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Is December Make or Break for Hammers?


West Ham have a magnificent opportunity to surge up the Premier League table during December as they embark on a run of winnable fixtures. The Hammers currently find themselves marooned in 13th place, just four points above the relegation zone, after a disappointing draw at Huddersfield last timeout. Next up they host unbeaten Man City and you can pretty much write that one off. But then they should head into a busy festive period full of confidence as they prepare to lock horns with seven teams that look ripe for the taking.

In the space of just 30 days, Manuel Pellegrini’s men will take on Newcastle, Cardiff, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Watford, Southampton and Burnley. Out of that septet, only Watford are in the top half of the table and the Hornets do not look particularly fearsome on paper. Fulham are rock bottom of the table and Cardiff are also in the relegation zone after suffering eight defeats in 12 games. Southampton and Palace are both level on points with Cardiff, with only goal difference keeping them out of the drop zone. The Saints have only won once all season, while the Eagles have already lost eight times. Newcastle and Burnley are also below West Ham in the table after both teams suffered shaky starts, with each side losing seven out of 12 so far.

If West Ham harbour genuine aspirations of finishing in the top half of the table, these are the sort of teams they really should be beating. A glance at the Sporting Index long-term lines suggests that the Hammers will finish 12th in the table, ahead of Palace, Southampton, Newcastle, Burnley, Fulham and Cardiff, but below Watford. You can buy at 45 points on West Ham, and 52 points on the Hornets, and if you are unsure about the basics of spread betting you can find out all the intricacies of it in this excellent article: https://www.sportingindex.com/o/learn/training-centre/sports-spread-betting-the-basics.

West Ham are an established Premier League club and they really should be performing better than they have done so far. They invested a huge amount of money in the summer to bolster the squad, and they hired a former title winner in Pellegrini to steer the project. On paper, they look vastly superior to Watford, but football never quite works out like that. The Hornets are big, strong, disciplined, well organised and dangerous on the counterattack. That looks like West Ham’s hardest game in December, but they could send out a real statement of intent by taking all three points.

On 2 January, West Ham face Brighton, another team below them in the table, so they really have eight winnable games in a row before Arsenal show up on January 12. It is unrealistic to expect them to take 24 points from that run, but they really should secure a strong haul. Pellegrini can take solace from their performance against Burnley on November 3, when Felipe Anderson inspired them to a 4-2 victory. The Brazilian dazzled with his brilliance that afternoon, scoring twice, hitting the woodwork and generally leading Sean Dyche’s men a merry dance. He was on target once more against Huddersfield last time out, and he seems to have adapted nicely to the rigours of the Premier League.

West Ham are now blessed with an embarrassment of attacking riches. Marko Arnautovic looks like a world-beater, while they have the lethal finishing of Javier Hernandez to call upon, with further options in the form of Michail Antonio and Lucas Perez. The days of struggling in the absence of Andy Carroll are long gone. Fans may fear that Jack Wilshere, signed on a free transfer from Arsenal in the summer, will turn out to be another sick note, but he may well enjoy a decent run in the team when he returns from his latest setback.

Where the Hammers struggle is in midfield and at the back, as they have always conceded far too many goals over the past few years and they are often overrun in the middle of the park. The emergence of Declan Rice is a real positive, and fans will hope he continues on an upward curve. Issa Diop looks like a good signing at the back, but the full-backs rarely look convincing and defensive reinforcements in January would be very welcome – particularly a new right back. While Lukas Fabianski has certainly shown the form the Irons boss wanted from him since signing him from, Swansea City as he has made a number of world-class saves to keep West Ham in games and preserve points when perhaps his team-mates did not deliver the same kind of result. 

Yet before thinking about that, Pellegrini needs to steer his team through an exceptionally busy run of fixtures. After the Man City game, they travel to St James’s Park, and that looks tricky as Newcastle have secured strong victories over high-flying Watford and Bournemouth in their last two games. A point there would be a decent result, but then West Ham really have to beat Cardiff at home.

Next up they host Palace, who have been abysmal this season, and they should win that London derby too. A trip to Fulham follows, and the Cottagers should be galvanised by the arrival of new manager Claudio Ranieri. However, they have the worst defensive record in the league this season and the likes of Arnautovic and Anderson can rip them apart.

West Ham are then at home to Watford, which should help, before a trip to struggling Southampton. Mark Hughes may well be out of a job by then if he cannot improve their fortunes, as the Saints look to be in real danger of relegation. Burnley is never an easy place to visit, but West Ham can take confidence from that 4-2 victory last time out. Then they host a stubborn Brighton side, and they have the quality going forwards to pick up another win against The Seagulls, so they could be well established in the top half of the table by the time Arsenal visit in mid-January.