What an excellent win at Goodison Park last Sunday! Even better that my prediction for the score was correct leading to a few pounds coming my way from my friendly bookmaker. I needed Cresswell to score the goal to make it an even bigger payout, but nonetheless what a great result to take us up to seventh in the table with 14 points from 8 games. If maintained for the season then the current average of 1.75 points per game equates to 66/67 points for the season as a whole which would be even better than the total of 65 in the last campaign. Extrapolating our current goals for and against would result in an end of season goal difference of 24 with 71 goals scored and 47 conceded, once again an improvement on last season. Let’s hope that it continues!
Better still we are in the Europa League this time around as well as facing a home tie against Manchester City in the last 16 of the Carabao Cup next Wednesday. On Thursday evening the Belgian side Genk were the visitors to the London Stadium for our third game in Group H. We had already taken maximum points from our visit to Dinamo Zagreb and our home game against Rapid Vienna.
And it couldn’t have gone any better on the night. With half a dozen changes we were understandably not at our absolute best, but a professional performance ensured all three points in a relatively comfortable 3-0 victory. My only minor concern in the game was the pace of the Genk forwards who looked dangerous when they broke at speed, but the statistics of the group don’t lie. All four teams have played three games, we have nine points from seven unanswered goals and the others all have three apiece by conveniently beating each other. In a competition where it is a big advantage to top the group, to be six points clear of the team lying second halfway through the fixtures is a position we could only have dreamed about.
Our visitors this Sunday for the 100th Premier League game to be played at the London Stadium are the team from North London who are (to say the very least) not our best friends! In the 99 games to date we have won 40 and lost 36. The record was a negative one prior to last season when we turned it around with one of the best home records in the division.
We will be hoping for the same result that we saw a little over eight months ago when we recorded a 2-1 win with our goals scored by Antonio and Lingard. The atmosphere will certainly be an improvement on that game now that spectators are back! The results so far have proved those doubters wrong who suggested that last season was a flash in the pan and helped by the lack of supporters in grounds.
We took four points off them last season with the addition of the unlikely comeback in our game at White Hart Lane just over a year ago. That 3-3 draw was important at the end of the season, as without Lanzini’s superb strike they would have got three points from the game to our nil points. We would have both ended with 64 points, and as their goal difference was superior to ours they would have finished sixth and qualified for the Europa League Group Stage, and we would have been seventh to end up in the Europa Conference League Play-Off round, a reversal of the actual finishing places.
I assume that, injuries permitting, the starting eleven will revert to the one that has been used in league games to date. We don’t know the extent of the problem with Coufal but we have cover at right back with both Johnson and Fredericks able to fill that position. They are both versatile defenders and could fill in on the other side too, but that would not be ideal if Cresswell was out for any length of time. I’d like to see a couple more players strengthen the squad still further in the next window, a left back and a striker.
Our manager is beginning to get credit now for the turnaround in our fortunes since he returned to the club. We were 17th at the time, he saved us from relegation (for the second time), and then managed the team into sixth place with our highest ever points total in the Premier League era. And now he has guided us into a similar position near the top to challenge once again. And he seems to want us to be in contention in all competitions too. But it’s more than that isn’t it? He has totally transformed the club in a short space of time into one where he has moulded a squad of players who all fit into the system he wants us to play. At the same time he seems to have created a super atmosphere where the spirit in the squad is first class.
I am enjoying watching this current team as much as our Cup winning sides of the mid sixties and mid seventies, both of whom did so well in Europe after winning the FA Cup, the excellent footballing side of 1979-82 who also won the FA Cup as a second tier team, and the boys of ’86 who were so nearly champions.
Despite having to fight two relegation battles, in a little over 100 games at the helm David Moyes’ managerial record is such that his win percentage is better than he achieved in his 11 seasons at Everton where he was very successful. His win percentage is also better than any previous West Ham manager who managed the club for 100 games or more.
With two teams that finished sixth and seventh in the table last season, and who currently sit in seventh and fifth separated by a single point this time around, the bookmakers’ odds for the game were obviously going to reflect the closeness in the ability of the teams. We are narrow favourites, but it is likely to be close. We are around 11/8 to win the game, with Tottenham at about 2/1. I fancy a repeat of last season’s score with a 2-1 victory. The odds are 9/1. Tottenham are Michail Antonio’s favourite opponents. He has scored more goals against them than against any other team. I reckon he’ll get another couple in this game. West Ham to win 2-1 and Antonio to score anytime is 18/1. West Ham to win 2-1 and Antonio to score the first goal of the game is 45/1. The odds are the same for that score with Antonio scoring the last goal of the game. I think my fun bet will be one of those this week. What are the chances?