Cheikhou Kouyate

AP Photo/Dave Thompson

Bilic laments “disaster result” against “quality” Manchester United

Leave a comment

Slaven Bilic was a bit short-handed against one of the world’s most powerful attacks, but don’t tell him it’s okay that West Ham United fell 4-0 to Manchester United on Sunday at Old Trafford.

Speaking to NBC’s crew on the pitch at Old Trafford, Bilic didn’t want to hear about the absences of Michail Antonio, Cheikhou Kouyate, and Manuel Lanzini.

[ MORE: Recap | Mourinho, Lukaku react ]

“They were much better,” Bilic said. “We have to admit when you lose 4-nil, it’s a disaster result. It’s very find to find any positives. Apart from the start of the game, they were much stronger.”

“We knew they had that physicality, that quality, that pace. Therefore we wanted to create situations that were two against one. In the majority of the game they had enough time to turn and then it’s very hard to match them. Whether the ball is in the air or on the ground they have that quality.”

When asked about the positive signings made by West Ham this summer, Bilic quickly turned back to Sunday’s loss.

“It excites me, but we are here to start this game. We were missing some players. Some will be back for the game against Southampton and all should be back for the game against Newcastle, but I expected much better today.”

Training will be interesting this week, and Southampton should be ready for a West Ham team with a thorn in its paw. Then again, that works both ways following Saints’ dominant but disappointing draw with Swansea.

Transfer rumor roundup: Carvalho to West Ham; Mahrez, Wilshere updates

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sixteen of 20 Premier League clubs had a look at their season squads by the time Sunday’s transfer rumors hit the Internet, and that’s seemingly upped the ante for buyers.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Chandler scores ]

First, to Leicester: the Foxes had a thrilling 4-3 loss to Arsenal, one of the squads who’ve been linked many times to Leicester attacker Riyad Mahrez. The Algerian has been more in focus when it comes to AS Roma, and the Italian club is apparently not going to budge from its valuation of the player.

The Leicester Mercury has quotes from Roma sporting director Monchi which may close the door on his joining i Lupi:

“In the last press conference I said we had bid what we believe to be a fair offer, which is also the biggest in the club’s history,” said Monchi. “We won’t bid again.”

The same report says the only clubs which would pry Mahrez’s attention from the Premier League would be Barcelona and Real Madrid.

West Ham may end up landing one of the more coveted if under the radar players in Europe, set to seal a club record transfer for Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho.

$35 million is the fee quoted, and Carvalho could combine with Cheikhou Kouyate to make the sort of midfield foes would rather not enter on any given match day.

Finally, The Sun is quoting Jack Wilshere‘s “friends” in saying the midfielder was fit for selection and left out by Arsene Wenger despite the manager’s claim that Wilshere was hurt. That’s cued up more rumors of a move to Newcastle United.

Yet Benitez feels he can land Wilshere who, in an added bonus, thinks his Arsenal career is over.

How will Chicharito slot in at West Ham?

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Javier Hernandez is set to become the most-expensive player in West Ham’s history with the Mexican international flying in to London for a medical and to agree personal terms.

[ VIDEO: Man United beat Real Madrid

“Chicharito” will reportedly be paid over $180,000 per week as the Hammers agreed a deal of $21 million with Bayer Leverkusen last week for Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer.

With the former Manchester United striker ready for a return to the Premier League, where will Hernandez, 29, slot in at the London Stadium?

Below are a few options below for the Hammers as Hernandez is expected to deliver goals by the bucket load in east London. 


Option 1

—– Hart —–

— Zabaleta — Fonte — Reid — Cresswell —

—- Obiang —- Kouyate —-

—  Antonio — Lanzini — Arnautovic

—– Hernandez —–

Option 2

—– Hart —–

—- Zabaleta —- Fonte —- Reid —-

—  Antonio — Lanzini — Kouyate — Arnautovic —

—- Hernandez —- Carroll —- Ayew —-

Option 3

—– Hart —–

— Zabaleta — Fonte — Reid — Cresswell —

—– Kouyate —–

—  Antonio — Lanzini — Arnautovic

—- Hernandez —- Carroll —-

Conclusion

Hernandez is joining West Ham at an exciting time with the Hammers signing Marko Arnautovic last week, plus adding the experience of Joe Hart and Pablo Zabalete in defense. After a year in the London Stadium, the excuse of adapting to a new home is no longer feasible and Slaven Bilic knows his team must hit the ground running.

Chicharito will have no problems adapting to life back in the PL. In truth, he can play in any league in the world. A poacher is a poacher. Period. That said, Hernandez has struggled at times leading the line on his own so Option 1 would be tricky to get the best out of him. So would Option 2 with him drifting off the right flank to latch onto Andy Carroll‘s knockdowns along with Andre Ayew, but it could work.

Option 3 seems like the real winner to me. With the running and pace of Antonio and Arnautovic in-behind, plus the trickery of Manuel Lanzini, both Hernandez and Carroll would have chances galore to score and we all know how clinical Chicharito is. Having crosses whipped in and Carroll causing havoc in the penalty box with Chicharito sniffing around for scraps is simplistic but it worked well for West Ham in 2015-16 when they were pushing for the top four.

With Arnautovic, Antonio, Hernandez, Lanzini and Carroll in attack, West Ham could potentially be top-heavy this season but after the struggles of last season, Bilic will rate scoring goals over conceding them. Cheikhou Kouyate, Pedro Obiang or Mark Noble will have plenty of work to get through in the holding midfield role but Antonio and Arnautovic can track back when needed.

Simply put, you buy Hernandez to get finish off crosses and direct balls into the box, especially when you have Carroll around. West Ham needs to set up their team to maximize Hernandez’s abilities and it’s shocking that more PL teams didn’t make a big push for him.

PL Sunday preview: WHL’s final game; West Ham-Liverpool

Leave a comment

A selection of bounties on the line on Sunday: Hull City could be officially relegated from the Premier League; Liverpool’s hopes of a top-four finish; Tottenham Hotspur’s first second-place finish since 1963, and one final fond memory at White Hart Lane.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Crystal Palace vs. Hull City — 7 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com

Swansea City’s win over Sunderland on Saturday was extremely bad news for Hull: the Tigers now sit four points adrift of the Swans in the first place outside the relegation zone, meaning a loss to Palace on Sunday would see Marco Silva‘s side head back to the Championship after one season in the PL (Palace currently sit one place ahead of Swansea, level on 38 points). If there exists an ideal side for Hull to face in this moment, it’s Palace, who have lost three straight league games and slipped right back into the relegation battle. A win or draw on Sunday would secure their PL status for another season. A loss, on the other hand, would make things very interesting ahead of next Sunday’s finale.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace — OUT: Mamadou Sakho (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Yohan Cabaye (knock), James Tomkins (ankle), Scott Dann (knee) | Hull — OUT: Lazar Markovic (ankle), Ryan Mason (head), David Meyler (knee)

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Arsenal alive and fighting for 4th ]

West Ham United vs. Liverpool — 9:15 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com

At the other end of the table, Liverpool’s scoreless draw with Southampton left the door wide open for Arsenal, who now sit just a single point back of Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds in the race for fourth. A trip to the London Stadium, where West Ham shocked Tottenham last weekend, is hardly the ideal fixture given the precarious position in which they currently find themselves.

“We all know about the situation and the players want to qualify, want to play in this fantastic tournament, as I want,” Klopp said at his Friday news conference. “The players we are talking to, because they are all good players, I know they have offers from other clubs (and) maybe they play Champions League or not, or whatever.

“It’s important — how it is always important — for the club. Everybody knows it’s a lot of money in the Champions League, it’s not only the sports challenge, even though it’s really exciting, it’s also the money you can earn and as a football club we have to do this too.”

INJURIES: West Ham — OUT: Mark Noble (abdomen), Cheikhou Kouyate (wrist), Diafra Sakho (back), Andy Carroll (groin), Pedro Obiang (ankle), Michail Antonio (hamstring) | Liverpool — OUT: Sadio Mane (knee), Jordan Henderson (foot); QUESTIONABLE: Roberto Firmino (lower body)

[ MORE: Fulham, Reading level after leg 1 of promotion playoffs ]

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Man United — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

After standing tall in North London for 118 years, Sunday’s clash between Tottenham and Manchester United will be the final time a ball is kicked at White Hart Lane. Beginning next week, demolishing will begin to make room for the completion of the club’s brand new, 61,000-seat stadium. We already know Spurs will be in the UEFA Champions League next season, but a win on Sunday would clinch a second-place finish for the first time in 54 years (a draw would all but do the same, with Manchester City needing to overturn 14 goals in the goal differential column).

“(Sunday’s game) will be special for the people who love Tottenham, and at the same time it will be exciting to go to the new stadium,” Mauricio Pochettino said. “But the soil and the smell of White Hart Lane will still be there.”

INJURIES: Tottenham — OUT: Erik Lamela (hip), Harry Winks (ankle); QUESTIONABLE: Danny Rose (knee) | Man United — OUT: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee), Marcos Rojo (knee), Luke Shaw (foot), Marouane Fellaini (suspension), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (shoulder), Ashley Young (hamstring)

Three things we learned from West Ham v. Tottenham

Leave a comment

LONDON — West Ham beat Tottenham 1-0 under the London Stadium lights on Friday night to deal a hammer blow to Spurs’ Premier League title hopes.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

The only goal of the game arrived just after the hour mark as Manuel Lanzini pounced to finish and a sluggish Spurs side never recovered.

Here’s what we learned from the London derby which has put a huge dent in Spurs’ title hopes.


CRUCIAL PK CALL CORRECT

There’s been plenty of talk about the new video assistant referees (VARs) which are being trialed in many leagues around the world but I’m not sure an official watching 50 replays of a first half collision between Manuel Lanzini and Hugo Lloris would have been able to make the correct call.

Andre Ayew clipped the ball through to Lanzini but as he raced through on goal he didn’t get the first touch on the ball before Lloris clattered into him with a tackle. Referee Anthony Taylor waved play on but Cheikhou Kouyate‘s tame effort on goal was shanked wide and everyone stopped. Hammers fans, players and management expected a penalty kick. It never arrived.

If West Ham had not won, they would’ve pointed towards that call as costly. In the end it wasn’t, but it also pointed towards just how tough some of these penalty decisions are for referees and even VARs. Even with the technology in place, it’s hard to get these calls 100 percent correct.


TIRED TOTTENHAM LOSE GROUND

Spurs just didn’t look correct throughout this game. A sluggish start to both halves gave West Ham hope and Mauricio Pochettino‘s men weren’t energetic in attack of pressing high to win the ball back.

Much has been made of Spurs playing before Chelsea this weekend to try and cut their lead atop the PL table to one point, but there wasn’t much chatter about the three days less rest for Tottenham after their North London derby against Arsenal on Sunday.

Look at the stat below just before Lanzini put West Ham ahead. How often are Spurs, or any of Pochettino’s sides outrun?

Spurs were sluggish and even when three glorious chances arrived on the 21-minute mark they couldn’t make the most of it as Adrian denied Harry Kane brilliantly following Dele Alli‘s shot was blocked.

In the second half Heung-Min Son‘s shot was tipped wide by Adrian but it was Spurs who ran out of steam and looked under pressure. West Ham had several glorious chances to extend their lead with Jonathan Calleri forcing a wonderful stop from Lloris and Spurs’ usually watertight defense looked incredibly susceptible on the break.

Spurs lost at West Ham last March under the lights at Upton Park as their title bid took a huge hit. This time around a defeat to their fierce London rivals just about ended their title hopes.


LANZINI STEPS UP ON DERBY DAY, AGAIN

With Dimitri Payet gone in January, this was supposed to be Lanzini’s time to shine.

He’s cut a frustrated figure in recent weeks but he turned up when it mattered on Friday, buzzing around behind the energetic Calleri and reacting first to a loose ball in the box to slot home the winner.

The Argentine playmaker,  like most of West Ham’s current squad, had a fine campaign last season and despite glimpses of his genius in 2016-17, he’s struggled.

Lanzini will grow into this central role after playing second fiddle to Payet last season and the first half of this and often shunted out wide. He’s now scored eight goals in 33 appearances this season, surpassing his seven in 32 appearances last season.

He received a standing ovation and the man of the match award for his performance which led West Ham to safety as they cannot be relegated. This performance may have just saved Slaven Bilic his job, too.

Finally, West Ham’s new home at London Stadium has a marquee win as the Hammers momentarily rose to ninth place in the table.