Relegation Haunted West Ham Face Burnley In The Claret & Blue Derby

How many teams are still in the relegation dogfight? West Ham ensured that they are still involved with a poor performance at Swansea last weekend. Will our remaining home games save us?

It is a sad state of affairs that every club in the Premier League outside of the top six has a negative goal difference. That means that if you support any one of 14 teams in the top flight then you will have seen them concede more goals than they have scored. And apart from Burnley, who are currently leading the table to finish seventh, your team will have lost more games than they have won. This weekend we face the aforementioned Clarets in the 30th game of the 38 game campaign, in our latest attempt to pull away from the bottom three. So far they have won ten and drawn ten, so for those of us who like symmetry I hope that we inflict upon them their tenth reverse of the season.

The bottom 14 teams in the Premier League after 28 games

Points after 29 games

Goal Diff.

Pts in last 5 games

Home games to play

No. of top 6 teams to play

7.  Burnley




8.  Leicester




9.  Watford




10. Brighton




11. Everton




12. Bournemouth


-10 8 5


13. Swansea


-17 10 4


14. West Ham


-18 4 6


15. Huddersfield


-25 6 5


16. Newcastle


-13 6 5


17. Southampton


-12 6 3


18. Crystal Palace


-18 2 4


19. Stoke City


-26 4 5


20. West Brom


-21 0 5


As I have written before on the subject there is no official competition to finish seventh, but there is a certain satisfaction to be gained from being the leading team in the Premier League outside of the top six who are far and away ahead of the rest. Prize money is at stake too, but this becomes less relevant given the money ploughed in from domestic and overseas television rights.

The battle to avoid relegation, which has massive financial implications, continues to be the most interesting aspect of the league. An extract from part of the league table shown above illustrates that we are still in a better position than some, as there are still six teams below us with only nine games to go. Perhaps the teams from Everton upwards may believe they are more or less safe (although they wouldn’t admit it), but they could still get dragged into it if they have a bad run of results, and enough of the teams below them continue to pick up points.

The teams who currently occupy the bottom three places have current poor form (when the last five games are analysed), although we have only fared better than Palace and West Brom in this respect. Swansea and Bournemouth have the momentum gained from recent good results and this might help them to pull further clear. However we still have six home games to play, and although some fans would have you believe otherwise, our form at the London Stadium would put us in 11th place in the table if only home games are considered. This should give us an advantage, especially when compared to Southampton who only have three. However we still have to face four of the top six in the table in our remaining nine games, and only Stoke match that number.

It is still not clear exactly how many points will be needed to stay up, but any team averaging a point a game continues to be outside of the bottom three. If this remains to the end of the season, and I believe it will, then 38 should be a safe figure. The home games against Burnley, Southampton and Stoke should be the key ones for us, so let us hope that we start a winning run today. At this stage my money would be on West Brom, Stoke, and Southampton to go down, but things can still change.

Ironically, despite facing the team seventh in the table, the bookmakers have us as favourites to win the game at around 5/4, whereas they only give odds of 5/2 on Burnley. This may surprise some, but Burnley’s recent form is not much better than our own. Unfortunately (given the way these statistics go against us) I still have to report that West Ham have won every home Premier League game against Burnley to date, and they haven’t won a game in the top flight on our ground for almost 45 years. And Burnley haven’t won away from home since November. Oh dear!

Let us hope that the stinging criticism aimed at the players following last week’s capitulation at Swansea has the effect of galvanising our team into a much improved performance. But, however we achieve it, three points would bring a welcome boost to our aim to remain in the Premier League next season. I believe that, in what is likely to be a tight encounter, we will just about win by the odd goal. Enjoy the game!

West Ham Travel To Swansea In The Battle For Survival

The struggle for Premier League survival will resume today when West Ham visit Swansea

The competition to see who will come out on top in Premier League 2 is as fierce as ever. Ignoring the top six in the Premier League it is anybody’s guess as to how the remaining 14 teams will finish the season with just ten games to go.

The bottom 14 teams in the Premier League after 28 games

Points after 28 games Goal Diff. Pts in last 5 games Home games to play No. of top 6 teams to play Burnley LeicesterEverton Arsenal  To play

7.  Burnley


-3 3


8.  Leicester


-1 5


9.  Everton


-15 7


10. Watford


-9 7 5 4


11. Bournemouth


-10 8 5 3


12. Brighton


-11 8 5 5


13. West Ham


-15 5 6 4


14. Huddersfield


-23 6 5 4


15. Newcastle


-11 6 5 4


16. Southampton


-12 6 4 3


17. Crystal Palace


-18 2 5 3


18. Swansea

27 -20 10 5 3


19. Stoke City


-26 6 5 4


20. West Brom

20 -20 1 5 3


Of course there is no official competition to finish seventh, and who cares about finishing positions? Of course prize money is at stake, but with the vast amounts of money awash in the Premier League these days, the final position in the table is not especially relevant. Of most interest is the battle to avoid the drop, which has massive financial implications. I’m making an assumption that Burnley, Leicester and Everton probably have enough points not to be involved in the scrap, and that the bottom 11 teams from Watford down are still involved to a greater or lesser extent. In fact we have to play those three teams (who should be OK) still and that may be to our advantage as they may have switched off a little, as may Arsenal who are unlikely to move upwards or downwards in the table being isolated in sixth place.

Looking at the data above then West Brom and Stoke along with the three teams on 27 points have the most to do in terms of points needed. The bottom three at the moment have the worst goal difference together with Huddersfield and Palace, but looking at the form of the last five games then Swansea, Bournemouth and Brighton have achieved the most, with West Brom, Palace and ourselves at the bottom of the last five games form table.

All of the teams have 5 home and 5 away games to play with the exception of ourselves (6) and Southampton (4), which is a result of the switch at the very beginning of the season. Brighton have the most top 6 sides still to play (5), with all the other teams involved having 3 or 4. And finally looking at my identification of games to play against the four teams with the least to play for, then we still have to meet all four of them. Some might say though that is a disadvantage as the teams may be more relaxed and as such could give us a tougher game.

Whichever way you look at it, it is difficult to make a case for West Brom to survive. If they did it would be up there with the great escapes of the past, including our own in 2007. You can perm any two from five for the others to be playing Championship football next season, but looking at all of the factors my money would be on Stoke and Southampton to be the ones to join the Baggies. But it is so close, a lot can still happen, and this can easily change.

Our next three games at Swansea (today), then at home to Burnley and Southampton, will be ones that on paper we would expect to move us further clear of the bottom three. But if we don’t then the tough games to follow could mean we are still in deep trouble.

Of course watching the news this week, all the talk and pictures has been of the worst snowfall throughout the country for many years. Based on this, the warnings for most of the country not to travel unless absolutely essential, and the forecast for more snow this evening, then at the time of writing, I am amazed that all Premier League games are still set to go ahead. I hope that for the sake of travelling fans, especially our own with the potential difficulties of a long trip to South Wales, that decisions are not left until the last possible moment. But as we have seen with the recent announcement of TV games scheduled to be played on live TV, and the changes of dates involved, little thought is given to the supporters actually going to the matches, everything seems to be decided by Sky and BT who have final say.

Contradictory head to head statistics give us little clue as to the outcome of today’s game. On one hand, Swansea have only beaten us once in our last ten meetings, but on the other hand, they have never lost to us four times in a row, which would be the case if we beat them tomorrow. Over the course of history we are well on top in terms of wins, but just 15 of the 62 meetings have ended in draws. The bookmakers have Swansea as slight favourites to win the game, and given their recent form this is justified. However, when it comes to the correct score, then 1-1 is favourite at 5/1, and I would be happy to leave South Wales with at least a point.

Virtually all of our key players are fit, and it will be interesting to see the side that Moyes selects. I have given up trying to predict this, but I will agree with the bookies on a 1-1 draw, and Andre Ayew would seem a good bet to score the Swansea goal.

At the time of finishing this article, (9pm on Friday evening) all this weekend’s Premier League games are expected to go ahead despite the continuing snowfall and freezing conditions that are gripping the whole of the UK. We shall see.

Liverpool v West Ham Preview

West Ham’s record at Liverpool has been very poor in the last half a century, and on current form a trip to Anfield is as difficult as it gets. But can we get something from the game?

This weekend we resume our battle for top flight survival with a difficult away game at Liverpool, who remain unbeaten at Anfield this season, although six of their thirteen visitors have come away with a point. Five of them are not particularly surprising as they are all top half teams, namely Burnley, Manchester United, Chelsea, Everton, and Tottenham. But in December the team now rooted to the foot of the table, West Brom, managed a goalless draw there.

Although our form over the last dozen games is impressive we are still only four points above the relegation zone. 20 points in those 12 games is a magnificent haul with 5 wins, 5 draws and just 2 defeats, and is bettered only by the very top teams. The disappointing feature though is that it could, and perhaps should, have been so much better. The two losses in that run were at home to Newcastle and away at Brighton, whereas two of the draws were disappointing home games against Bournemouth and Palace. We could be well away from the drop zone by now, but instead we are still in the mix, and failure to pick up something in the next two away games starting today against in-form teams Liverpool, looking to score four goals for the third game in a row, and next week the resurgent Swansea, would keep us well in trouble.

Liverpool themselves have no real injury concerns and can field almost their strongest line-up. They have won six of their last eight games and their only defeat in the last four months came at the hands of Swansea just a month ago. I noticed a statistic on the BBC website that said that Jurgen Klopp has suffered 17 league defeats as a manager of Liverpool in the whole of his time there, and if you averaged out the position in the table of those teams who beat them – then it is 12th. We are currently 12th in the table, but that is really clutching at straws!

For some time now I have had Mo Salah in my fantasy team, and he is continuing to impress with his goalscoring and assists. We will do well to keep him quiet. And apparently David Moyes has managed 14 visiting sides at Anfield and never managed to win there. Well there’s always a first time!

The bookmakers don’t really give us a prayer in this game quoting odds of 12/1 on a Hammers win and 6/1 on the draw, with Liverpool 1/5 to collect the three points. If you believe that we can sneak a win then you can get 35/1 on a score of 2-1, 45/1 on 1-0, and 80/1 on 2-0, with some very big odds if you think we can do better than that.

One thing in our favour is that our lengthy injury list of a few weeks ago seems to be largely diminishing, but this game will be a real test of how far we have come since the arrival of the new manager, and conversely will show how much further we still have to go. I noticed that after the Watford game David Moyes was targeting a top ten finish. On paper might not seem too much of a target as we are only one point off tenth position. In fact we are only six points behind Burnley who are lying seventh, but that would almost certainly be too much to hope for, even for the most optimistic of us, given the difficulty of many of our fixtures in the last eleven games. In eight of them we play teams currently filling the top nine places in the table.

Apart from Carroll, all of our attacking players seem to be fit, and it will be interesting to see how many of Chicharito, Arnie, Lanzini, Mario and Antonio will be accommodated into the team, especially for a tricky away fixture. My prediction for the team he will pick, and I very rarely get this right, is:

Adrian, Zabaleta, Collins, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Kouyate, Noble, Mario, Antonio, Arnautavic, Chicharito. Lanzini may be left on the bench after a lengthy lay-off together with Hugill, Rice, Byram, Reid, Hart and Cullen.

It is hard to see us winning the game, and probably the best we can hope for is a draw. But what I’ll be looking for is a competitive performance that will stand us in good stead for the run-in, irrespective of the result. 0-0 would be a very unlikely score against our free-scoring opponents and is priced at 25-1! I wonder if we can keep the score to that after 90 minutes?

Bad Publicity for West Ham again!

As if there were not enough sticks to beat West Ham with the media have been creating their own!

As if West Ham need any more bad publicity it keeps on coming doesn’t it? Following the dismissal of our transfers director, the club have now been charged over a breach of anti-doping regulations. But the one that really gets me relates to the following. So here is a quiz question for you. Which 23 year-old footballer has played first team football for the following teams but has never made a first team appearance for West Ham? Bradford City, Colchester, Rotherham, Dagenham & Redbridge, Coventry, Leyton Orient, Bromley, Stevenage, Boreham Wood, Maidstone, England U17, U18, U19.

The answer as you all know is Blair Turgott. But all the headlines of his recent alleged misdemeanour were along the lines of Ex- West Ham player Blair Turgott “gambled £16K of stolen money”. The trial still continues so nothing decided yet, despite the headlines, but the use of the words “ex-West Ham player” is just so misleading. OK he was a youth player at the club but he never played at the top level for us as he did for all those other clubs. I suppose the headline Ex Bradford City, Colchester, Rotherham, Dagenham & Redbridge, Coventry, Leyton Orient, Bromley, Stevenage, Boreham Wood, Maidstone, England U17, U18, U19 player …. wouldn’t have had the same impact. But this is yet another example of the media laying into West Ham. We do enough ourselves to garner bad publicity; we don’t need it when we are not really involved.

The struggle for Premier League survival will resume this weekend when West Ham visit Anfield

How many more points will we need?

At the beginning of each Premier League season you will often hear managers quoted as saying that their aim is to reach 40 points which will ensure that they remain in the top flight for another year. It is a sad state of affairs that, although there are 20 clubs taking part in the competition, only 6 of them at the most have any realistic chance of coming out on top. The remaining 14, which include ourselves, have no chance whatsoever. It is the same (or even worse) in all the top leagues in Europe. That is why I advocated in my previous article that all the top European teams take part in a European league and do not take part in their domestic league. Would we miss playing the top teams? I for one would not.

Take this season for example. If you ignored the top six sides then all of the remaining 14 (plus another six from the Championship) would believe at the beginning of the season that they had a chance of winning the league. It would make for a much more interesting competition when most of the teams involved could win. But that is not the case (yet) although I remain hopeful that one day it will happen.

In the meantime the most interesting aspect of the Premier League for me is the competition to finish 7th, and at the same time the battle to avoid finishing in the bottom three. West Ham fans will remember that in 2002-3 we were relegated despite attaining 42 points in a 38 game season. But that was 15 years ago. In the 14 seasons since then 42 points would have comfortably been enough to retain top flight status. Only once (in 2010-11) would it have been necessary to reach 40 points to stay up, and in fact in the season before that just 31 would have done. If you look at the last 5 years (or 10 years) then 36 is the average figure needed to avoid the drop.

According to the BBC website, data analysts Gracenote Sports have apparently run over 1 million simulations to estimate the chances of all teams being relegated. They came to the conclusion that West Ham have a 6% chance of being relegated; in other words the odds are around 16-1. After all these 1 million simulations they concluded that 40 points will definitely be enough to avoid the drop, 38 points will more than likely be enough, and any team with 34 points or less will definitely be relegated.

Without running all these simulations I have produced my own forecast based upon how all of the teams in the bottom 11 of the table have performed for the season to date, and then projected their finishing points if they attain points at the same rate. Now not all of the teams will do that; some will do better and some worse. But I believe that it is reasonable to assume that, on average, the bottom 11 clubs will pick up the same number of points per game in the run-in that they have achieved for the season to date.

The table below sets out the results of my calculations (it took me approximately 5 minutes to do this). I think I could have saved Gracenote Sports from running one million simulations, as the results of my projection suggest that 40 points will definitely be enough to avoid the drop, 38 points will more than likely be enough (but only just), and any team with 34 points or less will definitely be relegated. Pretty similar to their conclusions!

So on this basis, 10 more points from our last 11 games will definitely be enough, 8 more points will probably be OK, but 7 points or less could mean that we are playing in the Championship next season. That assumes, of course, that we don’t get a repeat of the 2002-03 season, although the closeness of the teams in the bottom half of the table suggests that will not be the case.

The bottom 11 teams in the Premier League after 27 games Points after 27 games Projected Points from last 11 games Total
10. AFC Bournemouth 31 13 44
11. Watford 30 12 42
12. West Ham 30 12 42
13. Newcastle 28 11 39
14. Brighton 28 11 39
15. Crystal Palace 27 11 38
16. Swansea 27 11 38
17. Huddersfield 27 11 38
18. Southampton 26 11 37
19. Stoke City 25 10 35
20. West Brom 20 8 28

So where will we collect the necessary points from? Six of our final eleven games are at home, although the next two (At Liverpool and Swansea) are away. That means that our performances at the London Stadium will be vital in ensuring our safety. So far this season we average 1.46 points per game at home, and 0.79 on out travels, so continuing with this average would almost certainly be enough. But we have to bear in mind that 8 of our final 11 games are against teams in the top nine in the table, and of those 8 teams the only one that we defeated in our first game against them this season was Chelsea.

The three “crunch” games would therefore seem to be the home games against Southampton and Stoke, and the away game at Swansea. Failure to win these (or at the very least pick up 7 points) would mean that it is likely that it will be necessary to get results on one or more of our travels to Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Leicester, or at home to the two Manchester clubs, Burnley, and Everton. It will be nerve-racking if it goes down to the wire, and we need something from our final game at home to Everton. I hope it doesn’t come down to that! Based on our recent form we should be OK.

Can West Ham close the Watford Gap?

Can the Hammers hammer the hornets? A preview of Watford’s visit to the London Stadium that doesn’t have a single reference to the transfer window or the apparent growing unrest with the board.

The Premier League is the most popular league in the world in terms of spectators and media appeal yet we all knew who would win the title after just a few short weeks of the season. And before the season started we all knew which teams would occupy the top six places, even if we weren’t exactly sure as to the exact order they would finish in. And as we all predicted, the top six places have gone to the “big six” in terms of the revenue that they generate, and I’ve no doubt the same will happen next season. OK, so there is still a mini competition taking place to see which clubs will finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League, but in reality the most “popular” league in world football is so predictable, and it all comes down to money.

We are not alone. The “generally recognised” big five European Leagues have all turned out as expected. Manchester City’s 13 point lead in England is well beaten by Bayern’s massive 18 point advantage in Germany. PSG are 11 ahead in France, Barcelona are 9 clear in Spain, and the only competition for the title outright is in Italy where Napoli and Juventus are just one point apart, although 13 clear of the pack. Season after season the same teams qualify for the latter stages of the Champions League. It is all so predictable. And as a result, it is becoming boring.

For me the most interesting aspect of the Premier League is not who is going to win it, or even qualify for Europe, but the real competition involves the 14 teams who have no chance of winning, and little likelihood of qualifying for a place in the Champions League. If the predictability continues then perhaps the top six teams can be ignored, and a trophy can be awarded to the team that finishes 7th? The competition among those 14 teams is fierce, and the battle to avoid finishing in the bottom three is (sadly) by far the most exciting part of the Premier League. For a long time now there has been talk of European Leagues whereby all the top clubs in Europe ignore their domestic competitions and take part in Europe alone. I’m surprised that it hasn’t yet happened. If we removed the top six teams from the Premier League the competition for the title among the remainder would be a far more open affair. Would we miss playing them? I for one would not. I suspect that the same would be true of all the other top European leagues.

So, getting back to this season, with just 12 games to go Burnley lead the chase for the “seventh place title” on 36 points, just one ahead of Leicester, who in turn are then four clear of Bournemouth and Everton. Today’s opponents Watford are just one point further back on 30, before the cluster of 9 clubs that make up the bottom portion of the table. Burnley and Leicester are as good as safe from relegation, whilst the three clubs below them are almost there, but not quite. Of the nine clubs that are seriously in the mix at the moment, we are at the top (12th) on 27 points, but only three points ahead of 19th placed Huddersfield. Only West Brom with 20 points are beginning to be cast adrift.

The closeness of the fight to avoid the drop makes for an interesting finale to the season, and every match from here to the end assumes massive importance. A win for us today will take us up level on points with Watford and edging closer to safety, whereas three points for the visitors would be a huge step towards ensuring Premier League football at Vicarage Road next season.

Recent form is often a good indicator of what is likely to happen, but this can be distorted by other factors such as the strength and form of opposition, and whether games have been played at home or away. Nonetheless it is worth taking a look at the bottom 12 with a dozen games to go and look at how many points they have picked up in recent matches. I’ve chosen the last 5 fixtures for each team, which in itself may or may not be a reliable indicator of the term “recent”.

The bottom 12 teams in the Premier League after 26 games Points after 26 games Current Goal Difference Points in last 5 games
  9. Bournemouth 31 -7 11
10. Everton 31 -16 4
11. Watford 30 -8 5
12. West Ham 27 -14 6
13. Brighton 27 -14 5
14. Crystal Palace 27 -15 8
15. Southampton 26 -10 6
16. Newcastle 25 -12 6
17. Swansea 24 -18 8
18. Stoke City 24 -26 4
19. Huddersfield 24 -27 0
20. West Brom 20 -16 4

Based on the recent form table alone then the current bottom three would be the ones playing in the Championship next season. As they include two teams that I dislike the most (West Brom and Stoke) then I wouldn’t be unhappy with that outcome. Our final twelve games comprise 7 at home and 5 away. Five of the 12 games are against sides in the bottom 12 (above), with four of them at home (Watford, Southampton, Stoke, Everton) and one away (Swansea). These games are crucial to our survival and are true six-pointers. It is important to win most of those games, and equally important to avoid defeat if we don’t pick up three points from each of them. Apart from the Swansea game, the other four away matches are against sides in the top eight (Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Leicester) so we are unlikely to collect many points from them. A home game against the champions elect (City) won’t be a walk in the park either, nor will two other home fixtures against top eight sides (Manchester United and Burnley).

The importance of today’s game cannot be over-estimated. The gap between ourselves and Watford could be wiped out if we win, or extend to six points if we lose. Here are a ten factors to bear in mind in respect of this match, some of which are very worrying given West Ham’s predilection to allow other teams to end sequences of poor results:

  1. If we avoid defeat that will extend our unbeaten run in league and cup at home to five matches – that would be a record for the London Stadium!
  2. As a manager, David Moyes has never lost a home game against Watford.
  3. This will be our 14th game this season against a team who are currently above us in the table. The only game that we have won so far was at home to Chelsea. Nine of our final twelve games will be against teams currently in the 11 places above us in the table!
  4. Watford have only won one of their last ten away games.
  5. Watford have never beaten us twice in the league in a single season ever.
  6. Watford won their last game convincingly beating Chelsea 4-1. They haven’t won two league games in a row for more than three months.
  7. Michail Antonio has scored 6 goals in his last 7 games against Watford.
  8. Michail Antonio scored both of our goals when we lost 4-2 at home to Watford last season (September 2016). He hasn’t scored a goal at the London Stadium since!
  9. We have played a home league game against Watford before on February 10th (11 years ago). We lost 1-0.
  10. West Ham are 11/8 favourites to win the game, Watford are 15/8, with the draw at 23/10.

West Ham Take The Relegation Fight To The Beaches Of Brighton

More birds this weekend as, after meeting the Eagles on Tuesday, West Ham visit the AMEX stadium to face the Seagulls

When I was a football-mad young boy growing up in the 1960’s, although you had your favourite team that you supported, many would have a second team that they followed. The comics and magazines aimed at young boys, such as the Tiger, Roy of the Rovers, Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly, Goal, Soccer Star etc. positively encouraged appreciation of players and teams beyond your own. Especially following the 1966 World Cup, when West Ham players were instrumental (to say the least) in England lifting the trophy for the one and only time, many acknowledged us as their favourite second team. I can personally relate to this as when I advertised for pen friends (do youngsters still do this activity these days?) in Soccer Star magazine I was swamped with responses from supporters from all over the country who related to us as their second team to follow.

In the modern social media age apparently liking a team beyond your own is considered a no-no. You have to love the team you follow and hate or despise all others, otherwise you are not a “true supporter”. I’m sorry but I can’t relate to those emotions. I can’t bring myself to actually “hate” any team. I can’t say I particularly care for many of them, and in the Premier League both Stoke and West Brom easily top my list of teams I really don’t like. And though I don’t particularly care for Tottenham either, I have a grudging admiration for some of the football that they play.

Of all the other teams in the Premier League, then if I had to pick a second team, or a team I like to see beat all the others (other than West Ham of course) then it would be Arsenal. I also have a soft spot for Newcastle, Bournemouth and Brighton. These are all for varying reasons that extend back to my youth, and are not particularly strong feelings, other than if I am watching a game on Sky or BT, I will usually want one side to beat the other. I find it hard to watch a game as a strict neutral and have no interest in the outcome. Unlike so many who seem to relish teams from the bottom half beating the big boys, I cannot join that group either. As West Ham are frequently one of the sides involved in the relegation fight these days, then I will usually want one of our “lower in the league” competitors to lose to a top team, purely for the preservation of our Premier League place.

This weekend we visit the South Coast to visit a team that I have a bit of a soft spot for. Nevertheless, although I hope they escape the drop, I also want us to give them a battering equivalent of the one that they gave us at the London Stadium (3-0) towards the end of October. That was just over three months ago, and their first away victory enabled them to move into the top half of the table, while we sat immediately above the three teams in the drop zone at the time, namely Leicester, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace. A lot can change in three months of course, and to illustrate this both Leicester and Bournemouth are now in the top half of the table (8th and 10th), with Palace now 13th, just one place below ourselves. Brighton, on the other hand are now 15th and are only one point better off than Southampton and Swansea who occupy two of the three relegation places, just above West Brom at the bottom. Ironically the three teams at the bottom now were all between 11th and 14th in the league at the end of October.

The battle to avoid the drop is now perhaps the most interesting part of the Premier League. At the start of the season there could have only been a maximum of six possible contenders to win it, and the elite six are as expected well clear of the rest. Manchester City already have the title sewn up so it remains to be seen which three of the chasing five will get into the coveted “top four” for the Champions League slots, and the money that it brings.

You would think that Burnley, Leicester, and possibly Everton probably have enough points in the bag already to avoid relegation, so the remaining eleven teams ranging from Bournemouth on 28 points (but only 5 clear of 18th / 19th) down to West Brom on 20 at the bottom are the ones who will provide the most interest in the final third of the season.

If Brighton were to repeat their 3-0 victory over us from earlier this season then they would leapfrog us, whereas if we beat them they could easily find themselves in the bottom three. Whilst all of our remaining games are important, those against the other teams in the bottom eleven are the true six-pointers, and many will set out not to lose, just as ourselves and Palace appeared to settle for a point apiece with a quarter of the game still to go on Tuesday night.

The importance of this game (as I guess all games) cannot be over-emphasised. If we can win then it would take a lot of the pressure off whilst we await the return to fitness of some of our key players. With the extent of our injury list many were surprised that we didn’t bring in more new faces in the transfer window that closed this week. In fact the word surprised is a bit of an understatement if you read any of the damning comments aimed at our board via social media sites.

One thing that disappointed me about the knee-jerk reactions was the negativity aimed at our new recruit, Jordan Hugill. Whilst I would have been more excited by the recruitment of Cairney (from Fulham) or especially Madison (from Norwich) (both midfielders) I am not averse to the club taking on players from a lower level. Many will forget that Billy Bonds, Julian Dicks, Dean Ashton, Alan Devonshire, Aaron Cresswell, and Michail Antonio were all bought from teams at a level below ourselves. I don’t know if Hugill will cut it at the top level, but from what I’ve seen on Championship highlight programmes in the last couple of seasons he is certainly worth a try. He seems to me to be a fully committed, all action, old fashioned centre forward, and I believe that he may surprise a few people. To anyone who hasn’t seen him play I would describe his playing style as “raw Dean Ashton”. It may not work, but then again we’ve bought enough players with much bigger reputations where it didn’t happen.

Recent form is never a particularly good indicator when assessing how West Ham will perform in a game of football. Brighton’s recent home form is poor with just one win in their last nine games at the AMEX. In their last 13 Premier League games Brighton have failed to score in nine of them, and have only scored 5 goals in the other four. Their entry in the “goals for” column is a lower number than any other team for the season as a whole, and they have only scored more than once in just four of their 25 games. So expect a hat full of goals from the home side then! On the other hand we have only lost one of our last ten Premier League games, so it is about time we had another defeat! I expect to see a tight game probably ending in a draw, perhaps 1-1, or even goalless. But I am hoping that we can extend our excellent recent away form in the league, and perhaps sneak a win.

What I am particularly looking forward to though, is watching Mario, Lanzini, and Arnie all playing in the same team. I don’t know how far in the future this will be, but I am expecting great things creatively when it happens. Let us hope that it is sooner rather than later.