What a February it has been so far. We entered the month needing to secure a minimum of 10 points from the 12 available. It’s been a long time coming but we have finally recorded those back to back wins that have been eluding us .
Kevin Nolan is playing like a captain again and our defence is as solid as it has ever been. We are full of confidence going into another winnable game; but this being West Ham means things are never as simple as they could be.
Andy Carroll has a huge affect on how we play as a team, which is especially evident in Nolan’s game. They compliment each other and both take a step up in class when they are on the pitch at the same time. Look at how they terrorised Swansea together, the Swans simply couldn’t cope.
So to be without Carroll again was a legitimate concern. Yet against Aston Villa, Nolan took the game by the scruff of the neck and secured us the win. Maybe our 19th Century football wasn’t waiting on Carroll to fire us to safety after all.
Defensively the team has come on leaps and bounds, just sit back an admire how the whole team puts their bodies on the line, throwing themselves at shots and leaving it all on the pitch. How many other clubs can boast of a squad with that kind of attitude?
Looking back through the years, relegated teams have one thing in common above all else – an inability to keep clean sheets. Over the course of this season West Ham have been notoriously stingy in giving away goals – save for a rough patch in January.
For a club to have the highest amount of clean sheets in the league, yet be fighting relegation, is entirely unprecedented. This can be attributed to our profligacy in front of goal. Nolan is currently our top scorer with just six goals. In 25 Premier League matches this simply isn’t good enough.
The one thing that does fall in our favour, though, is that we don’t rely on one outlet to score our goals. We have goal scoring ability throughout our midfield and whilst they haven’t have been as prolific as we might like, Nolan has been in fine form and is likely to hit double figures before the season is out.
Historically, promoted teams have rarely spent big on players in unglamorous positions like centre backs or holding midfielders; steadfastly believing that goals and goals alone will save them from relegation.
Yet season after season this is proved to be wrong. Keeping a clean sheet guarantees at least one point but scoring one goal doesn’t guarantee anything; not if the other side scores two.
For the most part we are getting the difficult things right. This season West Ham have been involved in six 0-0 draws. That’s six finely balanced games where six points could have been 18. How much further up the table would those 12 extra points have gotten us?We would be in eighth place, well out of the relegation dog fight.
It’s all very well wishing for goals that didn’t happen but, for now, we’ve got clean sheets – a precious commodity that will prove to be far more valuable come the end of the season.