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:
- Arsenal has not scored a goal at the London Stadium for over 1000 days.
- Arsenal has beaten West Ham 29 times in Premier League games, more than any other team has beaten us.
- (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.
- No other Premier League team has lost as many as our 29 defeats on a Monday.
- We have lost 99 London derby matches – more than any other London team.
- Arsenal’s 19 points from their first 15 Premier League games is their (equal) lowest ever.
- Arsenal has not kept a clean sheet for 64 days (11 matches).
- Aubameyang has never scored against West Ham.
- Arsenal has not won any of their last six Premier League matches away from home.
- We haven’t won any of our last four Premier League games at the London Stadium.
- 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?