Thursday, August 18

Daily WHUFC News - II 18th August 2016

From the Newsroom

Romanian football journalist Emanuel Rosu gives the lowdown on Liga I
champions Astra Giurgiu...

Astra Giurgiu v West Ham United again! What is your reaction to the Europa
League draw?

"For Astra, it's like reaching a final. The current state of Romanian
football is so bad, that these kind of games make us think of what real
football smells like.

"The main talk over here is about insolvency and bankruptcy – a lot of teams
have disappeared or got relegated because of their immense financial

"Our results on the European stage are average at most, so an opponent like
West Ham couldn't have come in a better moment. It's going to be Astra's
final of the season. They are no strangers to the financial problems, so
it's going to be Astra's breath of fresh, quality, air."

How are West Ham thought of in Romania? We have played Poli Timisoara,
Steaua Bucharest and Astra in European competition, while Ilie Dumitrescu,
Florin Raducioiu and Razvan Rat have all played for the Hammers, so are
Romanians aware of the Club?

"The Premier League has millions of fans over here. West Ham has a rather
special relationship with Romania for all the reasons you've mentioned. The
fans haven't forgotten the two games against Steaua [when the Romanians
prevailed in the 1999 UEFA Cup second round] and regard them as a reference
when it comes to wonderful European evenings!

"Even though none of the three Romanian internationals produced an impact in
east London, they always spoke highly of the club, its fans and culture.

"You can even spot West Ham shirts every now and then at the games played in
Liga I. The English expats also had a contribution. With so many having West
Ham as their favourite club, West Ham's games get good attendances in the
Romanian bars as well."

Astra won 4-3 on aggregate last season and went on to win the Romanian
title. Did victory over West Ham inspire their domestic success?

"Definitely! That was the moment when they realised they were on for
something big. The enthusiasm which followed that victory was absolutely

"Astra lived from that energy boost for many months! Literally! The club had
problems, they suffered in many ways, but managed to stick together and
those two games always served as the perfect example for their inner force.

"Although West Ham didn't field its best players last year, it was still a
win over a very important Premier League club. The two games against West
Ham were the season's highlight at Astra without any doubt."

With Manchester City facing Steaua Bucharest, are Romanian football fans
excited about their battles with English teams this month?

"'Excited' is a modest word to use in this context. Let's just say that the
tickets for Steaua Bucharest's home UEFA Champions League qualifier with
Manchester City sold out in less than 24 hours after being made available
online, so Steaua was thrilled to welcome English visitors.

"Astra is facing some rather disturbing times at the moment but West Ham's
name served as a healer for many of its wounds. The two games between Astra
and West Ham are a highlight in the club's European CV, so the name of its
opponent attracted interest even for the neutrals.

"Also, there's the Payet effect. After the amazing goal he scored against
Romania at the Euros, Dimitri surely made people stand up and clap even if
they weren't in the mood to. The goal was just too good!"

Last season's match-winner Constantin Budescu appears to be on the verge of
returning on loan from Chinese football. If he is playing, would that give
Astra a big boost?

"His situation was complicated for a long time, he hasn't played much in
China, so his current level is an enigma for everybody. He says he is fit
and ready to go, but the reality is sometimes more difficult to handle than
it seems at first glance.

"For Astra's level, Budescu is class and they will like for him to show that
as soon as possible. How soon? It's up to him."

Last season, Astra won! Can they win again?

"Judging by their current form, I'd say it's impossible. Judging by the big
problems the club as a whole is going through, I'd see myself forced to
repeat: impossible.

"Astra missed their coach, Marius Sumudica, at the end of last season due to
suspension, and will miss some key players against West Ham.

"More important than anything are the passion and the togetherness that saw
them through a year ago. If they can remember the feeling and make it
possible again, I'd say they can put up a fight. But judging on today's key
details, I'd stick with 'impossible' when asked if they can beat West Ham."

Five Talking Points - Astra Giurgiu

All the major topics for discussion ahead of Thursday's UEFA Europa League
tie in southern Romania...


Ever since the draw was made, West Ham United's return visit to Astra
Giurgiu has been touted as a chance to gain 'revenge' for defeat by the same
opposition, in the same competition, a year ago.

Revenge is a strong word, and the Hammers will surely be concentrated only
on reaching the UEFA Europa League group stage, regardless of the identity
of the opposition.

Astra may have won the Romanian title last season, but there has been a
large turnover of players – including the departure of star man Constantin
Budescu – and coach Marius Sumudica is currently serving a two-month

Europa League v Premier League

As Slaven Bilic said in his pre-match press conference, the question is
asked every year – 'Why do you want to stay in the Europa League if it is
going to have an effect on your Premier League form?'

Bilic insists that, injury crises aside, he has a squad big and strong
enough to cope with both competitions, and that he sees European football as
an important step forward in the Club's development and growth.

He is right. What point is there in working hard all season to finish in the
European places, if you are then going to treat continental competition as a

On balance, West Ham's Europa League participation is good for the Club,
good for the players and good for the supporters.

Darren's chance to shine

Slaven also mentioned in his pre-Astra briefing that, while Adrian remains
his No1 goalkeeper, Darren Randolph is also an outstanding stopper and will
play in the knockout competitions 'at least'.

So, does this open the door for the softly-spoken Irishman to make a real
play to dislodge his equally amiable Spanish squad-mate from between the

Randolph has yet to let West Ham down when he has played, and on Thursday he
will have yet another opportunity to show his manager what he can do.

The loyal Claret and Blue Army

Anyone walking through the historic centre of Bucharest on Thursday could
not have failed to notice the large Claret and Blue-clad group of supporters
enjoying a beer – or a dozen – in the Romanian sunshine.

Around 400 have made the journey to Romania and will cheer their heroes on
from a corner of the Stadion Marius Anastasovici.

The players hugely appreciate that level of loyalty so, should West Ham
progress to the group stage, why not follow the Hammers into Europe next
time around?

The right-back debate

It has become THE hot topic on social media in recent days – Michail Antonio
and the right-back position.

Antonio himself grew up and developed his game as a powerful, direct,
attacking winger or forward, but manager Slaven Bilic clearly spotted the
attributes of a top-level full-back in his No30.

Whatever the future holds, Antonio has speed, strength and the ability to
tackle and head the ball with aplomb – all traits that suit the full-back
position. Bilic has shown time and again that he has tactical acumen and the
ability to judge his players' attributes, so who are we to doubt him in this

The case for the defence
Filed: Thursday, 18th August 2016
By: Lakepalmer

After a summer of much anticipation and excitement, West Ham's early foray
into the 2016/2017 season has provided everybody with a harsh reality check.

A lacklustre and staccato performance at Chelsea was followed by the news
that our recording signing Andre Ayew would be out for up to four months.
'Typical West Ham' the entire fan base said in unison as David Gold tweeted
the news but to add further insult to this injury, we find out Payet and
Feghouli are also struggling.

With having to cope with the extra Europa league fixtures, the disruption
and pressure of the stadium move, other injuries to Lanzini and Cresswell
and the ongoing Sakho saga these are shaping up as tough times for Bilic. A
season of unrivalled hope and expectation potentially having the wheels fall
off by the end of September will be hard for the fans to take. It was
supposed to be different this time.

With that as the backdrop the last thing Bilic would have wanted was player
unrest. A manager who prides himself on harmony, unity and team spirit would
be taking the training ground spat with Antonio personally.

Its been brewing though, 'Antonio is not a right back' has become a
campaign. Social media rife with memes and tweets with our sponsors even in
on the act. With every mistake Antonio makes momentum gathers and the stick
with which to beat Bilic gets bigger and bigger. Along with the vitriol to
Bilic there has also been the outpouring of grief and sympathy for Antonio,
it's as if Antonio is Cecil the friendly harmless Lion and Bilic is the evil
Walter Palmer.

But really, is that it that clear cut? Has Bilic just become pig-headed like
Sam Allardyce before him and basically cupping his ear at us? Antonio might
be never a decent right back, in fact the intelligence and attitude he has
shown so far in trying to adopt the position heavily suggests he won't be.
But that isn't that where the problem is ? in his intelligence and attitude
rather Bilic just going a bit mental on us.

Looking a little deeper than a bungling hack on Azpilcueta, why would Bilic
want Antonio as a right back ? The system Bilic prefers (4-2-3-1) depends
hugely on the full backs providing width and getting forward. The three
behind the striker, for example are Payet, Lanzini and Ayew. Payet and Ayew
start wide but look to drift inside to create an overload in the final

The best exponents of this are Barca, although they set up slightly
differently with a front three with Suarez, Messi and Neymar drifting
infield, joined by Iniesta and Rakitic. They keep possession so well that
the full backs Alba and Alves bomb on and provide the width.

The full backs getting forward stretch the pitch to allow more space for
Payet or Suarez to cut inside. But if play breaks down those fullbacks have
to be supercharged to get back. So the system demands dynamic attacking wing
play and a huge engine with pace to get up and down the line.

See where this going? Maybe there is some madness in Bilic's thinking. I
can't think of more dynamic get up and down player in the league than
Antonio (unless you think of the Leicester boys' performance in Thailand of

So not only does Antonio like to hit the byline and be very direct in his
attacking play, he also isn't that wide player (ala Payet or Ayew or even
Feghouli) who is good at drifting inside, receiving and retaining possession
in tight areas. So does he suit Bilic's ideal attacker in the 4-2-3-1 ? No.
He is not technically good enough. He has probably been brought up playing a
4-4-2, as old school British winger. So not only does he tick the boxes for
a Slav fullback he also doesn't tick all the boxes for a Slav winger.

Antonio also has a great eye for goal. Big asset. On the other side, for all
Creswell's good play he isn't the best finisher, but imagine if we could
recreate the situations that got Creswell in on goal on the right hand side
with Antonio. Wow, what a threat we would have? How often does Marcelo get
forward into shooting positions for Real Madrid? Surely it has to mean that
our attacking threat is 100 per cent better with Antonio on the overlap
bearing down on goal than a Byram or a Davide Santon or a Joey O'Brien. It
would add another dimension to our play.

So all good so far, Antonio seems ready made for the job apart from the fact
he has no experience, and no positional sense. After trialling things last
season with mixed results, Bilic obviously believed he could coach those
missing elements into Antonio. So you have a coach of serious experience, a
defender himself at the top level who believes in you and says can you make
you the best right back in the league. You have to buy in to that, don't

All the attributes needed to make that position a success that can't be
coached he has, all he has to do is believe and knuckle down. It's not as he
has never had to defend as right winger, it's a pretty important part of the
job. Playing in the forward three doesn't mean he is bereft of defensive
responsibilities and he will never have to make a tackle or be facing his
own goal. The defending that he has been pretty woeful at isn't another
sport, is it?

And if he wants proof it can be done, then take look at this list of names
of current players who played wing or midfield and converted to full back,
Abate ,Alaba, Evra, Piszczek (he was a striker), Gibbs, Seamus Coleman - and
even the great Phillip Lahm.

Personally I think Antonio has made some bad errors at fullback but not
because he is playing full back. They are just bad errors. Being out of form
is hard work for a player but it seems Antonio has blamed his mistakes on
playing full back. He has therefore absolved himself of responsibility.
Instead of instigating a training ground bust-up, he should have apologised
to the team for the mistake at Chelsea (double mistake even).

The fact he can't be trusted to make the right decision whilst defending
just makes him a liability, not a winger.

Decision-making during the game is obviously massive, he choose the wrong
option and seems to be hiding behind the outpouring of grief. Rather than
wishing the situation was better, he should be wishing HE was better. I can
totally understand Slav's frustration, the potential upside of Antonio as
our Dani Alves is huge, he now has to re-jig his planning and has also found
out a lot about the player in terms of how he has dealt with this tricky

Its seems that Antonio either doesn't want to get to grips with the
defending aspect of right back (attitude) or he doesn't have the capability
(intelligence). Either way, it's disappointing and he is going to have to
turn some serious match-winning performances from right midfield to regain
Bilic's trust.

I get the feeling Antonio's days are numbered.

Daggers confirm stadium share agreement
Filed: Thursday, 18th August 2016
By: Staff Writer

West Ham United's development squad will be playing their home games at
Dagenham & Redbridge's Chigwell Construction Stadium this season. The
agreement was confirmed this morning by the National League side who will be
hosting West Ham's entire home programme at Victoria Road bar three
fixtures, the mandatory figure which has to be played at the hosting club's
main ground (in this case, the Olympic Stadium). "We would like to thank
West Ham United for choosing our venue for this competition," read a
statement on this lunchtime. "Part of the agreement includes a
pre-season friendly at home to a West Ham United XI ahead of the 2017/18

The matches to be hosted at Victoria Road are as follows. All kick off at

August: 22nd - Newcastle United
September: 9th - Wolverhampton Wanderers; 26th - Brighton & Hove Albion
October: 31st - West Bromwich Albion
November: 21st - Blackburn Rovers
December: 12th - Swansea City
January: 9th - Norwich City; 27th - Aston Villa
February: 20th - Fulham
March: 6th - Stoke City
April: 10th - Middlesbrough

Match Day Officials v West Ham (21/8/16)

The Premier League have now announced the Match Day officials that will take
charge of the game against West Ham United this Sunday. AFC Bournemouth
travel to West Ham United on Sunday August 21 for the game at the London
Stadium and the match carries a 4pm kick off for screening live on Sky

Referee: Craig Pawson
Linesmen: H Lennard and I Hussin
Fourth Official: R East

Match Day referee Pawson has officiated two games in 2016/17 with a return
of eight yellow cards and zero red cards. He took in 39 matches last season
and in those games, across all competitions and football divisions, he
handed out a total of 117 yellow cards and three red cards. He was most card
happy in the match between Slovan Liberec and Braga in the Europa League on
September 17 with a total of seven yellows being shown. He showed seven
yellows in three games after that.

West Ham's Dimitri Payet picks up small knock amid Hammers injury crisis
DIMITRI PAYET reportedly picked up a small knock against Chelsea on Monday -
but the West Ham star is not set for a spell on the sidelines.
PUBLISHED: 05:23, Thu, Aug 18, 2016 | UPDATED: 05:44, Thu, Aug 18, 2016

The playmaker was given a 23-minute cameo from the bench at Stamford Bridge
in the Hammers' 2-1 defeat. Having endured a long summer at Euro 2016 with
France, Payet only returned to full training at West Ham on Monday 8 August.
But his quick inclusion in the team that lost to Chelsea saw him pick up a
slight blow, leading to his exemption from the Hammers' European squad.
According to website The West Ham Way, the club decided not to risk
aggravating any potential injury by leaving him out of the trip to Romania
to face Astra on Thursday night (7.15pm). Slaven Bilic's side is already
stretched heading into their Europa League play-off tie. But Payet is
expected to only miss the first leg with the aim to still start him against
Bournemouth on Sunday. West Ham play their first ever Premier League game at
their new stadium this weekend and they are set to include the talisman in
their line-up despite the small knock suffered. However, injuries are a huge
concern in east London at the present time with record £20million signing
Andre Ayew adding to their woes. The forward has been ruled out for four
months with a thigh injury, seeing him join Manuel Lanzini, Aaron Cresswell,
Sofiane Feghouli, Diafra Sakho and Havard Nordtveit as the Hammers' current
absentees heading into Thursday's clash.

Confirmed: West Ham miss out on target as striker signs for Wolfsburg
MARIO GOMEZ has signed for Wolfsburg, marking his return to the Bundesliga
after a three-year absence.
PUBLISHED: 06:33, Thu, Aug 18, 2016 | UPDATED: 06:41, Thu, Aug 18, 2016

The 31-year-old striker left Bayern Munich for Italy's Fiorentina in July
2013, and spent last season on loan at Besiktas where he scored 26 league
goals as he helped the club win the Turkish title. His performances saw him
linked with a move to Premier League club West Ham as they look to bolster
their options in attack going ahead of their Europa League campaign.
The Hammers this week signed Jonathan Calleri on loan for the rest of the
season but have made no secret of their desire to recruit another
high-profile striker. But Gomez, who ruled out a permanent move to the
Turkish champions due to the volatile political situation in the country,
has instead opted for a return to Germany. "We looked at the possibility of
signing Mario Gomez during the winter, so we are all the happier that it has
now worked out," Wolfsburg sporting director Klaus Allofs told the club's
website. "Mario is a striker of international class, who, aside from his
playing qualities, also brings an immense amount of experience to our team.
As an ambitious player, he fits in here perfectly." Gomez, who began his
career at Stuttgart, has scored 138 goals in 236 top-flight appearances in

Team News: Bilic without six West Ham stars for Europa League clash, new
signing in squad
WEST HAM will be without new signing Andre Ayew when they travel to Romania
to face Astra Giurgiu in the first leg of their Europa League qualifying
PUBLISHED: 06:45, Thu, Aug 18, 2016 | UPDATED: 06:53, Thu, Aug 18, 2016

The club-record £20million signing, who arrived from Swansea earlier this
month, suffered a thigh injury on his debut against Chelsea on Monday. The
Ghana international joins defender Aaron Cresswell (knee), midfielder Manuel
Lanzini and winger Sofiane Feghouli (both hamstring) on the sidelines. New
left-back Arthur Masuaku is cup-tied and influential playmaker Dimitri Payet
did not travel but striker Jonathan Calleri could be involved following his
loan switch from from Uruguayan club Deportivo Maldonado.

West Ham provisional squad: Adrian, Randolph, Byram, Reid, Ogbonna, Collins,
Oxford, Page, Antonio, Noble, Nordtveit, Kouyate, Obiang, Tore, Valencia,
Quina, Fletcher, Carroll, Calleri.

West Ham's David Gold shares good news
Shane Callaghan

The West Ham United co-owner posted something on Twitter recently. West Ham
United co-chairman David Gold has revealed on Twitter that Manuel Lanzini is
ahead of schedule in his comeback from a knee injury, and confirmed new
signing Jonathan Calleri is fit enough to travel to Romania. The Irons jet
off to the city of Giurgiu for a tricky first-leg Europa League playoff with
Astra on Thursday. Argentine striker Calleri joined West Ham on a
season-long loan from Deportivo Maldonado this week, after representing his
country in the Rio Olympics in recent weeks. His participation in Brazil
raised questions over whether he would make the trip to Romania, but Gold
confirmed he is in contention for his debut tonight. One man who will not
travel is Calleri's fellow Argentine Lanzini, who was one of West Ham's
stand-out performers during his maiden season in East London last term. The
midfielder is still out with a knee injury but Gold revealed on Twitter that
he is ahead of schedule in his recovery from that problem. West Ham lost 2-1
at Chelsea in their Premier League opener on Monday night. Slaven Bilic's
side will aim to bounce back domestically when they host Bournemouth at the
Olympic Stadium on Sunday evening.

David Sullivan piles pressure on new West Ham signing with bold prediction
Damien Lucas

Co-owner David Sullivan has piled the pressure on West Ham United's new
signing Jonathan Calleri with a bold prediction. The Hammers have struggled
in their much-publicised bid to land a marquee striker signing this summer
befitting the new 60,000 seater Olympic Stadium they now call home. Slaven
Bilic was forced to pay over the odds for striker Andre Ayew in a club
record £20.5 million deal last week and in typical West Ham fashion he was
promptly injure half an hour into his debut in the season-opening defeat to
Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. While the club were not putting a timescale on
the "significant" thigh injury last night, Sullivan's teenage son Jack
confirmed on Twitter Ayew will be out for four months. The blow has been
softened by the arrival of young Argentinian forward Jonathan Calleri this
week, though. He will give Bilic a different option in attack but co-owner
Sullivan has heaped pressure on the new loan signing straight away by
revealing his rather lofty expectations for the former Boca Juniors star on
the club's official website. "He's a top player and was the leading
goalscorer this season in the Copa Libertadores, the South American version
of the Champions League," Sullivan told "He is the immediate back
up for Argentina who are the number one rated team in the world. "We expect
him to be one of our top goalscorers this season."

Calleri could be thrown straight in at the deep end too having flown out to
Romania with the rest of the Hammers squad to face champions Astra Giurgiu
in the Europa League on Thursday night. Astra knocked Bilic's side out of
the competition at the third round stage last year. And the stakes are ever
higher this time around with the victors over two-legged fourth qualifying
play-off making the Europa League group stage proper. That is seen as
crucial to West Ham's new existence as anchor tenants of one of the largest
stadiums in Europe and Calleri could well find himself in the thick of the
action with Bilic seriously lacking options at moment.


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