I don’t think anyone expected this team to be sitting in 4th place 11 games into the season. The pre-season looked bleak and when Andy Carroll went down, again, many hammers were terrified. I remember one specific conversation in which a fellow fan told me that neither Valencia nor Sakho were true strikers and that Big Sam wouldn’t change anything. I disagreed vehemently on the first point but hated to admit that I agreed on the second.
Eleven games later and I imagine both myself and many other fans are thrilled with the state of affairs. I haven’t heard many calls for Big Sam’s head, which was a chorus I had even joined at some points in the lead up to the season. Now, in the midst of an international break, I feel it is a good time to reflect on where we have been and, just as importantly, wonder where we are going.
The first thing I would say is what everybody already knows both Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho have been brilliant. Particularly Sakho, who is quickly becoming the sort of player for whom it is more of a shock when he doesn’t score than when he does. What has been even more amazing to me though is that the changes in the both the formation and the side have lead to a situation I never would have expected; we do not miss Ravel Morrison.
The reasons for this are both obvious and multiple. Alex Song has been an amazing pick up for West Ham and we can only hope that making it permanent is possible. Additionally, Stuart Downing has flourished in a new role to such an extent that he is now being called up by England, a goal that is part of what brought him to us to begin with.
What does this mean for the future? Can a team that hasn’t lost since September keep it going? We have 8 games before New Year, and that will bring us to the halfway point of the season. Of those games two of them are dangerous – we have Chelsea and Arsenal to close out the year. Chelsea looks unstoppable and Arsenal is, well, Arsenal. Who knows which Arsenal team will show up that day?
The other 6 games are games that a team in our position should expect to take at least a point from and we should win more than a couple of them. I believe that a haul of 15 points from those 8 games is well within reach and that doing so will keep us well in the hunt for Europe or even a coveted 4th place finish.
If I had to guess I would admit that my belief is that we are more of a 5th or 6th place team right now, but all that means is a couple of breaks need to go our way to keep us in the top 4. Andy Carroll coming back at full strength is just one of the many things that could make that a real possibility.
So what do you think? Is this our year? Are we heading for Europe? Or will West Ham fall back to earth?