More than 20 years have passed since West Ham United recorded an all-time best finish of fifth in the Premier League, but hopes are still high the club can establish a new benchmark in 2021.
With only a handful of games left to play in the domestic season, the Hammers sit just three points off Chelsea in fourth and could still qualify for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history. WestHamWorld has tracked David Moyes’ rampant progress over the course of the campaign, taking West Ham to within an inch of club history.
No club offers quite the same value to finish among the Premier League’s top four this season considering the small gap separating them from Chelsea one spot above. West Ham are still 9/2 outsiders in places to be fourth or higher come May 23, and all that’s required is a couple of slips from the Blues for them to steal in front.
It says a lot about how West Ham are viewed in the top-four race that they’re at roughly twice the odds of Liverpool (9/4) according to William Hill bookmaker, despite the Reds being two positions and four points behind them. Granted, Jurgen Klopp’s side have a match in hand, but it’s almost an insult to Moyes’ men that they’re priced so high considering Liverpool will still be a point below even if they win that surplus fixture. What’s more, the Merseysiders have looked particularly lethargic of late and won just one of their last four games across all competitions, giving West Ham more reason to hope they’ll make the cut and qualify for a maiden Champions League tournament:
Failed Manchester United manager Moyes has earned his own plaudits for his reformation in east London, almost delivering European football back to West Ham in his second stint with the club.
CNN recently chronicled the Scot’s tumultuous journey through England’s top flight, going from Sir Alex Ferguson’s heir at Old Trafford to rediscovering his craft in the capital. It’s with thanks to one of his old United disciples, Jesse Lingard, that Moyes has managed to put the Hammers in Champions League contention, but the achievement has very much been a team effort.
West Ham and Chelsea each have only four top-flight fixtures left to play this term, but the added difference for Thomas Tuchel’s side is their commitments elsewhere. Not only do Chelsea’s remaining league fixtures look more difficult, but they also face an FA Cup final against Leicester City, not to mention a Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid (and a possible final):
That’s more than enough reason to believe the Blues may drop three points or more between now and the end of the season, while West Ham will have laser-like focus in their sprint to the finish.
Injuries to the likes of Declan Rice and Mark Noble have disrupted earlier momentum, but it bodes well that Everton are the only opponents to come currently based in the top half of the Premier League.
The odds are also against West Ham due to their inferior goal difference at this late stage of the season, which means finishing level on points with another team isn’t likely to be enough in the search for fourth. Chelsea (fourth), Tottenham Hotspur (sixth and Liverpool (seventh) each have superior goal differences as things stand, with clean sheets difficult for the Hammers to come by this term.
History dictates the east Londoners will fall just short in their bid for a first Champions League appearance, but trends are there to be broke, and Chelsea’s pre-occupation in other competitions could open the door for an underdog to break into England’s elite.