West Ham United

A realistic target for West Ham?

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Seven weeks ago West Ham were languishing in the bottom half of the table but it was still thought that they could defy odds of 7/5 to finish in the top 10. The Hammers have since put together an impressive set of results to leave them nestled in the top half of the table, and the odds have shrunk to just 8/11. Sportsbooks like Bookmaker have responded to West Ham’s impressive upturn in form and the odds keep getting shorter on them. But if you did not take up those attractive odds of 7/5, it might still be worth backing them at the shorter price of 8/11 now.

The Hammers’ run-in does not look too bad. There are some tough games left to negotiate, but everyone has a difficult fixture list and West Ham’s rivals have also been faltering. West Brom have been superb this season under Tony Pulis and look to have pulled away. If you assume they will hold onto eighth, the highest the Hammers can finish is ninth as Everton are on a roll in seventh and the top six are streets ahead. Bournemouth are in freefall to some extent despite winning at the weekend, so there are only really five teams competing for those final two spots in the top half of the table: West Ham, Stoke, Burnley, Watford and Southampton.

Burnley have been sensational at Turf Moor this season but dreadful on the road. That should ultimately cost them. Simply staying up is an achievement for Burnley this season, and anything else is a bonus, so West Ham really should feel confident of finishing above them. Ditto Watford, an inconsistent team that have done well to put some distance between them and the relegation zone.

The two that West Ham really have to watch out for are Southampton and Stoke – teams of a similar ability to the Hammers. The Saints were unlucky to lose to Man Utd in the EFL Cup Final and can now throw all their attention into climbing the league table. They have finished sixth, seventh and eighth in the last three seasons, so they will be disappointed not to at least make the top nine this time around and they have lots of dangerous players, although there are serious question marks over their defence after they sold Rui Fonte to West Ham. That transfer alone could tip things in the Hammers’ favour this season.

Stoke are a really unpredictable team. They have finished ninth for the last three seasons in a row, however, and will be determined to retain their spot. They have a lot of good players, but are hardly setting the world alight, and in recent weeks West Ham have been better than Stoke and Southampton. A lot rests on Andy Carroll’s shoulders: with him in the team West Ham look like they can win any game, so his fitness will be crucial to their push up the table. But there are now goals all over this West Ham team and there is a real sense of belief at the moment, so a top half finish is a distinct probability now.

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