West Ham and the ‘Pack’: The race to avoid the Christmas Curse!
November 30, 2010 1 Comment
This weekend, all Premier league games were tinted with a delicate skirting of snow around the pitches. The presence of snow throughout the UK is a reminder to all that, winter is here and christmas is just around the corner. This is the time of the year when clubs dwelling at the bottom of the table start to get itchy feet, the time when the race to avoid being bottom at Christmas starts.
In the Premier leagues 18 year history only one team has managed to avoid the drop after being bottom at Christmas (West Brom in 2005), this is why the trend has been dubbed as ‘the curse of christmas’.
So it was no surprise when West Ham manager Avram Grant referred to yesterday’s crunch match with Wigan, as the match to ‘Save Our Season’. With West Ham and Wigan joint favourites to be relegated the atmosphere around the game was a very much a ‘do or die’ feeling.
Fortunately for West Ham, they won the game quite comfortably, 3-1. Although still bottom the win kept them only 3 points behind Fulham in 17th and in touching distance of safety. More Importantly they managed to pull Wigan right back in to the scenario for bottom place, separating the two teams by just two points and two places.
At Upton Park there is one player blowing bubbles….Scott Parker. The ever inspiring vice captain was sensational on Saturday and he capped his fine performance with a well deserved goal. However looking around the rest of the squad there is real reason for concern. To me this season there appears to be a real lack of urgency and pride, traits that has been associated with West Ham teams of the past. Maybe due to a transfer policy that has involved buying to many ineffectual foreigners or maybe due to the up and coming players not being as good as home-grown talent of the past.
Watching the game on Saturday the Hammers surrendered possession far to easily and throughout the game had to watch Wigan keep the ball (West ham 41% possession, Wigan 59%). Characteristics which typify West Ham’s season thus far, and evidently could land them with bottom place at Christmas.
However a wins a win and could this be the start of the turn around? On loan star Victor Obinna star seems to think so. The Nigerian, clinical in the Italian league with Inter and Chievo has a spark about him and could have a similar effect on the Hammers, that Tevez did in 2007. With games against Sunderland, Man City and Blackburn before Christmas it’s a real mixed bag, however if they can manage to get themselves on to an Obinna inspired roll, the Hammers could shoot clear of bottom place.
Wigan have been so inconsistent this year and face the real threat of being bottom at Christmas…one game they get smashed by Blackpool another they beat Tottenham, you just don’t know what to expect, however in recent weeks Wigan have become consistent and they are consistently losing. Losing five of their last six games, I fear Wigan are in real trouble. Their main problem is their inability to defend, on the ball they look tidy but to many times this season they have conceded cheap goals, just as they did on Saturday when Piquionne was give a free header to predictably knockdown to Valon Behrami. Wigan have been far to lacklustre in defence and if they stand any chance of avoiding the bottom spot this Christmas they must tighten up.
And then there is Wolves in 19th sandwiched between West Ham and Wigan. How unlucky have Wolves been this year?
consistently conceding late goals in games against the likes of Man Utd, has meant that they haven’t been able to get their season up and running. However an impressive win against Sunderland at the weekend hopefully will be a kickstart to their season. With potentially the easiest set of fixtures up until christmas (Birmingham, Blackburn and West Brom) and an Ebanks-Blake who seems to have learnt how to score in the Premiership, I feel Wolves will avoid the curse.
Now there comes the teams who we all think shouldn’t be near the bottom of the table. European high flyers; Fulham Everton and Villa who are placed 17th, 16th and 15th respectively. They are all far to good to be near the bottom of the table but with only 5 points seperating Villa and West Ham could they all be in serious danger of being bottom at Christmas? I personally thin they all possess to much quality to be in the bottom half of the table let alone the bottom three but I have seen stranger things happen in Football, weren’t Newcastle to good to go down?
Finally there’s the new boys; Newcastle, Blackpool and West Brom. Unusually for the promoted teams all three are absolutely flying. However, with defeat there is always that lingering thought of has the bubble burst. I particularly get this feeling with Blackpool, week in week out they are playing exciting yet surprising football and seem to be getting results. Holloway has done wonders at Blackpool (read Alex’s views on Holloway) however I have a sneaky suspicion that they won’t be able to sustain the form throughout the whole season. Maybe Christmas is too soon but after christmas the wheels could come off the tracks, remember Hull two years ago? Newly promoted, awesome start to the season (beating Arsenal along the way) but then there was the second half of the season, where they won just one game after christmas, luckily they survived by a single point!…Blackpool may avoid the Christmas curse but will they avoid relegation?
So who will be bottom at Christmas? Favourites West Ham or Wigan or a rank outsider such as Villa or Everton? Time will only tell but have your say by voting now!