WHO Poll
Q: 2020/2021 Where will we finish up this season?
a. Top Four, Champions League here we come
b. 5th-7th Europa League is well within our grasp
c. 8th to 14th anywhere in mid table is about right
d. We're in a dog fight before a ball has been kicked and we'll do well to finish 17th or just above
e. GSB have derailed our season before a ball has been kicked, the Championship beckons

Alan 11:25 Fri Sep 25
Friday newspapers (includes West Ham)

Manchester United will make a final £90m bid for Jadon Sancho next week in an attempt to prise the England winger, 20, from Borussia Dortmund. (Mirror)

Arsenal are showing interest in Chelsea and Italy midfielder Jorginho, 28. (Sky Sports - via Mail)

Everton are lining up a move for Manchester United's Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero, 33, as the pressure grows on the Toffees' England international Jordan Pickford.(Sun)

Lucas Torreira is on the verge of leaving Arsenal, with both Atletico Madrid and Torino expressing interest in the Uruguay midfielder, 24. (Independent)

Atletico Madrid are confident of a loan deal for Torreira, which could allow Arsenal to sign the Spanish side's Ghana midfielder Thomas Partey, 27. (Sky Sports)

Alex Telles believes Porto's asking price to Manchester United of about 20m euros (£18.3m) is unrealistic because the Brazil left-back, 27, would be a free agent next summer. (Guardian)

Manchester City have said claims they made a £78m bid for Atletico Madrid's Uruguay defender Jose Gimenez, 25, are not true. (Goal)

Monaco have registered their interest in signing Tottenham's England midfielder Dele Alli, 24, (90min)

Paris St-Germain are preparing to pull out of negotiations to sign Alli on a season-long loan. (Telegraph - subscription required)

Chelsea and England forward Callum Hudson-Odoi, 19, is pushing for a loan move away from Stamford Bridge. (Talksport)

Barcelona and Brazil playmaker Philippe Coutinho, 28, could make a loan move to Arsenal before the transfer window closes. (Star)

Barcelona are set to make one final effort to sign 23-year-old Argentine forward Lautaro Martinez from Inter Milan. (Mail)

RB Leipzig are close to signing a central defender which could mean defender Dayot Upamecano being allowed to leave the club. Manchester United have been heavily linked with the 21-year-old France international. (Star)

Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik has been offered to Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti, but the Italian is lukewarm on a reunion with the 26-year-old Poland international. (Corriere della Sera - via Inside Futbol)

Sheffield United head the queue to sign Liverpool's English forward Rhian Brewster, 20, with Aston Villa, Brighton and Crystal Palace also interested. (Independent)

West Ham and Aston Villa are among several clubs interested in signing Chelsea's England midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 24, on a season's loan. (Guardian)
Southampton are also among the clubs interested in Loftus-Cheek, 24. (Mail)

Southampton are also looking at a deal for Toulouse's Ivory Coast midfielder Ibrahim Sangare, 22. (Telegraph - subscription required)

Everton and Fulham are interested in signing Cameroon defender Jerome Onguene, 23, from Red Bull Salzburg. (Sportslens)

West Brom could sign former Arsenal and Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor, 36, if they cannot secure another striker before the end of the transfer window. (Sun)

Saint-Etienne defender Wesley Fofana could move to Leicester City but as part of any deal the French club want the 19-year-old to stay with them on loan for the season. (L'Equipe - via Leicester Mercury)

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl wants three signings before the close of the transfer window. (Daily Echo)

Bayern Munich will not allow French midfielder Michael Cuisance to leave on loan, despite Leeds United and Marseille reportedly being interested in the 21-year-old. (Sport Bild - in German)

Guardian Rumour Mill

Gregg Bakowski

Famed negotiators of a good deal, Manchester United, are going to have one last crack at prising Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund’s tight grip with a like-it-or-lump-it £90m offer. It says here that Dortmund reckon the deadline for any deal being done was 10 August and their asking price was £108m but, ever the optimist, Ed Woodward reckons a mid-pandemic offer of £90m will be tempting enough to persuade the 20-year-old to ink his name on a shiny new contract worth £175,000 a week.

If United are successful, Sancho may see Sergio Romero heading out of Old Trafford as he checks in. Everton have apparently got a “third party” (translation: agent), to see if the Argentina international, who is now third-choice at United, would be willing to tread the well-worn path from Old Trafford to Goodison Park. With current Toffees No 1, Jordan Pickford, averaging a Kepa Arrizabalaga-like bungle every other game, it wouldn’t take much for Romero to dislodge him.

Mike Arteta wants to squeeze a midfield metronome into Arsenal’s midfield before the window shuts. His latest plan, to package up Lucas Torreira and cash in exchange for Thomas Partey, has been swatted aside by Atlético Madrid, who want Torreira separate to any deal for Partey. So the word is that Arteta has turned his attention towards Chelsea and a potential shock bid for Jorginho. The 28-year-old Italy international, who is not as jet-heeled and dynamic as Frank Lampard would like him to be, would not come cheap. A fee of £57m was talked about when Jorginho was in a grump at the end of last season.

Monaco have entered the race to sign Dele Alli on loan from Tottenham. It’s not much of a race, mind, because the latest piffle doing the rounds suggests PSG have given up. And in any case, José Mourinho still appears to want Alli in his squad this season despite making it known he’d like the England international to run around more when Spurs don’t have the ball. Which is quite often.

West Brom’s need for a striker is so desperate that Slaven Bilic may consider handing a contract to … Emmanuel Adebayor. Yes, folks, you read that right. The 36-year-old was last seen in Paraguay, where he made two appearances for Olimpia before Covid-19 brought the league to a shuddering halt. His last Premier League stint was at Crystal Palace, in 2016, where he scored one goal before going 12 games without scoring before being quickly moved on to Basaksehir. Please make it happen!

Sheffield United are still in the driving seat to land Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster on loan. The striker took no part in the Reds’ thumping 7-2 win over Lincoln City on Thursday, thus denying him a chance to net his first ever goal for the club and looks likely to team up with Chris Wilder’s side. Aston Villa, Brighton and Crystal Palace are also sniffing around, though.

And Barcelona will make one last attempt to fill the Luis Suárez-shaped void in their attack by posting £90m in the direction of Inter in the hope that they will send Lautaro Martínez back in exchange.


The West Ham way: soaring wages, bad recruitment and blaming fans

The club have never been far away from a crisis under the ownership of Sullivan and Gold

Matt Dickinson, Chief Sports Writer

As each day passes, I get more depressed.” With messages like that let us hope David Sullivan is not giving the team talk if David Moyes remains self-isolated by Covid-19 at the weekend.

Perhaps Sullivan was simply seeking to echo the mood of every West Ham United supporter I know who, if not depressed, is seething with anger. Those emotions never do seem far away at the London Stadium, a ground that could be powered by angst.

Barely two weeks into a new season the unrest has already set in about a team seeking its first point of the campaign, a manager taking training from his London apartment because of quarantine and a club which, uniquely in the Premier League, is yet to make a single summer signing.

And then Sullivan went and made it worse by going on TalkSport this week and giving an interview that was as popular as someone coughing over your shoulder in the supermarket queue.

Perhaps he felt it was time for a dose of realism. No more seven-year plan to get West Ham into the Champions League as he trumpeted in 2010 during the takeover with David Gold. In 2015, ahead of the move to the new ground, it was a five-year plan to win the Premier League and the Champions League like an English Atletico Madrid. “Unlikely but not impossible,” Sullivan said. Bless.

Whatever his intention in going on the air this week, all Sullivan did was confirm that West Ham are led by a regime that takes a difficult job and makes it so much harder.

I scanned a piece I had written going into Moyes’ first period as manager in late 2017. It was all about the difficulty of constantly navigating the whims of the owners at a club with very strange ideas how to treat staff, plus the hierarchy’s inability to set a course and stick to it without undermining successive managers.

West Ham fans vent their anger with a banner directed at Karren Brady, West Ham’s vice-chairman, and Sullivan. PA

Reading it back it was hard to think that anything had changed in almost three years apart from the club blowing a fortune in the meantime on “chasing the dream”, as Sullivan put it, under Manuel Pellegrini. Dreams are not what they used to be given West Ham finished 10th that season and were knocked out of the FA Cup by AFC Wimbledon. Then, of course, they went back to the same manager, Moyes, who had been unceremoniously dumped.

“The fans were on my back to have a director of football, a foreign manager,” Sullivan explained this week. Ah, so it was all the fans’ fault.

There always is someone else to blame, which might be plausible if Sullivan delegated responsibilities and left others to get on with it but he does not.

In one statement in the interview with Jim White he wanted us to believe that “I left it to the previous regime for two years. They didn’t buy well.” But everyone knows it is never that simple, as he then admitted.

“I had to bully the manager into signing [Issa] Diop and [Lukasz] Fabianski,” he said, eager to take credit for two of the more successful signings, certainly when compared to Sébastien Haller at £45 million.

No club is immune from bad purchases but most know it pays to establish a system that operates with a strategy and smart staff feeding detailed information into a manager and board. West Ham’s scouting and recruitment has been a mess for some time, not least because Sullivan likes to add his own idiosyncratic decisions to the mix, sitting in his Essex mansion playing Football Manager for real.

“Like he said, sometimes they try and bully you into a player that they fancy,” Sam Allardyce revealed on TalkSport when asked to comment on Sullivan’s methods. “You have to stay strong and try and get on with it. It can be a conflict between you and the owner.”

Especially when, as successive managers know, a player found by Sullivan through one of his agency contacts can turn up at the training ground unannounced.

Dare to be critical and, as well as sometimes resorting to lawyers, Sullivan will eagerly point out that £214 million is the net outlay on transfers in the last four years plus more than £1.5 million on scouts in 2019. That rebuttal ignores the obvious problem that you can spend that money badly, especially when there is haphazard recruitment and a lack of vision.

In 2018 during Moyes’ first period, a respected, experienced figure was brought in to study all the scouting, analytics and recruitment with a view to an overhaul. It was obvious that major upgrades were needed. Then Moyes was gone and the club lurched down a completely different path. A cul-de-sac.

And so West Ham are left with what even Sullivan had to admit was a horribly imbalanced squad, controversially having to sell Grady Diangana, a useful product of the academy which caused Mark Noble, the captain, to tweet his fury. Sullivan’s defence was that the club had too many wingers and money was needed to reinvest.

Funds they are now struggling to spend because everyone knows they are desperate for a centre-half, as shown by bidding as much as £30 million for Burnley’s James Tarkowski, in a frantic late scramble.

And then it becomes Moyes’ problem. “I can’t buy players I want because it would start a civil war at West Ham,” Sullivan added.

So, over to the manager who, he said, is spending 18 hour-days studying videos. But he would not need to if Sullivan appointed the right support staff.

It has been this way for years. Slaven Bilic is not a bad manager but he was worn down by this regime. Allardyce and his thick skin lasted four years before he too tired of being lectured about the “West Ham way”.

Now it is back to Moyes who at least knew what he was getting into but now has to make sense of a wage bill that soared under Pellegrini while still leaving glaring weaknesses, while also striving to keep a lid on the wider tensions and wondering if he will get a single defensive recruit in time for an unkind October fixture list which includes Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Liverpool.

First up is Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday behind closed doors. Sullivan said that he is desperate to have the fans back. If he has been reading what so many have been saying about him he might be careful what he wishes for.

Planet Football

An ode to Modibo Maiga, a rubbish West Ham striker with a difference

By Michael Lee

Modibo Maiga scored four goals in 34 appearances for West Ham, which seems about right for an expensive striker bought by David Sullivan. But there’s more to the story than that…

Expectations are a dangerous beast. Have them dashed and the feeling of helplessness and frustration at your naivety can be overpowering. Alternatively, go through life without any expectations at all and you condemn yourself to live a diminished existence. Ultimately, a life without any expectations is no life at all.

Besides, even when expectations are not met, joy can be found in the most unlikely moments and have the effect of enriching an already precious memory.

Take Modibo Maiga. At first glance, Maiga is one of countless West Ham flops bought at heavy expense only to completely underperform.

To a large extent, this is true. After a semi-prolific spell at French side Sochaux, Sam Allardyce bought the Malian striker to the club for £5million in the summer of 2012. Considering Maiga was a dainty attacking player, his pairing with Big Sam seemed destined to belong together like custard and brie, even at the time.

During his spell with the club, Maiga was marginalised in favour of Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan, begging the question as to why he was purchased in the first place. Loaned to QPR, then Metz, Maiga was offered £1million to just go away – a deal he refused.

Eventually, Maiga signed for Saudi side Al-Nassar in 2015, the £6million fee causing thousands of East End eyebrows to rise into another postcode. He scored four goals in 34 appearances for West Ham.

Therefore, we’ve established that Maiga was neither a great goalscorer nor a scorer of great goals. However, it is undeniable that he provided two great moments in a West Ham shirt that were almost worth the transfer fee alone. Almost.

The first came on a dank December afternoon against Rafa Benitez’s Chelsea. Having gone nine years without victory over their London rivals, West Ham found themselves being thoroughly outplayed and behind to a Juan Mata strike.

Happily, this would be an afternoon where the script did not follow convention. Carlton Cole scored a gloriously scrappy equaliser, climbing over Branislav Ivanovic to bundle the ball past a static Petr Cech.

Any point a newly-promoted side can chisel out against the European champions would normally be considered a bonus. Not this time. With four minutes remaining, Mo Diame lashed home a powerful low drive from the edge of the area to send Upton Park doolally.

And Maiga’s moment was still to come. As Chelsea pressed desperately for an equaliser, their play was becoming more and more chaotic. When Ashley Cole dawdled on the ball and sent a pass lazier than a Monster-guzzling teenager into the path of Maiga, he had the chance for immortality.

He laid the ball off to Matty Taylor, whose shot was saved by Cech but rolled irresistibly back into the path of the Malian. Without breaking stride, Maiga gleefully tucked the ball past three despairing Chelsea defenders on the goal line and wheeled away kissing his index finger as the stadium erupted around him. He had provided the seal to an unforgettable afternoon.

Then… nothing. Maiga went a full 12 months without bothering opposition goalkeepers to the point where fans had genuinely forgotten he was still at the club.

Instead, Allardyce put his faith in the fitness record of Carroll – with predictable results. After a 10th-placed finish the season before, West Ham slid down the league in 2013-14 and found themselves in the familiar position of a relegation battle and a lengthy injury list.

Inspired by the team’s 3-0 win at Tottenham in October, Allardyce regularly fielded a team with no strikers while Maiga was kept on the sidelines. By early December, West Ham had more goalless draws (six) than the entire Bundesliga (five).

Respite came in the League Cup. Having eliminated Cheltenham Town, Cardiff City and Burnley, the Hammers were drawn to play Tottenham in the quarter-finals. In an added twist, the match would be Tactics Tim Sherwood‘s first match in caretaker charge at Spurs.

As if demonstrating the paucity of options available to him, or perhaps sensing an opportunity, Allardyce named Maiga among his substitutes.

The first half passed goalless and relatively uneventful. Tottenham were buoyed by the departure of Andre Villas-Boas and played with the energy of men who’d regained access to their beloved mayonnaise rations. Wisely, West Ham allowed Spurs to run down their levels of energy.

The match only came alive in the 67th minute from a moment of underrated genius. Emmanuel Adebayor, recalled to the squad by Sherwood, launched himself at Jermain Defoe’s cross and volleyed the ball in off the underside of the bar. After months of tedium and ineptitude, the White Hart Lane crowd rejoiced uninhibitedly. Progression to the semi-finals appeared inevitable.

But, they reckoned without Maiga. Introduced shortly before Adebayor’s opener, his presence on the field seemed to induce the West Ham players into some sort of trance. Taylor launched a howitzer of a shot that Hugo Lloris did well to keep out and the sense grew that the tide had turned.

This was confirmed 10 minutes before the end. Keeper Adrian launched a long punt downfield which Maiga headed down to Taylor. The midfielder found Matt Jarvis on his left and he scampered a couple of yards before firing home an unstoppable effort. Jarvis, another big-money flop at West Ham, had delivered his defining moment in east London.

However, the night would belong to Maiga.

Against all known convention, West Ham continued to look menacing and pushed forward. Ravel Morrison carried the ball around the edge of the Tottenham box until playing a Pirlo-esque pass out to Diame on the right flank.

Taking a touch to steady himself, Diame delivered a pinpoint cross into the crowded penalty area. Among the sea of heads, the ball was improbably met by Maiga who guided his header beyond the limbs of Lloris and into the net. Behind him, the massed West Ham fans enjoyed a collective orgasm. The resulting release of joy could be heard as far away as Barnet.

The striker wheeled away bashfully, perhaps having forgotten what scoring a goal felt like, and was soon mobbed by exultant team-mates. On the touchline, Allardyce patted down his hair and suppressed a smile having temporarily metamorphosed into Alf Ramsey.

Deliciously, Maiga should have added another to his tally after a rasping shot cannoned back off the crossbar. No matter, his place in West Ham folklore was already secure. The Hammers held on and were suitability rewarded with a 9-0 spanking by Manchester City in the semi-finals, despite Allardyce fielding 11 goalkeepers.

To focus on results alone would be to live in a black and white world, and Maiga’s time in east London demonstrated just that. Even if initial expectations are not met, it doesn’t mean that player cannot provide unforgettable moments of joy.

As Barry Davies once said, good meals can be made out of crumbs.

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

Don Ravioli 10:01 Sat Sep 26
Re: Friday newspapers (includes West Ham)
Was at that league cup game, in the upper tier up against that small wall next to the yids.
Unbelievable up there when he scored that header. Not far off with the orgasm description.

ted fenton 4:18 Fri Sep 25
Re: Friday newspapers (includes West Ham)
Thanks Alan 11:39 Fri Sep 25

Crassus 4:12 Fri Sep 25
Re: Friday newspapers (includes West Ham)
Thanks Alan
Nice work MD and loved the Planet Football piece

Texas Iron 2:16 Fri Sep 25
Re: Friday newspapers (includes West Ham)

Queens Fish Bar 12:06 Fri Sep 25
Re: Friday newspapers (includes West Ham)
Coffee 11:43 Fri Sep 25

Coffee 11:43 Fri Sep 25
Re: Friday newspapers (includes West Ham)
Bravo, Matt Dickinson!

Thanks, Alan.

Thanks Alan 11:39 Fri Sep 25
Re: Friday newspapers (includes West Ham)
Sven Roeder 11:33 Fri Sep 25

Sven Roeder 11:33 Fri Sep 25
Re: Friday newspapers (includes West Ham)
Thanks Alan

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