Saturday, 22 August 2015

What do we make of West Ham?

A club with a clear plan built on the West Ham Way or a Premier League club with ambition but not knowing how quite to get there? It is easy to cast aspersions on rival clubs, but that is not why I am talking about West Ham who have done well to establish themselves in the Premier League and even to win a place in the Europa League at the end of last season, albeit on fair play rules. But what are we to make about the start to this season? A Europa League exit to Astra Giurgui, then a dramatic two-nil thumping of Arsenal on the opening day, a 16 -year-old who makes the first XI, Joey Barton's deal then no-deal, the Charlie Austin saga and a manager that must try to ensure that the club reaches the Olympic stadium while still in the Premier League. It's not exactly quiet down the East End at the moment.
West Ham players at Dean Court a couple of years ago
for Stephen Purches' Testimonial match. They've signed a few players since then.
West Ham have always had aspirations to be more of a major force in the capital and now is their time to kick on and ensure that they have the team and the manager in place to become a Premier League club that is no longer looking over its shoulder at where the relegation places are. It will have been considered a risk by many to have parted company with Sam Allardyce for the bullish swagger of Slaven Bilic, but perhaps the bold move was the right time to take a gamble. Judging by the start against Astra Giurgui some will have predicted the worse this season and yet Bilic turned this around with one brilliant away win against Arsenal and everything appears fabulous now at Upton Park, even if Leicester City got the better of them last week.

There is a new Reece Oxford on the scene at 16 who has belied his age to turn in a stunning performance against the Gunners and there are signs that the West Ham Academy is doing very well again. While the injury to Enner Valancia was a big blow in pre-season, they have Andy Carroll on the path to full fitness again and up front they will certainly have Diafra Sakho this weekend who is likely to be even better this season than last, if they can keep hold of him before the transfer window shuts. 

It is a little harder to explain some goings on at the club like the Joey Barton escapade, but I guess all clubs will look at players with Premier League experience when they could come in on a free transfer. I can see the attraction for Barton but the Hammers probably made the right decision eventually.  

Meanwhile, chairman David Sullivan's intervention this week on the possible transfer of Charlie Austin rather scuppered that target if Slaven Bilic really wanted Charlie to join them. It appears that Alex Song is likely to join the Hammers soon if everyone can stay friendly and West Ham actually decide they don't want to scupper another deal, but you never know what is really going on at Upton Park.

But looking at the positives, what about that win against Arsenal! West Ham did what the Cherries didn't in their first game and took their chances. It is such a simple game when things go right and the boost that will have given the Boleyn ground faithful should make it easier for Slaven Bilic. Yet having slipped up at home against Leicester, another defeat against the new boys from the south coast and a lot of the good work will have been undone. The strength and physicality of the Hammers side worries me a little, but AFCB have to find a way of dealing with that and standing up to such teams. 

I expect West Ham to try and make it a tough battle, but they can also play great football on the floor so the Cherries are going to have to play with a lot of thought. We could find that West Ham are the Jekyll and Hyde side of the division, they could be the team that blow hot and cold all season as Bilic looks to get a consistent formula. I just hope Bournemouth get them on a day when they are feeling slightly below par.

Injury worries for West Ham mean Mauro Zarte is out with a pulled hamstring, while keeper Adrian is of course suspended for his straight red card against Leicester City.

Enjoy the game if you are going. It should be an entertaining on as Slaven Bilic has already said with both teams having attacking set ups. Perhaps this is a score draw on your scorecard? My boss is a West Ham fan, so do us a favour AFCB - Monday mornings are hard enough as it is. UTCIAD!

West Ham probable XI selected by Evening Standard:
Randolph, Jenkinson, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Kouyate, Noble, Payet, Nolan, Maiga, Sakho.

My AFCB probable XI:
Boruc, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie, O'Kane, Surman, Gradel, King, Wilson

AFCB Subs: Federici, Smith, Distin, Gosling, Pugh, Atsu, Tomlin

Personally, I'd like Pugh to start for the Cherries as I think he could stand up the the physical side of West Ham's game better than Gradel, but I suspect that Eddie will want to give Max another opportunity with his second start.  

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