Stephen Warnock has doubts about whether West Ham can finish in the Premier League’s top-six this season and many West Ham fans will understand why.
The Sky Sports pundit after gushing about the Hammers following the 2-0 win over Manchester United, shared he wasn’t sure whether Manuel Pellegrini’s side would cope with losing a couple of players to injury.
“If you lose a couple of players, do they have the quality to come in? I’m not sure they do,” said Warnock on Football Centre (Sky Sports News, Monday, September 23rd).
While Warnock is clearly open-minded about whether the Hammers are top-six contenders this year, as he doesn’t exactly rule them out, his concerns are more than understandable.
Many West Ham fans have no doubt felt frustrated in recent times over the club’s perceived bad luck with injuries.
So far this season, the Hammers have already lost Michail Antonio to a hamstring injury with Claret & Hugh previously reporting that the club’s doctors hope he won’t be out for the previously predicted four months, while Football Insider recently reported that in-form playmaker Manuel Lanzini was set for three weeks on the sidelines.
In the 2018/19 campaign, Jack Wilshere, Winston Reid, Carlos Sanchez, Lanzini, Andryi Yarmolenko and Andy Carroll all were sidelined for huge chunks of the season due to injuries.
In fact, Marsh JLT Specialty’s Football Injury Index revealed that the Hammers were the club most affected by injury last season as their players sat out for a combined total of 2003 days.
While Pellegrini was still able to guide his side to a comfortable finish of 10th, injuries played their part and stopped him achieving more.
Lighting may not usually strike twice, but with several of the Hammers’ important players coming back off long-term injuries from last season, see Lanzini for more information, setbacks are to be expected.
The Hammers may have decent cover in certain positions, for example having Fabian Balbuena as the first-choice cover for Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna, as well as Pablo Zabaleta for Ryan Fredericks, is reassuring, some areas of the team would be undone if injury strikes.
For example, if Sebastien Haller got injured, could the Premier League unproven Albian Ajeti replicate the Frenchman’s goal-scoring numbers straight away or if Mark Noble got injured, could not only his ability be replaced but could his leadership skills go unmissed?
So with that in mind, and that injuries have caused issues before, then many Hammers fans will surely understand why Warnock isn’t willing to back the side for a top-six finish with only six games having been played.