On the back of Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Leicester, West Ham United enter the international break with just two points from their last five matches.
This lacklustre haul leaves the side in 12th place, nine points clear of relegation, but someway behind last season’s impressive campaign. In fact, even if the Hammers were to win all of their remaining games, they would still fall short of last year’s total.
Finishing near mid-table would be a good achievement considering the turbulent effect of several off-pitch factors, including the protracted Dimitri Payet saga and various teething problems since moving to the London Stadium.
The move was supposed to herald a new progressive age under Slaven Bilic, in which West Ham could become a major force not just in England but within football on the continent. Given the club’s prestigious past, large support base and new 60,000 spectator capacity, the ambition appeared realistic.
As it stands it still can be. First, however, the East-London club must recover from a slump that could quickly see them dragged into a relegation dogfight. Fortunately enough, the international break has come to provide respite.
Michail Antonio, who has been by far the most positive aspect of Bilic’s second season in charge, suffered a hamstring injury in Saturday’s defeat. The full-back turned winger has been a revelation since joining from Nottingham Forest in 2015 and is the side’s top scorer this term, having registered nine goals.
Antonio has since withdrawn from the England squad, and will, therefore remain uncapped; despite having been selected on three occasions. For Hammer’s fans, this is good news, as it gives a key player time to recover for upcoming fixtures.
That time could prove to be crucial – West Ham face Hull City, Arsenal, Swansea City and Sunderland in their next four games. Given Hull’s improvement under Marco Silva, Bilic will be wary of the Tigers’ cutting down the nine-point cushion.
Should the Hammers lose that game, a midweek trip to Arsenal – who are also out of form – will be intensified by the possibility of finding themselves just three points clear of Hull, who face a struggling Middlesbrough that evening.
Winston Reid is another key player who developed an injury on Saturday. He too could return for an important run of matches, thanks to a two-week gap being spent at Rush Green, (the side’s training base) provided by the international break.
Often it is the case that delays in fixtures and breaks within a season can cause loss of momentum, managers frequently stating that they have come at a bad time. For West Ham, the opposite is now true.
A short rest gives Bilic time to readdress issues within his squad. Defensive issues have hampered the side, who have scored eight in those last five games yet only gained two points. However, most vital are the potential returns of Antonio and Reid.
Given the fixture list, their future is still in their own hands. Yet if recent form continues, Sunderland, Swansea, and Hull will see the Hammers as a chance to gain ground.
If that were to happen, and West Ham’s points advantage slips away, games against Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, and Burnley will be a daunting end of the season for everyone at the London Stadium.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Alex Hannam
West Ham should consider Quique Sanchez Flores in summer
The Espanyol boss is set to leave the club in the summer.
Reports in Spain today are suggesting that former Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores would like to one day return to manage in the Premier League.
AS is reporting that Flores’ time at Espanyol is up and he will depart the La Liga side at the end of the season. The report continues to say Flores would love a return to England, where he managed Watford in the 2015-16 season.
So with Flores looking for a Premier League return, should West Ham take an interest?
The future of David Moyes at the London Stadium is far from secure. The Scottish manager was never a popular choice among the West Ham fans when brought in to replace Slaven Bilic. Whilst he has done well to guide West Ham away from relegation recent results have seen them slip again.
Rumours are rife that Moyes may not be in the West Ham job for the long haul and if he isn’t then Flores would be an excellent choice as the club’s new boss.
The Spaniard has a wealth of experience at clubs such as Atletico Madrid, Benfica and Valencia. During his time at Watford he earned a reputation for playing attractive football and getting the fans off their seat.
His style of play is exactly what West Ham fans would like to see at the club and he is certainly a big enough name to draw exciting new recruits to the London Stadium.
A calming influence, Flores could be the perfect man to steady the ship should West Ham decide to ditch Moyes and start afresh in the new season.
No doubt the 53-year-old will be in high demand come June, so West Ham would need to swoop quickly if this was the case.
But if Moyes is given the boot, there are few better options for the West Ham job than Quique Sanchez Flores.
Injury gives Moses Makasi a chance to show West Ham what he can do
Antoni Sarcevic is out until April for Plymouth Argyle, giving West Ham loanee Moses Makasi a chance to shine.
West Ham United talent Moses Makasi might be about to get a prolonged experience of regular first-team football. Not with the Hammers, but with his loan club Plymouth Argyle.
The 22-year-old joined the Pilgrims on transfer deadline day but has since had to settle for a place on the bench. Plymouth, who are pushing for promotion in League One, had a settled side which Makasi could not break into.
Yet last weekend Makasi did get his first start. He featured in the 1-1 draw with Fleetwood Town, and scored on his full Football League debut.
Plymouth confirmed this week that the man keeping him out of the first team, Antoni Sarcevic, has suffered a groin injury. With the playmaker absent until mid-April it seems Makasi is going to get his chance. Plymouth boss Derek Adams stated to the Plymouth Herald:
“He (Makasi) came here from West Ham under-23s for regular football.
“To start with we had been playing well Sarcevic, Ness in that midfield with Fox and it was difficult for him to get in.
“He got his opportunity at Fleetwood and took it.”
For Makasi, it is a chance he must take. At 22 his time at West Ham is running out. The midfielder is still to feature for the Hammers first-team despite impressing with the under-23s.
An all-action midfielder the closest he has come to a West Ham breakthrough was a place on the bench v Burnley on the final day of the 2016-17 season.
Makasi turns 23 in September and West Ham will no doubt have to consider letting him go in the summer if he cannot prove himself. Sarcevic’s injury gives Makasi a chance to string together some regular playing time at a team in good form.
If Makasi can help Plymouth into the League One play-off picture in the weeks to come he will certainly give West Ham food for thought.
If not, then West Ham may decide that Makasi will be better off finding himself a new team in the summer transfer window.
Valued at £25m, Aston Villa and West Ham could have got Benjamin Pavard in 2016
The Stuttgart defender is wanted by top Premier League sides.
This week has seen Stuttgart defender Benjamin Pavard linked with a move to the Premier League. The 21-year-old is reportedly a target for both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. Bild reported this week that the Bundesliga side will not be considering any offers below €30 million (£26.5million).
It is a fantastic rise up the ranks from the Frenchman. After coming through the youth set-up in France with Lille he headed to Germany in 2016. The youngster helped Stuttgart win promotion back to the Bundesliga where he has now been showcasing his best form. Such form saw Pavard even earn his first French international call-up.
For West Ham and Aston Villa, this progression signals a missed opportunity. Back in December 2015 it was reported by Goal that both West Ham and Aston Villa had made an approach to sign Pavard. The then 19-year-old right-back had caught the eye with Lille. Villa were battling relegation at the time and looked to strengthen their leaky defence. West Ham were looking to add fresh faces to their backline.
Neither side managed to get Pavard. In the end he joined Stuttgart for a fee reported to be in the region of €5 million (£4.5 million) by Le Monde.
Now that fee looks like an absolute bargain for a player who looks destined to be heading to the World Cup with France. Pavard would have been a shrewd addition by either Aston Villa or West Ham – but both sides missed out.
Now it looks as though a fee nearer to £30 million will have to be shelled out if one of the Premier League elite want to get their hands on the 21-year-old.
If only Aston Villa or West Ham had managed to get their man back in 2016.
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