Final game of the year and points are needed
Burnley dropped to 19th in the Premier League this afternoon with Fulham moving ahead of us having beaten bottom club Huddersfield Town at Craven Cottage, and there is no doubt whatsoever that tomorrow’s game against West Ham United is one we really have to get something from to try and kick start a move away from the relegation zone.
A win would take us back above Fulham and if that was coupled with Manchester City winning at Southampton, we would at least move level with the Saints even though we would remain behind them on goal difference.
Without ever thinking we’d have a season like last season, I don’t think too many of us expected such a dramatic drop in fortunes. Game 19 a year ago, the half way point, had seen us beaten 3-0 at home by Spurs but we were seventh in the table and had 32 points which, as it turned out, was only two points away from safety.
The poor form we are in currently had, in fairness, already started. Prior to the Spurs game we’d drawn at Brighton, this after going fourth with a win against Stoke. From that Brighton game to today, we’ve won just 35 points in 40 games. There have only been eight wins, four at home and four away, and that sort of form has to change now for us to retain our place in the Premier League.
We hoped things would be kick started on Boxing Day but that proved to be nothing short of a disaster as Everton hit five and we really do need to start picking up those points now or we could find ourselves in a position where it is going to be too difficult to escape.
This is the last league game we will play before the transfer window opens but I wouldn’t expect new signings here in time for the Huddersfield game while it seems according to suggestions that it might be later in the month before any business is done.
James Tarkowski, who has recently played in both the centre and right-centre positions of a back five, has admitted things have to change. “At the moment we are not performing individually or as a team to the level we need to be to stay in this league,” he said.
“Things need to improve, but I wouldn’t want anyone else in the dressing room with me, or the manager and the coaching staff around us, because if anyone’s going to do it then it’s going to be us who are going to turn it around.”
He’s right, the words are the correct ones, but those words now have to be taken onto the pitch to get some results.
There will be changes again, of that I’m sure. One is necessary and will surely see Phil Bardsley return with Matt Lowton, who himself came in for Bardsley for the Everton game, now suspended having picked up his fifth yellow card in the last game before the amnesty.
There has been a big clamour for a change in goal. I don’t know the situation but I doubt Nick Pope will be considered ready and would Sean Dyche bring back Tom Heaton at this stage? I’d like to think so, simply because I think Hart has struggled a bit in the last couple of games.
If everyone was fit, I’m sure Sean Dyche would go back to 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 but with all of Steven Defour, Robbie Brady and Aaron Lennon missing, I’m not so sure he can. The good news is that Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson is fit again and I’d expect him to start.
For once, I’m not going to even hazard a guess as to what the team might be, other than to say there will undoubtedly be more than the one change to the team beaten by Everton which was: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Ben Gibson, Charlie Taylor, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Barnes, Sam Vokes. Subs: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Dwight McNeil, Matěj Vydra, Chris Wood.
Our opponents West Ham have dropped back to 11th after today’s results with both Watford and Wolves going above them, but they know a win tomorrow will see them move up to seventh.
They’ve lost just once at Burnley in the Premier League and that was in early 2010 when goals from David Nugent and Danny Fox, on his debut, gave us a 2-1 win. They won on their next two visits before the 1-1 draw last season when Joe Hart got away with the clearest of penalties when he ploughed into Chris Wood.
They were in serious relegation trouble last season and that saw Slaven Bilic replaced by David Moyes whose reward for keeping them up was to be replaced himself by former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini.
Things didn’t look too good after four games when they sat bottom without a single point but only Liverpool, Spurs, Manchester City and Arsenal have picked up more points since and they’ve actually picked up more points away from home than at home. They’ve won four times on the road. The first was at Everton back in September and they’ve won their last three away games at Newcastle, Fulham and Southampton. Overall, they’ve won five of their last six games and are undoubtedly one of the form teams in the league.
They definitely have some players we will need to keep a keen eye on, none more so than Felipe Anderson (pictured above) who scored both goals at West Ham. He and Marko Arnautovic were outstanding against us earlier in the season and we could see Arnautovic return having been out recently through injury.
The injuries were such that they were only able to name six substitutes at Southampton but besides Arnautovic they hope to welcome back both Pablo Zabaleta and Javier Hernandez.
They lined up at Southampton: Lucasz Fabianski, Michail Antonio, Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna, Aaron Cresswell, Pedro Obiang, Declan Rice, Grady Diangana (Andy Carroll), Robert Snodgrass (Arthur Masuaku), Felipe Anderson, Lucas Pérez (Mark Noble). Subs not used: Adrián, Xande Silva, Conor Coventry.
LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE
We’d made a good start to the season and were back at home having won for a second time on the road at Everton two weeks earlier. We were sixth in the table and facing a West Ham team who were down in 14th place, but it was West Ham who held the lead for much of the game only for us to equalise against their ten men some five minutes from the end.
A draw was the least we deserved having been the better team, but we fell behind on 19 minutes when a long clearance from Joe Hart was misjudged by Ben Mee allowing Michail Antonio to get onto the ball, take it past Nick Pope and into the empty net.
Referee Stuart Attwell had a difficult start to the game but he got things right soon after when he twice yellow carded Andy Carroll for elbows and sent him off. The first one might have been harsh, the second was nothing but sheer stupidity from the striker, that probably should have been a straight red.
But Wood got the better of Hart and the West Ham defence five minutes from the end as he powered home a header from a brilliant Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson cross and the point was won.
The teams were;
Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward (Ashley Barnes 81), Robbie Brady, Steven Defour, Jack Cork, Scott Arfield (Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson ht), Jeff Hendrick (Sam Vokes ht), Chris Wood. Subs not used: Anders Lindegaard, Kevin Long, Charlie Taylor, Ashley Westwood.
West Ham: Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, José Fonte, Winston Reid, Aaron Cresswell, Cheikhou Kouyate, Michail Antonio, Manuel Lanzini (Arthur Masuaku 88), Marko Arnautovic (Pedro Obiang ht), Andy Carroll, Javier Hernandez (Diafra Sakho 75). Subs not used: Adrián, Angelo Ogbonna, Mark Noble, André Ayew.
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