By Tommy Langton
West Ham’s defeat at the weekend means they have taken just two points from their last six games and they are now second from bottom in the table.
But the nature of that defeat, a 2-1 reverse against table topping Man City, should give fans plenty of encouragement as we head into the festive period. This is a team that beat Liverpool 5-0, Stoke 7-2, Watford 6-0 and Crystal Palace 5-0.
They are on a 13-game winning streak in the Premier League and are still unbeaten this season. In Europe they have twice beaten Serie A leaders Napoli and they had a harder time in beating West Ham. The Hammers gave City one of their toughest games of the season and you would hope that will inspire them to turn their form around.
The fixture list does not get any kinder with Chelsea on the way. The two teams’ form is diametrically opposed as the Blues have won five of their last six games and are starting to look like the most serious threat to Man City’s chances of winning the title. Eden Hazard is back to his devastating best,
N’Golo Kante is bossing the midfield and they are on a roll. But this is a strange time of year as the games come in thick and fast, players grow tired and unexpected results become more commonplace.
Check the odds at well-reviewed sites like BetOnline and you will see that the Hammers are not given much chance of toppling Chelsea. West Ham are around the 6/1 mark and some bookmakers are going as long as 13/2 on them winning this one, while the best price you can get on Antonio Conte’s men is 11/20.
West Ham have conceded more goals than any other club this season and that is the sort of statistic to have Hazard and Alvaro Morata licking their lips in anticipation of the game. But the Hammers came oh so close to becoming just the second team to take points off City this season and they should take confidence from that performance.
Chelsea are not averse to losing against teams that expected to obliterate either. They have already lost to Burnley and bottom club Crystal Palace this season, and the Hammers could spring a surprise.
But if David Moyes cannot claim his first win as West Ham boss at the weekend, the next game does not look much friendlier as Arsenal head to east London.
The Gunners are inconsistent and not great on the road, but they are still fifth in the table and have the ability to destroy teams with their attacking, free-flowing football. Once again the Hammers are huge outsiders to win the game, while Arsene Wenger’s men are the odds-on favourites.
The Irons could well be bottom of the table and well adrift of 17th place by mid-December, but then the fixture list thankfully lets up a bit.
West Ham go into crucial games against Stoke, Newcastle, Bournemouth and West Brom over the festive period and all four are winnable. That run of games could define West Ham’s season. They are now second favourites to be relegated, odds-on with most bookmakers, and only Swansea have lower odds.
The third favourites for the drop, Huddersfield, have a decent cushion above the drop zone, while bottom club Palace are in better form and are now out at 15/8 to go down. Moyes finished bottom of the league with Sunderland last season and bookies feel he cannot save the Hammers.
The club must seriously consider investing in some new defenders in January as they are leaking far too many goals and could be in deep trouble if Moyes does not get plenty of points on the board before the New Year.