We’ve crossed the halfway point of this Premier League season and we have begun the process of biting nails, dreadfully fearing the onslaught of a looming relegation battle. As I write this, we sit tentatively in 16th place tied with Leicester and Leeds, but only one point above 17th and 18th place and a mere three points above Southampton in last place.
Our decline is only buffeted by the poor form of about eight other teams in the surrounding doldrums of the bottom half of the table all scraping by with wins in only a quarter of their matches played. Usually at this point of the season one of the newly promoted teams have been cut adrift at the bottom but this hasn’t happened with any of the newly-promoted teams from last season.
Fulham, led by Marco Silva, are comfortably in the top half of the table. This is one of their strongest showings in recent years, having achieved ‘yoyo club status’ from their promotions and relegations as they enter and exit the Premier League.
Serbian striker Mitrovic — often making the rumour mills of West Ham transfer sagas — has the fourth highest goals in the Premier League with 11 to his name, behind giants like Haaland and Kane, and Ivan Toney. Fulham are very systematic in their approach and under Silva’s leadership play a classic 4231 that is disciplined.
But they are poor in passing out from the back and in passes in general as they have the lowest in the league. Any of their goals come from the power and pace of the wingers, cutting back to Mitrovic.
Former Hammer Issa Diop had a shaky start but has made the lineup 13 out of 19 matches and is a regular first team player with a goal to his name. Fulham received automatic promotion last season, and unlike Scotty Parker’s rise and fall, look to be staying up and even contending for Europa League this year.
Near the top of the bottom half of the table, we find Nottingham Forest. A joke at the beginning of the season for breaking the English record of signing 21 new players after their promotion including Jesse Lingard, Forest have gone from being dead last to positioning themselves on tentatively good footing.
Promotion manager Steve Cooper survived an early run of bad form and has worked out some of the kinks. Cooper has worked instrumentally on strengthening Forest’s defence, sacrificing some of the attacking prowess they had in the Championship after they shipped 18 goals in the first five matches in the Premier League.
He has also worked on installing confidence in the players and this has helped the increase, but at 21 points (only three ahead of West Ham) and with a lucky win against us in the first half the season, most likely inspired by the football fates of their first home match played in the Premier League after 22 years away, West Ham will look to take three points off Forest in the upcoming February match at the London Stadium.
Just behind West Ham are AFC Bournemouth, who were brought to the Premier League by one of our own in Scotty Parker. After a terrible run of form and a 9-0 defeat to Liverpool, Parker was sacked to be replaced by Gary O’Neil as caretaker, who has been taken on as permanent manager.
Bournemouth are not playing well, and constitute one of West Ham’s four wins thus far this season. O’Neil was able to stop the rot with six unbeaten games (four of them goalless draws) and though not good in possession, Bournemouth are finding success in playing long balls.
If you would ask me which teams face looming relegation, Bournemouth would be on my shortlist, for their poor style of play and lack of experience. We have a return match coming up and hopefully can pick up another three points off in this second half of the season especially as Callum Wilson no longer plays for the Cherries so can’t offer that ‘Touch of magic’ to give them a win.
We’ll have to give Ryan Fredericks and Junior Stanislas a welcome return as they both find themselves in the red and black instead of the claret and blue of the past. Both Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest could be potential relegation zone contenders although we face an unsteady future.