Handle With Care – Javier Hernandez

West Ham fans had been crying out for a legitimate, proven, world class striker for years and in the summer transfer window of 2017 it appeared they had gotten their man. The connections then manager Slaven Bilic had laid years prior paid off as Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez signed with Bilic and West Ham…queue the songs:

But after a poor start to the season by the team, Chicharito and West Ham were sputtering. Soon Bilic would be sacked and then the unthinkable happened. The man who clashed with Chicharito at Manchester United was appointed West Ham manager – Welcome David Moyes. By all accounts time had healed the rift between the player and manager, but Moyes team selection didn’t reflect this “fact”.

While he was injured and missed four games after Moyes took control of West Ham on November 7th, Chicharito was fit again for the Hammers December 9th match against Chelsea. He wouldn’t see a full 90 minutes until January 30th, and would only play five matches as a starter under his arch nemesis. Hernandez ended the season with a knee injury missing two of the last three matches and watched the season finale from the bench. He was pissed and it was obvious; it looked like he’d be off.

But not so fast twitter doom merchants! West Ham announced the impressive appointment of Manuel Pellegrini as the successor to David Moyes. The Engineer as he is known, has gone to work engineering a revamped squad with over five top signings since joining and more on the horizon. The best part for Chicharito? None of them are strikers and a few are solid passers and crossers – a strikers dream!

Reports are still swirling that Hernandez is unsettled and unsure of his future at West Ham and this is where the warning to “Handle With Care” comes from. He is world class, he is the definition of fox in the box, and he should lead the line alongside Arnautovic for West Ham this season. But let’s let him ease back into things, okay?

He has an extended holiday as I type this, after being eliminated in a fantastic World Cup run for Mexico that ended in heart break in the round of 16 against Brazil. Let him rest, recharge, and clear his mind, then introduce him to Pellegrini and his new teammates. The man seems to know how to organize a team and knows how to man manage well. He apparently was a massive reason why Jack Wilshere took a pay cut to join West Ham, and surely wants Chicharito to be a key member of his team.

Pellegrini stated that it will be a process of a few years to get West Ham to the levels he believes the team should be at. West Ham need to build on players like Chicharito now so they can be consistently successful for years to come.

Come to Switzerland, Chicharito. Meet the mastermind Pellegrini.

What Are West Ham Getting In Andriy Yarmolenko?

With keeper, defence, and midfielder added West Ham add another player with attacker Andriy Yarmolenko from Borussia Dortmund of the Bundesliga on a four year deal. The right winger from Ukraine is 28 years old and will likely slot in behind/beside Chicharito and Arnautovic to round out the attack. At a rumoured £22m fee the signing fits West Ham’s needs and doesn’t break the bank which is not hamstringing the team in further moves. So, what are West Ham getting in their new attacker?Yarmolenko provides a big body presence out wide that combines physicality and footwork into his teams attack. Built similarly to Marko Arnautovic, Yarmolenko has a 6’2″ frame but also solid pace that makes him difficult to knock off the ball when he breaks up the wing. His technical skills also allow him to get away from or passed defenders, backing them down with step overs or making a slick one touch pass to break passed his marker.When it comes to offence, Yarmolenko scored 10 goals and tallied 9 assists last season in 36 games (all competitions). His ability to pass the ball should have the West Ham strikers excited. This is because Yarmolenko has a good shot and can threaten the goal from outside the box. So, a curled cross or short driven pass can catch the keeper off guard when they expect him to take an outside the box shot. This versatility in attack should be enough to keep him on the score sheet at West Ham.How will West Ham line up with him in the first team? With rumours that the Hammers are still trying to sign £40m rated right winger Filipe Anderson West Ham could move Yarmolenko to the left wing or even the centre of the pitch as he has experience at both left wing and centre forward. Anderson offers more pace down the wing, but both are elite passers so having them wrapped around the outside of the pitch would ensure solid service into the box.Another move of intent as Manuel Pellegrini continues to bring in his European scouted players to his first team. West Ham will look a lot more threatening with Yarmolenko on the attack and he already knows how to score worldies against Spurs. Great signing and on to the next one!

Two Linked Targets West Ham Should Buy

The West Ham squad is currently in transition as new manager Manuel Pellegrini and his director of football Mario Husillos have assumed their positions, and look to improve the quality of players at their disposal. A few names have been linked, but a midfielder from FC Porto, and a defender from Bayer Leverkusen with Premier League experience may fit West Ham’s needs in more than one way. One thing that links these two targets is that that are good friends with our likely strikers next season

Herrera from FC Porto

Currently on international duty for Mexico, Hector Herrera patrols Porto’s midfield in Liga NOS. Herrera is reportedly great friends with West Ham striker Javier Hernandez, and could help solidify his stay in East London. Reports emerged that Hernandez was unhappy after being relegated to a bench position last season under David Moyes. It was also believed that Hernandez was looking for a move to MLS to be closer to his home in Mexico in the January transfer window.

The addition of Herrera would not only help settle Hernandez under new manager Pellegrini, but would also allow for more and better options in the midfield. Herrera, who played in 42 games in all competitions last season, scored 5 goals and added 7 assists. These totals eclipse the duo of Cheikhou Kouyate and Pedro Obiang for combined scoring last season.

Herrera hasn’t quite reached his lofty scouting potential in 2014. He was originally ranked 7/10 across the board on skills, and given a 10/10 for potential when scouted at age 22. Now 28 Herrera has settled into an advanced midfielder role. He can play central midfield well but also likes to jump into the attack and contribute offensively, too. For Herrera to fit in it would likely be the likes of Joao Mario not getting a new loan/permanent deal to East London. It would be about £10 million in savings for West Ham and could prove to be good business if Pellegrini believes a club youngster could potentially be filling that void soon…cough cough Marcus Browne.

Aleksandar Dragovic from Bayer Leverkusen

A defender most West Ham fans should be familiar with, Austrian international and Leicester City loanee Aleksandar Dragovic is good friends with Marco Arnautovic. The 27 year old defender played in 18 games in all competitions last season without registering a point (not the end of the world for a defender).

His greatest attribute, according to his scouring report, is his size matched with his ability to read play. Dragovic comfortably adjusts his defensive coverage and man marking, especially on dead ball plays making him an ideal late game defensive substitution. He is also very strong on aerial balls, noted for winning duels in the air and using his heading abilities to out let the ball.

With links to Manchester United and back to Inter Milan, it is crucial for West Ham to settle Arnautovic, their truculent front man, and have him commit to the team for the foreseeable future. The addition of this depth defender would likely see the end of Winston Reid at West Ham who one the whole is probably a better defender than Dragovic, but near constant injury problems have caused his value to drop in recent years.

Overall, I don’t love the idea of letting players dictate who is brought into the club but I can make an exception when the moves would be mutually beneficial. Dragovic and Herrera would make West Ham better, and both are not on onerous contracts (Herrera one more year, Dragovic three). If making these two smaller moves allows for West Ham to know their striker duo will be settled at the club they would be two moves of solid business for the club.

West Ham World Cup Group Stage Round Up

The World Cup group stage has concluded and for West Ham’s three club players representing there has been mixed success with their personal and team performances. And although there is just one Hammer moving on to the round of 16, there were some performances that deserve some credit.

Javier Hernandez – Mexico: Round of Sixteen
West Ham’s lead striker and fox-in-the-box has looked as authentic as ever for Mexico in their first two match. In their opening match Hernandez fed Hirving Lozano for a fantastic goal putting Mexico ahead and on their way to an unlikely 1-0 over reigning World Cup champions, Germany. He followed up this performance with the game winning goal in a 2-1 victory over South Korea.

Chicharito and his team collectively had a day to forget against Sweden, losing 3-0 in a match that became very interesting. If Germany had not lost to South Korea, Mexico would have not moved on despite their two wins. However the unlikely happened and Germany fell meaning Mexico would advance, finishing second place in the pool.

The emergence of Lozano has been terrific to watch, but all eyes have been on the now veteran, proven, would class striker that leads the team on the front line. Chicharito has inspired viewers from all over the world to support Mexico, not only with his performances on the pitch but with his emotions pre and post game. So proud to be singing his national anthem he has tears streaming down his face while singing along, and so proud of his teammates for beating Germany that again he was overcome with emotions, Chicharito is inspiring the Mexican movement and making Hammers’ fans proud, too.

Cheikhou Kouyate – Senegal: Finished Third in Group H, Did Not Advance to Round of Sixten
West Ham’s enigmatic yet polarizing midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate did not advance passed group play, ending the last hopes of an African nation in the round of sixteen. Senegal were in a competitive group that saw Colombia and Japan move on, while Poland and Senegal missed out.

Despite being named team captain before the tournament, Kouyate did not feature in the first match against Poland, and only came on as a sub against Japan. He did start in Senegal’s final match against Colombia, but Senegal failed to secure a point and were eliminated on fair play points as they were tied for points, goal differential and wins with Japan.

Kouyate looked lively on the ball and was actually tracking play well. He used his height to dominate aerial battles and closed down opponents rather quickly – something devoid of his play in recent games for West Ham. Kouyate’s World Cup hopes ended and unfortunately for West Ham fans Kouyate didn’t show much more than what he did in a lackluster West Ham season.

Lukasz Fabianski – Poland: Finished Fourth in Group H, Did Not Advance to Round of Sixteen
West Ham’s newest member finished strong for his country despite Poland’s surprisingly awful showing in Russia. Fabianski backed up Juventus’ Wojciech Szczesny for the first two matches, which resulted in a combined five goals against on six shots. Fabianski put up a three save clean sheet in his one start for Poland against round of sixteen member .

Fabianski looked great in his game. He made some tough saves that required some theatrical dives, but also commanded his box without hesitation, coming off of his line at ease. West Ham fans should take this performance as a huge positive as the 33 year old keeper looks spry and ready to take the number one job.

Overall it is a mixed bag of performances for West Ham fans to mull over. Chicharito has been one of the faces of the tournament on an unbelievable team. But, on the other hand West Ham fans are forced to say good bye to their other two members of the World Cup prematurely. I guess we’re all Mexico fans now, right?

Mexico: World Cup Preview

Speed up front, and a veteran finish – that is the identity of team Mexico this World Cup. A team seemingly in transition at the moment Mexico are headed in the right direction. They have very experienced players populated with European talent, but Mexico are also now reaping the benefits of a stronger Liga MX and more respectable MLS to provide their players with development and elite talent to challenge.

Group F:
– Germany
– South Korea
– Mexico
– Sweden

Three attacking players to watch for Mexico:

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez – He’s led the line and succeeded in England with Manchester United and West Ham United, Spain with Real Madrid, and in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen. He is the definition of a ‘fox in the box’ having almost exclusively scored his impressive 141 career goals from within the penalty area. He will be the leading man up top for Mexico and will provide a veteran presence in an attack that has some young, fiery players to boast!

Hirving Lozano – The 22 year old break out winger calls the exciting, youthful Dutch professional team PSV home during seasonal play. He lit up the Dutch league this season, too scoring 17 goals and adding 11 assists in 29 games. He is explosive up the wing and can play as an out and out striker up top should Mexico need more pace at centre forward. Scoring at a blinding pace, Lozano could be a ringer for Mexico’s offence.

Carlos Vela – The face of the MLS’s newest franchise, the LAFC, Carlos Vela, put on a show early this MLS season. With 7 goals and 2 assists in just 12 games, the 27 year old right winger has proven that given the opportunity he can produce at a blinding pace. He isn’t a youngster, but has break out form this season (so far) can add an offensive boost to the right side of the pitch for the Mexican attack.

My pick for a dark horse team, Mexico boasts a pretty solid roster of young and veteran players. Chicharito will provide the calming presence of a guaranteed goal scorer, while breakout star Lozano should provide the play making and service into the box for little pea. As well, the likes of Raul Jimenez, Jonathan dos Santos, and Jesus Corona fill out a pretty exceptional attack. If the team can hold off opposition attack, look for Mexico to move into the knockout rounds and give some impressive teams trouble.

West Ham 1-4 Arsenal: A Well Timed Wanger

Despite a lopsided score line West Ham pushed hard and deserved better in this match. Well, Joe Hart and Arnautovic deserved better.

In a match that ended a handful to nil in Arsenal’s favor the score doesn’t tell the true story of this match. Nil-nil at half, and level after conceding first int he second half, West Ham showed resilience and hard work for 80 minutes of this game. But as well all know, a match is 90 minutes so that simply wont do, and predictably so, it didn’t do.

So what went wrong for the Hammers?
Defense making mistakes. Every goal can be credited to defenders missing balls, men, or getting caught out of position from over playing.

Arthur Masuaku contributed to Arsenal taking the lead in this match. Tasked with holding the near post on a corner, Masuaku inexplicably stepped away from a nice (but blockable) volley from Nacho Monreal. I would love to see what was going on in his head when the shot came in, because there is no real conceivable reason to not block a goal bound shot on the goal line. Unfortunately, this is the deal with Masuaku – you get speed and trickery going forward and have to deal with some boneheadery on the back end.

Declan Rice, unfortunately broke the back of his team – and judging by his face, he knew it. If he didn’t Joe Hart let him know it shouting at the back of his sunken head as he lined up for kick off. After missing a simple clearance the ball simply bounced into the net, and giving the Gunners the lead and taking the Hammers out of the match.

The goal was really an anomaly. Rice has been one of the few players who has actually grown and been an attribute to the team in this frustrating season. Hart wasn’t counting on his young, but good defender to miff a clearance, but it happens. You can bet he won’t make that mistake again ever in his career.

For West Ham, Joe Hart had a great game. He made a few saves notably on Granit Xhaka and Danny Welbeck that were top notch. He wanted to win, and he is playing for not only his international life at this time, but his top tier life, too. I don’t mind the appointment of Hart at this point in the season. Adrian hasn’t done enough to take his spot and seems like he’d rather be back in Spain, and Hart has something on the line. Disappointed for him after this one.

A possible bright point from this match is the probable use of  Arnautovic, Chicharito, and Lanzini moving forward. After Joao Mario and Edmilison Fernandes made way for Chicharito and Lanzini West Ham scored four minutes later. They pressured the ball when Arsenal had it, swarmed on free balls, and kept moving toward Ospina’s net.

Chicharito needs to be on the pitch simply for his presence, if not near automatic scoring ability. He has a reputation – fox in the box, but opposing defenders know that they cannot ignore him or he’ll net a goal.

Lanzini, who assisted Arnautovic’s rifled goal, is really the key to West Ham’s success this season. With a 5-4-1 formation there needs to be that link between attack and defense in the middle of the park. Mario did this well against Southampton but hasn’t consistently performed whereas Lanzini can do it at will against the lower half clubs and also impacts against the big boys. The issue is his work rate – will he show up or disappear with adversity?

This is a game West Ham were not supposed to win. When it comes down to it, West Ham suffered a ten minute meltdown against a team that is very good at attacking. West Ham made mistakes, they took those opportunities and didn’t miss. A point would have been massive, but it isn’t the end of the road for West Ham. Take it as motivation, train hard, get back to work, make sure it doesn’t happen again.

West Ham Vs Southampton – The Saints Are Coming

Two points up, yet West Ham feels miles behind Southampton and for all the wrong reasons. Off-pitch issues have ground the season to a halt for the Hammers, and hosting Southampton this late in the season could see relegation staved off again, or all but confirmed.

For Southampton they have two big boosts to their team. New manager Mark Hughes has taken over the manager position from Mauricio Pellegrino. Playing a characterless style of play, Pellegrino didn’t take the Saints to the next level as many thought he could. Hughes stepped in at the beginning of the three week international break and has had time to drill his squad into shape.

The second addition is the reinstalling of striker Charlie Austin. Austin, who scored a penalty against West Ham in their early season victory over West Ham, is rejoining at a time where his squad needs him. Manolo Gabbiadini has left the Saints missing Austin at striker, and the script really writes its self, doesn’t it?

For West Ham they have two similar positives heading into this match. The first is Mark Hughes, yes Southampton’s new manager. Having been sacked by Stoke City earlier this season, Hughes was visibly pissed off at former star Marko Arnautovic who facilitated his move away from the Potters in the summer transfer window. Arnautovic steamrolled Hughes former team to the delight of West Ham fans and hopefully can do so again.

After a hotheaded performance that ended in an intentional elbow to Southampton defender Stephens, Arnautovic took his team to ten men early in the match. Chicharito tried his best to drag the teams level again, but just fell short as the game ended 3-2.

Southampton has yet to see the in form Arnautovic, and that could be West Ham’s secret weapon in this match.

The perfect wingback for Moyes’ unchanged formation returns for West Ham. After a loogie gone awry against Wigan, Arthur Masuaku has had a six game ban to think about his actions. Since then his team has fallen out of relative safety into the Kenny Loggins Danger Zone. What he brings in his return to the lineup is speed, shiftiness, and some impressive crossing skills he showed off against Dag & Red.

This game is almost too close to call really. New manager bump may carry Southampton over the line, where as fan unrest at West Ham may force the team to perform. Whoever wins, should three points be awarded, will secure one of the necessary games remaining for both sides against relegation teams.

The true defining factor for this match will come down to managing. Will Moyes have the guts to abandon his back-5 and implement a formation that will fit all of his of his offensive options? And will Hughes be able to inspire his new squad out of the bottom three?

Good lord, relegation is fun isn’t it? Horrifying, but fun.