The GoatyGav Column
Realistically there seems to be four leagues in the EPL at present. There’s the top 2 sides battling for the title. Then there’s the next four battling for the remaining two Champion’s League places. The next seven seem to be the ones chasing seventh place and the outside chance of Europa League qualification. Then the bottom seven are all struggling to avoid relegation.
In the third tier, mini-league, there is a very interesting mix. The likes of Brighton and Watford have been extremely successful at establishing themselves in the Premier League. All credit to Chris Houghton who, for my money, has done an excellent job in all of his managerial appointments to date. When at Newcastle Mike Ashley made an error in judgement when he replaced Houghton with Alan Pardew. Houghton had steadied the ship, got them promoted by winning the Championship and had Newcastle well on their way to safety, but was always viewed as an interim option. Brighton, to their credit, have made no such mistake. Whilst not the prettiest of football but, at the same time, certainly not the worst Houghton has his side extremely well organised and more than capable of handling the physical side of the game. Both of the teams mentioned in this paragraph, as well as providing a tough test in terms of physicality, are well versed in the ‘dark arts’ or are, ‘streetwise’ if you prefer. As the squad at West Ham continues to improve it’s my hope that they start to compete with these teams by getting on the front foot more, and are dictated to less, and pick up more points against the ‘battlers’ of the Premier League.
So are West Ham back to the bad old days of having a ‘soft underbelly’? Are opposition managers thinking that old Dad’s Army phrase “They don’t like it up ‘em?” Two thing there for me. Firstly the game has moved on since the turn of the century. Gradually the more successful sides are those who get the ball down and play. Secondly I think that we do have some players who can put themselves about. Admittedly one of them, who plays up front, may well be moving on. On that subject should we be looking to replace him with a striker who has a physical presence? In the summer another ‘beast’ of a player, who got up and down, was moved on to Crystal Palace.
Overall performances like that at Southampton are what’s required to overcome the Brightons and Watfords. It was a high tempo, quick closing, hard working performance which allowed the boys to play their stuff. The old expression “Earning Your Right To Play,” could have been written for our fixture at St Mary’s. Interestingly the energy levels at Southampton were of a very high level. In the subsequent fixture that game’s high tempo seemed to take it’s toll at Turf Moor where we, disappointingly, went down 2-0 to Sean Dyche’s Burnley. Now that the congested Christmas period is over are we going to be witnessing more of the Southampton performances and less of the Burnley’s? Wolves will be a great test of that.
Lastly I’d like to express how much I want to see a good cup run this year. It’s our only realistic chance of some silverware and I want to see us go all out to try and get to the latter stages. A couple more wins and we’re within touching distance of a final. How good would a day out at Wembley be? So I hope to see a strong side put out at Wimbledon on Saturday night.
COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!