Hammers face tough run as the season starts to get serious

Tottenham and Manchester City will be a real test of our European credentials

David Moyes (West Ham manager) at the EPL match West Ham United v Burnley, at the London Stadium, London, UK on 16th January, 2021. English Premier League matches are still being played behind closed doors because of the current COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, and government social distancing/lockdown restrictions.

When David Moyes flicked to this month on his ‘word of the month’ calendar, I hope he is confronted with the word ‘mindset’.  

For the way we approach the sequence of fixtures this month and our results achieved in those games can make or break our season.

There is no doubting that we’ve achieved great things so far this season – at the time of writing we sit in fifth place just four points short of what we amassed during the entirety of last season.

Our defeat against Liverpool though showed a little bit of the old West Ham that the club is so desperately trying to change.

We feared the opponent, played with trepidation and showed far too much respect to what on the day was a weakened Jurgen Klopp side, and in the end, we fell to a pretty comprehensive defeat.

Of course, we aren’t at the Liverpool level yet, but the noises that came out of the club before that game suggested that we were beaten before we even stepped onto the pitch.

With the run of fixtures coming towards the middle and end of February that attitude has to change. 

The results achieved against the teams around us could prove the difference between mid-table and European football.

Following the ‘on paper’ winnable games against Fulham and Sheffield United, we face much sterner opposition in Tottenham, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Wolves and Leicester City. 

You do feel those are the games that will decide the fate of our season. Perhaps worryingly, the statistics do not seem to be in our favour. 

We have struggled against the ‘big boys’ claiming only two points from the games played so far, the memorable draw against Spurs and the point against Manchester City at the London Stadium.

Traditionally, we tend to thrive in these types of games. We have something of a reputation of turning up against the big boys and flopping against the perceived weaker opposition. 

This season that rule has somewhat gone out the window. We seem to dig out wins against the sides he is expected to do well against and often fall flat against the top sides.

We were unlucky in our games against Manchester United and Arsenal earlier this season, where had we taken our chances, we would likely have walked away with points on the board.

The fixture at the London Stadium against the Red Devils was an incredibly frustrating evening at the office. 

We were rampant in the first half, Sebastien Haller rounded the keeper before falling over with the goal at his mercy. 

Jarrod Bowen slid in at the far post only to divert the ball to the wrong side of the post, and of course, the infamous incident with the ball floating harmlessly out of play only to be missed by VAR and the linesman to allow Paul Pogba to smash home from range.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are a strange side; they are either world-beaters on their day or hopeless. 

We will hope it is the latter as we travel to Old Trafford for both the FA Cup fifth-round tie and then the Premier League encounter. 

In all honesty, I would take a point at the Theatre of Dreams, but it all depends on what side turns up.

The mindset must be right. United aren’t the side they once were, and we shouldn’t be frightened.

I really fancy us against both Tottenham and Arsenal, both seem to be in turmoil at the minute and at home, there is no reason to think we can’t pick up maximum points in both fixtures. 

In particular, Arsenal look unprofessional, misguided, and at times a little toothless in front of goal. 

Arteta is really in the midst of a battle with his side, and it could go one of two ways, either he’ll battle through, or he’ll go the way of Frank Lampard and back to the Job Centre.

Leicester and Wolves are sides that we comprehensively beat earlier in the season, and again there is no reason to fear anything in these games. Leicester are slightly better away from home, in my opinion, and their pace is a worry. 

I don’t think we will see a repeat of the reverse fixture, it will be a much closer affair, and it will come down to who can take their chances, and if Jamie Vardy is back fit, you will fancy him to bury one of those chances should it fall his way.

Manchester City are, in my opinion, in a class of their own, they are a joy to watch, and when they are on it, there is no finer team to watch in the Premier League. 

Unfortunately for us, they seem to have their mojo back. Kevin De Bruyne being out helps our cause, but they have an abundance of talent on their books, and Phil Foden is a readymade replacement for De Bruyne when the Belgian leaves. 

I fear we will pick up our customary thrashing at the Etihad.

In early April we travel to the black country to tackle Wolves, historically it is a place we have struggled at, and I am sure Moyes and the boys will look to get that particular monkey off their back. 

It is a tough place to go, and they have some excellent players. It will be another tight affair and will depend on the boys’ confidence as they exit what would’ve been a very tough run of fixtures,

if we come out of it unscathed, I fancy us, but on the back of a run of defeats, it could get messy.

This is a massive chance for us, the table is tight, and in these uncertain times, a European place is well and truly up for grabs. 

The club must believe as much as the fans that this could turn into a fairy tale season and finally give us a platform to build on with David Moyes at the wheel.

Disclaimer: I am currently running at a 48% correct score rate in a prediction league with my dad and his friends, please do not gamble on my predictions above, you’ll quickly be out of pocket.

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