Leicester v West Ham: A Quick-Fire Rematch With The High Flying Foxes

Last Saturday’s game against Everton was one of those where you left the ground thinking that the result was about right. Our first half display was bright enough and when we took the lead my initial thought was it was well deserved; let’s hope we can hold on to it or even improve on it in the few minutes that remain until half time. And then we conceded a corner, always a worrying thing to do given our record at defending them and the interval approaching. Our returning goalkeeper Darren Randolph had already demonstrated in the first half that he didn’t intend leaving his line to deal with crosses; he would leave them for our defenders to deal with. That was a mistake.

I’ve always liked Randolph as a keeper, particularly when it comes to reflexes, shot-stopping and clean handling. But when he was here before I always worried about his ability to deal with high crosses and his reluctance to come out to deal with them. I had hoped that aspect of his game may have improved in the Championship, but alas no. Ironically although I believe Fabianski to be an excellent goalkeeper that part of his game is perhaps his weakest too. That was one aspect of Joe Hart’s keeping that I liked, although his inability to hang on to shots and poor handling meant that many goals were conceded in that fashion in his time here.

Whilst on the subject of goalkeepers, between 1973 and 1988 only four goalkeepers started in matches for West Ham in the whole period of 15 years. Do you remember them? They were Bobby Ferguson, Mervyn Day, Phil Parkes and Tom McAlister. Incredibly, in our last six matches alone an equal number of goalkeepers have started the games for us – Fabianski, Martin, Roberto and now Randolph.

A trip to high-flying Leicester today will not be an easy one. The odds are stacked against us. It was only a few weeks ago when we tamely lost at home to a virtual Leicester Reserves side. In our last ten visits to Leicester we have won only twice, although to be fair we have only lost four of them. If you consider the last ten Premier League games between the sides, both home and away, then our record is even poorer with just one win, when we won 2-0 at the end of the 2017-18 season, a victory which ensured our safety that season. Incidentally David Moyes was the manager that day, and the two goals were scored by Mario, and that wonderful volley from Mark Noble.

Leicester’s recent form has been poor in comparison to their season as a whole, and they have now lost four of their last six games, conceding 12 goals in the process. In their first 17 games this season they only let in 11 goals. Despite that they are still third in the Premier League table well clear of fourth place, and likely to achieve a place in the Champions league next season. After being almost invincible at home all season, their defeat to Southampton was their second home defeat in a row. Generally fans believe that when it comes to scoring goals Leicester rely heavily on Vardy. To some extent that is true in that he is the Premier League’s leading scorer to date this season with 17 goals. But to balance that, Leicester’s last nine goals in the league have all been scored by different players.

Against Everton we extended our lead at the top of the Premier League table for sides dropping points from a winning position – the total is now 17. And returning to the goalkeeper, Darren Randolph has played in 15 away Premier League games and has only kept one clean sheet in all those games. Our manager has an even poorer record in that in 49 games away from home against a top four side he has only won just one of them!

Taking all of the above factors into account and adding the fact that we are the away side in poor form in 16th place in the table before this round of matches, facing a Leicester side intent on resuming winning ways to maintain their challenge for second place in the Premier League, then what realistic chance do we have? The bookmakers have Leicester at shorter than 1/2 to win the game, whilst we are a not very generous 11/2. Surely our odds should be much longer than that? I suppose we can take some heart from Southampton’s surprise win there ten days ago, although they are one of the form sides at the moment and have now taken 10 points from their last 5 games (as opposed to our 4 points, which is only better than Burnley’s 3 and Bournemouth’s 1). Even Norwich have picked up 5 points from their last 5 games! Also, Leicester were beaten at Turf Moor at the weekend by a Burnley side on a losing streak.

Perhaps another hope is the closeness of the Premier League this season. Last Saturday’s results illustrated that to some extent with 5 draws and the other 3 games being won by a solitary goal margin. On Sunday there was only a one goal margin in the Burnley v Leicester game, whilst Liverpool were the only side to win by two with their last minute second goal against Manchester United.

We’ve really got to hope for an unexpected win, because we have a tough run of fixtures coming up. After today in our next four games we have home and away games against Liverpool and a trip to Manchester City. In between we entertain Brighton, and then on 29th February in-form Southampton are our visitors. I may be wrong but I think that the last time we won a game on February 29th was the FA Cup quarter final against Burnley at Upton Park in 1964, the year we went on to win the trophy for the first time. I was in the West Stand standing enclosure at midday when the gates opened that day.

I can remember some entertaining games against Leicester. One of the highlights was a Boxing Day game in 1967 where we recovered from going two goals down to win 4-2. Another came the following season in 1968 when we beat them 4-0 and Martin Peters scored the best goal I have ever seen. Of course Mark Noble’s volley the season before last in our 2-0 win was also one of the goals nominated in the West Ham goals of the decade. Perhaps we can see a special goal today that wins us the game?

Can money buy success? Yes, but not for West Ham!

Deloitte have recently released their Money League figures where they rank all of the football teams in Europe according to their revenue. It is based upon the 2018-19 season and makes interesting reading. West Ham have retained their place in the top 20 of this league for the fourth consecutive year, and are one of 11 English clubs that make the top 30, which highlights the importance of the Premier League broadcasting rights to football clubs in England. An example of this is that West Ham had a higher revenue figure than Ajax who were Dutch champions and reached the semi-final of the Champions League!

I have listed below the positions of the top 30 clubs in the Deloitte Money league table in terms of their revenue but placed them within their individual countries, and then shown the position that they hold in their own league table at today’s date in brackets.

England

  1. Manchester United (5th)
  2. Manchester City (2nd)
  3. Liverpool (1st)
  4. Tottenham (8th)
  5. Chelsea (4th)
  6. Arsenal (10th)
  7. West Ham (16th)
  8. Everton (11th)
  9. Leicester (3rd)
  10. Wolves (7th)
  11. Crystal Palace (9th)

Spain

  1. Barcelona (1st)
  2. Real Madrid (2nd)
  3. Atletico Madrid (3rd)
  4. Valencia (6th)

Germany

  1. Bayern Munich (3rd)
  2. Borussia Dortmund (4th)
  3. Schalke 04 (5th)
  4. Eintracht Frankfurt (13th)

Italy

  1. Juventus (1st)
  2. Inter Milan (2nd)
  3. AS Roma (5th)
  4. Napoli (11th)
  5. AC Milan (10th)

France

  1. Paris SG (1st)
  2. Lyon (7th)

Portugal

  1. Benfica (1st)
  2. Porto (2nd)

Netherlands

  1. Ajaz (1st)

Russia

  1. FC Zenit St Petersburg (1st)

So what does this reveal? In seven of the eight countries the team currently at the top of the league are represented within the 30 wealthiest clubs in terms of revenue. The exception to this rule is the German Bundesliga where RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach are currently 1st and 2nd in the league table, but are not in the top 30 European clubs in terms of revenue.

If we focus on England, then the eleven clubs that are in the top 30 are all in the top 11 of the Premier League with just one exception. Yes, West Ham are that exception, as we currently sit in 16th place in the table. Based purely on revenue we should be 7th in the Premier League.

Looking across the various leagues you can see that money generally does buy success. So why are West Ham under-performing? If you look through the various social media sites you will see so many reasons touted. The owners, the board, the stadium, the management, the coaching, the fitness, the tactics, recruitment policy, poor investment in players and training facilities, playing formation, the players, injuries – these are just some of the potential reasons put forward by those that take to the internet and other media outlets to vent their feelings. It’s a combination of all of those but responsibility lies at the top, surely?

This weekend we take on Everton, another team reckoned to be performing below expectation, and certainly below revenue ranking. We are five places and six points below them with a slightly inferior goal difference. If we can beat them we cut the gap to three points, and we would have a better goal difference.

The Premier League is as tight as ever with just 12 points separating Sheffield United in 6th from Bournemouth in 19th. Norwich are adrift but the majority of clubs in the league could still be in danger of relegation.

The current form table (last 5 matches) has Liverpool at the top with 15 points, followed by Southampton and Watford (13), Manchester City (12), Chelsea (10), Manchester United and Everton (9), Wolves and Sheffield United (7), Leicester, Palace, Arsenal, Villa and West Ham (6), Tottenham, Newcastle and Brighton (4), Burnley (3), Norwich (2) and Bournemouth (1).

If current (last 5 games) form is maintained in the second half of the season then Bournemouth, Norwich, Burnley, Brighton and Newcastle would appear to be the teams in greatest trouble. But it doesn’t necessarily work like that and current form can improve, or indeed deteriorate. You definitely need to add both West Ham and Villa to the five teams I mentioned, and both Watford and Southampton could see a reversal of the fine form they’ve shown to move them up the table. If we beat Everton today then perhaps they, too can be added to the list of potential relegation candidates. So, I’ve narrowed it down to the ten teams that make up the bottom half of the table who could end up in the Championship next season! But even the three London teams which sit in 8th, 9th and 10th places (Tottenham, Palace and Arsenal) could join in as they are not in great form either, each having won only one of their last 5 games. But I can’t see that happening, and they, along with Sheffield United have enough points in the bag, and are probably too good to go down anyway.

Relegation betting is interesting. Norwich are odds on 1/12 to go down. Other odds are Villa 8/13, Bournemouth 4/5, Watford 5/2, Newcastle 10/3, Burnley & West Ham 7/2, Brighton 7/1, Southampton 18/1, Palace 22/1, Everton 50/1, Sheffield United 66/1. All other teams are 100/1 plus. What is ridiculous is that Liverpool are quoted at 2000/1. I hope they don’t accept any bets on that, because if Liverpool lost every single game from here they could still not be anywhere close to relegation. Bad form from betting firms I’m afraid.

Head to head statistics in our games against Everton make us outsiders in the game today. In the last 23 Premier League fixtures we have won only 3 and lost 14. And Everton have won on 7 of the last 11 occasions when they have been our visitors. And going back even further we have lost to Everton in top flight fixtures a total of 63 times, more than against any other opponents.

Although David Moyes has been on the losing side in 5 of his six encounters against his former club, his record as manager at the London Stadium is good with just three defeats as West Ham manager in 15 games. Scoring the first goal would be a good thing for us as Everton have not won a game in 34 matches now when they have conceded the opening goal. Although those are the kind of statistics I hate to see in relation to West Ham. How we love to end runs like that!

Two of Everton’s most dangerous players are likely to be missing through injury, Richarlison and Sigurdsson, but of course our injury list is lengthening all the time. I cannot understand the negativity regarding the signing of Randolph as a back-up goalkeeper. He is certainly good enough for that role and is a definite improvement on both Martin and Roberto.

Everton have scored in 7 consecutive Premier League away fixtures, something they have not done for a long time. I reckon we’ll put an end to that run and win the game 2-0. Perhaps that’s just my optimism, or West Ham tinted glasses, but I feel really confident regarding today’s game. I hope I’m right!

Sheffield United v West Ham – The Friday Night Match

In blog articles over the past few years, and in Gary Firmager’s much-missed fanzine Over Land and Sea before that, I have frequently written about my dislike for football matches that kick off at non-standard times. If I had my way all league games would be played on Saturdays with a 3pm kick off. Of course, with the money that Sky, and then BT, and recently Amazon have put into the Premier League, then they dictate the times when football matches are played with little thought for the fans, especially as they turn up and fill the stadiums whenever.

Of course this enables me to watch a number of West Ham games away from home on TV that I wouldn’t otherwise have seen, but in all honesty I would have preferred the game to have remained as it was before Sky pumped their money in. However I can’t change things so I have to go along with it as we all do. As for the non-standard kick off times then we now have a whole plethora of them each weekend. In addition to the 3pm start on Saturdays, we can now kick off at Saturday lunchtime, teatime and evening. On Sundays it can be lunchtime, early afternoon and late afternoon. We also have Monday Night football too, as well as all the midweek games which enable so many matches to be watched if you have the time, inclination, and are prepared to pay. This game is in addition to all those times though, and is one of the occasional games that are scheduled for a Friday evening. I’m not happy with the timing but I guess I will tune in nonetheless as it is West Ham. I really couldn’t be bothered if it wasn’t my team.

This game is the return fixture of the one that was played at 3pm on Saturday 26th October, just two and a half months ago. Such a lot has happened since then, and from a West Ham viewpoint, most of it has not been good. If you remember that day, then in the first half we were the only team that wanted to play but we found it very hard to break down a well organised Sheffield defence. But a minute before half time Roberto took a long goal kick which found Anderson who set up Snodgrass to fire the ball low past Henderson to put us one up.

We thought that we would go on from there in the second half, but Sheffield United decided to play, and they played well, deserving the draw that they gained from Mousset, who had just come on as a substitute, whose side-footed volley deceived Roberto as he dived to his left, and the ball crept inside the post. Following that game both teams had 13 points from ten games played and sat 7th and 9th in the table. As we go into the return fixture, Sheffield United are now 8th while we are 16th, and just two points above the relegation positions. The excellent win in our last league game (at home to Bournemouth) ensured that we were not in the bottom three when we played our FA Cup third round tie at Gillingham last Sunday. Incidentally, has there ever been an FA Cup tie where two different players called Pablo have scored for the same team?

Sheffield United have surprised many people this season with their current position in the league, and especially their organisation. But one fact we should bear in mind is that they have actually been a better side away from home, where they were unbeaten until their last two games when they lost 2-0 on each occasion to Manchester City and Liverpool, so no disgrace there. But at home they have actually lost four games, not surprisingly to Leicester and Liverpool, but also to Southampton and Newcastle, so potentially they are more vulnerable at Bramall Lane. The gap is now 7 points which have opened up since our last meeting. Wouldn’t it be good to cut that to four after this game? Not surprisingly the home team are odds on to win the game, whereas you can get in excess of 3/1 for West Ham to be within four points, and at the same time climb into eleventh place in the table, at least until all the other teams play their games over the protracted weekend period.

The last five games ‘form table’ has Liverpool at the top (of course) with 15 points, followed by Manchester City on 12, and then two surprises, with Southampton (who have climbed out of the relegation zone) and Watford (who are still in it) both with 10 points. Everton follow on 8 points and then there are five clubs each on 7 and 6 points respectively. Sheffield United are one of those on 7, whereas we are on 6. The teams propping up the form table are Norwich and Newcastle with 3, Bournemouth with 4, then Brighton and Arsenal with 5. The league is still very tight with just 12 points separating Manchester United in fifth and Watford in nineteenth. Norwich are the only team currently adrift and they will need a big upturn to avoid returning to the Championship next season.

So what will happen this evening? I have a feeling that it will be a very tight game with few, if any goals. Perhaps a goalless draw, or possibly a game settled by a single goal. I hope we score it! History is against that happening. We have a negative record in games against Sheffield United, and haven’t pulled up any trees at Bramall Lane. We haven’t both been in the top flight at the same time on too many occasions, but when we have we’ve only won one of the last 13 games away from home in a period which stretches back 56 years tomorrow. That win was in April 1968 when a team containing Moore, Hurst, Peters, Bonds, Brooking and Lampard won 2-1 at Bramall Lane with two goals from Geoff Hurst.

17th v 16th, another 6 pointer. Can West Ham reap the benefit of the arrival of an old acquaintance when Bournemouth visit the London Stadium to begin the New Year?

So, at last action was taken. I won’t need to write about my perception of Mr Pellegrini’s shortcomings any more. Minutes after the final whistle following the disappointing defeat to Leicester Reserves on Saturday, he was summoned to face Ms Brady, who, having seen Lord Sugar perform the act on numerous occasions, extended the index digit on her left hand and added the words “With regret, you’re fired.” Relief at last for the majority of West Ham fans who couldn’t wait for him to go, but this was tempered by news that David Moyes was odds on to replace him, an appointment that was confirmed by late Sunday evening.

If you want to see what West Ham fans think of the appointment just head to the appropriate social media sites which give a whole variety of opinions on the new manager. There are literally thousands of them, mostly negative I would say on balance, but many saying wait and see. This is my stance too. I saw his interview on West Ham TV as well as his press conference and he was certainly saying all the right things. You wouldn’t think that based on his track record after leaving Everton he would be the person to “take us to the next level”, but having said that, the immediate next level for our club at the moment is movement away from the relegation zone, and he does have previous in that respect. In my opinion his record as manager at Goodison Park was largely impressive, and though he didn’t pull up any trees at Old Trafford, no manager has really been able to replace Alex Ferguson, have they?

Many have pilloried the board for the appointment, but then again Messrs. Sullivan, and Gold and Ms Brady are so disliked by so many, that I doubt there was little they could possibly do in the circumstances mid- season that would satisfy a majority of fans. It was interesting to read the views of fans on social media as to who they actually wanted to manage the club. Such a diverse list of possibilities but nobody knows who would want to come here or who was available. I really hope that David Moyes is a success because I am a supporter of over 60 years who wants to see the club move forward. Whether or not it will happen I don’t know. Personally I am just glad that they didn’t turn to Allardyce or Pulis, I rate David Moyes much higher than those two. We’ll just have to wait and see. I’ll make my views known on the appointment in a few weeks’ time in this blog. For now I give him the benefit of the doubt.

Bournemouth haven’t been in the Premier League for long (this is their fifth season), but in the short time that they have been they have a good record against us. We have only beaten them twice in nine meetings, and only once in the four home games, when we won the very first league game that we played at London Stadium with a late headed goal from the Snowman. So head-to- head recent history is not in our favour.

Both teams go into the game with very poor recent form and that is why they are 17th and 16th in the Premier League table. We have the worst home form of all the teams in the Premier League, and as we all know, we have lost the last four home league games. The most consecutive home games that we have ever lost in our entire history is five, and that happened in 1931! There aren’t many of us who remember then! That is one record that we don’t wish to equal.

Even conceding a solitary goal can be a problem for us this season. In the 15 games we have conceded at least one goal we have only won one of them. That happened in August when we beat Watford 3-1. Even the day itself has been a problem in the past as we have lost seven of the eleven Premier League games played on January 1st, which is more than any other team, apart from Everton.

Bournemouth have been equally poor, losing seven of their last nine league games, and winning only one of them. In the last four and a half seasons they have lost more Premier League games away from home than any other team, apart from Watford. Two things in particular worry me though. Bournemouth are second only to Liverpool when it comes to scoring set-piece goals in the Premier League this season, and you know how good we are at defending set pieces! And Callum Wilson has not scored for 12 games. He has never gone 13 games without scoring!

It will be interesting to see our new manager’s team selection and the way we set up. I reckon he may try three at the back (Balbuena, Diop and Ogbonna) and then use two wing backs (Fredericks and Masuaku or Cresswell). But who knows? He hasn’t really had the chance to assess very much in a couple of days, but our fans will be on his back if it doesn’t go well.

There has never been a 0-0 draw in a West Ham v Bournemouth game in history. In just 14 games that have been played there has been between 1 and 7 goals in every game, including every number in between. Who can possibly predict what we can expect today? We are fractionally odds-on to win the game despite our recent poor form, probably as a result of the new manager effect. West Ham to win and both teams to score is 23/10, and if you want to predict a score, my forecast would be a 2-1 win at 15/2. I’d settle for that.

“Come in Mr. Pellegrini your time is up” – West Ham entertain Leicester.

“I really cannot believe that I will be writing about Manuel Pellegrini any more after this weekend. There cannot possibly be any way that he can survive as the manager of West Ham, whatever the result this evening.”

These are the words I wrote prior to the game against Southampton. But I was wrong. We won the game after clinging on in the end, and our manager lived to fight another day. Since then we have had the postponement against (World Club Champions) Liverpool, followed by the defeat at Crystal Palace on Boxing Day. We now sit in seventeenth place in the Premier League table, just one point above Aston Villa (and with an inferior goal difference). We have a game in hand, but that is against Liverpool! We have now dropped 15 points from winning positions. With 15 more points we would now be sitting in a Champions League position in fourth place in the table. But we are not. We are in big trouble, but Dave and Dave either haven’t got the will to act (or pay off the manager), or they think he will turn it around, or perhaps they are unable to find anyone who will want to work under them.

Ironically, in recent articles I have often referred to the form table, where I have analysed results for all Premier League teams in their last 5 games. We have often appeared very close to the bottom of that table, but as we go into today’s game against Leicester, that is not the case this time. We have six points together with Burnley and (fourth placed) Chelsea. Six clubs have accrued less than that in their last five games; Watford, Brighton and Arsenal with 5, Bournemouth with 4, Villa with 3, and Norwich with 1.

But it’s not good is it? The natives are restless. I think our early season form promised so much more, but the dramatic fall down the league table, mixed with a combination of throwing away leading positions, the (poor) quality of our football, a manager who doesn’t appear to have a clue what is wrong or what he can do to change things, and the apparent low morale and in-fighting among the players (Noble and Ogbonna for example), means that a lot of us want to see a change of manager.

Our opposition today have had a terrific season so far, and sit in second place in the Premier League table, despite two heavy defeats in their last two games (admittedly against Manchester City and Liverpool). They are ten points clear of fifth placed Tottenham, so unless they plummet down the table (in West Ham fashion) a Champions League place next season looks assured. Of course those two big defeats by a combined scoreline of 7-1 shows they still have a way to go to match the top two, but nevertheless the quality of their football is great to watch, and we could be on for a hammering today.

It is now almost 14 years since we lost four home Premier League games in a row, but defeat in the last three home games leaves us perilously close to matching that unwanted statistic. What is even worse is that in those three defeats we have conceded three goals in each of the games. Only three other teams in the history of the Premier League have managed to concede three goals in four consecutive home games, Palace in 1998, Bradford in 2001, and Fulham five years ago.

Our head to head record against Leicester is one which is positive in that we have beaten them more times than they have beaten us. But the recent record is not so good, and in the last nine Premier league fixtures we have beaten them only once. In fact Leicester have never lost a game at the London Stadium.

I always want us to win, but the omens for this game don’t look too good. More in hope than expectation though, perhaps we can defy the bookmakers’ odds (around 3/1 for a West Ham victory).

WHULEI1I was sad to learn of the recent death of one of the West Ham greats, Martin Peters, shortly before Christmas. I met Martin at a book signing in 2006 when I bought his autobiography The Ghost of ’66. I had quite a chat with him and what a lovely man he was. I also took along a copy of the West Ham v Leicester programme for November 16th 1968 and asked him to sign it for me (see photo of programme). The reason for this is that was the day I saw my favourite ever West Ham goal. Martin scored past Peter Shilton in front of the North Bank, a thunderous volley at the end of a move that went from one end of the pitch to the other. I wrote about the goal in my book, Goodbye Upton Park, Hello Stratford, and to this day it remains my favourite ever West Ham goal. On that wet November day we beat Leicester 4-0. What are the chances of a repeat scoreline today? Somewhere around 125/1 according to one bookmaker I saw. We can hope, can’t we?!

A relegation six-pointer is the Saturday 5.30pm game – Southampton v West Ham – “All of us know we need a result.”

I really cannot believe that I will be writing about Manuel Pellegrini any more after this weekend. There cannot possibly be any way that he can survive as the manager of West Ham, whatever the result this evening. In view of the postponement of the Liverpool game (and perhaps even if it hadn’t been postponed) there is a very big chance that we will be in one of the relegation positions at Christmas. Very few managers survive after a run of results that we have had in the past few weeks, plummeting down the table from the heady heights of fifth place. Enough is enough. A change is necessary. There is no need to feel sorry for him – just take a look at the pay-off he will get, despite the poor performance. The exit poll taken as the fans left the ground after the Arsenal debacle predicts that he will be gone well before Christmas.

I’ve collected some of the comments attributed to him this week.

“All of us know we need a result.”

“I always think as a manager that the results of the team depends on the individual performance of a player. After that you can work a lot on tactical, physical and technical work but the players decide the games.”

“Of course, when you have your important players not in their best moment, the results of the team will not be good.”

“You must find why they are not in that moment and try to work with them and give them confidence and I hope that most of them will return as soon as possible to their normal performance.”

‘Well of course all of us know we need the results. We have just five points from the last nine games.”

“We need to return to being a consistent and solid team in the way we did against Chelsea and for 60-65 minutes against Arsenal. The points that we have are not enough for this team.”

“We dominated for 60 minutes. Maybe scoring the second goal would have been so important.

“It (booing at the end) was understandable because the last five games that we play here, we didn’t win.

“If you don’t win at home, your fans are not going to be happy.

“You cannot concede three goals in every game. Unfortunately for us, we are doing wrong things, but we need to continue fighting.”

The following is not a comment made by MP but it could have been – “And now the end is near and so I face the final curtain.”

Asked if he thought he could fix it, Pellegrini added: “Of course.”

A lot of things have been written about a rift between Pellegrini and Felipe Anderson. Here are some of the comments attributed to our Brazilian playmaker this week.

“When I arrived it was hard but we started winning and I started to show my potential by helping the team with goals, assists and dribbles, and right now things are not working out as we want.”

“Things have to improve and I have to improve to be able to help the team.”

“As I always say, this is a collective game. If I don’t score and the team wins, I’m happy, but if I don’t score and the team loses and I couldn’t help the team as I want to, it’s difficult.”

“But we need to keep on working hard and think positively.”

“Monday’s match was a very negative result and one that we didn’t expect because we were at home and because we had played well in the previous two matches.”

“But we know that we need to keep working hard to get out of this situation.”

“This is the worst phase I have been going through with the team.”

West Ham go into this “must win” game against Southampton, a team that has improved in recent weeks, certainly since being thrashed 9-0 at home by Leicester, knowing (well if they don’t know I’ve just told them!) that they have beaten Southampton in Premier League games more than they have beaten any other team. Our results against them in recent times have been positive with four wins in the last five Premier League meetings.

Knowing how our heads seem to go down when we concede a goal, one statistic that I read this week is troubling. In our last 15 visits to Southampton (a period of time that stretches back almost 25 years) we have failed to score the first goal in the game! I’m not sure what the odds will be, but based on that, you can almost guarantee that Southampton will take the lead by scoring the first goal. Despite their poor season they have managed to score in every league game they’ve played apart from two. Only Liverpool, Manchester City and Wolves have scored in more games than that.

As West Ham fans we’ve had little to cheer in recent games, and don’t need reminding of some of the statistics being banded about. Seven defeats in our last nine league games, five points fewer than at this stage last season, and twelve points dropped from winning positions (which equals our total for the whole of last season!) make depressing reading. It is hard to ignore the goalkeeping situation – we have lost 14% of games when Fabianski was in goal, and 78% of games since he has been injured and out of the team. We need him back sooner rather than later!

On a positive note (bearing in mind we are playing away), 56% of our total points this season have been collected on our travels, a percentage unmatched by any other team in Premier League. (It starts from a low base though). Our manager should be confident of victory too based on his past record, having won six and drawn one of the eight games he has been in charge of teams playing Southampton.

Of course I want us to win and I hope we can win. I don’t honestly believe that when we play our next match at Selhurst Park on Boxing Day that MP will be in charge whatever the result today. There is every chance that we will have a new man at the helm. Surely, despite some deficiencies in the squad, there is enough talent to work with to ensure a mid-table finish at least with these players. I just hope that we can attract a younger manager with fresh ideas, and don’t resort to one of the usual managerial names being banded about in the media.

On current form two of the three poorest teams in the Premier League meet at the London Stadium, when West Ham entertain Arsenal.

I refer frequently to the form table when writing this column, and look at how the teams have fared in their last five Premier league games. Unsurprisingly, Liverpool and Leicester are at the top with a maximum 15 points. Manchester United and Wolves come next with 11 points apiece. Wolves continue to be the draw kings, and have now drawn 9 of their 16 games following their predictable draw at Brighton yesterday.

A resurgent Tottenham, and Newcastle come next with 10 points each. I hate to admit it but some of the Tottenham goals against Burnley on Saturday were a bit special, especially the “Maradonna-esque” effort from Son. Three teams from very different regions of the league table are next with 7 points. They are Manchester City, who are now 14 points adrift of Liverpool and surely cannot now retain their league title, mid-table Palace, and Southampton who are still in the bottom three (just!). Had they not conceded a very late goal at Newcastle yesterday they would have moved out of a relegation position.

Four teams each have six points, namely Chelsea, Sheffield United, Burnley and Everton. A further four teams each have four points as a result of winning one and drawing one of their last five games, and they are Brighton, Aston Villa, and the bottom two clubs Norwich and Watford.

So that is 17 teams I’ve mentioned so far, and I still haven’t referred to the two teams meeting at the London Stadium tonight. Two teams woefully out of form. Looking at our opponents first, they have just 3 points from 3 draws in their last 5 games. In fact they haven’t won a game in the last ten they have played (in all competitions), which is their worst run in 42 years. Oh how I hate statistics like that when looking at teams about to play us! Not surprisingly they sacked their manager a few days ago, because that is what happens these days. Teams who have long poor runs tend to do that. Most of them anyway.

West Ham, too, have just 3 points from the last 5 games, courtesy of the improbable victory at Stamford Bridge just over a week ago. Of course normal service was resumed with the defeat at Wolves in midweek. So tonight’s game is between the two teams sitting equal 18th in the last 5 game form table, two sides demonstrating relegation form. By the way, Bournemouth are the team propping up my form table with nil points; five consecutive losses.

If we were able to repeat last season’s success at home to the Gunners then we would move up to 19 points, level with our opponents (and Brighton), and four points clear of the drop zone. The bottom half of the table from Arsenal in 11th downwards are just four points ahead of Southampton in 18th. It looks as if Norwich and Watford are becoming adrift at the bottom, but the recent form of Southampton is of concern to the other teams in the bottom half.

Apparently Michail Antonio is having a late fitness test. How I hope he is fit to rough up the poor Arsenal defence! Their central back partnership which consists of Luiz and Mustafi, established Brazilian and German international footballers, looked very poor when I watched them draw with Norwich a week ago, and this is one area we could exploit. I say “could” because we haven’t looked like exploiting any other teams weaknesses very often in recent games. Since we beat Manchester United towards the end of September, then apart from the Chelsea win last week, we haven’t beaten anybody else!

Our manager was quoted ahead of today’s game. “The players need to believe in this moment more than ever. We must not concede goals from set-pieces, as we have done that too many times this season. If we are solid, consistent in defending, and creative in attacking, that will influence the result.” What he didn’t say was what has happened in the past few days for the players to suddenly believe in the moment (whatever that really means!) and what steps they have been taking to avoid conceding goals from set-pieces, and how they will become more solid, consistent in defending, and creative going forward. In fact, I don’t think he knows; he just hopes that a group of talented footballers can somehow do this without a lot of guidance from the very person who is paid a lot of money to manage and motivate them.

The following eleven points of interest may be considered to be either good or bad depending on how you view such facts:

  1. Arsenal has not scored a goal at the London Stadium for over 1000 days.
  2. Arsenal has beaten West Ham 29 times in Premier League games, more than any other team has beaten us.
  3. (Taking recent form a bit further than I did previously) The 4 points we have collected in our last eight league games is fewer than any other team in the Premier League.
  4. No other Premier League team has lost as many as our 29 defeats on a Monday.
  5. We have lost 99 London derby matches – more than any other London team.
  6. Arsenal’s 19 points from their first 15 Premier League games is their (equal) lowest ever.
  7. Arsenal has not kept a clean sheet for 64 days (11 matches).
  8. Aubameyang has never scored against West Ham.
  9. Arsenal has not won any of their last six Premier League matches away from home.
  10. We haven’t won any of our last four Premier League games at the London Stadium.
  11. We haven’t scored a goal this season when Mike Dean has refereed our game (2 matches).

So there we have it. Two of the three poorest teams in the Premier League based on current form (5 games). One has sacked their manager, the other hasn’t (yet!). Of course I always want us to win football matches, and this game is no different, but a win tonight might paper over the cracks temporarily, and not be good for us when we consider the bigger picture. If we are going to consider a new man in charge then he surely has to have the opportunity to make use of the forthcoming transfer window.

A win tonight and we will move three places up the table to 13th. A draw would see a rise of two places to 15th. It says a lot about our current form when the bookmakers have Arsenal as strong favourites to win the game (around even money, when we are more than 2/1), despite the fact that we are at home and they haven’t won a game in the last ten they have played!

Our next two games are away from home (Southampton and Palace). The Liverpool game has been postponed because of Liverpool’s involvement in the World Club Championship. Our last game in this calendar year is at home to Leicester who have won eight straight games. Did you see how good they were today away at Villa? At that point we will have faced everyone (apart from Liverpool). We could easily start 2020 in one of the three relegation places, and have a game in hand on the other teams (albeit against Liverpool). It wasn’t that long ago that many pundits were talking us up as a potential top six team. It has gone horribly wrong. What happens in the remainder of 2019 will be massively important for our football club. We could have 16 points or it could be 25. It could be somewhere in between. We could retain our manager, or we could have appointed a new one. It is West Ham remember. Who knows what will happen?