From the Vaults: West Ham United v Southampton 29th February 2020

I hope everyone is safe and well.

With the backdrop of one of the largest fan protests against owners Gold, Sullivan and Brady before the match, a superb performance on the pitch and a first goal for new recruit Jarrod Bowen secured a well deserved win to lift the Hammers out of the drop zone into 16th spot, albeit on goal difference.

With 2 months since West Ham United’s previous win in the Premier League, fans protest and anger at how the club was being run by the owners had built up to a demonstration outside the London Stadium before kick off. On the whole peaceful, fans gathered around speakers and held banners with the slogan GSB Out – referring to Gold, Sullivan and Brady. The demonstration of about 3,000 fans began at Plaistow, a short walk from where the Boleyn Ground once stood, and ended up outside Pudding Lane DLR station with banners, t-shirts, balloons and stickers all displaying the same slogan, and chants expressing the broken relationship between supporters and the owners. Would this protest and anger have an impact on the team and match where previously the stadium had seem fans run onto the pitch disrupting play to express their feelings on how the club was being run?

The performance on the pitch showed the potential of the team and also highlighted some progress under Moyes, who had returned to replace Manuel Pellegrini in December with the team sitting in 17th place and only 1 point above the relegation zone. If anything, on this performance the protest may have spurred the team on with excellent performances from Antonio, Haller, Bowen, Rice and Fornals and the rest of the players to produce a commanding home win against a Southampton team whose own performances during the season had left them looking down the table.

Jarrod Bowen made his first full debut and scored his first goal on 15 minutes after taking an excellent pass from Pablo Fornals before dinking the ball over McCarthy to send the crowd roaring. The haggling over Bowen’s deadline day transfer had paid off as he demonstrated why he had scored 39 goals in a season and half in the Championship. 

“I think that’s the way it went in my dreams last night,” said Bowen. “The assistant manager said the keeper liked to go down quickly. I knew the angle was tight so I got enough on it to dink it over him.

“I thought it might be offside – I joked with my dad last night about what if I scored and it was ruled out.” Moyes was right to ease the 23-year-old in gently, with Bowen only coming on previously as a sub. “I know a little bit about bringing in the boys from the lower leagues at the right moment,” he said. You couldn’t argue with that and indeed Moyes set the team up to allow the Saints the lions share of possession, but still managing to stifle them in attack.

How often we have seen in previous games during this season an equaliser take the wind out of the sails of the team, but not on this day. There seemed to be more purpose in the team and a defiance not to let the equaliser by the young teenage forward Michael Obafemi after Bowen’s opener put them off their stride. McCarthy gifted the home side with an opportunity by getting his position all wrong in a routine challenge by Antonio and Haller out jumped the keeper and reacted quickly to squeeze the ball home from a tight angle.

The Hammers went into the break with the advantage on the back of a run of poor run of results where they had previously given 22 points away from winning positions, most recently in the defeat against Liverpool at Anfield the previous Monday where the team had come close to nicking a point.

Another assist by Fornals, whose lofted pass sent Antonio through for the Hammers’ third on 54 minutes sealed a much needed victory, although there was time for another opportunity after Haller’s audacious rabona that sent Antonio through on goal only for McCarthy to be equal to it.

It was a performance and result to lift the crowd and the mood at the club but given the situation that David Moyes had found the club in on his return, West Ham ended the season in 16th place on 39 points, their lowest tally since 2010-11. Moyes eventually achieved only 20 points from his 9 games in charge, only 1 point more than Pellegrini had done in the first half of the season. 

I hope you enjoy my photos from that match.

From the Vaults: West Ham United v Everton 13th May 2018

Hope everyone is safe and well.

Continuing my series of past games looks at the end of season victory against Everton that was also James Collins, Ginger Pele, last game for the Hammers in an emotional end to a difficult year for the club. This was the last game of the season that saw the Hammers move up to finish 13th in the Premier League and saw David Moyes bring the team out of the relegation zone to finish 9 points above relegated Swansea in 18th.

Moyes had replaced Slaven Bilic to take charge of West Ham in November on a six month deal with the team in the bottom 3, played against his old club Everton, managed by Sam Allardyce who has also previously managed the Hammers. Neither manager was certain about remaining in their current jobs once the season finishes but given the work that Moyes had done at the club at the time under difficult circumstance, and what we now know about the progress West Ham made under incoming Manual Pellegrini, it is interesting to see where we are in the 2021 season under Moyes now.

For the match Everton were poor as West Ham we bright with excellent performances from Manuel Lanzini and Marko Arnautovic, who both got on the score sheet to seal a 3-1 victory and take 7 points  from the last 3 games. This was the first home victory for West Ham against Everton since 2007 and showed the progress the team had made since Moyes took over in November.

Evertonians had been critical of Sam’s reign in the recent weeks and this result would have added to their frustration, especially given how the team set up in the first half that allowed Arnie to cause their defensive four so much trouble. Moyes had moved Arnie from the wing to play up front and the difference had been telling throughout the second half of the season. 

“Maybe he wasn’t doing as much and tracking back on the wing,” said Moyes before Sunday’s win. “He’s been a sensation up front, he’s been playing as well as most strikers.” Arnie’s consistency and 11 goals had helped West Ham pull away from the relegation zone to safety. Arnie underwhelmed at Stoke but Moyes had managed to get the best out of him when the team needed it most.

A turbulent campaign ended on a high as Lanzini gave the Hammers a lead at half time, with Arnie thumping in a second as he rolled passed Keane to strike beyond Pickford. With a tactical change in the second half where Everton, switched to three at the back, looked more competitive but were only able to grab a consolation goal from the substitute Oumar Niasse who managed to bundle home from a cross 16 minutes before time. Lanzini curled a brilliant shot passed the diving Jordan Pickford who failed to get a strong enough hand to the ball to seal the end of season victory for his second goal of the game.

Manuel Lanzini had been directly involved in 11 Premier League goals for the 2018 season (five goals, six assists), his best figures in an English top-flight campaign at the time.

West Ham defender Collins, replaced Creswell for the closing minutes of the game and received a standing ovation from the stands, wept at the final whistle as his 10 years and 2 spells at the club came to an end. Celebrations continued as the team returned to the pitch for a lap of honour with their families as many fans stayed behind to show appreciation for the players, a marked upbeat atmosphere than there had been at times throughout the season.

Moyes, who hinted his preference was to stay, said: “Everybody always thinks the grass is greener and there’s something better out there. I would say more often than not I bet you it’s proved wrong.

“We’ve shown we’re trying to improve. I don’t know if anybody can come and make that big a difference in six months. Even Pep Guardiola took a bit of time to get his team right.

“I’d think you’d need to give a bit longer. But every manager now is in transit. I don’t think there is a long period.”

Moyes ended with a light touch, joking that he can relax now that he is out of contract. “I’ll take my suit off at midnight, undo my tie a little bit, be back on the streets come midnight,” he said.

Enjoy the photos from the match.

From the Vaults: West Ham United v Chelsea 23rd September 2018

Hope everyone is safe and well.

Continuing my series of past games looks at the draw between West Ham United and Chelsea at the London Stadium that halted the Blues excellent start to the season, but the point only managed to keep the Hammers just above the relegation zone after just 6 games.

Hammers manager Manuel Pellegrini said the Hammers had successfully stopped Eden Hazard from having any significant influence on the game and that denied the Blues a 100% record since the start of the season.

Great heart can be taken from the Hammers performance that silenced Hazard and who were well marshalled by the young Declan Rice, who spent 6 years at Chelsea before moving to West Ham. Rice’s display was once again a major plus, the 19-year-old showing composure in a defensive midfield role as he adds another string to his bow after showing his talent as a central defender.

But the result could have been very different if Andriy Yarmolenko had headed Robert Snodgrass’ pass into the net 13 minutes from time. With rare, but better chances that the Blues, the Hammers huffed an puffed to get a goal and it seemed that Snodgrass’ cross over from the left would provide Yarmolenko the perfect opportunity to seal the points, having bound free beyond a distracted Marcos Alonso at the back post. Clear disbelief filled the stadium as the headed ball sailed wide of the post. 

The 28-year-old Ukrainian showed his class with two goals on his full debut in the 3-1 win at Everton, and almost delivered a trademark finish on Sunday when he cut inside and shot narrowly over with his left foot, his stock in trade. But despite another promising performance, it was not to be his day.

Pellegrini said after his sides battling performance “We played well tactically because we allowed them to have the ball where we wanted, and we defended well. They played most of the game on their right side, so they didn’t create too many chances.”

You could argue that a draw was a fair result for a game that rarely came to life, although Lukasz Fabianski made two excellent saves to deny both substitutes Alvaro Morata and Ross Barkley, that at least put a stop on previous series of home defeats by the Hammers. A draw would have been celebrated but for the excellent chances West Ham did create, but an improved performance with a first clean sheet of the season was enough to trigger warm applause at the end the game from the crowd.

Enjoy the photos from the match.

From the Vaults: West Ham United v Leicester City 20th April 2021

Hope everyone is safe and well.

Continuing my series of past games looks at the draw between West Ham United and Leicester City where substitute Harvey Barnes scored in stoppage time to secure a controversial Premier League draw with West Ham in a frantic finish at London Stadium.

On our current form we seem to race ahead with 3 goals before holding on for a nail biting finish, with a draw against Arsenal and wins against both Wolves and Leicester.

Almost 2 years ago at the London Stadium the Hammers looked on course for a win after Lucas Perez, a 78th minute replacement for Arnautovic, had turned in a rebound after fellow substitute Pedro Obiang had hit the post in the 82nd minute.

In fact the Spaniard could have scored a second goal before the final whistle after rounding Foxes keeper Kasper Schmeichel from Obiang’s through ball, but he was wrongly called to have been offside and the goal did not stand.

This fired up the visitors to push again for an equaliser which came as Leicester swept forward, Youri Tielemans picked out Barnes who put the ball low beyond Lukasz Fabianski to score his first Leicester and Premier League goal in stoppage time to share the points.

“Unfortunately for us we lost five points,” said ManuelPellegrini. “If we had the points that we deserved in the last game against Manchester United and today then we could be fighting for seventh position. When you have two games in a row with such big mistakes then it is hard to take.”

Leicester, lacklustre for most of the match, looked bright on the counter but lacked any edge in front of goal. Leicester’s ambitions to be a top 6 side have grown in the last two seasons and given the way the Hammers are playing in the 20/21 season, so have our ambitions to break into the top of the Premier League with some blistering counter attacking football spurred on by key players such as Llingard, Rice, Soucek, Bowen and Antonio. 

It was Antonio then who gave West Ham a deserved lead eight minutes before the break. The winger had already been denied twice through last-ditch defending but made no mistake after Felipe Anderson’s cross was delivered perfectly into box, rising above Ben Chilwell to head into the net.

Barnes was brought on from the bench and the impart was felt almost immediately as Vardy was on hand to stab home Chilwell’s low cross at the near post after the England defender was given acres of space to deliver an equaliser. Suddenly Leicester has purpose.

The injustice of previous results, and with three successive defeats spurred the Hammers on and it seems they had sealed the game with Perez’s goal. But controversy was to again darken over West Ham as Obiang nipped the ball off Tielemans and played in Perez, who did not see the flag as he rounded Schmeichel, with replays showing he was just behind the foot of the last Leicester defender.

Pellegrini complained “We deserved more than a draw. We scored a legal goal for 3-1 and with that the game would have been finished, but it was a mistake of the linesman. I’ve seen it again and he was one metre onside. There is nothing you can do about that. Next season when we have VAR it can be more fair.” Well, we know the impact VAR has had on the game since it introduction, but still viewing the reply would have shown that Perez was onside.

The result left Leicester dropping to 8th with 48 points, West Ham remained 11th on 43 points with just 3 matches to play out the season. What a different situation we find ourselves in this season, with the last three games being nail biters until the end but now in 4th place and looking to secure a Champions League spot for next season. 

Enjoy the photos from that home draw 2 seasons ago.

From The Vaults: West Ham United 1 Arsenal 0 12th January 2019

Hope everyone is safe and well.

Continuing my series of past games looks at the win against Arsenal at the London Stadium on a day that was overshadowed with the talk of Marko Arnautovics’ lucrative move to an unnamed Chinese club. The match itself was marked by observers trying to analyse Arnie’s wave to the crowd after being subbed in the second half – was it a wave goodbye or a thank you for the applause from the stands?

Arnie was the subject of a £35 million transfer offer which his agent and brother, Danijel, said Arnautović wanted West Ham to accept. Then in a twist, Arnie committed himself to West Ham by signing a contract extension, with a 20% increase raising his weekly wage to £120,000 and a £40 million release clause. Arnautović finished the 2018–19 season as West Ham’s leading goal scorer, with 11 goals.Then in July 2019, Arnie signed for Shanghai SIPG for a fee of £22.4 million, scoring on his debut, but leaving behind him ripples of discontent and stories of his disruptive influence, especially of his brother. Arnie was eventually booed off in the defeat to Everton in an eventful end to the season.

But the game will surely be remembered for the performance and goal of Declan Rice, who continued to mature in the latest of a series of impressive displays on the pitch that lead to West Ham tying him down to a long term deal and why he was wanted by both England and Republic of Ireland (This was before Declan committed himself to the England senior team and had already played 3 friendlies for Republic of Ireland).

Throughout the game Rice was everywhere and he frustrated Arsenal all over the pitch and surely scored one of the most popular goals for the club in the modern era. “I am sure Declan will be a top player,” Manuel Pellegrini said. “He is very strong in the aerial duels and has good technique, as we saw with the goal he scored.”

The Gunners almost scored when the game was poised at 0-0 when Alex Iwobi played Alexandre Lacazette into space vacated by Angelo Ogbonna, only for Lukasz Fabianski to deny the forward with an excellent save. This was the first game that Arsenal failed to score since the start of the season. This was also the first home win for the Hammers over Arsenal since 2006 and Pellegrini praised his team’s ambitious approach and attacking play and it was one of the seasons most complete performances. It was certainly a fitting way to mark 50 games at the London Stadium in a highly-competitive London derby. 

West Ham were value for money for the win, with Marko, Rice, Nasri and Felipe Anderson all going close when the game was goalless. Nasri brought an air of authority to the game, adding quality to the midfield and Arnie was at times bright and inventive with Anderson providing some creative quick footed movement in the final third. 

But it was Arsenal’s slack defending that allowed Anderson to skip round a lacklustre challenge from Lacazette leading to the breakthrough in the 48th minute. Granit Xhaka met the winger’s cross with a sloppy header, Nasri was able to collect and feed a composed pass to Rice, who swept a shot high to Bernd Leno’s left. Rice was rightly swamped by his team mates and the crowd lifted the roof with their celebrations. This was Rice’s day.

The win left Arsenal with just 2 points from 6 away games and sitting 5th in the table, six points behind Chelsea in 4th. West Ham moved to 9th place on 31 points. What will surely stay in the memory is Declan’s performance just a couple of days before his 20th birthday that showed why he has a great future in front of him after scoring his first Premier League goal during a series of impressive performances.

From the Vaults: West Ham United v Sheffield United 26th October 2019

Hope everyone is safe and well.

Continuing my series of past games looks at the draw at home to Sheffield United. What a difference now compared to then.

West Ham came into this home game winless in their previous 5 matches with the buzz from beating Manchester United the previous month fading. This was a worrying performance with a team apparently packed with talent that made Manuel Pellegrini’s insistence the Hammers could have won this match hard to swallow. Although performing better than in their recent defeat against Everton and Crystal Palace the team failed to create chances for the £45m forward Sebastien Haller. “It is not easy to create chances against Sheffield United,” Pellegrini said. “He must play with some players near him.”

Memories of the bitter row between the clubs hung over proceedings with fans goading the visitors by holding up Tevez masks in the first league fixture between the teams since the 2007 season that saw Sheffield United relegated from the Premier League. The deal that brought Tevez, who scored against Manchester United to secure Premier League survival and sending the Blades down, and Javier Mascherano to East London 13 years previously still providing fuel to fierce rivalry between fans.

Robert Snodgrass, voted man of the match and returning to the side to make only his second league start of the season was the standout player offering a threat in the area and down the left throughout the game and deserved his goal. Snodgrass fired the Hammers ahead just before the break after Enda Stevens failed to deal with Jimenez’s goalkick allowing Felipe Anderson to set up Snodgrass and break the deadlock against a team with the joint second best defensive record in the league so far.

Snodgrass saw another effort come back off the post in the second half and Andriy Yarmolenko came close with a shot fractions wide in stoppage time. But the visitors had come out in the second half and ralied pushing on after Henderson had stopped Felipe Anderson doubling West Ham’s lead. In midfield the Blades out numbered Declan Rice and Mark Noble and Baldock spurned two excellent chances.

It was Lys Mousset, who was surprisingly dropped after netting the winner against Arsenal the previous week, was called from the bench in the 63rd minute. It proved a decisive substitution when on the 69th minute a header from Stevens teed up Mousset to volley beyond Roberto. West Ham did not do enough to win the game and despite those close chances from Snodgrass and Yarmolenko, the draw saw the Hammers climb briefly above Spurs to 9th, 2 places below the Blades on the same points separated by goal difference. 

From the Vaults: West Ham United v Liverpool 4th February 2019

Hope everyone is safe and well.

Continuing my series of past games looks at the draw at home to Liverpool on 4th February 2019.

League leaders Liverpool were looking to go 5 points clear of title chasing Manchester City, but were held to draw at London Stadium to a West Ham side who showed enough in attack to earn a point. Another laboured performance from the Reds after a draw with Leicester City in the week handed some crucial ground to Man City.

Liverpool started well and were rewarded for their threat in front of goal when Sadio Mane fled past Fanianski on 22nd minute, despite James Milner, who provided the assist, being offside in the build-up.

But the Hammers were not to be beaten, playing with some freedom and making the clearer chances throughout the match six minutes later Michail Antonio scored a deserved equaliser as Liverpools defence failed to clock Felipe Anderson’s neatly disguised free-kick that Antonio picked up on his run into the area and drive a low angled shot that went in off the post. This was Antonio’s fourth goal in his five Premier League games against Liverpool.

The Reds attack failed to put the Hammers defence under any severe pressure with just two efforts from Mohamed Sarah and a header from Mane, comfortably dealt with by Fabianski. Divork Origi lost sight of goal for the final kick of the game shooting straight at the keeper, for another comfortable save.

The Hammers made the Reds defence look amateurish as they repeatedly failed to track runners from free-kicks, highlighted cruelly for the equaliser as Antonio caught the defence napping when they seemed to be ready for Anderson to play high into the area, instead of a low pass to set up Michail for his diagonal run fire past Allison.

The Hammers could have taken all three points as soon after the equaliser Anderson – voted man of the match – went around the side of the wall from another free kick to get a shot away, whilst Declan Rice also headed over the bar when unmarked.

The draw ended a run of three straight defeats for the Hammers, who should feel that the game was theirs to win as the Reds errors highlighted the absences of injured defensive trio Lovren, Gomez and Alexander-Arnold.

But credit must be given to the Hammers defence for playing with impressive organisation, a welcome improvement after a dismal defeat to Wimbledon in the FA Cup. Bright and inventive in possession, Pellegrini was clearer disappointed with the draw. Rightly angry about Milner’s offside and again with Origi’s opportunity, but when asked about speaking to the officials about what Manuel felt were clear errors by the officials, he shrugged his shoulders. But the gaffer highlighted the many opportunities the team had to seal a victory. 

The result left Manuel Pellegrini’s side 12th, level on 32 points with 11th placed Leicester City.

From The Vaults: West Ham United v Burnley Saturday 3rd November 2018

Continuing my series on highlighting past home matches.

Despite a winless October West Ham put in a performance that Manuel Pellegrini described at the time as the best by the team since he took charge. Lead by man of the match Felipe Anderson, the Hammers we bold, thrilling but also showed a brittle side, superior against a struggling Burnley, but not convincing. 

Sean Dyche’s team had been struggling to maintain the momentum of the previous season that saw them reach unexpected heights and with heavy losses to Manchester City and Chelsea were taken apart by the home sides’ adventurous play. 

Anderson, who was poor against Tottenham Hotspur in the recent Carabao Cup defeat and substituted at half time for Robert Snodgrass, spearheaded a dominant display at the London Stadium as he sliced through the Burnley defence at will. 

Arnautovic opened the scoring for the Hammers when he dispossessed James Tarkowski and raced clear to fire home. The Hammers could have run away with the match with Joe Hart making excellent saves from both Arnautovic and Pedro Obiang and Ben Mee rescuing his side with a goal line clearance. But Burnley managed to equalise against the run of play through Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s slotted home goal just before half time. 

With the introduction of Javier Hernandez on the hour the Hammers went out for victory and despite Mee saving his team again to deny Hernandez a goal almost with is first kick, Burnley could not hold out much longer. Excellent work from both Arnautovic and Diangana in 68th minute set up Anderson who fired home between the advancing Hart’s legs from just 12 yards out. 

With the introduction of both Robbie Brady and Chris Wood, Burnley we able to fashion an equaliser from a corner, with Brady delivering for Wood to head powerfully home for an equaliser. 

But the Hammers were out for the win, and two opportunities for Anderson created with more wonderful interplay between Diangana and Arnautovic provided Felipe with a chance that the Brazilian took to find the net from a deflection off Mee, who was unable to save the team this time round.

Anderson, who had struggled to settle having scored only one goal since joining the team in July, showed his influence again when he delivered a sublime cross field pass that began an attack that lead to Hernandez scoring again from the bench. Anderson, who took more touches and played more passes than anyone else on the pitch, drew praise from Pellegrini, who said despite his poor performance against Spurs in the Carabao Cup, put in a massive performance. 

“I said before the game that maybe some players need more time to adapt to the league, but his commitment has always been 100%,” said Pellegrini.

“I talked a lot with him, and there was never a chance of him not playing. He knew from the beginning that despite playing bad against Tottenham, he was going to play. It was a massive performance.”

Diangana also stood out with the 20 year old’s direct approach giving Charlie Taylor, Burnley’s left back, a difficult afternoon. His performance included 5 key passes and an assist for the second goal by Anderson. 

The win kept West Ham in 13th place on just 11 points, with Burnley in 15th on just 8 points. 

Hope everyone is safe and well.