If you’ve been away to a remote island for the past couple of months and missed the beginning of the season then a quick glance at the Premier League table will tell you all you need to know about West Ham’s start to the 2022-23 campaign. Or will it?
Certainly it’s not ideal to be occupying a place in the bottom three at any stage, although only seven games in gives you the opportunity to put matters right by next May.
But after two consecutive seasons of qualifying for European football by virtue of a top 6/7 league position we have already given the rest of the teams a head start and made it difficult to achieve the feat for a third successive year.
So what has gone wrong? Why have we only collected four points from the opening seven games? For much of the time the players on show have not reached the levels achieved in the previous two campaigns either individually or collectively. For me, Fabianski, Coufal, Cresswell, Fornals, Lanzini, Benrahma, Soucek and Bowen all fall into that category to some extent and even Rice has not performed at the top of his game, but we can’t expect him to do it all! From reading social media I know that some will agree and some will differ with my assessment.
Our new recruits look good on paper with lots of international footballers, but have they been given sufficient opportunity yet to show what they are capable of? And have we bought the right players to blend together to become a top seven Premier League club?
Many fans believe that the manager has continued to select out of form players that have done it in the past whilst being reluctant to throw new recruits into the fray claiming they are not yet ready. New signings at other clubs seem to hit the ground running!
So many poor decisions all round have contributed to our league position. Things might have been different if officials had not ruled out (controversially) Benrahma’s goal when Antonio was blocked, not the other way round surely? Or the failure of the referee to send Forest down to 10 men with the deliberate hand ball? Or Rice’s decision to take the penalty kick? Added to the bad luck hitting the inside of the woodwork twice and we could easily have collected 3 points from the opener at Forest.
It goes on. Poor finishing towards the end of the Tottenham game meant only one point when it could have, perhaps should have, been three. There’s no way Chilwell would have scored Chelsea’s opening goal If Fabianski had not left his line at the post. The refereeing decision to deny our late equaliser has been well documented and 99 per cent of people believe it was wrong. We should have had one, and possibly three points from that game too.
True, the luck did go our way in the Villa game with the deflected goal, but the inside of a post denied us a point at Everton in an uninspired performance from both sides. There was no way we would have beaten Harland-inspired Manchester City, and as usual we performed abysmally against Brighton and deserved absolutely nothing from that game which is exactly what we got.
In a parallel universe we might have had ten or twelve points from those first seven games, but the fact is we have just four points and sit in the bottom three.
In a season interrupted by a World Cup in November/ December the powers that be decided that there should still be an early international break. The additional interruption caused by the decision to postpone football matches following the sad death of the Queen will only add to the congestion later on, but I wonder if this will work in our favour in the long run?
I wonder if the lack of games recently in a period when we haven’t been playing well will give us a chance to regroup? Will our costly defensive signing Aguerd be back soon? Will the manager give Cornet more game time? Will Downes (who was my man of the match in his only start in a European game) at last be given an opportunity to show what he is capable of? Is it time for Areola to replace Fabianski? What influence will the European schedule (Thursday- Sunday) have? Can we start to retain possession of the ball more? Will bad luck convert to good fortune in the upcoming games? These and so many other questions will be answered in the next few weeks.
Wolves on Saturday, followed by Fulham, Southampton, Liverpool, Bournemouth and Manchester United are the six league games in October. They are followed by Palace and Leicester in early November. And then we break again for the World Cup. Five of the eight are at home.
By mid November we will have played 15 games (8 at home). We could still have four points at that stage! If that were the case we would be in deep trouble. We could have won eight games in a row and have 28 points and be challenging near the top.
More realistically I reckon we would need to have picked up at least 16 points from the next eight games to be back on course for a potential top 7 finish.Can we do it? What are the chances?