Too Good to Go Down?

Being a West Ham fan is similar to the weather pattern on the Shetlands, generally grey and gloomy, often stormy but there are the occasional bursts of sunshine breaking through.

For the last two seasons we’ve had bursts of sunshine and it's been a joy to be a West Ham fan. It's been back to back seasons of challenging for European spots for the boys in claret and blue so at the start of the 2022/23 season, we were expecting more of the same.

Sadly the grey clouds have started to gather and with only five wins and 12 defeats in 20 games played, we are finding ourselves smack bang in the middle of a relegation fight.

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Every weekend, after every loss, on MotD the pundits agree, West Ham will have enough in their locker. Moyes will get it right, they'll get back on track, surely they're too good to go down?

Too good to go down? these are four words that induce nightmarish flashbacks. If history has taught us anything, it's that no West Ham team is too good to go down.

The Premier League was formed over 30 years ago and is halfway through its 31st season. The Hammers have been a stalwart of the league, spending 25 seasons in the top flight.

As a Premier League club the Hammers have only been relegated twice, once under the stewardship of Avram Grant and the other under Glenn Roeder.

Under Avram, in season 2010/11 the Hammers finished rock bottom of the league, seven points from safety and only able to amass seven wins in a 38-game season. The team finished with a -27 goal difference and only a 18.42 win percentage. Demba Ba was the Hammers' top scorer in the league with only seven goals.

As a fan, that relegation was no major surprise. The team was clearly not too good to go down. It had performed badly in the 2009/10 season and only just managed to stay up, finishing 17th in the league.

The non-inspirational hire of Avram Grant into the manager's job didn’t help and with a lack of investment in the playing staff the side were doomed to relegation. Avram lost his job after the relegation and many hold him responsible for the relegation.

Equally many looked to the board of directors for the lack of backing and the poor appointment of Grant. A theme that is still prevalent across the Hammers fanbase and is likely to continue.

Under Roeder, it was a different story. In season 2001/02, Roeder the rookie manager - who took over after the sacking of Redknapp - led the Hammers to 7th. This was a huge surprise to the majority of West Ham fans as Roeder's appointment was not universally welcomed.

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At the start of the 2002/03 season West Ham looked in good shape, a top seven finish the season before, a team full of quality young British talent and experienced international stars. The fans were looking for the team to kick on and had visions of another top 10 finish and maybe silverware.

How wrong they were. The Hammers made an awful start to the season with only three wins in 24 games and were rooted at the bottom of the league at Christmas, although a few senior players were brought in as part of the January window.

The manager was bereft of ideas and on the pitch there seemed to be a lack of togetherness. Names including Paolo Di Canio, Freddie Kanoute, Joe Cole, Jermain Defoe, Michael Carrick, Glenn Johnson, Lee Bowyer, Les Ferdinand and David James failed to deliver.

There was a slight revival at the end of the season when Brooking took charge of the team after Roeder collapsed due to ill health. Sadly this wasn’t enough to save them and the Hammers were relegated.

They finished 18th on 42 points (the highest points tally accrued by a relegated team in the Premiership/Premier League era), 10 games won from 38 played with a win percentage of 26.32.

This was a team that should never have been relegated and it was disastrous for the club with an exodus of young academy talent and experienced international players. Many of these players including Cole, Johnson and Carrick went on to enjoy huge success winning PL titles and European success.

As fans we lost a team that had so much potential, the likes of which I have not seen since. Not forgetting the infamous Carrick deal when he was given away to that mob from north London for a paltry £3.5m.

Fast forward to 2023/23 and the Hammers are sitting precariously just above the relegation spots, a team that has had two finishes in the European places in the preceding seasons and a squad fully littered with international stars. Is this Hammers team too good to go down?

Goalkeepers are covered, Fabianski has had a decent season and Areola has been pushing him all the way with his performances in Europe and Cup games. Many say he has been unlucky not to take the number one jersey.

Defensively we have been struggling with injuries being one of the biggest curses. With Nayef Aguerd, Kurt Zouma and Angelo Ogbonna all having lengthy spells on the treatment table, stability and the heart of the backline has been lacking. Pace has also been an issue, with our first choice full backs being bereft of it and relying on defensive guile.

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Even though defensively we have not been great when you look at the goal stats for this and the last two seasons, it's the lack of goals that seems to be the problem:

2020/21: GF 62 GA 47 GD 15
2021/22: GF 60 GA 51 GD 9
2022/23: GF 17 GA 25 GD -8

Goals and the lack of creativity from the midfield seems to be the biggest problem. Our main strikers, Gianluca Scamacca and Michail Antonio only have five Premier League goals between them. More goals have come from the wide men with seven between Bowen and Said Benrahma, but it’s still a poor tally and something that needs to be improved.

The club have brought in Danny Ings to add some more firepower to the frontline but with Scamacca injured and Antonio seemingly wanting away, the failure to add to the striking options could be costly.

So are West Ham too good to go down? The answer is no.

Yes we have Rice, Bowen, Paquetta, Scamacca and Soucek - all international players that could be playing for UCL clubs - but unless Moyes can find the right combination for the attacking area and we start scoring goals again, we could be in real trouble.

But do I think we will go down? No.

Aguerd looks a class act at the back, Oggy is getting back to his best and if we can get Zouma back and fit we have a quality back three. Things are looking up in the attacking area, Paqueta, Rice and Benni seem to be building an understanding and Bowen and Antonio are beginning to look sharp again. We also have Ings and Scamacca to come back from injury which should give us enough in our arsenal.

If this squad does go down it will be as disastrous as the 2002/03 season. So fingers crossed history doesn’t repeat itself.

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