West Ham fans will be disappointed by the team’s defeat to bitter rivals Chelsea on Monday night, but there was no shame in the performance.
The Blues have swept aside all and sundry this season en route to a second Premiership title in three years, and the Hammers gave them a far better game than most.
This is a Chelsea side that beat Arsenal 3-1, Man Utd 4-0. For large parts of the game West Ham were the better team, and were unlucky not to come away with at least a point after a penalty appeal following a Marcos Alonso handball was turned down and Thibaut Courtois made a sensational stop to deny Sofiane Feghouli.
After the bleak period they endured in the winter, Hammers fans can now look forward to the rest of the season with optimism. The defeat left West Ham 11th, but they look like they could finish in the top half of the table. They are wrestling with Stoke and Southampton for ninth and 10th places, and their run-in and recent form suggests they could defy odds of even money (Southampton are 3/10, Stoke are 8/11) and do it.
A review of bookmaker odds shows West Ham are underdogs in their upcoming game against Bournemouth, who drew with Man Utd last time out, but this is a game the Hammers can definitely win. Since the turn of the year and the loss of Nathan Ake, Bournemouth have had the league’s worst defence and Andy Carroll should relish the opportunity to bully them. This West Ham attack has really clicked of late and Carroll, Michail Antonio, Manuel Lanzini and Feghouli are a threat to anyone.
Their following game sees West Ham host relegation threatened Leicester, who have improved vastly since sacking Claudio Ranieri and breaking the hearts of millions of neutrals that loved him for winning the Premiership despite odds of 5,000/1 last season. Leicester are on song right now, but West Ham can exploit their weaknesses.
Next up are Hull, and West Ham are underdogs for that, perhaps because Hull are fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table. They too are much improved after they changed their manager, with Marco Silva coming in and instilling newfound belief and confidence in his charges. But player for player West Ham are by far the better side.
If Carroll can stay fit they can go into any game in a bullish mood. The confidence he inspires in the players are him is clearly visible, and he holds the team together with his physical presence. The defence looks better since the signing of Rui Fonte too.
There are tough games to come, but they are mainly at the Olympic Stadium. West Ham will be in with a chance at home to Liverpool and Tottenham, while their only away game against a top six side is at The Emirates, where Arsenal are in dire straights and against whom West Ham have had plenty of joy in recent times.
They can hopefully surge up the table and then overhaul the squad in the summer to really challenge the big six.