It’s Time To Do Or Die. West Ham and Southampton in Deathly Embrace

The winner takes it all, the loser standing small, beside the victory, that’s their destiny. Who will come out smiling from today’s decisive basement battle at the London Stadium?

If there is one club that has appeared to shadow the Hammers over recent seasons it is Southampton.  They are the side that West Ham frequently jostle with in the quest for Premier League place money and, unfortunately, more often than not it has been the south coast club that come out on top.  Even in the 2015-16 Payet inspired season, viewed by many supporters as the pinnacle of West Ham’s Premier League achievement, the Saints still snuck in at the last minute to pip the Hammers for the last of the top six berths.  With a distinct possibility that at least one of these two teams will not be playing Premier League football next term this could well be seen as a worrying trend.

Southampton have been much admired in contemporary top flight football for their ability to consistently adjust to losing a string of fine home produced talent (and managers) looking for bigger pay packets and better things.  The merits of their scouting and succession planning have long been applauded but following a series of questionable managerial decisions they now find themselves sitting unceremoniously in the bottom three; two points below the Hammers but with a much superior goal difference.  In a panicked response to this slide and threat to Premier League status the appointment of the serially morose non-performer Mark Hughes surely bring the credibility of the much vaunted succession plan into serious question. The prospect of Moyes versus Hughes in a late season relegation dogfight is unlikely to be the beautiful game’s finest hour (and a half plus stoppages.)

West Ham made the most of the three week break with a holiday to Miami.  The lethargic response to previous warm weather breaks (and my own recollection of the first day back in the office after a week at the beach) does not instil the greatest confidence that today will see an up and at ‘em, all guns a-blazing display from the first whistle.  Just as important for West Ham’s fortunes is whatever goes on around the pitch as well as on it.  After the disgraceful scenes towards the end of the Burnley game the last thing needed is increased heavy handed security meets angry, alcohol fuelled toxic supporters.  What is really needed today, for the good of the club, is for fans to put their personal grievances to one side for the time being and play the part of the crucial twelfth man.  There are no benefits to be had from relegation; no matter what twisted logic is employed.

Head to Head

The last twelve games between West Ham and Southampton have seen four wins apiece and four draws.  In the last twelve played in London, West Ham have won seven and lost four with just a single draw.  Southampton ran out easy 3-0 winners in the only previous meeting at the London Stadium in September 2016.

Team News

West Ham welcome back Arthur Masuaku (following a six match ban) and Edmilson Fernandes (after a mysterious injury) to the match-day squad.  There are concerns with the fitness of Manuel Lanzini and James Collins who picked up knocks during the enforced cup and international break.

Southampton have few injury concerns and ominously welcome Charlie Austin back to their squad.  Since David Sullivan’s ill-judged public comments about Austin he needs no additional motivation to raise his game against the Hammers.  Hopefully, this can be reciprocated and trumped by Marko Arnautovic’s animosity towards Hughes.

Southampton’s major threat often comes via their full/ wing backs, Bertrand and Soares, and West Ham must work hard to keep them occupied and well tracked.  There really needs to be an alternative to the hopeless Noble – Kouyate axis in central midfield and even though I prefer Declan Rice as a centre back I would start with further forward today; otherwise Lemina and Tadic will be calling the shots.  That would rely on a back three of Collins (if fit), Ogbonna and the vulnerable Cresswell but that is about as good as it gets in the mismanaged circumstances of the squad strength. Further forward now is the hour for Arnautovic, Lanzini and Michail Antonio to prove their worth and Premier League class.

Man in The Middle

Today’s referee is Jonathan Moss from West Yorkshire.  Like all his other Premier League colleagues he is deemed not good enough to officiate at the World Cup but we are stuck with him nevertheless.  Moss is taking charge of his third West Ham game of the season having previously whistled through a home draw with Arsenal and an away win at Huddersfield.  In twenty eight outings he has a record of ninety-five yellows and three red cards.


Lawro has toppled of his fence this week to predict a 2-1 West Ham win while Merson goes the other way to predict an away win by the same score.  The Cockney Rejects sang Shit or Bust while the Small Faces put it more politely as All or Nothing and today has that sort of feel to it.  Win and we most probably survive, lose and we are looking over our shoulder at the fat lady.  Southampton will be hoping for a new manager bounce – but it is only Mark Hughes.  With the right attitude and the crowd behind them the Hammers can win comfortably.  If it goes the other way I can see us ending the season stuck on 30 points.  In a show of solidarity I will plump for 3-1 to the cockney boys.

West Ham v Southampton – the archetypal six-pointer

West Ham have just eight games remaining to collect sufficient points to ensure their six-year stay in the top flight of English football continues for at least one further season.

It seems ridiculous on the face of it, as the football season is approaching its climax (we are only six weeks away from the final game), that we should have a gap of three weeks between games. This is, of course, due to the later rounds of the FA Cup and the international break taking precedence. In view of our dismal form prior to the break, then perhaps in our case it is a welcome chance to re-group, work hard, and re-charge our batteries for the run-in. We have just eight games remaining to collect sufficient points to ensure that our six-year stay in the top flight of English football continues for at least one further season.

Whilst all of the remaining games are likely to be important, this match against Southampton is a particularly crucial one. Looking at the other fixtures in this round concerning other teams involved in the relegation scrap, Stoke are playing at Arsenal, whereas Newcastle are at home to Huddersfield, Palace face a tough game with Liverpool visiting Selhurst Park, and Swansea travel to Old Trafford. If (and it is a big if) we can win the game, and if other results go our way, then the league table could look a lot healthier at the end of this group of matches. The table below represents the current position of the bottom eight, who I believe are the only realistic candidates for the drop. Brighton, Watford and Bournemouth on 34, 36, 36 points respectively, have probably done enough already but are not entirely safe yet.

The bottom teams in the Premier League Points Goal Diff. Games Played Pts in last 5 games Home games to play No. of top 6 teams to play
13. Newcastle 32 -10 30 8 4 3
14. Swansea 31 -17 30 8 4 3
15. Huddersfield 31 -27 31 7 3 3
16. Crystal Palace 30 -18 31 3 4 1
17. West Ham 30 -21 30 3 5 4
18. Southampton 28 -15 30 5 3 3
19. Stoke City 27 -29 31 3 3 3
20. West Brom 20 -25 31 0 4 3

A victory, with the other results going to form in our favour could see us climb as high as 14th place in the table on 33 points. If that does happen then we could be five points clear of the drop zone with seven games to play, whereas some of the others would only have six matches outstanding. When you look at the table, then the bottom five have the poorest form in the last five games. We hold a bit of an advantage in that we still have five home games to play, which is more than any of the others, but on the other hand we have more teams in the top six to play in our remaining fixtures.

A draw would still leave us well in the mix with a lot to do, whereas a defeat would be almost unthinkable as we would drop into the bottom three. It is still not clear exactly how many points will be needed to stay up, but any team averaging a point a game continues to be outside of the bottom three. If this remains to the end of the season, and I believe it will, then 38 should be a safe figure. At this stage my money would be on West Brom, Stoke, and Huddersfield to go down, but things can still change. The bookmakers’ odds concur with my prediction, as these are the three favourites, with Southampton and ourselves neck and neck just beyond them. West Brom look as certain as can be, whereas Stoke could join them adrift of the pack with their next two games against Arsenal and Tottenham, before they face us at the London Stadium on April 16. We have a fairly difficult run-in ourselves, but Southampton could also find themselves in a difficult position if we beat them, and then their next three games see them facing Arsenal (A), Chelsea (H) and Leicester (A).

Huddersfield face two tough away games at Newcastle and Brighton before a home fixture against Watford. Their run-in then sees them playing Chelsea, Everton, Manchester City and Arsenal, and with their very poor goal difference I can see them joining West Brom and Stoke in the Championship next season.

I see that a demonstration is planned at Stratford prior to the game, but I hope that the support is right behind the team when the game gets underway, and that we don’t see a repeat of the despair that was evident when we went a goal down against Burnley last time. I’m hoping that the sight of Mark Hughes on the touchline will once again inspire Arnie into a match-winning performance, but I’ve given up on trying to predict the team that our manager will select for this crucial game, as I am unable to read his mind.

The most recent games between West Ham and Southampton have seen a glut of goals, including the fixture earlier in the season when we went down 3-2 to a late goal from a soft penalty, after pulling back from a two goal deficit. If our visitors win the game it would be the first time that they had completed a double in the league over us in a season for 20 years, and by doing so they would apparently inflict upon us our 1000th defeat in the top division in our history. And if they beat us by three goals then that would be our fourth consecutive league defeat by this margin or more, an unfortunate “feat” that hasn’t happened in the top flight of English football for 50 years! You know what happens with statistics like these when West Ham are involved!

There are concerns over the fitness of Lanzini who was on international duty in the break, but Masuaku can return after his six game suspension, and apparently Fernandes, who hasn’t been seen for some time, is fit once again. Rice received some excellent reviews for his performance for Ireland and must start to get a permanent run in the team soon. But whatever happens, all will not be decided this weekend with a lot of football still to be played this season.

Although there are still five home games to go, this will be the last Saturday 3pm kick off at the London Stadium. I fancy a surprising and unexpected 4-1 win for us. Of course what I fancy is extremely unlikely, but you can always hope!

Five Takeaways: They Think It’s All Over, It Could Be Now!

Some People Are on the Pitch They Think It’s All Over It Could Well Be Now! The chances of Championship football rattling around the London Stadium next season increase significantly after a disastrous afternoon in Stratford.

Some people are on the pitch…..

Probably it is no surprise that events unfolded as they did.  It started with a show of unity in memory of Bobby Moore and ended with a shambolic descent into chaos both on and off the pitch.  I would defend the right of any paying customer to make their feelings known but there is a time, a place and a way of doing it.  Perhaps the board do not have the interests of the club at heart (beyond the value of their own investment) but then neither do those who ran onto the pitch – their only objective was personal attention seeking.  In typical West Ham fashion the response was slow and late and there are sure to be consequences; how serious we will have to wait and see.  Disgraceful scenes were beamed around the world.  For a while, it looked as though the players might be taken off the pitch and the director’s box was more or less emptied for the safety of its occupants.  By the end a forlorn Trevor Brooking sat alone as the baying crowd sang ‘he’s one of our own’.  I doubt that a respectable man like Sir Trevor was sharing the same sentiment.

A Darkest Hour

It is difficult to see how there could be any positive outcome or acceptable way back from yesterday’s debacle – at least during the short term that remains of the 2017/18 season.    There will be action by the FA for sure – perhaps it will be just a fine but games played behind closed doors or away from London are other options they will be considering.  We are a club to make an example of, after all.  The pitch invaders will undoubtedly be banned from the stadium but how does the club with Board, players and fans at each other’s throats navigate the rest of the season while at the same time battling a desperate relegation fight.  For me, this now puts West Ham as one of the strongest of favourites for the drop – just behind West Bromwich Albion.  Perhaps some will see that as a price worth paying if it means farewell to Gold and Sullivan but I would view it as a disaster from which recovery will be slow and painful.

Shuffling The Bare Bones

Moyes decided to shake things up after heavy defeats at Liverpool and Swansea.  But with a third three goal defeat on the trot and the disappearance of what was once a slight goal difference advantage the changes badly backfired. The Hammers have conceded more goals than any other team in the division and now boast the fourth worst goal difference as they sleepwalk towards relegation.  Rather than strengthening the squad in January it was weakened by more leavers than joiners.  Further injuries mean that few to no options are available in an ageing and lopsided squad; while potential youthful reinforcements were allowed to go out on pointless loans.  I predicted that Moyes would reinstate Joe Hart but this was a mistaken gamble as demonstrated with the third goal.  Michail Anntonio made a welcome return to the side but he is wasted on the left where good positions created are undone by an inability to deliver from his weaker side.  Declan Rice did not deserve to be left out and could have done a job either in central defence or midfield.  Once again, the defensive midfield resistance was as flimsy as a David Sullivan promise.

Another Self Inflicted Defeat

West Ham bossed the first half without being able to turn better chances into anything tangible.  Marko Arnautovic should have done better when through on goal and Manuel Lanzini really should have scored.  By the time the half was coming to a close it was clear that Burnley had realised that the Hammers were ripe for the taking.  In the second half the visitors were by far the more composed side from the start and when Dyche introduced the second striker things started to look very ominous.  The breakthrough goal was a typical piece of lackadaisical Angelo Ogbonna defending.  We have seen him do this so many times in the past where he switches off and enters standby sauntering mode.  He should never have allowed Woods to outpace him and then give him all the time in the world to pick out Barnes.  After that the spirit visibly drained from West Ham and with further goals following swiftly it was the cue for the disgraceful crowd scenes to  unfold.  There was not even time for the consolation goal of previous weeks.

I Think It’s All Over

There is no game for three weeks now and it seems that the players are off on holiday to Miami.  We know how well these warm weather breaks have worked in the past and so expectations are low.  West Ham could well be in the bottom three by the time the next game comes around; wherever that will be played.  Suddenly the relegation battle looks to be narrowing down to a five horse race – or four teams competing for the remaining two places on the assumption that West Bromwich are already certainties.  Present form suggests that one of those unfortunate two may well be the Hammers.

Relegation Haunted West Ham Face Burnley In The Claret & Blue Derby

How many teams are still in the relegation dogfight? West Ham ensured that they are still involved with a poor performance at Swansea last weekend. Will our remaining home games save us?

It is a sad state of affairs that every club in the Premier League outside of the top six has a negative goal difference. That means that if you support any one of 14 teams in the top flight then you will have seen them concede more goals than they have scored. And apart from Burnley, who are currently leading the table to finish seventh, your team will have lost more games than they have won. This weekend we face the aforementioned Clarets in the 30th game of the 38 game campaign, in our latest attempt to pull away from the bottom three. So far they have won ten and drawn ten, so for those of us who like symmetry I hope that we inflict upon them their tenth reverse of the season.

The bottom 14 teams in the Premier League after 28 games

Points after 29 games

Goal Diff.

Pts in last 5 games

Home games to play

No. of top 6 teams to play

7.  Burnley




8.  Leicester




9.  Watford




10. Brighton




11. Everton




12. Bournemouth


-10 8 5


13. Swansea


-17 10 4


14. West Ham


-18 4 6


15. Huddersfield


-25 6 5


16. Newcastle


-13 6 5


17. Southampton


-12 6 3


18. Crystal Palace


-18 2 4


19. Stoke City


-26 4 5


20. West Brom


-21 0 5


As I have written before on the subject there is no official competition to finish seventh, but there is a certain satisfaction to be gained from being the leading team in the Premier League outside of the top six who are far and away ahead of the rest. Prize money is at stake too, but this becomes less relevant given the money ploughed in from domestic and overseas television rights.

The battle to avoid relegation, which has massive financial implications, continues to be the most interesting aspect of the league. An extract from part of the league table shown above illustrates that we are still in a better position than some, as there are still six teams below us with only nine games to go. Perhaps the teams from Everton upwards may believe they are more or less safe (although they wouldn’t admit it), but they could still get dragged into it if they have a bad run of results, and enough of the teams below them continue to pick up points.

The teams who currently occupy the bottom three places have current poor form (when the last five games are analysed), although we have only fared better than Palace and West Brom in this respect. Swansea and Bournemouth have the momentum gained from recent good results and this might help them to pull further clear. However we still have six home games to play, and although some fans would have you believe otherwise, our form at the London Stadium would put us in 11th place in the table if only home games are considered. This should give us an advantage, especially when compared to Southampton who only have three. However we still have to face four of the top six in the table in our remaining nine games, and only Stoke match that number.

It is still not clear exactly how many points will be needed to stay up, but any team averaging a point a game continues to be outside of the bottom three. If this remains to the end of the season, and I believe it will, then 38 should be a safe figure. The home games against Burnley, Southampton and Stoke should be the key ones for us, so let us hope that we start a winning run today. At this stage my money would be on West Brom, Stoke, and Southampton to go down, but things can still change.

Ironically, despite facing the team seventh in the table, the bookmakers have us as favourites to win the game at around 5/4, whereas they only give odds of 5/2 on Burnley. This may surprise some, but Burnley’s recent form is not much better than our own. Unfortunately (given the way these statistics go against us) I still have to report that West Ham have won every home Premier League game against Burnley to date, and they haven’t won a game in the top flight on our ground for almost 45 years. And Burnley haven’t won away from home since November. Oh dear!

Let us hope that the stinging criticism aimed at the players following last week’s capitulation at Swansea has the effect of galvanising our team into a much improved performance. But, however we achieve it, three points would bring a welcome boost to our aim to remain in the Premier League next season. I believe that, in what is likely to be a tight encounter, we will just about win by the odd goal. Enjoy the game!

Can West Ham Rise Above The Chaos To Beat Burnley In The Claretsico?

The nail-biting, nerve-jangling, too-close-to-call relegation battle enters another round with the Hammers seeking to reverse their wretched run of poor form against Burnley.

When I first started following professional football more seriously as a boy, when my preferred bedtime reading was the Playfair Football Annual, Burnley were one of the top sides in the English league.  At the time I would have been able to recite their preferred line-up from memory; which started something like Blacklaw, Angus, Elder, Adamson and so on.  They had won the old First Division in 1960 and were runners-up in both league and cup in the 1961-62 season.  It is fair to say that times have changed dramatically since those days when even Tottenham Hotspur didn’t choke in the final furlong.

Nowadays, most Hammers probably regard Burnley as one of the minions of the Premier League (and in financial terms they languish some way behind West Ham) and yet they sit comfortably in 7th place with the luxury of looking down leisurely at the frantic scramble below them for top flight survival.  Much of the credit for the new found stability must go to gravelly voiced manager, Sean Dyche, the most famous product from Kettering since Weetabix.  Burnley sensibly stuck with Dyche following relegation in 2015 and, following a quick return, they have emerged as a hard working, difficult to beat Premier League outfit.  There are many parallels with Fat Sam’s old Bolton Wanderers side but with several shades less negativity.

In contrast, things are so bad at West Ham at the moment that it feels like the club must have collectively got out of the wrong side of the bed at the start of the season.  A mini-revival in fortunes at the 2017 has faded and died and there is now the very real danger of relegation haunting the London Stadium.  The Hammers appear to have hit a wretched run of form at just the wrong time.  Mark Noble writing on the official West Ham website has told us not to worry and that everything will be OK.  I am not sure if those are reassuring words or cause for even more worry by what could be taken as a show of complacency.  What is needed is a fight and commitment shown by a team who know they are in a very perilous position.  The current off-field disenchantment around the club doesn’t help either and it has created a toxic environment that must have a knock-on effect to the players.  Not that there are not genuine grievances that, until now, have fallen on deaf ears in the boardroom.  But I do wonder whether now is the right time to air them when the team need a united support to get them across the seventeenth position line.  At least the threat of the march has disappeared but not without a degree of farce reminiscent of the splitters in Monty Python’s Life of Brian – the ‘Poplar’ Front of Judea maybe!

Head to Head

Although the all-time record against Burnley is close to neck and neck, the Hammers have bossed recent meetings having won eight of the last twelve (home and away) and ten of the last twelve home games.  The last Burnley win was at Upton Park in December 2011 when the Clarets came from behind to win 2-1 and prevent the West Ham going to the top of the Championship. The most recent top flight Burnley win was a 2-1 victory at Turf Moor against Gianfranco Zola’s Hammers in February 2010.

In the reverse fixture in October the Hammers were on course for a welcome three points until the game changing and unnecessarily foolish sending off of Andy Carroll.

Team News

Apparently today is designated in the gaming community as Mario Day (on account of it being MAR10) and just maybe this is an omen for a super display from our Portuguese loanee who, so far, has flattered to deceive.  At this stage of the season we need to clutch at any straw that is available.

After two feeble 4-1 reverses on the road we should expect to see several changes today.  It would not surprise me if Joe Hart replace Adrian in goal although it is difficult to pin much blame on the Spaniard for recent performances.  In the centre of defence we will need height to combat the visitors most dangerous threat.  With Winston Reid (and Sam Byram) reported to be out for the season options are limited and the hope is that both Angelo Ogbonna and James Collins have recovered from their problems of last week.  The presence of Aaron Cresswell in the back three always makes me nervous and especially so against a team who are strength is aerial power.  Declan Rice deserves to keep his place but the dilemma is whether to play him at the back or as emergency central midfielder to cover for the continuing flaws in the Noble – Cheikhou Kouyate partnership.

In the more advanced positions there is a desperate need for width and surely Michail Antonio will be a starter this week.  Unfortunately neither Pablo Zabaleta nor Patrice Evra can offer much of an offensive threat which maybe another argument for returning Cresswell to a left (wing) back role.

It is difficult to see how Javier Hernandez fits into the equation.  Undoubtedly he is the best natural finisher at the club but usually offers little outside of the penalty area.  Somehow fashioning Mark Arnautovic, Manual Lanzini, Antonio and Joao Mario into an effective attacking unit could be the best option of causing Burnley damage.

Burnely have their own injury problems and are reported to be without Arfield, Defour, Walters, Brady (who has frequently given the Hammers a torrid time) and keeper Heaton.

The Man in The Middle

Lee Mason from Greater Manchester controls his third Hammers match of the season with the previous two ending as 3-2 defeats: away at Southampton (where he sent off Arnautovic) and home to Newcastle.  In his twenty outings this year his record is fifty-three yellow and three red cards.


The safest prediction of the week is that Lawro would have this down as a 1-1 draw. Merson, on the other hand, senses a West Ham reaction and a 2-0 home win.  Burnley are not going to be worried about possession stats and will put the onus on West Ham to break them down.  The usual laboured slow-slow predictable build up is not going get very far.   Maybe we can hope for a little less desire from Burnley with thoughts shifting onto the summer holiday brochures after a job well done.  In any case West Ham need to be fully up for today’s game and I will have everything crossed to take anything from a scruffy win to a pedigree performance.  Perhaps it will turn out to be an opportunity for Joao Mario to celebrate his special day by netting a glorious winner.

Five Takeaways: West Ham’s Shambles In The Mumbles

Another desperate and disinterested performance ends in a disappointing and embarrassing defeat at the hands of fellow strugglers Swansea City. What did we learn and can the terminal decline be halted?

A Perfect Time To Panic

Football folklore has it that each year there is a team that comes out of nowhere, from a position of relative comfort, to snatch the final relegation spot.  Normally, it is someone like Norwich ….or Sheffield United….., but could this year be the turn of West Ham to earn this dubious distinction.  Many more dismal performances like the one served up at the Liberty Stadium yesterday and it is a very real possibility.  The pre-Christmas bounce when the team were demonstrating a sense of cohesion, teamwork and effort has since evaporated and been packed away with the decorations.  Yesterday was as inept a performance as we have seen all season; right down there with the capitulations against the other fellow relegation candidates such as Newcastle and Brighton.

Tin Foil Hat Time

Ending the year with an obviously imbalanced and injury prone squad and then failing to have a coherent recruitment plan, selling two of your strikers (including one to a relegation rival) and finally allowing two young defenders to disappear on loan is the stuff of conspiracy theories.  Could a more disastrous set of decisions have been made if they tried? The desire for players with proven Premier League experience has become shorthand for putting together a bunch of football pensioners.  The lack of legs and pace in the team is woeful.  Add in the fact that Winston Reid and James Collins are frequently crocked then the decision to let Jose Fonte leave as well is bewildering.  What might you expect from a back three of Pablo Zabaleta, Aaron Cresswell and Declan Rice?  Once again in yesterday’s game West Ham lacked any width going forward and, while other teams look to their full or wing backs to provide width, what are the chances of the seventy year old legs of Zabaleta and Patrice Evra bombing forward throughout ninety minutes?  Yesterday Swansea not only wanted the game more but were also streets ahead in composure and technique.

Central Midfield Black Hole

West Ham’s weakness in central midfield has been talked about and understood for quite a few seasons now.  It must be clear to even the most shortsighted Sunday League manager that the partnership of Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate is a hopeless one.  Neither has the requisite skills to protect the defence and they do not get close to complementing each other.  Since the injury to Pedro Obiang West Ham have picked up just four points from five games including three heavy away defeats; and the sad thing is there doesn’t seem to be any obvious solution to the problem for the remainder of the season.  Failure to strengthen this area may turn out to be a very costly mistake. The desperate defensive record (joint worst in goals conceded with Stoke) stems from this inherent weakness.  It is lucky that, despite not having any effective recognised striker, West Ham’s goals scored is the highest among the teams in the bottom half of the league.  As it is, there are only three teams now with a worse goal difference than the Hammers; something that could be a deciding factor come the final reckoning.

Poor Performances All-Round

There were no good performances from any West Ham players yesterday.  If I were giving ratings only Rice would score as high as a ‘5 out of 10’ and maybe Michail Antonio who arrived after most of the damage was done – he really needs to start to inject both pace and width into the side. The rest, for me, would average ‘3 out of 10’.  None seemed particularly interested in the game other than picking a fight with Jordan Ayew.  You might have expected them to run around more if only to keep warm.  I would suggest that the board, manager and players donate their week’s wages to the fans who made the long and treacherous journey to South Wales in freezing conditions to support them.  They deserved far better.

More Goals Conceded

The outcome of the game was certain by the half time whistle.  Any hope of a comeback only existed in that small hyper-optimistic part of the brain that refuses to recognise reality and experience.  The first goal seemed to roll into the net in instalments.  The player given far too much room to shoot and even though Adrian may have been unsighted he should have done better to deal with it.  I don’t think you could blame Adrian for any of the other goals but it would be no surprise if we see Joe Hart back between the sticks next week.  Both the second and third goals were as a result of a lack of defensive height once Reid had departed; the first of those two being the major blot of Rice’s afternoon’s work.  The challenge by Kouyate for the penalty was as lazy and clumsy as they come.  After that, Swansea had thankfully stopped trying.

West Ham Travel To Swansea In The Battle For Survival

The struggle for Premier League survival will resume today when West Ham visit Swansea

The competition to see who will come out on top in Premier League 2 is as fierce as ever. Ignoring the top six in the Premier League it is anybody’s guess as to how the remaining 14 teams will finish the season with just ten games to go.

The bottom 14 teams in the Premier League after 28 games

Points after 28 games Goal Diff. Pts in last 5 games Home games to play No. of top 6 teams to play Burnley LeicesterEverton Arsenal  To play

7.  Burnley


-3 3


8.  Leicester


-1 5


9.  Everton


-15 7


10. Watford


-9 7 5 4


11. Bournemouth


-10 8 5 3


12. Brighton


-11 8 5 5


13. West Ham


-15 5 6 4


14. Huddersfield


-23 6 5 4


15. Newcastle


-11 6 5 4


16. Southampton


-12 6 4 3


17. Crystal Palace


-18 2 5 3


18. Swansea

27 -20 10 5 3


19. Stoke City


-26 6 5 4


20. West Brom

20 -20 1 5 3


Of course there is no official competition to finish seventh, and who cares about finishing positions? Of course prize money is at stake, but with the vast amounts of money awash in the Premier League these days, the final position in the table is not especially relevant. Of most interest is the battle to avoid the drop, which has massive financial implications. I’m making an assumption that Burnley, Leicester and Everton probably have enough points not to be involved in the scrap, and that the bottom 11 teams from Watford down are still involved to a greater or lesser extent. In fact we have to play those three teams (who should be OK) still and that may be to our advantage as they may have switched off a little, as may Arsenal who are unlikely to move upwards or downwards in the table being isolated in sixth place.

Looking at the data above then West Brom and Stoke along with the three teams on 27 points have the most to do in terms of points needed. The bottom three at the moment have the worst goal difference together with Huddersfield and Palace, but looking at the form of the last five games then Swansea, Bournemouth and Brighton have achieved the most, with West Brom, Palace and ourselves at the bottom of the last five games form table.

All of the teams have 5 home and 5 away games to play with the exception of ourselves (6) and Southampton (4), which is a result of the switch at the very beginning of the season. Brighton have the most top 6 sides still to play (5), with all the other teams involved having 3 or 4. And finally looking at my identification of games to play against the four teams with the least to play for, then we still have to meet all four of them. Some might say though that is a disadvantage as the teams may be more relaxed and as such could give us a tougher game.

Whichever way you look at it, it is difficult to make a case for West Brom to survive. If they did it would be up there with the great escapes of the past, including our own in 2007. You can perm any two from five for the others to be playing Championship football next season, but looking at all of the factors my money would be on Stoke and Southampton to be the ones to join the Baggies. But it is so close, a lot can still happen, and this can easily change.

Our next three games at Swansea (today), then at home to Burnley and Southampton, will be ones that on paper we would expect to move us further clear of the bottom three. But if we don’t then the tough games to follow could mean we are still in deep trouble.

Of course watching the news this week, all the talk and pictures has been of the worst snowfall throughout the country for many years. Based on this, the warnings for most of the country not to travel unless absolutely essential, and the forecast for more snow this evening, then at the time of writing, I am amazed that all Premier League games are still set to go ahead. I hope that for the sake of travelling fans, especially our own with the potential difficulties of a long trip to South Wales, that decisions are not left until the last possible moment. But as we have seen with the recent announcement of TV games scheduled to be played on live TV, and the changes of dates involved, little thought is given to the supporters actually going to the matches, everything seems to be decided by Sky and BT who have final say.

Contradictory head to head statistics give us little clue as to the outcome of today’s game. On one hand, Swansea have only beaten us once in our last ten meetings, but on the other hand, they have never lost to us four times in a row, which would be the case if we beat them tomorrow. Over the course of history we are well on top in terms of wins, but just 15 of the 62 meetings have ended in draws. The bookmakers have Swansea as slight favourites to win the game, and given their recent form this is justified. However, when it comes to the correct score, then 1-1 is favourite at 5/1, and I would be happy to leave South Wales with at least a point.

Virtually all of our key players are fit, and it will be interesting to see the side that Moyes selects. I have given up trying to predict this, but I will agree with the bookies on a 1-1 draw, and Andre Ayew would seem a good bet to score the Swansea goal.

At the time of finishing this article, (9pm on Friday evening) all this weekend’s Premier League games are expected to go ahead despite the continuing snowfall and freezing conditions that are gripping the whole of the UK. We shall see.

A Chilly Welcome In The Hillside As The Hammers Head To Wales

Hoping there are no ‘leeks’ in the Hammers defence as West Ham venture to the land of dragons, sheep and daffodils for a crucial relegation encounter.

Not exactly an unstoppable force meeting an irresistible object but today’s game does pitch a ‘must win’ Swansea side against a ‘mustn’t lose’ visiting West Ham.  Both sides were on the wrong end of heavy 4-1 away defeats last weekend, against Brighton and Liverpool respectively, although the Swans have since picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and made it through to the sixth round of the FA Cup.

The Swans are still in the throws of  a new manager bounce following the appointment of Portu-geezer Carlos Carvalhal in December 2017, their ninth manager in ten years of whom only Roberto Martinez has lasted more than two years.  With Carvalhal’s record of seventeen jobs in twenty years it would be ambitious to expect long service awards at the Liberty Stadium any time soon.  That aside, Swansea have won their last three home league games (and last six in all competitions) to rejoin the pack of clubs with all to play for in the relegation stakes.  A win today would put them on equal points with the Hammers.

West Ham, on the other hand, will need to up their game considerably from that on display during their defeat at Anfield although the prospect of facing a pair of Ayews is far less formidable than what the Merseysiders had to offer; even for West Ham’s timeworn and dawdling defence.  The other variable for today’s game is the weather conditions and although technology has meant that Premier League games are no longer called off due to frozen pitches, there will still be safety concerns for those attempting to travel to South Wales this afternoon.

Head to Head

West Ham have won six of the last twelve fixtures with Swansea and have also been victorious in five of the last twelve away games.  The last defeat on the road was in August 2012 and last season the Hammers came away with a resounding 4-1 Boxing Day victory.

Team News

The usual names are on the West Ham absentee list which is thankfully shorter than a few weeks back.  Arthur Masuaku serves the fifth of his six match spitting ban, Pedro Obiang is, of course, out for the remainder of the season and the Hammers are also without the elusive Andy Carroll and the even more elusive Edmilson Fernandes.

Changes from last week’s starting eleven should be expected and I would hope to see either Winston Reid and/ or Declan Rice returning to the back line and one of Michail Antonio or Little Pea starting in place of Joao Mario.  Any realistic solution to the fragility and ineffectiveness of the Noble – Kouyate central midfield partnership seems as unlikely as finding a simple answer to the frictionless Irish border conundrum.

Swansea are without long term injured Bony, Fer and Angel and look set to give a first start since his return to Wales to former Hammer, Andre Ayew.

The Man in the Middle

Familiar face Martin Atkinson will be officiating his fifth West Ham contest of the season but has yet to see a Hammers win.  Previous attempts have ended in defeats away to Manchester United and at home to Brighton plus two home draws with Leicester and Bournemouth.  Atkinson has been in charge of twenty four games this term issuing eighty-one yellow cards and four red ones.


Lawro has returned to his favourite 1-1 scoreline for today’s game while Merson is predicting a 1-0 Swansea win.  Chances are that the Hammers will need to rely on the form of Marko Arnautovic once more to get anything out of the game but the hopeful presence of Manuel Lanzinin and Antonio can also cause the home team enough problems to compensate for erratic defending at the other end.  With all of my frost bitten fingers and toes crossed I am banking on Marko showing himself as the true beast from the east today and  inspiring the Hammers to an odd goal victory.