Three wins from three in November to rocket us up the table to fifth – were we lucky or was this a sign we’ve learnt how to win ugly?
David Meagher: Luck was definitely a big factor as we didn’t really do enough against either Fulham or Sheffield United to deserve all three points and against Villa we did very little of merit the win apart from scoring the two goals. That said, over the years how many games can you remember when we were on the wrong end of results where we deserved to win but came away with little apart from comfort of having played well? Let’s grab the nine points and run!
Meirion Williams: I have to agree with David, we were so lucky and every single one of those teams we played must feel a little annoyed that they got nothing out of those games. But I also feel that these are the games we always seem to struggle with so nine points in the bag is something I’m not complaining about. It was also great to get one over Villa a team I really dislike and even more so now they have a diver as captain.
Geoff Hillyer: We were very lucky. We do this a lot, turn up against the high-fliers and then ease off a bit against the so-called “lesser teams”. But, hey, we won three games in a row and I don’t think West Ham teams of old would have done that.
Bradley Holland: I’ve never thought of West Ham as lucky, and in our own mantra – our fortune always seems to hide, but luck appears to be on our side or is it consistency? Two things we’ve never had. Perhaps we can stave off the two things that hinder ourselves – luck and inconsistency and make a go of it.
We see out an extraordinary 2020 with games against Palace, Chelsea, Brighton and Southampton. We did the double over Southampton and Chelsea last season but both look better this campaign, while Palace did the double over us last season and we always struggle against Brighton. How do you think we’ll get on?
DM: We are a much better team than last year as Rice and Soucek have really gelled, Coufal has steadied the right side of defence and I think we are going to see some exciting stuff from Said Benrahma when he gets his chance. It would be great to repeat the results against Chelsea and Southampton but realistically you would take two wins out of those four games. We seem to be doing a lot better against the Brighton and Palace clubs this season so far so fingers crossed.
MW: I agree we are a better team by far than last year. Our big problem is our over reliance on Antonio up front. But let’s not forget this is West Ham and if we had Ronaldo and Messi in the team the West Ham curse would still be present. I would be happy with six points from that lot.
GH: We look good. I think we have belief, a bit of solidity, and weirdly for a West Ham team, we appear to know how to defend, but I agree with Meirion that we over-rely on Antonio up front. Out of those four games, if we can pick up six points I wouldn’t be unhappy.
BH: Palace won’t be a problem as I believe they beat us on luck that is now in our favor. Nor will Chelsea be an issue as their play is predictable and the kind we thrive against when confronting big sides. I think Brighton will still be our bogey side although this will test our new resolve, and Southampton look to have a threatening style which we won’t be able to expose to easily again.
Our game against Manchester United saw a few lucky hammers watch the game live at London Stadium – what impact do you think a few thousand fans in a big stadium will really have on the players and atmosphere?
DM: Those fans are under a lot of pressure to perform – let’s hope that they don’t choke it! It’ll be fun to see if TV cameras focus more on individual fans during their coverage – this could be the start of fans having greater prominence in matchday affairs and should bring back a sense of home advantage. I wonder how they will manage foul language from fans as we have been treated to some hilarious outpourings from players.
MW: I am a big American Football fan and many of the games in the NFL already have a few fans in attendance and they certainly make their voices heard. The difference though maybe that those American stadiums are designed to keep the noise in and direct it to the pitch, we play in a soulless bowl and so I feel they just may struggle to be heard. I agree that the commentators may have to repeatedly apologise for the language heard.
GH: The sooner fans get back into the stadia the better. Even 2,000 fans makes a difference. Just the weirdness when we score a goal and there’s no crowd reaction, that’s something I just can’t get used to. And I’m sure they will make a lot of noise!
BH: Unpopular opinion but I believe we’ve benefited from having no fans in the stadium so that the lads can just concentrate on their game and not feel the added pressure: Both from the opposition and our own. I’m actually nervous about the impact that even a few thousand supporters will make on our team who have functioned well without them.
Is this the season we can finally have a good crack at the FA Cup? What factors do you think need to remain positive in order for Moyes to ‘risk’ a cup run?
DM: I’ve always thought that not putting out your best team for the FA Cup is plain silly and insulting to fans. This especially applies at a club like West Ham where we have a rich FA Cup history. We are doing OK with injuries this season so far so why not go for it? We can start by settling an old score with Stockport County in the third round. That said, perhaps Moyes should give Antonio a rest and let’s see what we’ve got coming through in terms of striking power?
MW: I would love a FA Cup run but when the draw was made my heart sunk. You can guarantee the cameras will be there expecting a cup upset when plucky Stockport County take on the mighty West Ham. It may be different with limited fans in attendance and no doubt no Hammers. But it’s going to be a muddy pitch by the Mersey and I fear for our progress even though we do not have Dowie in the team.
GH: Sorry to put a downer on things here, but we won’t win the FA Cup because we all know it isn’t a priority. We’ll squeeze past Stockport, probably win in round four, then get beaten by Southampton. Gosh that sounds pessimistic doesn’t it?
BH: I agree with Geoff. We won’t make a run for the cup as our bench is so light and Moyes is finally establishing respect for his table and league position. We’ve got a working formation with a first XI that’s finally working for those specific players, but past that we’re just scrapping for basic play without.