Pub Talk: ‘I’d like to see Ings and Scamacca play together with Antonio off the bench…’

Our writers sit down to put the world to rights

Danny Ings (WHU) and Flynn Downes (WHU) gets ready to come at the West Ham United v Chelsea EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on February 11, 2023.

What was going through your mind before, during and after the Forest game?

Greg Richardson: I was expecting it to be tight and then, in typical Hammers fashion, for one of our two former players to come on and win it for them. I was grateful to be wrong, and I thought it was a pretty comfortable performance and we got what we deserved, which was a huge three points.

Meirion Williams: Like Greg, I had a similar feeling especially with the game being pretty even at half time. It did look as if Forest collapsed after that first goal went in. Huge three points which we desperately needed.

Holly Worthington: I was feeling strangely positive ahead of the game, but knew anything other than three points would be a bit of a nail in the coffin for our season. My main fear was Lingard scoring against us.

David Meagher: I think it was a big pressure game. To not win would have added to the sense of panic at the club and meant that we would simply have to deprioritise the European campaign. Unless Moyes delivers in the FA cup or Europe, I fear he will be let go at the season’s end. To lose against Forest, would have sealed that fate.

Has Danny Ings made a strong case of remaining in the starting XI until Scamacca is fully fit?

GR: I think he certainly has the shirt for now. In the long run I’d like to see him and Scamacca together. Antonio off the bench is always a scary proposition for defenders so I think that works well. To be honest, it’s just nice to have options. It means Moyes can alter the attacking approach depending on who we’re playing.

MW: I have to say that before the Forest game, I thought Ings was looking like yet another West Ham forward failure. But after that performance I think he will be brimming with confidence so deserves the shirt. Like Greg, I feel that Antonio is best coming off the bench as he’s not a 90 minute player. He can terrorise when full of energy.

HW: It’s been a long time since we had a player that’s capable of putting chances away like that, but it will definitely depend on us giving him the service he needs. Antonio definitely had a point to prove when he came on against Forest and I reckon some healthy competition between strikers can only be a good thing.

DM: Ings and Antonio offer different skills. Ings is much more precise in front of goal but doesn’t have Michail’s physical presence and mayhem-creating ability. I think we will switch between them between now and the end of the season which is good for a player of his age and as Holly says, competition is always good. We should be pleased that for a change we have more than one attacking option.

What have you made of Paqueta’s performances from a deeper position, and Soucek further forward? 

GR: I think he is finally starting to look like a £50m player, now he’s being used right. He knits moves together so well, combines with Rice well, and puts in a shift. It allows Soucek to do what he’s good at, which has seen him look much better the last few games. It looks like a good balance at the moment.

MW: Paqueta is improving with every game he plays. He may be a little too good for us but let’s enjoy him while we can.

HW: It worked so well against Forest. Paqueta playing deeper allows us to move the ball faster on the attack. Soucek also bossed it playing further forward. I’d say this was our best formation and line up so far this season, but we’ll have to adapt to the opposition to an extent.

DM: I can’t disagree – pity it’s taken so long to realise our best midfield set up but in part that’s a reflection of the almost inevitable bedding in period in the Premier League. We have seen glimpses all season of what Paqueta can bring but he is now starting to deliver more consistently. He was the best player on the pitch vs Forest. Soucek looks back to himself but it’s a pity he doesn’t have a better shot in him.

Thoughts on our Conference League draw against AEK Larnaca?

GR: it’s definitely a favourable draw. Hopefully this gives Moyes a chance to give Fornals, Downes and Lanzini some minutes and ease Scamacca, Cornet, Zouma back into the team, which should help for the run in.

MW: ‘Oh no’ is what I thought as we all know what West Ham are like against supposed weaker opponents. It also must have cast concerns amongst our board as it’s not exactly going to fill the rented bowl. If we win in Cyprus, it could be like a ghost town for the return leg. I wouldn’t rest players as we all know what happens when we do. Better to start strong and then rest them in the second half. 

HW: It’s a fantastic draw, plus I know a lot of fans will be happy about a long weekend in Ayia Napa. I’d still like us to play a strong team for the first leg and think we’d benefit from using it as a chance to cement our best starting XI, instead of resting many players. If we get a decent lead, I think that’s when we should play our second string team.

DM: I disagree. I think we should send a second string side for the first leg, put our best side out against Villa, and then tidy up any outstanding business when Larnaca come to London a few days later. That way we can maximise our point getting potential against Villa and still expect to progress to the next round in Europe. Of note, our second string is pretty strong – look at the bench against Forest and we still have Scamacca, Zouma and Cornet to return!

Which other teams left in the Conference League worry you? Do you think our second string has enough to beat most of the remaining sides?

GR: I think that second string midfield is solid enough for the next round. After that it depends. The prospect of silverware has to be a real objective, regardless of league position, so if we get a tougher draw like Lazio, Nice or Villareal and feel Rice and co are required then we go for it in my opinion. Lazio in the final has a nice ring to it. Though I make Villareal favourites.

MW; Like Greg, I favour Villarreal although they no longer have Emery in charge which could be a game changer. Also they have not won in four outings and even lost to Elche in the league who before that game only had four league points. I really rate Fornals and Downes so fully expect them to shine.

HW: Lazio and Villarreal would definitely be a challenge, but if we turn up on the day, there’s no reason we couldn’t beat any team left in the Conference League. Aside from avoiding those two teams wherever possible, I’d take anyone else. We have decent enough squad depth now, so we definitely have the ability to beat most remaining sides.

DM: I’d add Fiorentina and an away trip to Turkey also looks daunting but I think it’s a case of ‘bring it on’. Postponing a collision with the stronger sides to the semi final as we can get some Premier League points onto our tally and ease that big distraction. If that happens we can play without having to look over our shoulders at the league which suits our club psyche.

Do you think Man City will get stripped of their titles if found guilty?

GR: I don’t wish to see them stripped of their titles. Whilst the squad was built in a shady way, the players aren’t in the wrong so it would feel unfair to make their medals meaningless. I think in reality, their owners will wrap this up in so much legal proceedings nothing will be resolved for years but a massive fine, ban from Europe and maybe relegation to Championship if it ever gets to that seems about right.

MW: I hope they have the book thrown at them and are made an example of. What I would not want though is to have their titles stripped from them as I can’t stand the thought of Liverpool given another title. Relegation would be good as I love the thought of them in Cardiff on a wet windy January night.

HW: Out of principle, I wouldn’t mind seeing them get stripped of any titles they’ve unfairly won, but can’t see it happening and it won’t change much at this point. I can see it being more of a financial penalty and potentially a point deduction. 

DM: I think it’s all a little administrative sideshow that will end with a fudge. It’s hard to see the value in stripping titles that have been won on the field, even if the office has been naughty. 

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