Pub Talk: ‘…The break may have arrived at the right time, it may be an opportunity to regroup’

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

As the Premier League season pauses for the World Cup, how are you feeling about West Ham’s season so far and what we can go on to achieve?

Meirion Williams: I think those T-shirts describing West Ham as ‘massive’ may be in the January sale bin, as it’s not exactly been a good few months for us Hammers. In Europe, we have done well but league form, and to lose to Blackburn in the League Cup, is not good. The break may have arrived at the right time and with friendlies scheduled, it may be an opportunity to regroup.

David Meagher: It’s been very frustrating. For so much of the time, you sense we are about to kick into gear and then we stutter. Scamacca, Kehrer and Paqueta look like excellent signings but like most foreign arrivals, it takes six months or more to truly adapt to the Premier League. If we can get a run going then we can still climb up this compressed table. In contrast, we have delivered in Europe and can look forward to some decent action in the knockout phase.

Greg Richardson: I agree with the general consensus. It’s been a disappointing start. I can see the reasons; Lots of key players have been run into the ground, new players integrating and forming understandings, disjointed back four, etc but it doesn’t make the table any happier reading.

David Blackmore: Mixed feelings on this first chunk of the season. There have been plenty of games where we should have ended with something and ended up losing. In previous seasons we’d have picked up points. Things were looking promising when we were tenth and I thought we’d kick on but now we’re looking over our shoulder. I think we’ve got midtable written all over us.

Which Hammers have impressed and who has disappointed you so far this campaign?

MW: This is a difficult one outside the usual suspects. I hate to say it but Antonio has looked good as a super sub but the player who has impressed me the most is Flynn Downes. A complete unknown to me when we signed him but he’s now looking like a better starter than our Czech mate. I also feel Fab’s time is up. As for disappointing, it has to be our two Czech players who look a shadow of their former selves.

DM: i agree about Flynn Downes as the standout positive. Thilo Kehrer looks the business but has fluffed it a bit in recent games. Rice is a class above. I think our impact from set pieces has been poor. Also, Bowen and Soucek look off the boil and should benefit from the break.

GR: Agree on Downes, pleasantly surprised by the Lidl Rice. And although there is hopefully much more to come, Scamacca excites me. When he gets on the same wavelength as Bowen and co, it could really take us up a level. And Bowen needs that too as he’s been the biggest let down so far for me, just nowhere near as dynamic or hungry.

DB: Bowen has probably been the biggest disappointment for me, he’s played his way out of the England World Cup squad when a place was there for the taking. Downes has been a bright spark but I’ve not been convinced by his efforts in attack. I really hope Paqueta and Scamacca can click for the second part of the campaign. 

With everyone fit, who makes your starting XI?  

MW: For me, it has to be Areola in goal and then Cresswell, Johnson, Zouma and Aguerd at the back with Downes, Rice, Fornals, Scamacca, Paquetá and Bowen 

DM: Most of the same names for me too. Areola, Kehrer, Zouma, Aguerd, Cresswell, Rice, Downes, Bowen, Benrahma, Paqueta, Antonio.

GR: Yeah I’m with Meirion. I’m tempted by 343 but we lack a wingback as I’ve not been won over by Emerson yet. So 433 with Paqueta alongside Rice and Downes, Fornals and Bowen supporting Scamacca.

DB: It’s a 4231 for me. Super Fab for me still, then Cresswell, Zouma, Aguerd, and Johnson at the back, with Rice and controversially Soucek in front of them. Attacking with Benrahma, Bowen and Paquetá supporting Scamacca up top. 

How do you think England will fare at the World Cup?

MW: Come on, what a question, I’m Welsh! So I hope that they lose to Wales, lose to the USA and get a win over Iran and go limping home early. I do think that England need a change of manager as Southgate’s time seems to be up. The last few England games have not been good to watch and I fear we will have little to cheer about with the home nation’s performances at this tournament.

DM: I’m Irish! Great squad, albeit dodgy in centre back area, but i think Southgate is very average and tactically limited. They need to get momentum and if so anything is possible.

GR: I’m English – and I think it’ll be feast or famine. We either make the final or go out in the group stage after a Maguire disaster in the USA game. My gut says it’ll be the latter as we’ve been so poor in recent games and the defence looks sketchy.

DB: I really hope we have a good tournament but I’m worried that so many of our key players aren’t in the best of form. As the others have mentioned, the defence concerns me but I would only put Rice in front of them, we don’t need two defensive midfielders. We’ve got such a talented group of attackers, we should unleash them but I fear Southgate is too negative.

How do you think West Ham players will get on in Qatar?

MW: I worry that if England do well, it will mean that Rice has shown he is world class and will definitely be in the shop window which will be a worry for Chelsea who probably think they have his signing nailed on. I also think Kehrer will do will for Germany.

DM: It’ll be interesting to see how Rice gets on in the heat. It’ll limit his all-action style but in all fairness, he really has a big engine. I am not sure if our other players will get much first team action.

GR: Rice will do Rice things and half the world will see his class with the rest blindly claiming he only passes sideways. Hopefully Paqueta shines and shows Moyes how to use him properly. Kehrer will do well as part of a good team without doing anything outstanding.

DB: I agree with Greg. This is probably the tournament where Rice’s talent will be in the global spotlight like never before. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start hearing of other European giants expressing an interest after this tournament. And, as Greg says, this could give Paqueta a great chance to show Moyes where he operates best.

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