The HamburgHammer Column
YES!!!!! Never in doubt! That’s pretty much job done. The cookie has been nibbled, the goose been cooked, the broth been boiled. Done and dusted. Sorted. In the bag. Not quite mathematically yet, as our resident teacher Dan Coker might keep reminding me, but come on!
Villa will not turn their entire crap season around all of a sudden in their final two games by winning them with gargantuan six-goal efforts while keeping clean sheets at the same time. (Can Villa even keep one clean sheet against Arsenal OR us ?)
Teams down the bottom simply don’t do that kind of thing. West Ham on the other hand have now won 10 from a possible 15 points over the last five games, 2 points per game on average – you are unlikely to get relegated with that kind of momentum in your dressing room.
In contrast Villa only got 4 out of 15 possible points, less than a point per game and very much relegation form.
That’s why great and greatest escapes only happen once in a blue moon.
And they always coincide with having momentum on your side.
Bournemouth lost all their momentum and also the fixture against Southampton yesterday – it means that they can no longer catch us.
Which, in theory at least, just leaves Watford and Villa from our selfish perspective. There is a tiny mathematical possibility for either of them to stay up while sending West Ham down.
However, I really wouldn’t want to be in their shoes at this point…I’d rather be West Ham now, thank you very much! ;-))
Our boys have really done their homework in those busy weeks, playing one game after another. Suddenly the boys are actually playing some neat football again, stringing passes together, scoring goals and generally looking like they have been working together on passing patterns and automatisms on the training pitch. The players no longer look like strangers when the game kicks off.
Moyes has managed us well enough in this period, even in the games we lost we didn’t suffer a humiliating drubbing which is why our goal difference is now so vastly superior compared to the beleaguered bunch at the bottom, so that the clubs still fighting for survival below us not only need the mother of all miracles, but also shiploads of good fortune, plenty of four-leaf clovers and myriads of rabbit feet on top to still stand a miniscule chance of overtaking us in the table. Maybe with several dodgy VAR calls thrown in for good measure.
Not on your nelly! Or for our American friends: No way, Jose!
Nie im Leben, vergiss es! As us Krauts might say.
I was never a champion of mathematics at school, but it ain’t gonna happen for Villa and Bournemouth (or Watford), they can’t get to us anymore, we’re safe.
As you’re all aware, West Ham have gone through plenty of crap, mud and tears in their history, but being relegated in the current scenario now, despite our goal difference and all, would really be a step too far even for those barmy football gods who once conspired to relegate us with a 42 point tally almost 20 years ago, but the football deities certainly were wasted and high on cannabis that season, surely they are all grown up and mature now, so for certain they won’t dare playing with our emotions and collective blood pressure in this fashion ever again.
Talking of which, I was reasonably calm and in good spirits prior to the Watford game, I had already finished my grocery shopping for the weekend, had soaked up some sunshine down the local lake and after having a quick matchday meal of pasta, I put the kettle on to get ready for watching the game.
Same West Ham shirt on and same claret and blue mug as for the Norwich game, but ONE quite significant change: One day prior I had changed the picture on the West Ham poster calendar which proudly graces my living-room wall, switching the picture from Cresswell to Ogbonna this time, I suppose it worked…Ogbonna had a textbook level performance at CB and deservedly got picked as MotM…;-))
I had barely touched my mug of tea when Antonio had already put us 1:0 in front after six minutes with a nice finish. That was how a striker puts away opportunities. Clinical. Beautiful shot. Just what the doctor ordered.
And sooooo important. Watford had won their previous two games despite conceding first, but still I knew the goal was doing OUR confidence the world of good anyway. And so it proved.
Just four minutes later my screwdriver was once again airborne, defying gravity in celebration…another wonderful goal, this one even better than the first strike: Jarrod Bowen, one of the key players responsible for igniting our recent turnaround, putting one on a silver platter (or should that read gravy boat ? LOL) for our very own Czech Sous Chef, Tomáš Soucek, who rose high to fire in a bullet of a header as if they were going out of fashion. Top goal all around that one.
Soucek is fast becoming my favourite player and when you look at the way he plays, the runs he’s making, his intelligence when reading the game, the way he’s talking to his teammates during the game, the timing when jumping for headers, you can easily forget how young he is: 25 years, best years still ahead, with a wise head screwed onto a young body. Mature beyond his years. Soucek looks as if he has played in three World Cups already. If only we could keep him and Rice around for the next few years at West Ham, now, THAT would be a midfield anchor to build a team around! We’ll see…
At 2:0 up I was already certain that Watford would struggle to come back from this, then Noble played a clever short pass back to Declan Rice (see how effective sideways and backwards passing can be ?) and with the kind of verve Thomas “The Hammer“ Hitzlsperger in his prime would have been proud of, Dec launched the mother of all belters, catching the Hornets’ goalkeeper wrong-footed and reduced to banging the grass with his fist in frustration. WHAT A GOAL!
3:0 up after 36 minutes! What happened to the team that couldn’t score for toffee all season ? Kidnapped by Martians ? Held hostage in a basement in Ipswich and replaced with proper footballers ?
What a nice sight it was to witness the sheer unadulterated joy on the faces not just of Declan himself but his teammates and the gaffer too, celebrating the goal. Absolutely delighted! I felt the same way.
My favourite scene of all in the entire game probably happened just as the ball was bulging the net when Rice scored, the reaction of his midfield partner Soucek who couldn’t help but throw his hands up to grab the top of his head, not quite able to compute what he had just seen.
Yes, Tomáš, that’s the geezer you could be playing alongside for the next few years if you sign for us and convince your new mate Declan he should stay for a while and become the next West Ham captain.
Just do your best there, Tomáš – we trust your ability off the pitch as much as the skills you have shown for us on the pitch already so far…
As for the Hornets ? Well, apart from one decent spell in the second half which brought them their consolation goal courtesy of Troy “Dodgy Knees” Deeney they were as placid, docile and sluggish as your common bumblebee on a nice summer’s day.
I know bumblebees can sting too if they feel threatened, but on the evidence of this performance Watford didn’t really look as if they even had a sting or wanted to play their football in the PL next season.
Gutless, showing not much fight, wasteful with their goalscoring opportunities. I can see them ending up as one of the relegated teams after all, bearing in mind who their final two opponents are…
Another player deserving a mention is young Ben Johnson who had to come in at RB for Fredericks who seems to have picked up a calf strain in training.
I loved Johnson’s performance for several reasons. He stepped up at short notice in a high-stakes game. He didn’t look fazed or out of place. His game was neither spectacular nor flashy. It didn’t have to be. He is a defender. Forgive me, but I like my defenders to defend first and foremost.
IF they have that job covered, by all means, they may go and join the attack occasionally when it suits. But the play from our full-backs this season in general has been questionable, time and time again goals were conceded because opposition players have regularly exploited our Achilles heel willingly and expertly, catching our defenders off-guard far too often.
Johnson though looked solid at defending. That’s pretty much all I would expect my RB to do. Everything above or beyond that is a bonus in my eyes. Cut down on the number of goals we concede next season through mistakes made from the FB positions and we will win additional points and find West Ham in the right half of the league table.
It’s the one position we need to strengthen more than any other in the upcoming transfer window. Fredericks and Cresswell are decent backup options at PL level, but not automatic starters.
I reckon I will talk a bit more about players we should get rid of in my opinion and what positions we should look at in the coming weeks in one of my next columns once the season is officially finished.
Let me just say at this point that I would not want to see another gung-ho style overhaul of our squad with eight players leaving and five or six new faces arriving, we don’t need that. We need some consistency, calm and composure at the club now, smart heads and solid business which has to start with the gaffer who should be allowed to bring in his two or three main targets, whoever they are.
Now, I ain’t privvy to the training sessions, I don’t hang around Rush Green twice a week, as much as I’d love to do that, so I have to go by what I read, what I hear from players in interviews, what I see on the telly when they’re interacting with teammates or the manager during games.
The players seem to have a lot of respect for Moyes, there can be no doubt they have been busting a gut out there on the pitch for him, so we would stay up and Moyes could be allowed to stay on this time around. (Allegedly he would have stayed even in case of relegation, but you never know if that agreement would still have applied once relegation had become reality rather than a mere posssibility.)
Moyes must be doing something right as the players look fitter, stronger, more durable. Antonio has been the best PL scorer throughout the Covid-19 period since the restart, he has been playing A LOT of football lately, still his hamstrings seem to enjoy his exploits on the pitch as much as our new wonder striker himself. Long may it continue.
I cannot begin to tell you how relieved I am that West Ham will still be playing PL football next season. This alone increases the likelihood of me still writing this column.
It just wouldn’t be the same, me writing my column after only reading a match report on German teletext, it helps to actually watch the game in full.
As always, hopelessly naively perhaps, I do hold at least some hope for better times next season, for a bit less drama at the club, fewer injuries, fewer off-pitch distractions, but a season to give us all around more joy, goals and points from our lads’ football.
I actually do appreciate the rollercoaster ride that supporting West Ham tends to resemble most of the time, I do even enjoy it in a weird, ever so slightly masochistic us-against-the-world kind of way, but I could really do with some less frantic turns and fewer loopings next time around – our season doesn’t always have to be like riding the Nemesis at Alton Tower ten minutes after having munched on an overpriced slice of pizza from a food stall vendor.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying the gentle ups and downs of the good old Octonaut every once in a while, you know ? A bit exciting, yes, but not overly bumpy and upsidedowny to a degree that would result in you feeling sick to your stomach and make you eat some of that pizza backwards…know what I mean ? ;-))