Can West Ham defeat Brighton for the first time in ten years?

Yet another excellent season for West Ham will end on Sunday when we visit Brighton for the final game. If we can beat them and at the same time if Palace can beat or draw with Manchester United, then we will replicate last season’s sixth place and have another tilt at the Europa League. But if that doesn’t happen, we’ll have to settle for seventh and entry into the Europa Conference. With a squad limited in size that is still some achievement.

We’ve only qualified for European competitions in two successive seasons once before (1964-65 and 1965-66) but that happened as a result of winning the competition in the first season. This time we have qualified as a result of league positions in both campaigns which is unprecedented and fulfils David Moyes (and the fans!) wish to be challenging towards the top regularly. Who would have thought it just two years ago? In May 2020 we hadn’t played for a couple of months, and we were still 4 weeks away from resuming our battle against relegation where we eventually finished 16th in the middle of July.

Before a ball had been kicked this season, I made my traditional predictions as to how the season would pan out. I return to it here. Six out of the top seven finished in the top 7 but my predictions mirrored the Morecambe and Wise sketch with Andre Previn – not necessarily in the right order! Some of my bottom six forecasts were correct but I got quite a few predictions horribly wrong such as Leeds, Everton, Tottenham, Palace and Brentford. 

1. Manchester City, 2. Chelsea, 3. Manchester United, 4. Liverpool, 5. Leicester, 6. West Ham, 7. Arsenal, 8. Leeds, 9. Everton, 10. Tottenham, 11. Aston Villa, 12. Brighton, 13. Wolves, 14. Newcastle, 15. Southampton, 16. Burnley, 17. Norwich, 18. Watford, 19. Crystal Palace, 20. Brentford  

With around a quarter of the season to go I calculated how the teams in the top eight would finish if they maintained their average points for the season to that point in their final fixtures and this was the result:

Man City 92, Liverpool 90, Chelsea 80, Arsenal 73, Tottenham 67, Man Utd 66, West Ham 61, Wolves 58 

At the same time I made my own forecasts of the results in the remaining games and how the top 8 league table might look.

Man City 93, Liverpool 91, Chelsea 83, Arsenal 73, Tottenham 70, West Ham 62, Man Utd 62, Wolves 56 

With just one game left this is how it looks.

Man City 90, Liverpool 89, Chelsea 71, Tottenham 68, Arsenal 66, Man Utd 58, West Ham 56, Wolves 51 

Of the top eight Man City, Liverpool and Tottenham  have performed in the final quarter on a par with their results in the first three quarters of the season whereas the other five have not, including ourselves.

Nevertheless, we can be more than pleased with how this season has turned out whatever happens on the final day. Can we beat Brighton? Since Brighton were promoted to the top flight five years ago the last six fixtures have all ended in score draws, and the three before that were all Brighton victories. We were close to winning the reverse fixture earlier this season but were denied victory by a very late equaliser. I remember the last time we did beat them. Ricardo Vaz Te scored a memorable hat trick in a 6-0 thumping at Upton Park in our promotion winning season ten years ago.

It’s about time we beat them again. I’ll go for a 2-1 West Ham win and Palace to beat Manchester United by the same score to ensure we finish sixth and qualify for the Europa League once again. What are the chances?

Europe beckons for West Ham as the champions (elect) Manchester City visit the London Stadium for the penultimate game of the Premier League season

We’re now in the home straight with just a few days of the domestic football season to go, and things are still not settled at the top or the bottom of the Premier League. West Ham have just two games to go, the visit of the champions (elect) Manchester City today, and then a trip to the south coast next Sunday to visit a resurgent Brighton side who now sit just outside the top eight. And those two games (plus the fixtures involving Manchester United and Wolves) will determine whether we finish sixth (qualification for Europa League again), seventh (Europa Conference League) or eighth (not in Europe at all).

In theory finishing sixth is in our own hands. If we win our last two games that is where we will be. Of course that’s easier said than done with the two fixtures that we face. We can even do it if we win just one of them and Manchester United lose at Crystal Palace in their final game, which is entirely possible. Or if Manchester United draw at Selhurst Park next Sunday then four points from our two games would be enough.

Finishing seventh looks the most likely outcome and we need just one point to guarantee that. We may not even need that if Wolves fail to win both of their remaining games, against Norwich (almost a given), and then at Anfield on the final day of the season. Normally I would not give Wolves too much of a chance to beat Liverpool away from home, but if the title is out of the Merseysiders reach as they go into that match, and in preparation for a Champions League final later in the month then they might take their foot off the gas. Although Wolves lost 5-1 at home to Manchester City in midweek they didn’t play that badly.

To finish eighth would be a disappointing end to what has once again been an excellent season. Of course we would have taken it a couple of years ago, but having had a taste of Europe we want more, and to miss out so narrowly would be a shame. Looking back on the season there are moments where we lost out, sometimes very late in the game, where we might have done slightly better and would already have Europe sewn up by now. The matches I am thinking about are the defeats at home by a single goal to Brentford and Leeds, the draw at home to Burnley, and the last minutes of the Manchester United game at the London Stadium. That’s not to forget Brighton’s last minute equaliser too. And we would already be there too if Wolves hadn’t equalised in the 97th minute at Chelsea last weekend.

So, still all to play for beginning with Manchester City today. Personally I like to watch City play and really enjoyed their 5-1 demolition of Wolves in the week. In an attacking sense they have such an array of forwards that they can call upon, and they have scored more goals than anyone in the Premier League this season with 94 to date. But if that wasn’t enough they will have one of the most prolific European goalscorers (Haaland) in addition next season. You might think that their defence is not so good, but once again they are the best performing Premier League side with just 22 goals conceded so far.

A lot has been written about their defensive injury problems going into the game, but they have adequate resources to cover this with Ake (a much under-rated player in my opinion, and who is returning from injury himself) and others who can fill in. In fact I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see one or more of Fernandinho and Laporte making a rapid recovery and being fit to start the game. I have no sympathy for them with their resources and the players at their disposal.

The game will mark the final home appearance of Mark Noble who has been a tremendous servant of the club, both on and off the field. At his best he could easily have won an England cap or two, just his lack of pace stopping him from being a really top class player, but nevertheless still a very good one. Who can forget his testimonial game at Upton Park on that hot, sunny afternoon six years ago, with memories of Adrian (plus minder) running the length of the field to score, plus Dean Ashton’s stunning overhead kick? But he joins the list of West Ham players who should perhaps have won an England cap but didn’t. Billy Bonds and Pop Robson are the two that spring readily to mind. Can you think of others?

So what will happen today? I can see it clearly it now how the game will end. The score will be 2-2 going into the final minute and we will be awarded a penalty. Mark Noble, who was brought on for the last ten minutes of the game, steps up and slams it home for a famous 3-2 victory which ensures West Ham qualification for Europe, puts the pressure on Manchester United, and keeps the broadcasters happy with the title race going into the final weekend. West Ham will finish sixth if they can out-perform Manchester United in the final game next weekend. Now that would be a fairy tale ending to the season and Mark Noble’s playing career wouldn’t it?

What are the chances? Well according to bookmakers you can get 300/1 and upwards on Mark Noble scoring the last goal of the game in a 3-2 West Ham victory. It won’t happen of course but I can dream can’t I? But we have beaten both Liverpool and Chelsea with a 3-2 score this season. Why not a hat-trick of 3-2 victories against the top 3 teams in the league? That would cap a memorable season wouldn’t it?

After the disappointment of Thursday night West Ham return to league action aiming to secure enough points for another European adventure next season

We sat down to watch the second leg of the semifinal with Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday evening hoping for a repeat of the outcome when facing the same opponents in Europe in 1976. For 19 minutes it was going ok and from then onwards nothing went right.

From Cresswell’s moment of madness to going further behind to nothing falling our way it was a frustrating watch. You could not fault the effort of the players but sadly it was not to be. So now we return to league action.

The Premier League is now approaching the climax and qualification for Europe next season will now extend down to seventh, so there is still a lot to play for. Having had a taste for European football this season and performing so admirably with a limited squad we would be massively disappointed not to feature in it in the 2022-23 campaign, even if it is the Europa Conference League.

We must not give up in our quest to qualify via our finishing league position. It is our last chance. If we finish sixth then that would mean the Europa League, or seventh would be the Europa Conference. The worst ending to such a superb season would be missing out on a European trophy this time and finishing eighth in the league. That would be a massive disappointment.

We currently sit in seventh place in the Premier League table, and it is looking increasingly unlikely that we will be able to improve on that. Our only hope is that both Brighton and Crystal Palace can do us a favour by beating Manchester United in their remaining two games. We would then need to win two of our last three games to equal United on points. Our goal difference is currently two better than theirs and if they were to lose both of their games and we were able to beat Norwich and Brighton, say, then this would extend to at least six. If we were (by any chance) to lose to Manchester City we would need it to be by five goals or less.

But sixth place does not seem realistic really (although I remain hopeful) and we must do better than Wolves to retain seventh to qualify for Europe. The Molyneux outfit have been very poor recently losing four of their last five games. They trail us by three points but have four games to play as opposed to our three. We both face Norwich in the run-in but Wolves other three games are as difficult on paper as they could be, away at Chelsea and Liverpool and at home to Manchester City. I’d like to think that if we can beat Norwich this weekend then a six points differential will be one that Wolves cannot possibly make up even if we didn’t collect any further points. That assume last they lose this weekend. Our goal difference is six better than theirs so that would be worth another point too provided we don’t lose any games by too many!

Wolves travel to Stamford Bridge this weekend but the home side still have a lot to play for and won’t want to lose third spot. It goes without saying (given our quest for Europe) that I hope Chelsea win the game. Provided we don’t slip up against the Canaries and win the game then Wolves would need to get at least seven points from their final games which include fixtures against Liverpool and Manchester City. Of course anything can happen in football as Manchester City found out on Wednesday night, but we would need to slip up badly and Wolves would need to considerably outperform their recent form for us not to be playing European football next season.

The current league table – top 8 (games remaining in brackets):
Man City 83 (4)
Liverpool 82 (4)
Chelsea 66 (4)
Arsenal 63 (4)
Tottenham 61 (4)
Man Utd 58 (2)
West Ham 52 (3)
Wolves 49 (4)

The form table (last 5 games of the top 8 in the current league table):
Man City 13
Liverpool 13
Tottenham 10
Arsenal 9
Chelsea 7
Man Utd 7
West Ham 4
Wolves 3

The remaining fixtures give you the opportunity to work out what you think the final finishing positions will be:
Man City: H – Newcastle, Villa
Man City: A – West Ham, Wolves
Liverpool: H – Tottenham, Wolves
Liverpool: A – Southampton, Villa
Chelsea: H – Wolves, Watford, Leicester
Chelsea: A – Leeds
Arsenal: H – Leeds, Everton
Arsenal: A – Newcastle, Tottenham
Tottenham: H – Arsenal, Burnley
Tottenham: A – Liverpool, Norwich
Man Utd: H – no games
Man Utd: A – Brighton, Palace
West Ham: H – Man City
West Ham: A – Norwich, Brighton
Wolves: H – Norwich, Man City
Wolves: A – Chelsea, Liverpool

Norwich can play freely now that they are relegated, and sometimes teams in that position can be dangerous opponents. But surely we won’t let it slip now and will pick up the three points necessary to put us in a very strong position for a seventh place finish. Two consecutive seasons in Europe has only happened once before (1964/5 and 1965/6) and would be a tremendous achievement for our club, especially considering where we were when David Moyes arrived for the second time.

Here’s hoping for a good ending to the season starting with three points at Carrow Road. What are the chances?

Can West Ham United beat Eintracht Frankfurt once again in a repeat European Semi-Final of one of the great games in their history. It was 4-3 on aggregate over the two legs in 1976. Will this be a similar classic?

West Ham’s forays into European competitions have come about following winning the FA Cup in 1964, 1975 and 1980, the European Cup Winners Cup in 1965, and a fifth-place finish in the Premiership (as it was then called) in 1998-99. The now defunct European Cup Winners Cup was a fantastic competition for us in the seasons following those cup wins, winning the trophy in 1965, being the losing semi-finalists in 1966 (qualifying as the winners in the previous season), being losing finalists in 1976, and losing quarter finalists in 1981 when we were a second-tier side. We even won the Inter-Toto Cup in 1999 following our fifth-place finish in the 1998-99 Premiership season which gave us qualification into the UEFA Cup in 1999-2000 where we were eliminated in the second round by Steaua Bucharest of Romania. The Europa League has been great this season too. We do have a fantastic record in Europe – it’s a shame we haven’t been there more often!  

One of my favourite West Ham memories was as an eleven-year-old at Wembley high up on the terrace behind the goal where Alan Sealey scored his two goals in the memorable 2-0 win over TSV Munich 1860 in May 1965, our first and so far only major European trophy (disregarding Inter-Toto which doesn’t really count). Incidentally the second leg of the semi-final that season was played on April 28th when we held Real Zaragoza of Spain to a 1-1 draw after a 2-1 win in the home leg.

We gained automatic entry into the competition the following season as winners and faced two German sides in the campaign. Germany was divided in two in those days and we met FC Magdeburg of East Germany in the Quarter Final winning the home leg 1-0 and then drawing 1-1 away to progress into the semi-final. There we met Borussia Dortmund of the West who were too strong beating us 2-1 at Upton Park and then 3-1 in Dortmund.

But my favourite ever West Ham game in the last 63 years was against Thursday’s opponents Eintracht Frankfurt. It was the second leg of the European Cup Winners Cup semi-final on 14th April 1976 where we overcame a 2-1 deficit from the first game with a 3-1 victory thanks to goals from Keith Robson and two from Sir Trev. I watched the game from the North Bank in pouring rain in an electric atmosphere with just under 40,000 inside the Boleyn Ground.

Where are our German opponents of the past now? Magdeburg are currently at the top (and destined to become champions of Bundesliga 3 (the third tier in Germany) whilst Munich 1860 are fourth in that same division. Borussia Dortmund are currently second to Bayern in the Bundesliga but Glasgow Rangers knocked them out of the Europa League competition 6-4 in the round of 16 before beating Braga in the Quarter Final to face RB Leipzig (who are currently fourth in the Bundesliga) in the Semi-Final. The winners of that will of course face either ourselves or Eintracht Frankfurt in the Final.

Frankfurt, despite their excellent win over Barcelona in the last round, are languishing in mid-table (9th) in the German league and should hold no fears for a West Ham side at our strongest and best. Frankfurt have saved their best performances for European games, similar to Lyons who were similarly placed in the French league when we met them in the Quarter Final (and perhaps similar to ourselves too).

Just like the Lyons tie, but the other way round to our meeting in 1976, we face the first leg at home. It would be useful to take a lead into the second leg but not absolutely crucial as we found out against Lyons. Wouldn’t it be great to repeat the 1976 score (3-1) from the home leg, especially with the removal of the away goals rule which I believe should have been scrapped years ago.

The European adventure (whatever happens now) has been great this season, and it would be excellent if we can go all the way to the Final and win the competition to qualify for the Champions League next season. Surely that would be a big help in recruitment in the summer for next season? The spirit within the squad continues to be high. Can we do it? I think we can. What are the chances?

West Ham United face a trip to Stamford Bridge on Sunday. With just five league games to go can we still qualify for Europe based on our league position?

If the Premier League was the Olympic Final of the 1500 metres we’d now be approaching the final bend on the last lap with the end in sight. Manchester City and Liverpool are now so far ahead that the gold and silver medals are theirs for the taking, but who will actually win the race? The bronze medal is still not decided although Chelsea are in pole position, but Arsenal and Tottenham are closing and may just snatch it if the West Londoners falter in the home straight. Manchester United, West Ham and Wolves are now unlikely to feature in the race for a top five finish and look as though they will fight it out for sixth, seventh and eighth. However the positions from third downwards are not yet mathematically certain and there can still be a surprise or two before the end, especially as teams still involved have fixtures against one another in the remaining games.

Now that we know that the FA Cup final will be fought out by Chelsea and Liverpool, it seems that qualification for Europe next season will now extend down to seventh, so there is still a lot to play for in the final few games of the season. Having had a taste for European football this season we would be massively disappointed not to feature in it in the 2022-23 campaign.

Of course winning the Europa League would be great and ensure a passage into the Champions League. But we mustn’t give up in our quest to qualify via our finishing league position. If we finish sixth then that would mean the Europa League, or seventh would be the Europa Conference. Either would do if we don’t win the Europa League this season. The worst ending to such a superb season would be missing out on a European trophy this time and finishing eighth in the league. That would be a massive disappointment. We currently sit in seventh place in the Premier League table.

The current league table – top 8 (games remaining in brackets):
Man City 77 (6)
Liverpool 76 (6)
Chelsea 62 (7)
Tottenham 57 (6)
Arsenal 57 (6)
Man Utd 54 (5)
West Ham 52 (5 – all to played on Sundays)
Wolves 49 (6)

The form table (last 5 games of the top 8 in the current league table – but even this can be misleading with Arsenal’s win at Chelsea this week):
Liverpool 13
Tottenham 12
Man City 11
Chelsea 9
Wolves 9
Man Utd 7
West Ham 7
Arsenal 6

The remaining fixtures give you the opportunity to work out what you think the final finishing positions will be:
Man City: H – Watford, Newcastle, Villa
Man City: A – Leeds, West Ham, Wolves
Liverpool: H –Everton, Tottenham, Wolves
Liverpool: A – Newcastle, Southampton, Villa
Chelsea: H – West Ham, Wolves, Watford, Leicester
Chelsea: A – Everton, Man Utd, Leeds
Tottenham: H – Leicester, Arsenal, Burnley
Tottenham: A – Brentford, Liverpool, Norwich
Arsenal: H – Man Utd, Leeds, Everton
Arsenal: A – West Ham, Newcastle, Tottenham
Man Utd: H – Brentford, Chelsea
Man Utd: A – Arsenal, Brighton, Palace
West Ham: H – Arsenal, Man City
West Ham: A –Chelsea, Norwich, Brighton
Wolves: H – Brighton, Norwich, Man City
Wolves: A – Burnley, Chelsea, Liverpool

In this weekend’s round of matches for the chasing teams we face a difficult trip to Stamford Bridge, and Manchester United visit the Emirates. Wolves visit Burnley and Tottenham are away at Brentford. Whilst it would be great to challenge the top five, perhaps we should be pinning our hopes on achieving sixth, and for that we would probably want Arsenal to beat Manchester United and Burnley to defeat Wolves too.

Our team selection choices diminish as the weeks go by, especially in central defence, and I wonder what the manager has in mind for the trip to West London? Does he promote from the academy? Or perhaps Johnson or Cresswell could fill a central back role? Or even both? Rice is always a possibility to play there but personally he wouldn’t be my choice for that role, he is such an important player in the midfield. It’s such a shame that as the business end of the season approaches we might fall short but it was always something that was likely to happen with a limited squad.

The European adventure (whatever happens now) has been great this season, and it would be excellent if we can qualify once again. The spirit within the squad continues to be high. Can we do it? I think we can. What are the chances?

West Ham United travel across London to face Brentford on Sunday. Can they avenge their defeat at the hands of the Bees at the London Stadium in October?

Are you old enough to remember 14th April 1991? That’s 31 years ago next Thursday. For all Hammers fans under the age of about 40 I’ll relate what happened that day. On that Sunday afternoon West Ham were playing Nottingham Forest in the 1990-91 FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park. We were a second division side at the time whilst Forest were in the top flight. Earlier in that week a new rule had been implemented in football – the ‘professional foul’ rule – referees were instructed to send off players deemed to be denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.  

Tony Gale, the West Ham United defender was given his marching orders during the first half of the game with the game still goalless. The decision by referee Keith Hackett to send Gale for an early bath for his challenge on Forest midfielder Gary Crosby has become infamous, as it was the first occurrence of a player being red carded for a so-called ‘professional foul’ for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. The sad thing about the incident, apart from the fact that it ruined a game of football was that by no means was it a clear goal scoring opportunity. Far from it. In retrospect Keith Hackett regretted his decision to send Gale off, and both have said that if it happened today VAR would immediately have overturned it.

Move on almost exactly 31 years to our Europa League semi-final against Lyon on Thursday evening. In time added on for stoppages at the end of the first half history repeated itself. This time it was Aaron Cresswell who was dismissed in a very important game for allegedly denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. It was perhaps a foul, and Cresswell was perhaps naïve in putting his arm on Dembele’s shoulder, but the way the Lyon forward tumbled was, in my opinion cheating, but worse than that the referee fell for it and brandished the red card, despite it not being a clear goalscoring opportunity. Earlier in the build up to the very same move there was a blatant foul on Bowen, much more obvious than the one that sent Dembele tumbling theatrically to the ground. Where was the VAR review?

Our first half performance hadn’t been that great but Benrahma, Bowen, Fornals and Antonio were looking lively and with the game still goalless at the time there was all to play for. It took an excellent defensive performance in the second half and a Bowen goal to achieve a 1-1 draw at the end – I think we all would have settled for that at half time. It gives us a chance next week in the second leg in France, but personally I am still fuming at the overall performance of the referee which was at best incompetent, and at worst, disgraceful.

Once again we face a Sunday afternoon 2pm kick off to follow our exertions on Thursday evening, with less than three days to recover for the players. I know it’s comparable to Wednesday evening games being followed by another on a Saturday but somehow it seems more onerous psychologically.

On Sunday 3rd October 2021 we faced Brentford at the London Stadium just after we had beaten Rapid Vienna 2-0 in our second Europa League match on the previous Thursday evening. We lost the game 2-1. Jarrod Bowen had equalised Brentford’s first half goal with about ten minutes of the game to go and we pressed for the winner. But in the fourth minute of time added on Wissa scored for Brentford to inflict our second home defeat of the season.

Brentford, who were the favourites at the start of the campaign to finish at the very bottom, have had a decent season and quite probably they will be the only one of the three clubs promoted from the Championship last season to survive as Norwich and Watford are strongly placed to make an immediate return to the second tier. They currently have 33 points, nine clear of the drop zone, and had an excellent 4-1 win at Stamford Bridge last Saturday. Once again this is a game where we must chase three points to maintain our position to challenge at the top of the table.

For the teams involved in chasing the top places in the last round of matches, we beat Everton, and there were wins for Tottenham and Wolves. But Manchester United could only draw, and both Chelsea and Arsenal were well beaten so there are still more twists and turns possible in the next couple of months.

I have updated my analysis of the current positions which are shown below. The defeat for Wolves at Newcastle last night is included.

The current league table – top 8 (games played in brackets) as at Friday 8th April 7.30pm:
Man City 73 (30)
Liverpool 72 (30)
Chelsea 59 (29)
Tottenham 54 (30)
Arsenal 54 (29)
West Ham 51 (31)
Man Utd 51 (30)
Wolves 49 (32)

The form table (last 5 games of the top 8 in the current league table):
Liverpool 15
Chelsea 12
Tottenham 12
Man City 10
Arsenal 9
West Ham 9
Man Utd 8
Wolves 6

Remaining fixtures:
Man City: H – Liverpool, Brighton, Watford, Newcastle, Villa
Man City: A – Leeds, West Ham, Wolves
Liverpool: H – Man Utd, Everton, Tottenham, Wolves
Liverpool: A – Man City, Newcastle, Southampton, Villa
Chelsea: H – Arsenal, West Ham, Wolves, Watford, Leicester
Chelsea: A – Southampton, Everton, Man Utd, Leeds
Arsenal: H – Brighton, Man Utd, Leeds, Everton
Arsenal: A – Southampton, Chelsea, West Ham, Newcastle, Tottenham
Tottenham: H – Brighton, Leicester, Arsenal, Burnley
Tottenham: A – Villa, Brentford, Liverpool, Norwich
Man Utd: H – Norwich, Brentford, Chelsea
Man Utd: A – Everton, Liverpool, Arsenal, Brighton, Palace
West Ham: H – Burnley, Arsenal, Man City
West Ham: A – Brentford, Chelsea, Norwich, Brighton
Wolves: H – Brighton, Norwich, Man City
Wolves: A – Burnley, Chelsea, Liverpool

Despite our game on Thursday being less than 72 hours ago, and the fact that Brentford won the reverse fixture at the London Stadium following West Ham playing in Europe with a similar time for recovery, and the Bees emphatic victory at Stamford Bridge last weekend, we are still marginal favourites to win the game at around 13/8. The home side are around 17/10 with the draw at about 9/4. At our best we should beat Brentford, but will we be at our best?

All of our rivals have a good chance of picking up points this weekend. Manchester United face an out of form Everton, Arsenal face an even more out of touch Brighton who have picked up just one point in their last 5 games. Chelsea visit Southampton who have gained just one point from their last 4 games, and Tottenham visit Villa who have lost their last three games. But last night Wolves visited Newcastle and lost so that was one good result for us. A win on Sunday will be important for us to keep up our challenge at the top. What are the chances?

West Ham United face relegation threatened Everton on Sunday. With just eight league games to go is a top six finish still on the cards?

There are just two months of the Premier League season to go with the top eight teams ten points clear of the teams currently in 9th and 10th position, so you would like to think that those eight teams will finish in the top eight in May. That is the most likely scenario, although Leicester (in tenth) do have three games in hand over West Ham and Wolves in seventh and eighth, so it is not impossible for them to be involved if they have an outstanding set of results to finish the season. As a comparison with the teams above them (see below) the last five Leicester games have yielded 9 points.

We currently sit in seventh place in the Premier League table; a top four finish is beginning to look out of the question, but we are still in touch and challenging for top six. We will need to improve on recent league form to achieve this.

The current league table – top 8 (games played in brackets):

Man City 70 (29)
Liverpool 69 (29)
Chelsea 59 (28)
Arsenal 54 (28)
Tottenham 51 (29)
Man Utd 50 (29)
West Ham 48 (30)
Wolves 46 (30)

The form table (last 5 games of the top 8 in the current league table):

Liverpool 15
Chelsea 15
Arsenal 12
Tottenham 12
Man City 10
Man Utd 10
West Ham 7
Wolves 6

Remaining fixtures:

Man City: H – Liverpool, Brighton, Watford, Newcastle, Villa
Man City: A – Burnley, Leeds, West Ham, Wolves
Liverpool: H – Watford, Man Utd, Everton, Tottenham, Wolves
Liverpool: A – Man City, Newcastle, Southampton, Villa
Chelsea: H – Brentford, Arsenal, West Ham, Wolves, Watford, Leicester
Chelsea: A – Southampton, Everton, Man Utd, Leeds
Arsenal: H – Brighton, Man Utd, Leeds, Everton
Arsenal: A – Palace, Southampton, Chelsea, West Ham, Newcastle, Tottenham
Tottenham: H – Newcastle, Brighton, Leicester, Arsenal, Burnley
Tottenham: A – Villa, Brentford, Liverpool, Norwich
Man Utd: H – Leicester, Norwich, Brentford, Chelsea
Man Utd: A – Everton, Liverpool, Arsenal, Brighton, Palace
West Ham: H – Everton, Burnley, Arsenal, Man City
West Ham: A – Brentford, Chelsea, Norwich, Brighton
Wolves: H – Villa, Brighton, Norwich, Man City
Wolves: A – Newcastle, Burnley, Chelsea, Liverpool

The outstanding fixtures for the top eight are summarised above, split between home and away games. It is not always easy to decide which fixtures are the toughest or easiest at this stage of the season. Sometimes those clubs battling to avoid relegation can be equally difficult games when compared to facing those clubs challenging for a European place. And with the prize money on offer for each place in the table, all clubs are trying to finish as high as possible, so teams in between can be tough too.

I’ve looked at the fixtures and made a guess at the results to see where I think we might end up. 14 points from the last 8 games would take us up to 62 points which is what Tottenham achieved last season when finishing seventh. 17 points are needed for us to equal last years total of 65 when we finished sixth. 67 points was the total for fourth place last time, but I suspect that it will be higher this time around. If the teams in the top eight maintained their average points for the season to date in their final fixtures then the final table would be:

Man City 92
Liverpool 90
Chelsea 80
Arsenal 73
Tottenham 67
Man Utd 66
West Ham 61
Wolves 58

My own forecast of the results in the remaining games would result in a league table like this: (I’ll look back in May to see how close I got!). Take a look at the outstanding fixtures and see where you think we’ll finish.

Man City 93
Liverpool 91
Chelsea 83
Arsenal 73
Tottenham 70
Man Utd 62
West Ham 62
Wolves 56

Quite clearly we need to improve on our average points per game tally in the final run-in and hope that those teams above us don’t perform as well as they have done so far. Looking at the remaining fixtures of those teams above us I reckon Arsenal and Manchester United have a tougher set than Tottenham, who have potentially the easiest, although Arsenal do have points in the bag. I’ll be looking carefully at the Manchester United results as I believe that if we have a strong finish they are the ones we could catch to finish sixth. It will be close but at this stage a top six finish is still on the cards. Perhaps even goal difference will come into play?

A top 6 place at the end of the season will (I think) guarantee a place in Europe next season as Liverpool have won the EFL Cup. A European spot will extend to a seventh place finish (I think) providing one of Man City, Liverpool or Chelsea win the FA Cup and finish in the top four – a likely outcome unless Palace win the FA Cup.

Full details (an excerpt taken from the Premier League.com/European-qualification-explained website) of how Premier League clubs can qualify for Europe next season can be found here.

So if I’ve interpreted it correctly, sixth should be good enough for another tilt at the Europa League next season, and seventh will qualify for the Europa Conference League. Of course winning the Europa League would be the best outcome as it would mean automatic qualification for the Champions League. What we must not do is finish eighth or below to stand a chance of being in European competition next season (unless we win the Europa League).

Hopefully I’ve got this right. The next obstacle is the visit of Everton on Sunday. The top three teams have relatively easy fixtures this weekend so I think we must hope for Villa to pick up something at Wolves, Leicester to do the same at Old Trafford, and Newcastle to stop Tottenham winning. Arsenal probably can’t be caught but a defeat at Palace would also be a bonus.

All International breaks (and this is the the fourth one this season) can be really disruptive to the league programme, but it does give us the opportunity to regroup for the final push in the last two months of the season. Everton are in disarray but they will be fighting hard to pick up something at the London Stadium. With just eight league games to go we must really hope for three points on Sunday to maintain our challenge.

The European adventure (whatever happens now) has been great this season, and it would be excellent if we can qualify once again. Can we do it? I think we can. What are the chances?

Wouldn’t It Be Good If West Ham could renew their acquaintance with Eintracht Frankfurt? But Tottenham first on Sunday and then Lyon in April.

Since I first went to Upton Park in November 1958 I have seen many great games of football where West Ham have been playing. And Thursday night’s great win over Seville is yet another of the superb matches. The Europa League experts who had never previously been eliminated by an English club in the competition were beaten in extra time with the second emotional winner scored in a week by our Ukrainian Andriy Yarmolenko. But there were great performances all around the field, from the magnificent save by Areola when the score was 0-0 to the tireless Antonio up front, and all the players in between.

Great credit to David Moyes and his coaching staff for the past two seasons, but one area that has been improved immeasurably is the fitness of the whole squad of players. While the Spaniards were making every substitution available to them, we kept almost every player from the starting eleven on the pitch for virtually 120 minutes. And which team were by far the stronger in extra time? Which team wanted to win the game without resorting to penalties? Undoubtedly it was West Ham.

In the last 63 years my favourite ever West Ham game remains the 1976 European Cup Winners Cup semi final second leg that I watched from the North Bank at Upton Park on a night of torrential rain on April 14th 1976. A packed 39,000 plus crowd witnessed a great comeback when we overcame a 2-1 deficit from the first leg in Germany with goals from Keith Robson and two from a majestic performance from the brilliant Sir Trev. There was an electric atmosphere that night and it was repeated with 60,000 in the London Stadium on Thursday.

Friday’s draw gave us the intriguing and enticing possibility of a repeat semi-final against those same opponents from 1976. But first we must overcome Lyon of France, whilst the Germans must beat the tournament favourites Barcelona in the quarter finals. The French team have been disappointing in their domestic league and are currently tenth in mid-table, although their European performances have been much better.

Today’s game against Tottenham comes up very quickly after the extra time exertions of Thursday night and winning will be a difficult task. Friday night’s surprise win by Leeds at Molyneux strengthens our potential to finish in the top seven, although at the moment my understanding is that only the top six will qualify for European competition next season. But if one of the top 4 wins the FA Cup then qualification could fall as low as seventh place, so we are hoping that Manchester City, Chelsea or Liverpool lift that trophy in May. Of course we can ensure qualification if we win the Europa League!

We have a decent record against Tottenham in recent times having won our last two Premier League games against them, but both of those were at the London Stadium. At White Hart Lane we have only won two of the 19 encounters the last one being three years ago when Michail Antonio scored the only goal to inflict Spurs first home defeat at their new stadium. Antonio has scored six Premier League goals against Tottenham, more than he has netted against any other opponents. But it remains to be seen how fit he is after 120 minutes on Thursday night when he was a doubt for that game. Those of you who remember when they used to publish an unofficial London championship in the programme many years ago might like to know that in this season to date Tottenham are currently bottom, having lost five of their seven games.

Tottenham have had a bit of an up and down time so far this season, and it would be great to beat them in this game, but they are understandably the bookies odds-on favourites to win. A draw wouldn’t be the worst result for us looking at the remaining fixtures this season, perhaps 2-2? What are the chances?

Can West Ham rediscover their scoring touch when in-form Villa visit the London Stadium on Sunday?

Here we are, two weeks on from my last review prior to the Wolves game and just 10 games to go in the Premier League this season for West Ham. In view of the (mainly Covid) interruptions to the season that happened a few weeks ago some of the other teams competing at the top of the table have either 11, 12 or even 13 games left prior to this weekend’s fixtures. It makes comparisons difficult. 

As I wrote only a fortnight ago am I the only one who would have liked to see players recruited in the winter window stopped from playing in games that are rescheduled following postponements? A blatant example of the point I am making was demonstrated in the Southampton v Newcastle game on Thursday night. Eddie Howe fielded six players who were not available when the game was scheduled to be played in January before it was postponed due to Newcastle’s COVID / injury situation at the time. 

How convenient for the Geordies that Chris Wood, a £25 million signing from Burnley in the winter transfer window, scored his first goal for the Tynesiders to equalise Southampton’s opening goal. And then Guimaraes, a £40 million signing, scored the winner with an outrageous back-heeled volley. The winning goal was assisted by Burn who headed a Targett corner back across goal. Both of those were January recruits too. Newcastle have benefitted enormously, not just from the injection of funds following the takeover, but also from the postponements. Surely the Premier League should have acted to prevent this unfair situation arising?

We currently sit in sixth place still, in touch and challenging for a top four place, although our recent indifferent performances and results of others means that it would take a number of wins in the run-in to achieve this. Perhaps 5th, 6th, 7th or even 8th looks our most likely finishing position as it stands but a lot can change. At this stage it is impossible to know where we would need to finish to qualify for Europe, as this depends on winners of cup competitions.

Our 1-0 defeat to Sevilla leaves the tie still wide open but we should not underestimate how difficult it might be to overturn even just a one goal deficit. If we want to advance into the last eight we will need to become the first team from England to overcome these Europa League specialists. Tottenham, Wolves and Manchester United have all tried and failed in the past. 

And for a team with the fourth highest number of goals scored in the Premier League this season so far we have suddenly lost our ability to convert chances into goals. In the past week against both Liverpool and Sevilla how many golden opportunities to score were spurned? This will need to be improved if we are to stand a chance of progressing in the Europa League and continuing our challenge in the domestic league.

The current league table – top 10
Man City 69 from 28 games
Liverpool 63 from 27 games
Chelsea 56 from 27 games
Arsenal 48 from 25 games
Man Utd 47 from 28 games
West Ham 45 from 28 games
Tottenham 45 from 26 games
Wolves 43 from 28 games
Villa 36 from 27 games
Southampton 35 from 28 games

The form table (last 5 games of the top 10 in the current league table)
Liverpool 15
Chelsea 13
Arsenal 13
Man City 12
Tottenham 9
Villa 9
West Ham 8
Man Utd 8
Southampton 7
Wolves 6

Our opponents this weekend have climbed into the top half of the table in the past fortnight. They have looked very impressive in recent games when beating Southampton and Leeds and will be a difficult proposition on Sunday. Coutinho seems to have regained his Liverpool form after his difficult time abroad. They will visit the London Stadium full of confidence. We haven’t managed to score more than one goal in any of our last five games in all competitions. I reckon that we will need to do so on Sunday if we are to collect the three points that we need to maintain our challenge in the Premier League. What are the chances?

A remarkable two years as we look back on West Ham’s progress in that time.

Tonight West Ham face Southampton in the fifth round of the FA Cup hoping to take another step towards winning a trophy

It has been quite an amazing couple of years for West Ham. Just two years ago as coronavirus (we didn’t call it COVID 19 then I don’t think) was beginning to attract more attention and we were all washing our hands more regularly (no lockdown or social distancing at that early stage) there we were battling relegation. We had already been dumped out of the FA Cup by Championship side West Brom, as well as on the end of a 4-0 thrashing in the EFL Cup by lowly Oxford United.

Our last home game before the (2019-20) season was suspended on 13th March was on 29th February 2020 was against Southampton, almost two years to the day before we meet them again in the fifth round of the FA Cup this evening. We beat them 3-1 that day, climbing out of the bottom three in the process, and rising to 16th in the league. We only played once more (a 1-0 defeat at Arsenal) before the season resumed on the 19th June (we lost to Wolves on that day too).

On that Leap Year’s Day two years ago, Jarrod Bowen put us in front, scoring his first Premier League goal on his full debut when he lifted the ball over McCarthy in the Saints goal from Pablo Fornals’ fine through ball. Southampton equalised with a goal from Obafemi but we restored our lead before half-time when Sebastien Haller beat McCarthy to Antonio’s cross that hung in the air and scored from close range. Antonio then increased our lead to 3-1 early in the second half, gathering Fornals’ pass and sliding the ball past McCarthy. It was our first win in eight matches. As we sat in the cold February sunshine little did we realise how long it would be before we could return to the London Stadium to see our team again. In front of empty stadiums we picked up 12 points from our final seven games to avoid relegation.

Football continued to be played in front of empty stadiums in 2020-21 and after losing our opening two games, we began to see a new West Ham. By 27 February 2021 (just one year ago) we had only lost a handful of games and sat proudly in 4th place in the Premier League table. I was one of the lucky ones in the ballot to be among the crowd of 10,000 to witness our final home game of the season when we comfortably beat Southampton 3-0, Pablo Fornals once again having a big influence on the game, scoring twice in the first half before Declan Rice wrapped up the scoring late in the game. That meant we finished 6th at the season’s end, narrowly missing out on the top four but qualifying for a place in the Europa League.

Fast forward another year and we sit in fifth place in the Premier League with just eleven games of the league season to go. We are also in the Europa League knockout stages, where we have been paired with La Liga side Sevilla, as well as the Fifth Round of the FA Cup tonight. What a transformation in just two years! None of us can honestly say we saw this coming when we went into lockdown two years ago.

It will not be easy for us tonight. Southampton have been in excellent form lately, and their 11 points from their last 5 league games is bettered by only two teams (Liverpool with 15, and Newcastle with 13). In fact they have only lost once in their last ten league games (3-1 at Wolves), a run (5 wins and 4 draws) which has seen them climb from 16th (just above the relegation places) to 9th, sitting vary comfortably in mid-table.

They needed extra time to knock out both Swansea and Coventry in the last two rounds, but now we’ve reached the stage where the winners of this tie will progress into the last eight, I would expect both teams to field close to first choice sides. They certainly should because at this stage we are only three wins away from a place in the FA Cup final and the chance to lift a trophy. Of course we remember the last round very well, only just surviving to get past Kidderminster thanks in the main to Declan Rice.

Ron Greenwood Taking Home The FA Cup in 1964. Will This Be David Moyes in 2022?

Southampton’s fine recent form sees them installed as favourites to win the tie by the bookmakers at around 13/10. The odds on a West Ham win are around 2/1 with 12/5 on a draw in 90 minutes. Betting on cup games is always a precarious business as you can never be sure how strong the teams will be. You’d like to think that being this close to a Wembley final would mean that teams are at full strength but that is not always the case.

In the next 19 days, starting with tonight’s last 16 game at Southampton we will play 6 matches, including home and away ties against Sevilla in the Europa League last 16, as well as three league games with visits to Anfield and White Hart Lane plus a home game against Aston Villa.

I wonder where we’ll be in three weeks’ time? We could be in the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup and the Europa League and still challenging towards the top of the Premier League. Or perhaps we might only have eight league games left of our season having gone out of both cups? Or perhaps even somewhere in between?

With the relatively thin squad available to choose from it is remarkable that we are where we are considering where we were looking back to just two years ago. But whatever happens in the next two weeks and then in the final weeks of the season it is interesting to hear David Moyes’ thoughts. At the Press Conference prior to tonight’s game these are some of his quotes:

“Every manager wants to win a trophy.” “We’re on a good track but the next couple of years will be an important time. We’re trying to build a team that’s getting stronger.” “I look more at how we’re going to continue to try to build the club and keep getting closer to winning trophies.” “We’ve made a swift move towards the top end of the Premier League. We’re involved in Europe, had a decent run in the Carabao Cup and we’re trying to get a good run in the FA Cup if we can as well”

Well done David Moyes and his coaching team. What a fantastic turnaround in our fortunes in just two years.