After suffering back-to-back Premier League defeats, the Hammers fans didn’t have an awful lot to shout about over the festive period.
West Ham kicked off their Christmas fixtures with a tough trip to table-toppers Chelsea on Boxing Day. Sam Allardyce’s side travelled to Stamford Bridge full of optimism, but they also knew just how difficult a task that stood in front of them. The Hammers boss rested a couple of his big guns in Diafra Sakho and Alex Song, and subsequently ended up on the wrong side of a 2-0 scoreline. West Ham were second best for the majority of the game, and goals either side of half time from John Terry and Diego Costa was enough to give the Blues the points.
But West Ham’s clash with Arsenal two days later was a completely different game. Allardyce recalled Sakho and Song back to the starting line-up for the visit of Arsene Wenger’s side. The Gunners ended up winning the game 2-1, but it could have so easily been a completely different outcome. Ex-Arsenal midfielder Song had a superb 20-yard volley controversially disallowed for offside after just five minutes – then a debatable Santi Cazorla penalty and a Danny Welbeck strike put Arsenal surprisingly 2-0 up the break. Big Sam’s side rallied and pulled one back through Cheikhou Kouyate shortly after half time. They pressed until the final whistle – but Wenger’s side did enough to secure the win.
But the Hammers’ disappointing festive period must not take anything away from what has been an incredible campaign at Boleyn Ground thus far. This time last year, West Ham were easily beaten 3-1 by the Gunners on Boxing Day, before a 3-3 home draw with West Bromwich Albion. The Hammers went into the New Year second from bottom – with just 15 points gained from 19 games. This season though, after the same amount of matches, the east London club sit 6th in the Premier League table, with 31 points banked already.
It’s a remarkable achievement from West Ham, considering Allardyce was heavily tipped to part way with the Hammers in the summer. Even after the disappointment of losing to a 90th goal against rivals Tottenham Hotspur on the opening day, what they’ve accomplished since is nothing short of exceptional.
It’s imperative for the Hammers that they get straight back on track against West Brom this afternoon. The Baggies are currently without a boss after the sacking of Alan Irvine yesterday, and Allardyce’s side must take full advantage and get back to winning ways. The defeats to Chelsea and Arsenal were the first time the Hammers have lost back-to-back games this season. The next few games will paint a clearer picture of just how good the Hammers are. After welcoming West Brom, West Ham face a trip to Swansea City before entertaining relegations strugglers Hull at the Boleyn Ground.
Whatever happens from now to the end of the season must not take anything away from West Ham’s incredible progress this season. The bookies had the Hammers down for another season of struggling and another dogged fight for survival. But after already gaining nine wins so far – including excellent victories over Manchester City and Liverpool – it has already been a season to remember for the Upton Park faithful.