Pub Talk: ‘Even if we stay up, I think we will lose Rice, Aguerd, Bowen and Paqueta…’

OUR WRITERS SIT DOWN TO PUT THE WORLD TO RIGHTS

Jarrod Bowen (WHU) at the West Ham United v Leicester City EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on November 12, 2022.

What were your thoughts following the Southampton game? 

Meirion Williams: It was a much needed three points, but it only meant that we were a point above the relegation zone. As for the performance, well there wasn’t much to be positive about as it was pretty dire. Does it make me confident of us staying up? No. I feel we will be reliant on results elsewhere to determine our future.

David Meagher: I thought we played reasonably well against Southampton and it could easily have turned into a goalfest but we just couldn’t get that vital second goal. That said, we really seem to lack cohesion going forward. Overall, we should stay up as we have a deep enough squad to pull out a few results in the run-in when things usually get thin on the ground due to injuries.

David Blackmore: I agree with David, we could’ve and should’ve been more comfortable against the Saints, and I agree with Meirion in that as much as it was a huge relief to beat the Saints and move up to 14th, we’re still very much in this relegation battle, but I would disagree with us needing to rely on results elsewhere to stay up. We’ve got Fulham, Bournemouth, Palace, Leeds and Leicester to come. We should be picking up enough points from these games to secure our Premier League status.

Lucy Farrell: I was very pleased to get three points and didn’t really mind how they came, and I think the rest of the season will be like that too. If you take it a game at a time, all you can do is win, and we did that. Alright, it wasn’t inspiring, but inspiring means very little at the moment without points. 

Do you feel having the majority of our remaining “winnable” games away from home will be a help or a hindrance

MW: What winnable games? l think it could be a hindrance. We do not exactly have a winning record against some of those teams. We should be beating the likes of Bournemouth and Palace but those are grounds we do not exactly excel at. 

DM: It’s a worry that the best opportunities to pick up points are away from home where we have been awful all season. That said, we are due a bit of luck and by my reckoning need three more wins to stay up.

DB: It is a concern for me that we’re travelling to Fulham, Bournemouth, Palace, and Leicester. If we had these four games at home, I’d be feeling much more confident of our chances of staying up. But, as David says, I’m hoping our away form picks up now. I disagree with Meirion about our record at Palace, we’ve had some terrific performances there in recent memory. 

LF: Our away record is pretty woeful, so I’m not particularly confident. But, I’ve been to away days in a couple of relegation battles and believe that away fans can make a difference. We also tend to find a bit of fight when we really need to, so hopefully that will kick in again on the road.  

Who are your candidates for Hammer of the Year?

MW: Tough one this as it’s been a pretty mediocre team performance all season long. If I had to give the Hammer of Year award to anyone it would probably be Bowen but only just.

DM: Rice is our Mr Consistent but for me Aguerd has been very impressive. To be honest, it’s a measure of how drab we have been in attack that Fabianski is also in the mix. Overall, it’s a little boring but Declan should win that accolade.

DB: I agree with David, I think it’s going to be difficult for anyone to beat Declan Rice. He’s been the standout consistent Hammer this season for me. Bowen hasn’t scored enough or caused anywhere near as much threat going forward as he has in the past. If Benrahma’s form returns to his form earlier on in the season then maybe he’ll run Dec close but I get the feeling Benny is a bit like Marmite with our fanbase.

LF: Yeah, Declan Rice. There have been some really good individual performances amongst the dross, but not consistently enough to stand out for the season. Without Rice, we’re a lesser team. Bowen at a push, because he can change games to be fair. 

Are you confident of us making it to the Conference League semi final and final?

MW: Despite our woes in the league, I think we have a good chance. The draw does favour us and it would be just the West Ham Way to reach a European final in a season when we are relegated.

DM: Yes, there’s no arguing with 12 straight wins. We have played with less caution in Europe which has worked but my worry is that we might clam up and try to be too strategic in the remaining fixtures which could be our undoing.

DB: I really can see us making our way to the final. Our players should have the confidence from what we achieved last season and what we’ve experienced this campaign, to be able to secure our place in the final in Prague. My only concern is us switching off for a moment, like Cresswell did twice last season, or having an off day.

LF: I think we play more relaxed in Europe. The pressure is off, to an extent. I think we will make the final and it’ll give the whole club a boost, even if it isn’t the competition we hoped to get into this season. 

Are you resigned to us losing Rice this summer? Who else do you think could be tempted to move elsewhere?

MW: He’s long gone. Relegation will signal a fire sale that’s definite but even if we stay up, I think we will lose Aguerd, Bowen and Paqueta. They are simply too good for us. 

DM: I think Rice has been very loyal but it’s time for him to taste the next level which we have failed to reach. I think a new manager is also pretty likely, in part because it will persuade the other stars to stay and play under what will inevitably be a more expansive style. Bowen, with his proven Premier League talent, will be a big target for marauding clubs.

DB: I think if we can push on now and finish up as high as possible in the league, win the Conference League, and get some early business done this summer, it might be enough to persuade Rice to stay for one more campaign, although his contract situation means the club might prefer to sell him now. I agree with Meirion that Aguerd and Paqueta could attract bids from others but I’m not convinced Bowen will go.

LF: I feel like the most likely story is that Rice will leave. I’m not resigned to it, and I’m not ready for it. Declan deserves to be playing football for a top four club – I wish that were us, but it’s not. I agree with David, although Bowen will be a target, I think he’ll stay. I wonder if we’ll see our Czech mates exit this summer. 

Brendan Rodgers and Graham Potter were the latest managers sacked. Out of those teams who have made a change, who do you think were right to sack and who was unlucky to lose their job?

MW: It’s more who is lucky to be in a job. I feel sorry for Brendan Rodgers and it’s pretty clear some of the changes haven’t worked out but I would rather gamble with a change than have the same dire performance week in, week out

DM: I think changing managers mid-season is foolish and stinks of panic. Each of the clubs who have done this deserve relegation if it comes their way – they are lucky that only three go down.

DB: I think Everton and Bournemouth probably made the right call. In truth, the Toffees probably stuck with Lampard for too long, and I think Parker was already of the opinion his team would go down so needed to go. I think Palace sacking Viera was short-sighted, and I think Leicester sacking Rodgers now screams desperation. Chopping managers has, however, helped Villa and Wolves.

LF: This season has been madness. It’s gone too far now with clubs just hiring managers that won’t go the distance and are constantly just looking to patch things up. The Rodgers sacking was hitting the panic button and Graham Potter just didn’t live up to expectations.

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