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.