That Was The Decade That Was: West Ham’s Past Ten Years In Numbers

As a brief respite from the general turmoil surrounding the club, we look back at the numbers that define the past decade at West Ham. 

Not only have we reached the end of yet another year of disappointment but also the end of the 2010s. A decade that coincides almost perfectly with the club’s current ownership, David Sullivan and David Gold having purchased a 50% controlling stake in January 2010. It was a decade that opened with a 2-1 FA Cup home defeat to Arsenal at Upton Park on 3 January 2010 and ended with a 2-1 Premier League home defeat to Leicester at the London Stadium on 28 December 2019.

Here is what the numbers tell us about all matches played in the intervening ten years.

9 – seasons played in the top flight, representing the second best decade on record from that point of view. The 1960’s being the only decade that West Ham were ever present at the top level.  What can we expect from the rip-roaring 20’s as we once again flirt with relegation? It will take some fundamental new year’s resolutions to ever reach that next level we have heard about.

3 – number of top ten finishes (excluding the Championship year), the highest being 7th in 2015/16 (the Payet season) which also saw record points and the only ever Premier League positive goal difference. The average finishing position during the Premier League years has been 12.5. The average points tally is 45. Not so impressive for a club regularly among the top ten richest in the league.

478 – total number of games played, of which 171 were won (35.8%) and 184 were lost (38.5%).

6 – number of managers employed, although technically you could say 7 if you were inclined to count David Moyes twice. Either way it was a record for any decade. The complete rogues gallery comprises Gianfranco Zola, Avram Grant, Sam Allardyce, Slaven Bilic, David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini

17,412,173 – the cumulative attendance at all West Ham matches, home and away – an average of 36,427. The highest was the 78,523 watching the Paly-Off final in 2012 while the lowest was the 1,300 who turned up to see the 2015 Europa League qualifier at FC Lusitans.

40,276 – average home attendance – they keep turning up regardless. The highest recorded attendance at any home game was 59,988 against Everton in March 2019 while the lowest was the 14.390 optimistic souls who turned up hoping to see the Hammers reverse a 6-0 first leg deficit against Manchester City in the 2014 league cup semi-final. The lowest attendances at league games (by division) were 25,680 versus Cardiff (Championship, 2011) and 31,033 versus Hull City (Premier League, 2014).

171 – total number of players fielded by West Ham during first team games in all competitions. 57 of who made fewer than 10 career appearances for the club.

347 – the highest number of appearances made by an individual player – Mark Noble.  The remainder of the top ten appearance list are Winston Reid (215), James Tomkins (200), Aaron Cresswell (179), Carlton Cole (176), Angelo Ogbonna (143), Andy Carroll (141), Kevin Nolan (140), James Collins (139), Michail Antonio (138)

43 – the most goals scored by an individual player during the 10 years – again Mark Noble. Possibly the most telling statistic, considering players at some clubs almost reach that total in a single season. Only 8 players scored more than 20 goals during the entire ten years. The rest of the top ten scorers list are Carlton Cole (40), Andy Carroll (33), Kevin Nolan (31), Michail Antonio (29), Marko Arnautovic (22), Diafra Sakho (22), Manuel Lanzini (21), Javier Hernandez (17), Dimitri Payet & Ricardo Vaz Te (15)

15 – most goals scored in a season in all competitions by an individual player – Carlton Cole in the 2011/12 Championship season (14 league goals). The best return during a Premier League season is 12 (9 league) by Dimitri Payet in 2015/16.

0.538 – the best goals scored per game played ratio by a West Ham player. This was Demba Ba who grabbed 7 goals in 13 appearances at the end of the end of the 2010/11 season. Other players who have averaged 0.3 goals per game or better are Diafra Sakho, Ilan, Marko Arnautovic, Ricardo Vaz Te and Lucas Perez.

641– the total number of goals scored by West Ham (1.34 per game) in all cometitions. Goals conceded totaled 685 (1.43 per game)

8 – the most goals scored by West Ham in a single game – the 8-0 win against Macclesfield in the 2018/19 League Cup. The biggest league win was 6-0 in the Championship against Brighton (2011/12). The Hammers twice scored 5 times in FA Cup ties (Burnley (H) & Blackburn (A)) but did not score more than 4 in any Premier League match – something (scoring 4) that they achieved on 7 separate occasions.

6 – most goals conceded in a single match – the 6-0 league cup semi, first leg, defeat by Manchester City in 2014.  The West Ham rearguard conceded 5 goals on 7 occasions and 4 goals 25 times.

8 – highest aggregate score in a West Ham game – the 8-0 win against Macclesfield. There were 3 games that featured 7 goals – 4-3 wins against Huddersfield and Portsmouth and a 3-4 defeat to Bournemouth.

131 – the number of West Ham clean sheets earned (27.4% of games played)

125 – the number of games in which the Hammers failed to score (26.1%)

34 – the total number of goalless games featuring West Ham (7.1%)

8 – the number of players to win the Hammer of The Year Award with Scott Parker and Mark Noble both two time winners. The remainder of the list includes several heroes to zeroes and comprises Winston Reid, Aaron Cresswell, Dimiri Payet, Michail Antonio, Marko Arnautovic and Lukasz Fabianski. Young HOTY was won by Zavon Hines, Freddie Sears, Dan Potts, George Moncur, Sam Howes, Reece Burke, Reece Oxford and Declan Rice (3 times).

0 – the number of trophies won. (unless you want to include the Play Off Final).  The most productive cup runs were in reaching the League Cup semi-final on two occasions (2010/11 & 2013/14). In the FA Cup, the best the club could manage was the 6th round in 2010/11 and 2015/16. Apart from the that, the FA Cup saw West Ham eliminated in the 3rd round (4 times) and 4th round (twice). In 2020, it will be 40 years since that last trophy success in May 1980.

In conclusion, we would like to wish all Hammers, wherever they are in the world, a happy, healthy, prosperous and, if possible, stress-free new year!

“Come in Mr. Pellegrini your time is up” – West Ham entertain Leicester.

“I really cannot believe that I will be writing about Manuel Pellegrini any more after this weekend. There cannot possibly be any way that he can survive as the manager of West Ham, whatever the result this evening.”

These are the words I wrote prior to the game against Southampton. But I was wrong. We won the game after clinging on in the end, and our manager lived to fight another day. Since then we have had the postponement against (World Club Champions) Liverpool, followed by the defeat at Crystal Palace on Boxing Day. We now sit in seventeenth place in the Premier League table, just one point above Aston Villa (and with an inferior goal difference). We have a game in hand, but that is against Liverpool! We have now dropped 15 points from winning positions. With 15 more points we would now be sitting in a Champions League position in fourth place in the table. But we are not. We are in big trouble, but Dave and Dave either haven’t got the will to act (or pay off the manager), or they think he will turn it around, or perhaps they are unable to find anyone who will want to work under them.

Ironically, in recent articles I have often referred to the form table, where I have analysed results for all Premier League teams in their last 5 games. We have often appeared very close to the bottom of that table, but as we go into today’s game against Leicester, that is not the case this time. We have six points together with Burnley and (fourth placed) Chelsea. Six clubs have accrued less than that in their last five games; Watford, Brighton and Arsenal with 5, Bournemouth with 4, Villa with 3, and Norwich with 1.

But it’s not good is it? The natives are restless. I think our early season form promised so much more, but the dramatic fall down the league table, mixed with a combination of throwing away leading positions, the (poor) quality of our football, a manager who doesn’t appear to have a clue what is wrong or what he can do to change things, and the apparent low morale and in-fighting among the players (Noble and Ogbonna for example), means that a lot of us want to see a change of manager.

Our opposition today have had a terrific season so far, and sit in second place in the Premier League table, despite two heavy defeats in their last two games (admittedly against Manchester City and Liverpool). They are ten points clear of fifth placed Tottenham, so unless they plummet down the table (in West Ham fashion) a Champions League place next season looks assured. Of course those two big defeats by a combined scoreline of 7-1 shows they still have a way to go to match the top two, but nevertheless the quality of their football is great to watch, and we could be on for a hammering today.

It is now almost 14 years since we lost four home Premier League games in a row, but defeat in the last three home games leaves us perilously close to matching that unwanted statistic. What is even worse is that in those three defeats we have conceded three goals in each of the games. Only three other teams in the history of the Premier League have managed to concede three goals in four consecutive home games, Palace in 1998, Bradford in 2001, and Fulham five years ago.

Our head to head record against Leicester is one which is positive in that we have beaten them more times than they have beaten us. But the recent record is not so good, and in the last nine Premier league fixtures we have beaten them only once. In fact Leicester have never lost a game at the London Stadium.

I always want us to win, but the omens for this game don’t look too good. More in hope than expectation though, perhaps we can defy the bookmakers’ odds (around 3/1 for a West Ham victory).

WHULEI1I was sad to learn of the recent death of one of the West Ham greats, Martin Peters, shortly before Christmas. I met Martin at a book signing in 2006 when I bought his autobiography The Ghost of ’66. I had quite a chat with him and what a lovely man he was. I also took along a copy of the West Ham v Leicester programme for November 16th 1968 and asked him to sign it for me (see photo of programme). The reason for this is that was the day I saw my favourite ever West Ham goal. Martin scored past Peter Shilton in front of the North Bank, a thunderous volley at the end of a move that went from one end of the pitch to the other. I wrote about the goal in my book, Goodbye Upton Park, Hello Stratford, and to this day it remains my favourite ever West Ham goal. On that wet November day we beat Leicester 4-0. What are the chances of a repeat scoreline today? Somewhere around 125/1 according to one bookmaker I saw. We can hope, can’t we?!

Since You Gotta Go, You Had Better Go Now! Can Someone Please Put Us Out Of This Misery?

In a low budget, poorly produced sequel to the Avram Grant season, the West Ham board continue to dither over compensation payments in a further blow to the next level credibility.

Baffled Of Santiago

I was expecting to wake up this morning to discover that Manuel Pellegrini had finally been dismissed. Now just a single point away from the relegation places (with an inferior goal difference) and with a manager who: admits he is baffled; has been largely responsible for assembling this current one-paced squad; has seemingly no idea how to set up and organise a team to compete in the modern game; and is completely out of touch with current tactical trends. No-one in their right mind can surely believe that Pellegrini has got what it takes to turn things around; or, based on past performance,  would want to trust him with any further funds in the upcoming transfer window.  The season is a poorly produced, low budget, remake of the Avram Grant Season. There is no footballing rationale whatsoever for keeping him on – compensation payment is the only issue on the table. The longer a decision is put off, the greater will be the imperative to hire a manager specialising in ‘ugly’ tactics to sort it out. Stop the dithering, bite the bullet and pull the trigger – even if it is with a caretaker in charge for the next run of games.

Insider Dealing

The ubiquitous club-insider is suggesting that the manager will be given another two more games (again) to save his job. Also that if he does go then David Moyes is the probable replacement. Now I have no idea whether the insider is just making stuff up like the rest of us or is being fed information from the club (which would be massively unprofessional, but easy to believe) but if it is true then it is a deeply worrying scenario. Not that I don’t think Moyes would be a better option than Pellegrini but that is not the point. He is not the right person for the type of club we need to be. Someone who would be able to take the team in a direction that most supporters want to travel. Ultimately, football is meant to be an entertainment. It has to offer more than just doing enough to hang on to your place at the top table so that we can see the top players in the world come to tear us to pieces every season. As supporters, we need something to believe in, to be proud of, and at least be given a glimmer of hope of an a honest tilt at the occasional cup competition.

Not Fit For Purpose

Yesterday, we looked doomed right from the start. Any side with probably the three slowest players in the Premier League (Mark Noble, Robert Snodgrass and Pablo Zabaleta) is going to struggle. Throw in a comedy goalkeeper and whatever hope there was disappeared over the horizon. To be fair, Roberto was not at fault for either of the goals and made a couple of decent saves. The bench looked a little brighter with the return of Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson but neither ultimately made any impression. As usual there was no sign of any young legs and energy among the substitutes. There may have been a desire to ship out what was thought to be deadwood (Obiang, Fernandes, for example) but they were far better than what has been left behind. Is there some kind of collective madness at the club?

Two Poor Sides

The match was, as the one at Southampton, a contest of very poor quality. The Hammers nominally adopted the same 4-4-2 formation that had triumphed just over a week earlier but on this occasion the gaps between each block of players were far too great. Having won one game it was apparently beyond the players to put in the same level of effort for two matches in a row.  Michail Antonio was the only real threat, and the only one to come away with any real credit, but he cannot maintain those energy levels for a full ninety minutes. In a re-run of the past few matches, once Antonio starts running on fumes, the whole team shape collapses and becomes fatally exposed.

New Formation, Same Failings

Although there were now ostensibly two layers ‘up top’ the supply line to them was as ineffective as ever. Snodgrass despite his goal (and almost getting a second) was pedestrian throughout and again demonstrated that perseverance with the winger on the wrong flank is complete madness. Mark Noble’s only notable contribution was a bust up with Angelo Ogbonna (not sure why, but possibly due to Noble’s lazy pass putting Aaron Cresswell under pressure.) The formation, as implemented, doesn’t suit Declan Rice as his ability to break forward is seriously curtailed – he is utilised as a holding midfielder only and gave one of his least effective displays for some time as a consequence. The upshot was that Palace were given acres of space both in the centre of midfield and down their left wing where Zaha ran Pablo Zabaleta ragged all afternoon. If only we had known that might happen. Even at a goal up, it was clearly only going to be a matter of time (and Antonio’s battery running flat) before the home side breached the West Ham defence. I would take one (a defeat) for the team if it meant the end of our bewildered manager.

Ratings: Roberto (5), Zabaleta (3), Ogbonna (6), Balbuena (5), Cresswell (5), Snodgrass (5), Rice (5), Noble (4), Fornals (6), Antonio (8), Haller (5) Subs: Lanzini (4), Anderson (5), Ajeti (?)

Present Imperfect: West Ham Win Would Be Ideal Gift But Leave Manager Dilemma Unresolved

Boxing Day matches have long been a highlight of the footballing calendar. On the second day of Christmas will our true loves send us yet another stuffing or serve up a real Christmas cracker?

Christmas is over, West Ham are not in the bottom three, even have a game in hand, and the Manuel Pellegrini doomsday clock is stuck permanently at one minute to midnight. Time to feast on the left over turkey and wonder whether Santa has delivered any new ideas to the London Stadium.

Boxing Day football is as much part of the traditional festive landscape as snowmen, robin redbreast, eggnog and maids-a-milking.  My all-time fantasy Christmas list would have taking the 723 to the Boleyn for an early morning kick-off as one of its many highlights. Sadly, it seems that a home fixture on Boxing Day is now a thing of the past and that we must be content with the short trip across town to the land of allotments and inflatable clapper sticks.

On the face of it the omens are favourable for today’s game. Our boys have had a few extra days to rest or work on ‘stuff’ in training while hosts, Crystal Palace, have an injury list that would overwhelm even the best funded of A&E department. The only fly in this ointment being that such favourable circumstances have rarely worked to our advantage in the past.

The cancelled fixture against Liverpool has presented an opportunity for the Hammers to chalk up rare successive back-to-back Premier League victories. Apart from the promising run early in the season and a purple patch in November/ December last year, victories have arrived in staccato fashion separated by missed opportunities. The compact nature of mid-table means that a few wins can change the apparent complexion of the season significantly, allowing a decision on the manager’s immediate future to be parked until the summer.  As I fail to see any good place where Pellegrini can take the club, it leaves me conflicted.

Aside from the enforced change at right back due to Ryan Fredericks suspension, Pellegrini’s major selection headache will be who plays in goal. Even he must realise that either Lukasz Fabianski or David Martin on one leg has to be a better option than the hapless Roberto. If reports are to be believed it will be Martin who gets the nod today with Fabianski making his return at the weekend. Other than that, I would imagine that the team will lineup as at Southampton, with Felipe Anderson restored to the bench following his mystery illness. Certainly, if Antonio and Haller reproduce last week’s from they can unsettle the usually well-organised Palace defence.

The major (only) Palace threat will again be provided by Zaha and the hope is that there will be a plan to double up on him in times of emergency – otherwise he will lead the ageing legs of Pablo Zabaleta a merry dance. The Eagles will probably be fielding two ex-Hammers in their starting eleven – James Tomkins and Cheikhou Kouyate. Tomkins is a decent but erratic defender who is always a danger as an attacking threat from set pieces; while Kouyate has become more dependable in the limited role expected of him by Roy Hodgson.

Thoughts at this time of year also turn to the impending transfer window – which will ‘burst open’ on 1 January. Already, there are conflicting reports on how busy the Hammers will be; ranging from their being no cash available at all to a lengthy list of apparent targets that the Daves have sent to the North Pole. Whatever money there is, we can but hope that it is spent wisely. Dependable (youngish) replacements for the troublesome central midfield and full-back positions would be at top of my list but how that will lay out amid uncertainties with manager and director of football is unclear. Recruits should be fit, athletic, technically competent and, importantly, with the right attitude. They do not need to be exotic, flamboyantly named, Hispanics or ex-Champion’s League winners. It has reached a point where I am wary of any player who is reported as keen to join West Ham. Typically it is for the wrong reasons – munificent wages, the bright lights of London, or the easy life. To paraphrase Groucho Marx “I refuse to sign any player who is eager to become a (squad) member.”

I received an email from West Ham in the week announcing a 60% off clearance sale but was surprised to see that Carlos Sanchez and Roberto were not yet listed as available. The squad is far too thin to allow many departures but cannot see a downside in letting those two go. If numbers get that desperate, then give some of the young players a go. How could it be worse?

The matchday referee is Andre Marriner from West Midlands making his second West Ham appearance of the month (he was in charge of the defeat at Wolves). His VAR chum is Andrew ‘Andy’ Madley from West Yorkshire. Any chance of a seasonal penalty decision going our way today?

Looking at the TV pundits, we see Lawro backing West Ham for a 2-1 win and Charlie Nicholas unable to separate two inconsistent sides with a 1-1 draw.  It really should be an opportunity for the Hammers to add to their points tally. After all, with the season almost halfway done, the 20 point threshold has still to be reached. Thankfully, as illustrated by some of the games that I watched last weekend there are a plenty of poor teams in the Premier League right now – no matter what the marketing boys say about there being no easy games. I would prefer not to be (and we shouldn’t be) part of the Premier League leftovers but fear that is how it will stay for the foreseeable future.  Limping into the second half of the season with a bewildered manager who is living on past glories rather than present realities. I do believe, however, that we can win today.

The week was overshadowed by the sad news of the death of Martin Peters, one of the all-time great West Ham United players. Peters was a huge favourite of mine when I first started following West Ham and is easily part of my all-time West Ham XI. It was a massive disappointment when he left prematurely in 1970 as the first big-name Hammer’s departure of my West Ham supporting career. He was part of a West Ham team that played in the first ever top flight clash between West Ham and Crystal Palace, in November 1969 – a 2-1 home win in front of 31,515 spectators. The team that day, including at least five West Ham legends, was: Ferguson, Bonds, Lampard, Howe, Stephenson, Moore, Redknapp, Peters, Brooking, Hurst (1), Best (1)

Haller-lujah, Antonio In Excelsis! Takeaways As West Ham Snatch Survival Lifeline

Now, I’ve heard about when West Ham scored. That Sebastien played, and it pleased the Lord. What, if anything, did we learn from West Ham’s surprise change of formation and victory at St Marys?

Sack Race Goes Into Added Time

There was plenty of pre-match speculation as to the potential scenarios that each of the possible outcomes might have on the future employment prospects of Manuel Pellegrini. Many believed that he would be gone no matter what the result. But now, according to the latest reports being leaked from the club, the manager will be hanging around for as long as the Christmas decorations are – ‘tis the season to be jolly! Although rather than being given another two game window to save his job, he is now apparently in sudden death territory – just one more shameful, insipid performance away from the job centre. None of this should really be any surprise since it became obvious that the decision hinged on compensation payments and not for football reasons. Are the team, under Pellegrini, able to scramble high enough up the rock-face to avoid drowning in the rising tide of relegation? It is not a matter of trust in the manager- it is a case of trusting that there are three worse teams in the league come the end of the season.

First Among Failures

West Ham were deserved winners in the game that, although relatively exciting, was generally poor in terms of quality. Not exactly a ‘game of two halves’ but certainly one of ‘two portions.’ The Hammers were dominant for the first 60 or 70 minutes until they tired badly just after the hour – perhaps a few more minutes than they managed on Monday. After that, all ambition disappeared and were left hanging on and thanking the woodwork by the final whistle. Fitness levels are one of the major concerns under the current management regime – as they were during his time at Manchester City. Better sides than Southampton (that is, most of the Premier League on this showing) will be quick to exploit that weakness. Hasenhüttl had adjusted his formation at half time and there was debate in the commentary box as to whether Pellegrini would make changes to compensate – based on previous experience he will be ready to do so sometime in early March. Although Romeu was one of the hosts better performers it was fatigue in the Hammer’s ranks (notably Mark Noble and Robert Snodgrass) that changed the dynamic of the game.  The defence (particularly Angelo Ogbonna and Fabian Balbuena) was resolute but luck also played a huge part.

Pellegrini Sees The Light

Just as the manager had been slow to recognise the glaring limitations of Roberto, he was also the last person alive to twig that Sebastien Haller might be far more effective if he wasn’t left so isolated on the pitch. Begrudgingly and with the catalyst of a convenient Felipe Anderson illness, Pellegrini finally accepted that more than one team formation is possible. It was a transformation. Michail Antonio was outstanding, causing havoc in the Saints defence with his aggressive running, pace and power. Haller responded magnificently, not only with a goal, but also with a genuine striker’s performance that was a constant threat of danger. One could argue that Haller should have been putting in the required effort previously, but it is easy to understand his frustration – who would pay top dollar for a striker and then refuse to give him any service? More is still needed, however, to compete against better sides than Southampton. Midfield runners need to get into more advanced positions, beyond the strikers, on occasion – only Pablo Fornals (who is showing definite signs of improvement) did so to any effect.  The changed formation meant Declan Rice playing a more subdued role than usual – good for defensive stability but a problem while he remains the only pace in midfield. Long balls for Antonio and Haller to chase are a useful option, but cannot become the only tactic.

Little In Reserve

You only need to take a look at Saturday’s bench to recognise how thin the squad depth is, and how no confidence is being shown in academy players – Roberto, Zabaleta, Masuaku, Diop, Sanchez, Yarmolenko, Ajeti – hardly the magnificent 7! Accepted that there have been injuries, but probably no worse this season than the average Premier League club. Allowing Obiang, Fernandes and Hernandez to leave without bring in replacements and failing to address the full-back issues were completely irresponsible by all concerned. A good match-day bench should be a mix of essential cover and players who are capable of changing the game. Even Southampton had better alternatives to call on from the dugout. Pellegrini’s use of substitutes was again eccentric. Andriy Yarmolenko’s defensive contribution has suicidal tendencies – even if replacing Snodgrass (knackered and in danger of a second yellow card) made sense. The introduction of Carlos Sanchez (for Haller) effectively handed all remaining initiative to Southampton. Still, all’s well that ends well, I suppose.

Schrödinger’s Penalty

We saw the worst of VAR in Saturday’s game. Not the technology, but the way the buffoons (lunatics and assylum spring to mind) have implemented it. Ostensibly introduced to eliminate refereeing mistakes, it’s primary use is to either apply rules (or interpretation of rules) that previously didn’t exist or to enforce offside to a spurious degree of accuracy . The handball rule used to disallow the Antonio goal is bizarre. How does an offence (unintentional handball) only apply when it occurs during an attack and where a goal is scored? When in all other circumstances it is waved on? What is the current rule on penalties? What happened to the crackdown on grappling at corners? When does contact become too much contact – went down too easy versus entitled to go down? It’s a mess. In Saturday’s penalty incident there were two blatant fouls for the price of one but both ignored by the referee – perhaps he was overwhelmed. If it happened too quickly for the referee to see, then it should have been apparent to the VAR. The ‘clear and obvious error’ defence is clear and obvious nonsense – it should be about consistency and accuracy, not about a referee losing face. It has been said that had Atkinson awarded the penalty then Moss would not have reversed that decision either -for the same clear and obvious reason. It was both a penalty and not a penalty at the same time.

Ratings: Martin (6), Fredericks (5), Balbuena (7), Ogbonna (7), Cresswell (6), Rice (6), Noble (6), Snodgrass (6), Fornals (7), ANTONIO (12), Haller (8) Subs: Yarmolenko (5), Sanchez (5), Diop (5)  

A relegation six-pointer is the Saturday 5.30pm game – Southampton v West Ham – “All of us know we need a result.”

I really cannot believe that I will be writing about Manuel Pellegrini any more after this weekend. There cannot possibly be any way that he can survive as the manager of West Ham, whatever the result this evening. In view of the postponement of the Liverpool game (and perhaps even if it hadn’t been postponed) there is a very big chance that we will be in one of the relegation positions at Christmas. Very few managers survive after a run of results that we have had in the past few weeks, plummeting down the table from the heady heights of fifth place. Enough is enough. A change is necessary. There is no need to feel sorry for him – just take a look at the pay-off he will get, despite the poor performance. The exit poll taken as the fans left the ground after the Arsenal debacle predicts that he will be gone well before Christmas.

I’ve collected some of the comments attributed to him this week.

“All of us know we need a result.”

“I always think as a manager that the results of the team depends on the individual performance of a player. After that you can work a lot on tactical, physical and technical work but the players decide the games.”

“Of course, when you have your important players not in their best moment, the results of the team will not be good.”

“You must find why they are not in that moment and try to work with them and give them confidence and I hope that most of them will return as soon as possible to their normal performance.”

‘Well of course all of us know we need the results. We have just five points from the last nine games.”

“We need to return to being a consistent and solid team in the way we did against Chelsea and for 60-65 minutes against Arsenal. The points that we have are not enough for this team.”

“We dominated for 60 minutes. Maybe scoring the second goal would have been so important.

“It (booing at the end) was understandable because the last five games that we play here, we didn’t win.

“If you don’t win at home, your fans are not going to be happy.

“You cannot concede three goals in every game. Unfortunately for us, we are doing wrong things, but we need to continue fighting.”

The following is not a comment made by MP but it could have been – “And now the end is near and so I face the final curtain.”

Asked if he thought he could fix it, Pellegrini added: “Of course.”

A lot of things have been written about a rift between Pellegrini and Felipe Anderson. Here are some of the comments attributed to our Brazilian playmaker this week.

“When I arrived it was hard but we started winning and I started to show my potential by helping the team with goals, assists and dribbles, and right now things are not working out as we want.”

“Things have to improve and I have to improve to be able to help the team.”

“As I always say, this is a collective game. If I don’t score and the team wins, I’m happy, but if I don’t score and the team loses and I couldn’t help the team as I want to, it’s difficult.”

“But we need to keep on working hard and think positively.”

“Monday’s match was a very negative result and one that we didn’t expect because we were at home and because we had played well in the previous two matches.”

“But we know that we need to keep working hard to get out of this situation.”

“This is the worst phase I have been going through with the team.”

West Ham go into this “must win” game against Southampton, a team that has improved in recent weeks, certainly since being thrashed 9-0 at home by Leicester, knowing (well if they don’t know I’ve just told them!) that they have beaten Southampton in Premier League games more than they have beaten any other team. Our results against them in recent times have been positive with four wins in the last five Premier League meetings.

Knowing how our heads seem to go down when we concede a goal, one statistic that I read this week is troubling. In our last 15 visits to Southampton (a period of time that stretches back almost 25 years) we have failed to score the first goal in the game! I’m not sure what the odds will be, but based on that, you can almost guarantee that Southampton will take the lead by scoring the first goal. Despite their poor season they have managed to score in every league game they’ve played apart from two. Only Liverpool, Manchester City and Wolves have scored in more games than that.

As West Ham fans we’ve had little to cheer in recent games, and don’t need reminding of some of the statistics being banded about. Seven defeats in our last nine league games, five points fewer than at this stage last season, and twelve points dropped from winning positions (which equals our total for the whole of last season!) make depressing reading. It is hard to ignore the goalkeeping situation – we have lost 14% of games when Fabianski was in goal, and 78% of games since he has been injured and out of the team. We need him back sooner rather than later!

On a positive note (bearing in mind we are playing away), 56% of our total points this season have been collected on our travels, a percentage unmatched by any other team in Premier League. (It starts from a low base though). Our manager should be confident of victory too based on his past record, having won six and drawn one of the eight games he has been in charge of teams playing Southampton.

Of course I want us to win and I hope we can win. I don’t honestly believe that when we play our next match at Selhurst Park on Boxing Day that MP will be in charge whatever the result today. There is every chance that we will have a new man at the helm. Surely, despite some deficiencies in the squad, there is enough talent to work with to ensure a mid-table finish at least with these players. I just hope that we can attract a younger manager with fresh ideas, and don’t resort to one of the usual managerial names being banded about in the media.

Pellegrini Farewell Tour Goes South: Our Exit Poll Predicts No New Dates Planned

In the longest farewell tour since Elton John, Pellegrini takes his beleaguered Hammers to a seasonal six-pointer showdown at St Mary’s. Are we coming to the end of the line?

The Manuel Pellegrini Golden Bullet Farewell Tour heads to the south coast late on Saturday afternoon for the last of its currently schedule dates. We shouldn’t expect anything more than the same old tired performance; going through the motions with the usual absence of energy and lack of co-ordination. The tours co-promoters, G&S Self Promotions Inc, will reportedly decide, after the show, whether to add any further venues to the tour or finally call it a day.

Pellegrini is supposedly once more down to his final life – like some cornered avatar in a fantasy computer game. A West Ham win might earn him two more lives; a draw would mean not losing a life; while defeat and it is game over. As the sacking decision is now clearly only about money, any pretence of keeping faith with the manager to ‘turn things around’ has completely evaporated. West Ham occupying one of the relegation places at Christmas has now become almost guaranteed.

From the demeanour of manager and players, it has been obvious for at least a month that Pellegrini was a dead man walking. The problems run so deep that there was never any likelihood of a way back – the plug should have been pulled after the Burnley game.  To blunder along in the dark, week by week, hoping for a miracle has been beyond negligent.  Only time will tell whether the penny pinching, dithering Daves have allowed history to repeat itself and acted too late.

There continues to be much speculation in the media as to who the next manager might be. Despite everything, managing in the Premier League at West Ham will still be seen as an attractive job – with an attractive benefits package to go with it. Let’s face it, nearly all top flight manager appointments end up in ‘failure’ to some extent or the other – so who wouldn’t be prepared to give it a try.  It would be nice to think that our search would extended beyond the usual list of unimaginative hopefuls that always crops up when such a vacancy occurs. I cling to the hope that a younger manager with ideas that have been not been obsolete for the last decade could be in the frame. As it will be Sullivan who will be making the decision, though, I will not be holding my breath.

So, what about this weekend’s six pointer between a resurgent, high energy, cohesive Southampton side and a dispirited, bewildered, lethargic West Ham one? Which way could it possibly go? OK, so I was equally pessimistic before the Chelsea game and look what happened there. Maybe, the same lightning will strike again this time. We must pin our hopes on the possibility that Pellegrini has again left preparation for the match to one his coaches, rather than taking any part himself.

The main topic of team related discussion this week has been whether the Hammers will throw caution to the wind with a two man front-line. Such a change would entail Michail Antonio partnering Sebastien Haller with Felipe Anderson relegated to the bench. Sounds fine in theory, but difficult to see who would be loading the bullets if we have to rely on the combined sluggishness of Mark Noble, Robert Snodgrass and Pablo Fornals. I do understand the frustration that many supporters have with Anderson, but he remains the best (only) source of the unexpected. As with the Arsenal game, the fear is that once Antonio has run himself into the ground after an hour, there will be no meaningful threat left.

The best strategy may be one of containment with the hope of snatching a goal from a set piece or defensive mistake – in true Fat Sam style. Whether, it will work against Southampton, as it did against Chelsea, is the gamble. I sense that Danny Ings and Shane Long will create panic in the visitor’s defence while Nathan Redmond (who is usually mostly harmless) often looks a world beater against the Hammers.

The refereeing combo at St Mary’s consists of Martin Atkinson (whistle) and Jonathan Moss (remote control). Atkinson from West Yorkshire will be making his first appearance at either a West Ham or Southampton game this season.

As well as predicting a 2-1 Southampton victory, Lawro made an interesting comment about Pellegrini comparing him to an empty tube of toothpaste, from which the last squirt was being extracted.  At the time of writing, Charlie Nicholas has yet to reveal his selections – possibly out celebrating the expectation of a future independent Scotland. I will predict his prediction as a 3-1 home win.  Personally, I can see nothing other than more dark clouds for the Hammers this weekend; but with the silver lining of a change of manager on the horizon. At least that will offer a little hope until the name of his replacement is made known.

On current form two of the three poorest teams in the Premier League meet at the London Stadium, when West Ham entertain Arsenal.

I refer frequently to the form table when writing this column, and look at how the teams have fared in their last five Premier league games. Unsurprisingly, Liverpool and Leicester are at the top with a maximum 15 points. Manchester United and Wolves come next with 11 points apiece. Wolves continue to be the draw kings, and have now drawn 9 of their 16 games following their predictable draw at Brighton yesterday.

A resurgent Tottenham, and Newcastle come next with 10 points each. I hate to admit it but some of the Tottenham goals against Burnley on Saturday were a bit special, especially the “Maradonna-esque” effort from Son. Three teams from very different regions of the league table are next with 7 points. They are Manchester City, who are now 14 points adrift of Liverpool and surely cannot now retain their league title, mid-table Palace, and Southampton who are still in the bottom three (just!). Had they not conceded a very late goal at Newcastle yesterday they would have moved out of a relegation position.

Four teams each have six points, namely Chelsea, Sheffield United, Burnley and Everton. A further four teams each have four points as a result of winning one and drawing one of their last five games, and they are Brighton, Aston Villa, and the bottom two clubs Norwich and Watford.

So that is 17 teams I’ve mentioned so far, and I still haven’t referred to the two teams meeting at the London Stadium tonight. Two teams woefully out of form. Looking at our opponents first, they have just 3 points from 3 draws in their last 5 games. In fact they haven’t won a game in the last ten they have played (in all competitions), which is their worst run in 42 years. Oh how I hate statistics like that when looking at teams about to play us! Not surprisingly they sacked their manager a few days ago, because that is what happens these days. Teams who have long poor runs tend to do that. Most of them anyway.

West Ham, too, have just 3 points from the last 5 games, courtesy of the improbable victory at Stamford Bridge just over a week ago. Of course normal service was resumed with the defeat at Wolves in midweek. So tonight’s game is between the two teams sitting equal 18th in the last 5 game form table, two sides demonstrating relegation form. By the way, Bournemouth are the team propping up my form table with nil points; five consecutive losses.

If we were able to repeat last season’s success at home to the Gunners then we would move up to 19 points, level with our opponents (and Brighton), and four points clear of the drop zone. The bottom half of the table from Arsenal in 11th downwards are just four points ahead of Southampton in 18th. It looks as if Norwich and Watford are becoming adrift at the bottom, but the recent form of Southampton is of concern to the other teams in the bottom half.

Apparently Michail Antonio is having a late fitness test. How I hope he is fit to rough up the poor Arsenal defence! Their central back partnership which consists of Luiz and Mustafi, established Brazilian and German international footballers, looked very poor when I watched them draw with Norwich a week ago, and this is one area we could exploit. I say “could” because we haven’t looked like exploiting any other teams weaknesses very often in recent games. Since we beat Manchester United towards the end of September, then apart from the Chelsea win last week, we haven’t beaten anybody else!

Our manager was quoted ahead of today’s game. “The players need to believe in this moment more than ever. We must not concede goals from set-pieces, as we have done that too many times this season. If we are solid, consistent in defending, and creative in attacking, that will influence the result.” What he didn’t say was what has happened in the past few days for the players to suddenly believe in the moment (whatever that really means!) and what steps they have been taking to avoid conceding goals from set-pieces, and how they will become more solid, consistent in defending, and creative going forward. In fact, I don’t think he knows; he just hopes that a group of talented footballers can somehow do this without a lot of guidance from the very person who is paid a lot of money to manage and motivate them.

The following eleven points of interest may be considered to be either good or bad depending on how you view such facts:

  1. Arsenal has not scored a goal at the London Stadium for over 1000 days.
  2. Arsenal has beaten West Ham 29 times in Premier League games, more than any other team has beaten us.
  3. (Taking recent form a bit further than I did previously) The 4 points we have collected in our last eight league games is fewer than any other team in the Premier League.
  4. No other Premier League team has lost as many as our 29 defeats on a Monday.
  5. We have lost 99 London derby matches – more than any other London team.
  6. Arsenal’s 19 points from their first 15 Premier League games is their (equal) lowest ever.
  7. Arsenal has not kept a clean sheet for 64 days (11 matches).
  8. Aubameyang has never scored against West Ham.
  9. Arsenal has not won any of their last six Premier League matches away from home.
  10. We haven’t won any of our last four Premier League games at the London Stadium.
  11. We haven’t scored a goal this season when Mike Dean has refereed our game (2 matches).

So there we have it. Two of the three poorest teams in the Premier League based on current form (5 games). One has sacked their manager, the other hasn’t (yet!). Of course I always want us to win football matches, and this game is no different, but a win tonight might paper over the cracks temporarily, and not be good for us when we consider the bigger picture. If we are going to consider a new man in charge then he surely has to have the opportunity to make use of the forthcoming transfer window.

A win tonight and we will move three places up the table to 13th. A draw would see a rise of two places to 15th. It says a lot about our current form when the bookmakers have Arsenal as strong favourites to win the game (around even money, when we are more than 2/1), despite the fact that we are at home and they haven’t won a game in the last ten they have played!

Our next two games are away from home (Southampton and Palace). The Liverpool game has been postponed because of Liverpool’s involvement in the World Club Championship. Our last game in this calendar year is at home to Leicester who have won eight straight games. Did you see how good they were today away at Villa? At that point we will have faced everyone (apart from Liverpool). We could easily start 2020 in one of the three relegation places, and have a game in hand on the other teams (albeit against Liverpool). It wasn’t that long ago that many pundits were talking us up as a potential top six team. It has gone horribly wrong. What happens in the remainder of 2019 will be massively important for our football club. We could have 16 points or it could be 25. It could be somewhere in between. We could retain our manager, or we could have appointed a new one. It is West Ham remember. Who knows what will happen?

Too Many Snakes And Not Enough Ladders. Pellegrini Does Not Have The Skills To Fix West Ham’s Problems

Can’t afford to get rid of him, can’t afford to keep to him? When will the tipping point be reached where even the Board realise that sticking with Pellegrini will end in disaster?

At this time of year, it is compulsory when commenting on football to mention that the games now come ‘thick and fast’ – even if the schedule is nowhere near as busy as it used to be. Most West Ham followers may associate more with thick than fast, however, when thinking about the Hammer’s recent struggles.

We expect football to be a game of ups and downs. It is part of its charm. But when the ups (intense and committed performances) are so few and far between, and when the downs (apathy, disorganisation, lack of effort, mistakes and surrender) are so commonplace, it becomes impossible to see an acceptable outcome. There is no light at all in our tunnel right now, and a target of 40 points looks way beyond reach unless drastic changes are made.

Yet, here we are with the Hammers hovering just above the relegation places (and potentially in the bottom three by the end of Sunday round of matches) and the Manuel Pellegrini sacking clock has reportedly been reset to zero – the manager once again has two games to save his job. Quite what return is required from those two games to earn a reprieve being a mystery known only to our can kicking Chairmen. In hindsight, it might have been kinder had West Ham lost at Chelsea.

I read elsewhere that the Board were ‘keeping their powder dry’ on the Pellegrini situation, whatever that is supposed to mean. To me, this would suggest waiting for a better time to act. It doesn’t mean dithering about until wholesale panic becomes an absolute necessity. Was nothing learned for the Avram Grant experience? Probably not, is the answer.

When Leicester sacked Claude Puel in February 2019 it wasn’t because they were in danger of relegation but because the football was poor and the players had clearly lost faith with his tactics. It was a decisive act from which the Foxes have not looked back. To write off season after season just to allow manager’s contracts (and compensation) to run down is indicative of owners who prioritise only money – and preserving the value of their investment. They do not have the financial or intellectual resources to run and develop a football club beyond keeping it afloat.

There are plenty of things wrong at the club – which we have previously written about at length as the team have steadily sunk towards the bottom of the table. While, the owners are clearly implicated for the lack of any true desire to reach ‘another level’, the Hammer’s current plight in the relegation mix is 100% down to the manager. Never mind the old net-spend chestnut, West Ham have an expensively assembled squad in Premier League terms – especially when the not inconsiderable wages are taken into account.

Chief scapegoat at the moment is Mario Husillos and while the director of football’s involvement in picking talent has been underwhelming I doubt it was he who instructed Pellegrini to: play someone who had scored prolifically in a front two as an isolated lone striker; persevere with two wingers playing on their wrong foot; keep faith for so long with a goalkeeper who is patently petrified of crosses; maintain a rigid attachment to the same formation week in week out, even though it clearly doesn’t suit the players available; only ever change the personnel and never the system;  not work hard enough in training on fitness or organisation; create the slowest team in the league who are incapable of moving the ball quickly; and refusing to budge on his inflexible tactics of the high back line and a patient build-up, regardless of circumstances or opposition. Standing on the touchline looking confused and admitting that you are baffled does not inspire any confidence – in players or supporters.

It was no surprise following the win at Chelsea that the performance level was not maintained at Wolves a few days later. Fitness levels are just not up to it, and with the one-man press, Michail Antonio, missing it was always going to be a struggle against a disciplined and hard working Wolverhampton side.

There are several obvious gaps in the West Ham squad (central midfield and full-backs in particular) but it is still good enough to stay up with proper and astute management. That is not to say that our recruitment has been smart. Not enough emphasis has been placed on unearthing developing talent – both from within the academy (which has a dismal record in recent years) and from outside. We have become a mirror image of pre-Pochettino Spurs who would sign random big name players – those who were not quite good enough for the truly top sides, but who acted as if they were – and hope they would magically gel into an effective team.

Our next manager needs to be all about discipline and team building, as well as delivering a touch of style. He is out there somewhere!

Speculating on what might happen on Monday night is difficult. Arsenal also find themselves in something of a predicament. They are also a team lacking cohesion; with a suspect defence but they do, at least, have pace and carry a goal threat. No doubt there will be the odd personnel change in the Hammer’s side but little else will be new. While Antonio is on the pitch and before he runs out of puff we may be able to compete and unsettle the visitor’s defence, but beyond that there is little that provides cause for optimism.

As someone who is now desperate to see the back of Pellegrini, I am conflicted as to what I want to happen. I never want to see the team lose but possibly it could be for the best. A new broom installed prior to the winter transfer window is a must in my eyes.

The game will be a third meeting this season with referee Mike Dean from the Wirral – he previously presided over the thrashing by Manchester City and also sent off Arthur Masuaku at Villa Park. His friend at VAR central will be Kevin Friend.

Lawro seems to have made his predictions during a drunken Christmas party binge and has gone for a 2-0 home win; while Charlie Nicholas sees it going the other with a 1-3 away win. The best I can hope is to stay on the fence with 2-2.

In-form West Ham (well last weekend anyway!) travel to face the draw specialists at Molyneux

I have to be honest, prior to last weekend’s game at Stamford Bridge, I didn’t really think we had a chance of avoiding a heavy defeat. Of course I always hope, but even at my most optimistic I couldn’t really see it coming. The only factor in our favour was the fact that Chelsea had a European game in midweek, and statistics show that teams are more likely to have a poor result the following weekend. Frank Lampard didn’t use that as an excuse, but I think he was more than confident of a victory before the game, and left out a couple of key players who had been playing very well lately, in Kante and Willian. By the time he eventually brought them on it was too late, and we were good value for the win.

Of course the game will always be remembered for David Martin’s contribution, followed by his Pat Cash impersonation at the end, climbing the stairs in the stand to greet his legendary father, Alvin. What a story that turned out to be! But for me the team played well as a unit, defending together, and attacking as one. The back four had good games, and that is three goals this season now for Cresswell. Rice and Noble had their best games for a while, especially Rice, who perhaps with a point to prove against the club who let him go, really shone in all aspects of the midfielder’s role.

I’ve always liked Snodgrass, especially for his wholehearted attitude, and he and Fornals, who also had probably his best game, were vital cogs in the midfield. Anderson was OK, whilst not yet demonstrating that he is at the top of his form (we’ve seen what he can do). One pundit summed it up perhaps when he said that, for all his talent, there’s a reason Anderson is at West Ham, and not at one of the very top clubs. But for me, Antonio was superb, showing exactly what he is good at, pace, power, strength, and endless running. And to think that a previous manager once played him at right back! I remember a game at Stamford Bridge where he played in that position too! But then the same manager didn’t have a clue how to use Snodgrass either.

Writing the article last week I referred to the gulf between the teams at the top of the table and those further down. In particular I mentioned three games, and three teams who were not even in the bottom three, ourselves, Newcastle and Brighton who were very long odds to win their games.

“We are 9/1 to win at Chelsea, Newcastle are 14/1 to win at home to Manchester City, and Brighton are also 14/1 to win at Liverpool. A 2,250/1 treble on three football matches shows just what the Premier League has become.”

Without being really hopeful, I had a small wager on each of the three teams to win their games, and had to do the treble too, as I would have kicked myself if the three most unlikely results had all actually happened, and I’d mentioned the very long odds without placing a bet. As it turned out I made a profit (thanks to West Ham of course) but the others put up good performances too, with Newcastle holding Manchester City, and Brighton only going down narrowly at Liverpool. Perhaps the top teams were all suffering hangovers due to their midweek European games.

On average this season to date, slightly more than a quarter of matches have ended as draws (38 out of 140 = 27%). Sheffield United and Arsenal have each drawn half of their 14 games, whereas this evening’s opponents, Wolves, have gone one further drawing eight. With four wins and just two defeats they stand at sixth in the table on twenty points, four ahead of ourselves. The two games they lost were 3-2 at Everton, and then 5-2 at home to a rampant Chelsea. Apart from those setbacks it has been a good season, although no doubt they would have wished to have turned some of those draws into wins, just as we would perhaps have liked to have turned some of our defeats into draws? A 0-0 draw away to Leicester on the opening day (a very good result in hindsight) was the only game in which they failed to score this season, and perhaps their highlight was a 2-0 win away at Manchester City.

Seven of their eight draws have been with a 1-1 score, including four of them at home to Manchester United, Southampton, Burnley and Sheffield United. If you like to bet on scores in matches then 1-1 would seem to be an obvious result, with the odds being 11/2 on that happening, although the favourite is 1-0 to Wolves at 5/1. If you fancy us gaining a second 1-0 away win in less than a week against one of the top sides, then you can get 11/1 on that. A West Ham win is 7/2, and an away victory with both teams to score is 13/2.

Let us hope that we can take the confidence from our victory on Saturday into this game, and if David Martin can keep another clean sheet then, stating the obvious, we won’t lose! Despite their good season, Wolves have only stopped the opposition from scoring in three of their games, whereas we have amazingly kept four clean sheets. Amazingly runaway leaders Liverpool have only kept two!

I fancy another 1-0 win, although I’d settle for a 1-1 draw. Last season the game at Molyneux was one of our worst performances. Let us hope for a much improved one today.