As the Premier League enters its final phase of a compact season the race for the Champions League places begins to ramp up. Realistically seven teams are in the hunt and Aston Villa can add themselves to that mix if they win their two games in hand.
West Ham Utd have confounded the critics all season to keep themselves firmly in the hunt for those European places and defeating Spurs at the weekend in the London Stadium has only added to their claim to dine at Europe’s top table.
After spending most of last season just trying to keep their top flight status, this season has been the complete opposite as David Moyes’ squad have battled hard for twenty five games to keep themselves in contention.
That’s not to say the season has been plain sailing for the Hammers, there have been games where sides have picked them apart, notably Liverpool at the end of January whilst Chelsea and Manchester Utd did the same last year. This Hammers side though does have evidence of being far more resilient though than that of previous years and their current position is testament to that.
Playing four at the back which at times at the weekend looked more like a three with Aaron Cresswell spending more time as a wing back than full back is a constant for their system that works, and throughout the side you won’t find superstar names, but a team ethic that carries them through games and wins points.
They don’t rely on one player to score goals, while Tomas Soucek leads the way with eight from midfield, Michail Antonio has chipped in with seven. The one Hammer that sticks out of course is Jesse Lingard, seemingly enjoying a career renaissance in East London, three goals in just five outings suggests the player is once again enjoying his football.
If Lingard can keep up the early form he’s shown he could be the difference between a top four spot and falling away over the final twelve games, while others dithered over taking the England international on loan, credit must go to the Hammers for adding an extra spark into what so far is an impressive season.
They also have the balance of finding the net regularly but not at the expense of conceding a mountain of goals, the safe pair of hands in the shape of Lucas Fabianski contributes as much as the four in front of him.
West Ham are expansive, playing with two wide players who like to run at full backs and deliver balls into the box which trouble defenders and keepers alike. In Antonio they have a player who is equally at home out muscling the centre halves or pulling defenders out wide to use his strength and power to drift towards goal, Pablo Fornals can be effective through the middle or cutting in from the flanks.
In a season where the unexpected has been a regular occurrence throughout, Hammers fans will be hoping that this is the start of a new era where the Hammers are permanently at the top end of the table and not scraping to survive, summer investment this year could be very crucial indeed for shaping the next few years for this East London club.
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