Parkes: ‘Injuries at the back could derail our season after superb victories’

Angelo Ogbonna (WHU) 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.

The victories against Liverpool and Chelsea were fantastic but the results in between were a huge disappointment. We knew we were heading into a run of tough games with the other three in the top four to play and I’d said previously if we could get anything from these three games, that’d be a huge boost for our season.

We got off to the perfect start with a victory at home against Liverpool. Most of us would’ve thought a draw would’ve been a good result for us before a ball was kicked because they do tend to turn up against us at home. Against Man City, you would again half expect a defeat so losing up there in the snow wasn’t unexpected.

But the defeat away at Wolves and the draw at home to Brighton was a real kick in the teeth for the ambitions that we now have. The really good sides do not lose these games. We didn’t play well against Wolves but teams that are going to be successful still manage to get a draw or scrape a win.

How many times have we seen the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea do this over the years when they’ve been off the boil? They’ve got a knack of nicking points and we have thrown away at least three points from those two games. Had we kept two clean sheets, we’d have left Wolverhampton with a point and celebrated all three at home against Brighton.

Our run against Brighton in the Premier League is woeful. Six consecutive draws in our last nine games and the first three were defeats. Everton were the same at Upton Park – they always came away with something and we usually left Merseyside empty-handed.

It was disappointing not to have ended this hoodoo against a Brighton side who were down to 10 men. That’s not taking away from the fact it was a great goal but it was disappointing because of the chances we made. I’d understand if we weren’t playing well and were struggling but we played some lovely football and we had clear cut chances and just didn’t take them – We’ve got to be more clinical in front of goal.

I would say though that I thought we did play some great football against Brighton. Their ‘keeper mucked up for our goal but then went on to make some great saves later on in the game. It just seems though if Antonio isn’t firing on all cylinders then we are struggling up top.

But we are still up at the right end of the table and it’s quite possible that coming up to Christmas that we are still going to be in a good position in the league. There are so many positives to take from this season so far and when we get to Christmas and look back on 2021, the whole year has been good.

And 2022 looks promising already with a Europa League last 16 tie to look forward to. We certainly won’t be taken lightly by the big sides in Europe. I think they will be worried about playing us, and will give us the respect our performances deserve.

We are not going to be the walkover they perhaps might have thought we could be. We are a good side now and the way we have played this season, they have earned the right to be in the knockout stages of a major tournament. Turning back to this month though and there’s still a lot of football to be played between now and opening our presents.

And there are a lot of games coming up against sides we can realistically expect to get all three points from if we put in a good performance. We’ve also got the League Cup final against Spurs. Conte has gone in there and generated a bit of passion and they are picking up a few results now but I hope we can still go there and win.

It just shows you how far we have come that usually at this time of year, we are thinking to ourselves: ‘Are we going to be dropping into the bottom three at Christmas’. Now we are moaning when we are up the other end of the league. We’ve come a long way in a short time.

What does concern me at this moment in time is that the four defenders who started our game against Liverpool have now been injured. Ogbonna was the first to go and you never truly realise how important a player is until he is on the sidelines.

Up to that point, I felt like the defence had a good understanding and that builds up over time by playing a lot of games together, you become used to each other. In my opinion, losing Ogbonna was like Liverpool losing Virgil van Dijk last season – that’s how highly I rate him in this West Ham side.

We do have three other good centre backs there but if you are going to pick the team, the first player down is Rice and then the second, for me, is Ogbonna. I thought it was going to be difficult for us to get by and after we got that early goal against Brighton, we never truly looked like we’d be able to keep the clean sheet.

It all seems to be difficult for us at the back at the moment and we are making it too easy for other teams to score. We’ve also lost Cresswell, Zouma and Johnson – We really could be struggling if one of the remaining four get injured.

Finally, I feel Areola is giving Fabianski some serious competition to be Moyes’ Number One. He’s done well when he’s been given the chance and Fabianski hasn’t covered himself in glory lately. Against Liverpool, I felt that Trent Alexander-Arnold could only put the ball in one place and that Fabianski was totally flat footed for it.

If he’d read that situation properly, he’d have given himself a better chance of saving it. Then the second goal was scrappy and he was flat footed again. Having said that, he made some great saves against Brighton.

I think he’s realised that if he doesn’t perform, he can be replaced by Areola. I’ve never felt like Randolph has really put any pressure on Fabianski. It can be quite easy to become complacent as a goalkeeper so I hope the competition ensures that Fabianski keeps on his toes.

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