Geoff Hopkins summed up the Arsenal game perfectly in his article Five Cruel Lessons From Defeat @ Arsenal, and I have little to add to that. I have been following our team for almost sixty years and I had a quick look back over that time to ascertain how many times we have lost five league games in a row.
The first time it happened was in 1960-61. Ted Fenton was the manager, but he was sacked after three of the games, and a selection committee of the board were responsible for the next two losses. Ron Greenwood took over for the final four games of the season (none of which were won) and we finished 16th (out of 22).
It happened twice when Greenwood was in charge. The first time in 1966-67, the season after England’s World Cup win, we lost seven (the most I think!) on the trot at one stage. Again we finished 16th (out of 22). It occurred again in 1970-71 when we lost five times in a row. That season we finished 20th (out of 22). We weren’t relegated, as only two teams went down at that time.
John Lyall also managed it twice; although neither of these happened in the two seasons we were relegated with him in charge. In 1976-77 we escaped with a 4-2 victory over Manchester United in the final game, and in 1986-87 we finished 15th.
Billy Bonds was manager in the ill-fated Bond Scheme season (1991-92) which culminated in us finishing at the foot of the table. We lost six in a row at one stage that season. With Harry Redknapp, and more surprisingly Glenn Roeder in charge we never did manage to lose five league games in a row in any season.
In 2006-07 it happened twice, and we still avoided the drop in the season of the “Great Escape.” Firstly, it happened when Alan Pardew was manager, and he was sacked just a few weeks afterwards. Secondly, we lost five in a row under Alan Curbishley, the fifth one being the heartbreaking 4-3 loss at home to the North London neighbours who we don’t like. But after that game we won seven out of the final nine fixtures to complete a remarkable escape.
In 2009-10 under Gianfranco Zola we lost six league games in a row at one stage, and our likeable (but ineffective) manager departed soon afterwards. And then in the following season the inspirational appointment of Avram Grant by our new owners proved to be anything but, and a run of five consecutive league defeats was followed by his P45 a couple of weeks later.
Just like under Redknapp and Roeder, it didn’t happen under Big Sam, and we had to wait until this current run for it to happen under Slaven Bilic. I dread to contemplate our fate if the run extends to seven to match 1966-67!
We now need to end this losing streak, and hopefully come up with a win against struggling Swansea. After two dreadful home defeats to ourselves (4-1) and Bournemouth (3-0) to finish 2016, our visitors today went on an excellent run to move out of the relegation zone, winning five of their first eight games of 2017, which included away victories at Palace and Liverpool, and home wins over Southampton, Leicester and Burnley. The tide appeared to have turned under new manager Paul Clement, but the last four games have seen them pick up just a solitary point in a goalless home draw with fellow strugglers (and potentially doomed) Middlesbrough.
The games where they went down were 2-1 at Hull, who are having a bit of a revival themselves under a new manager who hasn’t lost at home (for years!), and 2-0 at Bournemouth. And then finally in midweek they looked to have sewn up three valuable points against our disliked aforementioned friends from North London, only for them to concede three heartbreaking goals in the 89th, 92nd and 95th minutes, and as a consequence slip back into the relegation zone. It is unusual (almost unheard of) for me to cheer Tottenham goals but I have to admit that I did on Wednesday night. The late turnaround meant that we go into the game today five points ahead of them (and so the drop zone too), instead of the three points gap that was prematurely quoted on social media by so many of our Twitter followers prior to the final whistle.
One quote that I read today, was that teams who have conceded at least 66 goals after 31 games in a Premier League season have always been relegated. For anyone who wasn’t aware of this (well known!!) statistic, it has happened six times before to Swindon, Barnsley, Fulham, Ipswich and Wolves (twice).
Their top scorer Llorente is likely to return after injury and there could be an Ayew playing for both sides. It would be good to see Jordan Ayew repeat his performance for Villa against us at Upton Park when he, unprovoked, for no apparent reason elbowed Cresswell in full view of everybody and had an early bath (showers these days!). Sigurdsson is an extremely talented player, and one of the few that I have seen us linked with in the past who I would like to see in our side.
The last two fixtures between us have ended 4-1 to the away side. Few can forget how they gave us a drubbing in the penultimate game held at (fortress!) Upton Park, but we repeated that feat ourselves on Boxing Day just over three months ago with goals from Ayew (his first for us), Reid, Antonio and Carroll.
In view of the importance of this game, described as a massive six-pointer, I expect a nervy game, especially in view of the recent form of both sides. I don’t expect a third 4-1 in a row, but hope that we can halt our recent slide down the table and edge the game by the odd goal in three. I anticipate quite an atmosphere, especially if we can score the first goal, and you never know, a win today and at Sunderland next week, and with other results going our way, we could find ourselves back in the top half of the table by next weekend! I’m not sure that’s where we deserve to be, but, as they say, the league table never lies!
And for all West Ham fans, a topical selection in today’s Grand National, Blaklion, who will carry a few of my hard earned pounds!