Rejuvenation closely followed by reverting to type. In order to avoid relegation, we are in desperate need of putting some good results together. It won’t have escaped anyone’s notice that we haven’t registered back to back wins this year and while that isn’t a sure fire sign of relegation fodder, it makes our chances of surviving that much harder.
The league is packed so tightly that two wins in a row could take us up to 10th if other results went our way, but already the top half of the table is starting to pull away from us. Aston Villa are in 10th place with 24 points, yet Southampton in 9th place have 31 points. Meaning the gap from 9th to 10th is bigger than the gap between 10th and 20th.
We cannot afford to let any more teams get clear air between us and them. After the Chelsea match tomorrow, there are four fixtures that we need to take at least 9 points from; Swansea, Norwich and Southampton at home are very winnable, whilst our second match in February – Aston Villa away on the 8th – could give us the impetus to take the rest of the season by the scruff of the neck.
What a great time then, to pull off arguably our best and hopefully most influential signing since Carlos Tevez – Antonio Nocerino. While he may not get the plaudits of Vidal or Marchisio in Serie A, Nocerino is a well rounded, complete midfielder; someone as comfortable going forward as going back.
More than that, he has great organisational skills which is just what we need right now. How often this season have we looked comfortable only to fall apart under pressure? How often have we put ourselves in a difficult position only to start playing better once we have a mountain to climb?
Players like Nocerino marshal teams and create a cohesive unit going forwards or backwards; it’s no exaggeration to say that he could do a job in any Premier League side outside the top four, Manchester United included.
AC Milan have a wealth of talent in midfield but they are also a mess right now. They are currently lying 9th in Serie A and have recently parted with their coach, Massimo Allegri. This season Nocerino has found it difficult to get game time, but Milan’s loss is our gain.
Have Nocerino’s performances been first class recently? No. Put that down to lack of game time or attribute it to something else, but I firmly believe the old adage holds true: form is temporary but class is permanent.
Nocerino has been devastating in the past and, at 28-years-old, he is more than capable rediscovering that form, especially if he is given an extended run in the first team, supplying big, capable forwards like Marco Borriello and Andy Carroll.
With the bottom half of the league so tightly packed and with plenty of football to play, West Ham are more than capable of climbing to safety.
Players like Nocerino are the keys to our survival and they send out a positive message to the fans and other premier league clubs: we’re ready to fight for our place in the toughest league in the world.