As the final game of the Premier League season approaches, how will we look back on West Ham’s 2022-23 season?

We visit Leicester this weekend for the final league game of (domestically at least) a disappointing season. Until a couple of games ago we weren’t mathematically safe from relegation, although personally I have been confident for some time now, despite some inconsistent performances that have meant that we didn’t pull away from potential trouble as quickly as we might have done. From dropping into the bottom 3 (18th) with 15 games to go, the season since then has seen us in varying positions, never higher than 13th or lower than 17th. We are 14th as we head into the final game, and realistically (ignoring ridiculous goal difference swings) we can only finish between 13th and 15th. Disappointing after two seasons finishing 6th and 7th.

The final league table splits very neatly into a top half and bottom half with Fulham in 10th well clear of the teams in the bottom half. I had a look back at the predictions I made before the season began. To a certain extent the Premier League is predictable these days with money being an important factor. I still managed to put three teams in the top half (Chelsea, West Ham and Wolves) who will finish in the lower half, and conversely I forecast Villa, Brentford and Fulham to be in the bottom half, and they have all had good seasons and are comfortably in the top 10. At that time I predicted Southampton, Forest and Bournemouth to be relegated so I only got one right. I’m also in a score prediction competition where I predict the scores of all West Ham games. Although I’ve correctly predicted some of the results I haven’t got the score correct once all season! The closest I got was to forecast a 0-0 draw in the away lag in Alkmaar. That was close.

But my predictions weren’t all that bad. When there were still a dozen or so games to go I did say that 37 or 38 points would be enough to escape the drop and even 34 or 35 might be. And at the time I suggested 3 from 5 to go down, namely Southampton, Leicester, Forest, Everton and Leeds, so pretty accurate there too. One comment from a reader on my predictions suggested I didn’t have a clue and that West Ham, Forest and Bournemouth were the ones for the drop. Their predictions didn’t turn out to be too accurate! It just shows how difficult it can be to make predictions in football. I did also predict that Manchester City would win the Premier League. That one wasn’t too difficult to forecast though!

It is a fascinating end of the season in terms of who will be relegated, and Sky will obviously be delighted that as many as three teams are still fighting to stay up. Everton will survive if they beat Bournemouth. If they only draw or lose then Leicester can survive by beating West Ham. Leeds, who had survival in their own hands after 25 minutes of last week’s game at the London Stadium, need to beat a poor Tottenham team to have any chance of staying up, and hope that neither Leicester win nor Everton win or draw, unless they can beat Spurs by three goals if Everton do draw. Here’s my prediction – all three teams might win their final games meaning Leicester and Leeds will be relegated. But then again they might not! I hope that we beat Leicester, as I always hope we win games, but I’m not feeling too confident. Of the three teams in trouble I’d like to see Leicester survive in some ways as I dislike the other two more, but I don’t think they will. I just have a feeling that whatever Leeds and Leicester do it won’t matter as Everton will beat Bournemouth.

There has been much conjecture as to the team David Moyes will select for this last league game. With an important European final to come ten days later does he pick a team to continue the recent momentum, or does he rest the majority of the team he wants for the final to avoid any unnecessary injuries? Or somewhere in between? How important is the £2.2 million for each incremental position in the final table when compared to the prospect of a second European trophy for the club and automatic entry into next season’s Europa League? If we do manage to beat Leicester this weekend it would only be the second time this season when we have won two league matches in a row (the first was at the beginning of October beating Wolves and Fulham at home).

Our performances in Europe have been in stark contrast to our domestic form, partly perhaps due to the strength (or lack of it) of opposition, but nevertheless still impressive. How will we reflect on the season if we win the Europa Conference whilst finishing 13th-15th in the league? It will certainly be some consolation, and a gateway to a third successive European campaign, but would we have taken that before the season began?

For me, it has not been so much about the league results, although they have mostly been poor or inconsistent, but the performances themselves. For the most part the football played has not been pleasing on the eye. The lack of ambition, the lone striker, the fear of the opposition (particularly top sides), the reliance on set pieces, the inability to hold on to the ball, the lack of players with pace, and an unnecessarily over-cautious approach to games all contribute to the disappointment.

After we went a goal down in a lethargic 25 minutes at the start of the Leeds game, the shackles came off and for more than an hour we played some delightful stuff against a tiring opposition. But why couldn’t we start the game on the front foot? It’s almost as if the players are told to be cautious, don’t concede, and only have a go if we do fall behind. Perhaps they are? And what an excellent game from Paqueta! He really has begun to look the part in recent games.

It seems certain that Declan Rice will be on his way to new pastures. What a superb player he has been for us; it would be great to round it off lifting the Europa Conference trophy on June 7th. He really is irreplaceable and it will be interesting to see who we can manage to attract to the club this summer. James Ward-Prowse, Kalvin Phillips and Harvey Barnes are three of the names already being touted, all England internationals, and two of them play in central midfield, but I’m sure there will be many more suggested once the transfer window opens. I read these names but after so many years now of reading about players we are allegedly linked with I wait until I see the photo of a new recruit in a claret and blue shirt with their arms crossed before I believe it. If (when) Rice goes, wouldn’t it be good to do the necessary transfer business and have replacements in place well before the new season begins? We never seem to achieve that though, do we?

What will happen in the game at Leicester? I’m sure David Moyes would like to beat them for his own professional pride to ensure West Ham finish as high as possible in the final table. It wouldn’t do his old club on Merseyside any harm if that were the case either. My final prediction of the league season – a 2-2 draw. What are the chances?

West Ham visit Brentford, still not mathematically safe in the Premier League, but with one eye on an important game in the Netherlands next Thursday.

How many games have we played in the Europa Conference League this season? 13. Unlucky for some as the saying goes but not for West Ham. We’ve won 12 of them and drawn one. If we can maintain the unbeaten record next Thursday when we visit the city of Alkmaar in the Netherlands then we can get ready for our first European final since 1976. I think we can do it. It could go either way though.

I thought that we were OK on Thursday night. The players seemed nervous to me (or was it Moyes-induced caution?) in the early stages but once AZ had taken the lead with that long range shot it got better. I think if Areola were to face that identical shot again then on almost every occasion he would save it. Everyone is quick to get on his back and I’ve seen many calls for Fabianski to be recalled for the return leg. Not for me. In my opinion Areola is a better keeper and should retain his place and get a consistent run in the league games too. But I know many will disagree with my opinion. It’s strange isn’t it how keepers are rotated by most managers in league and cups to give the perceived number 2 game time? When a team reaches a final or perhaps a semi-final the manager will often revert to choosing his favoured number 1 keeper. I wonder if our manager will do the same for the second leg in view of Areola’s error? It would be harsh and wrong in my view. When he was England manager Ron Greenwood used to rotate Shilton and Clemence as he couldn’t decide who was the better keeper. It’s a shame that Phil Parkes was around at the same time as those two. I reckon he was just as good.

I’m also a big fan of Said Benrahma too. Not everybody’s cup of tea but he would always be in my starting eleven. That’s not to say I don’t find him frustrating at times though. I believe he has the potential to be a better player than we have seen in West Ham colours. I’m not sure the manager likes him particularly; I’m sure he would love to play Fornals in that position more – he’s more of a Moyes-type player. Again, not for me. He gives the ball away too much for my liking without posing much of a threat in an attacking sense. True Benrahma does lose the ball at times but he is always looking to create chances for himself and others. He was my man of the match on Thursday. I had no doubts when he stepped up to take the pressure penalty either. The successful conversion of that spot kick meant his penalty taking record for the clubs he has played for is now 12 out of 12. He doesn’t miss. I liked the way he combined with (the improving) Paqueta. Perhaps they can begin to reproduce the link that was formed between Payet and Lanzini in 2015-16? 

Today is a different matter when we visit the GTech Community Stadium. What is it with teams beginning with Br? We can’t seem to play well against Brighton or Brentford. Perhaps we are fortunate that we haven’t had to play Brondby, Braga, or Bruges in Europe this season? When Brentford visited the London Stadium in the final game of 2022 we had not won a league game since 24 October when we beat Bournemouth 2-0, though of course the season was interrupted by the World Cup. We had played very winnable games at home against Palace and Leicester but had lost both of them. The 2-0 loss to Brentford made it three home league defeats in a row. Following the win over Bournemouth in October we were actually in the top half of the table (well just that is in 10th). By the time Brentford had beaten us we had fallen to 17th, just outside the bottom three, and with just one point from the next two games we were actually in the relegation zone. We’ve hovered around there ever since, usually just above, and visited there again following defeat at Tottenham.

We’ve done enough since (without being totally convincing for much of the time) to ensure that we are safe. Ok not mathematically yet, but it would take an extraordinary set of results to see us go down. At the start of the season who would have believed that we would not be mathematically safe from relegation in the middle of May with just three games of the league season to go? Of course Southampton are now down and it would take a massive goal difference swing for Leeds to go past us now, but the others in contention could all in theory still overtake us. But looking at their fixtures it is highly unlikely.

Geoff made a good point in his article published yesterday about how we only took two points from our remaining eight league games in the 1975-76 season when we reached the European Cup Winners Cup Final. I’ll expand on that and say that in that season we made possibly the most dramatic fall in league position in the top flight that has ever been seen. We beat Ararat Erevan of the USSR in the second leg of the second round on November 5th and then we drew 1-1 with Coventry the following Saturday to go to the top of the league. By Christmas we had fallen to sixth place, and after then we only won one more league game in the whole of the rest of the season (a 1-0 win over QPR on 24 January). Incredibly just one win in 21 league games plus an early exit in the FA Cup in the third round, eventually finishing 18th! (22 teams in the top division at that time). Despite that we had excellent comeback performances in the quarter final and semi-final rounds in Europe to reach the final where we lost 4-2 to Anderlecht.

Can we blame our indifferent league performance on our involvement in European competition this season? I don’t think so but in the Premier League we have won 10 of our 35 games for a win rate of 29%, whereas in Europe we have won 12 out of 13 and drawn the other one for a win rate of 92%. Very different quality of competition of course.

There is now a lot of merit money on offer based on final league positions. We are currently 15th which would earn a payout of £13.2 million if that was our final position in the Premier League. But that would increase or decrease by £2.2 million for each step either up or down. Prize money is important in the Premier League and also the European Conference. We have already won over £10 million for our performances in Europe so far and another £5 million will be added if we get to and win the final (runners-up get £3 million). But there is also the added bonus that winning would give entry into the Europa League next season and the financial rewards on offer in that. Whilst the money is important, as a fan I’d just love to see us win a trophy. It has been a long time! Too long!

I expect to see quite a few changes to our starting line up for the game today even though we are not yet mathematically safe with perhaps Fabianski, Johnson, Emerson, Downes, Fornals and Ings and possibly one or two others starting the game. Brentford still have a very remote outside chance of qualifying for Europe next season despite only winning two of their last nine games which means that they are very unlikely to do so. They will be fully up for the game though. But will we?

Manchester memories as West Ham face Manchester United in a vital game

We have just four league games to go to collect enough points to ensure that we are playing Premier League football next season starting with Sunday evening’s home fixture against Manchester United. Of course, depending on results elsewhere we might have enough already, especially as our goal difference is perhaps worth an additional point in the final reckoning. But we can”t rely on what happens elsewhere; we’ve got to make sure that we do the business ourselves.

One of my favourite West Ham games was back in the 1976-77 season when Geoff and I were at Upton Park for the final game of the season on a Monday night in May when we needed at least a point to maintain top flight status. Our opponents that evening were cup finalists Manchester United who would finish the season in sixth position.

We had narrowly avoided relegation twice in the previous three seasons and we went into the game sitting 19th in the table, having miraculously climbed away from the bottom three due to a six match unbeaten run, in fact in the previous twelve games we had only lost one with two wins and nine draws including a 0-0 draw at Anfield on the Saturday two days before.

Our home record that season was superb and we hadn’t lost a league game at Upton Park since January, but the confidence at kick off was dented when Gordon Hill put the Red Devils ahead after 25 seconds. However Frank Lampard brought the scores level with a 30 yard thunderbolt. Geoff Pike missed a penalty by missing the target but made amends scoring a goal early in the second half. Pop Robson made it 3-1 before Stuart Pearson (later to join us of course) reduced the lead to one. Pop Robson settled nerves by heading home a Trevor Brooking corner and the game ended 4-2. If we had lost we would have been relegated. As it happens we did go down the following season!

It was Pop Robson’s 11th goal in 15 games after rejoining us. He was one of my all time favourites and to me it was a complete mystery why he was never selected for England. He was a prolific goal scorer with over 250 goals in a great career. 94 were for West Ham in not much over 200 appearances. What we’d give for a goal scorer like that now. He played for us in two spells in the 1970s, ironically we went on to win the FA Cup twice each time in the season after he left. 


When we played Manchester City on Wednesday evening I was fearing the worst in view of the gulf between the two sides. City have been such a force in English football in the past few years, and are now undoubtedly one of the best club sides in the world. What a difference money can make!

Almost 25 years ago to the day after they beat us on Wednesday there was a massive gulf then between our two sides too. West Ham finished the 1997-98 season in eighth place in the Premier League. Manchester City were relegated from the second tier (then ridiculously known as Division One) into the third tier!

There was an amazing coincidence between ourselves and City that season. We both scored 56 goals in league games and conceded 57. But that was the only similarity. We were streets ahead of them at the time. How times change.

Back to the present day and Manchester City are about to win the league for the fifth time in the last six years; they haven’t finished outside of the top four since 2010 (when they finished 5th!). Our record as we all know is not quite so formidable.

And Manchester United? They are nowhere near as impressive as their local rivals. City was a game we had no realistic chance of winning. Despite our poor recent results United are a different proposition. At our best we can beat them and allay fears of relegation. What chance of 4-2 to match that vital game 46 years ago? 

Can West Ham register three away wins in a row without conceding a goal when they visit Selhurst Park?

Two of the most controversial aspects of modern-day football had a big influence on our defeat to Liverpool on Wednesday evening. I’ve written about them many times in the past but once again I’ll return to the difficult (to get right) topics of offside and handball.

Let’s start with offside. It is virtually impossible when it’s a close call for a linesman (or assistant referee as they call themselves now, although they don’t assist much really) to be able to be 100 percent certain that a player is offside at the exact moment a ball is played. Bearing in mind that a professional footballer can run at approaching 8-9 yards in a second, then just one-tenth of a second could mean a difference of a couple of feet in distance. So now we have a man in a VAR cabin somewhere who draws lines across the pitch to decide if a player is offside. And on this occasion Jarrod Bowen’s toes were definitely in an offside position. But how can we be sure that the lines were drawn at the exact moment that the ball was played? A fraction of a second less than one-tenth (0.1) and possibly up to one-hundredth (0.01) could make all the difference as to deciding if the lines are drawn at exactly the right moment.

But why do we have to go through all this? The offside rule was devised over a hundred years ago to prevent goal-hanging. The position of Bowen on the pitch could not remotely be described as goal-hanging. We were denied a wonderfully taken goal because Bowen’s toes were offside forty or so yards from goal, and that’s only if the lines were drawn at an exact moment that nobody could confirm was spot on. I’ve campaigned for years (but to no avail because I have no influence) that offside should be confined to the final 18 yards of the pitch, that is in the penalty area (with the line extended to the touch line) only. Play wouldn’t be as condensed as it is now; there would be more room on the pitch if defenders didn’t push up so far to try to catch people offside. That’s not the point of the game is it? Anyway the ‘goal’ was ruled out but nobody could possibly be sure that it was the correct decision. Why do football authorities make the laws / rules of the game more complex than they need to be?

If it was changed so that only the final 18 yards would count for offside there would be less controversy, but it could still exist. So let’s go further. Instead of looking for any part of the body that can legally play the ball being a fraction offside let’s go back to the theory of giving the advantage to the attacker. If any part of the attacker’s body is in line with any part of the defender’s body then it is not offside. We would still have some controversial decisions but the numbers of them would be reduced.

My second bugbear, and once again I have written about this before is handball. Thanks to TV we all saw a Liverpool defender handle the ball in his own penalty area, not once but possibly twice in the same movement. The current rule suggests that it is not handball if a player puts his hand down as he falls and then touches the ball with it. But was this the case here? I’m not so sure. Surely the referee couldn’t be sure at full speed. A definite case for VAR to refer him to take another look with the camera angles available. We are all biased as fans and want decisions to go the way of our team. On TV, Peter Crouch, whilst admitting he had a foot in the Liverpool camp, said that he would have been disappointed to not get the award of the penalty if this had been a West Ham player handling the ball. The referee may not have changed his mind if he had looked at the screen but surely he should have been advised to look?

Controversies such as these happen every week and we will never eliminate them entirely. But surely we must look at ways to try to minimise the numbers. The argument goes that they even themselves out over the course of a season. I wonder if any studies have been done to compare controversial decisions and which way they go according to the size of club involved? Perhaps it is just my imagination but it seems to me that bigger clubs seem to benefit more than smaller ones? Earlier this season Brighton lost a game 2-1 to Tottenham with at least four decisions that all went against Brighton, for which the refereeing authorities have apologised. But there is no question in my mind that Brighton should have at least three more points and Tottenham three fewer. That could make all the difference in respect of qualifying for Europe next season.

If Bowen’s goal was incorrectly ruled out and we had been awarded a penalty late in the game then we might have one or perhaps three more points than we have now. We are still not mathematically safe from relegation. We could in theory go down as a result of bad decisions in the Liverpool game (we won’t, trust me – but we could!).      

Who will go down this season? It’s still a tough question to answer, but it’s getting clearer as the weeks go by. A few weeks ago, today’s opponents Palace were in the mix and they decided to dispense with Patrick Vieira and replace him with the oldest manager around who had decided to give up managing last season. But Roy Hodgson taking over once again at Selhurst Park has taken the Eagles out of the equation and they are now safe.

I quoted the Opta Supercomputer prior to last weekend’s matches; their figures for percentage chances of relegation at that time were:

Southampton 93.6%, Everton 74.0%, Leeds 46.7%, Forest 46.3%, Leicester 34.3%, West Ham 2.1%, Bournemouth 1.6%, Wolves 0.5%

One week and two games later the figures have changed to:

Southampton 97.6%, Forest 74.4%, Everton 57.8%, Leicester 46.4%, Leeds 23.5%, Bournemouth 0.5%, West Ham 0.4%

Wolves have now disappeared from the figures and both Bournemouth and West Ham are as good as safe. In my article prior to the Bournemouth game I wrote “It’s any three from five now – Southampton, Leicester, Forest, Everton and Leeds. It can still change of course, but I’ll stick with that.”

There seems little reason to change my view now. Bournemouth have won four of their last six matches and we have won three, with twelve and ten points respectively. The bottom five have all won just once (Leeds, Forest and Leicester all with 4 points from those six games), or not at all (Everton, 3 draws and Southampton, 2 draws). If they didn’t improve their points tally per game (they all have 5 to play) then none of the five would overhaul West Ham even if we didn’t collect another point. One or two might raise their game and do better but I doubt that three of them will. We have six games to play and I suspect we need perhaps another win to be sure, but I’m hoping for better than that.

I reckon our manager will once again start with the same eleven, although personally I’d like to see a change of goalkeeper. I was disappointed with the goals we conceded in the week with a lack of closing down for the first and, despite it being a good shot, disappointment that Fabianski was beaten from that distance. And it’s always disappointing to concede a headed goal direct from a corner. What happened to the marking? Paqueta’s goal must be a contender for our goal of the season for the team move and superb powerful shot.

Palace are one of the teams that we can overtake to improve our final league position this season; in fact we would go above them if we win this game. They have ten points like ourselves from their last six games – there are only six teams in the Premier League who can better that haul from their last half a dozen games.

We have a good recent record visiting Selhurst Park, only losing once in the past eight visits there and winning five times. We haven’t lost two games in a row in this calendar year (yet), and David Moyes has won as manager in five out of five visits to Palace. This is Palace’s sixth home London derby of the season and so far they have only picked up one point. If we can keep a clean sheet it would be the first time we have done so in three consecutive away Premier League matches for more than nine years apparently. Despite their resurgence under Hodgson, Palace have only won one of their past nine home league games. With all these statistics you’d think we’d be well placed for another three points today. But it doesn’t necessarily work out like that, does it?

I have good memories of my first visit to see West Ham at Palace. I visited Selhurst Park to see West Ham play there in October 1971 and we won the game 3-0 with goals from Clyde Best, Billy Bonds and Ade Coker. It came after an improved run of form that season where we didn’t manage to score a goal in our first four games and were bottom of the league, and then only lost once in the next 16 games (in all competitions) to climb into a mid-table position.

After winning 4-0 in our last away game at Bournemouth, and 1-0 at Fulham in the away game before that, can we win and keep a clean sheet for the third match in a row? Of course we can!  

After a successful European win on Thursday, a cherry-picking trip to the South Coast for West Ham to face an improving Bournemouth team

An important game – the winner will virtually be safe from relegation, although whatever the result, they probably both will

The Opta Supercomputer makes and updates predictions on the likelihood of all manner of things, including which clubs will be relegated from the Premier League. It gives a percentage chance of facing the drop based on form, the strength of opponents in the games to play, and goodness knows what else. I wonder what the Supercomputer would have made of the chances of West Ham getting anything out of the Arsenal game last weekend after the first ten minutes? Surely it would have been close to zero percent. That’s what I thought, as did many of us I guess, so it was refreshing to witness a comeback that didn’t seem likely, and it could have even been a win at the end.

What brought about the change in the game? The Arsenal manager believes that they eased up once they were two ahead, and that may have been partly the case, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. There was a marked change in the way we played. We pressed them higher and played with an intensity rarely seen of late. Which begs the question – why haven’t we seen this for most of the season?

Who will go down? It’s still a tough question to answer, but perhaps a little easier than it was a couple of weeks ago. Back then there were just three points separating Palace in twelfth with Bournemouth in the third relegation spot. Palace decided to dispense with a young progressive manager and replace him with the oldest manager around who had decided to give up managing last season. But three wins in a row for Roy Hodgson since taking over once again at Selhurst Park has taken the Eagles out of the equation and they are now as good as safe.

It’s partly to do with the way that the fixtures have fallen with Palace now playing teams in the bottom half, as opposed to a run of games against teams closer to the top before Hodgson was appointed. Scoring goals has been the difference for Palace too. In the three games with the new manager in charge they have scored nine goals. In the 16 games prior to that they had also scored nine goals. What a difference! Not long ago there was a big gap between Palace and the team in eleventh place. Now they are just three points behind Chelsea who have collected just one point from their last three games.

A new manager at Everton had a similar (but only temporary) effect. When Sean Dyche took over they won two of their first three games reinforcing the change of manager ‘bounce effect’. But since then they have won just one of their last eight games, drawing three and losing four, and they are still in deep trouble with just seven games to play.

With Palace now out of it that leaves only eight clubs at most in the relegation mix. Let’s now take a look at some of the statistics involving the bottom eight.

This article was written before the result of the Arsenal v Southampton game last night was known.

The league table at present from the bottom up:

Southampton 23 points (7 to play), Leicester 25 (7), Forest 27 (7), Everton 27 (7), Leeds 29 (7), West Ham 31 (8), Bournemouth 33 (7), Wolves 34 (7).

The form table (once again from the bottom up) for the last six games played shows why the gaps are opening up near the bottom:

Leicester 1 point, Forest 1, Southampton 2, Everton 6, Leeds 7, West Ham 8, Wolves 10, Bournemouth 12.

The form table for the last three games is even more revealing:

Southampton 0, Leicester 0, Forest 0, Everton 1, Leeds 3, West Ham 4, Bournemouth 6, Wolves 7.

None of the bottom five teams are averaging a point a game for the season to date, and they are now in reality strong favourites to provide the three teams who will be playing in the Championship next season. If our game at Bournemouth on Sunday has a winner then that team will almost certainly be safe from the drop. If we can follow up the positive performance from last Sunday when we travel down to the South Coast then our relegation fears will be all but eliminated. We still have a game in hand and a goal difference that could be worth another point compared to the other teams in the bottom eight. That assumes that we don’t concede too many when we visit Manchester City of course.

I mentioned the Opta Supercomputer at the beginning of this article; their up-to-date figures for percentage chances of relegation are:

Southampton 93.6%, Forest 74.4%, Everton 57.8%, Leicester 46.4%, Leeds 23.5%, West Ham 2.1%, Bournemouth 1.6%, Wolves 0.5%

Bookmakers’ relegation odds vary a little, but taking Bet 365 as an example, the current odds before this weekend’s games are:

Southampton 1/14, Leicester 2/7, Forest 5/6, Everton 1/1, Leeds 9/4, Bournemouth 16/1, West Ham 20/1, Wolves 40/1.

On Thursday night we progressed into the semi-final of the Europa Conference League with a magnificent second half performance against Gent.  AZ Alkmaar, fourth in the Dutch league (as Gent are in the Belgian league) stand in our way from reaching a European final in Prague, our first since 1976.

But before then it is back to the important domestic action. We don’t have a good record in away games at Bournemouth in the Premier League. We have won just once in five attempts when two goals from Valencia and one from Payet secured a 3-1 victory in January 2016, a reversal of the 4-3 defeat we suffered earlier the previous August when Callum Wilson (now of Newcastle of course) scored a hat trick in our last season at Upton Park.

The stakes are high for this game. Both sides know that a win will make them virtually safe. Will it be a cagey affair? Will both sides be happy with a point apiece? Both teams can count on recent momentum. Whatever happens I think we’ll both be in the Premier League next season. I’ll agree with the Opta Supercomputer and the bookmakers. It’s any three from five now – Southampton, Leicester, Forest, Everton and Leeds. It can still change of course, but I’ll stick with that.

If it is any consolation after Wednesday’s debacle West Ham still have a game in hand over all their relegation rivals as they travel to Craven Cottage

But games in hand mean nothing unless you pick up points from them

I find it difficult to add to Geoff’s excellent article this week. If you haven’t read it yet, then I recommend you do so now. Of the nine teams still involved in the fight against dropping into the Championship, only West Ham and Forest have failed to change their manager this season. Will one or both go down? Who knows? It is still too close to call. I keep reading that our manager has one more game to save his job, but if he wasn’t going to go after a 5-1 home drubbing then I guess he’s here for the season now come what may. And I find that truly astonishing.

There are three specific changes I would definitely like to see for our trip to Craven Cottage. Firstly, I believe that a change of goalkeeper is long overdue and Areola must surely replace Fabianski now. Our number 1 has been good, but time is catching up on him.

Kehrer must be replaced by Coufal. I thought Kehrer was badly at fault for the first two goals (although not the only one!). As a defender he lacks awareness of what is going on around him and I believe Coufal, while not perfect, is a better bet in that position.

As for Soucek, I just cannot understand how he can possibly be picked for game after game. To me his season has been full of giving the ball to the opposition or committing fouls and giving an innocent look at the referee as if he cannot understand why a decision has gone against him.

Of course defensively there are others who had poor games against Newcastle. Perhaps Aguerd could be replaced by Ogbonna, but I’d personally be happy to retain him, or perhaps as Geoff has suggested we might even go with a 3-5-2 formation, and keep Zouma, Ogbonna and Aguerd? Fornals and Downes come into the picture, or perhaps play Antonio and Ings together up top and move Bowen a little deeper in a 4-4-2? I don’t think Ings as a lone striker works – he’s not that type of player.

My team would be (4-3-3): Areola; Coufal, Zouma, Aguerd, Emerson; Rice, Paqueta, Downes; Bowen, Antonio, Benrahma.

But I very much doubt that will be the starting eleven.

So who will go down? It’s still a tough question to answer. There’s still only three points separating Palace in twelfth with Bournemouth in the third relegation spot. We are 15th but only out of the bottom three on the basis of (a worsening) goal difference. All the teams involved at the bottom still have nine games to play, although we have ten.

Bookmakers’ relegation odds are not changing too much and we are still eighth favourites to go down. If you look at the form table for the very last game then we are bottom on goal difference! But if you look at the last five games then it is a different story. The three teams who are odds on to go down are Southampton, Bournemouth and Forest. Everton, Leicester, Leeds and Wolves come next (in that order) and then we are equal eighth favourites with Palace.

The league table at present from the bottom up:

Southampton 23 (9 to play), Leicester 25 (9), Bournemouth 27 (9), Forest 27 (9), Everton 27 (9), West Ham 27 (10), Wolves 28 (9), Leeds 29 (9), Palace 30 (9).

The form table (once again from the bottom up) for the last five games played shows ourselves and Leeds as the in-form teams:

Leicester 1, Forest 2, Palace 3, Wolves 4, Southampton 5, Bournemouth 6, Everton 6. West Ham 7, Leeds 7,

None of the bottom seven teams is averaging a point a game for the season to date, although five of the bottom nine teams are averaging a point a game for the last five games played (including two of the bottom three in the league table Southampton and Bournemouth).

I have updated the table that sets out our remaining 10 league games with the figures in brackets the points that we picked up in the reverse fixtures already played earlier in the season. If we were to replicate those then we would collect another 7 points to take us up to 34. Might that be enough? It might be or it might not. We now have only four home games left (where we have collected the bulk of our points this season) and Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United are three of them – not the simplest games on paper. If we are to survive then collecting more points on the road is likely to be vital.

8/4 Away v Fulham (3)

16/4 Home v Arsenal (0)

23/4 Away v Bournemouth (3)

26/4 Home v Liverpool (0)

29/4 Away v Palace (0)

3/5 Away v Man City (0)

7/5 Home v Man Utd (0)

13/5 Away v Brentford (0)

20/5 Home v Leeds (1)

28/5 Away v Leicester (0)

Fulham have had an excellent season and sit in the top half of the table, but their form in the last five games shows only four points attained (three less than ourselves) and they have lost their last three. We must go into this game thinking we can win. But will we be set up by the manager not to lose? The ‘six pointers’ still to come at Bournemouth, Palace and Leicester and at home to Leeds will be crucial to our hopes of survival, but we must look to pick up some points in games where we are possibly not expected to. I think we will win today and I’m confident we will stay up. What are the chances?

As West Ham entertain bottom club Southampton this weekend we try to work out who will go down this season

Get set for the closest and most exciting finish to the Premier League at the top and the bottom

Premier League football emerges from the final international break of the 2022-23 season and resumes on April Fools Day. With the season finale on Sunday 28th May there are just 58 days or a little over 8 weeks for it all to be decided in potentially the most open finish for a while at the very top, in the fight for European places, and in the tussle to be playing top-flight football next season by avoiding the dreaded drop into the Championship. Arguably perhaps all 20 clubs are still involved in one of the three competitions (Top, Europe, Relegation) going into the final two months of a season that was interrupted by the death of the monarch and the winter World Cup in addition to the usual breaks for international football.

I cannot remember a season when there has been such a vast gap between the top and bottom halves of the league with two very distinct sets of teams battling in one or the other. If you want to be pedantic, not exactly halves, but the top 11 and the bottom 9. Depending upon the FA Cup winners and final league placings there are likely to be seven English teams in Europe next season and just 4 points separate Liverpool in sixth with Aston Villa in eleventh place. There is then a vast chasm (as wide as the gap between the top and bottom tiers of the London Stadium) of 11 points before we come to the group of nine clubs at the bottom. Unfortunately West Ham are in this latter group this time around (after two seasons finishing 6th and 7th) where just four points separate Palace in twelfth with this weekend’s visitors to East London, Southampton, who are propping up the table. I suspect that there has never been fewer points separating 12th and 20th place going into April.

As we enter the final run-in we sit in a relegation spot (18th) although we have at least one and in some cases two games in hand over the other eight teams involved. If (and it is a big if) we could win the games in hand over our relegation rivals we would climb into twelfth spot, that’s how tight it is.  

So who will go down? A tough question to answer in a season where a win or two on the bounce can transform the position in an instant by increasing optimism amongst fans and decreasing the perception of how much danger a team is in. We should really just focus on our own results, but it is difficult to ignore what is happening elsewhere when it is too close to call and the stakes are so high.

Opta Stats Perform produce probability of relegation figures and their current figures are:

Southampton 78%, Bournemouth 56%, Forest 50%, Everton 42%, Leeds 21%, Wolves 20%, West Ham 16%, Leicester 11%, Palace 6%.

Skybet relegation odds are broadly similar (apart from West Ham and Leicester changing places in the order) and their current figures are:

Southampton 2/5, Bournemouth 4/7, Forest 10/11, Everton 7/4, Leeds 3/1, Wolves 7/2, Leicester 4/1, West Ham 9/2, Palace 5/1.

The league table at present from the bottom up:

Southampton 23 (10 to play), Bournemouth 24 (11), West Ham 24 (12), Leicester 25 (11), Forest 26 (11), Everton 26 (10), Leeds 26 (11), Wolves 27 (10), Palace 27 (10).

The form table for the last six games played:

Forest 2, Palace 2, Wolves 4, Leicester 4, West Ham 6, Leeds 7, Bournemouth 7, Southampton 8, Everton 8.

None of the bottom nine teams is yet averaging a point a game for the season to date, although five of the bottom teams are averaging a point a game for the last six games played (including the bottom three in the league table Southampton, Bournemouth and West Ham). This could be why it is getting even closer at the bottom than it was a few weeks ago. Form of recent games, and potential momentum gained from those results depends partly on the opposition faced, but has been disrupted by the international break. Palace in particular (and especially their sacked manager) could perhaps feel that recent form gives an unrealistic impression. Despite their long winless run, Palace only faced teams from the top half of the table in that period and did manage some creditable (and possibly unexpected) draws. Incredibly they face every one of the other teams in the bottom nine, five at home and three away in addition to visits to Tottenham and Fulham to finish their season. Their goals have however dried up.

An interesting comparison of goals scored can be made between the bottom 9:

Palace 22, Wolves 22, Everton 22, Forest 22, Southampton 23, West Ham 24, Bournemouth 25, Leeds 35, Leicester 38.

Goals conceded comparisons:

West Ham 34, Palace 38, Everton 40, Wolves 41, Leeds 44, Southampton 46, Leicester 47, Forest 49, Bournemouth 54.

So what can we make of all these statistics as we approach the final games of the season? Goal difference could be worth another point and may make all the difference at the end. Leeds, Leicester and West Ham fare better than the others in this respect. As virtually all the teams in the league are still in contention or have something to play for then the strength of opposition in remaining games might not mean a lot. If all the teams in the bottom 9 averaged a point a game from here, then the final table would see Southampton and Bournemouth relegated with 33 and 35 points respectively, and the remaining seven teams would have 36 (West Ham, Everton and Leicester) or 37 (Palace, Wolves, Leeds, Forest). Unless there was a significant swing in goal differences Everton would be the third team relegated.

The difference between the points for a win (3) and a draw (1) take on added significance at this stage, and even the single points gained from draws could be crucial. Games played between teams in the bottom nine (so called six pointers) will be massively important too and there are lots of these. Palace have 8 of them, Southampton, Bournemouth and Leicester 6, West Ham and Leeds 5, Forest, Everton and Wolves 4. In this coming round of fixtures there are three (‘6 pointer’) games including our own against Southampton.

Conversely that means Palace have only 2 fixtures against teams in the top 11, Southampton have 4, Bournemouth and Leicester 5, Everton, Wolves and Leeds 6, Forest and West Ham 7.

The table below sets out our remaining 12 league games with the figures in brackets the points that we picked up in the reverse fixtures already played earlier in the season. If we were to replicate those then we would collect another 9 points to take us up to 33. Might that be enough? I suspect not, so we must do better. At least 12 would probably be needed, or possibly more. Six or seven points (or even optimistically nine?) in the first three would go a long way to alleviating relegation fears, whereas three points or less would leave us still in the fight for survival. If we could win the five games against teams in the bottom 9 then that undoubtedly would be enough. But that’s easier said than done. And how will our continued involvement in Europe influence things? It will mean nine games in 28 days in the month of April!

2/4 Home v Southampton (1)

5/4 Home v Newcastle (1)

8/4 Away v Fulham (3)

16/4 Home v Arsenal (0)

23/4 Away v Bournemouth (3)

26/4 Home v Liverpool (0)

29/4 Away v Palace (0)

3/5 Away v Man City (0)

7/5 Home v Man Utd (0)

13/5 Away v Brentford (0)

20/5 Home v Leeds (1)

28/5 Away v Leicester (0)

What does all this analysis mean? Will we survive? I think so, yes, but it will be close. An exciting climax for those not involved. Who will go down? Its too close to call but I’ll give it a shot. At this point I’ll say any three from Southampton, Bournemouth, Everton and Forest. But next week I might change my mind!

Nine Consecutive Wins for West Ham in Europe, a Number 9 Dream

But a win against Aston Villa would be even more satisfying

When was the last time a team won nine consecutive European games? I know it is only the Europa Conference but wins are wins. There are probably teams who have achieved this; I’m not going to trawl through all the records to see. However I bet we might be the only team to satisfy the following question. When was the last time a team won nine consecutive European games without playing particularly well after being thrashed 4-0 on the weekend before the ninth game, and in the ninth game they managed to concede 14 corners without having a single corner themselves?

It was a comfortable win despite what you might think when looking at the corner count with two well taken goals from our number 9, Antonio, who was unlucky not to complete the perfect hat- trick (header, right foot, left foot) when his shot near the start of the second half rebounded from the inside of one post to go for a goal kick beyond the other post. You can’t get much closer than that.

Two favourite European campaigns in the past both only consisted of exactly nine games and we reached the final of each one. Following our FA Cup win in 1964 we entered the European Cup Winners Cup the following season which meant two two-legged rounds, followed by a two-legged quarter final and semi-final before a final at Wembley. We won six of the nine games played, being held to a 1-1 draw in the home leg of the first round by La Gantoise (Belgium) and then losing 2-1 in the away leg at Spartak Prague (Czechoslovakia at the time). We won both legs of the quarter final against Lausanne Sports (Switzerland). We also drew 1-1 in the semi-final away at Real Zaragoza (Spain). But we won all the ties on aggregate and progressed to the final where we beat TSV Munich 2-0 at Wembley for our first (and so far only) European trophy (I don’t count the Inter-Toto in 1999/2000 – we even lost one of the six games needed to win that which gave us qualification to the UEFA Cup in the same season).

Following our 1975 FA Cup win we had a thrilling campaign in the Cup Winners Cup the following season where we lost 4-2 to Anderlecht in the final. We only won four of the nine matches in that tournament drawing 2-2 at Lahden Reipas (Finland) in the first round, 1-1 at Ararat Erevan (USSR) in the second round, losing 4-2 in the away first leg of the quarter final against Den Haag (Netherlands) after being 4-0 at one time in the match, and losing 2-1 in the away leg of the semi-final to Eintracht Frankfurt. Our home wins in those four ties were our only victories. The home games against Den Haag and Frankfurt were two of the best games I’ve ever seen us play.

So back to this season and we’ve already won nine games on the trot in Europe and haven’t reached the quarter-final yet although you’d expect this to be a formality next week wouldn’t you? But we are West Ham remember! I’ve been a supporter for 65 years now. I don’t take anything for granted where West Ham are concerned.

This weekend it’s back to the bread and butter of the Premier League and we will face a much stiffer test when Villa visit the London Stadium. We have the opportunity to complete the double over them after our 1-0 win at Villa Park in August. That was our only win on the road so far this season. Our away performances and especially the lack of goals scored has been dreadful this season culminating in possibly the worst of all on the South Coast last week. Geoff covered this in his article prior to the Larnaca game so I won’t go over it again.

After a poor start to the season losing four of their first five league games (including the one against us) Villa’s season has improved immeasurably under new management and they sit comfortably in mid-table (11th) with 34 points with no need to look downwards as we have to.

Just like when we faced Brighton last week, Villa are equal with the Seagulls as having scored nine goals in the first 15 minutes of games so far this season, a statistic not bettered by anyone in the Premier League. So we need to be on our toes from the start (for a change!).

And continuing the number 9 theme that has been threaded through this article, Aston Villa have conceded eight goals in their visits to London this season and Danny Ings has scored eight Premier League goals this season. Can he score number 9 in this game to become the first player to score both for and against Villa in the same Premier League season? And perhaps our very own number 9 will continue scoring after his two in midweek.

We still haven’t scored a goal in the opening 15 minutes of a Premier League game yet, so how about us scoring one in the ninth minute? There’s my (optimistic?) prediction for the game – West Ham to win 2-0 with goals from Antonio and Ings. What are the chances?

In recent articles I have been analysing the position and current form of the bottom teams. I will continue to concentrate on the bottom nine as Palace in twelfth place are still only six points clear of Bournemouth in 20th, and the Eagles are bottom of my mini form league too. The relegation dogfight this season is an interesting one – I just wish that we weren’t involved. The points of the bottom nine (with the number of games remaining in brackets) are:

Palace 27 (13 to play), Wolves 27 (12), Forest 26 (13), Leicester 24 (13), West Ham 23 (13), Leeds 22 (13), Everton 22 (12), Southampton 21 (13), Bournemouth 21 (13).

Wolves and Southampton are the only two of the nine to win last weekend so our poor defeat at Brighton didn’t really lose us too much in comparison to the others. The points gained in the last 5 games are a guide to current form and are set out below. We have been toppled from this summit of this ‘mini-league’ as a result of the last game, and Palace are now at the foot.

Wolves 7, Leicester 6, Southampton 6, Forest 5, West Ham 5, Everton 4, Bournemouth 4, Leeds 4, Palace 3.

With the bottom six clubs still achieving less than a point a game so far this season, and so many clubs potentially involved in the relegation struggle, then I still reckon that a final total of 37 or 38 should be enough to confirm Premier League football next season. That would mean us securing 14 or 15 from those 13 games if my estimate turns out to be correct. Based on current averages then 35 could be enough.

The table below sets out our remaining 13 games with the figures in brackets the points that we picked up in the reverse fixtures already played earlier in the season. If we were to replicate those then we would collect another 12 points to take us up to 35. Might that be enough? We would be cutting it fine, so we must therefore hope for more than that I would suggest.

12/3 Home v Villa (3)

19/3 Away v Man City (0)

2/4 Home v Southampton (1)

5/4 Home v Newcastle (1)

8/4 Away v Fulham (3)

16/4 Home v Arsenal (0)

22/4 Away v Bournemouth (3)

26/4 Home v Liverpool (0)

29/4 Away v Palace (0)

6/5 Home v Man Utd (0)

13/5 Away v Brentford (0)

20/5 Home v Leeds (1)

28/5 Away v Leicester (0)

This week I’ve had to write this article before the Saturday games are played. So I’m hoping that on Saturday Liverpool followed up last week’s demolition of Manchester United by winning at Bournemouth, that Brentford did the business at Goodison, that the Seagulls did what they did to us at Elland Road, that Chelsea won at Leicester, then Tottenham beat Forest (I hate to write that but needs must), and that Manchester City win at Palace.

And then today, in addition to us beating Villa I’m hoping that Manchester United beat Southampton, and Newcastle beat Wolves.

With so many references to the number nine, it’s interesting that none of the bottom nine have met or will meet this weekend. I’m hoping for a West Ham win and the other eight to have lost or to lose today. What odds on that 9-match accumulator? If you are interested it is around 140/1 with leading bookmakers.

Th(Ings) Can Only Get Better for West Ham

But first we need to improve our record against Brighton

What a difference a proven goalscorer makes! The acquisition of Danny Ings may not totally fit the plan of buying young, hungry players that was mooted a couple of seasons ago, but needs must. The two goals within a minute or so that opened the floodgates against Nottingham Forest weren’t the prettiest, although the first wasn’t one of the easiest to put into the net, but goals are goals and count however they are scored. The lovely strike from Declan Rice only equals Danny Ings’ second goal, however it went into the net.

The performance was much improved as the manager perhaps realised that he was instilling too much caution into the players in previous games. The two goals in quick succession relieved the pressure, and the freedom to express themselves was evident in the final twenty minutes.

A decent performance at Old Trafford on Wednesday followed with an excellently taken goal from Benrahma, and other chances (that a striker / finisher of the calibre of Ings might have put away?) could have put the tie beyond the home side. But unfortunately he was cup tied after turning out for Villa in their defeat to Stevenage in an earlier round. Hopefully he will be back for the trip to the South Coast this weekend.

Aguerd, who has looked so good in recent games, had a nightmare performance. The goal we conceded in the 75th minute when he headed it into his own net, was the first that we have conceded from a corner this season. We were the only team in the Premier League not to have let in a goal in this way in the campaign to date, and it was unfortunate that it came in this way. We were still level as extra time loomed but two late goals from mistakes, Johnson not closing down and Aguerd’s lack of concentration, meant a 3-1 score to the Red Devils that flattered them.

I’m afraid I wasn’t impressed with the ITV coverage of the game. A neutral onlooker on TV would easily have known that Manchester United were playing, but might have struggled to know the name of the opponents. The pre-match and post-match coverage was typical fare in respect of what we can expect from the media I am afraid.

At least there was some consolation on the night with Tottenham going out of the Cup to a Championship side, and Arsenal thrashing Everton plus Liverpool beating Wolves in the league; good results for us in respect of the other clubs involved towards the bottom of the table.

It wasn’t his best night in the end but I feel much happier with Areola in goal. I wonder if he will now get a consistent run in the league games with the unfortunate injury to Fabianski. If he performs well, and I believe he will, I hope that he retains his place once Fabianski is fit again. 

After Wednesday night we now have a game in hand over both Wolves and Everton. It would be good to use this advantage by winning it! An extended run of wins would help us to pull clear of the bottom three. Can we achieve this? The defeat of Forest, good as it was, must be followed up by more good performances and points.

In recent articles I have been analysing the position and current form of the bottom teams. I will continue to concentrate on the bottom nine as Palace in twelfth place are still only six points clear of the relegation zone. The points of the bottom nine (with the number of games remaining in brackets) are:

Palace 27 (14 to play), Forest 25 (14), Leicester 24 (14), Wolves 24 (13), West Ham 23 (14), Leeds 22 (14), Everton 21 (13), Bournemouth 21 (14), Southampton 18 (14).

Our goal difference is significantly superior to the other teams involved (apart from Leicester who are equal in this respect) so that might be worth another point in the final reckoning.

The points gained in the last 5 games are a guide to current form and we have now (at last) moved to the top of this mini-league which is a good sign:

West Ham 8, Leicester 7, Wolves 7, Everton 6, Forest 5, Bournemouth 5, Leeds 4, Palace 4, Southampton 3.

With the bottom six clubs still achieving less than a point a game so far this season, and an average of a point a game equalling fourteenth place in the table at present, and so many clubs potentially involved in the relegation struggle, then I still reckon that a final total of 37 or 38 should be enough to confirm Premier League football next season. That would mean 14 or 15 from those games if my estimate turns out to be correct. Based on current averages then 35 could be enough.

Looking at our remaining fourteen fixtures can you see where the requisite number of points will come from? Five of them are against teams that I have previously identified as being in the bottom nine, so winning (at least not losing) in those fixtures takes on added importance. Five games are against teams in the top six, against whom we have not collected many points in recent times, and the remaining four are against sides in ‘no-mans land’ between 7th and 11th in the table, although Fulham in 7th are level on points with Liverpool (6th), and this weekend’s opponents Brighton (8th) and Brentford (9th) both have games in hand that could push them closer to the top with positive results.

The figures in brackets below are the points that we picked up in the reverse fixtures already played earlier in the season. If we were to replicate those then we would collect another 12 points to take us up to 35. Might that be enough? We would be cutting it fine, so we must therefore hope for more than that I would suggest.

4/3 Away v Brighton (0)

12/3 Home v Villa (3)

19/3 Away v Man City (0)

2/4 Home v Southampton (1)

5/4 Home v Newcastle (1)

8/4 Away v Fulham (3)

16/4 Home v Arsenal (0)

22/4 Away v Bournemouth (3)

26/4 Home v Liverpool (0)

29/4 Away v Palace (0)

6/5 Home v Man Utd (0)

13/5 Away v Brentford (0)

20/5 Home v Leeds (1)

28/5 Away v Leicester (0)

Our performances against Brighton since they were promoted to the top flight do not bode well for this game. This is the sixth season, and in the previous eleven encounters we have not beaten them at all! We have drawn on six occasions and been beaten five times, and have never kept a clean sheet in any of those eleven games. With the increased amount of statistics available these days it has been identified that the opening 15 minutes could be vital in this match. Brighton have scored more goals in this period of the game than any other team in the Premier League so far this season. On the other hand we have yet to score a goal in the first quarter of an hour in any game. Why are we so slow off the mark?

We could really do with improving our record against the Seagulls and this weekend would be a good time to start. Recent history is against us. Can we do it? A point would be good but three would be even better. What are the chances?

West Ham – It’s a sad, sad, situation, and it’s getting more and more absurd

A little less conversation, a little more action please

Have you read Geoff’s article published yesterday? If you missed it look it up now. It tells you everything you need to know about West Ham’s current plight. The insipid display at Tottenham, the board dithering over a dithering manager who has presided over a team in freefall for more than a year now, unadventurous and inadequate tactics, lack of entertainment, a relegation dogfight that really shouldn’t be a situation for one of the world’s richest clubs, and a cautionary approach taken to another level last week.

Even our captain, Declan Rice took a veiled swipe at the tactics employed by our manager in the wake of last Sunday’s debacle. He was spot on when he was quoted as saying: “When you play with five at the back and the three like we set up today, maybe our strikers felt a bit isolated when we got the ball up to them – they didn’t really have enough around them, not enough support.”

He was only saying what a vast number of West Ham fans have been for some time now; the approach to games is wrong, and the fact that he sticks to a rigid formation when we don’t really have the right sort of players to make the most of lining up that way (for example wingbacks that are really just defenders and don’t really pose much of an attacking threat). It is no coincidence that we are seventh in the Premier League when it comes to defence and not conceding too many goals, but sixteenth when looking at goals scored (just 19 in our 23 games this season, a woeful figure).

If we are going to get out of the desperate situation we are in then we need to score more goals and win more matches. We need a more attacking formation, and not an isolated front man. Antonio was reasonably successful at this a year or so ago, but he has lost form, and he barely scores these days. The manager has even used others (Haller, Scamacca) in a similar role even though it is clear to most of us that they are not suited to playing in this way, their strengths lie elsewhere, but David Moyes (in his obstinacy?) fails to recognise this.

In previous articles I have been analysing the position and current form of the bottom teams. I will continue to concentrate on the bottom nine as Palace in twelfth place are only six points clear of the relegation zone. The points of the bottom nine (all with 15 games still to play) are:

Palace 26, Forest 25, Leicester 24, Wolves 23, Everton 21, Bournemouth 21, West Ham 20, Leeds 19, Southampton 18.

The points gained in the last 6 games shows today’s opponents Nottingham Forest ahead of the rest, but we have now slipped in this guide to current form:

Forest 11, Wolves 10, Leicester 7, Everton 6, West Ham 6, Southampton 6, Bournemouth 5, Palace 4, Leeds 2.

Ironically, the early season fixture won by Forest by a solitary goal could easily have gone the other way with a slightly different interpretation of rules (Benrahma’s disallowed goal) and a little more luck (twice hitting the crossbar) as well as a better taken penalty (Rice). If we had won that game then we would now be on 23 points and Forest on 22. But that’s football. Will that very first game come back to bite us at the end of the season?

And talking of interpretation of rules, that old chestnut (handball) has been a talking point in our last two games with Soucek (against Chelsea) and Kehrer (against Tottenham) both handling the ball in the process of falling and that was why penalties were not awarded against us. A new rule this season says that if a player is falling and the ball touches their hand / arm when it is between their body and the ground (but not extended to make the body bigger) then that is not handball.

Whether you like this new rule or others (designed to make the interpretation of handball simpler – ha ha), that is how the referees and VAR looked at these two examples although pundits on TV tended to disagree quite vehemently. As it happens it made no difference to the points in the Tottenham game, and we benefitted by one point (if the penalty had been successful) in the Chelsea match. But as far as Chelsea were concerned this was simply karma from the reverse fixture where we were robbed.

With the bottom five clubs achieving less than a point a game so far this season, averaging a point a game equalling fifteenth place in the table at present, and so many clubs potentially involved in the relegation struggle, then how many points from the final 15 games will be enough to ensure safety? I reckon that a final total of 37 or 38 might potentially be enough to confirm Premier League football next season. That would mean 17 or 18 from those games if my estimate turns out to be correct. Based on current averages then 35 could be enough. In the last five seasons the total needed to ensure safety was 36, 29, 35, 35, 34. In the ‘29’ season three teams were significantly detached which is not the case so far this time, so that one may not be representative of what is needed. Have a look at the remaining fixtures and see if you can tell where the requisite number of points will come from.

25/2 Home v Forest

4/3 Away v Brighton

12/3 Home v Villa

19/3 Away v Man City

2/4 Home v Southampton

5/4 Home v Newcastle

8/4 Away v Fulham

16/4 Home v Arsenal

22/4 Away v Bournemouth

26/4 Home v Liverpool

29/4 Away v Palace

6/5 Home v Man Utd

13/5 Away v Brentford

20/5 Home v Leeds 28/5 Away v Leicester

Five wins and two or three draws from those fifteen games might just be enough. If you think that should be easy bear in mind that we have only achieved five wins and five draws so far from 23 games, that is eight more played than those that are remaining. Of the eight home games, four are against teams in the bottom half (the next three and the last one). In the seven remaining fixtures away from home, three are against teams in the bottom half (three of the last four). Therefore, a fairly equal spread in terms of potential difficulty based on league positions.

I began this article referring to Geoff’s excellent summary of our current plight and the action perhaps needed (change the manager?) to stay up. He ended the piece with the sentence ‘It’s a sad, sad, situation.’ You know the Elton John song – Sorry Seems to Be The Hardest Word? Some of the lyrics from the song sum it up nicely:

It’s sad, so sad

It’s a sad, sad situation

And it’s getting more

And more absurd

Note to the board from an entirely different (Elvis) song – A little less conversation a little more action please!