It’s Going to Be a Bumpy Ride – A View from Across the Pond
Author: Brian Knox. Published: 14 February 2018 at 11:32am
About a month ago I posted that West Ham had 15 remaining Premier League matches and only five were against “top six” clubs. Given the club’s new form under David Moyes with Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini proving to be a dangerous combination, reaching the mythical safety of 40 league points seemed a given.
Looking at the schedule now, the path to safety is much more treacherous than I ever imagined. Earning draws against Palace and Bournemouth and getting embarrassed at Brighton has really changed the math in West Ham’s path to safety. Now there are 11 matches remaining, including all five against the top six clubs. Over the past two seasons, West Ham has only notched two wins against top six opposition. (A May 2017 win over Spurs and a surprising 1-0 win over Chelsea in December) Whether the Hammers can sneak a victory over one of those sides will be important.
The other daunting part of the remaining schedule is fixtures against both Leicester and Everton. While both those teams are inconsistent, they have both had good recent success against West Ham. The remaining matches are against Swans, at Burnley, and against Southampton. Given the way this season has unfolded, there isn’t a guaranteed three points in any of those matches. We can wish for Southampton to continue their run in the FA Cup, in hopes they can wear down a bit before our late March meeting. And what would be more “West Ham” than Andre Ayew scoring three on us when we host Swansea in March?
Speaking of the FA Cup, knowing what we now know, with the injuries sustained to Arnie, Lanzini, and Obiang and long-term suspension to Masuaku, was an honest run at a domestic cup wise, given the first team’s lack of depth? We all remember the embarrassment of a 5-0 loss to Forest in 2014 as Big Sam fielded a U23-heavy roster, but the end result was safety in May. Possibly, sacrificing our chances against Shrewsbury to keep the best XI in good health following the gauntlet of matches around Boxing Day would have been the best decision. The earlier-than-predicted return of Arnie and Lanzini might be the difference for this club entering this dangerous portion of the schedule.
The final concern looking at the bottom half of the league is that 40 points might not earn safety. Five weeks ago, I had people on twitter saying that 37 points might keep a club up this year. While West Brom and Stoke seem to be in a bad spot, that 18thspot on the table keeps creeping up every week. Swans, Palace, Newcastle, and Brighton all seem to be playing inspired football and if the West Ham injury bug hits the wrong players at the wrong time, the club could face an unexpected May crisis.
If I were to place a wager, I would say that West Brom, Stoke, and Huddersfield will be the three relegated clubs, but injuries to key contributors, at the worst time possible, seems to be the real “West Ham Way.” Hopefully this team can find a few victories in the spring so their supporters can go into May with about 42 points and not a sick feeling.