With only nine points gained from our opening nine fixtures and sitting just one point off the drop zone, the start to this campaign has come as a bit of a disappointment to Hammers, especially considering the excellent top half finish achieved last season. Indeed, after nine games last year, we had 14 points. Nevertheless, I think there are some reasons to be positive about West Ham at the moment:
1. Our defensive record. Despite the fact we have been struggling to score goals this season, our defence has been superb. Jussi Jaaskelainen, Winston Reid, James Tomkins and James Collins in particular have if anything improved from last time out, and new signing Razvan Rat has been an excellent addition to our back line. We have only conceded eight goals in the opening nine games, an average of less than one a game. This has included five clean sheets. Away from home which was our ‘Achilles heel’ from last season, we have only conceded one goal from five games and that was a soft penalty. With this kind of record, we only need to start finding the back of the net just once a game to start winning matches.
2. The return of Andy Carroll. According to reports, our record signing should be back from injury at some point in November. Obviously it is going to take some time for the big Geordie marksman to get back to match fitness and sharpness, but to have him back playing regularly for the packed month of December would be a massive boost for us. Despite him not scoring a huge amount of goals last season, statistically our results were much better with him in the side than out of it, and I don’t think that was a coincidence. While we earnt 32 points from his 24 appearances, we only got 14 points from the other 14 games of the campaign. With him as a lone marksman, we could finally properly utilise our wingers Stewart Downing and Matt Jarvis to supply crosses for someone who can actually make the most of them.
3. The emergence of Ravel Morrison. Since the arrival of the former Manchester United starlet in January 2012, there have been doubts whether Morrison would ever be able to fulfil his potential, and really deliver for us. Reports of off field problems made many wonder if he had the temperament to succeed at this level, especially given his history. However after returning from a successful loan spell at Birmingham City at the end of last season, he has forced his way into our first team this campaign and is looking a really good creative and skilful player. This has included a stunning solo goal at White Hart Lane against Spurs. While no means the finished article yet, he looks almost certain to become a special player.
4. 2nd season syndrome. It is not unusual for a side in their second season back in the Premier League to have a poorer year than in the first one. Other teams have probably taken more notice of the way we play and have therefore been better prepared for us. Plus as we have sought to mould our squad into one of real Premier League quality, there have been more changes to the playing staff which means our team have needed a bit more time to gel. Sides therefore have often had a poorer second season, but it is often part of the development into an established Premier League team. You just need to survive that season! You can add into the equation that our injury record has been bad as per usual, and important players haven’t been consistently fit or even fit at all in the case of Carroll. I’m hoping that once we have our strongest side playing together for a while, things will really improve.
5. The futures bright. Despite our poor start to this season, I think overall it is a good time to be a Hammers fan, especially considering our turbulent recent history. The owners David Gold and David Sullivan seem to be stabilising the club financially and if the promised riches from moving to the Olympic Stadium in three years time materialise, the club will be in a great position to develop. At the moment the priority has to be to stay in the Premier League and in Sam Allardyce I think we have a manager who will ensure that.
Therefore there are plenty of reasons for West Ham fans to remain positive. And as I write this we have just progressed to the Quarter Finals of the Capital One Cup, which is another thing to cheer!