Goals galore or a dour 0-0? Andrew Lawn chats to The Guardian's Jacob Steinberg ahead of two sides who definitely know how to attack, but not necessarily defend, get set to meet at the London Stadium
Andy - How you think West Ham's season has started? A heavy defeat at home to Man City is no surprise. Encouragingly, it's been followed with two solid away results. How have performances been so far?
Jacob Steinberg - Mixed. They are good going forward and will score goals - Haller already looks like a smart piece of business - but are far too open. They give away so many chances. It could have cost them against Brighton, who should have won, and they got very lucky with that Will Hughes miss when it was 1-1 at Watford. That said, you’d think the attacking power will see them push hard in the race to finish 7th.
That description could equally apply to us. Goals galore, or 0-0 Saturday then. What have you made of City's start to the season and prospects going forward?
In a word, encouraging.
Again, you’re going to score lots and concede plenty too. This game will probably tell us a little more than the Chelsea and Liverpool ones, though. A bad defeat against a mid-table side might force Farke to rein in the expansiveness a little, I suppose. But I really like what I’ve seen so far.
The worry ultimately would be that they’ll be too naive at the back
I agree, but I can't see Farke changing.
We were burned like that in our lest Premier League campaign, when Alex Neil had us set-up to attack, but then we lost an even game 6-2 at Newcastle and it spooked Neil into abandoning it in favour of a more pragmatic approach. Sadly, we didn't have the players for that and the season fell apart, ultimately ending in a whimpering relegation. All the noises from Farke and Stuart Webber have been that we accept we will lose games, but the only way to have a chance of winning enough is to go for it.
It is certainly a big game for us though, Chelsea and Liverpool felt like free hits, whereas this is one City fans will have earmarked as important to get something, especially with Man City up next.
I presume expectations for the season are higher than being a mid-table team that newly promoted teams will see as eminently beatable, for most Hammers though?
It’s the kind of game West Ham have won under Pellegrini.
At home they’ve been good against bottom-half sides, winning the majority of those games last season. The problem has tended to come more against sides around them. They were beaten home and away by Wolves and Bournemouth, drew twice with Leicester and were well beaten at home by Watford and Everton, who gave them a particularly hard time in March. Those setbacks showed how far they have to go.
They are good on their day (wins over Tottenham, Arsenal and United last season show that) but it’s hard to see finishing higher than 7th.
Is it that a case of being good at breaking down sides coming and trying to set-up for a draw? Haller (who was allegedly very close to signing for us a few years ago before deciding he didn't really fancy a relegation battle) looks the real deal, who else should we watch out for and where are the weak links?
At the most basic level they’ve got a lot of good individuals who can hurt lesser defences. Manuel Lanzini is looking more like his old self after returning from a knee injury, Felipe Anderson is always capable of a bit of magic, Pablo Fornals scored his first goal in the midweek win over Newport. Mark Noble also showed his importance in the win over Watford - he’s much more solid than Wilshere in midfield.
Weaknesses, though? The attackers are inconsistent, they are very open in midfield, the full-backs are exposed and not great when they are isolated, and the defence is struggling to stop opponents creating chances. From what I’ve seen of Norwich you will have opportunities to score - question is whether you can take them.
It could be a cracking game to mark our first trip to your new 'home' then. On that, three seasons in, how is the London Stadium experience now and have some of the major issues around atmosphere etc been resolved?
Let’s say ... there are still issues. They’ve put in a nice new claret carpet to cover the running track. Snazzy. Doesn’t change the fact there’s a running track.
Such a shame. The Boleyn was such an atmospheric, 'proper' ground. I presume there is nothing to be done now and everyone just has to suck it up?
Grim. On to Saturday and an ultra-specific prediction. I will go for a 4-3 City win. Noble will open the scoring from the penalty spot after a clumsy Hanley lunge, before Emi Buendia will get his season off and running with two howitzers to put us ahead. Haller and Lazzini will then turn the tables making it 3-2 West Ham, all by half-time. It will remain like that until the final 5 minutes, when Drmic will climb off the bench to grab an equaliser, before Pukki nicks it at the death with a bundle off his arse...
Heh. 3-1 West Ham.
Only four goals? Brave.