Sunday, March 26

Daily WHUFC News - 27th March 2017

Antonio grateful for Mum's advice

On Mother's Day, Michail Antonio has paid tribute to the sound advice given
to him by his Mum.

The No30 revealed how his mother was determined that he complete his
education before trying to embark on a career as a professional footballer
as a teenager.

The winger explained how he was told he could not join Tottenham Hotspur at
the age of 14 due to the travelling and late nights having a negative effect
on his schooling. And, looking back, Antonio said his Mum was right.

"I was going to go to uni," the Hammers leading goalscorer revealed. "At
that moment I was in college doing a BTEC and I actually got into
Southampton University to do Sports Science. So in the following September I
would have gone to uni, but I managed to get signed [by Reading in 2008].

"I was thinking of becoming a PE teacher, so I've had other plans, but there
was only one thing in my heart and that was football.

"At 14, the manager of my school also coached at Tottenham and he got a
scout to come down. Me and my friend both got scouted and he scored an
unbelievable overhead kick from outside the box! So, he went and my Mum said
'No' because, to be honest, I lived in south London and would have had to
travel to north London every day.

"I also had to do college, so I'd have got home at eleven o'clock at night
and then had to get up to go to school. My Mum said 'football isn't a
guarantee, but education is' and 'education comes first' and I think it's
one of the best things she could have ever done for me, to be honest,
because I've now got my education and I've also got my football."

Happy Mother's Day to Hammers-supporting Mums everywhere!

Clean sheets galore

FIFA World Cup qualifying victories for Jose Fonte and Edimilson Fernandes
Darren Randolph, Fonte, Josh Cullen and Reece Oxford all kept clean sheets
for their respective sides
Oxford celebrated helping England qualify for UEFA European U19 Championship

West Ham United's internationals have enjoyed a productive few days, with
Darren Randolph, Jose Fonte, Josh Cullen and Reece Oxford all keeping clean
sheets for their respective sides.

On Friday, Oxford kicked things off by helping England U19s qualify for the
UEFA European U19 Championship finals by beating Spain 3-0 at St George's
Park. Having beaten Norway by the same scoreline in their opening Elite
Round qualifier, England know they will go to Georgia in the summer,
whatever the result against Belarus on Monday.

Later on Friday, Martin Samuelsen appeared as a substitute as Norway U21s
were beaten 3-1 by Portugal in a friendly.

Randolph then kept a clean sheet as Republic of Ireland drew 0-0 with
ten-man Wales in Dublin in FIFA World Cup qualifying. Both sides remain
unbeaten in Group D, but Ireland have eleven points to Wales' seven and the
nations side second and third respectively. James Collins was an unused
substitute for Chris Coleman's side.

On Saturday, Declan Rice and Cullen were both in action for Ireland's
age-group sides in the afternoon, with different results. Rice's U19s had
beaten Italy 2-0 in their opening Elite Round qualifier, but lost 3-0 to
Sweden. They will need to beat Belgium on Tuesday evening and hope Sweden do
not beat Italy to join England at the final tournament.

Cullen captained Ireland's U21s to a 1-0 victory over Kosovo in Dublin in
their own opening UEFA European U21 Championship qualifier - and the
first-ever in Kosovo's history.

Finally on Saturday, after Edimilson Fernandes watched Switzerland defeat
Latvia 1-0 in World Cup qualifying, Jose Fonte played the full 90 minutes
for Portugal as Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in a 3-0 victory over Hungary
in Lisbon.

Slaven Bilic will hope the Hammers' band of internationals will bring the
confidence drawn from a successful weekend back to Rush Green ahead of
Saturday's Premier League trip to Hull City.

Written by Elliot Sheaf @topcornermag

There's been a lot of debate recently over the future of Slaven Bilic. I can
honestly say I currently don't fall either side off the argument, but recent
games have shaken my once blind trust is Super Slav. We can all agree that
his passion is indisputable and off the field issues have been less than
ideal, but to what extent does his commitment and these problems overshadow
any level headed analysis of his performance as a manger this season? I
wanted to try and see beyond this and have a look at what I think tactically
has gone wrong, and whether the responsibility all lies with Bilic for what
is happening on the field.
Our main problem tactically at the moment seems to be that we have no set
philosophy or system. Our starting lineup is often at odds with the style of
play, with none of our players strengths being utilised in a way that
improves team performance. Are we a direct team playing off Carroll? Are we
a free flowing passing side? Or do we soak up pressure and hit teams on the
break? Trick question. We are none of the above, and I'm not even sure what
we're trying to be.

Defensively we have been awful, not only this year but for large parts of
last season as well, leaking goals and making by far the most mistakes that
lead to goals in the Premier League. Fullback has become one of the most
important positions in the modern game, and we've been left woefully behind
in our attempts to keep up. It pains me to say, but Spurs and Chelsea have
clearly got it spot on in this regard, their wing backs often start
attacking moves and are always an outlet for the midfield, but they have the
freedom to play this way due to the security of the three centre backs or
energetic centre midfield covering in behind them if they're caught short.
This is where we seem to be in two minds.
The general feeling seems to be that its was Slav's choice not to sign a
right back in the summer, stating that Antonio could be converted to that
position, clearly a statement of intent for him and Cresswell to be bombing
forward whenever possible. However we combine this with only two centre
backs and having a ponderously slow centre midfield to try and cover when
the full backs get forward, whether this is Antonio, Kouyate or Byram at
right back. So when mistakes are made (which they always will be) our lack
of cover leads to the countless times where teams cut through us in just a
few passes and to us conceding yet again. This, I think, is how we can
concede so many but can still come out thinking Reid had a good game!
Problems with personnel along the backline can be overcome with
organisation, good positioning and knowing your individual responsibility,
so we either bite the bullet and limit the forward intent of the fullbacks,
or get back to scoring one more goal than the opposition. Easier said than

Our lack of intensity in the middle of the park has been shocking this year.
We consistently lose the second and third balls, always looking a yard to
short or not sharp enough to anticipate the bounce. I refuse to believe that
this is down to lack of effort, but rather I think due to a mix of physical
and psychological fatigue.
When fully fit and in form, it all comes naturally and looks easy to the
spectators, but when in a torrid run as we have been this season that
moments hesitation is the difference which makes you half a yard short. It
looks as if constant niggling injuries (that's an article for someone far
smarter than me) and all the off the field problems has seeped in to the
players mind set and meant we have never really looked 100% all season.
The most contentious issue with our midfield lies with Mark Noble. Now, full
disclosure on this issue, I'm biased when it comes to Nobes. I think I'm
right in thinking that there is no other club in the Premier League with a
local lad and boyhood fan of the club as captain. This is a truly special
thing in todays game, and I wouldn't be surprised to not see it happen again
at West Ham in my lifetime. However his season is a perfect representation
of West Ham's as a whole..No energy, too many mistakes, out of ideas.But
never doubt the effort.
However you feel about Nobes holding his starting spot, its Slav that keeps
picking him and not acknowledging the likes of Kouyate or Fernandes could
give us a boost in the centre of the park. Fernandes, incidentally, is
currently second in the entire league for pass completion rate, albeit with
limited play time. Think about that next time a wayward pass leads to a

Andy Carroll has arguably been one of our top performers this year, however
when he is on the pitch we cannot ignore that fact that we have to play a
certain wait to suit his skillset, not only because whipping crosses in when
he is on the pitch is our best chance of grabbing a goal but also because
his lack of agility slows down build up play through the middle.
However we continuously see Lanzini or Antonio breaking through the middle
with nobody to play off, especially since 'he who shall not be named' has
left. Combine this with the fact that we only ever seem to play one real
wide player in the team when Carroll is on the field, it often leaves the
fullbacks isolated when trying to overlap in an effort to get the ball in.
We can't have it both ways, and I would even go as far as saying I'm not
sure Lanzini and Carroll can play in the same team at all. Both represent
completely different attacking intent, and I think we have looked best when
embracing either one of these, but instead we get a confused mess of both.
To be fair to Bilic and to the board, they have always been searching for
that centre forward that combines our two systems of play, both direct and
with fluid, intricate build up, its just that Zaza wasn't that player. I
might be alone in thinking that even when fit, I prefer Carroll as a Plan B,
especially considering how many goals we scored all around the team last
year without Carroll in team.

So how much of this lies with Slav? One way in which I have always been
impressed with Slav is with his willingness and speed to make a change
during the game. He often throws on a sub at half time rather than seeing
how it goes in the second half, and obviously can read the flow of the game
very well from the touchline. However these changes are often forced due to
us not setting out correctly in the first place and when we ae chasing a
game in which we have already fallen behind, such as with arguably our best
performance this season against Palace.
He all to often sticks with a team that got a result last game, even when
the next game requires an altogether different challenge to the last. But
the main factor that has me worried for the rest of the season and the
future of Slav is the mentality of players and how it effects the intensity
on the pitch.
I can only remember a handful of times when we have looked up for it this
season, with us regularly falling behind early whilst still looking half
asleep, which is a problem that I place right on Slavs doorstep. If he cant
get the team fired up and focused for games it hints at a bigger problem
within the dressing room and motivation of the players.
For what its worth, I'd like to see Masuaku back in the team, as well as
Fernandes, especially considering our recent injury news. I'd want to see a
centre midfield of Noble and Kouyate with Fernandes playing in a more
attacking role in the middle and Antonio and Lanzini out wide. This might
give us more bite to win the midfield battle and give us a bit more energy
and cover when defending.
But thankfully its not my responsibility to fix the current situation, its
down to Slav. No doubt about it, these last 9 games are crucial for his
future at the club, I just hope we show enough to prove that he's our
man.I'm not holding my breath.


No comments: