Monday, 21 May 2012

Season Closed

First of all, I would like to congratulate the whole of West Ham United on gaining promotion. Although the season wasn’t perfect at times, Allardyce delivered exactly what he promised, to take us back to the Premiership at the first time of asking.

I also would like to say Allardyce, for me has made me change my opinion on him than when we first announced he was a manager, I was one hater of him, claiming he was too direct in his play, but I now see that isn’t the case. He is a manager who likes to concentrate on the simple things, a strong defensive platform, with players who are hard to beat and all work together, the style of play with the ball is sometimes direct, but it isn’t a constant, there have been times when the side have passed it around very nicely. He is a much better manager than I first thought, although he had a good record, I never truly saw his management style as something I could enjoy.

There have been some brilliant performances from our squad this season and I have been very impressed with Green, Tomkins, Reid, Noble and Vaz Te, we have also seen some strong performances from Cole and Collison recently, which you could argue have been vital in the play-offs.

I do hope the side enjoy their break and look forward to the new season coming up.
If we are to stay in our side then everyone knows, we need to strengthen and I’m sure no one knows that more than Allardyce. I personally think the positions we need strengthening are as follows. Possibly a Goalkeeper, but this all depends on whether Green signs a new contract or not, I’m personally hoping he will. In defence I would like to see a left back, which I wouldn’t be surprised if McCartney joins permanently, a centre back as I feel Faye will only be a bit part player next season and a right back, this is because it looks highly unlikely Faubert will be signing a new contract and Demel is rather injury prone. In midfield I would like to see an outright wide right player, as at the moment I feel we only have Vaz Te who is effective out there, Collison and O’Neil are mainly preferred to be in the centre, if the rumours are true about us being interested in Benayoun or Joe Cole then these could fit the bill, they can stay out wide and deliver a cross or they can cut inside to create chances for themselves or others and on top of that if we had Vaz Te and Taylor in the wide positions, they can be just as effective in the middle of midfield. I also feel we’d require another striker, Cole has proven his worth in recent games and if he keeps playing like that then I’d expect him to be involved, I think Maynard will be seen a bit, especially when we require goals as we can switch formations by bringing him on, but I personally can’t see Baldock getting in the squad as much, he isn’t big enough to play up top on his own and clearly doesn’t feel comfortable being pushed out wide, although I hope he doesn’t go as I do rate him highly.

I look forward to pre-season as much as ever and the new campaign ahead of us. I have faith we can stay up with the correct signings and hopefully the future will be claret and blue.


Monday, 7 May 2012

Wembley Bound

As I write this, West Ham have overpowered Cardiff City over 2 legs to book their place in the Play-Off final at Wembley. First and foremost I want to congratulate the team on an extremely good set of games, they've made me proud to be a West Ham fan with their performances recently, even Allardyce has impressed me with his team selection and even his substitutes.

The 2 games in general, if I'm honest surprised me. Cardiff were extremely disappointing, Miller doesn't seem to know where the goal is and their main threat Whittingham didn't seem to show up for either game. The first leg was the closer of the 2, both teams had chances and looked dangerous, but overall we edged it and took our chances unlike Cardiff, which we don't get to say too often, as we are normally ruing wasted opportunities. We had a nice 2-0 lead going into the home leg, which was a good cushion to have for this game. In all honesty though, I think Cardiff were beaten before we even kicked off. The side straight from the off didn't look confident with 50-50 chances and let us control the game with no real attacking threat, we kept piling on the pressure and eventually made it 1-0 from a corner that was headed home by Nolan, another important goal to add to his tally to make the full score a comfortable 3-0, then we controlled the match even more, passing it around for fun and whenever they did try something, be it a long throw or a cross, Green was there to clean up every time and didn't have much to struggle with. Then later in the first half Vaz Te latched onto a good pass and smashed it home to make it 2-0 on the day and 4-0 overall, this pretty much killed the tie off. This showed in the second half, with Cardiff's players coming out very early, clearly showing they just wanted the next 45 minutes to be over and go home, our side continued with the dominance of possession, but we didn't create too much compared to the first half, Collison came off with an injury, which is a little worry as he just seems to have found form at the right time. Although the change I was most impressed with was Maynard on for Cole with about 5 or 6 minutes to go, he then showed exactly what he can do when played in the right position, he made a telling run and called for the ball which was passed through and he immediately brushed past the defender to latch on the ball and drive it home to make it 3-0, I really do hope from that goal alone that we get to see more of him as he is clearly a top quality finisher.

So 5-0 over both legs and 2 very confident performances from the Hammers, could this squad have suddenly gelled and found the confidence that we lacked earlier, with too many draws condemning us to finishing third  in the table. Let us all hope so when we travel to Wembley on May 19th to face the victor of Blackpool and Birmingham, although Blackpool hold a current 1-0 lead, they know a trip to Birmingham is tough and will need to be at their best to get the result. Hopefully neither side will match us, but that is a story of ifs and buts. Enjoy the day West Ham fans and let's all hope we see a similar performance in our final game of the season and book a place back in the Premiership.

Come On You Irons!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Play-Off Chances

So we are all now ready and set for the play-off's. It's a tough mini tournament and not always does the favourite come out on top.

I'm sure many of us remember when we were strong favourites and lost out to Crystal Palace as a strong showing of this. On paper is not always the best to be, as we have seen quite a lot this season.

This seasons play-off's could be the most exciting yet, with all the teams having very strong performances throughout the season.

We go to Cardiff to open ours on Thursday, personally I'm hoping our away record could really assist us here, it's always nice to come back for a home leg with a goal or even a winning advantage. We cannot underestimate Cardiff though, they have a lot of experience and one player who could easily cause us problems is Whittingham, if he plays on the left, I genuinely think he could be an issue for Demel, he has a brilliant delivery and he is not afraid to run at the defence. I think if he is played centrally, we would cope with him better, Faye, Reid and Tomkins have all looked solid for us and Noble covering will be a great help. In my honest opinion I also think this could be where the ability of Nolan could be vital, he has scored a lot of vital goals for us and I'm sure he won't be afraid to place a few shots in. I think both games will be close and my predictions are a 2-1 victory for us away, but a very cagey and probably uncomfortable 1-1 draw at home.

My team for Cardiff is more based on where Whittingham plays. It would probably be:

Green, M.Taylor, Reid, Tomkins, Demel/Faubert, Noble, Nolan, Lansbury/Collison, O'Neil, Vaz Te, Cole.

I have gone for a 4-4-2 diamond but when we lose the ball I wouldn't be surprised to see it drop into a 4-5-1, if Whittingham is left mid then I may opt for Faubert for his pace to keep him tracked, but otherwise I would opt for Demel.

We will have to wait and see until the day though. Would be interesting to hear what other peoples sides would be?

If we get past Cardiff, then we would be going to Wembley, which could be a fantastic moment, but we must not let our main focus go, which would be to bounce back to the Premiership at the first attempt. We could either face Blackpool or Birmingham. Both worthy opponents. It's tough to say who I would rather have, we have hammered Blackpool twice which could make them the main choice, but then they may be looking for revenge, while Birmingham have proved to be tough opposition both times this season with 2 draws against us.

I personally would say Blackpool is the preferred, I feel we have the resources to cope with their attacking mentality and hit them on the counter, it has proved effective both times and I do not see the manager changing that style as it works perfectly against them. Birmingham I would be more nervous against, they are like us and try to be sensible at the back while pressuring sides with strong players like Zigic and King. It could prove to be a very entertaining game either way as the fixtures between both have been pretty good, we still need revenge against Birmingham for the Carling Cup and it would be delightful to get past them at Wembley, but they are certainly no pushovers.

My fingers are crossed firmly but I hope we can get through it and back into the top flight.