Phil Parkes: Injuries to key players held us back but Moyes’ Boys are still fighting

Ogbonna and Zouma were doing really well, and Cresswell was having his best spell ever

Michail Antonio (WHU) Aaron Cresswell (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.

If someone had said to us before the start of the season that by the end of 2021, we’d be in the last 16 of the Europa League and fifth in the league, most West Ham fans would have questioned what they’d been drinking

The fact we are disappointed about things at the moment can only be seen as a good thing. It shows we want to get better.

I’ve read quite a few interviews with players recently and they’ve been talking about the squad wanting to get better and knowing they can get better, that’s really positive to hear.

Where did it go wrong for us in December? I think you need only look at the defenders we lost to injury.

We’ve looked vulnerable ever since. That’s not me knocking any of the replacements but Ogbonna and Zouma were doing really well, and Cresswell was having his best spell ever.

To lose them has been really tough for us and I just hope we continue to get through it and that they do come back soon.

Sure it was frustrating last month, and I know the game against Southampton was particularly disappointing but it was good to see us get back to winning ways against Watford.

We created so many chances, which was pleasing to see, but defensively we still looked weak. 

Fabianski had to make good saves at the end otherwise it could’ve ended up 4-3. With the dominance we had in the game, we should have scored more – like Antonio’s chance that he snatched at a bit.

I just feel like teams don’t have to work that hard to score against us at the moment. We’re giving away really soft goals whereas we were making teams really work hard for even a sniff of a chance.

Take the Southampton game as an example, we pulled level and then they go up the other end and score two minutes later.

Once we get a goal, you really do need to shore things up and make the other team do the work. I’m not saying sit back – but make sure you don’t concede so you’re able to regroup and push on again for the winner.

Whether or not it’s a concentration thing, I’m not sure. 

It also seems to me that we are giving the bigger teams a better game this season compared to what we managed last campaign but we’re now struggling against the so-called lesser teams like Brighton and Burnley.

Although what I will say about the Burnley game is at least we did keep a clean sheet.

I know it wasn’t the most inspiring game but it is important to always try to keep a clean sheet because then at least you know you are going to get at least a point.

Our dip in form in December felt a bit like deja vu as we only managed to pick up six points from our six games in December 2020 that included games against Southampton, Brighton and Palace.

I am hoping it’ll be deja vu this month too. In January last year we picked up four wins against Everton, Burnley, West Brom and Palace and also won in the third and fourth rounds of the FA Cup. 

I do hope we are able to get on a run in the FA Cup because it always adds a little bit of interest to the season if you can navigate the third, fourth and fifth rounds in the first six weeks of the New Year.

Fans will start to reminisce about previous Cup wins and it really has been a long time since we were at Wembley for an FA Cup game.

You never know when it’s going to be your year but sometimes you do start to get a feeling when things start to go your way.

I can remember the way we won it and we played against West Brom and I had the best game I’ve ever had.

Bonzo said at half time that we should’ve been 6-1 down and that you never know, our name could be on the cup this year.

I reminded him of what he said in the tunnel that day when we did eventually go on to win it because we really should’ve been beaten by West Brom on that day.

But the deeper into the competition we went, everything just felt like it fell into place. 

When the draw was being made for the semi final, there was Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton. Everybody was hoping for us as we were the second division side but we were hoping for Everton and it worked out really well for us.

When all these things go together, you just get that feeling that things are looking up for you.

I did think we might go all the way in the League Cup this year with what we managed to achieve in the previous rounds – beating Man United away and Man City on penalties.

But I think our injuries made it very difficult for us. Had we had our starting back four, we may have done it. We didn’t play badly, it was just one of those games that didn’t quite go our way.

Leeds will be a tough game but we are at home and they aren’t having a great season. You just hope that they won’t be too worried about the Cup given their league form.

Looking back on 2021 as a whole, the stats show that it has been one of our most successful years and the best the club has ever had.

The end of the last campaign we ended strongly and then we started this season really well too.

We should all be happy with how things went in those 12 months and appreciate just how far we’ve come as a club.

I had a glance of the league table earlier and I noticed there are a few clubs now that have a few games in hand – like Burnley.

With the world we’re in now, these clubs could see even more games postponed and this all reminded me of our campaign in 85/86 and how many extra games we had to play, and which cost us in the end.

Let me tell you, I know we’re disappointed with some of the results we’ve had and that we’ve had to play so many games in December whilst others have been able to rest but for sides like Burnley, they are going to find it really tough when the games come thick and fast this year.

We should keep hoping that West Ham keep playing – especially with our Europa League involvement. 

We do not need to have loads of games crammed into the last weeks of the campaign that could potentially ruin our chances in Europe and qualifying for next season’s tournament.

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