After a turbulent season, West Ham was hovering precariously above the relegation zone, but after a crucial victory over Swansea in East London last Saturday, they are now 8 points clear of them in 17th place, and looking all but safe. While 8 points may seem like a large enough gulf for Slaven Billic to steer the Hammers through to safety, he will have to negotiate a very difficult run of fixtures through April and May. Key to a positive end to the season will be getting every last drop out of Andy Carroll, who has scored 7 goals in 13 starts.
The West Ham management lost no time in crowning Andy Carroll as Dmitri Payet’s successor after the latter’s acrimonious and unpleasant January exit. Indeed, within a day of his leaving, a mural depicting the want-away Frenchman was quickly purged and replaced with a picture of Carroll’s’ magnificent bicycle kick against Crystal Palace earlier in the season; the focus was firmly switched to Carroll. The hope was that he would step into Payet’s boots, bring the goals needed to secure their place in the Premier League next season, and become a club talisman.
While Slaven Bilic’s problems go back far before January, we can see a clear declining pattern of form since the end of the transfer window. In the 9 games between Payet leaving the club and their win against Swansea, they managed only 5 points, including a savage run of 5 straight defeats. After their loss to Hull City, serious questions were being asked about whether West Ham were heading into a relegation tail spin. Through all this, Carroll was the shining light, scoring an average of a goal every two games when he started. It was his goal that saw them go into half time in the lead against Hull, before capitulating in the last 10 minutes. It should be an encouraging fact that the squad was able to take 3 points against Swansea with no contribution from Carroll, who was benched.
The win against Swansea may very well be what keeps the Hammers up, but Billlic will now be looking to the upcoming fixtures with some trepidation: Sunderland will be playing desperately for survival, Everton are in very capable form and looking to sew up their Europa spot. The threat posed by Tottenham and Liverpool is self evident, and the last game of the season is away to Burnley, who have an outrageous home record. There is a very narrow window of games left in which to pick up points, and results against Stoke and Sunderland will be essential. This is where a quick return from injury and to goal scoring form from Carroll could make a big difference.
Ultimately, mathematical safety will depend on the performances of Hull, Middlesbrough and Swansea. It looks pretty unlikely that either Swansea or Boro will be able to overturn the 8/9 point deficit needed to see them rise above and push West Ham into the relegation zone. Swansea would need to turn around a dire run of form that has seen them take only 1 point in 5 games, and Boro simply don’t score enough goals. Bournemouth and Crystal Palace also provide a buffer.
Betting on West Ham
Current Premier League betting markets have very long odds (33/1) for a West Ham relegation, which is comforting for Hammers fans.
Calum Stephens – Writer, journalist, amateur gambler and long suffering Charlton supporter with a background in Politics and academic research. Specialising in European and English football league analysis and predictions.