The Forward Facing Hammers
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 7 February 2019 at 6:56pm
Written by : @ciaran_judge
Monday night ended with West Ham on a high – very unlucky not to beat the League Leaders, and full of positivity for the remainder of the season. The feeling wasn’t that unfamiliar; West Ham have played well against the bigger teams this season, beating Manchester United and Arsenal and gaining creditable draws against Chelsea and Liverpool. It’s what happens afterwards that is worrying; West Ham followed beating Manchester United by not winning in 4 games and followed the victory against Arsenal by losing 3 consecutive games, including the humiliating loss against AFC Wimbledon. Following a great performance with at least two abject performances is something Pellegrini must look to eradicate.
West Ham embark on a run of four games where they face 3 teams below them in the table and the Champions Manchester City in the next month. On paper, West Ham should win the home games against Fulham and Newcastle, draw with Palace away and be soundly beaten by City. But this is West Ham a team that can be roundly beaten by the team at the bottom of League One then nearly beat the Champions League Finalists all in a space of a fortnight.
Next up is Palace at Selhurst Park. Palace are quite a similar team to West Ham, capable of beating the very best (having beaten Manchester City at the Etihad earlier in the season), but have also retuned some insipid performances, such as losing at home to Southampton.
Much has been made of Palace’s reliance on Wilfred Zaha, who returns having missed the victory over Fulham following his suspension. Former Hammers target Michi Batsuayi is available alongside former Hammers Cheikhou Kouyate and James Tomkins. The away trip to Palace is always a difficult one and a draw would be brilliant result.
West Ham have a break while the FA Cup continues, then will face Fulham on the 22nd at the London Stadium. Fulham are struggling in the big League. Despite Ranieri instilling a certain degree of pragmatism, they continue to lose goals at an alarming rate, particularly away from home. West Ham must beat them comfortably.
Manchester City are then the opponents on the 26th. They are an awesome prospect at home and have generally hammered West Ham in recent times. West Ham have what it takes to trouble the Champions, who have a slightly soft under belly if you can maintain possession of the ball for any length of time. City have some very big games coming up, facing Chelsea, Newport and Schalke before the West Ham game. A dubious result in one of those games with the added pressure of title race fatigue could pose an issue for City. For West Ham to get any sort of result they must be at their best, but they have the potential to force a draw at the Etihad.
The final game of this run is a home game against Newcastle. Rafa Benitez is doing a tremendous job with a very average group of players. Newcastle will be organised, but do not offer a great going forward away from home. West Ham should win comfortably.
It is entirely feasible that West Ham could take 8 points out of the next four games which would put us in contention for 7th place, but predicting what West Ham will actually do is something fans stopped doing a long time ago. Pellegrini’s team have the potential to beat any team in the League – but it is consistency that this side is lacking. If the Chilean can instil that over the next few games, West Ham have a chance of finishing the season strongly.
Of course, being West Ham there is also the potential to lose all four games and plummet towards the foot of the table in a whirlwind of injuries, despondency and self-loathing, but we won’t talk about that.
We have the capability to make February a brilliant month – lets hope it is.