Pub Talk: ‘I’m worried we are going to see a lot of terrible, unimaginative football…’

Our writers sit down to put the West Ham world to rights...

Jarrod Bowen (WHU) at the Brentford v West Ham United EPL match, at The G-Tech Stadium, Brentford, London, UK on 4th November, 2023.

What can we take away from January’s results and performances, if anything?

Meirion Williams: Well, what can I say? It’s not exactly been a good month for us Hammers. First off let’s get Bristol City out of the way. Yes the referee wasn’t great and we had quite a few players missing, but compare the talent in our team to the Robins and there should have been no comparison. It was clear they wanted it more and it was only number three in Moyes’ list this year with Europe and League being ahead of this competition. As for Sheffield United, absolutely VAR should have intervened but should we really have to rely on technology to beat a team rock bottom of the league? I think not.

David Meagher: The Sheffield United farce is still irritating me. Really dreadful stuff and it was clear that the crowd had got to him. I’m not sure for all its luxury that we create the same intimidating atmosphere at the London Stadium. The FA Cup stuff was a step too far for a thin squad stretched beyond its capacity and frankly with the resources we have at present, we can only really focus upon the Premier League and one other competition. The Europa League final in Dublin has to take precedence over the FA and League cup competitions, so getting knocked out was embarrassing but quite convenient. 

Emily Pulham: It’s been a bit rubbish hasn’t it? We’re low on star player availability and equally low on morale. We learned that our ‘b-side’ team are nowhere near the level they need to be to support West Ham pushing on multiple fronts. Some of that will be due to limited squad rotation, but when given a moment to shine, they spread FA Cup defeat over two games – something we didn’t need. I’m still annoyed at the lack of fairness from the Sheffield game. I might be angry about it forever because it showed there’s no point in doing the right thing, not cheating, etc. You don’t get points for being a good person. You get them for rugby-tackling Bowen in the box and smashing up Areola’s face.

Geoff Hillyer: It hasn’t been great, although I do think there have been some mitigating circumstances – as Emily mentions, many of our key players have been away on AFCON duty or injured. Squad depth isn’t great, but we knew that, and unfortunately we have to cut our cloth accordingly. Like the others though, the last few minutes of the Sheffield United game just made me angry, and I don’t think I’ve quite calmed down from that yet.

Where does our defeat in the FA Cup at Bristol City rank in terms of our most disappointing Cup nights in recent history?

MW: I don’t think it ranks highly as we have a catalogue of cup disasters. The win against Kidderminster was pretty dire but nothing can compare to that night in Oxford where we got hammered 4-0. It was a game I left immediately after that fourth goal went in. Now that was an embarrassing night.

DM: The injuries were the worst part. I think the implosion away to Wimbledon a few seasons back was much worse and in all honesty, Bristol City earned their win against a second-string Hammers side, so I think it was a minor event really.

EP: I’m with Meirion and David; Oxford and Wimbledon specifically haunt me. It’s the lasting impact of this one that is annoying. We’re short on the ground for our first eleven and so the injuries and the foolish red card from Benrahma have an ongoing impact on our squad.

GH: We’ve had it a lot worse than this. I would consider this irritating, but no more than that. We should easily have won the first game, but didn’t, and they roughed us up. They’ve had their day in the sun, and they’ll be knocked out in due course.

Thoughts about Declan returning to London Stadium to play for Arsenal against us in the Premier League after already playing against the Gunners – and winning – twice this season?

MW: I’m not sure why there is a focus on him. He was outstanding for us but now he’s gone end of.

DM: I think Declan’s departure was well managed and he’ll always be welcome at the club. That’s not to say that we won’t get fun out of sending him away with a few bruises. I suspect that he missed being part of West Ham for what were two excellent games. 

EP: I don’t know who that is. Who is that?

GH: He’s just another Arsenal player, Emily, who most likely won’t win anything this season. 

Were you sad to see Conor Coventry and Kehrer leave West Ham?

MW: And another academy player bites the dust. It wasn’t actually a surprise regarding Conor. With just one appearance and out on loan season after season, it was pretty clear we were just looking for a buyer. As for Kehrer, well he wasn’t exactly the Germany international I expected. Always a fringe player and never a consistent starter. What does worry me about both leaving is that our thin squad is just getting thinner.

DM: I’m afraid the jump up to Premier League standard is so great now that we can expect only a trickle of players making the transition from the academy and as a club that needs to compete in nearly all our games, it’s harder and harder to find game time for developing players. Kehrer was skillful and great fun but not focussed enough for the unforgiving tempo of the Premier League.

EP: I’m always sad when players leave because in most cases it means it just didn’t work out for them here and that they weren’t able to deliver what we had hoped from them. I had really high hopes for Conor Coventry in particular, as you always want the Academy players to do well. Kehrer was important in our cup final and I’ll be grateful to him for that, but I breathe differently at games now that I know he can’t give away any more penalties. 

GH: Very few players make the grade in the Premier League, as David says. Sadly, Conor Coventry was another one to add to the list. As for Kehrer, I liked him, but I think it became fairly obvious that he was never going to be a name that was first on the teamsheet. Sad yes, surprised no.  

How many points do you think we’ll pick up from February? Are you worried?

MW; I’m not worried regarding relegation but I fear Europe will be our priority and if that doesn’t work out we could end up out of Europe next season. As for points, a very conservative five from me.

DM: We’ve got five games in February that are all very winnable. Kudus is on his way home and Alvarez looks ready to return. Antonio, if on form, would be a big bonus too as we need his muscle up front to hold the ball better. Even though three of the five games are away from home, I think we can get two to three wins and hopefully eight to nine points.

EP: I feel like a bad person for how relieved I was knowing that Kudus would be on his way home. He cared so much about his country, and here I am, overjoyed that he’s out. I’m worried that we are going to see a lot of terrible, unimaginative football and a lot of sitting deep and refusing to attack, but I think Moyes will pull it out of the bag. Eight points, but only two wins and maybe two draws.

GH: What would I be worried about? Safe as houses already, in European competition, and some of our best players are returning. I think we’ll do well with the pressure off and big players back. It’s what happens in the summer – that’s what we have to worry about. 

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