Could Liverpool really be denied the Premier League title over Coronavirus?

These are strange times we are living in, it almost feels like a science fiction movie, streets are emptying as are shops, and all of a sudden there is panic in places as the coronavirus hits. All of this has led to football being suspended in many countries including England and that could hit league leaders Liverpool hard.

In a season where no other club was going to catch them, Liverpool could be denied winning their first league title since 1990 by the virus instead. For now the league is taking a 2 week break but there are mutterings that it will need to take at least a 5 week break, and there are 10 games still to be played.

Karren Brady vice chairman of West Ham has come out and said that this season should be null and void, but is that a realistic option? On one hand she could have a point if the season can’t be finished and the cut off deadline would have to be sometime in July. On the other hand one has to wonder if she simply has her own club at heart who are just above the relegation zone. Whilst a null and void league would be a huge blow to Liverpool, it would also affect the teams in the Championship who have worked so hard to try and gain promotion, then again an act of God that no one could have predicted has intervened.

How realistic is it that after being by far the best team in the league and having an incredible 25 point lead that it could mean nothing? The good news for Liverpool is that UEFA are set to postpone the European championships until 2021, so that does free up the summer. With clubs mostly being able to play 2 games a week, there would then be plenty of time to finish the season, but of course that all depends on how long restrictions will apply for.

There have been suggestions in some countries that the peak of the virus could extend until June, and if the seasons resume say in the middle of June, that could be fine for the leagues to restart. Instead of having pointless pre- season tournaments we can get the league sorted out.

Anyone declaring a league season to be null and void really needs to check themselves because it feels like the people saying it are doing so through self interest. Would Brady be declaring such a statement if West Ham were top of the league?

It would surely be an odd moment in football if the league was voided and a huge twist and such a painful sucker punch for Liverpool. Let’s hope though that football and general life can get back on track as soon as possible.

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Premier League: Game of the Weekend: Liverpool 3-2 West Ham

The Premier League was back to full strength following the staggered winter break and the Liverpool and West Ham game was shown a lot of interest. On one side we know Liverpool will win the league this season but could they keep their unbeaten run up? The other was West Ham who faced the threat of relegation and came into this game as the huge underdogs.

Liverpool’s big loss was Jordan Henderson who has been ruled out for 3 weeks with a hamstring injury and perhaps at times in this game his influence in midfield was missed.

Jurgen Klopp opted to play his usual 4-3-3 and David Moyes at West Ham went for 4-2-3-1. Even though Moyes had left predictably one up front it was relief, at least, to see the Scotsman change his attitude not go for five at the back and try to park the bus so to speak. Perhaps losing to Manchester City in the Hammers last game put paid to that system, and instead we got a West Ham performance that was utterly refreshing.

The game looked like it was going to be a formality before a ball was kicked and just after it was it still seemed that way as Georgino Wijnaldum scored after just 9 minutes and man of the moment Trent-Alexander Arnold was on hand to assist on the goal. It was Wijnaldum’s 3rd goal for the club this season.

Now if there is one criticism which could be launched at Liverpool this season (and we are clutching at straws) but it would be that the Reds have found it very hard to close up games. How many times have they been 1-0 up with just minutes left or 2-0 up with most of the game to play and the opposite team enjoying some decent chances. Liverpool still remain unbeaten in the league but quite a few games have been on a knife edge. This game would add to that.

Within 180 seconds of Liverpool’s goal, West Ham had equalised through Issa Diop, which left a few people stunned given that Liverpool have only conceded 9 goals all season at home up to that point. At 1-1 Liverpool responded in attack but there was a feeling that something was in the air, and West Ham who would usually shut up shop, came after the Reds, and were happy to attack themselves.

In the first half alone there was 13 corners which just told you how many attacks on goal their hand been, the real surprise was that 6 of them had come from West Ham.

Though there had been a lot of great play and attacking intent from both sides in the 1st half, Liverpool had only had 2 shots on target with West Ham having one. But if the first half was good, then the second half was something compared to a mini classic, as we witnessed a further 3 goals.

Goals are the game when Liverpool are playing but nobody would have expected the Reds to have gone 2-1 down at home, Liverpool being behind in a game is becoming very rare, but that is exactly what happened.  Declan Rice set up Pablo Fornals who launched a beautiful shot into the back of the Liverpool goal and passed Alisson. Rare to see Alisson ship 2 goals in a game too, and even rarer to see Fornals score and have an overall decent game. Now West Ham were 2-1 up, we could expect to see the very best of Liverpool, and the corners kept raining down from the home team.

Fourteen minutes after West Ham had took the lead the pressure told though and Mohamed Salah scored his 15th goal of the season to make it 2-2 and it was an assist by Andrew Robertson. Indeed all of Liverpool’s assists would be by defenders in the game.

If the truth be told even a 2-2 draw would have been remarkable for the Hammers given that only Manchester United have taken points from Liverpool this season. But Liverpool aren’t European and World club champions for nothing and that man Sadio Mane perhaps the very best player at Liverpool this season came up trumps once again to give Liverpool all three points.

It had been an amazing game and West Ham played their part. They didn’t come here and lose 4-0 like in previous seasons, and each player could look in the mirror. If the club bring this intensity and passion to their remaining fixtures then they won’t be going down.

As for Liverpool it is just total dominance and they now have 79 points, that is the same number of points that won the league for the club in 1990, when they were last crowned English champions. West Ham did well, but Liverpool even in a game where they didn’t perform to their best still managed to conjure up 25 goal attempts, which says it all about how strong this team are.

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Manchester City’s reaction to Champions League ban has been breathtaking

It would have been easy for Manchester City to have given up on this season after UEFA banned the club for what, in their opinion breached and broke the FFP rules, but the club will not lie down and a lot of that credit has to go to Pep Guardiola.

City who are in 2nd place have played two games since the ban was announced and have both won of them. They have scored 3 goals in those matches, and they haven’t been their greatest wins ever but they have shown the ultimate response, that this team will not give up and that this team are going nowhere.

The clubs first game since the ban was against West Ham in 18th place and had City put in a lacklustre performance after just receiving the news it may have been understandable. The game was always going to be difficult with Hammers boss David Moyes predictably setting up five at the back and trying to park the bus. But City managed to score 2 goals and get the win and they showed the fight, despite the threat that all of their efforts this season could be in vain with no Champions League qualification.

The exact same mind set went into their more difficult tie, at King Power Stadium at the weekend away to 3rd placed Leicester who have had a magnificent season so far. The game was very entertaining and at tImes City needed to ride the storm but they came out 1-0 winners. That was only Leicester’s 3rd home loss of the season and City had had attempts on goal.

It never looked like, not even in one minute of the game that City didn’t care about playing in the league anymore. That is why they have a very good manager in Guardiola, a man who never gives up the chase and even if he has been fortunate to coach teams with open chequebooks at the end of the day his man management skills are some of the best in the world.

It’s very clear that City are on a mission and that is to try and win every other game they will play this season. It won’t be enough to overhaul Liverpool, but one of those games they must play them and if they can beat them that would feel like a mini trophy in itself.

Guardiola has said it himself, does it feel like we don’t care, and it certainly doesn’t. He has now installed an us v them mentality and the club could actually be stronger and more focused after UEFA’s decision. He has also hinted at staying at the club, maybe even beyond 2021, personally that should be taken with a pinch of salt as Guardiola rarely stays at clubs for too long. Also if City do lose the appeal, a few players could leave and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Pep go too.

For now though City have reacted like champions should and they should be applauded.

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Premier League Predictions for the Weekend

Because of the winter break some games have been broken up and staggered and we will only have 4 games being played this weekend. Of the top six only one team will be in action which will be current champions Manchester City. They have the opportunity to close the gap on Liverpool to 19 points. All jokes aside, City need the win to maintain 2nd place as Leicester are only 2 points behind.

At the bottom West Ham and Bournemouth need to pick up points and Brighton could also get sucked into the relegation fight. The problem for West Ham is that they will face Manchester City and under David Moyes the London club has just one win in the league so far.

Let’s take a look at the 4 games being played over the weekend and analyse what could happen.

Everton v Crystal Palace

Everton are unbeaten in their last 4 games and at home they have not lost this year. Crystal Palace have no wins this year and have lost back to back games. This game should be close but Everton should have more than enough to win this game. Richarlison is due a goal too. Everton to beat Crystal Palace

Brighton v Watford

Brighton have drawn 3 of their last 5 games and just can’t find 3 points as they slip down the table. Watford look liked pulling off the great escape but are still in 19th and have not won for their last 3 games. Both teams may just be happy to share the points. Draw

Sheffield United v Bournemouth

The Blades have had a very good season and would feel disappointed not to win this game. Bournemouth have slipped to 16th place but won their last two matches but they were at home. Bournemouth have lost 8 from 12 away including their last 3 in a row. Look out for United’s John Fleck who could be a danger in midfield. Sheffield United to beat Bournemouth

Manchester City v West Ham

Each time Manchester City have lost a game like they did last weekend against Tottenham they have won and scored many goals in the next one. West Ham have been really poor lately and are now in the bottom three. They will set up to defend and if City can score early there could be a floodgate of goals. The Hammers are under huge pressure and the weaker team and City have none now and will enjoy their football. Sergio Aguero at the ready. Manchester City to beat West Ham

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Where did David Sullivan and David Gold go wrong at West Ham?

Ask many West Ham fans what they think of their owners and you will be met with quite a few colourful words. This in part is because of two things: 1) the club are going backwards under their ownership and 2) not many fans are happy with the new stadium and yearn for the old one, or at least one where there was some atmosphere.

In discussing why West Ham are going backwards, one thing we need to set clear is how many delusional figure heads keep repeating that West Ham have spent very little. This is simply not true and the club have spent close to a quarter of a billion pounds on players in the last four years. On that part it is hard to criticise David Sullivan and David Gold.

The obvious problem though is that expenditure may not be enough in the Premier League. In France’s Ligue 1 for example that budget could well have you chasing PSG but the bar has been set so high in the Premier League. If we look at the money that the Hammers have spent in the last four years it averages out at around £60m per season. It’s difficult to compete with teams when the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool and that is just a few examples can spend that money on one player.

Still winning the league isn’t the priority for West Ham, just staying in it is. With the money spent they shouldn’t be 18th after 25 games though. Look at the likes of Sheffield United and Wolves, but one could also argue that along with good ownership and the owners have also employed very reliable and solid managers too.

One has to question how Sullivan and Gold thought that bringing back David Moyes was a good idea. Moyes had already been West Ham manager and finished with a win rate of 29%. Sullivan and Gold had already sacked him for Manuel Pellegrini which seemed to be a good move before Pellegrini seemingly lost focus. But to bring him back, that was as the French say a faux pas.

Some of the fans evidently hate the owners, and there have been protests and will be more, they want change and they want them out.

If fans want to complain how much money has been invested then that isn’t really going to rub, money has been spent, has it been spent wisely? no not always. But when the club invested in Sebastian Haller last summer it seemed like great business. Haller had scored 20 plus goals for Eintract Frankfurt and had helped the club reach the semi finals of the Europa League, the £45m they paid on him seemed like good business. But the striker has been next to appalling this season only having a couple of good games.

For every intentional good buy there has been a questionable one though, why did the club chase after Pablo Fornals? Because some pundits thought he was good? He wasn’t even near the best players in La Liga last season and yet the Hammers chased after him like he was the second coming and spent close to £30m he has been playing like a version of the invisible man this season.

Maybe the biggest problem with Sullivan and Gold’s ownership is that even though they are fans of the club, they don’t understand the philosophy of how the club need to be run. They don’t seem able to treat or give the fans what they want. The stadium move idea wasn’t a bad decision but the location and moving to the Olympic Stadium was. And for season ticket holders and loyal fans it does rub them up the wrong way that their club don’t even own the stadium and taxpayers have had to help pay for the stadium.

Fans seem to feel ashamed of their owners, and the truth is both Sullivan and Gold do have love for the club and do want the club to do well, if not they wouldn’t have invested so much money over the four years. They have just made some mistakes, bad decisions and above all they are not listening to their fans anymore, that is the sad reality of the situation.

Now West Ham have one of their biggest battles in their recent history. They have been relegated plenty of times in the league, but this one would feel different. A new hope, a new stadium, the Olympic one at that and playing in the Championship? It doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, and there are no guarantees that you will be coming up again anytime soon, just look at Leeds United as a perfect example of what can happen.

The next 90 days will be pivotal for the owners, fans and club.

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Premier League: Fantasy Picks for the Weekend

The first ever winter break is taking place in the Premier League in England and it has been something managers have been calling for for some time. However that doesn’t mean that the league is taking a total break. Instead what will happen is that some teams will have 2 weeks off and then the ones playing this weekend will then have two weeks off- that is the plan anyway.

In total there are 4 Premier League games taking place this weekend, are your players playing? If so you could be in luck for some extra points, or you might want to be very shrewd and take a look at who we are picking this weekend to earn maximum fantasy league points.

Goalkeeper: Simon Moore- Sheffield United

Sheffield United have been brilliant this season and are in 6th place. This is a risky choice to pick Simon Moore here because he has been injured for the season, but he has recovered now so the manager needs to make a choice. At one point surely Moore will get his chance and the Blades are playing Bournemouth at home and will be the favourites to win.

Defender: Yerry Mina- Everton

Yerry Mina is playing his best football since arriving with Everton. Not only is he helping his side in defence he is also scoring goals, and got 2 last weekend. He has helped keep 6 clean sheets so far and Everton will be at home to Crystal Palace.

Defender: Kyle Walker- Manchester City

Manchester City will play West Ham at home and everyone is thinking they can win and score a lot of goals too. But they also have a good chance to keep a clean sheet against an under confident West Ham side. Walker has kept 6 clean sheets so far this season.

Defender: Lucas Digne- Everton

Lucas Digne has 20 points so far this season and he is Everton’s best defender. He has kept 6 clean sheets and even though he hasn’t scored a goal, that is not his job and yet he has assisted for 5 goals this season. A versatile player that would only cost you 5.5m and Everton play at home to Crystal Palace so there is every chance he could keep a clean sheet.

Defender: Adam Masina- Watford

Watford do not have an easy game away to Brighton, but the club have shown so much promise that they could be a threat here. Despite losing to Everton last weekend and being 2 goals to the good, Adam Masina did score and one would hope his confidence will be good for this game.

Midfielder: Theo Walcott- Everton

We have liked the look at Walcott’s form for some weeks and he came on through last weekend scoring the last minute winner against Watford. Everton being back at home against Crystal Palace should present the home side with a few opportunities and Walcott has notched up 13 points so far.

Midfielder: Bernardo Silva- Manchester City

When Manchester City lose games they usually bounce back and get a big score and they will be at home to West Ham, a club who currently look in crisis. There is potential here for Silva and City to do very well. And we have tried to pick out a good value player for the club who would cost you 8.5m and he has acquired 39 points this season.

Midfielder: Pascal Groß- Brighton

Pascal Groß scored a goal last weekend against West Ham as Brighton stunned the Hammers coming back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3. He has been involved in six of his clubs goals this season and Brighton will need this win at home as they could get sucked into the relegation battle.

Midfielder: John Lundstram- Sheffield United

John Lundtstram is a reliable midfielder who has 30 points this season and should be brought into many teams when you think his cost is just 2.5m. He has scored 3 goals and also assisted in another two and looks a real find for the club.

Striker: Gabriel Jesus- Manchester City

Gabriel Jesus looks like a bargain at 8m and with City being at home to West Ham we would think there could be a lot of goals for the home side and Jesus has every chance of scoring. He has netted 9 goals so far this season and also assisted in another 4 games.

Striker: Richarlison- Everton

The Brazilian was linked with a surprise move away to Barcelona just last week. But Everton rejected this. What has been important is his manager Carlo Ancelotti who has stated how important Richarlison is to the club, Brazilian’s love to feel wanted and it is very possible that Richarlison will act in a very positive way when his club play Crystal Palace at home. He has scored 8 goals so far and assisted 3 times.

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Poor results, protests to be held and a fan banned- Are West Ham in meltdown?

In football you have two stories: one is on the pitch and one is off it. This season West Ham have had negative stories on and off it.

It was clear that after a decent first season in charge Manuel Pellegrini had lost focus and the Chilean was soon sacked. But the club owners brought in David Moyes, he who was West Ham manager before Pellegrini, he who gave a winning return of just 29% and he who was deemed no good and was sacked in favour of Pellegrini. Talk about taking steps backwards.

Results under Moyes have been poor, bar his first game when the club beat Bournemouth 4-0, they also beat Gillingham in the FA Cup. Since then they have lost numerous games, the highlight being a 4-1 beating against Leicester and they have been knocked out of the FA Cup. Under Pellegrini the side were poor but were above the relegation zone, now they are in it and 18th what does that make Moyes’ status?

Fans have not been happy and this week there was a controversial incident which saw a long standing season ticket holder banned from home and away games this season. He had volunteered to be a flag bearer on the touchline, but there seemed something else behind his reasoning. That was to show the TV cameras his t shirt which read GSB out. That stands for club owners David Sullivan and David Gold and the B is a reference to Karen Brady who has also presided over the club. The board were not happy, wrote the fan a letter and now he is banned for the season.

It was a one man protest but much of the fans it seems are with him, and they want Sullivan and Gold to sell the club. It seems understandable too as so many mistakes in the transfer and recruitment of a manager have been made. From the outside at least there does seem to be a lack of ambition. There have already been silent protests and it is getting worse and worse and will do.

There is a plan to release black balloons when the club take on Liverpool at Anfield and in their next game at home against Southampton there will be even more protests. The pressure will be on Sullivan and Gold, after all who would want to stay and own a club where the fans don’t want or like you? Mike Ashley at Newcastle could sympathise with this but the anger of the West Ham fans seems more deeper and genuine.

At the root of the anger, and perhaps this isn’t every fan, but it is the stadium move. Did any long standing fan really want to move from the Boleyn Ground. If so they would have wanted a modern stadium but without the gaps to the pitch. Many fans have said there is no atmosphere at the stadium any more and in fact no home advantage as clubs like coming to play at the Olympic Stadium. Others have said that sound does not travel well and so when Hammers fans sing and try to cheer on their team it gets taken away.

Right now it feels as if West Ham need a new beginning and that is a damning verdict given that the stadium was supposed to be that.

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Are London clubs falling behind in the Premier League?

There was a time even in the Premier League era where London clubs dominated the league and its cups, but in 2020 one can question with all validity if clubs from the capital are rapidly fallen behind their northern rivals?

Let’s start with Chelsea who are arguably the best club in London of the past few years. Here is a team that won several league titles from 2005 and a few doubles and also of course won the Champions League in 2012 and have been to 2 Champions Leagues finals. Let’s not forget they are also the holders of the Europa League.

But they lost Maurizio Sarri at the end of last season and replaced him with Frank Lampard, a manager with hardly any experience though Chelsea being 4th presently is some kind of miracle given that the club were banned from a summer transfer window last year.

Chelsea are 4th and are having a decent season, they are also into the knockout stages of the Champions League but they do not look that strong in actually winning trophies this season. They have lost too many games at home, which is alien for a team that once went 4 years without a defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Then there is the curious case of Arsenal, a really great historic side, a team that were wooing fans in Europe in the early 2000s, winning multiple trophies in England and even going a season unbeaten. Since the early part of the 2010s though the Gunners have been going backwards. By every passing season, they have been taking one step forward and two back and this season has really underlined that, and with a thick black marker pen. They are currently in 10th position, this is a staggering decline, and yes the league positions are very close still, two wins could change a lot to their standing, but even still what are they doing in 10th anyway?

This is a club who once kept the same manager for 22 years and yet have seen 3 different faces in the dug out this season alone in Unai Emery, Freddie Ljungberg and now Mikel Arteta. It is early days for Arteta so no judgement is meant to be passed but it is now 7 games in charge in the league with just 1 win. Underwhelming doesn’t come close, and Arsenal look a shadow of themselves.

Tottenham do not look like the team of the past two seasons and could fail to make the Champions League, this after reaching the final in 2019. Finally there is the case of another high profile London club in West Ham. A sacked manager and bringing back one in David Moyes who had already failed at the club the first time makes little sense. The Hammers have a fantastic 60,000 seater stadium and despite all of that they could be getting relegated, they are currently in the bottom three and have some very hard fixtures to come.

And the top two places in the league are being occupied by Liverpool and Manchester City two teams up north and just a few miles from one another, there has been a shift in the Premier League but it has also seen a rapid decline of the London based clubs.

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A Premier League winter break? Not really as the brand can never rest

When a Premier League winter break was announced to begin this season football fans in England took that as the gospel truth, but like the use of VAR, in England everything gets tweaked.

Germany is most famous for its winter breaks which can last 5 weeks, although this season it was shorter. In Spain, Italy and France football stops for Christmas and players get roughly two weeks off from playing games. In England of course it has always been different with up to 4 games played over the Christmas period. For fans it has always been very exciting mixing up the holiday season with a bit of football.

Starting with Arsene Wenger’s arrival in the Premier League, a whole host of the best talent has come from the continent to manage teams and there has been mutterings about having the same breaks as the other major leagues. Only a few years ago it seemed that the Premier League could lose its Christmas games, before the most influential managers like Pep Guardiola stepped down from that idea realising that thete were interfering too much in a tradition. But it was agreed by everyone that a break was needed. Why would other major leagues get it and not England?

So this season the FA have listened and the break has been scheduled to start next weekend, that is great, except there are 4 Premier League games next weekend. What gives?

The answer is obvious. The Premier League brand which is the most recognisable in world football was never really going to shut down for two weeks. Instead teams at different times will get their two weeks off this month but it will be spread out, a little bit like how the FA Cup is marketed now and UEFA has done the same with the Champions League.

It’s all about marketing and keeping that product’s vital organs pumping. One can understand that but at the same time, please do not call this a winter break that would be insulting every football fan of the Premier League.

So just to be sure the following teams will be playing next weekend that is, Everton, Crystal Palace, Brighton, Watford, Sheffield United, Bournemouth, Manchester City and West Ham. It is also interesting to note that just one of the ‘big six’ teams will be playing.

The system in place is not terrible but it is typical that the break is being staggered so the money generated from games on TV keeps rolling in and so does the interest, of course.

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West Ham look likely for relegation after implosion against Brighton

Beating Brighton was the bear minimum requirement for West Ham and for the majority of their game on Saturday it looked like David Moyes team were cruising. But there would be a deadly sting in the tail.

Issa Diop opened the scoring after half an hour much to the relief of Hammer fans, when Robert Snodgrass made it 2-0 just before half time, for many that was game over. It has been proven time and again scoring just before the break can kill and change the opposition’s mindset. All looked well.

But two minutes after the break Brighton pressure led to an own goal scored by Angelo Ogbonna. The Hammers now could slowly collapse under their own pressure or march on. Ten minutes later the game looked wrapped up and it was Snodgrass again, emerging as the unlikely hero to make it 3-1 to the home side. With fifteen minutes remaining the fans were singing despite Brighton creating wave after wave of attacks, 3-1 just looked too good to be overhauled. But then again this is West Ham a club who have repeatedly blown decent leads in the past.

Pascal Grob is his name but it was Pascal ‘Grab’ on Saturday, when he scored for the away side to make it 3-2 and now there was a belief that 3-3 seemed more likely than a Snodgrass hat trick. West Ham thought they had 3 points and were now not blowing bubbles, but blowing this match. Glenn Murray, the type of striker any Italian team would love in their squad, one that isn’t consistent but will get the goal you need scored to make it 3-3 and the London Stadium turned into the biggest gob smack you could ever want to witness. VAR played out yet again, what is a game without it? Because Brighton’s goal had to be delayed and debated on for a possible hand ball, VAR decided against it and Brighton got their goal which only rubbed the salt into the wounds for the home side.

Somehow West Ham had blown it again- they hadn’t lost but being 3-1 up at home with 15 minutes left and finishing 3-3 certainly felt like it. Suddenly you were looking at a team who could well be playing in the Championship next season. The draw confirmed West Ham’s slip into the bottom three, in 18th place. Though they are just 2 wins from 14th and 3 wins from 10th.

West Ham have lost 13 games and manager David Moyes comments when he joined the club of ”I win” have certainly come back to haunt him. In the league his record reads like this: Played 6, won 1, drawn 2 and lost 3.

There is talk of relegation even though the tables show the teams in the bottom half being so close for West Ham because of their upcoming fixtures. This month will see the Hammers having to play Manchester City and Liverpool- both away games. They end the month at home to Southampton. Arsenal and Tottenham follow in March and there is a real chance that West Ham could be relegated with such tough fixtures ahead.

The Brighton game was being highlighted by fans as the one match they had to win to give them some breathing space at least, but if form continues like it has this season without any improvement then they are looking to finish the season with about 36 points, that total may not be good enough to stay up.

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