‘Spurs win was vital to banish Europa League blues and to keep the bragging rights’

Declan Rice (WHU) at the EPL match Arsenal v West Ham United, at the Emirates Stadium, London, UK on 19th September, 2020. 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.

After losing to Manchester United and Brentford after a Europa League game, it was important to get that win against Spurs to give our players confidence they could win Thursday and Sunday. It’s awkward having the game on the Thursday, it really is. When I was playing for West Ham and we were in Europe, it was like the Champions League games – The UEFA Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup games were always played on a Wednesday.

It felt like a normal week to us because we’d have domestic games on a Wednesday too. But playing on a Thursday, it’s like it disrupts the body clocks of today’s players. I guess because the media talk about the impact of a season of Thursday-Sunday games, it gets into your mind.

When you break it all down, it really shouldn’t matter when you play because you and the coaches and management team set up to help make sure you’re in the right frame of mind. But if you’ve had a long away trip in the week, it does seem to have an impact on the Sunday.

They really shouldn’t be tired because these players are fit, and actually when you look at our current squad, they look as fit as any other team I’ve seen. That is one side of things that David Moyes has really got right since he’s come back.

Of course, the game against Spurs was important to win because they are our biggest rivals too, and I’m sure Mark Noble was in the dressing room before the game reminding the players just how important this game was to the fans. It wasn’t the greatest performance by our side but it sometimes doesn’t matter how you get the win. The game was only going to be won by the odd goal – and I’m just glad it was us who got it.

Spurs had something like 60% possession but what did they really do with it? I’m sure there are a few fans that might say having only 40% possession at home doesn’t really give fans fair value but the end product was a 1-0 win. It’s the same with the Manchester City game – they had a lot of the ball but they didn’t win. We held out, kept a clean sheet and won on penalties.

The most important thing for me of late is that we really do look hard to beat and score against. After the City game, we’d kept four clean sheets in a row, and we’d shut teams out – six teams in the previous eight games.

That really is so important at the end of the season when everything is being tallied up. But during the season, it really gives the whole team confidence if we are not being scored against. At the start of the season, we couldn’t buy a clean sheet but luckily we were scoring goals for fun.

All of a sudden, we look very difficult to break down and beat. We’ve got four very good centre backs at the club right now. For me, Ogbonna is the first one on my team sheet. Then I think depending on who you are playing against, David Moyes has three centre backs who offer something slightly different.

Over the next month, I’m looking for us to continue the level of performance that we know we’re capable of. We have got games against the league’s top three sides and they are going to be difficult to beat, but then so are we.

For me, if we can keep the clean sheets going and get three 0-0 results against City, Chelsea and Liverpool, I’d take that right now. I would consider that a success. Chelsea at the moment seem to win by the odd goal but Man City and Liverpool score goals for fun – just ask Man United – so it will be a big ask to keep both these sides shut out.

But I do think it’s about time we had a bit of luck against Liverpool. We haven’t had much of that in recent years when we’ve played well against them and deserved more from the games. Up at Man City last season, we were unlucky. I’m sure I read that Pep felt West Ham were the best team they played against at home.

And just touching on that Liverpool-United game, I don’t think the Reds showed mercy to United by not scoring any more goals after their fifth. I don’t think they did anything special. They weren’t world beaters on the day – Man United rolled over and let them do what they want.

Maguire – an England centre back – was making mistakes that you’d expect to see in League Two. With Spurs and Arsenal struggling again this season, West Ham are arguably the second club in London right now. Although in the eyes of every fan, West Ham have always been the biggest!

Chelsea have the money behind them and they look a really good side this season, but then so do we. We can feel confident when we play against them but in all honesty, finishing the top London club will be difficult. We will need to win the league.

We have great players and our best team is good but I don’t think we have the strength in depth compared with the other squads to really mount a serious title challenge. But West Ham really don’t have anything or anyone to fear right now. They just need to go out and play their own game.

Finally, the takeover of Newcastle was completed last month and whilst their fans were delighted to see the back of Mike Ashley, it’ll take a while for them to see any massive change in the league. With the likes of Manchester City, United and Chelsea, it will take longer than they’ll think. You can go out and buy the best 11 players in the world but if they can’t play together, you won’t win anything.

There might be too many egos in the dressing room – will they get the right manager in to handle all of them? They’ll need to ensure they have homegrown players in the side to show the others what certain games mean to the fans.

I’ve always felt that Newcastle are similar to West Ham with their fanbase. Passionate and they too have been crying out for success for as long as we have. They are a sleeping giant but it doesn’t mean now they’ve got the money that it will all click and fall into place for them.

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