A look at the league table tells us everything we need to know regarding the difficulty that West Ham face in the early kick-off against Chelsea in Matchweek 15 today. Only Liverpool have found the net more than Chelsea’s 33 goals in their 14 league games to date, and no ne have been as mean as the Chelsea defence that has only conceded six goals in those 14 fixtures. They have only lost once, and that was to a goal from Jesus for Manchester City, who are themselves rather formidable opponents as we found out ourselves last weekend.
The last time we met Thomas Tuchel’s men was back in April where a 1-0 win for the men in blue put quite a dent in our ambition to finish last season with a top four finish. The game was a well fought contest, but a simple move attacking the right hand side of our defence resulted in Chilwell crossing for Werner to put the ball into the net from close range.
Although we tried hard we didn’t manage to create much against a well organised team, and then towards the end Balbuena was ridiculously sent off by referee Chris Kavanagh, a decision that was quite rightly overturned following West Ham’s appeal, but by then of course we were already forced to chase the game with only ten men on the field. It was hard enough when we had eleven!
Looking at the head to head games against Chelsea, the records were fairly even up until the end of the twentieth century with Chelsea slightly having the upper hand. But since then the West Londoners have extended their superiority although I’ll remind you of same famous West Ham victories in the last 20 years.
In May 2003 we were facing relegation and really needed to beat Chelsea in the season’s penultimate game to have any chance of avoiding the drop. Caretaker manager Trevor Brooking had sent on Paolo Di Canio early in the second half and he came up with a goal twenty minutes before the end which gave us the victory and an outside chance of staying up but it wasn’t to be. It was Di Canio’s last significant contribution in a claret and blue shirt, although he did score another as a substitute in the final game, a 2-2 draw at Birmingham. We completed the double over Chelsea that season but we still went down.
After that win we had 13 winless games against Chelsea, which included just two draws, before another famous victory in December 2012 with Sam Allardyce as our boss. We trailed 1-0 at half time before an equaliser from Carlton Cole, and then two late goals from Diame and Maiga gave us a 3-1 win. And to put the icing on the cake, Mourinho was sent to the stands!
In October 2015 in the final season at Upton Park goals from Zarate and Carroll gave us a 2-1 victory, a scoreline that was repeated early in our first season at the London Stadium when Kouyate and Fernandes both scored superb goals in a League Cup tie.
In December 2017 Arnautovic scored an early goal which turned out to be the only goal of the game, and that same 1-0 scoreline was repeated in November 2019 at Stamford Bridge in a match famous for David Martin’s heroics and clean sheet in the West Ham goal which went a long way towards contributing to our ultimate survival that season. We went on to complete a superb double when Yarmolenko’s 90th minute strike gave us a 3-2 win in July 2020 in the season extended way beyond normal as a result of COVID-19.
So what of today’s fixture? In the midweek game against Brighton I had predicted (and bet on!) a 1-0 West Ham win which so nearly was the case but for the disappointing late Brighton equaliser. Perhaps the Seagulls may have deserved a draw, but the close VAR decision which denied us a second goal, and the timing of Brighton’s goal made it just one point from our last three games, although Arsenal’s defeat at Manchester United meant that we retained fourth place in the league despite the recent results. The top three have, however opened up a gap to take them away from the rest; a lead that I can’t see being closed by anyone this season.
But thinking back to Di Canio’s strike in 2003, Arnautovic’s early goal in 2017, and Cresswell’s early second half goal backed up by David Martin’s great display on the last day of November two years ago, all of which gave us 1-0 wins over Chelsea I’ll predict a repeat of that scoreline. Bookmakers don’t think it will happen as we are around 18/5 to win the game, with Chelsea odds-on. A 1-0 Hammers win is priced at around 11/1, with a Chelsea win by that score to repeat last season’s game at the London Stadium at around 11/2.
It will take quite a performance, but I’ll stick with my 1-0 forecast. I fancy Dawson will score with a header from a corner sometime soon too. What are the chances?