Eternal bridesmaid’s, Liverpool, are in town this week, clutching the withered bridal bouquet of Manchester United’s dominance.
The Reds have suffered a couple of blips already this season, with losses to tottenham and Villa. They do, however, come to Upton Park on the back of a 4-0 victory at home to Burnley, largely courtesy of ex-Hammer, Yossi Benayoun, who scored three and set up the other.
Whether they finally have the necessary quality and depth to win their first title since 1990 remains in doubt. The renewed commitment of Gerrard, Torres and Benitez will have bolstered fans, but the lack of major investment in real quality will likely hinder genuine title prospects.
Not that this should matter to The Reds come Saturday. We have been so subservient to them these last 30+ years that I half expect our players to doff their caps in the tunnel, perspiration still glistening on the brow from scrubbing the Liverpool team bus.
Victory at the weekend is as likely as Jamie Redknapp spelling ‘analytical competency’ without the use of a Speak & Spell. In fact, I’d wager he couldn’t even say it.
2. Nature vs Nurture
Premier League clubs this week agreed on new rules which state that eight out of twenty-five first team squad members must be ‘home-grown’ from next season.
No worries for us, but before you think ‘Wow, Arsenal are going to fold!’, the term ‘home-grown’ is misleading. Any player, foreign or otherwise, that has been at one club for three years or more between the ages of 16 and 21 qualifies.
On this basis, Cesc Fabregas is ‘home-grown’, as would Ronaldo have been at Manchester United prior to his departure.
Arsene Wenger’s considerable internet grooming skills can therefore remain extra-curricular.
3. Stop The Rot
While it is too early to start looking into competitive hotel rates in Doncaster for next season, we do come into this game on the back of two poor performances.
A nothing draw at Ewood Park was followed by a defeat at Wigan so turgid that even eternal nice guy, Frankmundo Zola, saw fit to declare the performance unacceptable.
The immediate chances of us nipping this downturn in the bud seem slight, with our next two games being at home to Liverpool and then away to Man City.
What is the best catalyst for recovery: to have a proper go and suffer a potential rout? Or adopt a conservative approach and, who knows, maybe nick a point?
I’d go for the former, but what do I know? I thought Kieron Dyer was a sound purchase.
This fixture constituted the penultimate home game of last season and culminated in a 3-0 defeat. Steven Gerrard put the visitors 1-0 up within a minute and 2-0 up after 38, before the game was settled late on by Ryan Babel.
Nothing much noteworthy from us, bar David DiMichele’s curious stuttering dive right on the stroke of halftime when clean through on goal.
A mistake by Jamie Carragher had let the diminutive Italian in, and DiMichele took the retrospectively admirable decision to showcase his emerging ballerina skills, as his future was so obviously not in football.
We have won just one league encounter against Liverpool from the last fourteen, losing ten. Liverpool’s away form is good (six wins from seven ) and our home form is bad (one win from four).
A failure to score in our last two games against considerably weaker opposition than Saturday’s also does not bode well. Neither does Liverpool’s seven goals scored in back-to-back wins.
One chink in Liverpool’s armour is from set-pieces, from which all seven goals conceded this season have come.
5. Out With The Old, In With The Old
This season’s must-have ageing striker accessory is Mexico international, Guillermo Franco, who this week signed on a free transfer following the expiry of his contract with Villareal.
Argentine-born Franco comes with some international pedigree, enjoying a recent goal-scoring spree in Mexico’s World Cup qualifying campaign.
His motivation is to consolidate that place during a World Cup year. Ours is more likely the chance to harvest his organs when Dean Ashton dies.
6. So Long, Alonso
The main Merseyside transaction of the summer involved Xabi Alonso, departing as he did for Real Madrid after largely being hung out to dry since Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez flirted with Gareth Barry last year.
In came Alberto Aquilani from AS Roma, who is yet to make his debut for the club and so will obviously do so this Saturday and score eleven goals.
Alonso’s departure is a puzzlement to me because most people outside of Benitez could see that he was an instrumental part of this side.
While Gerrard and Fernando Torres often take the plaudits, Alonso was always adept at keeping things ticking over in midfield with good vision and an impressive range of passing.
They did get £30million for him, but to me he was exactly the kind of unsung, genuine quality that makes Championship winning sides. A bit like Wedge Antilles – no, he won’t get the princess or slay a Sith Lord, but by god he’ll do a job for you.
7. Diamanti Geezer
Alessandro Diamanti was given his first cameo against Wigan last week and provided the spark that was so sorely lacking.
He went very close with a free-kick (ostensibly something of a speciality) and hit the post late on.
Zola has spoken of his intention to ease him into the pace of the English game, so he is perhaps unlikely to start on Saturday, but I don’t see why not. Packing the midfield with like-for-like players has done little for us in recent weeks.
8. Sex Sells
It has been announced that current Birmingham City co-owner, Dave Sullivan, intends to leave the midlands club should a proposed takeover go through.
Sullivan has stated his intention to remain in football and is a well known West Ham fan. Indeed, the prospect of his investment in the club has already been touted this year.
Comically, he made his fortune in pornography in the late ‘70’s and therefore is fully qualified to add his name to the long line of morally sound businessmen to have invested in West Ham.
He said earlier this week: "Following the takeover I will be looking for a new challenge where my experience, success, sound business acumen and readily available editions of Razzle will make a difference."
The commercial possibilities are mind-boggling and the West Ham DVD selection could soon become unrecognisable: ‘Frank McAvennie Scythes The Hammerettes With His Two-Footed Tackle’ etc.
9. It Makes You Proud
Prospective investor Dave Sullivan (left). There’s nothing I can add to this photo to make it any funnier.