Welcome back to the East end of London. I have entered the second season with West Ham United. After last season’s exploits where we finished 4th in the English Premier League we now have raised expectation and an adventure in Europe.
Like all second’s this has been a difficult period for numerous reasons. In game challenges of dealing with more matches, new experiences and new competitions. Along with personal stuff away from the game (I’ll keep it away from this platform).
Fresh from last season’s excellence and reliance of some well-known veterans. We have started season 2023/24 with a wealth of riches and an increased number in younger players in the first team.
We set about some early bird transfers before the end of last season and welcomed two new boys in June. They were 18 yrs old Columbian forward William Castro and 20 yrs old Belgian brickshit house defender Jean-Claude Diba. And once the work permit was agreed we also welcomed Daniel Tabiszewski, a Polish Wonderkid from Lech Poznan.
These three youngsters had come very highly from our scouting team. With Diba already an established international for Belgium.
I then set about searching for a left winger, defensive midfielder and Goalkeeper, providing established names for my scouts to assess before lodging bids.
In the mean time we also welcomed Martin Odegaard and Jonathon Tah from Real Madrid and Bayer Levenkusen both on free transfers.
Our scouting network homed in on Mancherster United’s Sandro Tonali. The boy was keen to get out of the club as Diego Simeone had only played him 13 times in the last season. I gave Mario Husillos (Our DoF) the go ahead to swoon Sandro and get him to join the Hammers. Mario sealed the deal for £15m and a pay rise for the lad. (£44k p/w).
I also received news that England number one, Jordan Pickford was keen to return to England after only one season with PSG. Armed with that knowledge, I asked Mario to see what we could do to help the lad out. £40m to PSG along with some additional payments in the future and we had our man. He would not only bring a “world class” element to the team but he would also bring in some valuable leadership skills that were lacking due to the loss of the old guard.
Gian Luca Itter was the left wing back we had fixed as our target. Gian Luca was now 24 yrs old and would bring some real quality to the left side of the pitch. To obtain his quality was not cheap but we are hoping his pretty mug will sell a few shirts and bring that money back in through merchandise sales. He cost Mario £39m but with the player still yet to reach the peak of his powers we believe the money will be well spent.
Now some of the players that I had brought in from my first transfer window were no longer required, due to formation/tactical changes to get the best out of the better players in the squad. I also noted that we needed to sell one or two so we could bleed in some of the younger players.
Matteo Guendouzi left for first time football at Fulham for £17.24 rising to £20.5m. We cashed in on Callum Wilson who had a non-existent second half of the season for £22m, he went to Wolves.
Winger Harvey Barnes left for Watford for £40m We somehow managed a £10m profit on Harvey despite his injury hampered season.
We also accepted and audacious bid for Harry Winks from Arsenal. I had seen difficulty in slotting the former Spurs man in the team with Weigl now holding the primary playmaker slot and unfortunately Harry would be the fall guy. We accepted the £19.25m rising to £21.5m offer.
With Odegaard’s arrival I also need to slimline the attacking midfielder available. This meant sicknote AKA Ruben Loftus Cheek could leave. He opted for life in Turkey once again. As Fenerbahce were willing to pay £18m.
We then sold Bastien Toma and Edon Zhegrova on Transfer deadline day. Toma to Feyenoord for £21m and Edon to Hoffenheim for £30m.
Pre-season started at the usual point of the summer around the first of July. We started back with the only home friendly I had arranged against Viktoria Plzen. We won comfortably 5-0. We then hit the road for the next six weeks, visiting Germany, Scotland, Portugal and a tour across the USA. The whole period allowed the new personnel to become more frequented with the other squad members, the way I try and play and the training regimes I had set for the season.
After the jet set of pre-season, we started the new campaign at home vs Aston Villa. The new looked side won 3-0 courtesy of goals from Tom Davies, Solanke and Piatek. However, the performance was slightly marred through a poor second half performance from Tim Castagne. Tim had struggled from the moment he came on for Kyle Walker. Kyle had put in a strong performance but had got himself involved with a few challenges on Aston Villa left winger Tom Lawrence, so I had made the decision to take Kyle off and prevent the high chance of a red card. Tim struggled that much that we might had been better off with 10 men. The poor performance got me looking into his form stats and noticing that he had struggled since the change in formation last season. His lack of positive consistency had been hidden by the fact Kyle Walker and youngster Nathan Swift had pushed themselves as the forerunners for the right wing back position. Tim despite his suitability seemed to struggle in any game that wasn’t a friendly. Tim’s name was now marked to sell in the next transfer market and marked to only use when desperate. (The only issue here was Nathan was not quite ready to return following a spell on the sidelines).
We then hit the road to sunny St James’ Park. We would lose to Newcastle United 2-1. But once again the right wing back position was the main talking point. This time Kyle Walker received his marching orders from the ref, a straight red for a two footed challenge that would look more at home in Argentine football rather than the Premier League. This lack of discipline from Kyle Walker was a worry. I had a frank conversation with him, and I read him the riot act. The red card would also put the strain on Tim Castagne and the returning Nathan Swift until Kyle returned.
With our form in the air we then welcomed Liverpool to the London Stadium. This match had everything. And the entire match would replicate the end to end battles of Newcastle United Vs Liverpool in the 1990’s. The game would result 4-4 but how the hell we managed to get back in the game I don’t really know.
We took the lead through a Jon Davies goal, his first for the club. Pickford then saw a shot rebound off the post and on to the back of his leg to roll into the back of the net. Liver pool then took the lead through a screamer from Paqueta. Itter our Left Wing Back hit a screamer in the second half that sailed past Alison. Firmino then dinked a lovely chip over Pickford to put Liverpool ahead again. For Julien Weigl to score from close range following a scramble in the box after a corner. Firmino scored a second dinky shot past Pickford on 90 minutes. The ref then added some “Fergie time” which allowed us to press aggressively in doing so we obtained a late corner. The late corner was delivered into the box and Weigl was on hand for a second time to tap the ball into the back of the net.
That type of match takes a lot out of a Football manager, even virtual ones. I don’t think I returned to the game for few days after that match. Yet upon returning I then had my mindset that if I failed to get back to winning way I would either tinker with the tactic/formation, look to change team when the opportunity arises or do both.
We would lose away in a scrawny 1-0 to Sheffield United. In doing so I lost my desire and mind for a while as we would go on a nine-match streak where I would stupidly change the positions and roles to suit the players that were the most fit rather than sticking to my usual principles. The streak was not fruitful. We won 3 matches, none of them convincingly and the losses were not heavy. The next break away from the game would then take place following the 2-0 loss to PSG in the Champions League.
After some soul searching and a week off the keyboard. I then set about putting the jigsaw back together. I went back to the 2322 or 442 Diamond (WB). In doing so I cleared some of the team instructions away and went on the offensive. The first match back was at Stamford Bridge. We had narrowly lost 1-0 last season. This season would be different. We won 3-1 in a match that would see summer signing Sandro Tonali show signs of maturity. Playing in the Deep Lying Play Maker role (DM Position) he had a handle of the whole match. Scoring in the ninth minute may have helped with the confidence but it felt like every knock down from our defence was pick up by Sandro and from there he would spray forward through balls to our forwards or diagonal balls for our wingbacks to romp on to. He was outstanding. This match would convince me to use Sandro more and to give him the nod in the bigger matches over Declan Rice.
This revival would then see an upturn in results. We would go on a 5-match unbeaten streak in the league. Along with two emphatic wins in the Champions League group. A 3-0 home win against PSG was the big shock around Europe, but the 9-0 home win against RB Salzburg would raise the question, Has the team finally clicked?
The comeback to the game also coincided with one of the bug updates. Something I have a superstition over, I feel that every time I have a bad run there is either a game update or a Windows update that is due and the form of the team dips unless I perform that update. (Daft I know, but it keeps me out of trouble by following that black cat under a set of ladders and avoiding all cracks in the pavement).
We then got pegged back to reality with a narrow away loss to Man City. (2-1). We would then win two home games on the bounce to lose again this time away to Conte’s Arsenal team. 4-2, Iwobi would prove to be a big thorn in my side as he would be involved in all four of the Arsenal goals.
Again, the recent updates in my head had an effect over this period of games.
Since the Boxing Day mauling. We have gone six games unbeaten. Which include the reverse fixture against Liverpool, we won 3-2. Yet another ding-dong battle which was put in our favour through a rare Itter goal.
Now back to thought. This is pretty much where I am up to in this save, yet I still do not feel connected with the team that I have devised at West Ham. In game I have been looking at other opportunities. And I would say Italy looks interesting and desirable. The Torino job has once again become available, Simone Inzaghi has just left to take the Watford job. And I have just openly told the board that I would like to be granted time to accept an interview……..
And on that bombshell, I will leave this chapter and update you further in the next.
Is it Ciao for now? Or See yer later alligator?