West Ham have had a great start to the season. Happy with your start?
Yes, indeed we’ve had a great start to the season. We had a bit of a tricky start up at Newcastle – mainly because they have players like Callum Wilson who always scores against us. But to beat them 4-2 up in Tyneside and then to come back for our first home game in a full stadium of fans for 18 months and beat Leicester 4-1 was quality. The performance we put in was absolutely superb.
We’ve since built on that and even though we’ve had a couple of draws and we lost against Manchester United, if you take into account the added pressure of Europe it’s been a great start.
Were you happy with your close season?
In the end, I was reasonably happy with who we signed. There was always going to a question about the striker which obviously never materialised. In the end, I think David Moyes was suggesting that we weren’t going to sign a striker because he was happy with Antonio and it would have been difficult for buy a striker knowing that he would be playing second fiddle to Anthonio.
Areola the backup keeper has looked very solid in the games that he’s played. So is Kurt Zouma – for me that’s a fantastic signing. To get a French international under your belt and then add the signings of Alex Kral and Vlasic will add a little bit more depth to the squad in what will hopefully be a successful season.
We didn’t lose too many players. Felipe Anderson went back to Lazio. He was very stop start with his career at West Ham, even though we obviously paid a lot of money for him. And a few youth players went out on loan as well. So even though we didn’t sign too many, I think the squad is very compact.
Said Benrahma moved to West Ham last season. Bees fans love him and wished him luck in his new adventure. How has he been for you?
When we signed Benrahma, I obviously knew about him from his Brentford days. He is very technically gifted player and I was I was very excited when we signed him. He struggled at the start like I think any player would making a step up into the Premier League. He also had the added pressure of competing against Lingard who was doing so well. As a result, he didn’t get much game-time.
But I think you can see this season how, after having a good preseason with us, that he’s starting games. You can see how much of an important player is for West Ham and he has been chipping in with goals and assists at the moment which has been brilliant. Hopefully he can carry it on this season and get himself 10 goals and assists.
West Ham fans seem to be split on Moyes. Are you happy with how David Moyes has shaped the team and how you are doing?
The David Moyes situation for me has always been a more difficult one. At the start, I didn’t really want him back. But when he come back in, and we managed to stay up he then started getting his own players in.
You could see the shape he wanted to play. The players bought into that and I for one will take back everything I’ve said about him as he’s turned us into, at the moment, a bit of a formidable side. We don’t look like we know when we are beaten. If we go a goal down, I’m not very concerned because I believe we’ve always got a goal in us, which over the years has always been a bit of a problem and traditionally, we dinds it hard to come back when we go a goal down.
Fitness levels look really, really good now and you know that we’ll always be fighting to get a result like we did at Leeds the other week – even if it’s in the last minute of the game.
So credit due to Moyes and his backroom staff for really turning things around.
Bees fans have moved to a new stadium. We fought hard for it to be just down the road from our old stadium Griffin Park which meant we had to compromise on size but we’ve found by keeping it tight we have a tremendous atmosphere. You know all about moving stadia. Have the fans got used to it now?
The stadium move for me was similar to every other fan. We were expected to buy into this new stadium after having a fantastic last season at Upton Park and you could only hope going into the stadium that it would take us to the next level
Unfortunately, for the first four years, that didn’t happen, and I think the fan base is still very divided on it. I think a lot of fans talk about the matchday experience at Upton Park where you used to have the old programme sellers and the sweet sellers and things like that. I think fans just wanted to carry over a bit of that olde skool West Ham to keep that that side of things going from the Upton Park days.
I will say for the younger fan, the ground is a fantastic new stadium. It’s very big. It’s very open. And there’s lots to do around the ground. So for the up and coming fan and families, it’s a good place to be.
My personal opinion, it’s still not a football stadium. However, it’s certainly getting there and having good results on the pitch makes it a lot more easier to go there and big it up.
Looking at Brentford’s new ground, it looks like a very nice stadium. I haven’t had the haven’t had the chance to go there as yet but I think the fans will create a great atmosphere there. It always helped the Bees getting in some good results once you were promoted to make it the sort of place that that opposition teams don’t really want to go to. It’s nice and tight. The pitch is close to the ground which I like and is makes it reminiscent of an old skool ground. I’m very much looking forward to visiting there one day.
On the Beesotted podcast this week (link above), Martin Allen spoke passionately about Antonio – who had trials at Brentford – and Rice. How important are they for your team?
Since Antonio switched to a forward for us, he’s just gone from strength to strength.
When he first came to West Ham, I didn’t really know much about him. Slaven Bilic played him at right back where – to be fair – he was chipping in with a lot of goals. In his second season, he played right back again but he made a couple of mistakes and I don’t think the fans were sure of his actual position.
But since David Moyes has come back, he has transformed him into this amazing centre forward just like he did with Marko Arnautovic. Fair play, you have to give him praise. He’s work-rate and his finishing is second-to-none. He’s tackling ability. He’s awareness on the ball.
His drive now to go forward in midfield. Plus he’s scoring all types of goals at the moment.
My only concern is he’s got a little bit of an injury history. But if they can manage that, I can’t see why he couldn’t get at least 15 goals for us this season.
Moving on to Declan Rice. What an unbelievable player he is. He’s gone from strength to strength in the last few years. We knew a bit about him when he first broke into the side. He had a few performances that were – shall we say – slightly iffy. He made a couple of mistakes and the fans and the media were quick to jump on him. But he’s turned into an absolute class player. Everything goes through him now. He’s a deserved captain.
He’s going away from that holding midfield role to a bit of an all-round box-to-box midfielder. He’s got a few goals in him as well.
Anthonio and Rice are absolutely critical to what we’re trying to achieve at West Ham at the moment.
On the pitch – what can we expect from West Ham?
I’m looking forward to the game. I think we will offer the same as we do in most games. We will probably set up the same way – counterattacking with our front four interchanging the way they play. We’ve been quite solid at the back so that’s always a good thing and hopefully, we won’t concede more than one goal. We’ve been playing very well at home. Personally, I think we should be looking to get the three points although Brentford will pose a threat. Hopefully it will be a good game.
Which of our players will you be to looking out for?*
I’ve been impressed a lot of Brentford players but one player who has really stuck out for me is Ivan Toney. He is another Bees player that I think people wondered whether he could make the step up in the way that Watkins, Benrahma and Maupay have done.
Tell you the truth, in my opinion I don’t think he’s that far off of being considered for an international call up. He’s strong. He’s very quick. He knows where the goal is. And it’s good to see that he didn’t leave Brentford when you got promoted and he wanted to have his first season in the Premier League with The Bees to see what he can do.
I think it’s going to be quite a tight game because both sides will play the same sort of style – trying to get goals on the counter-attack. I think both sides will have a lot of the ball in the first third with the opposition having to try and break things down.
But I think West Ham will just edge it.
3-2 to The Hammers.