Pub Talk: ‘I’m worried about our opening five fixtures – we could lose them all…’

Jan Thilo Kehrer (WHU) Tomas Soucek (WHU) Nayef Aguerd (WHU) Angelo Ogbonna (WHU) at the West Ham United v Chelsea EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on February 11, 2023.

What would you consider a successful season for West Ham this campaign? 

Meirion Williams: A top half of the table finish and a good cup run please. I think that’s what I ask for every season. The league will be tough as Chelsea and Spurs will improve, but I feel a challenge for the top six is achievable. As for Europe, I think that will be a tough ask but who knows, we seem to be better in Europe than in any of the domestic cups. I might just book my trip to Dublin now. 

David Meagher: With a big midfield shuffle on the cards, we will need to see how Moyes deals with Declan Rice’s departure, as it’s left a massive hole. We also need to sort out our attack, so in reality it’s all up in the air for now. We underperformed in the league last year but, in reality, we have a mid-table quality squad just now. You’ve got to hope for more European adventures as it has been so much fun over the past two seasons. I’d be happy with a top-half finish and any form of European success and/or qualification.

Marcus Johns: I think given it’s the second season in a row we’ve had major upheaval, a mid-table finish and at least one long run in the cups would be a positive. There are a cluster of teams that could finish 8th to 12th, and I see us within that group. It’ll be interesting to see what Tim Steidten can bring to the table, and how new signings flourish.

Holly Worthington: Similar to what others have said, a successful season for me would be a top 10 finish and another exciting season in Europe. We really want to make the most of this opportunity now, making sure we don’t have any more teething issues after last season.

What are your hopes and fears about our Europa League campaign? 

MW: I fear the bubble will burst and I worry that the squad will be stretched. I hope all that doom doesn’t come true as we now seem a settled European outfit. At least a semi final appearance please.

DM: We have built up decent experience but need a deeper squad to maintain our momentum. I hope we can have plenty of Thursday night action to savour. A final in Dublin where more than a few lucky fans can attend would be fabulous.

MJ: We’ll be one of the top seeds, given our Conference League win, so I’m hopeful we get through the group stages. If we finish third and go into the Conference League again, it’s not the end of the world, but I would like to see us reach the knockouts, and maybe a glamour tie against a big Champions League team who dropped down. Barcelona at the Bowl? Who’d not want a bit of that. Beyond that – anything is a bonus.

HW: I worry it might stretch the squad a bit thin, or that it might mean we have more injuries to overcome. Winning the Conference League was incredible, so I want us to take this seriously, but I am worried that it could come at the cost of performances in the Premier League.

What did you make of the Declan Rice transfer saga?

MW: Boring, if I’m honest. I stopped following it. Every so often I would ask a mate if Rice had gone yet and had the same answer of ‘any day now’. Thank God it finally happened. The question now is if it happened too late for Sullivan to come out with the line we tried to buy players but ran out of time . Or maybe he will come out with other teams saw we had the Rice money so put their players up to stupid prices.

DM: As we would say in Ireland, ‘it was time for Declan to leave the village’. It’s a sad moment but I am inclined to see it as a measure of academy success to produce such a fine player and person. I think the departure has been managed well by all concerned – dignified stuff for once.

MJ: Deflated. Not because he left, we all knew that was happening, but to Arsenal? It does smack of a lack of ambition from him. I can’t see Arsenal winning the Champions League or the Premier League, so this whole ‘leaving to win major trophies’ suddenly seems a bit questionable. Bayern or City would have offered him that chance, yet he quickly dismissed those clubs. Add in these apparent discussions with Arteta in March, and the whole thing leaves a slightly bitter taste. Thanks for the memories, but we move.

HW: I’m just glad it’s finally over. It became inevitable and dragged on for a long time, but as they say, no player is bigger than the club. As sad as it is to see him leave, it makes room for us to reinvest and build towards a bright future. Here’s hoping we can make the signings to achieve exactly that.

Which months are you afraid of judging by our fixtures, and which are you looking forward to?

MW: The months I am afraid of are August and September. A good start will be great, a poor start like last year and it could be one of doom and gloom. I’m looking forward to those two months too as if it all goes right, we could be in for a great season. 

DM: Our run-in looks very tough with Chelsea, Liverpool, Palace (away) and a finale away against Man city to navigate. We will need a good start to the season. I am looking forward to playing Sheff Utd and Luton at home but in all honesty, the European nights are the best fun.

MJ: Much like David, Sheffield United and Luton – albeit away! European nights are always something special, and so I’ll be going to as many of those as possible. I’m also hoping to take my five-year-old to his first ever game this season, so whichever game that turns out to be will also become a natural favourite. As for the run-in, hopefully it’ll be inconsequential by then, but if my 30 plus years supporting West Ham tells me anything, it’s that we’d be more likely to get a result we need against Chelsea or Liverpool than we would against Brentford or Wolves.

HW: I’m most afraid of the first month of the season, simply because I think a good start against Bournemouth, Chelsea and Brighton will create a really positive, confident squad. A bad start will be really hard to overcome, knocking players’ confidence as well as meaning we have a managerial issue to solve. November definitely has some winnable fixtures.

Who will win the title and who are your three to go down?

MW: I still can’t look past Manchester City. I think it’s too early for Man United and Newcastle to challenge. As for Arsenal, I have a feeling that even with Declan now in their line up, it will be a case of always being the bridesmaid for them. As for relegation, Luton, Bournemouth and Forest come to mind. 

DM: I think Arsenal with Rice can really challenge a transitioning Man City. The rest are also-rans for the title, apart from maybe a crazy Newcastle campaign. I consider Luton already down before a ball has been kicked. The ever-tragic ‘Blades’ will hardly survive and then there’s Bournemouth and Burnley to fight over the final spot.

MJ: Man City for me. I disagree again with David, and think Arsenal will fall off. Without Rice, I don’t think they’d make the top four, as the Champions League will take it out of them. Man Utd have a great goalkeeper now, and that could see them as the nearest challengers. As for relegation, I think Forest’s novelty wearing off will mean they play less games live on TV in an evening, so they won’t perform as well as they did at home last year, so them along with Sheffield United are the two nailed on for me. Something about Luton’s spirit makes me question if they’ll stay up over a team in turmoil, such as Wolves. Between those two for the final spot.

HW: City will be unbeatable in my opinion, especially if they are more consistent than they were last season and don’t drop points. The three to go down for me are Luton, Bournemouth and Forest.

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