In the build-up to Town’s night game live on Sky Sports against West Ham United, we spoke to Trainee Journalist from the Press Association and West Ham fan, Jay Williams. We gauged his thoughts on West Ham, Town and the game itself.
1. What have you made of West Ham’s summer overall but particularly deadline day?
The summer started with so much promise. Going into the new season, we desperately needed a striker, a right back, a goalkeeper and a winger, which we achieved early in the shape of Hernandez, Zabaleta, Hart and Arnautovic. But since then, we have missed out on a number of top targets and failed to add any squad depth. Deadline day was typically disappointing but nothing less than expected.
2. Have you been impressed by Bilic’s signings or was more needed?
Hart is an improvement on Adrian. Hernandez is the goal scorer we have been screaming out for since Tevez. Arnie (aside from his red card) is a solid signing. Zabaleta provides experience. However, we bought four and offloaded more than 10 – our squad is looking very light on the ground.
3. Do you feel the off the field tension between the fans and Bilic and more broadly the board will have an impact on the field?
Absolutely. It will be our first home game back and you can expect a hostile environment, especially towards the board. There will also be some clearly detectable nervousness as we search for our first point and this is likely to pervade onto the pitch.
4. Who will be your key players this season?
Hernandez is undoubtedly the top man up front. We are much more solid with Winston Reid at the back. But the star man will definitely be Manuel Lanzini – he is good enough to play at the top level.
5. What are your hopes and realistic ambitions for the remainder of the season?
West Ham fans are very quick to forget that we are traditionally a mid-table side. Given our poor start to the season, I would snap your hand off for that now. Realistically, survival and a challenge for domestic silverware would constitute a good season.
6. Where do you see West Ham finishing come May?
My heart says 10th, my head says 15th.
After discussing West Ham United , we moved onto the perceptions of Town, particularly after such a blistering start to the season.
1. How much of Town have you watched so far this season and what do you think their strengths and weaknesses are?
I am yet to watch a Huddersfield game so far this season but I am not surprised to see them doing well. I watched Town on a number of occasions last season and was impressed by the teamwork ethic that Wagner has built. As for weaknesses, you could perhaps argue that West Ham are the better side on paper (player-by-player) and we will have to play to our best to get anything on Monday night.
2. How highly do you rate David Wagner and what do you make of the signings he has made this summer?
It is hard to fault Wagner really; he brings passion, nous, and tactical genius. This summer, he has snapped up some impressive additions. Steve Mounie looks a handful up front and Tom Ince will be desperate to show that he is Premier League quality. Huddersfield have options all over the park and will be a surprise package this season.
3. How do you rate Town’s survival chances this season?
Highly – and I am not just saying that because of their impressive opening three games. Huddersfield are proving hard to beat and look solid at the back. That sort of defensive stability is the foundation that any club needs to ensure survival. I think that there are three worse teams than Huddersfield in this league at least.
4. Do you think their style of play will continue to suit the Premier League?
This is a difficult question to answer because there will come a time when teams start to suss Huddersfield out. But Wagner has the players and they seem to have bought into his ethos. If Town can survive this season, you can see them kicking on next term.
5. Who in your opinion are Town’s standout players?
Our defence is weak for this clash and I can see Steve Mounie bullying them with his physicality. Town’s central midfield duo of Aaron Mooy and Jonathan Hogg are very impressive too and a mouth-watering midfield battle between them and Mark Noble and Pedro Obiang is on the cards.
6. What did you make of Town’s start to the season? Promising signs from a Town perspective or should we continue to err on the side of caution?
Both, I think. The last thing Huddersfield can afford to do is let complacency creep into their game. However, the signs have been very promising and there is no reason for Town fans to hide that excitement.
Finally, we discussed the game itself and how it could potentially pan out on Monday evening.
1. What did you make of West Ham’s 3-0 defeat prior to the international break? Could it have a psychological impact on Monday?
The 3-0 loss to Newcastle was quite frankly, embarrassing. This will undoubtedly have a psychological impact on us going into the Huddersfield game. The players will be extremely anxious to get the result and get the ball rolling.
2. Considering its West Ham’s first home game, do you think that will galvanise the players or could you see them being nervous?
You would hope that it would be advantageous to return to our home ground. But, because of the poor performances there last season and because of the tension in the crowd, I am not sure that we will be galvanised. If we take the lead, it could be another story though.
3. How do you see the game going? Nervy and tight or a more open end to end affair?
I see it being nervy and tight. Huddersfield will not have played in big grounds like the London Stadium very often and the pitch is much bigger. Whether this inhibits Wagner’s style of play or aids it remains to be seen.
4. What will be the key battles that could decide the outcome of the match?
Pedro Obiang, Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate or whoever else plays in central midfield will be tasked with keeping Aaron Mooy quiet; that could be key. The other battles will be the contrasting styles of the strikers. Mounie will look to exploit a second string defence with his aerial prowess and strength. Hernandez will attempt to outfox Schindler and Jorgensen with his movement.
5. If you had to pick the West Ham’s starting XI for Monday, who would you pick?
Hart; Zabaleta, Collins, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Obiang, Kouyate; Antonio, Ayew, Holland; Hernandez.
If Lanzini is not fit, we are looking light in the attacking midfield areas. Kouyate and Reid are also doubts. Nathan Holland is a youngster who deserves a chance but is unlikely to be handed it.
6. What’s your score prediction for the game?
I would not be surprised in the slightest if Huddersfield win or draw this. But I’ll back West Ham to sneak a 1-0 win.
After securing a hard-fought point last time out, Town will be looking to get back to winning ways when they head to the capital. Whereas Town are high on confidence as they fly high, West Ham United will be looking to register their first points of the season, by hook or by crook. Either way, it will be another entertaining match for the neutral.