Can West Ham end their run of consecutive defeats away from home?

The game against Southampton last Saturday was one of the most enjoyable visits to the London Stadium this season. The 3-1 victory was well deserved and a fair reflection of the game despite the visitors having the lion’s share of possession which can be a very misleading statistic. No points are awarded for having the ball; only the result counts. We had more shots, plus more shots on target, and this led to more goals and a very welcome three points. With some of the other teams at the foot of the table also picking up points the relegation battle is intensifying with just ten games of the season to play (Villa have eleven).

It still seems likely to me that the three relegation slots will be occupied by three of the six teams currently propping up the table, although Newcastle, who are just above the bottom half dozen, could still play a part with a poor run, especially if some of the lower teams collect more than a point a game average in the run-in.

It is at this stage of a season when you are involved in the skirmish to avoid the drop into the Championship that you start to look at the remaining fixtures for your club, and also for the others in contention, to assess your chances of staying up. I keep hearing pundits saying that West Ham have a tough set of fixtures until the end of the season so I thought I’d compare them to those of our competitors at the foot of the table.

Of course there is no scientific way to work out what will happen, and there are so many variables. But for a bit of fun the first assessment I made was to look at the current league positions of all the clubs that we still have to face and give each match a score based upon the degree of difficulty. So, for example, a fixture v Liverpool would score 1, Man. City 2 etc., down to Norwich 20. Therefore based on current league positions it would give an indicator of the difficulty of matches outstanding. This made interesting reading. The score for Villa had a proportional adjustment as they have 11 games remaining.

Newcastle 116, West Ham 111, Norwich 105, Watford 103, Brighton 83, Villa 82, Bournemouth 74.

Using this formula, it would suggest that Bournemouth, Villa and Brighton have the toughest run-in. Bournemouth and Villa already occupy relegation slots so would appear to be in the greatest danger, along with Norwich who still have points to make up. However this doesn’t take into account fixtures against teams who may be in a prominent league position but have little to play for. These may be easier games than those against clubs at the bottom fighting for their lives.

So, how many games do the bottom seven clubs have against teams who are also in the bottom seven? Are these games tougher or easier? Certainly getting three points in these games in some ways is more important because it means that the opposition (who are the key rivals) don’t get any.

Newcastle 5, West Ham 4, Norwich 3, Watford 3, Brighton 2, Villa 2, Bournemouth 1

And will the FA Cup have any influence? Both Norwich and Newcastle are still involved at this stage. Will their involvement hinder or improve their chances of avoiding the drop?

Liverpool and Manchester City are way ahead of the rest of the league, so games against those two sides might be the toughest of all. But they might not if those teams relax because of positions already certain or involvement in Europe. Newcastle, Brighton, and Bournemouth still have to face both clubs. Watford, Villa and Norwich still have an outstanding fixture against one of them, whereas West Ham don’t have to face either in their final ten games. Sometimes, fixtures against mid-table sides with little to play for are the ones that you want in the last few games of the season.

So what does all this prove? Well, nothing really I just had a look for a bit of fun. Of course, as I said there are still so many variables in the remainder of the season and I haven’t even mentioned coronavirus yet.

One interesting fact is that the bottom 7 all have away games this weekend, and I believe the following weekend they will all be at home. Based on league positions alone then Bournemouth would appear to have the hardest game at Liverpool (1st), Villa are at Leicester (3rd), Brighton are at Wolves (6th), Norwich at Sheffield United (8th), West Ham at Arsenal (10th), Watford at Palace (12th), and Newcastle at Southampton (13th). I guess that we would all be happy with one point, and any team that picks up a win would gain an important advantage over the others.

The current form table (last 5 matches) has Bournemouth 7pts, West Ham, Watford, Villa and Norwich all 4 points, Newcastle and Brighton 3 points. Newcastle and Brighton are the only teams not to have won at least one game in the last five, but conversely they have more points currently than the other 5.

Current relegation odds vary slightly from bookmaker to bookmaker, but the following are average figures. Norwich 1/12, Villa 4/7, Bournemouth 8/11, West Ham 7/4, Brighton 9/4, Watford 3/1, and Newcastle 6/1.

So, having looked through all this, what do I think will happen? Lots can happen in the weeks ahead, but my feeling at this stage is that Norwich, Villa and Bournemouth will be playing Championship football next season, and apart from those, Brighton will be very involved in the scrap to survive. In my opinion West Ham and Watford will pull away from trouble, and Newcastle probably have enough points in the bag already. But we can never be sure with our team though, can we? I’ll probably need to review my prediction soon!

Arsenal are not the team they once were and are no longer anywhere near the invincibles of a few years ago. However we should not underestimate them, as although they do have defensive frailties, they are more than capable of scoring goals. My spies tell me that Tomas Soucek has made an excellent recovery from his injured hip and is likely to play a part. Will the manager keep the same team that played so well to defeat Southampton last week? Or will he revert to a more defensive formation? We have lost our last five Premier League games away from home, so I suppose we should be grateful if we can get anything at all from this game. It’s about time we won another away game. Perhaps we can sneak it 2-1?

After collecting from a 90/1 bet on West Ham last weekend, I’ll give the bookmakers a chance to get some of their money back! The bets I quite like the look of for this game are:

West Ham to win the game – 9/2;

West Ham to win 2-1 – 16/1;

West Ham to win 2-1 with Bowen scoring the first goal as he did last week – 110/1;

West Ham to win with both teams to score with both Antonio and Bowen on the scoresheet and Ogbonna to receive a card – 150/1.

All longshots but a bit of fun to add to my enjoyment of the game (I hope!)

Not quite “must win” yet for West Ham as they face Southampton, but it will be if they don’t start picking up points soon

Two teams that gained promotion from the Championship at the same time (in the 2011-12 season) meet today. Whilst Southampton gained automatic promotion by finishing as runners-up to champions Reading, we, of course, came up the “fun way” defeating Blackpool in the play-off final at Wembley. Both clubs have consolidated within the Premier League in the seven completed seasons since that promotion and have similar records. We have finished above them on three occasions whereas they have been above us four times. Of course we have both flirted with relegation at times, although our lowest finishing position has been 13th, whereas today’s opponents have finished closer to the trap door with final positions of 14th, 16th and 17th.

Our best finishes have been 7th and twice finishing 10th, whereas Southampton had a purple patch from season 2013-14 onwards when ending up 8th, 7th, 6th and 8th in consecutive seasons. Even when we had that marvellous last season at Upton Park finishing 7th, they pipped us to end up one place and one point above us. Southampton have picked up 341 points in those 7 seasons (average 49) compared to our 334 (average 48).

If you calculate the average finishing position in those 7 campaigns then we both have identical results, showing an average of 11th. The head to head record in the period matches the all-time historical record with West Ham winning more games than our South Coast opponents. In the 15 games since promotion, West Ham have won 8 to Southampton’s 4 with 3 drawn games. We have won the last 4 meetings – until then the records were equally matched. The record when we have been the home side reads won 5 and lost 2 in 7 meetings, scoring 16 goals and conceding 9.

After a few games this season it looked like we were going to overtake Southampton in the comparisons since promotion. We started the season well and Southampton were languishing close to the bottom. However our form had slumped by the time we visited Southampton a few days before Christmas, and both managers were under pressure. On that day we won 1-0 with a goal from Sebastien Haller to relieve the pressure building on Manuel Pellegrini, whereas our opponents remained in the relegation zone.

But following that day Southampton’s season took off collecting 16 points from the next seven games to climb into the top half of the table. They haven’t kept up that pace in the last few games, but nevertheless they sit in a comfortable 12th place in the table on 34 points, 10 clear of ourselves – of course we are in the danger zone in 18th.

We are at that stage of the season now with just eleven games to go when games such as these are almost “must win” fixtures for us. It is not quite critical yet, and a win would see us leapfrog Aston Villa (who play in the Carabao Cup Final this weekend), and could see us move above Bournemouth if they fail to beat an out of form Chelsea side. That would be a boost.

There are currently 5 teams that are not averaging a point a game, and Brighton in addition are just above that figure. It seems likely that the three relegated teams will come from those six unless one of the teams immediately above has a disastrous run (similar to the one we have had!). 37 or 38 points could mean safety and that would probably mean four wins and a couple of draws. There are no guarantees of course but that might be enough. It’s sad though isn’t it when a season that started brightly has come to this. My prediction at this point sees us escaping the drop with Norwich, Villa and Bournemouth going down. But in reality, all of the bottom six teams have a number of difficult games, and it could be very different.

Bookmakers generally have 7 clubs in the mix for relegation, with current odds of about 1/20 Norwich (virtually already down), Villa 8/13, Bournemouth 10/11, West Ham 5/4, Watford 7/5, Brighton 11/2, Newcastle 6/1.

Even Brighton supporters, despite their points cushion at the moment, cannot feel comfortable, especially if they fail to beat Palace tomorrow, as their March and April fixtures are against Wolves, Arsenal, Leicester, Man United, Norwich, Liverpool, and Man City.

We can take heart from our visit to Anfield even though we took no points. Despite the obvious gulf in class we came closer to defeating them than most teams have this season in the Premier League. It’s a shame that our usual saviour Fabianski chose the game to have possibly his worst outing since joining us. He was obviously at fault for the second goal, and didn’t cover himself in glory for the other two either. But that’s water under the bridge now, so let us hope that normal goalkeeping service is resumed today.

I wonder what team we will see today. My selection would be:

Fabianski; Ngakia, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Rice, Snodgrass; Fornals, Anderson, Bowen; Antonio.

I am not sure Noble is up to two games in close succession and have gone for Snodgrass in a central midfield role for this game, with his dead ball delivery an important factor in my choice. Such a shame about the injury to Soucek – I thought he was looking like exactly the player we needed in midfield. I doubt that Mr Moyes will agree with my choice, but we can all play football manager when it comes to team selection.

I started this article by talking about the relative merits of the two clubs since promotion in 2012. In our first meeting in the Premier League following promotion, we comfortably beat Southampton 4-1 with a couple of goals from Mark Noble, one from Kevin Nolan, and a mazy dribble and finish from Modibo Maiga (remember him?). Adam Lallana scored for the Saints. If you go back to the very first meeting between the two teams at our ground in April 1900, the score that day was Thames Ironworks 4 Southampton 1.

What chance a repeat of the 4-1 win today? We’ll all be going home happy if we win by any score.

Liverpool v West Ham – a few facts to help you decide who is likely to come out on top!

Let’s examine a few facts to help us decide the potential outcome in tonight’s visit to Anfield.  But as they say in the world of investments “Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results”. As far as betting on the match is concerned, you can get up to 20/1 on a West Ham victory and 7/1 on a draw. I have seen 200/1 quoted for West Ham to repeat their 3-0 victory at Anfield in 2015. But some bookmakers don’t bother to quote odds for that scoreline, obviously believing that nobody would want to bet on it.

  • Liverpool have played 26 Premier League games so far this season. They have won 25 of them and drawn the other one, giving them a total of 76 points out of a possible 78.
  • They have been top of the league all season apart from after the first match when Manchester City were top on goal difference (as a result of winning 5-0 at the London Stadium!)
  • In the last 7 games between the two sides, Liverpool have won 5 of them and drawn the other 2, scoring 4 goals in 4 of the 7 matches.
  • In the Premier League (and Division 1 before the Premier League was formed), the two sides have met 57 times at Anfield. Liverpool have won 39, 15 have been drawn, and West Ham have won 3. The West Ham wins were in 1928, 1963, and 2015.
  • Liverpool have won their last 17 league games. The record for consecutive wins in the Premier League (and Division 1 before the Premier League was formed) is 18 held by Manchester City.
  • Liverpool have won their last 20 home league games. The record for consecutive home wins in the Premier League (and Division 1 before the Premier League was formed) is 21 held by ….. Liverpool!
  • Liverpool last lost a league game 14 months ago when they went down 2-1 to Manchester City. They haven’t been beaten in their last 43 league games, winning 38 of them.
  • In all their Premier League games going back to 7 December (11 matches), Liverpool have only conceded one goal (in a 2-1 victory away to Wolverhampton). But in their 8 league games prior to that they didn’t keep a clean sheet.
  • Since 1901, Liverpool and West Ham have met 140 times in all competitions. Liverpool have won 75, 37 have been drawn and West Ham have won 28.
  • West Ham once scored 7 goals in a game against Liverpool (1930). Liverpool have never managed more than 6 in a single game against West Ham.
  • David Moyes has been the manager 15 times in visits to Anfield. He has never won a game there.
  • West Ham have 5 points from their last 8 league games. On form in the last 8 games that is the poorest record in the Premier League.
  • West Ham have thrown away 19 points from winning positions this season. That is the most in the Premier League.
  • West Ham haven’t lost 5 away league games in a row for more than six years. We’ve lost our last 4!
  • Antonio has played against Liverpool five times in the Premier League. He has only failed to score in one of them.

Not many positives there! But at least almost all of the teams in the relegation battle with us lost this weekend (apart from Brighton who drew at Sheffield United).

Can West Ham spring a major surprise at the Etihad?

I’ve just been re-reading the article I wrote prior to the away game at Manchester City originally scheduled for the Sunday before last. Most of what I wrote still stands, but a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. Climatically, not only have we endured Storm Ciara, the reason for the postponement of the original game, but this was followed a week later by Storm Denis wreaking havoc across much of the country with strong winds and heavy rain.

But in a football sense, perhaps the biggest storm has been the one that has descended upon the blue half of Manchester, where the club have been found guilty and been given quite a kicking by Uefa, who showed no love on Valentines Day by dishing out their stiffest sanctions ever, penalties imposed for breaches of Financial Fair Play and licensing rules. I guess they’ve been dancing in the streets of Madrid and Barcelona especially, where there is a belief that City have got just what they deserved, and many feel the same about Paris St Germain too. I doubt that it is just the Spanish either, and suspect there are wry smiles in Italy and Germany also.

City have had massive success domestically in the last couple of seasons and were generally felt to be the best team in the country, until Liverpool won the Champions League last season and have literally run away with the Premier League this time around, holding an almost unassailable lead. Many will feel that there are parallels with the game of Rugby Union, where the Premiership, which has now been in existence for 32 years, slightly longer than its football counterpart, is dominated by money. I wrote an article recently that demonstrated the link between revenue and success in football (West Ham were the exception!), and I believe that Rugby Union has similar ills. For me, money is ruining both games, with teams chasing success using win-at-all-costs strategies. In Rugby Union, Saracens, the leading, and most successful team in recent times, were found guilty of breaching salary cap regulations, and were given a points deduction so severe that it guaranteed relegation at the end of this season.

City’s punishment is massive too, although it is of a European not domestic nature. The fine of around £25 million will not harm them; perhaps the cruellest sanction from their viewpoint is the two year ban from European competition? What will this do to enable them to retain their renowned manager, and their leading players? And more than that will they be able to attract the top players going forward? I suspect not.

The big difference between the Saracens and Manchester City situations is very clear though. Whilst Saracens have accepted their punishment and are not contesting the fine and points deduction which means relegation, it would appear that this will not be true for City. From what I’ve read they have signalled their intent to make a legal challenge to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and of course have limitless funds to appeal and challenge the decision. Effectively I reckon they could tie up the decision for years to come with appeals and legal challenges.Of course it is not their first offence. They received a massive fine a few years ago for breaching Financial Fair Play regulations, and haven’t there been issues around breach of transfer rules, and a ban on signing Academy players in recent times too?

I don’t know the rights and wrongs of all this, and really don’t understand the intricacies of the Financial Fair Play regulations. What I do know is that, for me, the financial imbalance in the revenues of the leading football clubs when compared to the rest, does nothing for the game of football, and leads to a predictability that makes Premier League football boring. What effect will the last week have on this fixture, City’s first game since the bombshell was dropped? Will it demoralise the players or lead to an increased resolve?

From a West Ham viewpoint the players have been taking their mid-winter break, and in fact we haven’t played a game now for two and a half weeks. The players resumed training last Saturday and should certainly feel fresh. New signings on the pitch and coaching staff have hopefully given the team a lift, although rumblings of discontent from the fans in respect of the owners continue to grow.

In normal circumstances, to play Manchester City away from home is as tough a fixture as you can get. They beat us 5-0 at the London Stadium on the season’s opening day, but whilst they haven’t been quite as formidable this season as last, they are still easily the second best team in the country. They have failed to score for two games in a row, so must be relishing the thought that West Ham are the next team up. I wonder how long it is since City failed to score for three games in a row?

Hopefully the majority of our squad are now fit, and when you add the signings of Soucek who made a promising debut, and Bowen who arrives with many praising his potential, I am confident that we can score move forward from here. My main worry is that we face the two toughest games in the calendar next, and hope that we don’t lose confidence, or too much ground, on the teams around us.

I read on social media that some of our fans hated Tottenham’s last minute winner against Villa. Whilst not being keen on our neighbours from North London, surely we need to look at the bigger picture and be pleased with the result, which adds to the problems of Villa, one of our main rivals in the relegation fight?

If you look at the games that we all have to play, then all teams around us have difficult fixtures in the run-in, although ours come sooner rather than later. We really need to stay in touch with the others over the course of the next few games, and then when we get to the final half dozen or so games, it will be in our own hands, with (on paper) some fixtures that are most definitely winnable.

Who will be in our line-up against City? Of course we’ll have Fabianski in goal. But will he choose the experienced but fading Zabaleta for a final hurrah against his old club, or the faster, but perhaps more error-prone Fredericks at right back? Balbuena’s wretched form surely ensures starts for Diop and Ogbonna, whilst Cresswell is most definitely a safer option at left back than Masuaku.

In midfield I assume he will have three “defensive-minded” players for this game, which I reckon will be Rice, Noble and Soucek. Surely he can’t be tempted to use Sanchez, can he? This leaves three more places to be filled for more attacking players and a choice from Haller, Antonio, Bowen, Fornals, Lanzini, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Masuaku, Snodgrass and Ajeti. Have I forgotten anyone? I don’t think that any of the youngsters like Silva or Ngakia will be considered for this game.

Of course we all have our own opinions, but I would expect to see Antonio, Bowen and Anderson as the three. That would surely be the fastest trio, adding more pace to the side? That would be my choice. I’m sure others (including the manager) may have differing opinions. For more midfield “energy” then perhaps Snodgrass could play instead of Noble, or if we intend to be even more defensive minded then he could play in addition, and only have two really “offensive” players. I hope not. We have a lot of good attacking players in the squad, and if used correctly, I’m sure we can score goals. The problem will be keeping them out!

After the debacle of the last twenty minutes against Brighton, Prexit is getting nearer. Can West Ham spring a major surprise at the Etihad?

If we supported any other team we would have been in shock after the last twenty minutes of the Brighton game last weekend. But as we are West Ham fans we’ve seen it all before, and many of us could see what was about to happen before it actually did. Nevertheless as we trudged back to Stratford Station after the game, being constantly stopped by those wretched stop-go boards which come into operation at random intervals that appear to have little logic to them, we were all scratching our heads and grumbling about what we’d just witnessed.

It was a crazy afternoon where all of the bottom six in the Premier League occupied places in the bottom three at one time or another between 3 o’clock and 5 o’clock. When we were in the lead in the game at one stage we had climbed up to 15th in the table (in-play). We led 2-0 at the interval, thanks to a near post goal from Diop, and a deflected shot from Snodgrass. Brighton emerged after the break on the front foot and caught us cold, and had soon reduced the deficit when Fabianski’s weak punch rebounded off Ogbonna into the net. Was Fabianski fouled? Would we be reprieved by VAR? Of course not.

It was looking a bit ominous as Brighton seemed to gain more confidence and increased possession and attacking threat. But no, we restored our two goal lead with yet another deflection to a Snodgrass shot to make the score 3-1. With a little over a quarter of an hour to go the manager decided to take off Antonio. He had been terrorising the Brighton defenders all afternoon, but as usual was beginning to tire, and to save him from injury he was allocated a place in the comfy seats and replaced by Masuaku.

Within a couple of minutes Masuaku attempted a clearance which looped into the West Ham penalty area on the rebound from a Brighton player, which began a chain reaction of laughable defending that reminded me of the Marx Brothers for comical effect. Diop and Ogbonna were the initial culprits as they hesitated. Fabianski realising the problem rushed from goal only to be beaten to the ball by Gross who nipped in first, and the ball rolled agonisingly slowly into the goal off the post, barely reaching the net. “You are kidding me” uttered the West Ham fan sitting beside me. But I kid you not. It really happened.

It was now game on as Brighton pressed forward searching for the equaliser. Just a couple of minutes had gone by when a cross was not intercepted and Murray (who always scores against us) seemingly controlled the ball with his arm before scoring. But despair turned to relief when we spotted that Michael Oliver had spotted the handball and disallowed the goal. But wait, VAR got involved, and it seemed several minutes elapsed before there was a decision. The referee had disallowed the goal but VAR overturned it. I thought they could only do that if there was a clear and obvious error. I could see the handball from 100 yards away, and then they showed it on the big screens. It certainly looked like handball on there too. Booing broke out all around, but the referee accepted the decision of VAR and the goal stood.

How many points has the handball issue cost us this season? And how many points have we dropped from winning positions too? The total has now increased to 19 ensuring we extend our lead in that league table; unfortunately not a table we would want to be at the top of. So by the end of the game, where we just about held on for the draw, we were sitting in the relegation zone, with some tough upcoming fixtures, beginning with Manchester City and Liverpool away games either side of the winter break. Oh dear. We are well in the mire now.

So we now have 13 games to go with six at home and seven away. On paper the away fixtures are generally much tougher than the home games, but if we are to avoid dropping into the Championship with the long term ramifications of that, we need to start winning some games of football. I have studied the remaining fixtures for all six teams that currently look in most danger of going down, and whilst there are various people in the media who are highlighting our difficult fixtures that are coming up, I have to say that all six teams have equally tough games to face between now and the end of the season.

The problem that we have is that the harder fixtures on paper generally come up first and then it gets relatively easier towards the end. Somehow we have to try not to fall too far behind which would then mean we are trying to catch up. In five of the last six games we face Newcastle, Burnley, Norwich, Watford and Aston Villa – on paper an easier run of matches than the ones coming up next. If we can still be in touch by the beginning of April we will have every opportunity of staying up. Perhaps there could even be a last day relegation decider when we face Aston Villa at the London Stadium?

Manchester City away is tough. They beat us on our own ground 5-0 in the first game of this season, almost exactly six months ago to the day, but whilst they haven’t been quite as formidable this season as last, they are still easily the second best team in the country. They have failed to score for two games in a row, so must be relishing the thought of their next visitors. I have no idea how long it is since they failed to score for three games in a row, but I’ll bet it hasn’t happened for some time. And they haven’t won a home Premier League game since they beat Everton 2-1 on New Years Day.

With the imminent return of Anderson, the signings of Soucek who made a promising debut, and Bowen who arrives with many praising his potential, and also hoping that Antonio will be fit, then I am confident that we can score goals. What worries me is that I am not sure how we can avoid conceding them. Declan Rice has been massively important to our midfield, but he grew up as a centre back, and I wonder if any thought has been given to playing him there as part of three at the back, perhaps for the games against City and Liverpool. There is not a lot to lose in those two games as we are not expected to pick up any points, and it may be worth trying something different.

I have had to write this column well in advance this week so have no idea regarding injuries and availability. But perhaps we could line up something like this:

Fabianski, Zabaleta, Diop, Rice, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Snodgrass, Soucek, Anderson, Bowen, Antonio

That would leave Fredericks (who seems reluctant to use his pace going forward, and is making too many errors), Noble (who looks in need of a rest, and pace could be more important than usual in the next 2 games), Lanzini (who is so out of form and short on confidence), Masuaku (who to me should only be used as a forward) and Haller (who looks unfit and short of confidence) out of the starting eleven at the moment, but all will be needed in the games to come.

Haller (when he plays) really needs to play with someone close to him, whether it is Antonio, or perhaps Bowen could be the one. It was good to read that Silva is now fully recovered as he really does look like one for the future, but it is unlikely that many youngsters will be given any opportunities this season.

As fans we all have our own ideas as to the players we like, the team we would pick, the formation we would adopt, and generally how we would manage the side. And they would all be different. I’ve read so many opinions on social media. But, we are now in the hands of David Moyes and his coaching staff. We are in the bottom three, and are generally third favourites to go down. Can we stay up? Yes we can. Will we stay up? It is likely to be touch and go, but I hope so. A miracle at the Etihad would be welcome.

Yesterday was Brexit, Today could lead to Prexit as West Ham entertain the Seagulls in a massive six pointer

A good transfer window for West Ham? In Tomas Koucek we have undoubtedly improved the midfield. In Jarrod Bowen we have recruited a young proven goalscorer with pace (albeit at Championship level), and with Darren Randolph we have definitely improved the back-up goalkeeper.

I have seen Jarrod Bowen on TV and he looks like the type of player we need. One description I heard was that he was a cross between Antonio and Salah! If that was even half true then it would be an improvement on some in our squad! Only time will tell. If you haven’t seen him in Championship games on TV, just take a look on YouTube to see what he can do. He is very fast, strong and knows how to score goals. Look at his statistics.

The deal appeared to stall in mid-afternoon, and there was doubt right up to the end of the window. So many ex-footballer pundits on TV on Friday have given glowing descriptions of him, and many described the signing as a bargain. In my opinion, based on what I have seen, he will be a tremendous acquisition.

But only West Ham can make such a meal of getting an important signing over the line. As I write this at 11pm on Friday night the deal has still not been confirmed. But my sources tell me that he has signed. I just hope it is true.

There is no sign of the right back that so many have been crying out for, but perhaps it was felt that Jeremy Ngakia made a good enough impression in his debut on Wednesday. Who knows, perhaps more of our Development Squad can be trusted to step up?

The bottom six in the Premier League are now beginning to become detached from the middle of the table teams, with a five point gap now open between Brighton (25) in 15th and Newcastle (30) in 14th. Newcastle are just one of five clubs on 30 points (with Burnley, Everton, Palace, and Arsenal) and Southampton on 31 that could still be pulled into the relegation fight if they have an indifferent run.

The bottom six are tightly grouped with Brighton and Villa on 25, with ourselves, Bournemouth and Watford on 23. Only Norwich on 17 are detached at present. 38 points (or an average of a point a game) is the target for all clubs involved and it might be necessary to even get to 40 this season, or possibly slightly higher. That means at least 15 points (and perhaps 17 even) for us in the 14 games remaining. So many of our away games look tough (Man C, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Newcastle, Norwich and Man U) and are certainly tougher on paper than the remaining home matches (Brighton, Southampton, Wolves, Chelsea, Burnley, Watford and Villa).

What do we have to do then? Five wins and a couple of draws, or four wins and five draws would be necessary to take us up to the 40 point mark. That is certainly achievable. We are outside of the bottom three now, albeit with a slender goal difference margin. Three points today is vital though, because apart from ensuring Brighton stay in the mix, the next two away games at City and Liverpool are as tough as it gets. If we started to fall behind then playing “catch-up” adds pressure to the performance.

Hopefully our signings will give the team and fans a lift and I hope that we can get our first ever Premier League victory over Brighton. It is likely to be tight though.

Record-Breaking Liverpool visit the London Stadium to face West Ham as Premexit is now a serious worry for the home team

One of my favourite jokes from the Edinburgh Festival in recent years is the one that goes “if you don’t know what introspection means you need to take a long hard look at yourself.” Apparently in the aftermath of the West Brom debacle on Saturday Mark Noble addressed his team mates and told them precisely that. They need to take a long hard look at themselves. And it is true. Supporters may not like the owners, the stadium, the manager or whatever, but the fact remains that the players on the pitch are just not doing what they should be doing. We are now fighting a third relegation battle in just four seasons despite a sizeable investment in players in the past couple of years. And in the 40 years since we won the FA Cup we have now played in 80 domestic cup competitions (FA Cup and League Cup), and have been eliminated by a side from a lower tier in almost half of them. I wonder how many other clubs can “boast” a record to match that?

OK so the recruitment policy has been flawed, and for one reason or another we have neglected to sign enough appropriate players to compete in the Premier League, but the fact remains that we still had eleven players on the pitch at all times, and West Brom, who hadn’t won a league game for eight matches, had made eight changes, and with virtually a reserve side, and only ten players for the last twenty minutes or so, beat us more comfortably than the scoreline would suggest. Quite frankly there are so many problems at the moment at our club, but for some reason so many of the players just haven’t grasped a number of simple concepts including the need to tackle opponents to win the ball, the need to pass to a team mate when we do have the ball, and the need to move into spaces (or even move in some cases!) to enable the person with the ball to have somebody to pass the ball to.

We can debate all the many problems at our club at length, but those simple concepts are the ones that went through my mind as I sat watching the game in disbelief on Saturday. For once I decided not to book my usual season ticket seat for this game, but instead chose to sit level with the halfway line at virtually the top of the East Stand. After over 60 years of watching the majority of West Ham home games, as well as some away games too, I’ve viewed the team from many angles and different terraces and stands, and I have to confess I liked the view from where I sat. If I am to believe social media then I am in the minority of fans in that I like the stadium too. Yes, it’s not perfect, and if we owned it then alterations could be made to make it more like a football stadium. The stadium wasn’t a problem when we were thrashing Bournemouth recently.

One thing I did appreciate on Saturday though was the concept of “tourists” that I’d read about on social media, but hadn’t witnessed from my usual season ticket seat, as when I am there I guess I am surrounded by other season ticket holders. There was a sizeable range of nationalities in the seats all around where we sat, and many of them were up and down like yo-yos travelling down to the toilets, bars and food outlets, and returning with their goodies whilst missing large parts of the game. They didn’t appear to be too interested in the game, but having said that, the game on offer before them wasn’t that interesting anyway.

Amongst the comments on social media regarding our performance, some of which reached vitriolic highs, there were some that made me smile. One, which summed up Balbuena’s distribution in the game was very apt. It read “I’d just gone down for a piss, and as I stood there in front of the urinal I received a perfect pass from Balbuena.” There were other comments about Sanchez not taking part in the race between the two mascots, because in practice he didn’t qualify as fast enough to join them, and would have trailed in a distant third. Another suggested that if he ever saw Sanchez in a West Ham shirt again he would immediately be in touch with the Samaritans. One also suggested that Haller would be excellent at the game of statues, while some others made comments about Lanzini and blind alleys.

My ratings for the game were Randolph 6, Zabaleta 4, Balbuena 1, Diop 5, Cresswell 5, Sanchez 1, Rice 4, Fornals 3, Lanzini 1, Ajeti 3, Haller 3. Subs: Ogbonna 6, Noble 6, Antonio 7.

Today we face a side that has won 22 of its 23 Premier League games, and drew the other one. They are on course to break all kinds of records and top the table by 16 points with a game in hand. And that game is against us! I’m not sure that bookmakers have fully grasped how one-sided this game is going to be. We are quoted at around 17/2 to win the game, which means that if the game were played 100 times they believe we would win 12 of them. I think if this game were played 100 times then we would be lucky to win one of them, and that would rely on Liverpool having their pre-match meal at a   certain hotel in Canary Wharf.

Throughout the past sixty years of watching our club, I have often felt that we could spring a surprise and get something against the top teams. But this one is different. We really have virtually no chance whatsoever based upon our recent games. After the dismal display away to Leicester, and then the even more abysmal performance against West Brom, I think we’ll be doing well to keep the score down to four or five. A reverse by four goals would see us drop into the bottom three, and looking at the fixtures coming up we could be well adrift of the pack by the end of February.

I hope I’m being unduly pessimistic. Usually I am unrealistically optimistic that we can win games against superior opponents, but quite frankly not this time. So many fans reckon that it has never been this bad. It certainly has in the days of Avram Grant and Glenn Roeder. And even more revered managers have been in charge when we have been relegated before. But what began as a season with high hopes has very quickly turned sour, and looks like it will rank with some of our worst in the top flight.

We urgently need some new faces in so many positions both in the team and in the squad as a whole. We definitely need more pace in the side, especially in midfield. I was thinking about some of the midfielders we’ve let go in recent times as I watched the lack of movement in the West Brom game. Edmilson Fernandes, Cheikhou Kouyate, and Pedro Obiang all had some limitations, but all had attributes that would have been useful this season. Personally I particularly liked Obiang but just like Upton Park, it is water under the bridge now.

As I write this it would appear that the signing of Tomas Soucek is close, although I never trust these “signings” until I see the player at the London Stadium photographed wearing the claret and blue shirt. He has quite a reputation but I am not sufficiently versed in Czech football to have an opinion. Others are urgently needed too before the window closes on Friday.

Perhaps our recent performances have finally galvanised the owners into buying players that have been required for so long now. But why are they leaving it so late? As fans we all knew what was needed. Perhaps the fans unrest is beginning to sink in. As it is, any new recruits will have to try to settle into a side in the midst of a relegation dogfight. That will not be easy. Nevertheless it is probably our only chance of avoiding the drop.

We also need our injured players back quickly (particularly Anderson), and for Antonio (and others) to remain injury-free. Diangana has been earning rave reviews in the Championship, and although he is currently injured I don’t think it’s a long term thing. He may not be the answer but I am surprised he hasn’t been recalled to bolster the squad as is our right at this time.

There is so much we do need to do if we are to avoid going down into the Championship. We definitely need to avoid losing this game by more than three goals to avoid occupying one of the relegation positions with just 14 games of the season left to go. And we need to beat Brighton this weekend in view of the other more difficult games that are coming up in February. We need a lot, don’t we? I think that tonight we need a miracle. But very occasionally miracles do happen! Let us pray for one today.