Our December form included a draw away at Burnley, defeats at the hands of Arsenal, Southampton and Spurs in the Cup but ended with a victory against Watford. Who or what do you think was to blame, or has our bubble finally burst?
Geoff Hillyer: I think the sheer volume of games has caught up with us, combined with injuries to our back line. I do also think though that we’ve had a consistent run of form for some time now and maybe we were expecting a dip of some sort.
Meirion Williams: I don’t think anyone’s to blame or that our bubble has burst. Anyone of a certain age will know it’s simply the West Ham way. We flatter to deceive getting results against teams we should not really get points from, and then struggle against those that on paper seem to be the easier fixtures. I do think that losing our back four and not investing in a forward back in August are prime reasons. History shows December is always a difficult month for us and that can only be put down to a lack of squad depth in certain areas.
David Meagher: Premier League football is an abrasive experience and inevitably injuries start to gather. Losing Oggy, Zouma and Cresswell has been the dominant factor – we have to defend a little deeper with Dawson and Diop and that changes the dynamic of the game a lot. Apart from the dreadful showing against Arsenal, I think we had some poor luck as well. It’s good to hear that Zouma is mending quickly but we need Cressy back ASAP too. We still look likely for a top six finish but in reality top four requires a bigger squad.
We face Leeds United in the FA Cup and also the league. If you were offered victory in one of these games over the other, which one would you pick?
GH: I’d take the FA Cup. We’re not going to win the league, but we have a plausible route to a trophy in the cup. It really is about time we won something.
MW: This is a difficult one for me as I can just about remember the Leeds of old who were a hideous bunch. The thought of losing to this lot sends shivers down my spine. I want a win in both games but I do love a cup run, so it’s the cup for me but I would also be delighted with a win in both fixtures. I’m greedy.
DM: If we are serious about a competition beyond the Premier League, I think it should be the Europa League. A FA Cup run would allow the kids more oxygen which will be less possible as the Europa League gets tougher in the latter stages but i’d take a Premier League three points please!
What are your hopes for the January transfer window and what do you think the reality will be?
GH: Striker and defensive reinforcements. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work it out. And I’m going to be slightly controversial and say that I think we will fill those positions. Maybe.
MW: I think it will go the way of every January window, we will huff and puff, be linked with several players but then just scrape one over the line plus a loan deal all financed by several players leaving the team on permanent deals thus bringing cash back into the club. There is little value to be had in this window but I hope we get that elusive striker with Premier League experience. It has to be a priority. I think if Jamal Baptiste can step up, our centre back woes may be over but Antonio is no forward and we need a striker if we are to progress.
DM: I am fascinated, and excited by the Kretinsky factor. Even though the January window is always slim pickings, I think we might go for a decent striker. I think Kral should start to figure more which will be needed in midfield and the defence really depends on the prognosis for Cressy and Zouma. We can go to late January but if there are doubts about either we need reinforcements in those areas. A business analyst would see this as a key time to invest and go for top four status as we are well positioned and our shortcomings, although obvious, are very fixable.
What were your West Ham highlights of 2021?
GH: Achieving European football, victories over Chelsea and Liverpool this season, and sailing through the group stage of the Europa League are highlights. But really, it’s just nice to be a West Ham fan and actually feel like we’re going places.
MW: The highlight has to be that top six finish last season followed by our Europa League first four games. We looked unbeatable earlier in the season. If I had to highlight one game it has to be the win against Liverpool and the sight of their manager moaning to one and all how hard done by he was. Also that cup win at Old Trafford was pretty special too.
DM: I think being able to sing ‘West Ham are massive everywhere we go’ without irony is a remarkable feat. The only home game I have got to since Coronabore began was the recent win over Liverpool which was stunning. In terms of a single moment, I have always been a fan of our left sided midfielder, King Arthur Masuaku, and his goal against Chelsea was classic Hammers circus craziness. We are one happy club just now.
What are your hopes for the rest of the season? And for West Ham in 2022 as a whole
GH: I just want us to play to our maximum in each game. If I can end the season proud of our efforts, that’s enough. You’re pushing me? Alright. I think, top six in the league; a decent cup run, and, yes I think we are capable of winning the Europa League. That would be lovely.
MW. I would love a top six finish again as that would cement us as one of the top teams in the league. It also may prevent Rice and Bowen from moving to new pastures. As for the Europa League, I hope we do not go out to some minor team. I would love an FA Cup final to remove the taste all those years ago from the one held in Cardiff. My final hope is that our new shareholder is a saviour that starts the move away from our current owners, who I believe have taken us as far as they can.
DM: Top six, a decent run at the Europa League and a softening in all the Covid hassles so that we can get to games in safety and without all the distractions so we can soak up this great period in our history.