David Hautzig's Match Report

Arsenal 1, West Ham 0. Ohhhhh, To Be Clinical.

Once again, we spend equal parts watching West Ham play along with other results near the foot of the table. It’s where we have lived for the majority of my time supporting the club, so like many of you I’m used to it. Callum Wilson’s early goal for Bournemouth turned me into a cranky old bastard for the earliest part of my day. And Milner’s clearance off the line after an Adrian brain fart made my knees buckle. I was genuinely fearful Palace would fold against Watford, but a little more hopeful Wolves and Shafting United would do us a favor. In the end, everything went to form today yet we have reason to be disappointed.

West Ham started the match strongly when Bowen intercepted a very poor pass by Xhaka and let loose a low shot that Leno got his fingertips to and pushed it off the post for a corner. Cresswell’s delivery was, well, awful and the Gooners were able to clear.

West Ham should have taken the lead in the 11th minute when Fornals sent Antonio off on a counter. With Haller on his left, he chose to roll a pass to Haller in the box when maybe a shot would have been the better option. Or perhaps an earlier pass. In the end Antonio’s pass was behind Haller and the opportunity was gone. Moments later it was the home side on the front foot. Ogbonna couldn’t quite clear and Ozil had a chance that Diop blocked out for a corner. West Ham was able to deal with the threat through the forehead of Declan Rice, but Arsenal won another corner that again called on Rice to handle.

West Ham had yet another chance in the 18th minute when Bowen won the ball 25 yards from goal, which allowed Noble to roll a pass to Haller inside the box. But his first touch was heavy, which allowed Leno to come out and block Haller’s attempt out for a corner. Three good chances in the first twenty minutes at The Emirates was good. Having nothing to show for it was awful.

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The 22nd minute was Arsenal’s turn to rue a missed chance. Pepe passed to Aubameyang inside the West Ham eighteen yard box, and the man from Gabon looped a ball for Sokratis. The man from Greece should have scored, but his header went over the bar and onto the top of the net. The universe returned one of West Ham’s missed chances.

In the 30th minute, Antonio was lucky to win a corner when his run into the box included a very heavy touch that deflected off Mari. That’s when Jordan Ayew scored for Palace against Watford, so there was that bit of good news to offset the rather poor delivery from Cresswell. Minutes later it was Arsenal with a corner when Cresswell was forced to send a long pass intended for Pepe down the right into the crowd. Fabianski came out to claim the ball, and after a slight lapse in concentration in getting rid of the ball when Mari ran in front of him the threat was over.

Five minutes later Pepe got the ball on the right side of the West Ham eighteen yard box. I knew he would do a few step-overs before trying a shot with his left foot, because he kind of always does that, so why Cresswell didn’t seem to know that surprised me. The shape and organization of the back four stayed true, so the game remained scoreless.

Thank you Billy Sharp. Norwich down by one to Shafting United.

West Ham upped their count of missed chances to four in the 40th minute when Antonio made a run down the left and sent a cross into the box that Luiz headed behind for a corner. Noble found Diop at the far post with the set piece, and the West Ham center back headed the ball towards goal. Antonio was there, but it looked as if he didn’t quite know where he was and the ball bounced off his shin and out for a goal kick.

Halftime
Arsenal 0
West Ham 0

The second half opened with Arsenal on the ball in the West Ham half. They moved the ball around, won the ball back after Bowen intercepted a pass and tried to start a counter, and generally looked the better side. In many ways, other than the scoreline, it resembled the match earlier in the season at The London Stadium. Arsenal were second best in the first forty five, but started to assert themselves when the whistle blew to star the second half.

Arsenal had a chance to take the lead in the 52nd minute when Saka danced through three West Ham defenders and threaded a pass to the cutting Nketiah. Fabianski came out to meet the striker and stopped the shot with his left arm and Ogbonna cleared. Nketiah got behind Ogbonna moments later but Fabianski came out to smother and end the attack.

West Ham yet again had a fantastic chance to take the lead in the 56th minute. Cresswell sent a cross from the left that Haller was able to flick on to Antonio all alone in front of Leno. But his header was weak and right at the Arsenal keeper. Despite the possession numbers West Ham had more solid chances than the hosts, and the specter of not taking something from a game like that was looming.

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Bowen went on a run in the 66th minute down the middle. He may have made the wrong choice by trying a long low shot instead of finding someone else out wide. Maybe his shot could have been better. But in real time, watching it, he had space and I understood the decision. Leno saved it with ease. A few minutes later it was Bowen again on the run, this time winning a corner down the right. It was cleared, but only as far as Noble who then won a free kick 25 yards from goal. Arsenal handled the set piece, and the squandered chances scoreboard kept leaning in West Ham’s direction.

Fornals had a very good chance in the 75th minute after Bowen launched a counter attack. The initial swarm was repelled, but Noble sent a cross that found Fornals unmarked in the box. The in form midfielder tried a volley, but his contact wasn’t solid and into the ground. The ball bounced rather harmlessly to Leno.

In the 78th minute, Arsenal finally made the breakthrough courtesy of VAR. A pass from Saka deflected to Ozil, who pushed it to Lacazette, who bounced it past Fabianski. Danny Gabbidon was doing the color commentary and said West Ham will feel hard done by since we have been the better side in his opinion. “Chance after chance after chance” said the former Hammer.

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Arsenal 1
West Ham 0

West Ham almost answered when Bowen sent a pass to Haller in the box. The angle was tight, but Haller got a shot off that Leno did well to stop. Moments later the Hammers won a corner but couldn’t capitalize. Soucek then sent a cross into the box that Fornals couldn’t get to in front of Leno. Seconds after that Ngakia broke down the right and rolled a pass into the box that Haller got a touch on, but Luiz came back and did enough to push the ball wide. Then Rice went on a long, box to box run that ended with a ball out wide for Antonio. But his looping cross didn’t find anyone and Arsenal cleared.

Final Score
Arsenal 1
West Ham 0

If we were 13th in the table or something like that, the performance today would have been something I could easily finish my weekend with. And in the end, the table looks almost exactly the same as it did at the start of the day. When you are in a relegation battle and away at Arsenal, it could have turned out far worse. But Arsenal were lucky and got away with it. We were a bit better, and had we been even a little clinical in front of goal we would have had a point.

Maybe three.


David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 3, Southampton 1. We Live To Fight Another Week.

This was my first match since the Brighton fiasco, and I have to say I have rather enjoyed the break. If it wasn’t for my sense of responsibility to El Jefe I might have done what I did during the Great Escape season. After the 3-4 loss to Spurs at home, a game that gave me nightmares for months, I stopped watching. We started winning, and I was told by fellow Hammers that under no circumstances was I allowed to watch until the end of the season. So I played my superstitious part in staying up. But here I sat, both nervous and apathetic, watching yet another under achieving group of footballers in Claret & Blue, run by our own version of Ringling Brothers. It’s not like Southampton were mugs. They were terrific at Anfield a few weeks ago, they have a very strong record away from home, and to come back from a 9-0 thrashing like they did earlier this year is worthy of serious praise.

I guess I’m glad I watched.

If there has ever been a defensive unit worse at the simple back pass than the current West Ham side, I haven’t seen it. In the 8th minute, Diop sent another horrible one back to Fabianski that our keeper had to take on a bounce and fumbled out for a Southampton throw. The visitors worked out a corner, and despite a good header from Haller West Ham struggled to clear the ball from danger. The Saints kept the ball in the West Ham area, winning a second corner a few minutes later. The Hammers cleared, and were able to break. Antonio rolled a pass to Bowen, but his shot was blocked out for a corner. The Hammers couldn’t capitalize, and Noble owes Rice a meal for saving him from two terrible passes.

“Champagne Jarrod Bowen. If you say it fast it sounds like Jeroboam” Nigel Kahn texted me after the match. After the initial surprise that my good mate and devout cider drinker knew that somewhat obscure wine term, I laughed. Why Bowen didn’t start either against Manchester City or Liverpool was a legitimate question, one that Moyes failed to answer. The recent signing from Hull gave his own answer in the 15th minute. Rice intercepted a pass and immediately gave the ball to another player ignored of late, Fornals. The Spanish International rolled a lovely weighted pass for Bowen to run onto in the Southampton eighteen yard box. Bowen gave a quick glance to McCarthy and calmly chipped the ball over the keeper and into the net.

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West Ham 1
Southampton 0

Moments after the Bowen goal, West Ham had a chance to make it two when Antonio simply roared past Ward-Prowse and sent a cross into the box. Haller might have thought Bowen was going to reach it and switched off. The maligned Frenchman got his head to it, but the shot had no pace and McCarthy handled it with ease.

Southampton started to ask a few questions midway through the half. Haller was called for a foul which gave the visitors a free kick from 25 yards out. Ward-Prowse put the ball into the box and Diop headed it over the bar for a corner. The Hammers used their height advantage to defend, and Diop used his cranium again to clear the ball away.

West Ham played a high line, pressing from the front. That was always going to be dangerous, and in the 31st minute we saw why. Ward-Prowse broke down the right, and he sent a beautiful ball into the box where Obafemi met it with a simple right footed shot that went up and over Fabianski.

West Ham 1
Southampton 1

West Ham had a decent chance to reclaim the lead in the 36th minute when Cresswell delivered a cross in a perfect position for Diop to head it home. But for some reason, perhaps seeing Antonio in front of him, Diop headed it off Ward-Prowse and out for what should have been another corner. But Anthony Taylor pointed to McCarthy, and a goal kick was awarded.

Two strikers. There are many arguments for, and against, the formation. But with Haller up front, the arguments for playing that way clearly outweigh those against. In the 41st minute, Antonio found himself on the left side of the Southampton eighteen yard box with the ball. He sent a looping pass towards goal intended for Haller. McCarthy thought he could get to it, but he could do no more than flap at it. The ball came loose, and Haller finished it off very well from a very tight angle.

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Halftime
West Ham 2
Southampton 1

Southampton started the second half on the front foot, spraying crosses into the West Ham box from both sides. Ward-Prowse came inches away from finding Long on one that had many hearts skipping a beat at the London Stadium. It had the look of one of those sequences of play where West Ham look utterly ragged and it was only a matter of time before the ball ended up behind Fabianski. It didn’t, but the warning signs were there. When Ings joined the fray minutes later the threat only seemed to intensify. But football can be a funny game. Immediately after the substitution, West Ham broke forward. Haller chested a long ball down to Fornals, who then put a wonderful through ball for Antonio. No handball. No offside. No VAR. Just a calm finish.

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West Ham 3
Southampton 1

If you want to endear yourself to West Ham supporters, you needn’t do anything too flashy. If you make the kind of defensive play Bowen did to thwart Bertrand, or win the ball back the way Bowen did after losing it inside the Saints eighteen yard box, you will be loved. Simple.

West Ham almost got a fourth when Haller sent Antonio through with a ball over the top of the Southampton defense. Antonio was in on goal, and a very good save by McCarthy was the difference. West Ham won a corner from that save, but couldn’t turn the set piece into anything dangerous.

Southampton won a free kick in the 65th minute when Cresswell took a yellow for the cause and rugby tackled Long to prevent him from getting away. The set piece was cleared, but not far enough to prevent a long shot attempt by Hojbjerg that Fabianski smothered.

When Ngakia made a good tackle and clearance under pressure from Ings in the 74th minute, I realized I hadn’t thought of the kid at all. That meant he did nothing wrong, which is about all we should ask from a nineteen year old left back. Well done young man.

Southampton won a corner in the 76th minute when Ogbonna put a cross from Armstrong out. The cross came back out to Armstrong near the top of the eighteen yard box, but his one-time volley attempt skied over the bar for a goal kick.

Southampton won another corner in the 86th minute after a good spell of possession when a Danny Ing’s shot went off Diop. The delivery was decent, but the flag went up for offside and West Ham won a calm, slow, deliberate goal kick. A few moments later a sliding tackle by Snodgrass gave the guests another corner, but West Ham kept their shape and their nerve and cleared.

Final Score
West Ham 3
Southampton 1

In some ways, the story of West Ham’s win today was told by the 91st minute entrance of Felipe Anderson as a garbage time substitute. A year and a half ago the Brazilian was our record signing. The kind of player that was supposed to signal the beginning of a new chapter in our history. But if Anderson dreams of replacing a Bowen, Snodgrass, or even Fornals he may need to wake up and apologize. I still fear relegation, and I have little doubt we will be back in the bottom three soon. But we showed both fight and quality today, with a formation that one can only hope Moyes realizes is our only chance of survival.

We live in hope.


David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 3, Brighton 3. It's Inevitable Now.

“Think we stay up or go down”? That’s what I asked Nigel Kahn the other day, after West Brom’s reserve team handled us with relative ease.

“Ask me after Brighton” was his reply. I cannot say that filled me with anything other than more nest and anger because Brighton have been a bogey side for us.

We are truly a train wreck, quite possibly the worst run top tier sports team on the planet. I’ve had arguments with some who say the New York Knicks of the NBA are worse. But being in the top two of that league is an even worse position to be I than our current spot in the league. Me? I think we are 50-50 at best to retain our top flight status. If going down is what it would take to get rid of Sullivan, Brady, and Gold, I’d be tempted to take that deal with the devil. It might be a deal we have no choice but to consider.

And as I sat down to proofread and then post, I made the choice not to add pictures. I didn’t want to look at them to be perfectly honest.

It only took until the second minute for Brighton to show how truly shambolic we can look at times on defense. Brighton broke down the left, and with Mooy and Hammer killer Murray in the box it looked like we were doomed. Montoya crossed, and if Mooy had put his header on target it would have been a very early goal for the visitors because Fabianski was beaten. Moments later it was West Ham on the attack, with Haller rolling a pass to Fredericks while flat on his back. The Hammer’s right back floated a ball into the box that Montoya put out for a corner. A minute later Soucek directed a free kick from Noble that Ryan did very well to save.

Pace. We have almost none in the squad, with the notable exception of Antonio. Numerous time early in the match he began runs that Montoya could not handle. I could see Antonio begin his run, and Montoya still lost the race. He won a corner making such a run, he won a free kick making such a run. Oh to have more of that. And two healthy hamstrings on the one that does have it.

Brighton had another chance to take the lead in the 25th minute when Fredericks and Diop simply fell asleep at the wheel, allowing Trossard to run in between them and get onto a pass from Stephens. All alone in front of Fabianski, his shot went straight at the keeper. A minute later West Ham won a corner when Webster put a cross from Antonio. The Hammers went short and got nothing out of it. A moment later Noble won a free kick. But whatever the plan was between the captain and Snodgrass it didn’t work when the eventual set piece flew over everyone, with Haller very offside anyway.

The pace I mentioned earlier came to the forefront again in the 30th minute when Antonio again beat Montoya and won a free kick. Snodgrass put a good ball into the box, and Diop directed it behind Ryan for his second goal in the past three league matches. Maybe he should play striker as his defending has been suspect of late.

West Ham 1
Brighton 0

West Ham countered in the 36th minute, but instead of crowd noise the best soundtrack for what occurred would have been the theme from Keystone Cops. Noble sent a low pass for Ogbonna to run onto in the box. He couldn’t get a shot off, and tried to tee up Noble in the box. But our esteemed servant completely missed his shot and fell over himself. A minute later Fredericks sent a cross that Antonio hit perfectly on the volley but Montoya blocked it. Moments later Antonio took a long crossfield pass from Rice, cut to his left and tried one of his usually poor long range shots. At least this one was on target, albeit right at Ryan.

West Ham was on the attack again in the final minute of the opening half with Snodgrass on the run. He slowed down enough to let Fredericks overlap, and the Scot rolled a pass for the right back to get to. Fredericks looped a pass into the box that was initially cleared, but right to Snodgrass. The one time subject of the inept owners bullying fired a shot that took a deflection off Webster and into the net.

Halftime
West Ham 2
Brighton 0

In the opening moments of the second half Brighton won a free kick from a dangerous position when Snodgrass took down Bernardo. The free kick was sent out for a corner, and that’s when the Keystone Cops music started again. Fabianski came out to meet the corner, but his attempted punch came right out of the Roberto playbook and hit Ogbonna in the head and bounced in for an own goal. Comfortable to Panic Stations in the blink of an eye.

West Ham 2
Brighton 1

West Ham won a free kick in the 51st minute when Antonio refused to stop running. After two attempts, Stephens finally took him down. But he stayed down. With his brittle body, from shoulders to legs, it was a sight nobody could say they were shocked by. He was able to continue, but the additional worry was there.

Despite the pain, Antonio went on yet another marauding run that ended in a corner. Cresswell’s delivery was headed clear, but right to Snodgrass. In a scene eerily reminiscent of his first half goal, Snoddy struck the ball very well on the volley. This time, however, the deflection was courtesy of Bernardo. Ryan was helpless.

West Ham 3
Brighton 1

In the 70th minute, Antonio decided that Montoya had suffered plenty and wanted to share the pain with Webster on the right side. He crossed the field and got on the end of a rolling pass from Rice. His shot, however, didn’t trouble Ryan. Two minutes later Cresswell conceded a corner after a head to head battle with Brighton substitute Schelotto. The initial delivery was handled, but the ball went to March and he let loose a rifle shot that Fabianski did well to save.

A minute later, the farcical nature of West Ham’s defense was beyond pathetic. I don’t even know what to say to be honest. I blame Diop more than Ogbonna, because it was Diop who just stood there and watched a ball in front of him. Gross didn’t really do much other than put his body where the ball was. And it bounded off him and behind Fabianski for a slow, painful roll into the net.

West Ham 3
Brighton 2

A minute later, Propper sent a cross into the box that once again nobody on West Ham dealt with. It looked to hit Murray on the arm, but as it turned out it was his chest and the comeback…and possibly West Ham’s relegation…was complete.

Final Score
West Ham 3
Brighton 3

The last ten minutes were a bit of a blur, mostly because I decided not to sit in front of the TV anymore and got up to keep busy and move around a bit. The shambolic way in which our defense blew these vital three points was enough for me to throw in the towel. I cannot see a way back, but if that means the absurd way in which the current board have found fit to run this club will come to an end than maybe it’s worth it in the very long run.


David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 1, Everton 1. Respect...You Know The Rest.

January. Relegation Battle. Mercenaries in the form of agents running a scouting system that doesn’t exist. Protests to get rid of the owners who are as likely to remove themselves from power as Trump saying he was wrong and stepping down. Just another day in Stratford.

I have often looked at my frequent visits to London with melancholy, wishing I was wealthy enough to have a home there and the means to go back and forth on a whim. But I gotta tell you. Distance is helpful to a degree. I can tune it all out, knowing that the ten years our board have been in charge has brought far more anguish than joy, so I no longer expect any joy whatsoever. Until the day they tape up the last box of their personal belongings and get the hell out, those expectations shall remain.

Oh. We played Everton today. Draw. Not awful

Funny. For the first few minutes of the match I forgot that Carlo Ancelotti was the manager of Everton. It wasn’t until Danny Gabbidon started talking about him that I remembered it. Not that I was one of those people that thought we should have replaced Pellegrini with the highly successful Italian. Nor am I convinced Ancelotti will do particularly well on Merseyside. He might. But like our departed Chilean, he is used to working with top ingredients in his kitchen. West Ham and Everton are similar in terms of quality.

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The Hammers started reasonably well, pressing high up the pitch and breaking well when in possession. In the 5th minute, after stripping Davies of the ball, Noble fed the ball in the direction of Snodgrass. The in-form Scot used the help of a deflection to get a shot off from the top of the Everton eighteen yard box but it had no power and was straight as an arrow into the arms of Pickford.

The next 15 minutes or so were a whole lot of nothing, but in the 19th minute the Hammers came alive. First, Noble did very well to get a ball into the box for Haller, whose header went just wide. Moments later Zabaleta had a shot from close range that came off Delph and out for a corner. Then Snodgrass was sent in alone but it was flagged for offside. In the midst of all that, Noble made not one but two very bad passes that could have ended very badly for West Ham had it not been for timely defending by Ogbonna.

West Ham should have taken the lead in the 25th minute when Noble sent Haller in with a rolled pass after a giveaway by Digne. But Pickford made himself nice and wide, kept those legs closed, and kept our record signing off the scoresheet. A minute later Lanzini broke down the left and tried to find Haller in the box, but a vital touch by Digne averted possible disaster for the visitors.

Everton had their first chance of the half in the 32nd minute when, after working the ball around the West Ham box Digne sent a looping pass over the West Ham defense towards Walcott. Had the former England international gotten better contact, the ball would likely have seen the back of the net instead of the yellow of Randolph’s shirt.

In the 39th minute, Lanzini drew a foul from Delph on the left side of the Everton box. Snodgrass stepped up and made yet another excellent delivery into the box, and Diop was there to direct it past Pickford.

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West Ham 1
Everton 0

The lead was short lived, three minutes to be exact. Everton won a corner after some pressing by Walcott. The corner from Digne got a glance from Holgate, and was then headed past Randolph by Calvert-Lewin.

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West Ham 1
Everton 1

In the final seconds of the first half, West Ham came very close to a second goal when Zabaleta did well to chase a ball down at the end line and float a cross to Fornals. The young Spaniard headed the ball into the ground and towards goal, and it took a very fine save by Pickford to keep the score deadlocked before halftime.

Halftime
West Ham 1
Everton 1

Everton started the second half well, and were a bit unlucky not to take the lead. First, Walcott sent a cross into the box that Randolph reached out to clear with a punch. It didn’t make it past Gordon, but his effort went over the bar. Moments later, it was Walcott again who found Calvert-Lewin at the near post but he didn’t have room to do anything and the ball went out for a goal kick. Seconds later Digne curled a good corner kick into the area. West Ham couldn’t deal with it, and the ball went to Davies on the bounce. Lucky for West Ham Davies put his attempt wide of the target.

The home side tried to work their way into the second half and won a corner in the 56th minute. The set piece was met by Pickford and punched clear. I wish there was more to say about that bit of action, but there wasn’t. Everton stayed on the front foot, dominated the midfield, and West Ham were on the ropes.

Speaking of the midfield, I’m going to use this little platform of mine to weigh in on the Gedson Fernandes fiasco. And yes, it was a fiasco of mismanagement. I don’t care that some say we were played by agents, the deal wasn’t our to lose. It was. If we had an actual football management structure in place as opposed to a real estate mogul using eat-what-we-kill agents running the ship, the player would have been ours. I have no idea if he would have been a good signing from an on the pitch perspective. If anything, a bottom feeder like West Ham likely needs a Joe Allen more than a 21 year old from Portugal. We patch the leak, we don’t replace the roof. But the kid was public in his desire to join us. If we had moved quickly, it would have been done. The papers reported that it was the 40 million pound OPTION that stood in our way. The words alone tell you it’s nonsense. We could have said NO after the 18 months. Or we could have leveraged our option against others that might have wanted him. We would have had a semblance of control. In my opinion, this was another example of Sullivan entering the fray for appearance sake, never having the intention or moxie to pull it off. Perhaps he’s not even as good a businessman as some might think, because this one was handed to him on a plate.

Back to the match.

Masuaku replaced Fornals in the 60th minute. That made me nervous. Fornals has been our best midfielder by some margin lately. Masuaku did win a corner a minute after entering the game, but the delivery was truly dreadful and Everton cleared with ease. A few minutes later it was Everton that won a corner off of Zabaleta, but Mina’s header was no issue for Randolph.

West Ham won a corner in the 70th minute from a deflected shot by Snodgrass that almost went over Pickford, but the England numero uno got a hand to it and pushed it behind the net. West Ham then won a couple of free kicks near the 80 minute mark, but on both occasions the delivery from Snodgrass wasn’t good enough and Everton were able to clear the area. With ten minutes to go I was ready to just hold the point close and not let it go.

Until proven 100% otherwise I refuse to completely give up on Ajeti, much like Fornals before him. When he came on, he showed grit and determination. Not to mention a bit of the dark arts when he leaned back into Holgate. VAR checked for a possible a red card, and it was determined that Holgate made more of the incident than was actually there.

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Everton won a late free kick in added time when Zabaleta welcomed Gordon to The Premier League with an experienced shoulder to halt a run. The ball eventually came to Davies, but his shot was blocked over for a corner by Masuaku. West Ham handled the ensuing set piece and that was that.

Final Score
West Ham 1
Everton 1

When you are a club mired in yet another Race Towards Relegation, with absolutely no coherent plan and virtually no support staff to help avoid that, that old adage we hated under Sam is unfortunately true. Respect The Point. That’s where we are. That’s where we will be under the Sullivan, Gold, and Brady. We have a decade worth of evidence that makes that point abundantly clear. I don’t know if a billion pounds in the transfer market would make that much of a difference with such ineptitude at the top.

I’m beginning to embrace the horror we are in because there isn’t any choice.


The David Hautzig Column

My Top 11 Of The Last 10

Goalkeeper: Adrian
Sorry Fabs. If the decade were longer you’d have likely won out.

Central Defender 1: Winston Reid
*Once Sam taught him how to defend in the Premier League, he was among the first names on the team sheet.

Central Defender 2: James Collins
*As dependable as a Subaru. Built like one, too.

Right Back: Pablo Zabaleta
*I think this speaks to how woeful we have been at this position.

Left Back: Aaron Cresswell
*Better than Zabaleta, but basically the same point as above.

Right Midfield: Michail Antonio
*It’s easy to forget that Antonio has been with us for some time. And in that time, his positives are enough to give him the spot.

Central Midfield 1: Mark Noble
*There should be no reason to defend this call. So I won’t.

Central Midfield 2: Kevin Nolan
*This one is a tougher call, but his work to get us promoted and then stabilize us is the decider for me.

Left Midfield: Le Snake
*His one year of brilliance was enough.

Striker 1: Carlton Cole
*His goals got us promoted, and he was always there when we needed him. Longevity plays a part in this decision, even though Arnautovic was a better striker in a vacuum.

Striker 2: Andy Carroll
*We might not want to admit it, but his signing made us relevant in the transfer market. The end product was far les than we paid for, but he scored 34 goals. Not much. But only Cole scored more.


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