West Ham's league placing does not tell full tale ahead of Leeds United visit
WEST HAM United sent themselves fifth with December’s 2-1 triumph at Elland Road.
Three months later, the Hammers will take on the Whites for a second time sitting two places lower in seventh.
Yet that in no way reflects the progress of David Moyes’ side since who have won seven of their last ten league games and are thriving with the addition of Jesse Lingard.
There was no shortage of talking points following December’s clash between the Whites and Hammers at Elland Road which featured more VAR drama amidst Mateusz Klich’s retaken penalty.
Leeds were awarded a fifth-minute spot kick after Lukasz Fabianski had brought down Patrick Bamford but then saved Klich’s spot kick.
VAR adjudged the Hammers ‘keeper to have ventured off his line which led to a retake from which Klich made no mistake second time around.
Yet playing with a new 4-2-3-1 system, the Hammers still left with all three points as Leeds conceded two more goals at set pieces to Tomas Soucek and Angelo Ogbonna and Moyes’ side have continued on an impressive upward trend since after a small-post Whites wobble.
Victory at Elland Road was followed by a 1-1 draw at home to Crystal Palace and then 3-0 reverse at Chelsea before a 2-2 draw at home to Brighton and a goalless affair at Southampton.
The draw at St Mary’s at the end of December left the Hammers tenth and level on points with 11th-placed Leeds.
But just 10 weeks later Moyes’ side are ten points ahead of the Whites and would sit in a Champions League spot if winning their game in hand.
The huge upsurge began with a 1-0 win at Everton in which Soucek bagged an 86th-minute winner followed by another 1-0 success at home to Burnley as Michail Antonio notched the only goal of the game. Antonio and Jarrod Bowen then notched in a 2-1 triumph at home to West Brom.
Midfielder Soucek, top scorer with eight, was then at the double as Craig Dawson also netted in a 3-2 triumph at Crystal Palace which made it four-straight league wins.
Lingard then arrived on loan from Manchester United until the end of the season three days later on the back of the club also signing Said Benrahma on a permanent deal.
A 3-1 defeat at home to Liverpool followed but Lingard then made a huge immediate impact on his Hammers debut by scoring a brace in a 3-1 win at Aston Villa.
After a goalless draw at improving Fulham and a 1-0 loss after extra time at Manchester United in the FA Cup, Lingard then played 82 minutes as the Hammers saw off visiting Sheffield United 3-0 via a Declan Rice penalty plus strikes from Issa Diop and Ryan Fredericks.
Lingard was then once again on the scoresheet in addition to Antonio in a 2-1 triumph at home to Tottenham before last weekend’s 2-1 at a Manchester City side winning their 20th game in all competitions in a row.
Pep Guardiola’s side are suddenly in a league of their own.
But West Ham have been the division’s second best team over the last ten games as their haul of 22 points is four points better than both Leicester City’s and Arsenal’s.
Assessing their progress at his pre-match press conference, Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa singled out a stable partnership in midfield - the one between Soucek and England international Declan Rice, as well as having two players in each of the attacking positions - especially in terms of the two wingers and attacking midfielders.
Antonio, Lingard, Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals, Benrahma, Manuel Lanzini, Andriy Yarmolenko, take your pick.
Then Bielsa praised the effectiveness of West Ham’s four full back options, and both goalkeepers plus the centre-backs and their effectiveness at contributing goals in attack.
Defensively, Craig Dawson has netted three times this season and Ogbonna twice whilst Issa Diop, Fabián Balbuena, Ryan Fredericks and Ben Johnson have all chipped in one apiece.
Before you knew it, in his praise, the Whites head coach had gone through the whole team.
A very good team that is, and the second best in the country over the last 10 games for whom a Champions League berth is very possible indeed.
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Thank you Laura Collins