West Ham United
Finally a quality left back makes his way to Upton Park. Manchester City’s, Wayne Bridge, who has spent his entire impressive career in the Premier League signs his name on the line and commits to helping the Hammers avoid relegation. In the last year he’s dealt with a bit of injury both in his career and personal life, another victim of John Terry’s seemingly endless line of infidelities (Bridge denied a handshake to his former England captain when it was announced that Terry had been doing more than shaking hands with Bridge’s ex). However, Wayne is fit now and seeing a new lady in London (albeit not far from Terry’s grasp) where he’ll remain for the rest of the season. Bridge makes his debut on Saturday at the Boleyn Ground in front of a crowd who’ll no doubt empathize with him and welcome him with open arms. West Ham have needed a proper left back for ages now since we moved make-shift left back Jonathan Spector into the midfield where he CLEARLY belongs, and since injuries have benched Ilunga. In fact no fewer than 4 players have covered the spot playing out of position including Spector’s reprise, Luis Boa Morte, Danny Gabbidon, and Matt Upson.
Which brings us to this Saturday where we’ll undoubtedly face a full-strength Arsenal side. That being said, if their performance in this week’s FA Cup Semi-final first leg was an indication of their “full-strength” team, we don’t have much to worry about, especially at home! Even with the best of their side on the pitch it seemed a comedy of errors and lack of pace threatened the Gunners who barely turned up for the contest.
Ideally the selection I would make would be:
Jacobsen, Tomkins, Upson, Bridge
Sears, Parker, Noble, Stanislas
Subs: Boffin, Cole, Spector, Kovac, Nouble, Reid, Gabbidon, Faubert, Barrera, Spence, Boa Morte
Tactically, I’d start the young hungry ones like Sears, Stanislas and Hines and see what they can do in the front, while the old hands cover the back (Upson, Bridge, Jacobsen – if he’s fit – and the very seasoned youngster, Tomkins). Then if things go our way, keep em on through the half and change them out only if necessary. If needed the change should mirror the Arsenal 4-2-3-1 with Parker and Noble sliding back, bringing on Cole for Piquionne up front, Spector (in the middle but behind Cole) for Hines, and LBM, who will play out to the left for Stanislas. We can slow down the pace in the second half if the youngsters do their job and get us out in front in the beginning.
No one expects us to get a GOAL in this game, let alone a point, but this might be the opportunity we need to build some confidence in the young bucks.
Arsenal is going to be a pain in every last corner of the pitch most likely putting out the front trio of Nasri, Van Persie and Walcott, who frankly had a MARE this week. The middle triangle of Wilshere, Fabregas and Song are going to have poor Scotty Parker running in circles all day and the back four featuring Koscielny and Eboue who both sent their less talented evil twins to the cup game will have something to prove at the weekend. If we can get by the front six, the easiest ways seem to be right down the lines since Song and Wilshere tend to play too center, we’ll have a chance at beating the slower Eboue/Djourou team or drawing a penalty or free kick from the careless Clichy/Koscielny side. Either way we’re going to have to work our “arses” off to get a point out of them.
Just a few days ago, it was announced that Blackburn’s new owners had sacked their manager. Floods of calls, emails and letters came in to radio stations, newspapers and websites from Blackburn fans who were seemingly pretty evenly split on the decision. Some were relieved that they were finally rid of the style of football Sam’s become famous for that both keeps his clubs up in the table and down in the mouth. Others were annoyed that they chose to do so without a clear appointment in mind who could helm their transfer window activities and plot a course for the second half of an odd Premier League season.
Speculation began to surround West Ham manager Uncle Avi Grant when news of a board meeting and ultimatum swelled around the papers and in discussions between fans. ”Three games to improve or you’re out” was the word and looking at the fixture list I’d hope the next three games would yield some points: Blackburn, Fulham — on Boxing Day — and Everton. Beating all of them (while most of my fellow supporters would call that nothing short of a Christmas miracle) would see us climbing out of the relegation zone almost literally over the backs of those who would then be sinking into it. And what a lovely place to be just before the transfer window.
I will barely mention the idea that should Sam be available and Grant fall short of the board’s demands, Allardyce could take over as the new manager at West Ham. It would be a dire day for all of us as our hopes of being able to play our style of football AND remain in the Premier League would die. A choice would be made and Sam’s appointment would make that choice clear to us all.
I have never thought sacking the manager improves things instantly. After all, we sacked Zola and aside from some great pre-season games and some quality moments of that undeniably signature West Ham style of football (albeit few and far between) we are actually lower on the table than we were this time last season. It’s clear to me that bringing on Wally Downes has improved the confidence of our back four, improving some of their skills remains to be seen, however it was a step in the right direction. There was talk of bringing on Di Canio as an attacking coach which set all our hearts aflutter and of course, the inevitable questions about what Avram Grant DOES if he’s not instilling confidence in the players will remain if things don’t get better soon. Still, part of the blame has to be with the players from my perspective. Showing up defeated before the coin toss and turning in performances unbecoming the shirts on their backs is starting to get as tired as the same old apology email in my inbox on Monday mornings.
That said, we have one of those rare West Ham opportunities to face a side as unsure about their leadership as we are and being old hands at it MIGHT actually fare well for us and throw the game in our favour. They have some key injuries, just as we do. They are having management issues, just as we are. And most notably, their new owners seem about as clueless about running their club as ours are, at the moment anyway.
The challenges we’ll face in their squad will undoubtedly be Pedersen (leading scorer) and Dunn (leading mouthpiece) who have shown they’re ready to charge forward against clubs like West Ham who give them plenty of space. If we can close them down faster we’ll have a chance at holding them to the usual clean sheet we have enjoyed against Rovers in recent match-ups.
I would like to see the line-up include the following:
Jacobsen – Tomkins – Upson – Ben Haim
Dyer – Parker – Spector – Stanislas
Obinna – Piquionne
Swapping Obinna to the right side will allow a nice flow from Jacobsen to Dyer freeing up Vic and Piq to get in the box and be open for that signature Dyer-flick that often eludes Carlton Cole. Dyer is not afraid to charge his way into the box and challenge the opposition’s defense man-on-man. All Vic and Piq have to do is stay ahead of him on their way to the area and stay onside. If Spector and Stanislas can manage to create something between them, again it leaves the Vic and Piq options to be wide open to score in a way that has been lacking with the likes of LBM and Kovac on the pitch.
I am eerily optimistic if Uncle Avi goes with this line-up since every time we’ve seen Jacobsen, Dyer and Obinna line up on the same side: Blackpool – draw, Wolves – draw and our 1-nil win over Spurs — we have taken away points and were credited for playing well except for poor finishing.
OBVIOUS game-sinkers in my mind: Cole in the starting 11, Dyer coming off before the end of the first half, giving them too much room in our half — ESPECIALLY when we’re still scoreless and Scott Parker carrying the world on his shoulders without sitting back a little and let Jonny Specs have a go at being the creator.
According to reports around the country West Ham are preparing to sack manager Avram Grant and replace him with former Blackburn Rovers manager Sam Allardyce.
The hammers board believe Allardyce – who was sacked earlier on Monday by Blackburn Rovers – would be better qualified to lift them off the foot of the table after managing 12 points from 17 league games.
West Ham would surely benefit from Allardyce’s experiences at resurrecting teams from the drop having taken over at Rovers in December 2008 when they were 19th in the league and leading them to safety.
He has also established Bolton Wanderers as a top-half Premier League club during his 8 year spell at the club from 1999-2007 and is well known as a manager for assembling teams with a tight budget who punch above their weight.
He would also be an attractive choice for the board in terms of financial costs as there is no buy-out fee as he is not under contract.
There have been strong rumours already that the hammers board have already lined him up, and it might not be too long before we see Big Sam at the helm of West Ham.
Usually about this time in the Premier League season injuries begin to plague every club due to extra cup games, international appearances and illness as the temperatures drop across the country. Snow has already cancelled one game this weekend and we anticipate postponements in the future, however our game this week will go on, as of now. So let’s take a look at what to expect for this week’s clash at the Stadium of Light:
First, Avram Grant has gone on record to say that following Jonathan Spector’s display at the recent 4-nil slaughtering of Manchester United in Upton Park he’s earned his place in the midfield. Scott Parker has taken the time to recover from his chest infection and he will be coming as well, so we’ll have to see if he’ll line them up side by side. Seeing as how Grant’s 4-4-2 formation seems to be the one most recently selected, the front two look to be Piquionne and Cole although I would PREFER to go with the Obinna/Cole front two from the cup game. They seemed to work well together with Vic as the conduit between the attacking midfielder (Parker or Spector) and Cole or the winger (in our case LBM) and Cole. Vic’s not afraid to challenge and push through a defender and we need that kind of forward-moving player up front. Also, Vic’s great on the counter, but not if he’s stuck too wide out on the wing.
The issue for me is, and I cannot believe I’m saying this, we have to select the best back four from our choices. Currently we have Upson, Tomkins, Gabbidon, Jacobsen, and Ben Haim all fit which is a great bunch to choose from when they are all on form. For me I’d like to have Jacobsen return at RB, Tomkins and Upson in the middle and Ben Haim on the left. While I love Gabsey, lately he’s been giving away free kicks and penalties that have been near game-changers for us. We cannot afford to put him up against Bent and Welbeck and risk him making those same mistakes. Also, Darren Bent is ENORMOUS. If he’s facing someone small, he’s going to run right through him — whereas a more imposing figure like Ben Haim will hopefully be just the assistance Upson and Tonka need to make sure that left side is covered.
Valon Behrami is fit as well and if we’re talking about Behrami or Barrera I would pick Behrami every time. At least for all his headless-chicken running-about he manages to slip a goal in here and there. Barrera has yet to make his mark and if we can I’d like to get rid of him as soon as possible. Lastly, I think LBM deserves a chance to show he can behave during a Premier League game. LBM is just the troublemaker we need to keep the Black Cats midfield busy so they cannot thread a pass to their capable strikers.
Of course, Robert Green will be in goal and given our record against Sunderland (we have only lost 1 in the last 11 meetings) and in the last seven games with them Green has kept a clean sheet. We have conceded more headers than ANY other Premier League team in the top flight (a high 35% of the goals we have let by have been headers!), so his challenge will be to make sure the towering 5′ 11” Bent doesn’t want to take that percentage up a notch.
On the scoring side, Sunderland are without their Titus Bramble/Michael Turner CBs so they won’t be feeling as confident in the box as usual, but Mensah is no slouch. Mensah is nursing that injury still and after a short start recently he’ll be soft at least until his first 50/50. They are also likely to line-up 4-4-2, however Bruce’s side will also be without Fraizer Campbell and possibly David Meyler. Gyan is available, but it’s not probably he’ll start. I would say the biggest concerns facing the Hammers are the often dangerous and sneaky challenges of Cattermole and retaining the lead once we get it as Sunderland have sometimes been a 2nd half or even added-time-scoring club.
So far we’ve been the only club to beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light this year (for the cup game) and we have not won a single away game since the OPENER of last season. I’m tired of writing that crummy statistic, so let’s do what we’ve already done once this year THIS time taking 3 points back to East London. The snow seems to be our good luck charm, and goodness knows up north they have a LOT of it!
I should’ve known our luck was turning when I heard Mark Clattenburg was stuck on the M25.
Living in Los Angeles and supporting West Ham United is like adding insult to injury, almost literally.
I had to work offsite today, so I had the game on DVR and successfully managed to avoid all modes of communication usually responsible for spoiling: texts from mates, Facebook, Twitter, my Hammers email list, and basically the internet in general. I was at a media event for Amir Khan, the boxer and avid Bolton supporter, so needless to say he gave me a bit of stick. I turned up in my West Ham kit, and by the time most of his entourage arrived the game was already over. I should’ve known when his mate pointed at my shirt, laughed and called me a “giantkiller”, that I was going to enjoy the rest of my day.
A short while later, my friend Gerard called from SWEDEN and knowing the cost of the call I accepted it despite the likelihood that he was going to ruin the game for me. I tried to shush him in time, but he managed to get the words “Can you believe Spector SCORED?” out of his mouth. I told him I hadn’t seen the game yet, he apologised and we hung up. The pieces of the puzzle were coming together.
Finally, I arrived home, made a cup of tea and sat down to watch the game (now nearly 5 hours after it happened).
First the line-up:
Faubert, Tomkins, Upson, Ben Haim
Barrera, Spector, Kovac, LBM
Wait a minute, SPECTOR in the middle?! Finally, someone remembered that Jonathan Spector is NOT a defender. I like leaving Piquionne on the bench to start and when Jacobsen cannot be played, Faubert is better than nothing I suppose.
In the first half, I noticed Obinna was ON and ready to go. Faubert all but lectured Barrera following a corner when he didn’t get free (so Faubert could hand it off and go back to help defend). There was a measure of accountability to themselves and each other that hasn’t been there in previous weeks. When you lost it: you get it back. When you cannot pass forward: you pass laterally or you ram your way in alone. When you hand it off: you get free to accept it back. NO ball is a lost cause. How refreshing and it’s about time.
Tomkins, Upson and Ben Haim didn’t allow themselves to be bested. They were not leaving it all to Greeno this time. Incredible save by Green in the first (and just about the only) chance in the first half for Manchester United.
Kovac proved he’s not a goal-scorer with a blast into row zed and looked dazed for most of the game, but luckily LBM was playing enough for three players so he pretty much stayed out of the way.
The disallowed goal didn’t even seem to phase this bunch of go-getters who looked a team transformed from the club which barely turned up at Anfield two weeks ago. Uncle Avi Grant tossing the ball around and watching Paul Groves plead his case to the 4th official was more passion than we’ve seen from the lot of them all year.
And then it happened: Jonathan Spector, the American who HAUNTED our season last year by being the right back who just couldn’t close down a car boot…SCORED.
The bad luck to which Hammers supporters have become accustomed: Spector’s bum being the reason the first goal was disallowed was typical Spector behaviour. However the goal that stood made every one of the 33,000+ fans at Boleyn Ground wonder if they weren’t hallucinating from the cold.
Little could have prepared them for what happened next.
Manchester United botched a throw-in, LBM shoved the ball into the center (without earning a yellow card), Spector made another killer attacking run and passed off to Obinna, while encircled, who loses track of the ball in a tussle with Fabio who slipped to leave it in a perfect place for Spector to rush in and blast it home.
Green made several fantastic saves: a catch after the Spector goal and a hand which directed a set-piece-attempt just wide of the far post.
And at the half, in the BITTER cold, West Ham are up 2-nil.
It means nothing, however, we’ve been here and back before.
The second half got off to a cracking start as the snow fell. It seemed Sir Alex went into the dressing room and told them to block little Jonny Spector a little more aggressively. The result was that they backed off the always-surrounded Carlton Cole.
And at 55 minutes, they found out what happens when you leave Carlton Cole unmarked in front of the goal. 3-nil.
Then the songs erupted: “Que sera sera, whatever will be will be, we’re going to Wembley, Que sera sera”
The commentator said, “There’s some spirit in this team yet” and then he reminded us that Victor Obinna is our hardest worker, something he says, West Ham fans appreciate. And how. At only 23, he’s certainly a hard worker for West Ham.
Substitution: a yellow ball in for a white one, perhaps a brighter ball would help Manchester United score? Sadly, no.
Substitution: twin for twin – Fabio off, Rafael on, perhaps it would keep LBM from being so hard on the De Silva kid? Sadly, no.
It didn’t fool Obinna either as he chumped Rafael off not once, but TWICE before feeding the ball to Carlton Cole who beat Evans for the umpteenth time. Then it was 4-nil to the cockney boys, sang the frozen excited crowd.
I’m sure the critics will say, “Well it was a weakened Manchester United side” and to that I say, “Oh yeah? So Giggs, Macheda, Chicarito, Fletcher, Fabio and Rafael are WEAK?”
Still others will say “West Ham had their best players out” and to that I say, “ALL our top goal scorers weren’t on the pitch: Parker, Noble, Piquionne and Behrami as well as our star right back Lars Jacobsen”.
With 9 minutes left, Zavon Hines made quite a run and was denied an opportunity to make it five, which I’d hoped for so the supporters could sing “Five-nil even Spector scored”. Hines then ran to the sidelines and dropped his pants. I could FEEL the commentator turn red when he had to describe it. It was just to change and get back out there for the first time in 11 months. It was great to see him back.
The best bit of banter/singing happened in the final minutes, when Upton Park was the most alive it’s been all year, with a stirring rendition of “you only live round the corner”. That one’s my personal favourite as it’s directed at the Manchester United away support who we all assume follow the club because of the points they have and not because the fans are FROM Manchester.
LBM and Fletcher were feuding right up until the last second. Giggsy took a corner and then moments later Rafael put a throw-in at the foot of a chorus of whistles from the standing, singing, dancing, cheering, freezing East London masses.
The whistle finally blew and we had done it! 4-0. Manchester United were eliminated and we were through to the semi-finals.
I guess as our song suggests “fortune’s always hiding”, in our case it was hiding all last season at left back.
Carlton Cole could be on his way to Liverpool in January after publicly criticising the tactics of West Ham manager Avram Grant. The 27-year old described the Hammers’ performance against Liverpool as “diabolical” while questioning Grant’s formation as Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has admitted to tracking the player last summer.
The rant is possibly down to the lack of first team starts the Englishmen has received during the club’s poor run of results lately.
Cole’s record over the past 2 years speaks for itself. In the 2008/09 season he scored 12 goals, as well as picking up a further 4 assists as he finished the season as West Ham’s top scorer. He also got called up by Fabio Capello to the England squad at the back end of the season.
The following season he netted 10 league goals in 30 appearances, 26 of which were starts as he once again finished on top of the goal scoring charts for the Hammers. Carlton Cole has shown before that he can score the goals needed to help his East London team to avoid the drop this season.
If the reason to sell the 27-year old is to free up the transfer kitty it is almost guaranteed West Ham will not be able to get a player of similar or greater quality of Carlton Cole.
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Our performance against was absolutely truly woeful. Our uninspiring, dispassionate performance against a crisis-hit Liverpool has surely put the first nail in the coffin in Avram Grant’s reign.
At half-time the game was lost, 3-0 down at the break should have called for a performance that should of put that little bit of pride back in the jersey of the players, but we didn’t get it.
Based on our performances and results thus far I think that it is absolutely essential to sack Avram Grant and turn our season around before it’s too late. Based on the fact that our performances are getting worse, not better signals the end of Grant before Championship football beckons next year.
What do you think? Should Grant be given more time or should he get the sack?
Share your feedback in the comments section.
The bottom of the Premier League remained the same as Wolves and West Ham shared the points at Molineux.
Wolves took the lead through Matt Jarvis after 10 minutes after he volleyed past Robert Green after a failed cross from the England keeper.
But Jarvis’ opener was cancelled out 8 minutes into the second half as Wolves’ Kevin Foley brought down Victor Obinna in the box as referee Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot. Mark Noble stepped up and sent Hahnemann the wrong way to draw the East Londoners level.
A point each way means both Wolves and West Ham stay in their respective positions at 19th and 20th at the foot of the table.
Wolves: Hahnemann; Foley; Craddock (Stearman 4’); Berra; Ward; Edwards (Ebanks-Blake 87’); Mancienne; Jones; Jarvis; Fletcher (Van Damme 67’); Doyle;
West Ham: Green; Jacobsen; Ben-Haim; da Costa; Gabbidon; Dyer (Cole 76’); Parker; Noble; Boa Morte; Piquionne; Obinna;
Several West Ham United players were in action as the latest round of International Qualifiers and Friendlies took place midweek.
Lars Jacobsen played 90 minutes as his Denmark side lost 3-1 to Portugal in Porto and lost their first Euro 2012 Qualifying match.
Winston Reid played the full 90 minutes for New Zealand as they drew 1-1 in friendly action against Honduras in Auckland. The Hammers man could get a second game in the early hours of Tuesday, UK time, in Wellington against FIFA World Cup opponents Paraguay.
Back to Europe, Tal Ben Haim had a full match for Israel at home to Croatia as they lost 2-1 in Euro 2012 Qualifying and will be hoping to feature against Greece on Tuesday.
Herita Illunga was on target as DR Congo held powerhouse Cameroon to an excellent 1-1 draw away from home in African Cup of Nations Qualifying.
Robert Green is training again with England after his recall to the squad to face Montenegro in Euro 2012 Qualifying action at Wembley on Tuesday night.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, UK time, USA featuring Jonathan Spector will take on Poland in a friendly. The US will also play Colombia in a friendly overnight into Wednesday.
Victor Obinna is set to figure for Nigeria as they face Guinea on Sunday in African Cup of Nations Qualifying.
Finally, Pablo Barrera will feature for Mexico at home to Venezuela in Mexico City overnight into Wednesday UK time.
West Ham United midfielder Valon Behrami is expected to be sidelined for the next three weeks with medial ligament damage to his knee.
The news comes at a bad time for the East London club as they attempt to get off the bottom of the table as they face crucial fixtures against Wolves and Newcastle in the coming weeks.
The Swiss International has only made 2 appearances for the Hammers this season and has been ruled out until the end of October.
After being pursued by Palermo and Roma in the summer, Behrami will be looking to get himself fit and resurrect his West Ham career.