The shoots of recovery are visible but now we need to kick on

If we can maintain our current form, we should collect enough points to beat the drop

Lukasz Fabianski (WHU) at the West Ham United v Leicester City EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on November 12, 2022.

Cast your mind back to the last issue where I wrote that 2021 West Ham was considerably more successful than the 2022 version. Our average points per game in 2021 was 1.78 but last year, this had dropped to 1.05. Very much relegation fodder.

We’d all hoped that post-World Cup that it would be a good end to the year but two defeats dampened optimism. Back then, it was a particularly depressing time to be a fan, with a fair amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

However, 2023, at least until just after the Nottingham Forest fixture, seems to have seen something of a recovery. As well as progression in the FA Cup, up to the Nottingham Forest match, league-wise we haven’t been too bad. We’ve only seen two league defeats in 2023 (against Tottenham and Wolves) and only one defeat in five matches.

In particular, though, I’m heartened by the attitude of the players. With the exception of half of the Spurs game, which I will come onto in a moment, I have not seen anything to suggest that the players are not playing for the manager. Indeed, despite a horrendous start to the match against Newcastle, I felt we did extremely well in that game and could even potentially have won it.

I know that there are people that say ‘Newcastle were there for the taking’, but I would gently remind them that this was a team that had been unbeaten in a long time and were in the top four for a reason at the point we played them. Similarly, against Chelsea, a real effort was required — this needed more resilience, but the team showed this in spades.

Yes, I know that people say that we should have been beaten out of sight, that Chelsea had about a million chances, and that we were lucky to get away with it, but the simple fact was, that we secured a draw. And then we come on to the Spurs game. Now I’m going to be slightly controversial here and say that for a team in our moment, a team finding its form, and not at the height of its powers, there are going to be days when nothing comes off.

That’s exactly what happened against Spurs. For whatever reason, we were not ‘on it’ and offered very little. Now, you can say that’s down to the players, or the approach from the manager, or a bit of both, but I think that in a sense, it doesn’t matter.

Tottenham, whether we like it or not, have got largely better players (certainly better strikers) than us. It was a game that, when we take the claret and blue spectacles off, even with their iffy run of form, they were always going to be favourites in.

What mattered most was the reaction, and we saw for ourselves against Nottingham Forest what that was. The doctor ordered a strong performance, and four unanswered goals, and visible confidence returning to the team, was exactly that.

I know I have said this before, but I don’t think we are going to be relegated. Even in the darker moments, maybe I’ve wobbled a bit, but performances and results have improved, and I have more of an expectation that we might at least compete with teams, even if we lose.

Perhaps that’s what made the Tottenham result more disappointing — the approach. I know I say this a lot too, and it is a cliché, but it really does feel like the next six games define our season.

But when I look at matches that are coming up against Southampton, Aston Villa, Fulham and Bournemouth, I think there are a potential nine points in there. We may also spring a surprise result elsewhere: I think the Arsenal game will be a cracker at a pivotal moment in the season for them.

This team is good enough to be well clear of the relegation zone. My general feeling is that we’re on an upward trajectory. We can reassess in the summer, but if we are to be relegated for any reason, it will mean that we won’t have picked up maybe 15 points in fourteen games, and therefore we’ll deserve to go down.

Oh and 2023’s average points per game so far? Up to Forest — 1.29. Over a 38-game season, that’s 49 points — pretty much exactly where I think we should be.

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