Morning Insiders and welcome to another ‘Ask the Oppo’. Its been an interesting seven days. An excellent second half against the Toffees and then the demolition of Fenerbahce on Tuesday. Arsene said this feels like the real start to the season, no breaks for 5 months, we’ll lets hope we can maintain our new start. I’ve been talking to Simon about things at Upton Park and Saturdays game.
PGL: You’ve had a four wins and four losses so far this
season and lie eight in the table, how do we find Hammers fans this weekend?
Simon: Cautiously optimistic. I’m very keen that we don’t turn into the new Newcastle United and demand instant success with every new manager. However, the last two results, Bolton at home in particular, have set some alarm bells defensively and we need to prove that we can defend as well as attack and entertain.
PGL: How has Upton Park received your new manager?
Simon: For an ex-Chelsea player, pretty well! Of all the people to take from Chelsea, Zola is the one you’d want, it’s very hard to dislike the guy. It was a good move to bring in Steve Clarke alongside him as it answers the lack of experience question very well. I don’t think he was necessarily everyone’s first choice, but we can see what he is trying to do and appreciate his philosophy.
PGL: The current financial uncertainty has hit West Ham more than other clubs so no doubt budgets will be tight. Do you think Zola’s lack of management experience could be a problem in this environment?
Simon: Not really to be honest. Zola knows he has to work with Nani, our Director of Football who has a lot of experience in wheeling and dealing. I think they are both keen to spot young European talent at a low price and get rid of some excess players we have at Upton Park, like Nigel Quashie!
PGL: Zola has captured Diego Tristan on a free, he was once a much sought after player but now it feels like a bit of a punt. What kind of signals is this sending out to the fans?
Simon: It’s a punt and not an expensive. I don’t think West Ham are alone in having to tighten pockets for the next few months, although clearly the media are spotlighting us. I think outside of maybe one or two of the top clubs and Man City, there is going to be a few punts in the league. Ilunga and Di Michele have been fairly decent punts thus far, so we have some faith in our scouting network for the moment.
PGL: Its feels like West Ham have continually been in the headlines the last few seasons, Pardew, Icelandic takeovers, Tevez, Sheff U, Curbishly… Are fans worried about the long-term direction of the club?
Simon: No, it’s all part of being a Hammers fan to be honest, someone is always trying to burst our bubble. I think the Tevez/Sheff Utd issue has been beneficial in some ways, in the sense that it has brought true fans out to shout about the club and given us a bit of a siege mentality which can be good. It would be nice for us to be out of the headlines for a bit and as the January transfer deadline opening gets nearer, hopefully there will be less about us and more on the Ronaldo will he/won’t he saga which thrilled all football fans in the Summer!
PGL: You always produce excellent English talent, but they always seem to move on
(Anton Ferdinand being the latest), how much does this anger your fans?
Simon: The Anton move was on the cards for some time, I think the club were waiting for the outcome of his trial before it being a matter of time that he was got rid of. We had the last clear out of talent when we got relegated and were offered decent money for the players, I don’t recall anyone going for less than their value at the time. I’d like to think those days are over but if we find ourselves in trouble, it could crop up again. I think players like Noble and Sears are here to stay, but sometimes players need to move on in order to better themselves, such was the case with Lampard and Rio Ferdinand. However, Anton does not seem to be setting the Stadium of Light alight with his performances and £8m was good business in my view.
PGL: Who has been your top performer so far this season? Who should Wenger’s eleven be keeping a special eye on?
Simon: I can’t give away our secrets, Franco will kill me! Okay, whisper it, Herita Ilunga is pretty hot at the moment, loves to get forward and shows good skill, to be honest, a bit of a Wenger type of player. Behrami has also got into his stride on the right hand side. Bellamy is getting fitter and when he is on form I think everyone knows how good he can be. However, you can equally look out for our weaknesses – Faubert at right back is not working for me, Noble is trying a little too hard and Neill lacks pace for a centre back.
PGL: Cesc Fabregas is beginning to show signs he’s returning to form, how will the
Hammers try to contain him?
Simon: Unleash Lee Bowyer! I’ve definitely advocated a change in team for this Sunday for the very reason that if you allow the Gunners to assert midfield superiority, they will rip you apart. I think Mullins or Bowyer need to be in the game to disturb your passing pattern, limited players that they are, that is one thing they are good at.
PGL: Arsenal played Champions League on Tuesday and smacked five past Fenerbache. Do you think its good to get a side after mid-week European games?
Simon:Well, would have preferred it had you played on Wednesday or even Thursday, and if you’d had a tougher game. You’ll have quite a bit of confidence going into this one after such a great result, so I don’t think we’ll be at any great advantage.
And finally Simon, what’s your prediction for the game?
I’ll have to stick the prediction I gave on my blog, 2-1 to the Hammers. I think playing a team who plays similar to us will be an advantage, you won’t just park a bus like Bolton and Hull. Hopefully the atmosphere will be good and the players up for it. Should be a good game and I think one thing that will unite the fans is knowing we will both be above Spurs at the end of it, good news for all concerned!
PGL: Cheers Simon. The laughter in London must be deafening down Seven Sisters Road! This will be a good test for our boys. It could be a very open game (but not as open as Tuesday). Our line up will be interesting… After recent selections we may see Cesc in goal and Theo at Centre Half! Seriously though, it think we can come away with the three points today. I’m going to stick my neck out today and go for 3-0 to the Arsenal. I just can’t see us dropping points with the momentum of Tuesday still with the side. Ade is seriously in need of a league goal!