What did you make of the Marko Arnautovic saga? Did he really want to leave to win trophies in China, or was he after an improved contract?
Meirion Williams: There is absolutely no way a player wants to go to China to win trophies – it was all about the money and this was a clear ploy to get more. I think it’s more than that though as with a reported trigger transfer figure in the contract he will be off in June, and I personally can’t wait.
Brian Penn: I agree with Meirion, it was all about money. Obviously, £100,000 a week wasn’t enough for him. If he wanted to play glorified beach football in China, let him go and make a tidy profit. I could have understood it if he wanted to sign for Manchester United because they can offer him Champions League football. We should have called his bluff, no player should hold the club to ransom like that.
David Meagher: Right from the off the Chinese thing seemed odd. It’s hard not to sense that there was some urgent financial necessity being played out. Why would a player in his prime with at least five years of great earning potential want to throw that in the bin for C-League action? For me, the new contract spoke volumes to what was driving the whole affair.
Geoff Hillyer: Like the rest, I think it was about the money, though I do wonder what the full story is here. I accept that players want to fulfil their earnings potential and loyalty is thin on the ground, but China? If you want to win trophies worth winning, why would you go there? Anyway he’ll be off in the summer and so the whole thing will be a moot point.
Where does our FA Cup exit at the hands of AFC Wimbledon rank in your list of humiliating West Ham defeats?
MW: Surely this is just the West Ham way? It was a bit of a return to normal in my eyes. Yes it was bad but let’s be honest those of us of a certain age half expected it. I just wonder if Pellegrini was concerned that with no impending transfer activity and the medical team busier than the night shift at Holby City, he didn’t want to risk further injuries to the team. Be thankful for small mercies I say as I feared another Shrewsbury at home if we had earned a replay.
BP: But we were perfectly placed to go on a cup run; 10th in the table on 31 points and relatively safe from relegation, we should have played our best team. It was time to go for glory. Players are just as likely to get injured warming up for a game, and Pellegrini brings Anderson on when we’re 2-0 down, so much for taking the FA Cup seriously? Definitely one of the worst results in our history. We are now heading for 40 years without a trophy, but maybe there is a silver lining – we would have played Millwall in the next round!
DM: Forget humiliating, missing out on a Millwall clash was a massive let down. Wimbledon played out of their skins but a first rank West Ham side would’ve still prevailed. With mid-table safety and a spicy first 11 we looked perfect for a cup run but messed it up big time. The one redeeming feature was that Wimbledon are FA cup and league legends, so no bad feelings!
GH: I remember Stockport and that Iain Dowie own goal, but this was worse than that. What hurts more though is that the FA Cup, like you’ve all said, is a competition we could have attacked this season. The draw was kind. Next year in round three we’ll draw Manchester City away, and that will be that.
Were you sad to see Reece Oxford leave on loan? Do you think we will ever see him play in a West Ham shirt ever again?
MW: I was sad to see him leave on loan as I was hoping he would be sold. I believe he will go down as yet another player who promised so much but failed to deliver. It seems he has no interest in wearing a West Ham shirt and I feel with the attitude he has shown he doesn’t deserve to ever wear one again. One good game is all we ever got out of him, hindsight is a great thing as imagine how much we could have got for him back then?
BP: Yep, I agree Meirion, Reece Oxford is yet another ‘what if’ player, the latest in a long line of new Bobby Moored. He never fulfilled his promise; successive managers weren’t convinced and frankly neither was I. It’s always sad when a player with ability leaves the club, but a loan is best for all parties concerned. He might play for West Ham again, depends who’s in charge?
DM: I think most fans are baffled by the Oxford story but bolstered by the Rice tale. For every Billy Bonds there are 100 Elliot Wards!
GH: I’m always sad when a player with obviously huge potential doesn’t make the grade. I remember Freddie Sears coming on against Blackburn and scoring, and thinking: “This kid is the real deal”, and we all know what happened to him. This feels similar. I’d be surprised to see him in a West Ham shirt again, but time will tell.
How excited are you to see Manuel Lanzini back? How will he fit into our side?
MW: He plays the ‘West Ham way’ so I can’t wait to see him back in the claret and blue. It will be interesting to see where he will fit in and I suspect that Mark Noble’s days just may be numbered. With Declan being the holding midfielder, I have a feeling that Manuel will look great in the middle.
BP: Naturally I’m pleased to see Lanzini is back and ready to play. He was, to me, the ready-made replacement for Payet but how he will fit into the starting line-up is a pleasant dilemma for Pellegrini. He does have options that weren’t necessarily available when he was last in the side. I think initially he’ll be kept on the bench.
DM: The Lanzini return is absolutely mouth watering. Anderson and Lanzini tormenting opposition clubs is our future. Put that pair with a goalscorer and you’ve got a side that can win things.
GH: I can’t wait. Anderson’s arrival has softened the blow somewhat, but I do think Pellegrini will fit him in. The question is – who makes way? As Meirion says, I wonder whether, after the emergence of Rice, Mark Noble’s days may be numbered. But what a nice dilemma to have.
What are your hopes and expectations for the rest of the season? Where do you think we will finish?
MW: The heart says seventh but the head says just outside the top 10. The problem is that we are so inconsistent. In recent times we have lost to teams like Bournemouth but then looked like world beaters against Liverpool. I can’t see that inconsistency changing so I’m going to sit on the fence and say tenth place.
BP: I’m sorry but to me it feels like yet another dead season beckons. Feels like we’re marking time, although we were far superior to Liverpool and should have beaten them. If we continue in that vein, then a top 10 finish is feasible. But realistically I think we will finish 12th.
DM: I’d love to say that the Pellegrini experiment is a three to four year effort but we all know that these days the most you get is two years. With all the progress I reckon we can manage a modest ninth this season followed by a massive jump to fifth next year.
GH: I think I predicted ninth in January and I’ll stick with it. I would like to see us have more consistency and in particular, beat some of our closest rivals in the table. We can’t lose 3-0 to Wolves and then play like we did against Liverpool. Sort that consistency out, and a top 10 finish beckons. I just wish I could have said that I hope for an FA Cup run too.