Analysis: In-form West Ham up there with the best
Nobody would argue that Manchester City and Liverpool are a class apart in the Premier League at present.
Between them, last season’s champions and runners-up have won 18 of their previous 20 top-flight matches, scoring 60 goals and conceding just 14.
After finishing first and second last season, the same duo are setting the pace again in 2019/20, with the Reds currently holding a five-point lead over the Citizens after six rounds of matches.
However, over the same span of ten games, dating back to the weekend of 20/21 April, West Ham United are statistically the third best team in the country.
Hitting the level of consistency he has been demanding since the start of his reign, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have won six, drawn three and lost just one of their last ten Premier League matches, scoring 18 goals – shared between ten different goalscorers – and conceding ten.
That record would place them ahead of in-form Leicester City (16 points), Arsenal (15), Chelsea (14), Manchester United (ten) and Tottenham Hotspur (nine) across the same span.
Crystal Palace, who will be the Hammers’ next opponents at London Stadium on Saturday 5 October, rank fourth over the last ten games, with their strong finish to 2018/19 helping Roy Hodgson’s Eagles amass 18 points.
So, what has been the key behind the Irons’ strong and steady form?
Well, clean sheets have most certainly helped, with West Ham keeping five in their last ten matches, compared to five in the first 34 Premier League games of Pellegrini’s tenure.
Indeed, five of the ten goals the Hammers did concede came in one game – a 5-0 defeat by Manchester City on the opening day of this season – and only Leicester, in a 2-2 draw at London Stadium in April, have beaten Lukasz Fabianski more than once in any of their nine other fixtures.
Alongside Fabianski, centre-back Issa Diop has started all ten games, while deep-lying midfielder Declan Rice only missed the 3-0 home win over Southampton in May, providing stability through the middle. The impressive form of full-backs Ryan Fredericks and Arthur Masuaku has also helped the defensive cause.
At the other end of the pitch, the return to fitness of Manuel Lanzini and Andriy Yarmolenko has increased Pellegrini’s creative options, while the arrival of a physical, hard-working and goalscoring centre forward in Sebastien Haller has given his attack a focal point.
Add in the impressive form of captain Mark Noble, Felipe Anderson and Angelo Ogbonna and you can see why West Ham have put together such a strong run in recent months.
Next up for Pellegrini and his players is a trip to another in-form team in Eddie Howe’s AFC Bournemouth, who have themselves collected 14 points from their last nine Premier League matches.
Should West Ham win at the Vitality Stadium, they could go second in the table – their highest position since winning 2-1 at Manchester City on 19 September 2015…