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Aug 182017
West Ham v Southampton

West Ham will go in search of their first points of the new season when they visit Southampton on Saturday.

The Hammers got off to a poor start with a 4-0 defeat at Old Trafford last weekend, while the Saints made it 6 straight home games without a goal following their opening day stalement with Swansea.

Wantaway Southampton centre-back Virgil van Dijk will miss the game, while West Ham will still be without key attacking players in Andy Carroll, Manuel Lanzini and Michail Antonio.

Southampton go into the game as 1.73 favourites to take the points, although for a team who have now failed to score in 7 of their last 8 Premier League games at St Mary's that price looks a bit short.

West Ham can be backed at 5.25 with BetVictor to win, with the draw available at 3.9.

With the Saints too short in the betting, the value looks to be with West Ham to get something from the game, even with their injury setbacks. Southampton have now won just 1 of their last 9 home games in the Premier League.

Best odds of 2.26 are available at BetVictor for West Ham to get at least a draw on Saturday and based on Southampton's home form that looks the value play.

May 282015
Sam Allardyce

A season that had started to promise so much has in the end delivered only a cargo-full of disappointment for Hammers fans.

On Christmas morning we ripped open the presents and began a day of indulgence safe in the knowledge that West Ham were part of the Premier League’s top four.

A Boxing Day trip across London to Stamford Bridge pitted first against fourth in England’s top flight.

Sam Allardyce had started to work something of an oracle around Upton Park and there was, as the old saying goes, “a buzz around the place”.

Now look at us.

In the 20 league games that have come since that heady festive rush, West Ham have managed to add only 16 points to the season’s tally.

Any faint dreams of remaining in the top four were quickly shredded and in truth, we’ve been in freefall since the turn of the year.

All things considered, we ought to be pleased that enough points were gathered in those first 17 games to ensure there wasn’t a relegation battle to be fought.

Here’s couple of neat little stats that sum up the struggles of West Ham in the second half of this season.

Big Sam has managed to return 16 points in 20 games since the 20th December when we beat Leicester City 2-0 at home to earn that top four place over Christmas.

Meanwhile on 4th April, we suffered a 2-1 defeat in the return clash with Nigel Pearson’s Leicester team at the King Power Stadium.

At that stage, Leicester were rock bottom and seemed destined for the drop. Yet, over a period of just over 30 days during April and early May, they helped themselves to 18 points – more than West Ham can claim during the entire second half of the season.

Forever blowing bubbles the song goes, well for Big Sam this bubble has long since burst and he will be leaving the club in the summer.

As we start to review the season just ending, it is clear that the fairytale start has morphed into a nightmare finish.

A glance at the latest betfair odds at the time of writing suggests West Ham’s hopes of getting into the top half of the table next season are around the 3.25 mark. So it seems as though the experts aren’t marking the Hammers down for a renewed push anytime soon.

Let us move on then with a review of this season, which can be neatly split into two categories –before and after my bubble burst.

The Good Half

Things were rosy by Christmas but by no stretch of the imagination did this season get off to a flyer.

Spurs took three points from Upton Park on the opening day and Southampton followed suit before the end of August.

In between those games, Sheffield United ensured there would be no Capital One Cup run when they stormed East London to win on penalties.

The only bright spot in the first month of the season was a victory at Selhurst Park against Neil Warnock’s Crystal Palace – even that must be viewed in the context of the sound thrashing handed out by Alan Pardew’s incarnation of Palace in the return game in late February.

A draw away at Hull began September and so it was in the middle of that month that the season really came to life when Liverpool paid a visit.

On a momentous Saturday evening, Winston Reid and Diafra Sakho quickly lit the touch paper for a strong home performance and a 3-1 win over Brendan Rodgers' side was the end result.

Sakho was the poster boy early in the season and his goal against Liverpool was the start of a run of five straight games where the striker hit the net.

Four wins – the only set back coming at Old Trafford in a narrow loss – was the net result for West Ham, culminating in another standout performance as defending champions Manchester City had their wings clipped at a bouncing Upton Park in late October.

That meant Big Sam’s team had collected maximum points during the calendar month of October and there was a really positive feeling around the club.

The manager was full of the joys of the world and his player’s seemed to be buying into his regime much more than was the case last season.

There was a bit more steel to West Ham by now, never more so than when going to the always tough Britannia Stadium and fighting back 0-2 down to come back home with a point.

Around this time Renaissance man Stewart Downing was at full pelt, earning a return to the England squad after a really productive spell in a West Ham shirt.

A home win over Newcastle was the start of a run of four wins from five games that propelled West Ham up the table and into fourth spot.

Like Southampton, the Hammers were a surprise package and the predictors were busy musing over how long either club could sustain the effort for.

Allardyce got his team into the position as a result of the good form from Downing, Sakho and Enner Valencia along with the experience of the likes of Alex Song but it has proved unsustainable.

The last few months have gradually eroded any confidence and swagger that had been instilled in the team during the positive early winter months.

The Bad Half

The Chelsea game on Boxing Day was the beginning of a run of one win in 12 Premier League games for West Ham.

The African Cup of Nations injury fiasco that engulfed Sakho was perhaps symptomatic of the second of the season. In tight games, this current team do not have the quality to gain an upper hand.

They can be competitive – see draws with Swansea, Southampton and Man United as well as narrow defeats to Arsenal and Chelsea during this run, but overall that touch of class is missing.

In essence, they have become the atypical Allardyce outfit. Too predictable and only fleetingly capable of grinding out big-name scalp or taking care of the top flight’s weakest teams.

Three victories in 20 games have come at Upton Park against Hull City, Sunderland and Burnley. Two of them in one-goal games against teams that could easily form three of the bottom four in the final standings for this season.

Take a moment to consider that form – the three wins in 20 games were against poor, poor opposition. That is relegation form, let there be no masking this is a fact.

There have been no hidings during that time – a 3-0 defeat at the Emirates and a good going-over from Palace at Upton Park were the lowest points.

The goodwill of the early months has long since disappeared and if progress is going to be made next season then some fresh ideas are badly needed.

Just about any observer of Premier League football has been able to offer the opinion since around early March that West Ham had drifted into ‘summer holiday mode’.

Watching the performances, it is difficult to argue.

Maybe the dizzy heights of Christmas meant that hopes were a little too high for the second half of the season.

Maintaining a top four trajectory was of course asking a lot but if we are to get on a par with teams like Swansea and Southampton then there must be a summer sea-change at Upton Park. With the likes of Rafael Benitez linked to the West Ham job, the club are likely to act sooner rather than later.

Any more of the same and we will be dreading next Christmas like the turkeys.

Jan 192015
Sam Allardyce

Having come so far, does Sam Allardyce find himself under a different kind of pressure at West Ham United?

‘Big Sam’ should be accustomed to finding himself in the spotlight by now, with pretty much his entire tenure at Upton Park having seen him face some kind of questioning.

At the start, he had to win over those who doubted that he was the right fit for the job.

His experience was without question, after spending the best part of his career at a Premier League level, but was he right for West Ham?

Convincing those doubters has taken longer than he would have liked, with there a feeling among the natives that gritty, dogged football was ruining the East End ideology.

Allardyce asked for time, though, and his board – co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold – have been prepared to give it to him.

Admittedly, there are likely to have been occasions in which they found themselves asking uncomfortable questions, but who was the better alternative?

Better the devil you know and all that, with their patience finally being rewarded.

Transfer business last summer was far removed from a ‘lump it long to the big man’ approach, even with Andy Carroll on the books.

Guile was brought in to complement the graft and to help reignite the flame under those that had lost their way.

Stewart Downing would fall into that category, as would the injury-ravaged Carroll.

Both are now fully fit and performing to the peak of their powers, with England recognition coming the way of the former and expected to be on the cards for the latter.

Their fire has, however, been lit by those around them, as the likes of Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia, Alex Song, Aaron Cresswell and Carl Jenkinson have turned the Hammers into an outfit they have not been for some considerable time.

They are now serious European contenders, possibly even outsiders for a top-four finish.

A cup run would not go amiss either.

Capital One Cup success has eluded them, with League Cup betting placing Chelsea (5/6) at the head of that particular market, but the FA Cup remains a pursuable target after edging out Premier League rivals Everton in a third round replay.

This, though, is part of the problem for Allardyce – success is now expected rather than desired.

Expectation levels have risen alongside those of performances and West Ham fans are enjoying their rollercoaster existence once more.

The point where something tangible to cling to is demanded has not yet been reached, with this still a work in progress, but the bar has been raised from where it was as recently as last pre-season.

Allardyce will be aware of that fact and that his margin for error has started to narrow.

Before, he could get away with a wobble. That may no longer be the case.

If results start to dip now, thoughts will turn towards those who can offer a welcome pick-me-up and get the bandwagon back on track.

Allardyce will be hoping that the wheels do not come off any time soon, but he has ensured – through sheer determination and thick skin – that some bigger bolts will be required to keep him at the helm if the road starts to get bumpy.

Dec 052014
Sam Allardyce

As we near the beginning of the January transfer window, the Premier League betting markets are already heating up as clubs look to collect some New Year bargains. West Ham will likely be one of those looking to do some business in January, with boss Sam Allardyce hoping to build on an impressive first half of the season and further cement a place in the top ten if not higher.

While there is no doubt this West Ham squad are currently firing on all cylinders, Allardyce will be well aware a couple of new faces in January could be the difference in the Hammers’ hopes of securing a place in Europe next season.

Scott Sinclair

Scott Sinclair has become something of a forgotten man since his big-money move to Manchester City in 2012 and he is around 5/1 with some bookies to join West Ham in January. After finding first-team chances hard to come by during his first season at the Etihad, Sinclair spent an underwhelming campaign with West Brom on loan last year. But despite his recent struggles, Sinclair has shown he has all the abilities to become a top player and the Hammers could probably do with another pacy forward for the second half of the season.

Glen Johnson

While Carl Jenkinson has been solid enough this season, Allardyce will be looking ahead and will know the on-loan right-back will be returning to Arsenal at the end of the season. With that in mind, it’s perhaps unsurprising to see Liverpool’s Glen Johnson as short as 8/1 with some bookmakers to be on his way to East London in January. At 30 years of age, Johnson probably isn’t the youngest option available to Allardyce but the England international could be a very smart addition to the squad.

Danny Ings

Entering the final six months of his current contract with Burnley, Danny Ings has emerged as a West Ham target in recent weeks. With Allardyce rumoured to be in the market for a new forward, Ings would be available at a reported fee in the region of £3million and a signing who is well worth the risk. After a tough start to the season, Ings has really hit his stride over the past couple of months, scoring four goals to help lift Burnley off the foot of the table. While Burnley will be desperate to hang onto their main striker, a decent offer could be enough to convince them to sell.

Fabian Delph

Nearing the end of his contract at Aston Villa, Fabian Delph has emerged as one of the hottest properties in the Premier League. The midfielder has been a standout player this season, earning his first England cap after a sensational run of form for Villa. While injuries bothered Delph for much of his early career, the former Leeds United youngster has shown he has everything needed to be a top midfielder. With a number of clubs in the race to sign Delph, West Ham may have to pay more than they would want in order to capture the 25-year old but it could be a punt worth taking.

Nov 212014
Everton v West Ham

Everton boss Roberto Martinez is less than popular at the moment with Republic of Ireland Assistant Manager Roy Keane. The Manchester United legend has reportedly demanded talks between Martin O’Neill and the Everton supremo over the state of James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman’s fitness when it comes to internationals. With the two Everton first team regulars having both missed Republic of Ireland games recently (McCarthy withdrew at late notice from their defeat to Scotland last Friday) the question remains, will they be fit and firing against the Hammers next Saturday?

Tough Assignment
If Roy Keane’s intimation is to be believed then, unfortunately for Hammers fans, both men (along with Leighton Baines – who withdrew from England training – and Darren Gibson, who took a knock in the Republic’s defeat) will feature on Saturday. Big Sam’s men may be enjoying a purple patch at the moment but Everton are still valued at odds on for the win by the footballing experts at Blue Square. Without these stars Everton’s squad begin to look a little fragile but if they are available then it will be a tough assignment for the Irons.
Midfield Dominance
Roberto Martinez finds himself in a tough position, possessing a talented, if limited, squad and trying to compete on a number of fronts. The Toffees’ Europa League form has certainly hindered their early season progress and they have been stretched to the limit by injuries. With Gareth Barry already missing, the absence of McCarthy or Gibson would be tough for Martinez to cope with and could allow the Hammers to dominate in midfield on Saturday.
Fixture Pile-up
Given Everton’s fixture pile-up and their small squad it easy to see why Martinez may have encouraged one or two of his players to pull out of the international set-up if they had slight knocks – West Ham fans would surely hope that Big Sam would do the same.
Odds Justified
It is amazing what a few days off can do, however, and I would be surprised if Everton’s team on Saturday is much short of full-strength. That could be enough to incur Roy Keane’s wrath again, and would certainly not be welcomed by Allardyce, but it would justify the big odds on a West Ham win.