Opposition view: West Ham

By Ric Turner, Thu 21 January 2016 09:43

Opposition view: West HamSean Whetstone gives us the lowdown on Saturday's opponents

What are your expectations for the remainder of this season?

We have been averaging sixth place most of this season and we currently occupy that position going in the Man City home game. With a bit of luck, lack of further injuries and the wind in the right direction I think a top six finish is certainly achievable. It is a strange season where anything could happen. A top eight finish is probably more realistic but who knows. Another win over Liverpool if they beat Exeter would give us the treble over them this season and put us on a good chance of a FA Cup run this year. Lifting the FA Cup at Wembley would be a fitting end to our last season at the Boleyn Ground (Upton Park) after 112 years. 

Are you happy with the manager?

Slaven Bilic is universally liked, no loved, by the owners, board, fans and players which is a refreshing change after some of our previous managers. A big improvement on Big Sam and Avram Grant there is no doubt. He speaks a lot of sense in his press conferences and can be brutally honest in his appraisals of our games. It does help he has beaten the majority of the top six sides this season including a 2-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirates on the opening day of the Premier League and the away victory against Man City at the Etihad to name just two. He played for West Ham so knows the fans and what we demand in terms of entertaining football and passion to play for the badge. I think we will look back in the future as this being the start of something special and a golden era for West Ham. That said, a string of losses and the fans will be quickly be grumbling and on his back but that is football.

Who are your key players?

The magic of Dimtri Payet can't be under estimated, with some saying he is better than Paolo Di Canio or Carlos Tevez's time at West Ham. Both Tevez and Di Canio are still hero worshipped by Hammers fans so it is a great early accolade to mentioned in the same breath. Lanzini has had a great season and made the step to the Premier League effortlessly which has surprised many. We have desperately missed Diafra Sakho up front but hopefully he will return in early February. Michail Antonio, our £7m signing from Nottingham Forest is showing great promise and is giving our Chelsea loanee Victor Moses a run for his expensive loan fee and wages. I have to give a honourable mention to our ageing centre back James Collins. he was the fourth choice centre back at the beginning of this season is now the first choice and in the form of his life. He is the anchor of our solid defence.

Do you think you'll do any business during the transfer window?

It is doubtful  we will do much business as we spent big in the summer and up to our financial fair play cap in wages. Our chairman have said a player would need to leave for one to join and we would only bring in an exceptional player. Mauro Zarate could be that player to leave after missing the last two matches with a mystery injury. He has played for eight clubs in eleven years. We will make our big signing this summer but could dip into the market for Leeds right back Sam Byram to repeat  the success of Aaron Cresswell from Ipswich. We won't get into a bidding war with Everton as you rarely get value in the January transfer window. Another possibility might be Simone Zaza on loan but we have a good squad and so would be equally happy if no-one left and no-one joined.

Are there any rising stars in the squad that we might not have heard of?

Well I am sure you have heard of Reece Oxford, who Manchester City have been linked with along with Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool but the 17 year old is going nowhere as we are no longer a selling club. Reece Burke, Josh Cullen and Sam Howes are all promising players how could well make the grade. I hope the glory days of the West Ham academy 

Your Achilles heel?

Going down to an early goal often proves to be a challenge. A couple of games this year we have failed to get off the blocks early and have been punished. Once we have conceded it is often game over. Until  the Bournemouth away match we rarely come back from conceding early. Conceding an early goal is a guaranteed way to put us off our game plan and we will be on  the back foot often scrambling for a draw.

If you could have any City player in your team who would you choose?

Most likely Kevin De Bruyne if I could fit him in a West Ham team with Dimtri Payet. De Bruyne can have a massive impact on any game, he gets his fair share of goals, assists and creates numerous chances. He has a great first touch on him and is not afraid of shooting from outside the box. He reads the game well which makes him a valuable asset to any Premier League team. Still can't believe Chelsea left him go to be honest.

What is your perception of City as a club?

City is a similar club to West Ham, an old fashioned club supported by passionate football fans who love the game. You could never accuse City of having plastic fans or of being glory hunters. Many City fans I know have been through the dark years in lower divisions and have got the tee shirt. If anything many of them are slightly embarrassed by the wealth they now enjoy. This sums up City fans to me, they are a modest and don't shove their recent success in your face like other supporters we won't mention.  

Likely starting XI for the game, and score prediction?

Bilic's 4-2-3-1 formation is likely with Adrian, Tomkins, Collins, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Kouyate, Noble (captain), Moses, Payet, Jelavic and Valencia. Even though we are at home I expect City will enjoy the majority of possession and we will play some counter attacking football on the break. I am hoping it will be a tight game but I believe there is a good chance we can keep a clean sheet and just edge the game 1-0 to do the double over it. Famous last words I know! You will probably ruin us now I have said that!

Sean Whetstone