By Colin Teague
After losing 2-0 at home to Newcastle on the opening game of the 2020/21 Premier League season, the majority of West Ham fans were concerned this was going to be a long and hard campaign.
Victory over Sheffield United, however, ensured the Hammers moved up to eighth in the table and are just two points outside the top six.
Here is a look at what may have been key to West Ham turning around their fortunes in the early stages of the season.
The Hammers have conceded just three goals in their last four Premier League games. They have recorded a clean sheet against Fulham and Sheffield United in that period. This toughness is probably what West Ham boss David Moyes has been most pleased about in their excellent run of results.
Moyes deserves huge credit for how strong the Hammers have been at the back. He has set the team up to be very organised and seems to have put the responsibility on the whole team to defend together.
Every player from 1-11 are working hard to record a clean sheet, which has taken pressure off the back four. If they continue to defend like they are doing, West Ham may be set for one of the best finishes for a number of years.
They are 16/1 with football betting sites like Space Casino to top the standings without the big six. This is something that is not out of their reach on the evidence of recent performances.
Like every transfer window over the last couple of years, Declan Rice was linked with a move away from West Ham during the summer. Fortunately, he remained with the Hammers and that is as good as any signing coming into the club.
Rice is developing into an exceptional midfielder for West Ham and England. His performances over the last few games have been of the highest level. If he remains in East London with the Hammers, he looks certain to go down as one of the club’s all-time greats.
Not many teams in the Premier League have a player like Rice in their team. Not only does he offer some protection to the defensive line, he is often the start of their attacking play. At the time of writing, Rice has played every minute of West Ham’s Premier League campaign. Hopefully, that continues beyond January.
Tough Fixtures Helped West Ham
Many pundits looked at West Ham’s tough opening schedule to the Premier League this season and concluded they would struggle to pick up many points. In some respect, facing many of the big clubs early in the campaign has helped the Hammers.
A lot of West Ham’s best performances over the last 12 months have come against the top teams in the league. They often raise their game when it is needed. Playing a lot of the big guns early may also have been a good time as some of these teams have struggled to get going. They are sure to get better as the season progresses.
With an easier schedule over the next couple of months, the Hammers can hopefully continue to pick up points and remain in the top half of the table heading into 2021.