West Ham versus Newcastle Preview

Can the return fixture against the Barcodes deliver the first of many yuletide presents for West Ham?

West Ham Newcastle

West Ham haven’t played all the other teams yet (i.e. Bournemouth) and yet here we are playing the return fixture against the Geordies

Well well well. It’s the 23rd December, Santa is due tomorrow night, and here we are playing a game of football at home in the London Stadium which kicks off at 3.00 pm. This is only the second time we kick off at this traditional time in what will be our ninth home league game of the season. Of course we have already played ten times away from home so the end of this game denotes the half way point of the season. Normally (at least in recent times) this would mean that we have played every other team in the Premier League once. This time it is not the case as we have yet to face Bournemouth, but this is the return fixture against Newcastle.

I don’t believe that at any stage this season the number of home games played has equalled the number of games played away, and it will not be the case until the end of March when, after three consecutive home games in that month, we will have played 32 games split equally between home and away matches. In fact after our away game against Swansea on 3 March the home matches played will once again be three in deficit to the away ones, a situation we found ourselves in at the end of August.

The London Stadium detractors will say that this does not put us at a disadvantage, but the fact remains we have picked up 11 points from the 8 home games played to date, whereas the ten games on our travels have brought us just six points, with last weekend’s win at Stoke our first this season on another ground. Perhaps if the balance had been more equal we might have found ourselves in a healthier position in the league than we hold at the moment? But it cannot be changed now, and if we are still in a relegation fight towards the end of the season, then at least we have the consolation of six out of the final nine fixtures at home.

The 3-0 win at Stoke was another excellent performance to follow up the games at City and at home to London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal. Seven points in a week is a fine haul after our indifferent start to the season, and if we can defeat an out of form Newcastle team this weekend then the table will look even better, and hopefully we can then begin to look upwards as opposed to downwards. After they had played five games this season, losing the first two and then winning three in a row, the Geordies found themselves in an early season Champions League position of fourth. But since then they have won just one of their last thirteen games, and only picked up just six points, with nine defeats. Their poor run has brought them just one point from their last nine games, and leaves them occupying the third relegation slot. But of course we know what sometimes happens when we face a team that hasn’t won a game for so long.

Our upturn in fortunes has coincided with a change of manager and coaching staff, who must take a lot of the credit. Our players are starting to perform with the quality that we know they have, and especially in a defensive sense are looking more organised than we have seen for some time. Players like Arnie, who some are beginning to be compared to Paolo, and Arthur, are almost becoming cult figures in a short space of time. Let’s not get too carried away, but the signs are looking good.

The game at Stoke provided a controversial moment and Lanzini has been charged with diving to deceive the referee to gain a penalty. Perhaps there was an element of truth in this, and he has history, but I agree with our manager who doesn’t believe it was clear cut. Anybody who has seen Jesus of Manchester City with his outrageous dive in the Manchester derby, and also Dele Alli and Zaha on occasions this season, will surely believe that the Lanzini “dive” was not in the same league. But have any of those been charged? Frankly it is scandalous that we are being penalised when they are not. Ironically I thought that Lanzini was not having the best of times even in our recent good run, but his performance at Stoke showed him coming back to his best, and it is unfortunate that he now has to miss out for a couple of matches.

Based upon recent form, the 11/10 odds on us to beat Newcastle looks like a licence to print money. But of course betting on West Ham can be a precarious business and you never know for sure. However I am confident that we can continue our recent excellent league form and push further up the table with a comfortable victory. And now we are out of the Carabao Cup we can concentrate on the league and the FA Cup!