It’s All Over Now
So there you have it. It’s all over for another year and we can switch modes from can’t wait until this season’s over to can’t wait until the new season starts! When all done and dusted the league table shows West Ham slap bang in the middle. Whichever way you look at it: mean, mode or median it was an average one. Looking back in five or ten years’ time it will have the appearance of a table from many other seasons. The poor performances, the flirt with relegation, the scrappy and lucky wins against Bournemouth, Hull and Burnley will be consigned to history. The highlight of heroic victory over Tottenham, putting yet another spoke in their title aspirations, will survive as the season’s only legacy; apart from £120 million in TV and merit payments.
A Table of Two Halves
Normal service was resumed in the Premier League after the interruption of Leicester City last time around. The order rather than make up of the top six positions is the extent of the uncertainty. The gap between Everton in seventh and Southampton in eighth was a whopping fifteen points while a meagre six points separated eighth from seventeenth. One more win and on paper one could be mistaken for believing that this season was only slightly behind the previous one; yet performances, points and goal difference tell a vastly different story. We wait expectantly to learn the close season plans for the club. Will Slaven Bilic be given more time? Will there be a more reasoned and less public approach to transfer dealings (and that elusive free scoring twenty goals a season striker)? Are any of our players on the radar of bigger clubs? Will we finally give a worthwhile and extended opportunity to younger players? Will the club ever adopt a top to toe level of professionalism that a multi-million pound football business requires?
A Final Day Victory For Once
It was an unexpected win at Turf Moor and possibly slightly more entertaining than one might have hoped for in the circumstances. With even more injuries added to the disinterested squad who succumbed so weakly the previous week, victory at a ground which had been a fortress for Burnley all season looked remote. When the hosts took the lead after 23 minutes it looked a good bet that the form book would rule the day. However, within four minutes a delightful equalising goal fashioned by the unlikely duo of Andre Ayew and Sofiane Feghouli caught everyone unawares. Had it not been for the referee treating the game like a pre-season friendly he might well have given Burnley midfielder Westwood his marching orders on at least two occasions for a series of rash challenges. Still the Hammers looked generally comfortable and the game was settled when a neat passing move resulted in the strangest of winning goals for the visitors. A smart shot by Edmilson Fernandes was well stopped by keeper Heaton but his save sent the ball into an unusual orbit where, on re-entry, it bounced off the bar, onto Ayew’s head and into the net. Ayew notching his sixth league goal to put him behind Antonio (9), Lanzini (8) and Carroll (7) in the scoring charts.
Back in 12 Weeks
There are just eighty two shopping days (or just over 12 weeks) to the start of the 2017/18 Premier League season on 12 August. It is not clear how many of the players who have recently gone under the knife will be back, fit and ready by the big kick-off. Recuperation times of up to eleven or twelve weeks have been mentioned for some of the ailments. Added to that it is probably time to give up on Carroll and Sakho for good although the abuse they receive from some supporters for being injured is bizarre. It was good to see Angelo Ogbonna back in action even if it deprived us of an opportunity to have a look at Declan Rice, apart from his added time walk-on part. The academy seems to be specialising in centre backs these days and we now have Rice, Oxford and Burke ready to knock on the first team door, even if there are deaf ears the other side of it. Both Ayew and Feghouli had good games yesterday to the extent that maybe they do have some part to play in the future of the squad. Fernandes too did well and the question with him is how he fits into the team (with Lanzini) without weakening the defensive responsibilities of the midfield. Perhaps we will know more when the manager creates a preferred formation and distinct style of play.
Not So Super Sunday
The TV crew did their best to instil some degree of excitement in the race for fourth place and the uncertainty did last until just before half time when Liverpool scored their first against Middlesbrough. Had the referee awarded Boro a penalty for the foul by Lovren on Bamford (before that opener) then the nerves could well have got to the Scousemen. As it was the tackle was deemed to be just the wrong side of that no-mans-land between ‘he went down too easily’ and ‘he was entitled to go down’ that is only visible to football pundits. The final forty-five minutes of the season, therefore, was only interesting in guessing how many goals the top teams would eventually score.