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Everton 1-3 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)


Filed: Wednesday, 19th September 2018
By: HeadHammerShark


Frantically googling synonyms for "happy". Frantically trying to remember what time Match of the Day 2 is on. Our season starts today, folks!


Act 1 - Rarely Seen Moments of Joy

"Throw those curtains wide!
One day like this a year would see me right"
- Elbow, "One Day Like This"

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The most coordinated we have looked all year

***

"Don't get sentimental, it always ends in drivel"
- Radiohead, "Let Down"

Oh, but what a day, What a reward for the hardy madmen and women who ventured to Liverpool on a Sunday when just about anything else would have been more appealing. Fancy going to watch West Ham at Everton. That's like going to the Colosseum to cheer on the Christians for their difficult away fixture with the lions.



Not the best starting position I've ever seen defensively


But I suppose that these are the slings and arrows that keep us coming back. Without hope where would we be, after all? Well, Stoke is where we would be, but you get my point. For those fans who travel to Everton on days like these, there can be no sweeter or more deserved feeling than this. From the moment that Andriy Yarmolenko loped into the box and fired us into the lead, we never looked in danger of losing this match. The eternal pessimist in every West Ham supporter might well have said "we can get a point here" when Arnautovic made it 3-1, but in truth we were always oddly comfortable even though the home side did create some good chances. Perhaps the reality is that they were so visibly lacking in confidence that it was just impossible to imagine a player like Cenk Tosun taking the chances that came his way.

Everton were shocking then, but such qualifiers don't matter much when you have lost your opening four matches and looked bad doing it. We needed this win, and we got it through an excellent team display. What was interesting was that we seemed to abandon the wider, more expansive game that was allegedly being tried in the previous games and reverted to a more compact shape, better suited to exploiting the high raiding Everton full backs. And it worked a treat.

Declan Rice returned in the holding midfield role and was the best player on the pitch. He is the epitome of keeping things simple, but as my good friend The Boleyn Beluga once said to me - "simplicity is deceptively complicated". The skill required to take up the positions he did, and the technique required to take the touches he did should not be underestimated. He was superb in that role and outshone his competition. Beside him Pedro Obiang was released further forward and was impressive too, playing a major part in the first and third goals, and generally looking like Cheikhou Kouyate but with an end product. The third Musketeer was Mark Noble, who yelled at the foreign lads last week and justified his return to the side with a performance that showcased his worth. We know that central midfield is a problem, and that on tougher days against better teams it probably still will be, but this looked like the beginning of a solution.

Ahead of them Marko Arnautovic was outstanding, and every bulldozing run through the centre should be a fond reminder that David Moyes made some changes in his time here that will long outlast his shortened tenure. Yarmolenko too was very good, sweeping in the first after Arnautovic broke on to Obiang's pass and unselfishly squared it to him, with just nine minutes gone. He doubled the lead before half time when cutting in from the right and curling a beautiful finish into the top corner. It was a lovely finish but scandalously bad defending against a player so obviously one footed. Still, the Ukrainian has always been a goalscorer wherever he has played, and a threat from somewhere other than Arnautovic is going to be vital, especially with Manuel Lanzini currently laid up on the Andy Carroll Memorial Wing.

We still look shaky at the back sometimes, although perhaps that is to be expected when the defensive set up changes every week. I still feel we have the defensive players best suited to a back five and the attackers for a back four and that mismatch is partially why we have looked so disjointed prior to this game. That said, for today this group held firm, despite the frankly terrifying sight of various Everton youngsters running past Pablo Zabaleta like they were playing in the park with a well meaning but disastrously unfit Uncle.

I still like the look of Issa Diop in the middle, even if he broke the defensive line to free up the space from where Gylfi Siggurdsson headed Everton's goal in first half stoppage time. But he is mobile and composed and very much worth persevering with. I had initially thought that he might take a year to settle in, and so Balbuena would play alongside Ogbonna until the Frenchman was ready. As things have transpired, it's the Paraguayan who has looked a bit temperamental, but he was good here too and it was his quick thinking challenge that won back possession for Obiang to create our opener. Alongside them Arthur Masuaku was the name thrown up by the Pellegrini magic eight ball to play at left back, and he did an impressively physical job on Theo Walcott - so much so that he was probably lucky to get away with a head high attempt to control the ball that caught his opponent in the face.

And the calming influence on all of this was Lukasz Fabianksi, who was once again faultless and continues to make a mockery of my suggestion that his purchase was a waste of time and money.

We won't meet teams this compliant every week, but we won't meet teams as good as Liverpool and Arsenal either. It's a shame that the fixture list continues to laugh in our face by giving us Manchester United, Chelsea and Spurs in three of our next four games but there you go. Perhaps with some confidence and self belief hewn from this result, we can eke out one of those famous home wins that used to seem so frequent but probably never were.


***

"So take a good look at my face
You'll see my smile looks out of place"

- Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, "Tracks of My Tears"

So what should we make of this in the grand scheme of things? We win at Everton less frequently than David Sullivan pipes insane films into my TV, and yet I'm still a bit unsure. It is early, and there are qualifiers to our poor start, for certain. The fixtures we have faced have been difficult, and by the time we hit nine games we will have played five of the inevitable top six. That is brutal. One also has to allow for the cultural change that is happening, as Pellegrini tries to shift us away from the chaos that remains after a stolid Sam Allardyce team was left rudderless by Slaven Bilic's lack of a plan, and then moulded into something more necessarily functional by David Moyes. When you view it like that, we can't be too surprised when the players seem slow to adapt to whatever new ideas the Chilean has brought with him.

I will admit that I had hoped for a greater consistency of selection at this point. I'm bemused by why Ryan Fredericks keeps appearing then being dropped from the squad altogether, unless Pellegrini really is going to rotate his fullbacks every week. Fredericks and Diop are my two favourite signings of the summer because I like their speed, and both are young enough to actually command a transfer fee in the future. That is actually a genuine step forward for us in terms of acquiring players.

I was nonplussed about Fabianski, reasoning that his marginal upgrade over Adrian wasn't going to be worth many points to us and, in fairness, after four games I was right - we literally couldn't have been any lower in the league if the Spaniard had been playing.

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Making me look stupid - not hard, admittedly


But Fabianski is more than a marginal upgrade, I think. Adrian has had to fight for his place under four consecutive managers and the fact that none have truly committed to him as a number one does suggest that there is something there that I am not seeing. Fabianski has shown an ability to make excellent saves, and generally exudes an air of calmness that you don't tend to get from Adrian, who frequently resembles a puppy going mad in a hall of mirrors. I wouldn't have signed the Pole, and I would have been wrong. Score one for David Sullivan.

But you can immediately deduct that good mark for the signing of Jack Wilshere. Leaving aside concerns about his ability - and again, to be fair, this was the formation in which he should have been playing all season - he has now had a thoroughly predictable surgery and will be absent for six to twelve weeks. It's as tedious for me to say this as it is for you to read it every week, but our transfer policy is just Brexitly stupid. Signing a player with a long history of ankle injuries and hoping that he will be magically cured by the healing gale force winds of Rush Green is insane. Giving him a three year contract is just full on Caligula.

Elsewhere, I felt Anderson was at least the right profile of player, even if he seemed extraordinarily expensive. He was decent in this game, offering a constant outlet on the left, and generally looking like a highly dangerous prong of our attacking trident. On the other side was Yarmolenko, who has a touch of Chris Waddle about him with his languid gait, 80's haircut and lovely left foot, and he finally looked a bit fitter here, although he does appear to be one of those guys for whom the very act of existing seems to be exhausting.

He is also bordering 29, and thus won't have long with us before the legs go, and thus needs to make an instant impact. At £22m he has a lot of work to do before he has repaid that fee, but two goals at Goodison is a very nice down payment.

But drip feeding all of these new players into the team is no easy task, and while I think there might be some doubts about Pellegrini's hunger - do elite managers really just pack up and head for China mid career? - he has a big job on his hands here. I'm nervous, because there is much at stake and trusting that Sullivan has done his due diligence is probably not a good idea, but there can be no argument about his pedigree. I would like to see this shape and formation given a chance now. We need some stability and a pattern of play, and perhaps this is the blueprint to giving us a nice peaceful rest of the season.

***


Act Two - Standard Misery Addendum, Because West Ham

"So before you take this song as truth, you should wonder what I'm taking from you
How I benefit from you being here"

- Villagers, "Becoming A Jackal"

But there can be no peace, not really. If you're in London you're always five feet from a rat, and if you're a West Ham fan you're always two days from a crisis. And so, before this game The Times ran a piece about Manuel Pellegrini being unhappy about the culture of leaks that surrounds the club. It wasn't attributed to Pellegrini, and he later denied it was true, meaning that it was a leak about leaks. Get the fuck outta here Newcastle, the professionals are in town.

The focus of the story was well known Twitterer @ExWHUEmployee who, the article claimed, had revealed the team early on his account for sixty successive games. Ex denies this element of the story, but there can be little argument that his is the account to follow if you want the inside track on what is happening at the club. Although I have never met Ex, we have swapped messages in the past, and I have urged him to put less information in the public domain. His response was that he feels he has a right to publish his information as would any other journalist utilising his sources, and furthermore that he does actively filter out stories that he believes are damaging to the club. I take him at his word in that regard, and I also cannot deny the truth of what he says. If I have a right to post these articles every week, then he has every right to post his.

I should also add that Ex and his site, The West Ham Way, have done sterling work in raising significant funds for Isla's Fight, host a popular Pre Match Event and radio show and generally are representative of the views of an awful lot of West Ham fans. That matters because it adds the context that most of what I am about to say has already been rejected as irrelevant by a lot of supporters. Additionally, none of this is a personal attack, but I feel I can't leave it unaddressed if The H List does indeed purport to be an accurate journal of what it is to be a West Ham fan.

All of this led to a bit of a shitstorm where Ex ended up on various radio shows defending his position, and then social media went wild as lots of people jumped to Ex's defence, pointing out that leaking a team an hour before it goes public really doesn't make much difference as the opposition is already prepared. And in that very strict context, I agree.

Now, in the interests of balance I ought to say that I think Ex used to leak the team or suggest possible changes quite a bit earlier than that, until fan pressure got him to do it a lot closer to kick off. Still, while I agree that naming a team on a Saturday really doesn't make much difference to a game, I think it's also fair to say that there is literally nothing positive that can come out of it for West Ham.

As part of his defence, Ex conducted a Talksport interview that bordered on the farcical, where he claimed that he wasn't a leak and that he actually just guessed the team. Sixty times in a row. I'm a bit disappointed that he took that route as I don't think you can spend years on Twitter demanding acknowledgment for your inside man status, and then suddenly pretend that you've just been cleverly guessing all along. It takes us for fools.

But for all of that, the broader point is being missed here. None of this is about the leaking of the team, or indeed about Ex, because he is far from the only person on the web with seemingly inside information coming from high places within the club. No, the broader point is that information is being leaked at all. Why do we know that the chairman offered Jack Wilshere a one year deal and was overruled by the manager, just four games into his West Ham career? Why do we know the details of what Declan Rice wants in his new contract?

This. Is. Not. Normal.

Properly run football clubs do not leak like this. Properly run football clubs do not have family members placed into positions of authority with no qualifications for the role. Properly run football clubs do not have every aspect of their transfer business widely published before it happens. Properly run football clubs do not release emails detailing their transfer business in order to refute accusations from other clubs that they have lied. Properly run football clubs don't entertain allowing large, undemocratic supporter groups to have back channel access to the chairman. Properly run football clubs don't allow managers to hire their own boss. Properly run football clubs don't canvas the opinion of fans about managers and players. Properly run clubs don't have their own Insider column on their website to discuss gossip and leak their own transfer plans. Those are things you expect from despotic third world regimes, not Premier League heavyweights.



And that's where Pellegrini sat when he signed his contract


But all of this speaks to the totally unprofessional culture round West Ham. The shitty training ground, the malfunctioning Academy and the fact that managers are routinely bemused by the way that private details of the club keep ending up in print are all sides of the same coin. And while I don't doubt that Ex and others like him have kept a lid on certain unsavoury stories (and just imagine how mental they must be when you consider what is in the public domain) that isn't reassuring to me. Ex, as he says in his Talksport interview, isn't a journalist and that matters. He has no editorial policy or requirement to provide counterbalance in his reporting. He may try, indeed I'm sure he does, but what if this information ends up with the hands of someone who isn't putting the clubs best wishes first? Ultimately the Board are standing by while fans exercise their own discretion and put this information out there against their manager's wishes and they do nothing to stop it. Why is that? I mean, really, why is that?

Ultimately the only conclusion to be drawn is that either they don't think it matters or they are aware of, and approve the leaking. Marvellous.

Because here is what all of this stuff does. It degrades the culture and reputation of your club. It allows your stewards and your office staff and your youth team players and your ground staff to know that this isn't an elite professional working environment. And gradually that becomes baked into the skin of your club and doing things "not quite right" becomes good enough. And then eventually "good enough" degrades to "it'll do", and then suddenly you are Blackpool or Coventry.

And our managers know this and hate it. Two have had this to say on the matter:

Sam Allardyce: “You pull your hair out at the beginning and in the end you have to accept it for what it is and move on and accept that it is going to happen.”

David Moyes: “It makes it very difficult. There are so many things at football clubs that can happen daily, whether it be transfers, dealing with players or team selections, and you hope you get a bit of trust.

I’m sure every manager who has come in has tried to change it.”


And I return to something I said last week. What has been the constant during this last seven or eight years when the club has gradually slipped into this state of disrepair? Hint; it ain't the managers or the players.

So really, none of this is about Ex or Sean Whetstone or Hugh Southton or any of the others who get regularly accused of being stooges for the Board. It isn't about team leaks or the fact that managers have to give the team to the chairmen before the players. It is all of that and none of it. It is about the culture of West Ham United.

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Not sure we'll see his like again


I leave you with this. Imagine you are a professional footballer, and an agent acting on behalf of West Ham approaches your agent. You think that is a bit weird because usually that would be a club representative, but they are offering a massive wage increase so you agree to hear them out. You ask your current manager about the move and he tells you that he interviewed for the West Ham job previously and the owners teenage son was in the meeting, and that was a bit weird too but, still, big money. So you move forward and in the end your agent hammers out a deal and you sit down to discuss it over. But something is nagging at you - maybe you are gay. Or maybe you have an illegitimate child your wife is unaware of. Or a huge gambling debt. Or you are concerned about your wages being made public because of societal pressures in your home country. Or maybe you have none of those issues but you are just a regular person who is bemused at why so much of the club's business is public knowledge.

Ask yourself this - would you move to West Ham in those circumstances? The club that can't keep it's team secret? The team where any wage negotiation is public knowledge? The club that resides permanently on back pages for everything other than footballing reasons? The club where managers leave and smile ruefully when asked what it was like?

Clubs with this type of unprofessional culture either don't get very good players, or they pay through the nose to get them. And at this point I feel I should remind you that we pay our squad more than Roma and Dortmund.

Now, I am not suggesting that any of those people I listed above would out a gay footballer, but that's not the point - it's illustrative. The point is that it shouldn't really be in their power to even consider it. And yet it would be, and that is the problem. And. It. Is. Not. Normal.

The Board could end this right now if they wanted. They know who Ex is, as Jack and David Sullivan Junior have been guests on his radio show and his Twitter account. Sean Whetstone sat on the Supporters Advisory Board, and indeed took over leaking the team on Sunday from Ex - something that concerns me greatly given that he now sits on the board of WHUISA and he really is accountable to a code of conduct.

Let's wrap this up - it's had more false endings than Lord of the Rings so far.

This is a long, rambling set of thoughts, but it comes down to a simple point. I follow Ex on Twitter, I pore over his articles like anyone else, and for that I guess I am a hypocrite. But I also want to see this stop because of what it says about the club. I want West Ham to be better, to be ultra professional and a football club that other teams aspire to emulate. That is absolutely, definitively not the case right now.

Be better, West Ham.

Because of the nature of this piece, I felt it only fair to allow Ex to have a right of reply. His response was this:

***


"Firstly, I would like to clarify some of the things that I said in the TalkSport interview here and dispute the fact that they are farcical. When I said I guess the starting 11 it is obviously meant as educated guessing which I did try to explain in the interview. The way my information works is that I hear different bits of news which I then piece together to “predict the team”. For example you hear of injuries/illnesses, you hear of how the team sets up in training, you hear of certain players being told they are starting and certain things make sense as fans as to who would be playing. Geo Mackie of Hammers Chat would often send me his “predicted team” which he based with less inside hints then I would get and most weeks he would be right or out by one player which proves it can be done. It is very rare anyone of any note will message me and say this is the team from 1-11. When it comes to things like transfers I am not predicting because I am told directly things from scouts, agents, players, people in the media but again it is a case of putting it all together and working out what is accurate and what isn’t and this is where my comments about not being a journalist but being better than most comes from.

A lot more work goes into doing what I do than people will credit especially those that wrongly assume I have a direct line to David Sullivan. As I have maintained I only put out stories that I believe to have no harm to the team and have helped the club many a time to quash stories that I have heard of before that reach the mainstream. Whilst I admit it is pleasing to get stories right if what I did was solely based on ego I would also put the negative stories out because those are the ones that get the most attention too but I don’t because I am a massive fan and want the best for this club.

This article says that it is only West Ham that have these social media leaks and that is quite simply not true. Newcastle recently commentated on having leaks and I am in a few Twitter groups where myself and other people in the know from other clubs swap information and then you can piece a story together. An example of this was our possible signings of Fabianski and Mawson where most of the information that I got on the deals came from the Swansea end of things rather that West Ham. The difference between it is that as West Ham fans we do not search for other clubs’ news so we are not aware that it also happens and is an indication of the social media age that we live in. Even when I was growing up there was the pay per minute service TeamTalk that operated for every club and charged you a fortune to get the inside scoop from your club and they were a company with multi million profits because fans like to hear the news from within the club and it also explains why I have over 50k followers on Twitter, if the majority of people didn’t like it these numbers wouldn’t be achieved. There are thousands of transfer based social media accounts with millions of followers who leak transfer news for all clubs and back up my point.

The culture of leaks within the club is not the case of it just being one mole or one high profiled person leaking to me. My news often comes from third parties from West Ham such as media outlets, friends of friends within the club and so when people call for the mole to be outed and sacked it isn’t one person and sometimes the person may not know they are even doing it. There is one site in particular who has an open line to all of the board members and are told things to publish and this site is not mine. If all board members are prepared to tell people things then you can understand why others within the club may not see it as a huge issue.

I understand why some people do not like what I do but the ironic thing about this is those that are most vocal against it are two well known forum based West Ham sites of which I used to read to get inside information and team selections which is fine for them to do but not for others. This links to my point that if my account didn’t exist many other would and still do now. Every transfer window new “transfer accounts” occur and there are other West Ham accounts who do put the starting 11 out days in advance they are just not as well known as mine.

This story has been blown massively out of proportion because Pellegrini has already stated that firstly he wasn’t aware of the leaks and even if it is true he isn’t bothered. If the manager of the club isn’t bothered about it then why does it need this much attention which when you look at it was a poor journalists attempt to make another negative story about west ham in a slow news week.

Every newspaper does a predicted team at the weekend for each club and does their best to get any story on the club most of which are inaccurate. Look at how much negativity has been put out recently even on Sunday when finally winning a game Sky falsely claimed that Perez refused to warm up and within minutes most of West Ham’s social media were calling for him to be sacked. I do the same yet I put a positive slant on it and I am more accurate that is the only difference. Whilst I do not wish to blow my own trumpet and has been kindly pointed out by the author of this article I also use the account to promote positive causes and raise money for a variety of charities as well, whilst I am not using this to hide behind I do find it odd that some people refuse to look at the good that can be achieved and will find anything to knock the account, you would have to speak to them for the motives of it.

I am old school and I miss the old days where you would only hear news on deals in the paper the next day but for good or for worse social media has changed the face of football and whether you like it or not there will always be many ExWHUEmployee equivalents".

***


And there you have it - both sides of the argument, debated civilly on the internet. Who knew. I'll let you decide which side of the fence you fall on.


Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.







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