EPL: West Ham V Fulham
September 29, 2010 | In: Articles
League Position: 19th
League Form: WDLLL
Are we looking at a changed Hammers side? Has Avram Grant finally found the right formula, cracked the formation and sussed the right team selection to really take West Ham places? It would appear he’s made a start, with West Ham finally ending the wait for their first league win of the campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur last Saturday. But, just to rain on your parade a little and bring some perspective back down to Upton Park, West Ham still find themselves inside the relegation zone, with their work far from done and a great deal of improvement still required if the Hammers are to continue along this upward curve.
West Ham rarely do lengthy unbeaten runs, but their 1-0 win over Spurs last Saturday, courtesy of Frederic Piqiuonne’s first league goal of the season, has put the Hammers in the idyllic position of entering into unfamiliar terrain. January, the last time West Ham went three games unbeaten in the Premier League. A run they will at least match so long as they avoid defeat on Saturday against a Fulham side with a well documented poor away record in the Premier League, and also a team lacking in striking personnel. In fact, I don’t think Avram Grant could of hand-picked a fixture more generous than this, but will his team make the most of what could potentially be a season defining period for the Hammers.
Were West Ham to embark upon a three match unbeaten streak then who’s to say it won’t lift the troops and inspire them from here on out. So far they’ve been a team deprived of confidence, severely lacking in self belief, but all this should start oozing back into West Ham’s system should they go into the international break on a real high. The problem we have with them is their fragile looking backline, but they’re fortunate in that their very next opponent are without a recognised striker meaning there’s an opportunity here for Robert Green, who let the media know full well what he thought of the recent stinging criticism he’s been receiving with a kind post-match gesture, to register his second clean sheet in back-to-back games, an unheard if feat for West Ham these days.
I can’t remember the last time West Ham were favourites for a Premier League fixture, so we will embrace Saturday like no other, a rare day of the year where the bookies actually fancy West Ham’s chances of securing all three points. To be honest, I’m of the same opinion. Confidence in camp is currently higher than it’s been for quite some time, the players and manager finally have a smile on their face while their opponents are facing up to life without any sort of striker. If West Ham don’t seal their second win in succession then they seriously need a kick up the backside as opportunities to register three points don’t tend to come as golden as this, certainly not for West Ham United.
League Position: 7th
League Form: DDWDD
You cannot help by have sympathy for Fulham manager Mark Hughes, who’s reign at Craven Cottage has so far been solid, if unspectacular, but now blighted by injuries to crucial personnel which is putting their unbeaten start to the season in jeopardy. The horrific injury to Bobby Zamora has been well publicised, with the striker out of action until at least the new year, while recently Hughes lost the services of his one remaining forward left on the books in Moussa Dembele – one of Hughes’ summer acquisitions – although Dembele is expected back a lot sooner than Zamora. Even so, so far it has been all uphill for the former Blackburn and Man City manager, having to defy adversity each weekend and it will be more of the same unfortunately this Saturday as he takes his Fulham side across to capital to Upton Park.
I wouldn’t entirely say life without a recognised forward at Craven Cottage went well for Mark Hughes and Fulham, despite the Cottagers earning an invaluable point against bottom of the league Everton. Invaluable simply because of how the game went, with chances few and far between for the hosts, Fulham, but the same couldn’t be said for the Toffees, who had only Mark Schwarzer standing in their way of a first league win of the season. That lack of presence, no-one to hold up the ball and continue the attacking play nearly cost Fulham their impressive start to the season and it was perhaps a sign of things to come, where Fulham’s problems up front lead to them spending most of their upcoming games on the backfoot.
The one thing working in Fulham’s favour is their unbeaten start to the season, this six-match steak of theirs without losing in the Premier League. For now, while that impressive run is still in tact, every single player will be doing their utmost to try and preserve that unbeaten status. Mark Schwarzer was the hero last weekend, Mark Hughes will be praying it’s a forward which claims the plaudits this weekend as you cannot help but have doubts over whether Schwarzer can put in another shift like his last. Eventually one will squeeze its way through so it’s down to the likes of Damien Duff, Clint Dempsey, Danny Murphy and Zolton Gera to make best of a lousy situation.
It isn’t as if Fulham have relied heavily on their forwards for scoring goals so far this season, but that is the deceiving factor with Fulham nowadays. While Bobby Zamora has never been a prolific goalscorer, his hold up play and distribution of the ball is second to none and that is why we’re anticipating Fulham to struggle over the upcoming weeks, as without Zamora their attacks tend to go nowhere. Even so, of the seven league goals Fulham have scored so far, four have been scored from non-strikers. One player in particular partial to popping up every now and again with a crucial strike is American Clint Dempsey, scorer of the Cottagers’ last Premier League, and the confident American may well be worth siding with at Upton Park on Saturday to ensure Fulham don’t relinquish their unbeaten record immediately before the international break.
Match Prediction: West Ham to WIN – 2.40 WilliamHill
Now that the Hammers have found their feet, West Ham should be a team we can all bare in mind from now on, at least until they hit another slump in form, which they will. And perhaps there is no better time than the present to be backing Avram Grant’s rejuvenated Hammers, fresh off the back of a couple of decent wins, and playing against a Fulham side lacking an out-an-out striker, well, everything just seems to be going their way at present.
I reckon Clint Dempsey could be a player to watch in Fulham’s upcoming fixtures. Without either Zamora or Dembele for the next couple of games, Dempsey will more than likely be relied upon to score the main brunt of goals, how ever many that may be, in the meantime. Similar to Tim Cahill in that he knows exactly where the ball is going and somehow seems to find himself in the right place at the right time.
Over/Under: Over 2.5 Goals – 2.10 PaddyPower
First Goalscorer: Clint Dempsey – 8.00 SkyBet
Correct Score: 3-1 West Ham – 21.00 totesport
West Ham – 2.40 WilliamHill
Draw – 3.30 Bet365
Fulham – 3.25 Ladbrokes