West Ham have until the 22nd of February before they’re back in action, and are off on a training camp in Malaga for the week.
With the Premier League coming into crunch time the Hammers have plenty of work to do if they want to finish with a potential European place in the bag. Seventh has always been the realistic ambition for the Hammers this season, but with Wolves, Watford and Everton ahead of them in the race to that spot at the minute, an improvement is needed.
West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini has said that the players will benefit in body and mind from a warm weather training camp after the sides’ draw with Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Here’s a look at some things the Hammers need to focus on during their training week, which might ensure they come back firing on all cylinders.
5. Get Arnautovic and Chicharito Scoring
West Ham haven’t fallen short on goal scoring this season, but haven’t exactly scored an abundance of goals either. With early season injuries, January transfer window distractions, and illness aside, the duo of Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez need to start scoring.
Arnautovic has seven goals from his 18 appearances, while Hernandez has four goals from the same number of appearances.
West Ham have been reliant on goals from midfield on a few occasions, with their top scorer being Felipe Anderson, who plays on the wing. If the two front men can start scoring and find their form from December, West Ham have the ability to sweep teams aside.
4. Avoid Injuries
Yes it sounds incredibly obvious, but as West Ham fans will know, the Hammers always seem to struggle with injuries at this stage of the season. There are a few faces in the team who, and without naming any names, are unfortunately quite injury prone.
The Hammers have once again had their fair share of injuries this season. Their current treatment list includes Winston Reid, Carlos Sanchez, Jack Wilshere, Andriy Yarmolenko , Fabian Balbuena, Samir Nasri and Manuel Lanzini. To add to that, Arnautovic has suffered a few minor set backs in recent weeks.
Keeping all the current crop fit and healthy, as simple as it sounds, is an absolute priority. The week can also be used to give those players, like Lanzini and Balbuena, who are close to a comeback the opportunity to get fit.
3. Keep Working on Routine Attacking Set-Pieces
As we saw in West Ham’s 1-1 draw against Liverpool, the set piece was a huge asset for the Hammers. They perhaps should have taken more than a point from the game, but one thing that was particularly pleasing was the way several set piece moves had been translated directly from the training ground.
West Ham caused problems against Liverpool, but didn’t seem to utilise their set piece effectively at all against Crystal Palace, and often didn’t beat the first man. With strong, physical, and frankly tall players across the pitch, West Ham need to be using this to their advantage.
2. Find Some Consistency Against Mid-Table Sides
One of West Ham’s major problems this season, and indeed in several recent years has been to find results and performances consistently. For some reason they seem to struggle the most with the teams directly surrounding them in the league.
We’ve seen some great performances against Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea. The Hammers took eight points off the top six at the London Stadium this season, which isn’t bad going. However, it’s the teams around them where they need to pick up the points more frequently.
Two losses to Bournemouth, two losses to Wolves, a loss to Watford, Burnley and Brighton, draws against Leicester and Crystal Palace . These are the games that the Hammers need to perform in. The crunch matches against their direct rivals in the table.
If West Ham can find consistency against the mid-table teams, they will be far better off for it. They merely need to replicate the intensity that they have shown against some of the top teams, like Liverpool. Still though, easier said than done.
1. Stop Conceding Late Goals
West Ham have conceded 39 goals this season, joint eighth-highest in the league. However, when you look at the period of the game when they are conceding the most goals, you see that they often concede late into the second half.
West Ham have conceded five goals in second-half injury time, the third-highest in the league. They are also third highest for goals conceded between 75-90 minutes, where they have conceded eight.
When you look at the statistics it’s clear to see that West Ham are struggling to control the end of games. Their defensive structure, both in organisation and communication needs to be stronger in those final minutes so they can grind out those important results.