West Ham (A): Predicted line-ups, pre-match thoughts & team news

One word that’s been used on countless occasions over the past six months is ‘unprecedented’.

It’s been a repetitive and apt way to describe a 2020 that has been so surreal throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, yet also a word that describes the past few months at Newcastle United pretty well – for good and bad.

Unlike so many takeover attempts that came before it, the Saudi bid looked set to go through and got closer to completion than any other deal we’ve seen emerge since Ashley bought the club. We were also playing football without fans, unable to go to St James’ Park, wearing masks in shops and wondering when we’d next hug members of the family or see friends safely – never mind go to the game.

Although the buyout has ultimately failed – something that seems anything but out of the ordinary – another ‘unprecedented’ event arrived earlier this week, with Mike Ashley finally agreeing to back a Newcastle United manager with PROVEN Premier League players.

It’s been the most bizarre summer I’ve ever experienced as a fan, or human being for that matter. It perhaps says a lot about the rubbish we’ve become used to under Ashley’s previously flawed transfer policy that the signing of a 28-year-old striker with a 1 in 3 record in the Premier League and decision to pay money for a talented left-back (not bring in another on loan) has been lauded by fans on Tyneside, with that and a couple of bargain free agents seeming like the best business we’ve done in years at a time when we feared the worst heading into 2020/21.

It’s given us the surprise boost we so desperately needed after a summer of false hope and ultimate hurt, and a reason to get excited again now football is finally returning.

The question is, can Steve Bruce now deliver an exciting season at St James’ Park? I don’t think any of us presume we’ll suddenly become world beaters, but with us adding a few quality additions and some of his top targets to an already solid Premier League squad, there’s an expectation to be sniffing around the top 10, scoring more goals and playing some better football this time around – not playing negative football with no identity and a whole lot of luck.

Bruce has done very well to convince Mike Ashley to spend at a time where we needed it more than ever, however the pressure is now on him to deliver. With a front four of Wilson, Fraser, Almiron and Saint-Maximin, we have the ability to cause any team in this league real problems and should no longer be relying on goals from centre-backs, Dubravka heroics, ASM magic or blaming Joelinton for another blank.

First up, we travel to West Ham – a side who aren’t exactly heading into the new season with the same level of momentum, with few players signed and their star winger Grady Diangana sold to West Brom.

Let’s hope we can come flying out of the traps, immediately look more fluid in this 4-2-3-1 system and get at a leaky defence that could well be there for the taking.

Team news

Bruce has confirmed that Callum Wilson is ‘available’ and that fellow new boy Jamal Lewis ‘will play’, although it seems Ryan Fraser will face a late test after training well for two days and declaring himself fit, but not playing competitively since March!

Elsehwere, Jonjo Shelvey is expected to make it despite missing our final friendly vs Stoke, while Matt Ritchie is deemed ‘touch and go’ and Joelinton unlikely to start after linking up with the first-team squad in the final week of pre-season.

Ruled out are Martin Dubrakva (ankle), Fabian Schar (shoulder), Dwight Gayle (knee), Matty Longstaff (thigh) and Paul Dummett (hamstring), while Ciaran Clark is ‘OK’ but still not ‘fully recovered’ after Bruce revealed he actually ‘broke his leg’ earlier in the year at Arsenal.

Elsewhere, Jeff Hendrick could make his competitive debut and skipper Jamaal Lascelles has been declared fit despite only recently recovering from ankle surgery.

Predicted line up

Predicted NUFC XI (4-2-3-1): Darlow – Manquillo, Lascelles, Fernandez, Lewis – Hayden, Shelvey – Murphy, Almiron, Saint-Maximin – Wilson.

I can see Ritchie starting if he’s fit, but think Jacob Murphy could be thrown in following his eye-catching form over pre-season, with him starting alongside Almiron and Saint-Maximin in our final friendly.

I generally can’t see him getting enough game time this season, especially if Ritchie stays following Fraser’s arrival, however now is surely the perfect chance for Bruce to take a look at him at Premier League level before he makes a decision on another loan?

I can’t see Fraser being thrown straight in – he won’t be match fit after over six months away from competitive action – but think Bruce go with Lewis (our only fit left-back!) in Dummett’s absence and start Wilson up top too.

Carroll has done well in pre-season, staying fit and scoring a few great goals, but Wilson has 7 goals in his last 8 games against West Ham, with his presence in the starting 11 likely to give everyone involved an automatic boost.

The opposition

Here’s a few ones to watch in David Moyes’ Hammers side:

Jarrod Bowen – The winger was a target of Bruce’s back in January and has been quietly impressive since arriving. West Ham fans I’ve spoke to like him a lot, with his movement, goal-threat and intensity promising to give Lewis a big test on Saturday should our new £15m start.

Tomas Soucek – The 6ft 4′ midfielder doesn’t look like a goalscorer, but quickly developed an uncanny knack of arriving late into the box and heading home following his January arrival. One to watch in the air.

Michail Antonio – No Premier League player scored more goals over Project Restart (8) than the powerful forward who’s recently been converted from a winger to a striker, of sorts. Scored at St James’ in our 2-2 draw with the Hammers back in July and will be looking to cause havoc for Lascelles and Fernandez once again.

Aaron Cresswell – It’s hard to say who’ll be running at him, but we could have a field day if we get Allan Saint-Maximin running at the out of sorts full-back. In our ‘Opposition Opinion’ piece he was described as their biggest weakness, so he could be one to target.

Predicted West Ham XI (4-4-2): Fabianski – Johnson, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell – Bowen, Rice, Soucek, Fornals – Antonio, Haller.

Prediction

I can see this being a game of goals – especially when Bruce’s new-look attack and 4-2-3-1 formation (featuring one less centre-back) may leave us a little more open at the back.

Saint-Maximin and Almiron’s pace tore the Hammers apart in this fixture last season, so add into that a Callum Wilson desperate to score on his debut and we have the makings of a front four who could call all sorts of bother.

That said, the new players haven’t had long to bed in and it feels like a game where we don’t quite know what we’re going to get from two unpredictable teams who’ve both had disruptive pre-seasons for one reason or another.

My heart says 1-3 to Newcastle with a brace from Callum Wilson and Saint-Maximin masterclass, but my head’s saying a score draw that sees our defence let us down.

Prediction: West Ham 2-2 Newcastle

HWTL!

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About Olly Hawkins

Olly has been a Junior Magpie from birth. As a season ticket holder and avid Newcastle United fan - he eats, sleeps and breathes all things NUFC.

63 thoughts on “West Ham (A): Predicted line-ups, pre-match thoughts & team news

  1. Olly: Mail and Chronic say Dummett has a muscle injury, or they say he picked up a knock. Hope it is not a hamstring as didnt that keep him out for months in the season before last. I think we will need him as a centre back.

    Can also see Hendrick starting with Hayden and Shelvey. I just dont think Bruce will start Murphy.

    Bench looks like it could be OK even with all of our injuries.

    Probably will include Krafth, Longstaff, Ritchie, Frase,r Murphy and Carroll. That’s not bad and a lot better than we finished last season with.

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  2. West Ham have an OK 1st team and some talent but as usual it seems that a cloud has descended over the club. They finished the season well but havent signed anyone and their fans can become very critical. Probably better for them that it will be an empty stadium.

    Also, Dour Dave can get himself into a very depressed mood and that can translate to the players. It happened at Sunderland and 1st time round at West Ham. Last season he was surprisingly upbeat, but as I said, that might not last especially since I read stuff that he is not happy with the owners. He walked the last time they argued.

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  3. I still dont know what we have to lose by Keeping Murphy in the squad this season. Bru ce calls him a kid but he is 25 FFS. Loaning him out is not really going to aid his development it is only going to help the team he goes to. He should be the finished article by now. We have seen with our injury record that we need backup. All of our forwards except Joelinton have missed time.

    Plus, his contract is up at the end of the year so unless we extend it we are just allowing him to help another team and leave on a free. He wasn’t cheap either. Cost us 10-12 million.

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  4. I reckon we go 4-3-3.

    Darlow

    Manquillo Lascelles Fernadez Lewis

    Hayden Shelvey Hendrick

    St Max Wilson Miggy

    If Shelvey isnt fit play Longstaff.

    There really hasnt been much mention of Hendrick since we signed the 3 this week and they had their pictures taken but Bruce seems to like him. From what I have seen and read he can operate box to box. Brucie, just set us up to attack a bit, do not go into a defensive shell.

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  5. I see people moaning about the possibility of extending Gayle’s contract. Despite his injury problems I think it would be worth it as backup for Wilson. It really is like another free signing. He is on about 3 mil a year and that is what you would have to pay a replacement. On top of that you would have to pay a transfer fee of at least 10 million. I just dont see a downside. His injury record is not that different to Wilsons.

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  6. I see some so-called NUFC fans writing off Hendrick before he has kicked a ball. Very strange. He has a ton of PL experience and was one of the better players in a Burnley team that finished above us in the past 5 seasons. Maybe they are blinded by the publicity photos of the 3 shiny new objects we signed this week? I really think Hendrick should have been in there as well.

    Some are saying we have many Centre Mids ahead of him. Really, how many PL games have the Longstaff’s played? Does Bruce even rate/trust them. Are you sure that Hayden will time every tackle perfectly and will not be sent off or that Shelvey will not get injured or have one of his off games and have to be taken off on 60 mins?

    From what I have read Hendrick can play a number of positions and should be useful for us.

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  7. Eric – I thought Sean Longstaff looked good in that more advanced midfield role. Good at closing down and can fire a shot from outside the box.
    I’d go 4-3-3 too mate. Hendrick and Hayden or Shelvey deeper with Sean getting forward – ASM, Almiron & Wilson up top.

    I agree about Murphy too mate. I think he offers more that Atsu. I don’t think he’s a bad player, he just seems to lack a bit of mental toughness. If his first few touches go well he does ok – if they don’t they get in his head.
    But I think training and learning with players like ASM, Almiron & Fraser could bring him on.

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  8. Looked at Wilson and Frasers record last season and they played more games than I thought, 35 and 25 respectively. They did go off the boil though and I think that was in part due to Eddie Howe. He was giving out bad vibes all season and for some reason I watched quite a few Bmth games last year. Towards the end they still had it in their own hands but he looked broken on the sideline. It was like watching Moyes at Sunderland where if they conceded the first goal his body language told you he had no faith that they would recover. That was not the way Howe was in previous seasons.

    I am hoping the Bmth lads can resume their partnership and recover their form and think they will. They were great the previous season.

    I see West Ham are trying to cancel Wilshere’s contract. Now there’s a surprise 🙂

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  9. Sharpy: I wasnt slagging off the Longstaff’s. I think they both have a lot of potential and I thought Sean’s slow start was probably due to him recovering from a bad injury. We have seen that so often at NUFC, that it takes a while for them to get up to speed and that is to be expected after a bad injury.

    All I was saying was that we needed another centre mid whose name was not Bentelab. The Longstaffs are young and we needed some experience. Hendrick brings that so I will reserve judgement until I have seen him in B and W a few times. I am serious, I saw some people on a number of blogs writing him off before he has kicked a ball.

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  10. I looked at Borunemouth;s season and they had 26 points after 26 games. They finished on 34 so that was 8 from the last 12 games. They only went down by 1 point. I think they gave up on Howe, and I saw it in the games I watched. Even in the post-match pressers Howe seemed like a whipped dog.

    I thought about it and you know who he reminded me of more than Dour Dave? Steve McClaren in his last few games at NUFC where you saw he had no answers and knew that would translate to team performances.

    Hopefully that means we will see the 18/19 Wilson and Fraser.

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  11. Eric Sykes:
    Sharpy: I wasnt slagging off the Longstaff’s. I think they both have a lot of potential and I thought Sean’s slow start was probably due to him recovering from a bad injury. We have seen that so often at NUFC, that it takes a while for them to get up to speed and that is to be expected after a bad injury.

    All I was saying was that we needed another centre mid whose name was not Bentelab. The Longstaffs are young and we needed some experience. Hendrick brings that so I will reserve judgement until I have seen him in B and W a few times. I am serious, I saw some people on a number of blogs writing him off before he has kicked a ball.

    Eric – I didn’t see any of your comments on the Longstaffs so certainly wasn’t suggesting you were slagging either off.
    It was in response to you saying if Shelveys not fit play Sean.

    I can’t remember who we were playing but the game after lockdown where Sean came off injured – before he got injured he looked great in that advanced position. I think you are right though, not sure he’s ever fully got back from that initial injury and it hampered him all last season.

    Barlaser looked decent in the friendlies, but we didn’t really play anyone, so it’s difficult to tell just how ready he is?!.
    I’d maybe keep him and play him in the cup game against Blackburn. If he does well then keep him round the first team, if not then loan him out again.

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  12. Interesting to see the West Ham fan view. I dont think they have a bad team but you can guarantee their fans will be mad about something – just like NUFC fans. If they sell Rice to Chelsea I think they will go into meltdown. I wonder how they would feel if Lampard takes their best player? I would like it to happen just for the fun factor.

    If your best player is a holding midfielder you will probably struggle. Not sure if Noble would get into any other PL team bar Fulham either. I think there might be some sentimentality there.

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  13. Sharpy: we have 5 games until the transfer window closes. I dont see any reason to loan any players we intend to retain until much closer to Oct 5. Play Murphy and Barlaser in the cup. Bruce can also take a closer look in training.

    Players like Muto and Atsu who seem to have no future at NUFC we should see who will take them, hopefully for a transfer fee. Maybe Bournemouth could give us some of our money back for Atsu. Even a couple of mil. He could do a job there.

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  14. Have we ever had an 8pm kickoff on a Saturday?

    Kimtoon: I had a quick look at The Chronic Sunderland page yesterday and revolt seems to have been replaced by apathy. I think that will change back if they start badly.

    All they had to do when Donald 1st took over to find out what a chancer he was was read this blog. It was so obvious, but they loved him 🙂

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  15. Eric Sykes:
    Sharpy: we have 5 games until the transfer window closes. I dont see any reason to loan any players we intend to retain until much closer to Oct 5. Play Murphy and Barlaser in the cup. Bruce can also take a closer look in training.

    Players like Muto and Atsu who seem to have no future at NUFC we should see who will take them, hopefully for a transfer fee. Maybe Bournemouth could give us some of our money back for Atsu. Even a couple of mil. He could do a job there.

    Agree mate, shifting players should be our focus now – whilst keeping an eye on which players come up for loan. I’d love to loan Brewster from Lpool with the option to buy – but I think they want to cash in now.

    The problem isn’t getting clubs interested in Muto & Atsu – or Saviet and Lazaar for that matter – the problem is clubs getting anywhere near the wages we are paying them.
    These are players happy to sit and see their contracts out because coz they aren’t getting wages like that after this contract runs out.

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  16. Over the last 4 transfer windows Chelsea have spent over £300m – when you consider they had a transfer bid for 2 of those windows – 1 that’s disgusting and 2 it just shows how much respect and how enforced these rules are.

    Over the same windows Liverpool have spent just £23m.

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  17. VVD had a poor first half – he’s playing like he’s bought into his own hype – very casual.

    I think Liverpool might struggle this season. They have been super human over the last 2 seasons & it’s going to be hard to keep that up – especially with how COVID has impacted the seasons/pre-seasons.

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  18. Interesting to see that Leeds are not scared. 3-3.

    Contrast that with what Bruce said yesterday about how we (should) approach the top 4.

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  19. Sharpy17:
    Over the last 4 transfer windows Chelsea have spent over £300m – when you consider they had a transfer bid for 2 of those windows – 1 that’s disgusting and 2 it just shows how much respect and how enforced these rules are.

    Over the same windows Liverpool have spent just £23m.

    Sharpy: they have brilliant forwards now. I have seen a lot of Werner and he is probably the best German player now and that is saying something.

    Depends on their defense and Lampard.

    Liverpool have been so lucky with injuries. It really just cannot last, can it?

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  20. I expect to see Miggy at some point for his energy and probably Longstaff as well for Hendrick as the game goes on.

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  21. 4-3-1-2 like the look of that line up like.

    I think ASM will be allowed a free role to find space on either flank & big Andy could be a great partnership with Wilson 🤞🏼.

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  22. Cracking first half, just lacking a bit of finesse. I like All the new signings, and big Andy is a real handful. Could go either way though as WH have had their chances too and hit bar twice! 😳. 2-1 to the Toon!

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  23. Well I predicted a toon win, Wilson goal and Moyes to get sacked after this game. Don’t mean to be harsh on Moyes but they say things come in 3 and with £50 riding on it 🤞🏼😂

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  24. Deserved the win tonight
    they all played well, AC looked knackered towards the end but did very well.
    MOTM Hendricks, can’t ask for more than an assist ad a goal.

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  25. kimtoon:
    Deserved the win tonight
    they all played well, AC looked knackered towards the end but did very well.
    MOTM Hendricks, can’t ask for more than an assist ad a goal.

    Agree with MotM for Hendricks Kim, it was close with big Andy though today as I thought he did really well, but Hendricks takes it for me too. A goal and an assist on your debut! Can’t ask for much more than that.

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  26. I wonder if it was lost on Ashley tonight that the newbies that made the difference tonight were 28yr old British lad with PL experience – the very type of player Ashley has absolutely turned away from in previous windows.

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  27. Eric Sykes:
    Rice looked tidy and made a couple of good passes but c’mon 80 fckn million quid!!!

    Eric – I know it’s only 1 game, but did you like the look of Hendrick?

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  28. NUFC 360 Retweeted
    Squawka Football
    @Squawka
    ·
    16m
    Jeff Hendrick’s game by numbers vs. West Ham:

    100% take-ons completed
    100% conversion-rate
    41 touches
    9 recoveries
    2 interceptions
    1 goal
    1 assist

    Unbelievable Jeff! Flushed face

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  29. Andy looked knackered, but that’s coz he give everything tonight 👏🏼

    Would love Brewster in on loan. Think he’s similar to Wilson in his forward play – a little less physical but probably coz of his age. Would be a good back up though and with an option to buy would be great

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  30. Glad Bruce took St Max off. He will be feeling all of those fouls in the morning. They werent just little clips either, they were meant to hurt him.

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  31. I know people will say don’t get carried away after 1 game, or WH were poor – but people got carried away when the takeover fell through saying it was relegation.

    We are still a long way off top 6, but keep these players fit and get the likes of Dub & Gayle back and relegation won’t be a worry this season at all.

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