacking football, no matter who we were against, be in Manchester United or a League Two minnow, we stuck to our ways, sometimes this could lead to a memorable victory, other times it could lead to awful shock defeats, but one thing always stood out, our fans no matter the outcome would sing and support the team as they always felt they were giving 100%. Under yourself, you have a much different tactic to this, you set the side up not to lose (although I've always heard the best form of defence is attack). You will almost always stick to your lone striker ruling, even when chasing a game and you aren't afraid to toughen a side and bully the opponents. I admit this can sometimes work very well, the problem I have though, is when we lose, we look like we just rollover and have no alternative. You seem to allow the team to stand off the opponents and let them come at you, which just puts a side into a tough position, you also promote a much more direct root of football, launching the ball in the general direction of a target man who will try to flick the ball onto a team mate or control the ball, which is not a brilliant style of play to watch at times. Don't get me wrong I don't mind winning ugly if you have to, but in recent performances especially, it doesn't look like our team are even comfortable attempting to pass it short or on the floor. Making the losses look even uglier than those wins when you can draw out.

Secondly, when I was growing up, West Ham had the nickname "The Academy of Football" and for very good reason, back then I saw the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and Frank Lampard come through, then later on we saw Jermain Defoe, Anton Ferdinand and Glen Johnson, then even later we saw the likes of Jordan Spence, Freddie Sears, Junior Stanislas, Frank Nouble and Zavon Hines come through (almost all of which you have shown the exit too), now I admit, the class of the earlier players was much higher than that of the latter, but they all had their talents to be given a chance, Sears for his scoring ability in the Development Squads, Stanislas for his wing play and delivery of the ball, Hines for his pace, Nouble for his strength and Spence I admit was thrown in at the deep end of a relegation battle, but he put in some promising performances at the time. Yet you seem adamant to never give our young players a chance and recently claimed none of them as good enough (and you wonder why Forest beat them after their own manager probably shattered their confidence to pieces). You have given the odd player a chance, Potts, who many admired and thought might push into the first team, Chambers and Ruddock in the cup, who both had put in reasonable performances (yet when we had a centre back crisis, you opted to play McCartney and O'Brien in centre back roles rather than possibly give one of these an opportunity in their natural position) and Spence has featured as a substitute a few times. Also you allowed Rob Hall to walk out the door, possibly against your wishes as he wanted first team football despite you saying he was one of our best prospects (surely you would have promised if he continued to impress he would get his chance and if he took it, then first team football would come his way. He still talks about West Ham and clearly loves them, so I feel you missed a trick there). So I would like to know, why not chance some of these players, you never know, they just might shine, take for instance when we seemed to not even be able to buy a goal, yet Elliott Lee was scoring for fun in the Dev Squad, surely he could have done no worse than our strikers at the time who were struggling to find the back of the net. Or why not build on Dan Potts' promise and try to make him into a confident and impressive future left back? All I'm saying, is you shouldn't rule out the players before first of all giving them a chance. The only players you seem to like from our academy are Noble and Tomkins, which I'm pleased you do, but we also have a very good midfielder in Collison who has also scored some vital goals for us, rarely ever getting a look in.

Lastly, is your transfer business, you spent a lot of money on one man, Andy Carroll. Now I am pleased you signed him as he did very well for us, but surely even you knew, he was going to need an operation, so would have signed a second striker in preparation or maybe had a different tactical plan for while he was out? It just seems you are still trying to play as if he is there, when Maiga for example, is quite clearly a very different type of player to him and Carlton Cole just hasn't quite be at the top of his game. Maybe risk them both together? Again it could pay off.

As you can see, I'm not the happiest of Hammers right now. I feel you're taking everything I knew about West Ham and are just ripping it to shreds, on top of that, the performances are not going your way, your so called hard to beat team now is leaking goals for fun (although I won't lie, a lot of that could be down to injuries and having to play players out of position...or maybe try the younger players who might well fit the bill and full the void until then). And our recent performances have just been horrible to watch, I don't doubt for a second they aren't giving it their all, but the tactics and style of play just look clueless, standing off opponents and letting them keep the ball, then every attack we seem to do is to launch it to the target man and hope they win a flick on or knock it out wide and hope one of Downing, Jarvis or J.Cole beat their man and get a cross in. Also when everyone else could see Nolan wasn't performing very well, you kept him in the side and never ever subbed him off. On top of that, in games we've been losing, you've swapped Maiga for C.Cole or vice versa when, maybe just once, we could do with using both of them.

It seems that you won't be walking away and you won't be getting sacked. So all I ask, is maybe to change some of your styles or views. It could just be the one gamble you need to survive in this league and I'm not saying this will happen, but maybe if you did change it, then some fans will warm to you, if you don't then I'm afraid, even if you do keep us up, then you will never be accepted by many of our fan base, as even when you did guide us to 10th last season, I knew a lot of people that were still very unhappy and all it takes is for a few bad performances for them fans to start getting louder again, you've heard it for yourself in the Championship, last season at times and especially, right this second. I just feel you should consider it.

Last of all, if you are staying, then good luck, as I feel you're going to need it, but if we do go down, then I'd like to be the first to say, I did warn you right at the start of this post.

James Bannister.

Friday, 3 January 2014

New Year, New Me...

Well it's now 2014, with West Ham sitting in a disappointing 19th and 3 points off of the relegation zone. The end of last season now feels like a distant memory as this year has been a great big struggle. We started off okay, although we weren't playing superbly, we looked very good defensively, since the injury to Winston Reid, we appear to be leaking goals left, right and centre, with the only shining light that I can truly recall being those 2 wins at Tottenham, first in the league and then again in the cup (come on, I had to get that in here somehow!). Other than that it appears we just see players getting injured everywhere, Andy Carroll, Ravel Morrison, Mark Noble, Winston Reid, James Tomkins and Stewart Downing to name a few! It seems like a horror show that loves to repeat itself at West Ham and it's slowly getting more and more irritating. On top of that, we haven't exactly performing well at times, struggling to pass, create chances and on top of that score goals. It's a season where I've seen fans calling for Sam's head and other fans just screaming that something needs to change. All in all, I agree with them, I'm stuck though, as I do not feel there are many managers available who could do a decent job, especially when in the tough battle that is appearing ahead to avoid relegation, but at the same time, I want Sam Allardyce to leave, as I find his tactics not only stressful to try and watch but also predictive and uninspiring.

Looking at some of the games we've dropped points are also worrying signs, we can't afford to drop points to teams in the same area as us any more and those prior to this (i.e. Fulham and Norwich who had just suffered heavy defeats before beating us) could end up costing us dearly.

We need to sign in January, I can think of us requiring another CB, a Striker and possibly another number to midfield as cover just to help, especially as Allardyce did say a short while ago that no one in our youth teams was good enough to play in the first team. A verdict that I was strongly upset about, a tradition that I fell in love about West Ham was that we always gave those youth players a chance to shine, just look at some players who played over the years for us, some succeeded and some did fail, but I felt you could only give that verdict after giving them the odd game here and there, even if it was only 15 minutes. There are players who I'm sure would thrive at the chance, Elliot Lee who was scoring for fun in the youth teams would love to score for the senior team and at a time where scoring goals has been an issue then why not chance it? If it pays off, you'd look like a genius for giving him his chances. George Moncur would love to follow his fathers steps and appear in the first team too, from what I've seen (albeit very little) he looks like he could be a composed midfielder. Then you have the likes of Potts, Chambers and Ruddock who have all impressed now and then in little runs in the first team, give them a shot and they might really make a step up, especially playing alongside experienced players, then you also have the likes of Turgott who last season went on a fantastic cup run with Bradford City and Tombides, Spence etc. who must be begging for a chance to play. I'm not saying they are the answer but you could question why they've never really played much to try and show their worth, maybe the hunger they have could be enough alone to make them perform, also it could shout out a strong message to people under performing that they need to be at the top of their game, otherwise their place could be in jeopardy. Thankfully Sam has said he will play a fair few against Nottingham Forest in the cup and I really hope they all put in strong performances despite the managers damning verdict, just to try and prove a point. They may not be the answer, but it is a start alongside restrengthening in this window. I really do hope we are active, even if it is loans, we need something to help us in what could be a big battle to stay up.

Do I think we will stay up? At this moment in time, I would say no, from the games I've watched this season, we've looked like a team lost, unable to pass the ball, lack of movement and support especially going forward, a team that sits back and lets the other team come at them all the time and a severe lack of confidence. They are all things that I feel could hurt us and on top of that, we have a captain who appears to just love being sent off, which is never going to help with all the injuries and he isn't making a good case for himself, especially to me, who is a fan that has never been a fan of him. I honestly feel like he doesn't deserve to be captain right now, but then again, I don't feel Allardyce deserves to be manager anymore, but I feel he could well be surviving on the fact that there are no proven managers who would seriously consider coming to West Ham. Although Malky McKay is available, I honestly have not seen enough of him to warrant us considering him, unproven in this league and could he motivate a team with their heads down to survive relegation? I'm not so sure myself. Also if the rumours are true that it would cost £6 million to sack Sam, that could also be helping him greatly, but then again, the cost of relegation could be much more so and our board won't like to see a repeat of the Avram Grant season. The one thing I really dislike about Sam at the moment though, is his lack of accepting some of the blame. Yes he isn't solely to blame for the injuries and our captain going a bit crazy, but he does pick the team and tell them how he wants to play, maybe if he showed more belief in them then he could get them playing better, also he is one manager who never seems to have a plan B, when we went down 2-1 to Fulham, he brought off Maiga for Carlton Cole in a direct switch, when chasing a must win game, surely you would risk putting on Cole to play alongside Maiga in the desperate attempts to claw at least a goal back, even if you did end up losing 3-1?

Who should we sign in January? Should Allardyce be gone? Should we be showing more faith in our younger players and giving them a chance? I want to hear your views!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

It's a rollercoaster

Well today we had one heck of an entertaining game against Everton, but the most painful part was seeing us walk away with nothing. The worst part of it all is, I don't feel we can blame anyone but ourselves.

The first half we looked very comfortable and Everton only seemed to be a threat from distance, seeing Morrison grab his 1st goal in the Premiership and seeing our midfield and defence look very comfortable was very pleasing to see, the only worry was the lack of clear chances we had despite dominating overall.

The second half was a completely different story, Everton decided to make some changes, the one of note that caused the most problems was Lukaku coming on for Jelavic. He seemed to give Everton confidence and almost every attack was coming through him as a target, then the first of our own mistakes came, James Collins brought down Barkley on the edge of our box, a tackle he probably didn't need to make as he was running out wide and there were other defenders back to cover, Baines hit the free kick beautifully into the top left hand corner and it was 1-1. That hurt and it looked like it was downhill from there as they continued to throw everything at us, then a glimmer of hope appeared, Petric fighting to keep a ball in play and then knocked it to Nolan who was brought down in the box, we then saw Noble comfortably slot the resulting penalty home. Straight after the penalty we saw Nolan come off for Taylor, I think Nolan asked to come off as he had run over to the touchline, but what confused me was Taylor coming on, considering we were being out played by Everton, I expected to see another defender come in to just try and defend that lead as best as possible, but what will be will be. Then, saw the second and third blows to our side in quick succession. Barkley was running at our defence and Noble was charging back and lunged in and fouled Barkley, resulting in another dangerous free kick and the centre midfielder picking up a second yellow and being sent off, two things we really didn't need. In all honesty I don't know why Noble even attempted that tackle on a yellow card, sometimes yes you may get away with it, but the way he immediately looked to the ref after the tackle, made me feel he knew exactly what was coming and I personally didn't think he got the ball, so couldn't complain. This free kick was then superbly struck by that man Leighton Baines again, but this time in off the inside of the right post, Jussi had no chance at all. Then with 10 men and an Everton side who had clearly seen their opportunity threw everything forward and eventually that man Lukaku headed home to seal the 3 points for them.

It was very hard to take, especially given the first half performance, but it seemed the half time changed left us with no answer and then saw us just struggling to hold on, but at the same time, had neither Collins or Noble lunged in, then maybe, just maybe, we could be celebrating 3 points tonight. But I do also question why we brought Taylor on, when we were clearly ball chasing for much of the second half, Petric chased everything down which was great, that's why I thought we may have stuck an extra defender on and defended like our lives depended on it and try to hold them to long shots (not the dead ball situation type though). All in all though, I really hope our players learned something here, don't lunge in on the edge of your area unless you are definitely going to make the tackle.

It was painful but there were definitely positives to take from this game, Winston Reid as seems to be the case in all matches recently is as solid at the back as ever, Petric despite not being fully fit will not give up on anything, Rat looks very comfortable in the Premier League and could build quite a partnership with Jarvis and Morrison looks more and more comfortable on that pitch each game, him and Noble compliment each other well, taking it in turns with who goes forward and seeming to be good outlets to create a goal. It's just a shame that the latter managed to go from hero to zero in a very quick space of time with a clumsy challenge, but that is football and the players need to learn from this, dust themselves down and remember that they could have won and make sure the next time that this doesn't happen.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Transfer Deadline Day - Ups and Downs

At the time of writing this it is half 8 in the evening and transfer deadline day is bringing out, the best, the worst, the funniest and the ugliest in a lot of fans.

Our fans have been hit by the bombshell from Jack Sullivan's twitter suggesting we are probably not going to be signing anyone today. Now don't get me wrong, I am gutted by it as I do feel we could have done with another striker, but at the same time I am not going to be panicking and claiming we are going to be in some relegation battle, like it appears some of our fans now think. This squad was newly promoted last season and we managed to finish 10th, now we have lost the odd player such as Gary O'Neil and Carlton Cole, but we have brought in Carroll, Rat, Adrian, Downing and have the returned Morrison. Now that isn't much of a change, which is, in my personal opinion a good thing, just look at Sunderland who seem to have bought nearly a whole new starting 11, there team just looks confused how to play together. So a few changes here and there is probably a much smarter move, I think Adrian is a good solid backup to Jussi, while Rat will be introduced to the Premiership slowly but surely and could prove to be a promising signing, but until then we do have Joey O'Brien who is doing a solid job covering and the imminent return of McCartney. Defensively I feel we are stronger, as the majority of them have been together the whole time and we now have more strength in depth and they performed superbly in the first 2 games to face 1 shot on target against them, which is a brilliant job no matter who you play against. Midfield wise, we have only really lost Gary O'Neil and have gained Morrison and Downing this year, I was a little gutted by losing O'Neil as I felt he was a solid backup player and this superbly when Noble was absent, but we have gained a great talent in Morrison who looks exciting to watch and will bring something new and unexpected to our side, along with that I still think Downing will prove to be a right coup once he hits form as he can use both feet just like Jarvis and I would always consider him to be threat on the wing. Other than this we still have the likes of Cole, Noble, Nolan, Collison, Vaz Te (although he has handed in a transfer request), who were all part of the set up that helped this side come to 10th last season, so I honestly think we are not lacking in midfield, yes we have been hit by a bit of an injury with Downing out for 3 weeks and I believe Cole out for 4 weeks, but 2 of these are international breaks, so they will be back quite quickly. Then we come to the attack, at the moment we only have Maiga fit, but Carroll is potentially returning for the Southampton game, which means yes we are short in numbers, but last season we only had Cole leading the line when Carroll was out as Maiga was shoved out wide, now I personally think Maiga could come good, he has only played a few games up top, at Cardiff he won most battles, Newcastle he was frustratingly offside for his goal and against Stoke he was poor, but then again, so was the whole team, so I don't think you can personally pin everything on him, if he can win those aerial battles more, which I'm sure he can as he has a big jump on him and possibly hold up play to spread the ball out wide a little more, then I honestly think he can be a good striker, we have already seen he can score, I remember his goal at Southampton well and most feeling he deserved a shot from that goal alone, I personally feel people are quick to blame someone, Carlton Cole last year and now this year it appears to be Modibo Maiga and I feel sorry for him as I think if he gets some confidence, he could be a threat, also with Carroll due to return, we all already know what he can do and he will boost our squad greatly when fit, but lets be honest, he didn't score loads and his fitness does seem questionable as he was injured a lot last season, so we may have to rely on Maiga more, I personally think he deserves a chance to show what he can do until January. If he isn't doing anything then by all means in that window, we will need to get down to business, but we could also try Vaz Te up top on his own too as he is by no means small so may do a job and could have chances if Maiga isn't performing.

I honestly don't see why everyone is panicking so much, yes we are missing a few players but they will be back in a few weeks, including the main one Andy Carroll, so overall I see us as a stronger squad than last season as we now have more depth, yes we are still short up front, but lets be honest with ourselves, we were last year and we finished in the top half of the table, most of our goals came from Midfield and if Carroll can stay fit and find his goal scoring boots or head for that matter, then surely overall we are stronger than last season?

It feels odd being so defensive of Sam Allardyce, as I won't lie, I'm quick to find him frustrating, but I honestly don't think there is any need for us to panic. If come January we are in a relegation scrap, then sure we might want to panic, but right now we're 3 games in and I feel we can comfortably beat teams like Cardiff, Hull, Crystal Palace and probably Sunderland as I feel their squad won't gel at all. Then I'm sure we will be tough opponents for other clubs out there as well, but yes there will be bad days at the office, just like the Stoke game, just as there were last season and seasons before, but as long as they don't become a regular habit, then we really shouldn't be so scared.

On top of this I feel my two good friends on Twitter, Mark and Lawrence (@MarkWHUFC & @Lawrenceee_B) have really made the deadline day enjoyable. Among all the panic, seeing their comical replies or sarcastic comments has actually made me still have some faith in peoples mind. I strongly recommend you give them a follow just for that.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Food For Thought

Well so far so good for West Ham you'd think so far, 1 win and 1 draw in the league, 0 goals conceded and 1 shot on target against us. On top of this we had a 2-1 cup win against Cheltenham where we saw Vaz Te score a nice free-kick and then that man from pre-season, Ravel Morrison managed another speedy goal, 35 seconds after the restart in the second half and he managed to grab a goal. In my opinion, I really do hope he gets plenty of opportunities to shine in the Premiership this year, this guy clearly has potential and it will be very exciting if the hype that seems to gradually be building up more about him, proves to be spot on. 

Now onto the main point of my article, the other day, the man who fired us back into the Premier League, Ricardo Vaz Te has handed in a transfer request. Now this to me doesn't really bother me, I felt last season, he came across as lazy at times and I don't think he is quite ready for the top flight of English football. What has got me interested though, is his statement that has been flying around since he has done this. For those of you who haven't read it, you can see this below:

"In my 10 years as a professional footballer I have never submitted a transfer request nor issued a statement. However, I am frustrated at West Ham.
Last season I was asked to change positions for the benefit of the team even though I had just scored 24 goals.The main objective was to finish in the top 10 in the Premier League and I followed my instructions to the best of my ability as the club always comes first.
As a result even though I was injured for three months no other player made more assists than me and no other winger scored more goals.
In addition, since I joined this football club no other player has scored more goals than me in all official competitions to date.
Statistics are evident to all, despite this it has been made obvious to myself and my representatives that I am not in the manager’s plans.
Therefore it is with a heavy heart that I submit a transfer request and look to join a club where my approach to the game will be appreciated."

The reason I found this interesting is because the more I look at it the more I feel he actually makes a very good point. Don't get me wrong, out of the players I have seen leave West Ham since Big Sam's arrival, I don't think he has really made a massive mistake in letting any of them go, all for various reasons, either they aren't up to scratch, they don't suit his style or they don't want to be there. Vaz Te was one of the top goal scorers in the Championship that season, we then got promoted thanks to his goal and then for the forthcoming season, he was pushed into a wide role on the right, a completely new position to him, he had played central and he had also played on the left a lot for Barnsley, but he was given the freedom to cut inside and fire at will, which is what he basically did when he joined us too. He did as Sam asked and then it seems that we have signed players to push him down the pecking order, I would say he is now third choice on the right wing behind Downing and Joe Cole (and rightly so), while he is also probably third choice centre forward behind Carroll and Maiga (again I feel this is probably right, although I do wonder if Vaz Te knuckled down in a central role, he could have potentially been challenging Maiga as he is tall and potentially strong when he wants to be), but despite him doing what was asked of him, we just carried on with our business to improve. Now I'm not pretending I know what goes on behind closed doors, but imagine Vaz Te had constantly been asking to play up front, then he gets shoved out on the right, then the following season you are cast to the bench or completely out of the starting 11. As a player I imagine that is going to hurt a lot and I do wonder if he was ever told about it or whether he was just cast to one side. I personally feel there's lots of players who must have felt in similar situations, Baldock and Maynard spring to mind, I even recall Baldock saying he was willing to try to learn to play out wide to improve his chances, but still come when we were promoted, he was shown the door (although again I feel Sam was right with this as I don't think he is ready for the Premiership, but I will be watching Maynard closely at Cardiff, as I really felt he had potential to be a very good striker and I was a little bit gutted when he left to Cardiff but this is just my personal opinion). On top of this it makes me wonder how someone like Tomkins must feel too, he was part of a strong partnership with Reid in the Championship and even played right back and defensive midfield now and then when asked, although I did feel this really made Tomkins look poor as you could see he wasn't in a comfortable position there, but then when we came up he was dropped to the subs bench for 2 major reasons, the arrival of James Collins and also the Olympics that Tomkins decided to compete in to represent his country, leaving him out of a fair few pre-season matches. I do wonder had he not gone, could he be part of that partnership or would he still have been dropped for Collins? It is hard to say. I personally would like to see Tomkins partner Reid again a few times, just to see if they could get that strong partnership back as I feel if they could, then we could have a perfect centre back pairing for a long time. At the moment though I hope JT bides his time and grabs any chances he gets with both hands, although I could see him being a potential player to hand in a transfer request to as he seems to be seeing his first team chances slowly dwindling away from him.

My main views on this whole thing and my main point of this article is, does Sam know really how to treat players when he feels they aren't up to scratch, rather than leave, most seem to come out and say something, take Diarra last year and Vaz Te as major parts of this, they haven't hesitated in coming out and slamming him for the way they were treated. On top of this, I also feel that Sam doesn't give players a chance even if they may have earned it on the pitch, although one thing we don't see is the team in training and that could be all Sam needs to really spot a players potential. My only worry about all of this, is if these players aren't afraid to come out about it, what could happen if this happened with more players, especially while they are at the club still, could this lead to unwanted problems in and around the squad, possible distractions, basically things I wouldn't want to see happen. So I hope it's just me looking way too much into this, although, the thought does cross my mind now and then. I would really love to hear other views on this, so if you do have some, feel free to comment away as I would be intrigued to see what others think, even if they are just saying I'm far too paranoid! 

Please also take note, I am not slamming Sam in anyway in this article, I think the guy has been correct on most players he has brought in and let go, he is doing a fantastic job and we are clearly a much stronger side than we ever have been, defensively especially. 

Monday, 26 August 2013

Early Days

As of writing this, the season has seen us have 1 home and 1 away performance. I won't talk about the table as this is practically pointless at the moment and won't really come to light until another few games are played, but I do not blame any West Ham fan for having a little smile when they do see our current position, or more importantly our Goal Difference, not only is it a plus, but we also haven't conceded.

In our home game against Cardiff, we looked very comfortable, especially on the ball, although for a home game against a newly promoted team, I did still feel we let them have a little too much of the ball, luckily for us they seemed to lack the cutting edge that they had in their game against Manchester City, thus never really creating any chances. In that game Jussi faced one shot on goal. Credit where it is due, Sam really does seem to have got the best out of our defence, Demel and O'Brien look comfortable either side of the pairing of Reid and Collins, who have both started the season where they left off on the last. Winston Reid especially seems to be improving every game, I'm a big fan of his now, he battles for everything, strong on and off the ball and up for any header in his path, Collins on the other hand I'm still unconvinced, yes he is very good defensively, he will block everything, but as soon as he has the ball, he is more likely to look long than short, this is good at times, especially when Andy Carroll is in the side, as the big man just seems to get his head onto everything and the wide players and Nolan are always looking for it, but I can't help but feel, when he isn't in the side, our wide players aren't as eager to get near the front man, I noticed this with Carlton last year and Maiga this year a little but not as much. Whenever the ball last season especially went long to Carlton, the players such as Vaz Te, Jarvis & Nolan, just never got near him, so even when Carlton did win the ball, it ended up going straight back to the other side, it did seem Carroll brought a lot more confidence to our midfield going forward at least. I sometimes just wish Collins would happily knock it out wide or forward now and then before going long, but Allardyce probably likes this about him as it straight away gets the opposing team on the back foot, but I'd just like us to mix it up a little bit more. This could just be because I'm a fan of passing football, but I also feel we have the quality in midfield to mix it up and maybe play shorter a little more. I also feel sorry for Tomkins as it looks like he will be the third choice centre back from now on, it's an awful shame as this young player was once looking destined to become one of the clubs favourite home grown players in a while, but ever since that dreaded Olympics, it seems to have suffered him more than benefiting him, I do hope that he can get back his form though and maybe see him in the future develop a strong partnership with Reid like they had in the Championship at times. Time will tell, but I would like that to happen, it just means seeing him make the most of his potential. I can't complain though as this backline also happily kept Newcastle quiet at St James' Park, in a formidable display to keep consecutive clean sheets and a solid defence is always a good platform to build on, as you know if the opposing team can't score, then you can't be beaten.

Midfield wise, it seems this year we could potentially see Allardyce getting a few headaches. Good headaches that is, with the arrival of Downing, who is already looking to impress in Claret & Blue from what I've seen so far, it must be tough for Sam to see our best midfield. You can almost guarantee that Noble and Nolan will start, but Morrison could soon be pushing Diame for a starting spot, which I personally only see as a good thing, Diame is fantastic, but sometimes he does seem to try to do a little too much on the ball, when a simple pass could be the better option, also there were times last season where he seemed to run out of steam, so having Morrison pushing him could improve his all round performances and also give him a well earned break when he needs it, also the prospect of Morrison seems quite exciting. On the wings it is also tough who is the best two to have, Downing, Joe Cole and Jarvis. Jarvis and Downing are the more natural wide players, so you know they will get crosses in, but then Joe Cole has that little bit about him to create something out of nothing and pop up with the odd goal, so it could be a mixture, or maybe it could depend on who is starting up front, or who we are up against. You also still have Vaz Te, but I feel that possibly Sam and the West Ham faithful have run out of patience with him, I personally saw glimmers of hope in him last season, but not enough, I had hoped maybe with him knowing the potential arrivings, that he would have upped his performances in pre-season, but to me he still seems like the unpredictable player of last year, when you were never sure just whether he'd turn up or not.

Up front it feels we are still short. We only have Carroll and Maiga, while I have full faith in Andy when he is fit, as he does so much for the team, wins aerial battles, holds up play, creates and scores, he's the perfect striker mould for Allardyce's style. Maiga though, there are still a few questions, whilst against Newcastle, he seemed to do okay in the aerial battles, but he was offside when he managed to score and maybe could have had another chance, if he'd been a bit more determined to go for the ball after Downing's header across. I personally think Maiga is okay, but I know a lot who disagree, I feel given time playing in his natural position, he could show his worth as I do feel he can finish, but my only worry for him is that he is not comfortable as a target man in the Premier League, he might prefer balls to run onto and utilise his pace, or maybe balls to feet where he can try shaping up to shoot. It's a tough one, but I'm willing to give him a chance and see how he does. Whether the full West Ham faithful agree, will be a completely different story.

So overall, I feel defensively we look fantastic, which is great, not only for us Hammers, but I think Sam will be over the moon too as he likes a team that is hard to defeat and this year we could possibly be even harder, especially with the likes of Rat and Tomkins eager to come into play. Midfield I think we are good and have multiple options to mix our style of play too, again a very promising sign and hopefully it could create more diversity for Sam's team as I did feel last year that we struggled at times going forward due to lack of ideas, now with the players at his disposal, he can mix our play up without even changing formation. Up front, I'm still undecided, with Carroll fit I feel Maiga is a nice option to have coming off the bench when other teams are tired and we could utilise his pace, but while the big man is out, I'm not 100% sure yet, as I'm not sure he's f comfortable in that role, but Gold admitted last night that we are at our wage cap which means a player or 2 would have to go before another comes in. Personally I think Taylor and Vaz Te could definitely be leaving, both I wouldn't be too upset to see go either, Taylor is just getting on a bit and Vaz Te for me just isn't consistent enough, another couple that could go is Diarra, who had a massive bust up with Sam last season, so I wouldn't be surprised if he sees the lack of opportunities again this year and decides to go and possibly Collison, this one hurts me to admit as I love the guy, I think he's class, but he never really seems to have fully recovered from his injury so I'm not sure he would ever cement a first team place and whether we would need him with Morrison coming through. If 2 or 3 of these went then I think we could possibly see another striker come in, the only trouble is, they would have to be prepared to play second fiddle to Andy, which could make it tough to make a move seem appetising to a player. I just feel we need another target man type player and then we could see ourselves with one of the strongest squads we've had in a long time. I think there is reasons to be optimistic though, I would love to see us improve on our 10th place finish, although I'd be more impressed if we had a proper go in the cups this year too.

Looking at the squad we are building though, I think it is safe to say Sam will be around for a few more years, everyone knows by now I'm not his biggest fan but he is building a squad to suit his style of play and we do seem to be getting increasingly tough to beat, so I have to tip my hat to him and give him full credit for that, as in previous seasons we have probably been a bit too leaky in defence. What I would like to see though, is a bit more possession from our side in certain games, especially those we know we should beat. If we could manage that then I think we could be one of the hardest teams to come up against in the division, just because we would then have the options to go short and long even more than we already did, as we did see last season, there were moments when we played beautiful football, so I would like to see that encouraged a little more. Overall I think we have good reason to be optimistic about the year ahead and if we can continue to add quality to our side then who knows, maybe we could push up higher, but it will be tough with the teams who finished above us last year as they all have added quality to their sides too.