Blowing Bubbles’ top writers settle down to put the world to rights

Pretty much everyone will have had the chance to watch West Ham at the Olympic Stadium by now. What do you make of our new home?

Emily Pulham: I love it. It’s beautiful, my Band One view is perfect, and the ground truly is the future of football. I’m still getting goosebumps on the walk up to it on game days; long may that continue!

David Bowden: There is no doubting the breathtaking nature of our new home. The moment you walk into the London Stadium it makes you wonder how on earth does this belong to West Ham United? But it does. Of course, there are teething problems, the stewards are shocking, and the less said about the selling of popcorn the better, it will take time for it to really feel like home, but so far so good.

Kiran Moodley: I’ve only been to one game and can’t make any more until November, so my opinion hasn’t been formed and I don’t think I can comment until the end of the year. There are too many teething problems, too many doubts that I don’t want to dwell on but hope will go away. All I definitely know is I am not going through Stratford to get to games. Hackney Wick is the solution.

Alex Shilling: The stadium itself is very impressive but there are numerous infrastructure issues; from stewarding to safe standing, fans turning up in other teams’ shirts to the potential 66,000 capacity, there is a lot to sort out and a lot of fans seem restless, understandably.

The club have signed Simone Zaza from Juventus. How happy are you with him? Is he the striker to take the Hammers forward?

EP: I think this is an excellent signing. Zaza is talented, clever, and experienced and seems to want to be at West Ham. I would much rather have him than some overpriced so-andso who we’d have to beg to play for us.

DB: After months of speculation, I think my initial reaction was that of relief that we’ve finally secured a forward, and in Zaza, we have an international striker so we can’t complain. He’s a man that Bilicclearly wanted after being linked with him last yea r. He is mobile, fast and has a wand of a left foot, a much-needed arrival and a good signing. I just hope he isn’t on penalties!

KM: I honestly don’t know a huge amount about Zaza bar his infamous penalty, but assume he will be a decent signing. I heard an interesting statement that Zaza’s strengths in Serie A stand out in that league but may fail to impress in the Premier League. The key thing is having competition up front and a belief that we have proven goal scorers.

AS: I think it represents a good bit of business. Zaza was prolific for Sassuolo and never really got a chance for Juventus. The move is a good one for him too, with something to prove as a striker. We’ve already seen what he can do after he scored past us for Juve last month, a Zaza-Carroll partnership has the potential to do damage in this league.

West Ham were heavily linked with Alexandre Lacazette and Carlos Bacca this summer. Did this raise expectations from the fans to an unexpected level or are they the kind of players West Ham should be signing now?

EP: We should be going after the best quality players, but also the best quality players who want to play at West Ham. I don’t want people at my club who don’t ‘get’ the club nor care for it. That’s not the quality I want at West Ham. I want players who want to wear the badge. Less Lacazette and Bacca and more Kouyate and Cresswell for me, please.

DB: It certainly did raise some unnecessary expectations. I think the board automatically assumed that the London Stadium would up our profile. To an extent it has, but players like Lacazette and Bacca are going to want Champions League football, and at this moment in time we are nowhere near in a position to offer that. Although, I believe Bacca was close at one point. The fact he considered it for so long shows that we were never his top choice, in a few years these types of players will be the norm.

KM: I think the Bacca and Lacazette talk did create a transfer narrative that dwelled far too much on our striking frailties and distracted us from our defensive weaknesses and need for depth in that department. I now worry that our defence is not good enough to stay in the top ten this season. The money and rumour around Bacca and Lacazette is also just part of the new billion pound transfer windows: with more money around, more is expected from us.

AS: No-one could accuse the board of lacking ambition in the transfer market this summer — if anything, we’ve been a bit too ambitious. Our pursuits of Lacazette and Bacca were always going to be doomed to failure because we just don’t have the pull that Arsenal and Chelsea have, we’re not at that level yet. As a result, a lot of fans are questioning the signings we have made, it’s natural that expectations have gone up.

Slaven Bilic’s side face Watford, West Brom and Southampton in September. How many points do you expect the club to get from those games?

EP: I’d be happy with six points. I would like to see us beat Watford and West Brom, although expect the latter to give us a tough game, but Southampton are a tricky one for us. They’ve started poorly, but I expect them to get into gear whilst playing against us.

DB: West Ham are impossible to predict, although I must point out I do have a 100 per cent record this season in my mate’s little pre-season wager, so I realise that is a little contradiction in itself. I would hope for at least seven points from that but would settle for five at the worst. I expect us to beat Watford and West Brom, and can see us drawing with the Saints.

KM: Watford, West Brom and Southampton, I’m sorry to say, must all be wins. We’ve now hopefully rid ourselves of the expectations of last season. We beat Arsenal and Liverpool away early last year, but we’ve already fallen to Chelsea and Manchester City. Those heroics won’t be repeated. Instead, whereas we lost against Watford and Southampton last year, and drew at home with West Brom, now we can pick up points against the lower teams.

AS: Honestly, I’m optimistic. Half the first team to return, perhaps even including the elusive Mr Payet, and three eminently winnable games. We didn’t play well against either Chelsea or City but had a scratch team in both games and weren’t humiliated by any means. The next three games are a chance to really get our season on the road — we have to be targeting a minimum seven points from them.

What, in your opinion, is West Ham’s best XI if everyone is fit?

EP: Adrian, Byram, Collins, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Noble, Kouyate, Antonio, Payet, Lanzini, Zaza

DB: Adrian, Byram, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Kouyate, Noble, Payet, Ayew, Lanzini, Zaza.

KM:Randolph, Creswell, Ogbonna, Reid, Collins, Noble, Antonio, Payet, Lanzini, Ayew, Zaza.

AS: Adrian; Cresswell, Collins, Ogbonna, Byram; Lanzini, Payet, Kouyate, Noble, Antonio; Carroll.

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