Tuesday 21 August 2018

Too Early to Panic?

Ok, it is only two games. True, Liverpool would have beaten every team in the division, including Man City, in their first home fixture post Champions League Final defeat. Fair enough the players are comparative strangers. I also get that Bournemouth are under rated and had a fantastic preseason. But the fact remains that, but for Huddersfield, we would now be rock bottom of the division and, to finish with just 38 points, already need more than a point a game. So is it already time to panic?

Most will scoff at the idea of a crisis. "Panic?" goes the mantra, "We just need time." The optimists point to Pellegrini's impressive CV and £100m of signings. But the trouble is, the Prem doesn't give you time and, as all financial investment vehicles will tell you, past performance is no guarantee of future success.

Pellegrini has a great CV but he may be on the slippery slope to inglorious retirement. Let's be honest here, Man City have looked a much better team under Pep than they ever did under the Chilean. Then there is the little matter of China. If the Greying Pelle really walks on water as his advocates suggest, why did he take a job out there instead of slipping in to the hot seat of a European giant?  And who has replaced him out there? The Welsh Wizard who took Sunderland down to the old third division!

If Pellegrini really is so smart, why the hell did he mirror Liverpool's formation for that opening fixture? We all know they are better than us, player for player, in just about every position, so the only way of stopping them is to offer a chllenge in terms of team shape.  The aim had to be to frustrate for 60 minutes and then, with their fans getting anxious about an early setback, to go for the jugular. Instead, Pellegrini played a high line, no holding midielder, a flat back four and Anderson in a role where he was expected to track back to protect Masuaku. I saw the team and predicted 5-0.

Then along came Bournemouth. That game was even more worrying because the Cherries could very easily have scored five. The warning signs were there in the first half when Wilson walked on to a simple defence splitting pass and Fabianski was forced into a good save; and again when Brooks fluffed that header. But what did Pellegrini do at half time? Sweet FA. Worse still, he then sat on his hands as Bournemouth took total control of the game as the second period unfolded and only made a change when we fell behind, taking off our best hope of scoring an equaliser! Tactical genius? The word numpty sprang more readily to my mind.

And it wasn't just about team shape. Does anybody think it was clever to drop Rice from the squad? OK, like the rest, he was exposed by Liverpool, but he is an exciting prospect and we should be developing him, not humiliating him by dropping him after one poor showing. What about Snodgrass for Antonio? How many of us felt that was a good call at kick off, never mind by the time the man who has been relegated with three different clubs was substituted?

Then there is the decision to play a flat back four with Masuaku at left back. The guy can't bloody defend! He is an accident waiting to happen in his own final third as our defensive record shows when he has started as a left back. Cresswell may not be Maldini, but he is at least half decent when it comes to the business of stopping the opposition from scoring.

But the biggest worry of all is how few options we have defensively. Zabaletta is old. Our new right back looked Championship class at Anfield and his confidence will be at rock bottom having been dumped after one game. The centre back pairing are too slow and have no idea what each other are doing. True we have Diop but if Pellegini had any faith in him, why didn't he start after the Liverpool debacle and why wasn't he brought on to shore things up at the back against Bournemouth when they were running riot? Was I alone in thinking, where is James Collins when you need him?

Is Fabianski good enough? Not to keep Swansea up last season! Is Sanchez the answer to a brittle midfield? Most of the fans didn't seem to think so when we signed him. What about Anderson? Well I have seen nothing to get excited about so far. He received the ball standing stock still far too often against Bournemouth. He seemed reluctant to run at his full back. Too often he looked for the easy ball rather than taking responsibility for making something happen. And when he gave the ball away, there was no appetite to chase back and help out his defence. Pedestrian, lightweight and lazy? Is that what £40m buys in the current market? Brooks looked a much better player to me!

But it is surely too early to panic isn't it? We just need time. Well I would buy that if Time was a secret signing who could play left back, right back, holding midfield and centre back all at the same time. There remain glaring holes in the squad  and time alone will not solve that problem. £100m has been spent, but it has not been spent wisely.

And before anybody replies, we are too good to go down, please, remember Defoe, Di Canio, Cole, Carrick, Kanoute and company!


Monday 11 June 2018

In Defence of the Board

OK, this doesn't come easy as I am no fan of Princess Brady and the Dildo Brothers, but with so many knives drawn because of our failure so far to land a marquee signing, I think it is time to say a few words in their defence. This isn't going to make me popular but I am used to that, so here goes...

The big complaint at the moment is that we are bidding low and so risking losing the services of Anderson and co. It is a familiar gripe, of course, as season after season we are linked with players who ultimately we fail to sign, but before we all get carried away, let's just stop and reflect on the business done and not done in recent years..

To begin, the club has shown that you don't have to break the bank to bring in quality. Antonio was a snip. Lanzini was a bargain. Cresswell was a steal. Obgonna was damn good business. Obiang was cheap. Kouyate was excellent value. Hernandez may yet prove to be an astute signing. Zabaleta proves that not all freebies are to be sniffed at. Adrian may not be top drawer but was a better buy than Hart would have been! Fernandes has shown glimpses of being a quality player. And, of course, at £11.5million, a certain Dmitry Payet proved that there are gems out there in the bargain buckets.

Who were the best buys over the last few years? That would surely have to be Leicester's capture of Kante and Mahrez, and neither of those brought the bankers out in a cold sweat.

Now let's flip the coin and look at who we could have signed. If the rumours were true, we bid somewhere in the region of £30million for Lacazette. Now, given he can't score regularly for Arsenal, would that have been money well spent? At the £40m asking price, I would call that a bullet dodged personally. Then there were rumours of a £25m bid for Benteke. Anybody fancy that deal now? How about the £20m wanted for Zaza? Or the £24m paid by Leicester for Iheanacho? Do they look great deals now?

Of course we have splashed the dosh too. £20m plus for Ayew! How many of us complained at the time, but was that sensible? How about £8m for Fonte or £10m for Snodgrass? If you pay whatever you are asked to pay, then you generally pay too much. Then there's the £8m for Hugill of course. Stupid bloody money!

So now we come to this summer. Even before the injury to Lanzini, we needed at least five quality players to make us a decent team. Now with our most creative player out for the entire season, I make that six. And how big is the transfer budget? Well we are told £75m and whilst that seems like typical bullshit, let's take it at face value for the moment and do the sums. Divide 75 by 6 and you get £12.5m per player - or six Dmitry Payet deals!

True we have already landed a free transfer, meaning the available funds equate to £15m per player or, God help us, five Andy Carrolls!

Now if this is the case, would it really be sensible to splash £30m plus on one midfield player, especially a midfield player untested in the blood and thunder of the Premiership? Personally, I suspect not.

So I put it to you all that Sullivan is right to only buy on our terms. The Board proved with Arnie that they are prepared to pay big when the price is right - and once Bilic was gone, that proved a fantastic deal.

Sod what Pellegrini wants, he NEEDS a quality squad, not a second rate squad with two high earning big names. And, to be honest, if he is a decent manager, then he should be able to work with the team he has inherited and get decent results. Are Burnley any better than us, player for player? We would take Pope, of course, but how many of the others? What about Watford? Or Everton for that matter? Bilic lost control of the players and Moyes was too cautious by far. Surely a half decent manager should be able to incorporate Hernandez, Antonio and Arnie into a potent attacking team with Kouyate and Lanzini, when fit, also breaking into the box? Sort out the defence and replace Lanzini and top 8 should be a realistic target surely?

So let's get real. We are not Man City or Liverpool. We haven't just sold Gareth Bale either. Let's focus on realistic targets. Defenders who can defend would be good. The ugly midget from Stoke would be useful. A decent keeper at a realistic price would be great. I don't want a marquee signing personally, I want round pegs for round holes and, most importantly, players with a good fitness record.

Bugger the Bentekes and Lacazettes. I would rather have the next Pope, Payet, Kante, Morgan  Mahrez and Maguire personally. They are out there somewhere. It is the Pelican Panini's job to find them!

Wednesday 12 July 2017

West Ham Transfer Policy Revealed

They were standing under a scaffold, each with an arm round the other’s neck, and Princess Karen knew which was which in a moment, because one of them had ‘DUM’ embroidered on his collar, and the other ‘DEE.’ ‘I suppose they’ve each got “David” round at the back of the collar,’ she said to herself.
They stood so still that she quite forgot they were alive, and she was just looking round to see if the word “David” was written at the back of each collar, when she was startled by a voice coming from the one marked ‘DUM.’
‘If you think we’re wax-works,’ he said, ‘you ought to pay, you know. Wax-works weren’t made to be looked at for nothing, nohow!’
'Not for nothing, nohow' echoed the one marked Dee. 'Nothing for nothing. Except for loan signings!'
'On that subject' said Princess Karen, somewhat rudely, 'I was wondering what, exactly, is our transfer policy this summer.'
'A good question!' said David Dumb.
'A good question indeeed!' echoed David Dee who then admitted, 'It beats me.'
'It seems', said Princess Karen, 'That no sooner we express an interest in a player, than somebody else buys them!'
'That seems to be the case' said David Dee, grinning broadly.
'Then why tell the world who we are hoping to sign ahead of doing the deal?' enquired Princess Karen as if judging on TV.
'This sounds like the Young Apprentice' complained David Dum.
'Then send her out on loan!' exclaimed David Dee. 'We might get a fee! Shall we sing the song of the Sakho and the Carrol?'
'Are we buying Joe Hart?' demanded the Princess, irritated by the diversions.
'Buying?' exclaimed Dum, holding his chest whilst exclaiming in mock agony, 'My Hart! My Hart! You've broken my Hart!'
'Then borrowing?' asked the Princess utterly exasperated.
'We would if we could' explained the smiling Dee. 'But it's the wages you see.'
'It's the wages,' agreed Dum. 'And the fact that another club wants him.'
'But we have signalled our interest,' smiled Dee. 'And so alerted our rivals.'
'Look' said the Princess, stamping her stiletto heel. 'Why are all the other clubs buying whilst we sit on our hands?'
'Bigger clubs are buying' corrected Dum, 'Bigger clubs with lots of money'.
'But Burnley have just spent £10m on a player from Swansea!' exclaimed Karen.
'Big club Burnley', smiled Dee. 'I remember when they won the title in 59-60.'
'Great year for clarets that' agreed Dum, sipping from a glass of wine.
'Look, will somebody PLEASE explain our strategy?' screamed the Princess most impolitely.
'It is very simple' said Dum in a most patronising voice. 'We put in a bid knowing it will not be accepted and force up the price that a rival club has to pay.'
'And I tell the world so other clubs jump in and buy.' added Dee delightedly.
'And what about us?' asked the Princess puzzled.
'We get lots of free publicity and don't spend any money!' cackled Dee.
'And sell 52,000 season tickets into the bargain!' laughed Dum as he waddled all the way to the bank and Dee tweeted the club's interest in signing Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar and...erm....Walcott.

Thursday 11 May 2017

Antonio The Smiling Bull Signs New Deal

So all the speculation about Antonio joining Chelsea was wrong - for now at least. The news of a 4 year deal is great, but we all know that contracts mean nothing if a player wants to go. Just ask a certain Payet.

What the contract does mean is that we should get a fair price when or if our Smiling Bull moves on. And hopefully Michel has also got another clause inserted into the deal, "Under no circumstances am I to be played at bloody right back!"

Friday 5 May 2017

West Ham Lions 1 Tottenham Antelopes 0

Where the hell did that come from? OK, we played reasonably well at Stoke and defended well against Everton, but can anybody honestly say they saw us winning so comfortably? 1-0 may not sound like a pounding but had decent chances been converted, we would have run out 4-1 winners; and that scoreline would not have flattered us!

The chances missed? Kouyate should have netted after Lloris blocked off Lanzini; Calleri should have buried the chance he made when picking Alderwiereld's pocket in the box; and Fletcher won't have many better chances to score if he plays for another 10 years. And for Tottenham? Eriksen should have scored.

Defensively we were brilliant. Collins was a Goliath, Reid was everywhere and Fonte rediscovered his brain. Even Byram played out of his skin, making you wonder why he wasn't given more chances earlier in the season.

Look through the team sheet and you find hero after hero. Noble was back to his best, making a mockery of those who do not rate him. Lanzini was brilliant, doing a passable impression of Eden Hazard at the top of his game. And Calleri, yes Calleri, played like a young lion and gave the much vaunted Tottenham defence the run around. He may just have secured a future at the club.

Tactically we were brilliant, sitting in there, gloves raised, covering every attempted Spurs jab and when we won the ball, we sprang forward with rapier like speed. How good was that Noble pass to Lanzini? And how bad was Kouyate's follow up shot? I must admit, I thought our chance had gone in that moment.

But tonight we saw the sleeping lions roar. Who needs Payet? Who needs Carroll? Who needs Sakho? And if he is Chelsea bound, to sit on the bench and play for the stiffs, who needs Antonio?

Today we found our new home. It's been a long and winding road from Upton Park but we have arrived at last and suddenly we sit 9th in the table and can look forward to building a team to compete better next season. And until then, we can savour the life blood ripped from Tottenham's title challenge!

Wednesday 3 May 2017

Slaven Faces Exit Just Like Zola

So apparently Bilic's tenure at West Ham comes down to how we perform in the last two home games of the season.  As the final whistle blows on our miserable first season in the London Stadium Emperor Sullivan will clambour to his feet, hold his thumb out in front of him and, in a moment of high drama, either point it to the sky or down to damnation.

It is an interesting approach but it is entirely consistent. Zola suffered the same fate after "leading" West Ham to a 17th place finish with a buffer from the drop of just five points following a first season in charge of supposed "high promise". Like Bilic, Zola was hugely popular with the fans and there are still many who blame Grant rather than the Italian for what followed. But look at Zola's record since. This blog called him GianFredo for a reason - he was never cut out to manage.

Bilic is different in that respect. The guy has a track record and a much more intimidating personna. But the Bilic apologists must wonder at the poor judgement calls of the Croat this season. True there can be virtue in pig headedness but the persistence with Antonio at right back, Kouyate at centre back and right back, Randolph in goal, Snodgrass and Calleri in any position, Tore when fit and both Payet & Lanzini wide left suggest tactical myopia. All season Bilic has tried to force square pegs into round holes and the results have been disastrous.

Yes there have been injury problems but is anybody surprised? Who, outside of Bilic, believed the guff about Carroll being a new man? Who, apart from Bilic, believed that Cresswell was bionic and would never break down? Who, Bilic apart, thought that Reid would get through a full season untroubled by injury? Who, apart from Bilic, believed that Antonio could be used every game without a hamstring giving out sooner or later?

It may seem harsh to judge Bilic on home games against Spurs and Liverpool so let's judge him on the whole season. Let's judge him on that inept second half at Hull; let's judge him on pulling off Ayew and sending on Noble against Stoke; let's judge him on the failure to beat Middlesbrough at home, relying on a Payet wonder goal to secure a point; let's judge him on the double headed home hammerings against Man City and the humiliating home mauling by the less than spectacular Arsenal; let's judge him on the nervy 1-0 home victories over Hull, Burnley and Swansea...

Sullivan's thumb should already be pointing down surely?

Tuesday 2 May 2017

Bilic to give Carroll a good talking to!

So Slaven is going to have a chat with Andy Carroll about his injury record. Brilliant! I know talking therapies are all the rage in Hollywood but does Bilic really believe that he has the power of healing in his words? If so, it's a bloody shame he didn't give Andy a good talking to 24 months ago!

But who knows, if he succeeds with Carroll, Slaven might work the oracle with Sakho too, although all the rumours suggest that the manager's words have inflamed Daffy's injured ego rather than soothed his nagging ailments.

But  if Slaven really has this Frankenstein like power to reanimate, perhaps signing Sturridge might not be such a bad idea after all.

Or maybe Bilic should look further afield. I hear the scouts have identified an exciting talent in Israel by the name of Lazarus!