Christmas offers an intriguing set of games for in-form Irons

Jack Kavanagh takes a look at what we can expect from the festive season this year

In a year of unprecedented shocks, who would have thought the Moyes revolution would still be going strong in east London heading into Christmas?

The team look motivated and are playing well heading into the Festive period. Today we’re going to step into Christmas and see how our boys might fair.

It’s easy to forget that Pellegrini was sacked just three days after Christmas 2019 following a drab loss 1-2 to Leicester; a game which featured distressing levels of Carlos Sanchez, unsurprisingly one of his last professional appearances to date. 

David Moyes replaced the Chilean just a few days later, and while it didn’t look great for the Scot early on, the January signings of Jarrod Bowen and Tomáš Souček turned the season around. Nowadays we look compact, agile going forward and can actually defend. 

Looking at the fixture list, few would have expected us to have made such a remarkable start to the season. 

Taking six points from a run of games against Leicester, Spurs, Manchester City and Liverpool was a particular highlight. We maintained this momentum with three straight wins in November to enter December in fifth position.

With us comfortably in the top half, we can look forward to our games in a rare Christmas period devoid of relegation jeopardy. Let’s preview:

Last season’s two games against Crystal Palace featured identical 1-2 defeats. 

We went up 1-0 early in the second half; conceded an equaliser, then attempted to hold on for the draw before a last-minute heartbreaker from Jordan Ayew. 

The Selhurst Park match was especially depressing after Ayew embarrassed at least four of our defenders before chipping the hapless Roberto.

This season Palace have played like a team destined to repeat last season’s 14th place finish. 

The highlight of their season so far looks to be their 3-1 win against Manchester United in their second game of the season. 

They have since reverted to type and Hodgson’s team look certain to spend the rest of the season enjoying lower mid-table mediocrity. 

Our recent record against Palace in the Premier League is even, five wins for both teams and six draws. 

If we can keep Zaha quiet, we have enough quality to be able to squeeze out a win on the road, the midfield partnership of Souček and Rice should make us harder to break down than last season.

Surely Jordan Ayew won’t score again against us, right? My prediction is a 2-1 win.

Moving on to our game against Chelsea, and I’m sure Lampard is keen for revenge after we did the double over his young Chelsea side last season. 

The win at Stamford Bridge, aka the David Martin game, was arguably the highlight of last season. 

A lot has changed for both teams since then, Michail Antonio as a lone striker has moved from experimental to established system. 

Meanwhile, Chelsea have had another Abramovich cash injection and sent the likes of Kovacic and Arrizabalaga to Siberia.

I have lower expectations for the Hammers against Chelsea, whose young attack and stout defence has transformed them into legitimate title contenders. 

Not to mention Lampard’s extra motivation to beat his boyhood club after falling short twice last season.

Expect to see cautious tactics from Moyes, playing for a draw and falling narrowly short of the points. My prediction is a 1-0 defeat.

A home game then against Brighton feels like the perfect opportunity for us to overlook our opponents and get humbled. 

We have a surprisingly bad record against Brighton, and have yet to win in the Premier League against the Seagulls. 

Our last win came back in 2012 in a 6-0 win where Ricardo Vaz Te scored a hattrick. Thankfully Glenn Murray is on loan at Watford and can’t pop up with his customary goal. 

Brighton have been treading water for most of the season and will likely be fighting for survival, giving them extra incentive to beat us. 

Following us, Brighton’s next three league games are Arsenal, Wolves and Manchester City, making a home win against the Irons a top priority. This game has disheartening loss written all over it and I predict a 3-1 defeat.

We then face Southampton, who for close to a decade we have shared similar fortunes. 

But this is looking to be a positive season for both with European football a distinct possibility. 

Southampton started poorly, but rebounded after a 2-5 thumping from Tottenham to go on a two-month unbeaten run to shoot up the table.

West Ham beat Southampton in both games last season. Crucially a 3-1 home win with Bowen starting and scoring in for the first time in the Premier League.

In this imaginary run of games we have seen back-to-back defeats, so I expect us to set up in a solid workmanlike fashion and squeeze out a draw.

We kick off 2021 against Everton, a team we traditionally fare poorly against. This season they’ve already ended our promising EFL Cup run, with a crushing 4-1 win over our B team.

Everton started the season very well and looked set to mount a title challenge into October before three successive defeats. They have rebounded and look ready to continue to challenge for Europe.

I can see Ancelotti tactically outclassing Moyes in this one. The Scot has only ever beaten Everton once, at this point it feels like his old club is a mental block that he can’t overcome. This one could get ugly for the Hammers, and I’m predicting a 3-0 defeat.

Next up is a game featuring the returns of Slaven Bilić and Grady Diangana should be high on intrigue, especially after the outrage from the fans and players this summer after the board sold one of our best young prospects.

Bilić already exacted his revenge last season, taking his Championship side to the London Stadium and knocking us out of the FA Cup. 

This season with the Baggies fighting relegation, he should have no issues getting his team encouraged to head to London Stadium.

In this case, Moyes has had a year to establish himself and knows his best team, we should have too much quality for West Brom and bounce back with a 3-0 victory.

Finally, we host another team which has struggled this season, Burnley. The Clarets beat us twice last season. 

The second of these a 0-1 defeat during Project Restart with a Man of the Match performance from Nick Pope that left us nervously looking towards the relegation zone while Burnley moved up to 9th.

This season has seen the fortunes of these clubs reverse as Burnley anxiously battle to recover from a terrible start to the season that harbours serious relegation concerns. 

They will likely be looking at playing us as an attainable three points.

Again, I think West Ham should have too much quality for Burnley and will come away with three points from this game.

I think 10 points from these games is a realistic view but given our confidence, we could well see us securing more. 

What we really want to avoid is ending the season with a winless run and undo all the good work from the first 10 games.

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