Hammers make it five in a row

Our fine form has seen five men up for POTM, only to see their hopes dashed by the big names

A West Ham defensive wall 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.

Only six West Ham players in the Premier League’s history have won the top flight’s Player of the Month.

The last was Michail Antonio in July of 2020 for his sizzling hot run of form, which helped us survive at the 2019/2020 season’s back-end.

Before that, you have to go back to October 2014 and Diafra Sakho; It is rare for the Hammers to get recognition. But with our men on the charge for Europe, we have had five contenders in the last five months up for the accolade.

Perhaps because our men aren’t as fashionable as Manchester United and Manchester City’s likes, they are yet to get that elusive blue and purple FIFA Ultimate Team card.

In fairness, as much as Craig Dawson’s form perhaps deserved to win an award, I doubt many people are rushing to secure his special card for the game. Sorry, Craig.

For so long, we have flown under the radar. You only have to compare the media coverage for the likes of Southampton and Aston Villa to West Ham to see that we are still deemed unfashionable.

Unsurprisingly, both Southampton and Villa have dropped off after their fine starts to the season whilst we are still very much in contention for the European spots. It is refreshing to see us finally get some form of recognition by the league, with five consecutive nominees.

Perhaps the most impressive thing is the fact that we have had five different nominees. It started in October with Pablo Fornals, then Angelo Ogbonna in November, Tomas Soucek in De- cember, Craig Dawson in January and Jesse Lingard in February.

We have performers in all areas of the pitch, and the days of being a one-man band are long gone. It is no longer the Dimitri Payet show or the Paolo Di Canio show; this is a team now.

Pablo Fornals was the first to be recognised with fine performances against Leicester City and Liverpool, thrusting his name into the limelight.

Whilst he hasn’t put his name into the spotlight since, his game is crucial in making us tick and he is the playmaker that helps link the defence to the attack. Add his underrated work rate into the equation, and you start to see why he is such a vital cog in the wheel for us.

In October, he bagged goals against the Foxes and the Reds and also set up Jarrod Bowen for the third and final goal at the King Power.

His performance in the Midlands helped the media to start to take notice of us. He did lose out to Son Heung-Min of Tottenham, but his form that month certainly won over a few doubters.

Our Italian stopper lost out to Bruno Fernandes in November, after we enjoyed a good run of form and a solid defence played a significant role in that led by Ogbonna.

We kept two clean sheets out of three as we took nine points out of nine. The former Juventus man also scored the opening goal in the 2-1 win over Aston Villa, a big win at that time.

Ogbonna’s magnet head and composure at the heart of the defence has continued to play an important role this season and will do for a good time to come.

Everyone’s favourite potato salad eater, big Tommy Soucek, enjoyed a fine Christmas period bagging goals against Manchester United in a 3-1 loss at the London Stadium, the equaliser in the 2-1 win at Elland Road, and the late leveller against Brighton.

Three goals in the month for the Czech saw him up for nomination. We all know what the big man brings to the table, crucial in both boxes, a man with the energy of a Duracell bunny who can run for days and the perfect all-around team player.

The former Slavia Prague man is one of the shrewdest signings in Hammers history but he again lost out to Bruno Fernandes.

Are we all seeing the common theme here? Big names win the big prizes.

In last month’s edition of Blowing Bubbles, I ended my piece by hailing King Dawson, so you will all know my views on the former Watford man. The surprise story of our season, since coming in from the cold against Southampton, he has been a revelation in the backline for David Moyes.

Warrior-like with his leadership and like his defensive partner Ogbonna, the ball always seems to find his head even when it is not supposed to — like at Old Trafford when he inadvertently headed past his own keeper.

Dawson helped us to clean sheets at Goodison Park in a 1-0 win and the 1-0 success over Burnley — which has historically proven tricky with Chris Woods usually getting his customary goal at the London Stadium.

The former Rochdale man also netted in the 3-2 success over Pal- ace at Selhurst Park and bagged a consolation goal against Liverpool at the London Stadium. As I have said, though, not even the Premier League sides’ captains want to play with Craig Dawson card on Ultimate Team.

Perhaps the closest to winning the accolade was Jesse Lingard. He comfortably won the fans vote (which makes up 10% of the final outcome), but ultimately the captains’ vote went to the same person as the month before Ä°lkay GündoÄŸan.

Since joining the club towards the end of the January window, Lingard has made a massive difference to our side. He has brought that touch of class to the final third. The Manchester United loanee bagged a brace on his debut at Villa Park, and won the penalty against Sheffield United, which was converted by Declan Rice.

He also scored what proved to be the winner against Tottenham and assisted the only goal at the Etihad. It was a memorable opening month in claret and blue for Lingard, which has seen fans wanting him to sign on the dotted line in the summer.

Perhaps unlucky not to be nominated for this award is Declan Rice — who has been at the top of his game all season long.

But he hasn’t provided enough goals or assists to be a contender for the award, whilst Michail Antonio hasn’t been as consistent as his end of season form last year to be in the running either.

The takeaway from this run of five consecutive nominations is that we finally have a group of players to be proud of and a way of playing that is slowly starting to get recognised by the media and the industry experts, and long may that continue.

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