Opposition Q & A

After that hiccup against Watford, West Ham picked up their winning form with that exception display against Southampton. This weekend West Ham will attempt to extend our record haul of points in a month when we travel to Burnley for our last game in December. Ahead of the game I once chatted with hardcore Burnley fan Tony Scoles, editor of Uptheclarets to discuss his thoughts since we last played them at the London Stadium less than two months ago when we beat them 4 – 2.
Hi Tony, Merry Christmas. It’s only 8 weeks since we last met up. At the time we were pretty close to each other in the table, yet West Ham have managed to put a decent run together since then. What are your thoughts on Burnley’s performance at this halfway stage of the season?
Firstly, I hope you have had a good Christmas. Yours was certainly better than ours football wise and your performance last night at Southampton was something of a concern to us. We don’t want you to be playing quite as well as that. It’s difficult to believe that we are twenty points short of last season at this stage. I know we seriously overachieved in 2017/18 and I don’t think anyone could have expected a repeat of that. But I don’t think any of us expected this either and the one big difference from last year is the number of goals we are conceding. We’ve actually scored more goals than we had at the half way stage last season, only one but that’s more, but the figure in the goals against column is nearly three times higher. Suddenly, where we were hard to beat, teams aren’t having to work very hard to score against us.

Do you retain confidence that Burnley will be able to haul themselves back out of the relegation zone?
When you are in the bottom three at this time of the season there has to be a major threat that you can go down. Having said that, you also need to have the confidence that you can recover the situation. Prior to Boxing Day, we’d just turned in good performances at Spurs and Arsenal but came home with nothing. Then we had that Boxing Day disaster against Everton and it feels like we are back to square one.

The FA Cup is upon us next week. Would you trade your Premier League spot for an FA Cup win? Are you hoping that Sean Dyche will field a full strength team, or do you want him to rest players during this intense part of the season?
Sean Dyche usually tells us there will be changes for a cup game but he’ll be selecting a team strong enough to win. We then, usually, lose, and we’ve gone out of cup competitions in the Dyche era to far too many lesser teams. Last season we were sent to the Etihad to play Man City but a year earlier we were beaten by then non-league Lincoln. There doesn’t appear to be much interest in the FA Cup now from Burnley fans. I think we would have to reach the sixth round at least for there to be much enthusiasm for it.

Any change to your prediction of Man City ending up the champions this season? What are your predictions for the top four places?
It’s amazing but just a few short weeks ago I couldn’t see anyone else winning it, and now they are down in third with both Liverpool and Spurs above them. They are seven points behind Liverpool and play them next week. A Liverpool win would take them to a point where it would be difficult to catch them. City are a hell of a good side, still the best for me, so I’ll stick with them for now at least. Those three will surely be the top three and I’d add Chelsea I think for the fourth place. Manchester United will push now they’ve finally got rid of the horrible Jose Mourinho but I suspect they are too far behind.

Who are going to be the teams ultimately relegated?
Two of the current bottom three, hopefully, and by that I mean Fulham and Huddersfield. Hopefully they will go with either Cardiff our Southampton.

I won’t ask you which of our players you would like to see turning out for you, but are there any areas that you think need urgently improving during the transfer window?
The answer on current form might be all eleven but I think we need a strong, mobile midfield player in our side and we need a quality striker although the latter is probably out of reach for us. What really needs improving though is our ability to defend against teams.

How will Burnley line up this weekend against West Ham? Team/formation?
This used to be the easiest of questions to answer, it was usually a case of same again, but that’s no longer how it is. Injuries to key players have forced us to change and we’ve employed a back five in the last three games. All I can say with any certainty is that those two key players Steven Defour and Robbie Brady will again be missing as will right-back Matt Lowton. He was recalled on Boxing Day but got his fifth yellow card and will now be suspended.

Are you going to be able to reverse your recent run of results this Sunday? Predictions for the score?
It has to be a definite yes to that question because we have to start getting results. A clean sheet would also help. I’d like to say 6-0 but I’d settle for a 1-0 or 2-0 win. And I hope you will be supporting the team playing in claret and blue.

Many thanks to Tony once again for giving up his time this Christmas. I have to say that I cannot agree with his prediction for the result though. We are playing with with a great deal of flair and, notwithstanding the Watford result, efficiency at the moment, and I cannot see Burnley troubling us too much. Let’s finish 2018 with a flourish: 0 – 4 West Ham. Happy New Year to you all. COYI

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