Last team at Highbury, first team at Emirates. What West Ham could have done with the spirit and desire the team had in the great survival season of 06/07. You don’t get many breaks or slices of luck against Arsenal – especially at The Emirates – so when they come along you have to take advantage of them. To be given a penalty and for Arsenal to be down to 10 men is something you will rarely see, so it was so disappointing as Alessandro Diamanti squandered a golden opportunity to make it 1-1 with a man advantage.
Nothing was realistically expected to be gained from the game – and at times Arsenal’s football was breathtaking and you have to take your hat off to them – but with Carlton Cole’s effort cracking off the post, the extra man and the Diamanti penalty miss – it really was an afternoon of what could have been.
With the Chelsea and the Arsenal away days now both out of the way, the club can look forward to two absolutely massive home games, the first of which is the re-arranged game against Wolves on Tuesday night where West Ham will have the chance to complete their first double of the season. The second of the two game instalment sees Stoke visit The Boleyn with the chance of completing a double over the Irons, something which if it was to happen would be another body blow.
Immediate focus is on Tuesday’s game and Wolves looked a solid outfit at Villa Park on Saturday as they were perhaps unlucky to have left with just a point after a spirited display. Wolves’ approach to the game will be straightforward, so Zola won’t need to worry about the element of surprise. The Black Country outfit look set to field the same eleven for the seventh game in a row which is a 4-5-1 formation with Kevin Doyle leading the line, being backed up by a young and energetic midfield which includes impressive winger Matt Jarvis who had an excellent game on Saturday.
Benni McCarthy looked busy and tricky during his 15 minute spell on Saturday and Zola will surely have to give the South African his start as he is a proven Premier League goal -scorer who definitely has the quality to make the difference in games of high importance such as these. Guillermo Franco’s all round displays have disappointed many of late and despite the fact he won the penalty on Saturday didn’t really contribute much else. There are growing concerns amongst fans about recent displays – especially defensively – and many supporters are becoming discontented with spineless performances, such as the away day at Burnley where both Portsmouth and Wolves managed to get three points – whereas West Ham got nothing.
After the Wolves encounter is the Stoke game and if The Hammers have managed to beat Wolves, the atmosphere around Upton Park will be far more relaxed. If the result on Tuesday is a negative one – and a draw would probably class as a negative result – you will be able to cut the tension with a knife.
Any real West Ham fan will tell you that you are not safe until the magic 43 point mark is reached and with the team currently languishing one place above the relegation zone on 27 points with only eight games remaining it is clear why optimism is at such a premium amongst the Hammer faithful. The only thing keeping fans hopes burning is the fact that Portsmouth are all but relegated – and Burnley and Hull are simply awful. There were nervous moments as Hull looked set to claim all three points at Fratton Park on Saturday which would have put them on level points with West Ham but luckily Portsmouth performed a complete U-turn on the Tigers to spoil new Hull boss Iain Dowie’s welcoming party.
Hammers’ legend Alvin Martin has called for West Ham’s players to ‘roll their sleeves up’, and it is definitely the sort of spirit the players will need as they head into a crucial time in their bid for survival.