Mark Twain once famously popularised this quote: ‘There are lies, damned lies, and statistics’. And whilst anyone can spin a number to suit an argument, here’s some statistics which paint a very clear picture of a West Ham team whose form has gone off the edge of a cliff.
Let’s look at the 2021 calendar year, and work out how many points we accrued between January 1st and December 31st. We secured 73 points, which would, over the course of the 2021/22 season, have got Champions League football by virtue of a fourth-place finish.
In fact, that points tally would have been enough for Champions League football in all recent seasons, and indeed, when Leicester City won the league, it would have been enough to finish second. Now, let’s wind the clock on a year. For the calendar year of 2022 — we picked up 39 points.
Or, if you prefer, the same points tally as Everton ended up with last season, who finished, just, in 16th place. It’s not pretty reading over any recent season. In fact, that points tally would have seen us finish 17th or 16th in each of the last five.
Whichever way you look at it, the drop in form has been utterly remarkable — it’s basically half the number of wins year on year, with a whole load more defeats. This does come with the caveat that we played five less games in 2022 due to the World Cup, so you can’t read it exactly like for like.
So, let’s make it fair. If we’d played as many games in 2022 as we did the year before, we would have ended up (based on points per game average) on around 43 points — still an enormous drop.
The key question is, why the decline? Well, the statistics give us a pretty clear answer to that. In the 2021 calendar year, we scored 73 goals (yes, seventy-three) and conceded 51, a goal difference of +22.
A year on, over the same time period in 36 games, we actually conceded less goals (48) but only managed to score 39. So let’s extrapolate that across to the 41 games we played the year before: based on averages, we would have conceded only three more goals in 2022 (54 against 51), but scored a whopping 29 less goals (44 against 73).
The tale of the tape is that we’ve dropped 30 points because we can’t score goals. This will hardly be news to anyone who has watched West Ham this season, but it does also suggest that these issues have actually been a bit longer-lasting than we like to appreciate.
I know that some readers right now will be saying, ‘wait, what about Europe?’. And it’s true, we did so well in the Europa League last season, and thus far have been successful in the Conference League this term.
In the first part of 2021, we didn’t have the distraction of European competition, and it’s entirely possible that our continued involvement in matters abroad has affected our league form. However — I don’t buy this as an argument for our decline in league form, and I don’t think David Moyes does either.
Scamacca came in this season because competition was needed for, let’s be honest, a declining Antonio up front. Soucek scored a few last season, but has a slightly different role now, and his attacking potency has been reduced.
Bowen lost form at the wrong time. And whilst it’s true that the team was shattered after playing about a million games last season, this shouldn’t mean that form was so bad continuing into this one. Whilst it might play a part, that is not the main reason why we are struggling. Moyes knows this.
Danny Ings is an astute signing and will score goals, although as I write, in typical West Ham fashion he is already on the treatment table. Other players will come back to fitness and Bowen will regain form. And we have the Conference League as a delightful distraction.
We just need to score more goals, which will come with confidence, and the return of injured players. Personally, I think the 2023 table will probably look better than 2022. Since relegation really wouldn’t be fun, let’s hope it is, eh?