Are West Ham Ready To Bury The Brighton Hoodoo In Saturday’s Seaside Special?

The Hammers have been looking more energetic and purposeful in recent weeks. Is it finally time to overcome the curse of the Seagulls, or will they take a tern for the worse?

It was another encouraging performance from West Ham in midweek even though it ended with the Hammers being dumped out of the FA Cup by Manchester United. The outcome of the game hinged on several critical ‘if only’ moments that allowed the hosts to recover from a goal down and book their place in a very open sixth round.

At the attacking end, it was Michail Antonio who left fans feeling frustrated. First, when he failed to capitalise on a one-v-one situation with David de Gea and later when going for goal when a square pass would surely have led to West Ham extending their one-goal lead. Both incidents illustrated the strength and weakness of Antonio. Using  his pace and power to engineer openings but without the accomplished striker’s finesse to execute effectively.

At the other end, a collective defensive meltdown in the final twenty minutes placed the usually reliable Nayef Aguerd under the spotlight of supporter fury. It is always unfortunate to gift an equaliser through an own goal and this was an unforced error which should have been avoided. Who knows whether the call came from the keeper to claim the ball or not? Clearly it was very poor communication somewhere along the line. After that, the plot was lost, as was the game.

It is not at all surprising that the upturn in performances (as embryonic as it is) comes after a switch to a more solid 4-3-3 formation. If only David Moyes had listened when I first suggested it last October – as if he would read these ramblings! With the change has come greater pressing in midfield areas, more passing options for the player with the ball, and more freedom for the wide attacking players. It is a particularly suitable set-up to get the best from the talents of Declan Rice and Lucas Paqueta.

Tomas Soucek is the latest bête noire of many supporters who would rather see Flynn Downes as the third man in the midfield three. It is understandable from the point of view of ball retention, but Moyes will continue to opt for the aerial presence that Soucek brings to both ends. Without his goals, Soucek is a frustrating player to watch but he does still provide useful defensive cover.

The full-back positions may need to be shuffled today depending on availability. If Vladimir Coufal is available it will be him and Ben Johnson. If not, then Johnson and Emerson Palmieri – Aaron Cresswell was looking particularly rusty when he came on against Forest. Brighton do a lot of attacking down the flanks through March and Mitoma and the game could be won and lost out wide. In the absence of any other options, Aguerd and Angelo Ogbonna will continue as the centre back pairing. Not ideal having two left footers in the middle and Aguerd on the right imposes severe restrictions on his ability to influence forward play.

Danny Ings will return to the front three alongside Jarrod Bowen and Said Benrahma with Antonio and Gianluca Scamacca providing options from the bench. An Ings/ Scamacca axis would be a fascinating prospect but may be difficult to accommodate without going three/ five at the back.


Brighton have had a terrific season so far and find themselves well placed for European football next season. They sit in 8th spot in the league, ten points behind Tottenham but with three games in hand. They are also still in the FA Cup having won their 5th round tie on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke. A home draw against Grimsby Town stands between them and a semi-final place.

West Ham could learn a lot from Brighton’s scouting and recruitment model. Signing exciting young players that no-one has heard of – Caicedo, Mac Alister, Mitoma – and introducing them to the Premier League after spells out on loan. It has proved incredibly successful but requires a degree of planning that seems to be a foreign concept at the London Stadium. The Seagulls are an eclectic mix of young talent and unfashionable stalwarts – Dunk, Gross, March – that are always competitive, despite limited firepower up front.

A trip to the seaside is never complete without a seagull trying to steal your chips. And the same is true in football, where Brighton’s Seagulls have become adept at ‘piddling’ on the West Ham chips. No matter what the relative league positions, current form or respective managers, top flight meetings between the clubs invariably end the same way – a Brighton win or a share of the points. I’m suspecting some form of sorcery or gypsy curse is at play. The Hammers only top flight win against Brighton from 15 attempts came in March 1983 with a 2-1 win at Upton Park. The teams that day:

West Ham: Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart (Alan Dickens (1)), Alvin Martin, Joe Gallagher, Frank Lampard, Alan Devonshire, Paul Allen, Geoff Pike, François van der Elst, Tony Cottee (1), Nicky Morgan        

Brighton: Graham Moseley, Steve Foster, Steve Gatting, Chris Ramsey, Gary Stevens, Jimmy Case, Tony Grealish, Neil Smillie, Andy Ritchie, Michael Robinson, Gerry Ryan (1)

I’d completely forgotten about Joe Gallagher’s West Ham career!

Today’s fixture is the first against Brighton since Roberto De Zerbi replaced the soon to be out-of-work Graham Potter. De Zerbi will serving a one-match touchline ban for his red card in his side’s 1 – 0 defeat to Fulham in their most recent home game. I’m not sure how much of a punishment a touchline ban actually is. It seems no more than a symbolic gesture – the equivalent of a player being allowed to play but not allowed to take throw-ins.

Now that I’m feeling a touch more positive about the Hammers credentials for survival, I have decided to reinstate my AI powered match result prediction service. After running the numbers the verdict is: West Ham to rip up the record books with a first ever Premier League victory against the Seagulls by two goals to one. COYI! 

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?

Can West Ham Shake Off The Brighton Bogey To Put Some Points On The Board This Weekend?

No goals, no points and no ideas! Is it time for David Moyes To put faith in his new signings for Sunday’s Premier League clash?

Although it has been a few months now since West Ham endured their most recent fruitless encounter against Brighton and Hove Albion, it is only three games ago in match terms. Back in May, when a win would have secured a place in the top six for the Hammers, things had looked rather rosy at the half-way stage. But a simple tactical switch by Seagull’s boss Graham Potter in the second period bamboozled our boys and they slumped to the most convincing of defeats. A performance that was typical of many seen during the season run-in.

On the evidence of this season to date, the lethargy that has shrouded the club’s on-field performances since last January has yet to be shaken off. New signings have been trickling through the doors during the summer, and while additional bodies are welcome, I’m yet to be convinced the resources have been assembled to vary style, tactics, and approach according to changing circumstances. Is there now a Plan B or now just multiple versions of Plan A?

Even during the last two (very impressive) seasons the wit to break through organised opposition defences was clearly absent in the squad – resulting in points dropped against sides we would have expected to beat. This gap in the squad has yet to be filled. My worry is that if a new attacking midfielder is brought in, it will be as a battering ram rather than someone capable of picking locks.

Following the two early league defeats it was certainly a relief to get a win under the belt against the Danes from Viborg in Thursday nights Europa Conference qualifier. Not that it was a performance to take much comfort from. In a game played at half paced it was another stilted, low-gear showing from West Ham – papered over by three well-constructed goals which will probably be enough to claim the tie.

Indeed, it was the visitors who showed more endeavour when it came to passing and moving through the midfield areas. The absence of Declan Rice leaves a massive void in the Hammer’s midfield as all attacking momentum goes through him these days. Even against pedestrian opponents Manuel Lanzini and Pablo Fornals had no magic to weave and made no impression as far as play-making was concerned. Thankfully, Viborg for all their energy were short of end product – a possible Brexit bonus as their two forward players were unable to enter the UK due to new visa restrictions.

For our own part it was mostly monotonous side to side passing across the back, with Tomas Soucek and Conor Coventry particularly culpable. Forward movement, other than hopeful punts, appeared to have been outlawed and the full-backs rarely crossed the halfway line. Whether this was a cunning tactical plan or the consequence of playing three right backs in the back four was not obvious.

Still a win is a win and there were brief encouraging flashes from Gianluca Scamacca, Maxwell Cornet and Said Benrahma – although each would have benefited from a greater level of involvement. The game also saw a welcome return for Angelo Ogbonna, back in the side after his lengthy injury lay-off, and an opportunity to have a first look at Thilo Kehrer.

With a return to league action on Sunday the need to avoid a third straight defeat will be on everyone’s mind. It’s a mystery why West Ham have found it impossible to come out on top against Brighton in recent years, a run that now extends to ten matches. No doubt that Potter is a tactically astute manager, but the Hammers were equally unsuccessful while Chris Hughton was at the helm. Perhaps it is just one of those odd quirks found in football and all talk of the Seagulls as a bogey-team will be swept away once a first win is recorded. Could it be this weekend?

Last weekend I was convinced that Scamacca and Cornet would feature in the starting eleven at Nottingham Forest but failed to gauge just how conservative Moyes is when introducing new players into his system. Understandable if you are in the middle of a hot winning streak but less so when you have only won two of the last ten league games. Whether the manager will do anything more radical in team selection than the usual lucky dip between Benrahma, Lanzini and Fornals is anyone’s guess. He is unlikely to regard Ogbonna or Kehrer as potential starters leaving Ben Johnson to once again partner Kurt Zouma in central defence. Personally, I would like to see Scamacca, Cornet and Kehrer all start but the chances of that happening are slim.

Brighton have made a promising start to the season with a win at Manchester United and home draw against Newcastle. They have lost Bissouma and Cucurella since last term and have signed a handful of young players who have yet to feature in the first eleven. Potter is likely to start with a tried and tested side and hope that Gross, Trossard, and Welbeck continue to unsettle the rigid West Ham defences.

A huge improvement from the opening two games will be required if the Brighton curse is finally to be lifted. Maybe with a returning Declan Rice and a little more competition on the bench can tomorrow be that day?  West Ham to win 2-1. COYI!

West Ham’s Seaside Shuffle Can End The Brighton Hoodoo And Gate-crash The Top Six

As the final curtain is faced, a few lingering regrets remain that more could have been achieved in an otherwise well above average West Ham campaign

If you were in an elevator and someone asked: “what sort of season did West Ham have?” you might reply that while it was well above average, it maybe wasn’t as good as it might have been. A reflection of how our expectations had shifted over the course of the season.

When the season started and with a first ever European league-based campaign to contend with, any top half finish may have been considered a reasonable outcome. Indeed, my own prediction was that West Ham would finish tenth – expecting the routine of Thursday – Sunday football to take its toll on league form.

But by the year end, having breezed through the Europa League group stages, and sitting fifth in the Premier League, the dreams were flying much higher. A shrewd investment here and there at that time and anything might have been possible. That we were left scratching our heads at no January activity is now consigned to Hammer’s folklore.

In hindsight, the club hadn’t recruited well in the summer either. Kurt Zouma was an excellent addition but he turned out to be the only practical upgrade to David Moyes preferred starting eleven. Nikola Vlasic and Alex Kral failed to come anywhere close to the required standard and while Alphonse Areola looked a decent enough deputy, he remained behind Lukasz Fabianski in the pecking order.

From a historic perspective, the season has been well above average, regardless of what happens today. Since the Premier League was reduced to 38 matches, West Ham have only exceeded 56 points (the current total) on three occasions (2020/21, 2015/16 and 1998/99. They have finished with a positive goal difference just twice (2020/21 and 2015/16) and for a side with so few striking options, scoring 59 goals (the current total) has only been bettered in those same two seasons. A win today would bring up a tally of seventeen victories, the highest apart from last season’s nineteen.

Despite that decent win percentage, it is the points dropped against the likes of Leeds, Burnley, Southampton and Brentford and the two avoidable defeats to Manchester United that might ultimately take the wind from the sails. That, plus the self-inflicted failure to get past Frankfurt in the Europa League semi-finals. After a promising first half of the season it is a disappointment not to make it to 60 points. In truth there have been few sparkling performances and too many victories when we ‘weren’t at our best’.

The final day of this year’s Premier League season must be a broadcaster’s dream. It is rare for the title, plus Champions League and relegation places to remain up for grabs on the day the curtain comes down. By comparison, our own battle for 6th or 7th place is consigned to an outlying stage, well away from the main arena. No helicopter hovering over the South Downs ready to deliver the final Europa League qualifying certificate at the final whistle.

Qualifying for the Europa League again would be a massive bonus in that it comes with another route to Champions League qualification. But the Europa Conference should not be sniffed at and may represent the best opportunity the club has next season to end its long overdue silverware drought.

The history of today’s fixture might suggest one of those mysterious gypsy curses that inhabits football. Since Brighton were promoted back to the top-flight in 2017/18, West Ham have failed to beat them in nine attempts – with the last six all ending in scoring draws. It is really no more than coincidence that can easily end today.

The Seagulls are a hardworking and well organised side with several very good players (Trossard, Cucurella, Bissouma, Sanchez) but this season’s home record is less than impressive, with only four wins on the board. Apart from the top three, they have had more possession than any other team but it rarely goes anywhere with only an average of one goal per game to show for it. In theory, such an opponent should be ideal for a West Ham side who thrive on the quick breakaway and have been scoring relatively freely.

As well as our own efforts at the Amex Stadium, though, the Hammer’s fate will also be determined by the the result of Manchester United’s visit to Crystal Palace. Top six hopes may well end up to be pie in the sky – even if the Hammers beat the Seagulls, they need the Eagles to do them a good Tern!

Once the season is over there will be little time for reflection. Transfer speculation is already gathering pace and the frenzy will ramp up even further as the window opening ceremony approaches. I have already counted over thirty players linked with a move to the London Stadium. It will be a telling time for the club owners to demonstrate their ambitions. A time when the squad needs both a refresh and a net increase in quality and numbers.

Until the dust has settled we won’t know if we have witnessed a brief run of overachieving seasons (on the back of several exceptional players and a great team spirit) or whether there is true progress taking place. Is the club moving in the right direction? Without wise investment it will be just another false dawn.

A very big well done to the players, manager, and coaches for a highly satisfactory season and making West Ham massive. Their effort, determination, and commitment cannot be faulted. As for today’s game, West Ham can finally put the Brighton hoodoo to rest with a 2-0 awayday bonanza. COYI!

Can West Ham defeat Brighton for the first time in ten years?

Yet another excellent season for West Ham will end on Sunday when we visit Brighton for the final game. If we can beat them and at the same time if Palace can beat or draw with Manchester United, then we will replicate last season’s sixth place and have another tilt at the Europa League. But if that doesn’t happen, we’ll have to settle for seventh and entry into the Europa Conference. With a squad limited in size that is still some achievement.

We’ve only qualified for European competitions in two successive seasons once before (1964-65 and 1965-66) but that happened as a result of winning the competition in the first season. This time we have qualified as a result of league positions in both campaigns which is unprecedented and fulfils David Moyes (and the fans!) wish to be challenging towards the top regularly. Who would have thought it just two years ago? In May 2020 we hadn’t played for a couple of months, and we were still 4 weeks away from resuming our battle against relegation where we eventually finished 16th in the middle of July.

Before a ball had been kicked this season, I made my traditional predictions as to how the season would pan out. I return to it here. Six out of the top seven finished in the top 7 but my predictions mirrored the Morecambe and Wise sketch with Andre Previn – not necessarily in the right order! Some of my bottom six forecasts were correct but I got quite a few predictions horribly wrong such as Leeds, Everton, Tottenham, Palace and Brentford. 

1. Manchester City, 2. Chelsea, 3. Manchester United, 4. Liverpool, 5. Leicester, 6. West Ham, 7. Arsenal, 8. Leeds, 9. Everton, 10. Tottenham, 11. Aston Villa, 12. Brighton, 13. Wolves, 14. Newcastle, 15. Southampton, 16. Burnley, 17. Norwich, 18. Watford, 19. Crystal Palace, 20. Brentford  

With around a quarter of the season to go I calculated how the teams in the top eight would finish if they maintained their average points for the season to that point in their final fixtures and this was the result:

Man City 92, Liverpool 90, Chelsea 80, Arsenal 73, Tottenham 67, Man Utd 66, West Ham 61, Wolves 58 

At the same time I made my own forecasts of the results in the remaining games and how the top 8 league table might look.

Man City 93, Liverpool 91, Chelsea 83, Arsenal 73, Tottenham 70, West Ham 62, Man Utd 62, Wolves 56 

With just one game left this is how it looks.

Man City 90, Liverpool 89, Chelsea 71, Tottenham 68, Arsenal 66, Man Utd 58, West Ham 56, Wolves 51 

Of the top eight Man City, Liverpool and Tottenham  have performed in the final quarter on a par with their results in the first three quarters of the season whereas the other five have not, including ourselves.

Nevertheless, we can be more than pleased with how this season has turned out whatever happens on the final day. Can we beat Brighton? Since Brighton were promoted to the top flight five years ago the last six fixtures have all ended in score draws, and the three before that were all Brighton victories. We were close to winning the reverse fixture earlier this season but were denied victory by a very late equaliser. I remember the last time we did beat them. Ricardo Vaz Te scored a memorable hat trick in a 6-0 thumping at Upton Park in our promotion winning season ten years ago.

It’s about time we beat them again. I’ll go for a 2-1 West Ham win and Palace to beat Manchester United by the same score to ensure we finish sixth and qualify for the Europa League once again. What are the chances?

Can West Ham end an eight game winless run against the Seagulls at the London Stadium tonight?

In my article prior to the game against Manchester City last weekend I highlighted the gulf between the top three and the rest. The game itself confirmed what I believed. A score of 2-1 suggests a close game but that wasn’t really the case. Unfortunately we were not at our best and never really got going. Despite Jack Grealish, Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden being unavailable City were still too good in an attacking sense, and defensively they gave little away with Declan Rice’s long range effort being the only time I can recall Ederson needing to make a save before our goal.

We showed our hand before kick-off with Masuaku replacing Bowen suggesting we were worried about City’s attacking threat down our left hand side, as opposed to letting them worry about our potential going forward. But City were just too good and attacked from all sides. The heavy snow falling made the conditions difficult but while we were only a single goal down we were still in the game. The second goal finished us off but Lanzini once again produced a last second wonder strike (just as he did against Tottenham in the 3-3 draw) to make the score look more respectable, although there was no time left to go searching for a dramatic late equaliser.

But it wasn’t all bad, and in the past we might have folded and lost a game like this by a wider margin. The consolation is that despite two consecutive defeats we still retained our position in the top 4, even though the gap to the top three has grown. And even if we manage to lose a third game in a row, which I certainly hope we don’t, we would still be no lower than fifth in the table. Nine points from our last five games is a better return than all the teams in the Premier League apart from the top three and Arsenal immediately below us in fifth place.

The fixtures come thick and fast for the next month or so beginning with this evening’s visit from Brighton. We have faced them in the last four seasons since they came into the Premier League, and we have yet to beat them in eight attempts. Those games have usually been relegation battles, or at least lower-half of the table fixtures, but this time around we are both in the upper reaches with Brighton currently occupying ninth place after a bright start to the season.

They beat us in the first three games but the last five have all ended in draws. Three of those five draws have come in the corresponding fixtures in the last three seasons at the London Stadium. We had to come from behind twice in the home game last season, whereas the season before we relinquished a two goal lead. And in the season before that we were two down before an Arnautovic brace earned us a 2-2 draw.

The last time we beat them was in the later stages of our promotion winning season in 2011-12 when a superb Vaz Te hat trick was part of a 6-0 thrashing. I remember the game well – we were three up in the first ten minutes or so (Vaz Te had scored two of them) and he completed his hat-trick in front of the Bobby Moore end with an overhead kick.

Said Benrahma appeared on the front cover last season’s programme, but some are suggesting that he may not be in the starting eleven this time around following a bit of an exchange with David Moyes as he was substituted in the City game. I’ve seen some calling for Lanzini to start in that position but we’ll have to wait and see. I wonder if there are injury concerns, especially re Cresswell? Squad rotation has certainly been successful in the European games, but the manager has probably made fewer changes in the league games than most – he seems to have a very definite idea of his starting eleven for these matches.

Historically West Ham v Brighton fixtures go back to 1903, but we didn’t face them in any football league games until 1978 as we have often been in different divisions. The overall record is very even at 18 wins apiece and 19 draws. Graham Potter has done a superb job for the Seagulls but after their bright start they have faded a little, failing to win any of their last eight league games – always a worrying statistic for West Ham fans! But they have drawn a lot of games and have only lost three (we have lost four). So Brighton have failed to win any of their last eight league games, and West Ham have failed to win any of their last eight fixtures against Brighton. Will one of these runs be broken or are we heading for another draw?

With the last five meetings between the clubs ending in draws, and Brighton’s recent draws this season, a draw would seem a likely result. Bookmakers make us favourites to win with odds of around evens, but a 1-1 draw is the favourite in the correct score odds at around 11/2. I am convinced we can end our long run of failing to beat them, but it is likely to be a close game. Brighton has a mean defence with just 14 goals conceded in their 13 games, a figure only bettered by the top three and Wolves. But they have only scored 12 which is fewer than everyone apart from Norwich, Southampton and Tottenham. It is the failure to convert chances into goals that frustrates many Brighton fans and led to some booing following their 0-0 draw at home to Leeds last weekend.

There have been fewer goals in Brighton Premier League games this season than in those involving all the other clubs (except Wolves). So don’t expect us to repeat the 6-0 win of the last time we beat them. I forecast a West Ham victory by a single goal margin, possibly 1-0. What are the chances?