It’s that time of year for Cup Finals. Manchester City won their first trophy of the season beating Tottenham in the Carabao Cup Final last weekend, and the month of May will bring us the FA Cup Final and European Finals too. But for West Ham, we face Five Cup Finals of our own in our bid to achieve a top four finish for the first time in the Premier League. Of course we will not match the success of the 1985-86 season when we finished a close third in Division One (as the top flight was then), but to attain our highest ever final league position (which was 5th in 1998/99) we may need to win our remaining five games.
In 1998/99 our fifth placed finish was achieved with 57 points, but that total will certainly not be enough this time. We sit on 55 points, and in the last five games we will need to break (probably smash) our Premier League points total best (62 in the 2015/16 final season at Upton Park) to finish in the top four. Whatever the final outcome, it has been an excellent season, but how disappointed will we be if it ended with a whimper and our final position was eighth?
It was disappointing to lose to the only goal of the game last weekend against Chelsea. But with a relatively thin squad hit by injuries it was perhaps inevitable, although it was a goal that I felt could have been avoided. With our best possible team I feel that we would have given them a lot more to think about, but the injury list has taken its toll now, and we have to hope that the scheduling of this game at Burnley, being the very last fixture in this matchweek, gives us more time for our absentees to return to fitness and be involved.
There are still eight teams involved in the quest for a top four place, and the remaining fixtures of those (excluding the two Manchester clubs who are already there [City], or close [United]) are set out below:
Leicester (62 points, Goal Difference 22, 5 games to go) – Southampton, Newcastle, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham
Chelsea (58 points, Goal Difference 20, 5 games to go) – Fulham, Manchester City, Arsenal, Leicester, Villa
West Ham (55 points, Goal Difference 10, 5 games to go) – Burnley, Everton, Brighton, West Brom, Southampton
Liverpool (54 points, Goal Difference 16, 5 games to go) – Manchester United, Southampton, West Brom, Burnley, Palace
Tottenham (53 points, Goal Difference 18, 5 games to go) – Sheffield United, Leeds, Wolves, Villa, Leicester
Everton (52 points, Goal Difference 4, 5 games to go) –Villa (home), West Ham, Sheffield United, Wolves, Manchester City, Villa (away)
We are now in a position whereby we need to depend on the results of others whilst attempting to get as close as possible to maximum points in our remaining five games. Our game at Burnley will not be an easy one given our poor record at Turf Moor in recent times and the Clarets current form. Their last game, a 4-0 win at Molyneux, was not a result that many would have forecast, although Wolves have had a poor season compared to expectations at the beginning of this campaign.
Leicester have maintained their pole position to finish third with points in the bag and the best goal difference, but based on league positions, their final three fixtures are tough and will coincide with their FA Cup Final involvement. But they may have already done enough? Perhaps not quite yet but their results since losing at the London Stadium have strengthened their hold on that position.
This weekend three of our rivals for a top four place have relatively easy (on paper) fixtures. Leicester travel to Southampton, whereas Chelsea and Tottenham have home games against Fulham and Sheffield United respectively. Everton too are at home to Villa and perhaps Liverpool have the toughest game away at Old Trafford.
By the time we face Burnley on Monday evening we will know how all of our rivals have fared, and it is more than likely that we’ll need three points just to retain our current position. I wonder how many (if any) of our injured players will be fit to return? Reports suggest that some are close, but we need to wait and see.
It’s about time for a win at Burnley, and I’m predicting that we’ll keep a clean sheet and nick a goal or two to maintain our challenge. What are the chances?