Pub Talk: How confident are you feeling about our upcoming games?

The Blowing Bubbles team settle down to put the world to rights...

It’s fair to say we suffered a dip in form in December – picking up just six points from our six games. Who or what do you think was to blame? Or did our luck just run out? 

Olivia Elliott: December is always a tough run with fixtures being so close together but what didn’t help was Antonio being injured. Haller scored a great goal against Palace but I’m yet to be convinced he is the answer to our striker problems. Moyes has had a good start but playing five at the back at home against Brighton was a mistake. 

Bradley Holland: Oh the frustrations of supporting West Ham! The minute the bubbles start rising, they seem to fade. We have had a dip in form and I believe it’s due mostly to a change in formation and the injuries of Masuaku and Antonio. We were fortunate enough to finally find a system (3-4-3 or 4-5-1) that worked but we’re barely strong enough to exist outside of that set-up so when we lose two players and Moyes starts shifting things around we’re doomed.

Meirion Williams: I think our line up was all wrong. It was clear to many that despite being a great servant to the club, Mark Noble was not the answer to our midfield issues. We also seemed to rely on a player in Haller who’s body language clearly showed that he didn’t want to be there. We clearly missed Antonio and despite options on the bench in Yarmolenko and Benrahma along with Lanzini, Moyes chose not to use them for large parts of those games. I am starting to think it was short sighted to allow Silva to go out on loan. 

Emily Pulham: I’m with Bradley on this one; the amount of games in December and injuries to two of our most important players this season in Antonio and Arthur Masuaku has highlighted the fact that we’ve got a paper thin squad and just don’t have enough bodies to get results in these circumstances. We have the smallest squad in the Premier League and can’t expect to get the same calibre of results as the teams that have a full squad. We also don’t have a plan B without Antonio; we need to re-style the team around Haller rather than expecting him to slot into Antonio’s exact role, as they are two very different players.

We face Burnley, West Brom, Crystal Palace and Liverpool this month. How confident are you feeling about our chances in these games right now? 

OE: With three out of the four games being at home I’m feeling confident. With Antonio being fit and if Moyes plays Benrahma, I believe we have a skilful, speedy squad to take on these teams in January. We have to give it our all and not park the bus straight away. Three out of four wins! 

BH: Oddly enough the best result I think we’ll have is from LIverpool. Burnley will bully us as usual being such physical players with our recently weakened side; West Brom will be fighting tooth and nail and will get a lucky goal. Palace might be a draw if we can get the right players in or a win if Antonio is up for it and I think Liverpool could be taken barring a “Salah special” penalty.

MW: it’s always the West Ham way that we struggle against the so-called ‘lesser teams’. On paper we should beat three of those four but I just know we will huff and puff and then perform outstandingly against Liverpool. So I have to agree with Bradley in his assumption of all those up and coming games.

EP: We started the season with me genuinely believing we’d go into November with zero points, so I’ve learned I don’t belong in the predictions game. Having said that, West Brom are completely at sea, but Big Sam will frustrate us (thinking a drab, dull 0-0), and the other teams are working hard at the moment with Burnley starting to enjoy a turn in fortunes, and Liverpool with a league to win. If we show up wanting to get points, we are capable of doing it.

Do you think we need to strengthen our squad in this transfer window? If so, which positions would you like to see us try to recruit for? 

OE: We need to strengthen our team with a striker. We always ask for a striker every transfer window and we really do need one that’s proven when Antonio is injured. We need to get someone similar to him. Also, I’d love to see a new young left-back with the ability to track back and push forwards on the pitch.  

BH: I agree with Olivia, I’d love to see a second striker, plus another supporting box-to-box midfielder and a proper left back or attacking Left wing back. Johnson is a viable backup who I rate, but we need to get someone to replace Masuaku properly or serve as an out-and-out left back in a back four. We all know we need a striker as Haller isn’t cutting it and most likely won’t grow into our side, and Antonio is touch and go; whether Josh King is the answer I’m uncertain.

MW: We need to but we won’t. Every transfer window we seem to cry out for a forward but never get the right one. Josh King may be the right one but Haller’s value with every appearance will go down so the money will be hard to come by. It’s whether the club will be prepared to count their losses. Maybe there’s another Slavia Prague player who fancies a trip to east London as it seems we have great success recruiting from that club. 

EP: Yes, yes, God yes, yes. I cannot emphasise this enough: Yes. We have some really hardworking and talented players out there who consistently put in great shifts (Ogbonna, Antonio, Masuaku, Rice, Bowen, to name a few but by no means an exhaustive list) but we cannot rely on a few hard workers to carry the season over the line, and we’ve already seen what injuries can do. Are there to be no other strikers than Antonio and Haller?

What were your West Ham highlights for 2020? 

OE: There’s two highlights of 2020 that come straight to mind and that’s beating Chelsea at home 3-2 at the end of last season. Obviously, without a doubt Lanzini’s goal against Tottenham. Even though fans couldn’t be allowed inside the stadium I celebrated like I was there!  

BH: Most of the matches seemed dire in the early part of 2020, with a skin-of-the-teeth escape post lockdown, and some excitement. I think – like Olivia – the greatest emotional moment was the 3-3 draw at Spurs with the last minute Lanzini goal. Other highlights would be Ben Johnson’s goal – a simple thing but great to see an Academy boy do well. The greatest reward besides an actual match is seeing a consistent team putting their heart into it, and achieving results. Cheers to Moyes, Declan Rice taking up the armband, and Slavia Prague, for providing us a strong squad.

MW: I have to agree with both that the Lanzini goal against Spurs was something special. The development of Declan Rice is a highlight as was Antonio’s performances in the latter half of last season but other than that it is a year to forget.

EP: Well the bar is on the floor when it comes to highlights in 2020 in general, but staying up, that stunning Lanzini equaliser against Spurs, and some genuinely good recruitment in Soucek, Coufal and Benrahma. Here’s to a 2021 where Moyes settles in, makes slightly earlier substitutions, and fans eventually get to return to our seats and hug a bunch of strangers when the ball smashes into the back of the net in front of us.

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