George Parris: We need to look at the bigger picture after December’s dip in form

If someone had offered us fifth position by the end of the year, we’d have taken that

Michail Antonio (WHU) at the Arsenal v West Ham United EPL match, at the Emirates Stadium, London, UK on 11th December, 2021.

With two games in a week coming up against Leeds, I wanted to start my column by asking you a question: Would you take a win in the cup over the league? 

I’m sure there will be some who would opt for us progressing in the FA Cup whilst others might prefer us to concentrate on reigniting our push in the league and on going deeper in the Europa League.

But, of course, on paper, these two games both look winnable so I’m sure we all want us to win both but it can be tough to play the same opposition so close together. It’ll be interesting to see how we and they tackle these games. 

Looking back at December and I know many of you will be looking back on the results with disappointment but it hasn’t been the end of the world when you look at our position before the game against Palace. 

When you look at the bigger picture, if someone had offered us fifth position by the end of the year at the start of the season, we’d have taken that. 

We are the best of the rest at the moment and we’ve deserved that accolade – it’s been a fantastic achievement.

Sure the Southampton defeat is probably the one that we’ll look back on and feel like we should’ve done better but, like I always say, there’s always another game just around the corner and we dispatched Watford comfortably in the end. 

It might be that I’m looking at it from a footballers’ point of view but I do think we should all be looking at the bigger picture right now and putting a positive spin on December. 

What didn’t help us last month were the injuries to key defenders – that has really impacted us. Prior to losing all four players in our back line that started that Liverpool game, we didn’t really look like conceding but now with certain individuals out, it’s really changed the look and feel of our side. 

Losing Ogbonna and Zouma would be a big loss to most sides in the league let alone us, and I am worried that if we have another injury in the centre back area that we are really going to be down to the bare bones. 

We really should be looking to sign a centre back to offer competition and cover right now but also looking ahead to the sheer number of games that we might have. 

Of course, it goes without saying we still need another forward, which would give us options.

Injuries aside, the other trouble we’ve had lately is letting goals in. We’re still scoring goals but can’t stop them going in. It feels like we’ve gone full circle from the start of the season. 

It also feels like we’ve gone full circle from last season when we were doing poorly against the so-called bigger sides but dispatching the lesser teams. This season we’ve beaten Chelsea and Liverpool but drawn against Burnley, Brighton, and Southampton – and we’ve also lost against the Saints too. 

Maybe next season we will be able to challenge the top six, beat the middle six and be too strong for the bottom six. When you’re challenging at the top end of the league it’s all about consistency. 

That’s what sets sides like Man City apart from most of the league. They may not play well but they still find a way to win a game. One thing that was frustrating last month was VAR. But the only saving grace from a West Ham point of view has been the decisions have also been dubious against other teams too so it’s not just us. 

Some of the decisions have been so borderline that, as I’ve said before, it’s like they are looking for a reason to not give the goal.

Just look at the Spurs goal that was disallowed, if that had happened to us, we would have been aggrieved but it helped keep us in fifth.

Speaking of Spurs, and while it was disappointing to lose in the League Cup – it was a proper cup tie. Both teams were going for it and we were very much in the game, and created enough chances to get something out of it. If we had gone in at half time level, who knows what might have happened. 

The way I’m looking at things right now is that we were fifth at the end of 2021 having beaten Chelsea and Liverpool, in the last 16 of the Europa League, and got to the quarter final of the League Cup after beating both Manchester clubs. We’d have taken this all day long at the start of the season. Let’s keep positive.

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