When was the last time a team won nine consecutive European games? I know it is only the Europa Conference but wins are wins. There are probably teams who have achieved this; I’m not going to trawl through all the records to see. However I bet we might be the only team to satisfy the following question. When was the last time a team won nine consecutive European games without playing particularly well after being thrashed 4-0 on the weekend before the ninth game, and in the ninth game they managed to concede 14 corners without having a single corner themselves?
It was a comfortable win despite what you might think when looking at the corner count with two well taken goals from our number 9, Antonio, who was unlucky not to complete the perfect hat- trick (header, right foot, left foot) when his shot near the start of the second half rebounded from the inside of one post to go for a goal kick beyond the other post. You can’t get much closer than that.
Two favourite European campaigns in the past both only consisted of exactly nine games and we reached the final of each one. Following our FA Cup win in 1964 we entered the European Cup Winners Cup the following season which meant two two-legged rounds, followed by a two-legged quarter final and semi-final before a final at Wembley. We won six of the nine games played, being held to a 1-1 draw in the home leg of the first round by La Gantoise (Belgium) and then losing 2-1 in the away leg at Spartak Prague (Czechoslovakia at the time). We won both legs of the quarter final against Lausanne Sports (Switzerland). We also drew 1-1 in the semi-final away at Real Zaragoza (Spain). But we won all the ties on aggregate and progressed to the final where we beat TSV Munich 2-0 at Wembley for our first (and so far only) European trophy (I don’t count the Inter-Toto in 1999/2000 – we even lost one of the six games needed to win that which gave us qualification to the UEFA Cup in the same season).
Following our 1975 FA Cup win we had a thrilling campaign in the Cup Winners Cup the following season where we lost 4-2 to Anderlecht in the final. We only won four of the nine matches in that tournament drawing 2-2 at Lahden Reipas (Finland) in the first round, 1-1 at Ararat Erevan (USSR) in the second round, losing 4-2 in the away first leg of the quarter final against Den Haag (Netherlands) after being 4-0 at one time in the match, and losing 2-1 in the away leg of the semi-final to Eintracht Frankfurt. Our home wins in those four ties were our only victories. The home games against Den Haag and Frankfurt were two of the best games I’ve ever seen us play.
So back to this season and we’ve already won nine games on the trot in Europe and haven’t reached the quarter-final yet although you’d expect this to be a formality next week wouldn’t you? But we are West Ham remember! I’ve been a supporter for 65 years now. I don’t take anything for granted where West Ham are concerned.
This weekend it’s back to the bread and butter of the Premier League and we will face a much stiffer test when Villa visit the London Stadium. We have the opportunity to complete the double over them after our 1-0 win at Villa Park in August. That was our only win on the road so far this season. Our away performances and especially the lack of goals scored has been dreadful this season culminating in possibly the worst of all on the South Coast last week. Geoff covered this in his article prior to the Larnaca game so I won’t go over it again.
After a poor start to the season losing four of their first five league games (including the one against us) Villa’s season has improved immeasurably under new management and they sit comfortably in mid-table (11th) with 34 points with no need to look downwards as we have to.
Just like when we faced Brighton last week, Villa are equal with the Seagulls as having scored nine goals in the first 15 minutes of games so far this season, a statistic not bettered by anyone in the Premier League. So we need to be on our toes from the start (for a change!).
And continuing the number 9 theme that has been threaded through this article, Aston Villa have conceded eight goals in their visits to London this season and Danny Ings has scored eight Premier League goals this season. Can he score number 9 in this game to become the first player to score both for and against Villa in the same Premier League season? And perhaps our very own number 9 will continue scoring after his two in midweek.
We still haven’t scored a goal in the opening 15 minutes of a Premier League game yet, so how about us scoring one in the ninth minute? There’s my (optimistic?) prediction for the game – West Ham to win 2-0 with goals from Antonio and Ings. What are the chances?
In recent articles I have been analysing the position and current form of the bottom teams. I will continue to concentrate on the bottom nine as Palace in twelfth place are still only six points clear of Bournemouth in 20th, and the Eagles are bottom of my mini form league too. The relegation dogfight this season is an interesting one – I just wish that we weren’t involved. The points of the bottom nine (with the number of games remaining in brackets) are:
Palace 27 (13 to play), Wolves 27 (12), Forest 26 (13), Leicester 24 (13), West Ham 23 (13), Leeds 22 (13), Everton 22 (12), Southampton 21 (13), Bournemouth 21 (13).
Wolves and Southampton are the only two of the nine to win last weekend so our poor defeat at Brighton didn’t really lose us too much in comparison to the others. The points gained in the last 5 games are a guide to current form and are set out below. We have been toppled from this summit of this ‘mini-league’ as a result of the last game, and Palace are now at the foot.
Wolves 7, Leicester 6, Southampton 6, Forest 5, West Ham 5, Everton 4, Bournemouth 4, Leeds 4, Palace 3.
With the bottom six clubs still achieving less than a point a game so far this season, and so many clubs potentially involved in the relegation struggle, then I still reckon that a final total of 37 or 38 should be enough to confirm Premier League football next season. That would mean us securing 14 or 15 from those 13 games if my estimate turns out to be correct. Based on current averages then 35 could be enough.
The table below sets out our remaining 13 games with the figures in brackets the points that we picked up in the reverse fixtures already played earlier in the season. If we were to replicate those then we would collect another 12 points to take us up to 35. Might that be enough? We would be cutting it fine, so we must therefore hope for more than that I would suggest.
12/3 Home v Villa (3)
19/3 Away v Man City (0)
2/4 Home v Southampton (1)
5/4 Home v Newcastle (1)
8/4 Away v Fulham (3)
16/4 Home v Arsenal (0)
22/4 Away v Bournemouth (3)
26/4 Home v Liverpool (0)
29/4 Away v Palace (0)
6/5 Home v Man Utd (0)
13/5 Away v Brentford (0)
20/5 Home v Leeds (1)
28/5 Away v Leicester (0)
This week I’ve had to write this article before the Saturday games are played. So I’m hoping that on Saturday Liverpool followed up last week’s demolition of Manchester United by winning at Bournemouth, that Brentford did the business at Goodison, that the Seagulls did what they did to us at Elland Road, that Chelsea won at Leicester, then Tottenham beat Forest (I hate to write that but needs must), and that Manchester City win at Palace.
And then today, in addition to us beating Villa I’m hoping that Manchester United beat Southampton, and Newcastle beat Wolves.
With so many references to the number nine, it’s interesting that none of the bottom nine have met or will meet this weekend. I’m hoping for a West Ham win and the other eight to have lost or to lose today. What odds on that 9-match accumulator? If you are interested it is around 140/1 with leading bookmakers.