Declan Rice has indicated he wants to leave West Ham by speaking of his ambition to win trophies and play in the Champions League. The England midfielder has no intention of extending his deal and he is expected to be sold for a big fee next summer.
Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United are heavily interested and Newcastle could enter the race if they qualify for the Champions League.
There is a belief that West Ham will allow their club captain to leave, even though they will hope to put off bidders by demanding at least £100m. Rice’s contract runs until the summer of 2024, with the option to extend by a year, and he has rejected offers of a new deal.
The 23-year-old is desperate to play at the highest level and has said playing for England has increased his desire to compete for major honours. “One hundred per cent I want to play in the Champions League,” Rice said. “For the last two or three years I’ve been saying that.
“I’ve been playing consistently well for my club and I feel like I really want to keep pushing. I see my friends here who are playing Champions League and for big trophies.
“You only get one career and at the end you want to look back at what you’ve won and the biggest games you’ve played in.”
Rice is in line to start when England face Senegal in the last 16 of the World Cup on Sunday and said the rest of the qualifiers should be worried.
“Other nations will always look at us and think about the quality we’ve got in the squad,” he said. “Why should we not be feared? If you look at our attacking players, there are world-class, unbelievable talents across the board. There are players who have played in the biggest games and won the biggest trophies. We are one of the biggest teams here.
“But it’s down to us to prove it on the pitch. Teams like the French have proved that. They’ve won a World Cup. They’ve done it consistently. Now we want to change that. We’re not just here to get into the round of 16. We want to go the whole way. It’s up to us to prove it.”
The dust has barely settled on West Ham’s last-minute defeat by Crystal Palace last Sunday when Gianluca Scamacca sits down to talk about his love of football, leaving home at a young age and the challenge of adjusting to the Premier League. The Italy striker does not want to hide. Scamacca was substituted at half-time against Palace but, as he holds court on a rainy Monday afternoon at West Ham’s training ground, what comes across is his determination to make this transfer work.
“Difficult,” is the 23-year-old’s assessment of his first few months in England. There have been flashes of class from Scamacca, hints of the clever touch, classy link play and finishing ability that made West Ham buy the 6ft 5in forward from Sassuolo for £35.5m, but he knows that he needs to improve. “It is very different,” he continues. “It’s another country, another league. In Italy it is tactical. Here it is fast and physical. But it will get better.”
Scamacca, who has a decent grasp of English, is not fazed by his eight-match goalless run. He recalls speaking to Italy’s manager, Roberto Mancini, when it became clear West Ham wanted to sign him. “He said it’s a big opportunity to grow up,” Scamacca says. “He said when it’s difficult you can grow up. You have to adapt to a different way of playing. It just takes time. He said: ‘Work hard and you will see the results.’”
The problem for West Ham, who were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Blackburn on Wednesday, is that the competitiveness of the Premier League makes it hard to stay patient. They spent heavily on signings in the summer but find themselves two points above the bottom three before hosting Leicester on Saturday.
David Moyes has found it difficult to bed in the new players. Scamacca has looked isolated at times – he admits he has been surprised by the speed and size of opposition centre-backs – and West Ham have lacked consistency. Alarmingly for Moyes, his side have been sloppy; they have given away cheap goals and not taken enough chances.
Yet Scamacca, who has scored six goals, is convinced West Ham’s luck will turn. “Over the last few games we’ve been unfortunate,” he says. “I’m very happy to be here. It’s been a little difficult but I’m very excited to be in this team.”
Paris Saint-Germain were also interested in Scamacca and he is seen as key to Mancini’s rebuild after Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup, but the fame has not gone to his head. This tall, imposing figure has a sense of humour. We talk about his upbringing in Rome, his support of Roma and how he fell in love with football. “Everybody was a football supporter,” he says. “In the street we play, we play, we play.” Was he the best? Scamacca laughs. “Yes. Why do you ask?”
Fair point. Scamacca’s talent took him to Lazio’s academy. It was on to Roma from there and then, in a surprising development, he joined PSV Eindhoven’s youth set-up in 2015.
Scamacca scoffs at the notion that it must have been scary for a 16-year-old to move to a strange new country. “Fear about what?” he says. “Because I was alone? No. Holland is not a dangerous country.
“I went to Holland because I wanted to improve myself. I felt that I could not do it in Italy. Holland was the best place to learn about football. In Italy it is different. In the academy, the under-18s, under-19s, they don’t work on the individual. They work on the team, on the tactics, how to win games. But in other countries they work individually on the players. I also wanted to have an experience. I wanted to learn English and see another culture.”
It is a refreshing attitude from Scamacca, who found good teachers at PSV. He had guidance from the former Netherlands midfielder Mark van Bommel, who could speak to him in Italian, and advice on how to improve as a striker from Ruud van Nistelrooy. “He told me you have to stay in the box and have good movement,” Scamacca says.
Those two years at PSV are remembered fondly. In 2017, though, it was time to return to Italy. Scamacca joined Sassuolo, gained first-team experience during several loans and gradually established himself as a regular starter for the Serie A side. He scored 16 goals last season and broke into the Italy squad.
But life has not always been easy for Scamacca. He was brought up by his mother and his sister and has distanced himself from his father’s side of the family.
Now he thinks about his mother. “She supported me when it was a little difficult,” he says. “She was really important for me. I found confidence on my journey. I had a lot of difficulties in the past. I had to work on myself. On my mind. This made me more confident.”
Scamacca is striving for belief. He talks about watching old Premier League games and becoming fascinated with Eric Cantona, which is a surprising revelation. Cantona retired in 1997, two years before Scamacca was born. I put to him that he is a football nerd; someone who spends his free time scouring old games on YouTube. “Nerd,” Scamacca says with a laugh. “If it wasn’t for the fact I’m so passionate about football I wouldn’t be here now.”
What did he like about Cantona? “He was very imposing. A little bit arrogant in his approach. I am still trying to work towards that for myself, trying to be a little more imposing in my physique and more confident in games.
“I’m at 70% of my potential. In a couple of months, I’ll get there, or be on my way there. I know I can do better. That’s why I want to work on my confidence, intensity and presence on the pitch – use my physique more. In the Premier League, you need to be more imposing. I need to get used to it quickly.”
There have been promising moments. At his best, Scamacca has produced skilful touches and shown an impressive range of finishing. He can shoot early and powerfully. Two of his goals have been created by smart passes from Lucas Paquetá; intriguingly Scamacca’s output dried up when the Brazilian playmaker was injured last month. “I’ve got a great feeling with Paquetá,” Scamacca says.
Scamacca goes on to say he enjoys playing with Manuel Lanzini and Pablo Fornals. He wants to prove himself at West Ham. “It is not difficult for me,” Scamacca says as he ponders whether it was a sacrifice to leave Italy. “This is my work. This is my passion. It is a dream for me. I don’t worry about pressure. I don’t worry because I’m far from home. No: I just live for football.”
Officially, Bukayo Saka is the 33rd most fouled player in the Premier League. Unofficially, Arsenal fans will tell you that their man is the victim of some sinister conspiracy between opposition left-backs and referees to get him hacked out of the game. So, a valid concern or the usual tribal tinfoil nonsense? It’s actually more complex than it looks. What sets Saka apart is his unique close dribbling style, the ball almost wedged between his feet as he runs. So when he buys the contact – because all wingers buy contact – the tackle often takes ball and man together, making it hard to see which impact came first. Simply put, referees need to do better here. But it also needs a recognition from Arsenal fans that Saka isn’t being deliberately victimised or singled out: he’s just really, unusually good. Jonathan Liew
2) Can Emery nurture Villa’s stars-in-waiting?
It feels a long time ago now but Unai Emery gave Arsenal debuts to Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe. It is a slice of history that would appear to bode well for Aston Villa, whose academy graduateJacob Ramsey completed the scoring in victory over Manchester United on Sunday. Ramsey replaced Ashley Young in Villa’s only change and he repaid Emery’s faith with a vibrant midfield display, smartly combining with Ollie Watkins, Emiliano Buendía and Leon Bailey, and the way the 21-year-old, who joined Villa aged six, has started under Emery suggests he will be in the thick of things. Emery referenced Villa’s academy at his unveiling last week and in the Spaniard the club believe they have one of the the best coaches in the world to nurture talent. Ben Fisher
3) Núñez looks ill-suited to wide role
It’s fair to say that Darwin Núñez is not the world’s most silky-smooth footballer, and indeed his doomed, ungainly scurries down the left provided Spurs fans with some rare levity in the first half. If the target man’s bungled dribbles raised the question of what he was doing out on the wing, then perhaps Mohamed Salah’s two goals – dispatched after stealing into central positions – provided the answer: an attack spearheaded by Roberto Firmino gives Liverpool’s best finisher licence to drift infield. Not that this will be much consolation to Núñez, who remains the jigsaw piece that doesn’t fit. The lineage of Liverpool players signed as thrilling goalscorers only to labour painfully out wide is a long one that stretches from Heskey to Aspas via Diouf, Cissé and Babel. If the Uruguayan is to avoid joining that list, his manager must find an effective way of playing him centrally. Whether such a solution exists, on current evidence, is far from certain. Alex Hess
4) Howe’s first year has been a revelation
While it seems increasingly unlikely Ralph Hasenhüttl will make it as far as a fourth anniversary at Southampton, the man opposite him in the dugout at St Mary’s celebrates 12 months with Newcastle job this week. The turnaround in that time has been remarkable, from a relegation battle to genuine top-four contenders. Their win on the south coast was Eddie Howe’s 20th in 41 league matches – and 19 have come in the last 32 games. For all the inevitable talk of Saudi riches, Howe has also coached a set of individuals into a fine collective: 13 of his latest match-day squad predated his arrival. When one press member made a comparison with Leicester’s 2016 title winners, Howe smiled. “I remember that Leicester team very well. But I just think we are trying to be ourselves.” Sam Dalling
5) Gnonto changes the game for Leeds
Wilfried Gnonto. Remember the name because Jesse Marsch’s 19-year-old Italy forward is very good indeed. It is no exaggeration to say that Gnonto altered the entire topography of a game Bournemouth had been in control of after he came off the bench at half-time. No matter that Leeds swiftly fell 3-1 behind, Gnonto – along with his fellow substitute Sam Greenwood and Marsch’s inspired switch from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 – recalibrated the power balance. After goals by Greenwood and Liam Cooper levelled the score, Gnonto created Crysencio Summerville’s second winning goal in two games with a wonderful run and beautifully weighted through pass. “Wilfried’s a very intelligent young man,” said Marsch. “Wherever you play him you see his savviness and clarity of thought. He speaks multiple languages, understands tactics and has quality. He’s making a big case for more minutes.” Louise Taylor
6) Guardiola’s recipe for City success
Manchester City refused to accept anything less than a win despite João Cancelo’s first-half red card. Pep Guardiola was asked if his team take an elixir to feed their addiction to victory. “A magic potion like Asterix and Obelix?” he said. “No but I see Fulham, they do good things and I made warnings to the players, they trained incredibly well, I saw how focused they were, so I went to sleep confident.” Kevin De Bruyne was again in fine form, claiming the 95th-minute penalty that Erling Haaland dispatched. His manager’s contract expires in the summer and the Belgian seemed no more informed than anyone else about how the situation might play out. “After seven years maybe it is more calm for him. To be honest I don’t know [about his future], I don’t think you’ll get too much out of him. And that is fine.” Jamie Jackson
7) Lallana looks a natural leader for Brighton
Roberto De Zerbi says he needs clever footballers who fully understand his complex tactics and style. One player who is helping his teammates is Adam Lallana. The 34-year-old was briefly part of the coaching staff between Graham Potter’s exit to Chelsea and De Zerbi’s arrival, offering an indication of his future plans. “Lallana is a teacher on the pitch,” De Zerbi said after defeating Wolves 3-2. “I think he will become a very good coach. I hope not now because I want him on the pitch but he is very intelligent, very smart.” While working with the squad, his “enthusiasm, commitment and professionalism” impressed the chief executive, Paul Barber. On the pitch, he looks perfect operating behind Leandro Trossard and excels with the one-touch play in and around the area. He has a few years left in his legs but when the time comes to hang up the boots, he will have options. Will Unwin
In the second half came one of those moments common to these pre-World Cup times. Lucas Paquetá screamed out after a tackle from Jordan Ayew, rolling over several times. Was his Qatar dream dead? The Brazilian, his ankle checked over, continued and played out the 90 minutes. “If anybody was maybe going to create or craft us a goal late in the game it was probably going to be Lucas,” said David Moyes, putting the anguish down to cramp. The Hammers are yet to see the best of a player counted among Brazil manager Tite’s chosen ones, suggesting the problems of recruiting in this interrupted season. Paquetá did not look much interested in physical battles with Crystal Palace and is back in the team after a shoulder problem. Moyes, like so many other Premier League managers, is forced to rely on players whose focus is drifting – a suboptimal situation. John Brewin
9) Foxes find form at both ends of field
“How are you lot behind us?” asked one incredulous Evertonian of a Leicester City video analyst sat in the Goodison Park press box on Saturday night. It was a reasonable query on the final whistle, given the superiority of Brendan Rodgers’ team in every department over their error-strewn hosts, although Leicester are now above Everton on goal difference and heading in a different direction. Creatively, the contributions of James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, Youri Tielemans and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall eclipsed anything Everton had to offer. And their defence made Frank Lampard’s team appear impotent, particularly after Dominic Calvert-Lewin departed with another injury. Leicester conceded 22 goals in the first seven Premier League games of the season; they have conceded three in the last seven. “The summer was tough for us,” said Rodgers, who reserved special praise for his only outfield summer signing. “But I always said that with patience and hard work on the training field we could get back to our level. It’s great to see them playing with joy and quality and you can see the difference that Wout Faes is making.” Andy Hunter
10) The joy of a good goalmouth scramble
Amid the glitz and glamour of the Premier League – a division of otherworldly finesse and scarcely believable skill – there’s nothing like a horribly messy goalmouth scramble to remind us that we’re all human after all. Nottingham Forest’s 96th-minute equaliser against Brentford had a bit of everything: a desperate flap from David Raya, several seconds of human pinball, a helpless last touch from Mathias Jørgensen and, finally, a heroic clearance from Ben Mee – only for goalline technology to intervene and leave him with his head buried in the turf. Thomas Frank’s side have played some excellent football this season, but they have also been highly inconsistent. Without a victory in four, they are now on their longest winless run of the campaign and face an unenviable trip to Manchester City before the World Cup. They have not tasted victory away from home in the league all season; going on their wildly unpredictable form, they’ll probably win 3-0. Will Magee
Crystal Palace playing well away from Selhurst Park and winning is a story not told too often. Michael Olise’s injury-time winner, spinning off the shin of Aaron Cresswell and beyond a hapless Lukasz Fabianski was reward for playing the better football. A game headed for a forgettable draw changed in mere seconds into a famous win.
It had been only a few minutes ago that Paul Tierney, the referee, had followed the advice of VAR and ruled out a late West Ham penalty awarded for Marc Guéhi’s supposed pull on Michail Antonio. Palace had set off with the greater purpose and retained it until the latter stages when they almost threw it away only to find it again in chaotic final seconds.
Eberechi Eze forced an early, skidding save from Fabianski, and ought to have done better when the ball fell to his inferior left foot soon after. Still, Palace’s No 10 was pulling the strings, the home fans vocal in their frustration.
A visibly displeased David Moyes took on the role of baseball-capped agitator from his technical area, Jarrod Bowen flashing wide from a counterattack represented a more positive sign. When Tomas Soucek’s tackle and Lucas Paquetá’s stabbed pass found Saïd Benrahma, he still had Palace defenders for company but his taste for the spectacular meant he was only going to take one option. A right-footed lash gave Vicente Guaita no chance.
Palace, struggling to look like scoring despite still dominating territory, then received a gift. Thilo Kehrer dallied in trying to play out, sold short by Craig Dawson’s pass. Eze stole in, passed to Wilfried Zaha, who finished powerfully and celebrated aggressively.
Moyes’ half-time response was to send on Antonio for Gianluca Scamacca, a first-half passenger but the direction of travel remained similar. Eze flashed a shot wide. West Ham were still hemmed in and Olise cut in from the left to shoot past the other post.
There were cross words exchanged and a booking given to Dawson for an aerial challenge that knocked Guaita to the floor in West Ham’s first attacking move of the second half. Then came one of those moments common to these pre-World Cup times. Paqueta, back in West Ham’s team after a shoulder problem, screamed in anguish after a tackle from Jordan Ayew, rolling over several times. Was his Qatar dream dead? It appeared not. The Brazilian, his ankle checked over, continued on.
Moyes was the recipient of boos when he chose to sub off Benrahma, yet cheered when Soucek was withdrawn from his 100th Premier League appearance. Benrahma milked the applause. The Algerian has previously divided fans but an ability to deliver brilliance on an irregular basis make him very much a West Ham archetype. And would probably qualify him for membership of Patrick Vieira’s merry band of entertainers, too.
The arrival of Manuel Lanzini and Flynn Downes gave West Ham a greater foothold. When Antonio loped through on to a long ball, falling to the floor as Guéhi came across him, it seemed the match was the Hammers’. Then, via the usual lengthy wait, came the ruling that his fall had been a tad too theatrical to transform this match into a home win.
Brimming with injustice, Antonio set off on one last run, warming the hands of Guaita with a cross from the right. That seemed that, only for the ball to almost immediately end up with Olise, coming in off the right. Via Cresswell, and beyond Fabianski’s despairing reach, Palace had claimed a highly enjoyable win.
Zouma, who was fined by West Ham in relation to the incident, said in an interview on the club’s official website on Friday: “It’s been a difficult spell for me and my family. Obviously I have done something very bad and I apologise again for what I’ve done. I know it was very tough for people to watch and to see that and obviously I feel very, very sorry.
“I have great remorse about it and now I’m trying to move on with my family and looking ahead. I learned from it, that’s the most important thing, I would say. Obviously, I had support from many, many people around me who helped me stay focused on football and I try to stay happy.
“The club has been unbelievable with me, the support that I received from my teammates, from the staff, and everyone at the club, and even from the fans, has been unreal, and they helped me stay focused on the game, to try to do my best on the pitch all the time and, obviously, I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done. This club is like my family.”
Zouma drew international condemnation after footage filmed by his brother Yoan and posted on Snapchat in February showed him kicking and slapping his pet cat at his home. The 27-year-old subsequently pleaded guilty at Thames Magistrates’ Court to two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal, under the Animal Welfare Act, and was handed 180 hours’ community service, banned from keeping or caring for cats for five years and told to pay court costs of nearly £9,000.
Yoan Zouma, who admitted one count of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring his older brother to commit an offence, was ordered to carry out 140 hours’ community service.
Having fined their player, West Ham made donations to nine animal welfare charities in the UK and overseas.
Zouma, who made 24 Premier League appearances for the Hammers last season after joining from Chelsea in the summer of 2021, has started all 12 of their top-flight matches this season.
Marcus Rashford’s 100th Manchester United goal was a majestic header that propelled Erik ten Hag’s team to the points and came in front of a watching Gareth Southgate. If the England manager can be grateful to Ten Hag for revitalising the forward as the World Cup hoves into view, the main story here concerned how the Dutchman continues to elevate United.
Rashford is the epitome of a player reborn, last term’s lost boy replaced by a super-confident forward whose seventh of the season is an apt emblem of the team’s upward trajectory. His pulsating winner should share centre-stage with Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martínez as the standout individual acts who decorated a United display that featured some late and valiant defending. United bossed the contest from the first whistle until then, giving their fans a fine farewell to home Premier League action until after Christmas.
The contest had begun with Rashford making a hash of Diogo Dalot’s cross before Anthony Elanga, preferred to Jadon Sancho, doing somewhat better when drifting on to Eriksen’s defence-splitting aerial ball.
The answer to the latest Cristiano Ronaldo selection question had been yes – the Portuguese was chosen in the league XI for the first time in three matches. Not making the cut, though, were Antony (injury) and Victor Lindelöf, whose illness may have allowed Harry Maguire’s selection alongside Martínez.
To test Lukasz Fabianski, Ronaldo peeled off the front, collected from Casemiro, and hit a 25-yard laser into the No 1’s midriff. Rashford’s best moments came now as he cut in from the left channel and pinged a shot off Tomas Soucek for a corner. At this, eventually, the No 10 met Dalot’s cross with a header Fabianski saved without moving.
West Ham were being suffocated as Ten Hag demands. A Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes combination claimed another corner and when Saïd Benrahama broke along West Ham’s left from this, the sight of Rashford thundering over to cover was precisely what the manager ordered.
United were a keep-ball unit, West Ham the counter-punching one, as when a flailing Maguire missed Gianluca Scamacca and the Italian’s ball sent Benhrama skating in towards David de Gea and the visitors claimed a corner.
West Ham had come alive. Aaron Cresswell’s delivery was cleared by Casemiro and then Declan Rice shrugging off Fernandes showed the captain’s intent.
Martínez, as he can, offered a riposte, swarming over Flynn Downes and unloading a no-look pass that had Ronaldo slipping inside but his intended tap to Rashford was poor as Ten Hag’s touchline exasperation indicated.
Better was a Luke Shaw overlap that engineered a delivery from Rashford’s ball. Later in the sequence Shaw, again, dinked a cross over and though Elanga miscued United soon struck.
On the right Eriksen took a Dalot throw-in, traded passes with Fernandes, and when the Dane hung up a superb ball Rashford knocked over Thilo Kehrer to head home for a second consecutive match: a particularly sweet way to bring up the century for his boyhood club in front of Southgate, especially as it allowed United to canter into the break.
Maguire, too, might have impressed the England manager via his shepherding of the muscular Scamacca at a West Ham foray though a later Jarrod Bowen spin of the captain would be marked in the not-so-good column.
The Italian saw Martínez block a shot and put his head into the rebound where Scamacca’s boot met temple. Free-kick to United, who had dropped down a gear but were able to shift back up smoothly as when Casemiro purred forward, and Ronaldo collected from Rashford only to miss at the near post.
A further Ronaldo shot – deflected for a corner – Fernandes, Rashford and Shaw fashioning geometric angles down the left, and a glancing Scott McTominay header illustrated who was in charge.
Time, at last, for sustained West Ham pressure as Ronaldo cleared one corner, Eriksen another. The contest was in the balance. Martínez, perhaps sensing this, ensured a sliding tackle thwarted Michail Antonio, who had entered for Scamacca, as the closing phase had West Ham dropping more balls into United’s area. Diego Dalot again had to deny Antonio who, seconds later, saw a piledriver tipped over by De Gea, the No 1 next turning Kurt Zouma’s header around the corner.
Fred’s header hit a post and in a frantic finale De Gea, somehow, flew sideways to save Rice’s 20-yard barnburner.
There was no lack of sincerity on Arsène Wenger’s part when, six months after Lukasz Fabianski left Arsenal for Swansea, he lamented the goalkeeper’s departure. Wenger had genuinely not wanted him to go but Fabianski knew there was no choice. He had been an exemplary squad player for seven years but his career had hardly got started: at 29 he had played 32 Premier League games and even if goalkeepers can count on enhanced longevity the symbolism of entering his thirties as a perennial deputy would be deeply unwelcome.
“I’ve had a rough start, in all honesty, when I came to this league,” says Fabianski, who can smile about it now. He is 37 and it says plenty that in an evolving West Ham side David Moyes still views him firmly as first choice. “I’ve had many ups and downs, especially Arsenal, but once I found the right way to do it I could perform to the best of my abilities. And with age … I’m not saying it’s easier to play the game but it does help you.”
Fabianski has always been calm, measured, not especially demonstrative: those characteristics tend to be reassuring in a reliable veteran but less convincing in a more mistake-prone younger player.
Chances at Arsenal after arriving from Legia Warsaw were so sporadic that errors, such as his high-profile mistakes at Wigan and Blackburn in 2009-10, took on added significance. The nickname “Flappyhandski” followed him around unfairly for a time. The spotlight could be unsparing even though it had been impossible for him to establish any rhythm.
“It was tough,” he says. “But it would be tougher if that had happened nowadays. At that time, especially, social media wasn’t that big. But it was still very tough for me. What helped me was that I always believed in myself and I’ve had people who believed in me as well.
“I focused purely on work and making sure that, even though I’ve been crossed by many people, I really had faith in myself – and people had faith in me – that I can be a goalkeeper that can play at this level.”
That is beyond dispute now. He hopes to show it againtoday when West Ham visit Manchester United; it will be his 297th top-flight appearance since leaving north London, Moyes having established a compromise with Alphonse Areola playing in the cup competitions.
Old Trafford holds no fear and West Ham, who have won three and drawn one of their past five games after a sluggish start, will move within three points of their hosts with a victory. The innate composure of their No 1 will come in handy again, as it did in those rocky early weeks.
“I have never been a nervy guy,” he says. “Being calm helps if you don’t start well as a team. Once you start being nervous or try to be a little bit more outspoken, then people start to think something is different or wrong. It won’t be helping the situation. So being calm, especially in the difficult times, is a better solution.”
Still, it has not always been easy to block out external noise. “I’m not going to lie, it was a process,” he says. “It took me a while but that came as well with playing regularly. At the start, when I played my first game for example, I probably would have been a little more distracted by all the surroundings.”
West Ham are a far more polished outfit now than the one Fabianski joined in 2018 but the present stage of their development, which demands as a minimum that European football becomes commonplace, has not been straightforward. The £51.5m arrival of Lucas Paquetá, who remains absent with a collarbone injury, raised expectations and Fabianski thinks patience will pay off.
“Some of [the new players] signed when the season already started so they didn’t have a proper pre-season,” he says. “It always takes time to adjust. Once we had a bit more time together, it started to click a bit better, so hopefully that will be the direction we have.”
A first league win at United since 2007 would, he acknowledges, be a boost to morale, perhaps the kind of result that crystallises the promise West Ham are beginning to deliver. “Confidence is a funny thing, you have to stay at the right level with it,” Fabianski says.
He should know. The lows did not consume him and the highs, in a career that has peaked around the time many are setting their retirement plans, have never been accompanied by bold proclamations.
“We all have to go through this,” he says of the tribulations facing many younger keepers. “Even though it’s hard, it’s good for the future.”
Fabianski is living proof that patience, along with a healthy appreciation of when to spread one’s wings, can pay off richly.
If West Ham are gradually improving then Bournemouth may be regressing to the mean. The greater Premier League experience and squad depth told in an encounter that will linger in nobody’s memory once the VAR controversy has died down over Kurt Zouma’s opening goal, what looked a plum but not given red card for Bournemouth’s Jefferson Lerma and a handball by Jordan Zemura that set up Saïd Benrahma’s late penalty.
David Moyes’s team has a useful habit of digging out victory when pressure is coming down. Gary O’Neil’s fledgling managerial career is meanwhile undergoing its first slump, and defeat at the London Stadium, the second in succession, came at the cost of what looked troublesome injuries for his key striker and first-choice goalkeeper. The Premier League’s smallest, perhaps least distinguished squad, have three matches to see out until their well-earned World Cup break.
West Ham kicked off in 17th place. Weekend wins for Leicester and Aston Villa had been unhelpful for a team 12 points worse off than they were at this stage last season. Though Moyes said he had “never thought of the word” and still has his eye on a challenge for European places, a relegation battle has been looming since the opening matches of the season.
O’Neil’s tenure as Bournemouth interim manager had taken in seven previous matches (losing just the last of them to Southampton), three British prime ministers and two serving monarchs. While his current club’s ongoing takeover delays the decision over being awarded the job on a permanent basis, he was taking on the club he played for with understated distinction for two years under Avram Grant and Sam Allardyce.
After impressing in last week’s narrow loss against Liverpool and during Europa Conference League engagements, Flynn Downes, a ball-playing midfielder in the West Ham tradition, was partnering Declan Rice, a player he is touted to one day replace. Downes is just six days younger than Rice but has taken a circuitous route – via Ipswich and Swansea – to the club he supports.
Benrahma for Pablo Fornals was Moyes’s sole change while O’Neil made no alterations. West Ham soon took the attacking initiative, Bournemouth sitting deep and in numbers, as might be expected of an outfit whose average of 7.8 shots per game represented an all-time low since such Premier League records began in the 1997-98 season.
Yet Lukasz Fabianski was the first goalkeeper called into action, asked to smother a poked effort from Dominic Solanke after a counter from the dangerous Marcus Tavernier at left wing-back. Still, neither team looked especially potent; West Ham had scored two previous first-half goals in the league all season.
Downes’s aggression and runs from deep in support of Gianluca Scamacca at centre-forward were a feature. His chance to score a first West Ham goal came when Ben Johnson’s cross came to him on the edge of the box but his shot was blocked. Aaron Cresswell could not keep the rebound down.
A lengthy delay followed Bournemouth keeper Neto pulling up with a muscle injury though the Brazilian eventually soldiered on until the break. The visitors’ best chance came after Tomas Soucek, having failed to look up, played in Solanke to take a long run and shot at Fabianski. The striker ended up being clattered by Thilo Kehrer as he shot, then failed to complete the half.
On came the gigantic Kieffer Moore just before West Ham got the ball in the net. Following a corner, Zouma nodded in and while Kehrer’s volleyball-like layup looked clear and obvious, VAR allowed the goal to stand.
Bournemouth’s players left the field at the break cursing officialdom, the explanation given for the goal standing that Kehrer’s intervention had been neither deliberate nor directly preceded the goal. The ball had come off a Bournemouth head to Zouma. They kicked off for the second half with the Republic of Ireland’s Mark Travers replacing Neto in goal and with West Ham continuing to dominate play.
Benrahma drifted a ball to the back post that Soucek narrowly failed to reach, then smashed just over from distance after Jarrod Bowen’s incisive run. The officials then favoured Bournemouth when Lerma’s tackle on Scamacca looked almost knee-high. It was deemed yellow rather than red. Lucky boy.
O’Neil introduced Jaidon Anthony and Zemura for Ryan Christie and Ryan Fredericks in search of impetus but West Ham continued to look likelier, with Travers saving a dipping shot from Rice.
Moyes brought on Michail Antonio’s bustle to further occupy Bournemouth’s defence as Scamacca left the field but the loud contingent of away fans began to sense a way back with the score still at 1-0 and West Ham attempting to lock it down. Philip Billing and Moore’s aerial power was at the fore of the attempted comeback but then officialdom intervened once more as Zemura, sliding off the touchline, unwittingly handed West Ham the three points.
If Ralph Hasenhüttl felt like the most vulnerable manager in the Premier League before kick‑off – other than perhaps Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard – this result will do little to shield him.
Southampton came into this game in dismal form: four defeats on the bounce, combined with Wolves’ 1-0 win against Nottingham Forest on Saturday, ensured they started the day in the bottom three. West Ham arrived at St Mary’s with momentum behind them after four wins in a row in all competitions. Were it not for their wasteful finishing, they would have made it five here.
Hasenhüttl stuck largely with the same side which was left chasing shadows at the Etihad Stadium last weekend, presumably because losing 4-0 to Manchester City elicits little more than a rueful shrug from most managers these days. Ibrahima Diallo and Stuart Armstrong made way for Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Mohamed Elyounoussi but, otherwise, Southampton were unchanged.
With Kurt Zouma and Craig Dawson unavailable David Moyes was forced into a more extensive reshuffle. He made five changes to the team which beat Anderlecht in midweek.
Things were fairly even in the opening stages. Emerson sent a shot whistling wide of the post early on before a spell of pressure from the hosts ended with Che Adams scuffing one. West Ham had another half‑chance when Lucas Paquetá picked out Jarrod Bowen but he failed to direct his header goalwards. Other than that it was a messy start, all midfield headers, miscontrols and elusive openings.
The game burst into life with a quarter of an hour gone, Adams bullying Thilo Kehrer off the ball to go one-on-one, only for Lukasz Fabianski to make the save. Moments later West Ham were inches away from taking the lead when Gianluca Scamacca lined up a shot from distance which almost skimmed the stanchion. The home crowd barely had time to release their collective intake of breath before they were celebrating the opener.
Romain Perraud nicked the ball off Bowen’s toe and tucked the ball into the corner with help from a deflection off Ben Johnson. West Ham were furious that the referee, Peter Bankes, had got in Bowen’s way in the build-up, inadvertently helping Perraud to sneak in, but the goal stood.
Moyes was unhappy that Bankes did not stop play, also lamenting a “judo move” on Tomas Soucek in the box that he felt should have been a penalty. “The ball comes out, Jarrod Bowen goes to get the ball, the referee blocks him from getting it and the boy scores from it, ridiculous – maybe you have to say the referee was in a really bad position.”
The rest of the first half was end‑to‑end, with West Ham pushing for an equaliser. Scamacca continued to offer a threat, firing wide after a neat one-two with Bowen before going round Armel Bella-Kotchap and teeing up Paquetá for a header which fell the wrong side of the post.
Paquetá also sent a fierce drive over the crossbar, while Adams and Elyounoussi were denied by Fabianski.
While both sides were scattergun with their shooting, there was little doubt there would be another goal. It came after 64 minutes, Declan Rice playing a neat one-two with Said Benrahma, on as a substitute, before smashing a shot into the far corner.
West Ham had come close to scoring immediately after the restart, Paquetá and Scamacca both menacing the goal before the former forced Gavin Bazunu to palm away a stinging shot. Southampton had lapsed into a hesitant counter-attacking stance, seemingly unsure about how best to preserve their lead. This was only the third time this season they had scored the first goal in a league game and their discomfort showed.
Southampton wavered after the equaliser. Benrahma was denied by a desperate block from Kyle Walker-Peters before Rice had a shot deflected wide.
Hasenhüttl is fixated on his team’s “automatisms” – pressing triggers which are so well drilled they become instinctive – but the Southampton machine began to clank and shudder as the second half wore on. It was a sign of how close they were to a critical malfunction when he made a quadruple change with 15 minutes to go.
Two of those substitutes, Diallo and Samuel Edozie, went close, with the latter drawing a frantic save from Fabianski. At the other end Bazunu stopped Scamacca from nabbing a late winner. While Southampton brought their losing run to an end, a point was not enough to lift them out of the relegation zone.
Hasenhüttl, despite his best efforts, remains in a precarious position. “In the past week I have not had the feeling that we have not put every effort in what we should [have],” he said. “We have more quality, I think, and we can play better football.”