What did you make of the Kurt Zouma saga?
Meirion Williams: Talk about scoring an own goal! For a club that is supposed to be media savvy with Baroness Brady at the helm, we really messed up here. The obvious thing for me would have been not to play him for that Watford game. Instead it seemed as if we were a club with no morals and then for the owners to push Moyes under the bus was simply disgraceful. We are an animal-loving nation so it was pretty clear what would happen if we didn’t act quickly but instead we shut the stable door after the horse had bolted. Do I think it was blown out of proportion? Absolutely not, it was a cruel act and I will never chant his name again.
David Meagher: It really is a catastrophe. There is literally no redeeming aspect in the footage – unprovoked, callous, and was a poor example for his kids. However, in my opinion the politicisation of football is not a meaningful response to society’s ills and is often tokenistic. I accept that football players are the new pop stars of our age and therefore must set the best possible example, but excluding somebody from their job does very little apart from distracting from media attention. I’m going to go out on a limb by suggesting that West Ham’s poor management in media terms of the incident has added fuel to a necessary conversation about animal cruelty and having to face the ire of both Hammers and opponent’s fans is the appropriate punishment for Zouma. I agree with Meirion in that I won’t ever feel pride in him as a West Ham player but hopefully the whole debacle will lead to some real acknowledgement that this type of behaviour is out there and, as our overpopulated dog and cat homes attest to, not uncommon. Let’s have some change rather than simple condemnation without follow up.
Bradley Holland: I have cats – kittens – both rescues, more from abandonment than abuse so I thought Zouma’s actions were deplorable. However, I think it goes into a larger conversation about how we value players and what humans become with fame and fortune – it turns people into monsters. I disagree with Dave and Meirion in the sense that I think Moyes made the right call to play him. It’s pure pragmatism: we need our best players to win. Zouma would have to face the audience eventually so why not just embrace it. I also think West Ham PR has no possible win in that situation. You play an apology video and it smacks of falsity. You hide him from the media, it smacks of secrecy. There’s no right answer. I believe in restoration. Punish and restore Zouma, then be done with it.
We beat Watford last month but were arguably lucky to draw against Leicester and Newcastle, is our push for the top four now over?
MW: Before those results, it has looked for a long time that we have been struggling. If Bowen and Rice do not have a good game then we falter. We were in a position in the league far above where we should have actually been based on our squad depth. The league will be a struggle this year and I fear we may miss out on European qualification through that avenue. The cups are our best chance but again I fear the lack of transfer activity is going to haunt us come May.
DM: We messed up in the January transfer window – the lack of ambition, presumably due to our departing board, makes no business sense as we needed at least two players to consolidate. Instead, we are petering out and will lose Rice and maybe Bowen in the summer. It’ll be back to the drawing board again. Moyes has been brilliant in ironing out our traditional lack of discipline but the downside is the conservatism that has us trying to be top six with a bottom half squad depth.
BH: Hearing that Coufal’s groin injury resulted in a surgery shows why his form has dropped. There may be other reasons for the other players’ lack of quality. I think we are possibly having a dip that we just need to get right and there’s hope to turn it around. We are not unfamiliar in West Ham to the post Christmas lull, and usually it’s when we are in a relegation battle that we pick back up in the last months. Let’s just follow our pattern.
How much have you been looking forward to our Europa League games this month?
MW: There are a lot of big clubs still in the Europa League and although I am looking forward to our next game I worry that with the home tie being second, it could turn out to be a meaningless game. I hope not but I don’t feel optimistic at the moment.
DM: We are not the same side that rampaged through the group stage but we are still very determined and I think we can still pull off some results. Antonio’s lack of form is a real problem though and we just don’t have options to allow him to refresh and reset himself.
BH: If we can pick up some energy and form, we can challenge. Take Antonio out of the squad for a month and then throw him back in it. If we’re play how we’ve played recently, we’re doomed to be ushered out of Europe. If we start firing on all cylinders, we can take any of the teams that are currently left standing in the Europa League.
Finish this sentence: This Europa League tie will be our biggest games since…
MW: Since Tottenham in the cup. To be honest I don’t see it as a big game for us. It’s a great place to be, but I have seen so many must-win games over the time I have supported West Ham so I don’t see this one as huge. Would a Europa League win put us in the world map? I don’t think so.
DM: Our previous league game! I agree with Meirion, I don’t see it as a big deal and I think if we want to hang on to the spine of our team we need to finish in the top six again.
BH: The last match where we escaped relegation but still not as big as Mark Noble’s last match yet to come. I agree with the others; It will be big but not earth shattering – wait until we’re in the final!
Where do you think we’ll now finish in the league?
MW: We have some winnable games and some real tricky ones. Our current form doesn’t help and I fear that if we continue in the same vein a return of 18 points could be the outcome. Even games against Brentford, Everton and Burnley could see us struggle with all three trying to avoid relegation. That would put us on 60 points, five less than last year, and that would have placed us eighth last year. But considering we have been in Europe and had a decent cup run with virtually no investment, I guess that’s not a bad return.
DM: I think Arsenal have great momentum and will finish above us, Wolves are more moody and Spurs are a bit of a basket case. It’s a long way back to ninth so I guess we will finish between sixth and eighth depending on whether we can get going again and how Wolves and Spurs respond. Zouma’s form seems OK after all the trouble but both of our full backs look off the pace, which may lead to continued defensive leakiness. Up front we are living off scraps but Bowen’s form has kept us accumulating points. Maybe Benrahma or Vlasic might go on a run of form and push us on. At this stage, I think how we fare is down to how well we play rather than the quality of opposition. My head says a frustrating seventh place finish.
BH: I agree with David: I’m thinking a frustrating seventh place, or possibly squeaking out another sixth place finish, that is if Man U, the Wolves, and Arsenal continue their up and down seasons. I’m surprised that Wolves have bounced back and have been ascending. Now even Tottenham seem like they could continue to be shaky after the comments made by Conte recently.