Kevin Williams

With all the presents opened and turkey eaten, attention turns back to completing the first half of the season… and what a first half of the season it has been.

After a tough start against champions in waiting Liverpool in the opener, there has been steady progression game on game. With each week that passed, the understanding between the players improved and the confidence grew. Everything was clicking, the football was attacking and entertaining, culminating in 4 straight wins and seemingly scoring for fun.

Within the space of a few weeks, we’d moved from 2pts above relegation to within 2pts of 6th placed Man U. Things were looking up and West Ham were looking up too… up the table!
We weren’t the only ones, with Wolves and Watford also playing an attacking brand of football too. Our 4 game winning run came to an abrupt end against the latter, but in truth the game could have gone either way in what was an entertaining game. In the end, it was Watford who finished the day in 6th place.

Despite the defeat, there were no boos and no negative atmosphere at the ground. The fans can clearly see that we’re heading in the right direction, with the acceptance that a consequence of playing attacking football will mean that we get caught out at the back from time to time and maybe lose the odd game. I’m sure I share the thoughts of most West Ham fans in that I’d much rather us try to win games, rather than try not to lose them (as we did under Big Sam and Moyes)

As the establishment won’t allow West Ham fans to get in the way of the post Xmas shoppers and sale hunters, we’re off on our travels again for Xmas!

St Mary’s is the destination to face a Southampton team who have picked themselves up from the bottom of the league with two impressive wins in a row. Ralph Hasenhuttl has given them a burst of energy and they will be a tricky opponent. They have 3 genuine strikers at Southampton, which should be enough to see them safe come May. Let’s just hope they’re misfiring for 90 minutes in what is bound to be a chilly night on the coast.

Hoping to halt Hasenhuttl’s progress will be fellow Austrian Arnautovic. Close to a return after being out for the past few weeks. It may however be a game too soon for the maverick forward, in which case Lucas is primed to start.
Balbuena is definitely out after picking up an injury against Watford, with Ogbonna ready and waiting to replace him.

The consistency in the back line, with the mix of youth and experience in the centre has been one of the success stories of the season thus far, so hopefully Oggy can have a rare faultless performance and provide a solid foundation for the team.

Diangana looks set to start in front of Antonio in what looks like a squad rotation decision. Cresswell is the only other change in the team, coming in for Masuaku. Arthur is great going forward, but has had issues this season doing his main job at the back. With Oggy inside and prone to the odd lack in concentration too, Cresswell offers the more balanced option on the outside.

This game could go either way. West Ham are playing well and scoring goals, with Southampton showing a new lease of life with the seemingly standard “new manager boost”. Normally with games like this, the safe prediction would be a score draw, but this is going to be a game with plenty of chances and the winner being the one who takes theirs. With both teams able to hit on the break, the first team to score with likely pick up a second on the counter and go on to win the game.

So I’m plumping for a 2 nil win… I’m just not sure which way it will go!

Predicted teams :

Southampton : McCarthy, Vestergaard, Yoshida, Bednarek, Targett, Valery, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Armstrong, Redmond, Ings.

West Ham United : Fabianski, Antonio, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Obiang, Rice, Snodgrass, Diangana, Anderson, Perez.