Filed: Tuesday, 4th August 2015
By: David Meagher
It was originally penned as the ideal pre-season warm up that would have us buzzing against a sleepy Arsenal on the opening day of the Premier League.
Wind forward a month and we find ourselves stuck in a congested fixture list with a perilous trip to southern Romania in the Europa League on Thursday night, followed by the Premier League opener at the Emirates two days later.
Having picked up suspensions and injuries along the way, Slaven Bilic's squad is already looking threadbare and he is going to have to be very astute in juggling the available resources if West Ham are to avoid two embarrassing defeats this week.
News from last weekend's Romanian League fixtures indicates that FC Astra rested their first team ahead of the big clash with the Hammers.
And last Thursday's tie, just like the two against Inverness, demonstrated that Astra should not be underestimated. Although their goals were unusual (a screamer followed by a bizarre OG), there can be no denying that they took over the tie once they had the numerical advantage caused by James Collins' harsh sending off.
Slaven Bilic has indicated that he will be prioritising the Arsenal match, which means that our kids will be put to the test out in Giurgli. Many observers bemoaned the lack of opportunity for younger talent during the Allardyce reign, and perhaps Thursday's game should be viewed in positive terms as a valuable opportunity to get real experience in games where there are high stakes.
However, two ugly words come to mind......Nottingham and Forest.
Let's hope the kids can hold their own and maybe, with some carefully chosen senior players in the team, they can snatch an unlikely win. Time for O'Brien, Jarvis and even Kevin Nolan to step up?
Watching Modibo Maiga try to resurrect his Hammers career is truly painful. The lad seems to run into all the wrong positions (i.e. he’s really an attacking midfielder rather than a striker) and has the twin impediment that he is jinxed, as offside decisions and repeated opposition goalkeeping acrobatics confirm.
The curmudgeons amongst us might suggest that Bilic is misguided in prioritising the Arsenal match. Given that we have such an awful record against the Gooners over the past decade, having lost nine on the trot in the fixture, maybe we should go for it against Astra and take the inevitable 2-0 defeat at the Emirates?
Actually 3-0 is more likely given that their average haul has been 2.75 goals per game during the last nine tussles, while we have managed only five strikes. Hmmm.
One interesting issue is whether Bilic himself should travel. Having been red carded last week, he will have to sit in the stands and maybe might be better sit the whole trip out.
One thing that we have learned about the Croatian is that he is single minded and will do whatever he believes is likely to bring results. Maybe Terry Westley can take the helm again - the 3-0 victory over Lusitans is our last decent win and maybe we can return to that form with his help.
As an exciting alternative, why not let Julian Dicks lead the team into battle? As the reports of crowd disturbances during the first leg suggest, the atmosphere out in Romania will be far from welcoming. The many fans who engage with Jules on twitter will know that in his middle age, the Terminator has developed Yoda-like wisdom and would be a capable deputy for Bilic.
My predicted sides for the two fixtures are below. If the Arsenal side is our best starting XI, it demonstrates that we still need to bring in Alex Song, a striker of the pedigree of Charlie Austin, and some wide midfielders. Letting Downing leave is looking really foolish right now.
Either way, let’s be grateful we didn't pick up any more injuries on Sunday! Next week’s games will certainly not be lacking in excitement – we’ve travelled a long way since the soulless wind-down of last season’s campaign.
Predicted XI vs FC Astra: Randolph, Jenkinson, Ogbonna, Henry, Page, Poyet, Oxford, Nolan, Jarvis, Maiga, Zarate.
Subs: Cullen, Samuelsen, Burke, Lee, Spiegel, Parfitt-Williams +1.
Predicted XI vs Arsenal: Adrian, Tomkins, O’Brien, Collins, Cresswell, Kouyate, Noble, Amalfitano, Lanzini, Payet, Sakho.
Subs: Speigel, Jarvis, O’Brien, Ogbonna, Zarate, Cullen +1.
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.
12:14PM 28th Jul 2009
''Nice to read a bit of positivity instead of all the doom and gloom merchants, well done!
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