Written by: Graham Keeffe
Watery sunshine trickled down from the Sky on Saturday afternoon as the Hammers finally picked up a desperately needed three points. A ray of hope amongst recent clouds of despair. Goals from debutant Jarrod Bowen, Haller and Antonio saw West Ham to a comfortable 3-1 victory over Southampton. While recent performances from Moyes’ men have been full of positives, Premier League survival still remains a difficult task.
Looking at the table, one would do well to predict three definitive relegation candidates. Friday night saw basement boys Norwich City pick up a surprise 1-0 win over Leicester, to put them on 21 points and give them a fighting chance of survival. Villa sit above them on 25 points but have a game in hand due to their League Cup final exploits. Bournemouth, Watford and West Ham all sit on 27 points, with minimal goal difference separating the sides. All three put in strong performances at the weekend, with Watford pulling off shock of the season by halting Liverpool’s march to the title with a formidable 3-0 win. Bournemouth were unfortunate not to pick up all three points against an inconsistent Chelsea side. Twice the Cherries led and twice they failed to keep out Marcus Alonso efforts.
In recent years, pundits and managers alike have alluded to making it to the “magic” 40 point mark. This would mean West Ham would need 13 points from their remaining ten games to ensure safety. In recent years however, lower point totals have seen teams avoid the drop. In 2018, Southampton survived with 36 points, while the same total saw Brighton beat it last season. Irrespective of mathematical probabilities, the Hammers need to build upon recent performances and put further distance between themselves and the foot of the table. March is a tough month of fixtures with two away London derbies against Arsenal and Spurs, with a home tie to Wolves sandwiched in between. While the Wolves game proves a tricky task, the recent defensive frailties of our North London neighbours can work to our advantage.
A front four of Haller, Antonio, Bowen and Fornals in current form is a very exciting prospect. Not forgetting that a certain Felipe Anderson will be looking to fight his way back into the team. Goal difference may prove crucial in the survival fight and having our star men coming into form at this stage of the season can only be welcomed. At other end of the pitch young Ngakia continues to prove he’s capable of stepping up to the plate, while Ogbonna and Diop seem to be our best pairing in the heart of defence. And of course, not forgetting our Czech revelation, Thomas Soucek, has yet to return from injury. In his short career for the Hammers so far, he’s already broken records for distance covered. Against Man City, he ran a staggering 13.1 kilometres. A work rate such as this is exactly what’s needed to lift a team that’s struggled for an engine-like presence in midfield all season.
All in all, the team appears to have turned a corner in the past three weeks, but three weeks does not define a season. Consistent, hardworking performances however, can. We’re a long way off survival status and have a number of crucial games left to play. Moyes appears to have the majority of a definitive starting eleven picked and a consistent team selection may allow certain players to settle more efficiently into their roles. A tough road lies ahead, but many will be hoping Saturday’s performance marks a turn in the tides of fortune.