20 Mar 2018 12:07:12
As we have a boring two week break with no football, I thought I'd take the opportunity to quickly review my predictions for the end of season positions. I can't find my old article of a couple of weeks back on the site so can't remember all I said but I think my predictions have altered a little.

Swansea I expect to finish highest of the current bottom nine teams with around 41 points. BHA still have a tough run in but they've accrued more points at this stage than I expected so I see them being safe now, finishing on about 38 points. I predict Newcastle and Palace will finish with the same or thereabouts points total.

At the bottom, I don't expect WBA to move and Stoke have Arsenal, Spurs, Burnley and Liverpool still to play along with West Ham, Palace and Swansea so I can't see them picking up more than 5 points from their run in, leaving them on 32 points and in the relegation zone.

The real scrap is over that final relegation spot and it will be us duking it out with West Ham and Huddersfield for the right to play Premier League Football next season.

As expected, Huddersfield have really started to struggle lately, even more than I expected. They're left with only 7 games, including the likes of Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal. They also face Newcastle, Brighton, Watford and Everton. Three weeks ago, I could see them winning one of those games or nicking two or three draws, but now. I think they'll really struggle to finish on anything higher than 34 points.

West Ham have 8 games left and face Chelsea, Arsenal, Man U, Man City and Leicester in their run in. If points from those games seems unlikely, West Ham will be focused on getting as much as they can from their game with us, Stoke and Everton. I can see West Ham performing well enough in one of those three games to get a win provided the natives in East London don't continue to stage protests and undermine their own side's chances of getting wins. Anyone playing West Ham at the London stadium will know the importance of scoring first and turning the home fans against their team. West Ham are in the stronger points position than us, but their form is the most unpredictable. They really could finish anywhere between 30 and 36 points. Anything less than 34 is asking for real trouble.

We too have the luxury of 8 league games left, but due to our progression in the FA Cup, two of those will be midweek fixtures and there is of course the Semi-Final against Chelsea, in what will be a rather heavy-going conclusion to the season. MH will have to be careful to get the balance right in training between improving fitness and stamina of players, whilst not over-working them and leaving them fatigued. We still lack a goal scoring striker at the moment, so the imminent return of Charlie Austin could be the difference. We have Arsenal, Chelsea and City to play, mixed in with West Ham, Swansea, Bournemouth, Everton and Leicester. Our midweek catch-up games will be the Leicester and Swansea games, making what already looked like tricky fixtures that little bit harder unless we're playing with confidence and momentum from performances in the matches around them. Like West Ham, we remain somewhat of an unknown quantity, with a new manager. As a rival to escape that final relegation spot, the West Ham game couldn't be more important in determining where we'll be playing our football next season. A win will place us above West Ham (and possibly Huddersfield too) and the pressure will then be on them for at least a week (or in Huddersfield's case, I would expect them to be in trouble for the rest of the season) . Anything less than a win and West Ham and Huddersfield stay above us for the time being and the pressure is on us to get the points required to go above one of them. With those fixtures, we'll be relying on Huddersfield and West Ham to continue to wobble whilst finding something like 6 or 7 points from our final 7 games. This unpredictability means we could also finish with a points haul of anything between 30 and 36 points. Our goal difference gives us the edge over our rivals if we can match their points tally. I still think we'll need as little as 34 points to stay up, but at this stage, its hard to tell whether that target will be reached with comfort or hover tantalisingly out of reach.

1.) 20 Mar 2018
20 Mar 2018 13:23:21
Perfectly put as ever Figo! The only other thing in our favour is the bounce we get which Huddersfield won’t have and which the hammers had and don’t have now.
That puts us psychologically at an advantage.
Also those two teams are not going to change formation now. We have had to which should work for us particularly with Chaz coming back.

2.) 20 Mar 2018
20 Mar 2018 18:14:42
I was thinking about what Mark H might say to the players before the West Ham United game . and in all honesty I think he will simply say 'GO WIN IT' .
he will totally instill the WE MUST WIN THIS GAME mentality . and I think the players will respond accordingly.

I also think there isn't a better time to play Chelsea in the PL and cup . and likewise Arsenal . both teams very hit n'miss . and if the passion showed by the whole team against Wigan is repeated . I am positive we could get something out of both these games.


3.) 20 Mar 2018
20 Mar 2018 20:25:46
Figo, as always a great post, I remember your article well and actually I was thinking of some kind of follow up.

I agree with most except 2 of your points.

Huddersfield - if my memory serves me correctly they had a good February, collecting 6 points from 3 games. They have since lost to palace, whilst this put us in the bottom 3 it also dragged them back in it. Not great form but they have a points to game ratio to suggest they ‘may’ have enough.

34 points - I believe to get safe, it will be more like 36, I think we will achieve this under MH.

From there I / we will be happy and probably wondering what the future holds. I don’t think it is right to have dogs at the new owners though, they have not been here long. But assuming it is right about LR being the ‘brains’ behind the whole club playing that stupid formation at every level, I worry he may dictate to the permanent manager.

4.) 20 Mar 2018
20 Mar 2018 21:54:15

5.) 21 Mar 2018
21 Mar 2018 06:26:29
We have some tough games ahead as do the other relegation scrapers around us but we’re in a position where Hughes has already changed and brought something to the table as in our formation and belief
Potentially we could beat Chelsea twice in a week which would be pretty amazing
I honestly think we’re in the best hands now to get out of this with the following results

West Ham win
Swansea draw
Arsenal draw
Chelsea win
Chelsea win
Bournemouth win
Leicester loss
Everton win
City loss
And then my alarm clocks just goes off and I’ve woken up from my dream
Plus we’ve also lifted the FA cup and Mourinho admits on live television we were the better team without any excuses.

6.) 21 Mar 2018
21 Mar 2018 12:28:54
Whilst we all feel a little more positive with the change of manager, we’ve yet to really see whether MH will provide a bounce or not. The players did play well second half v Wigan but as I say, we need to see them carry the second 45 minutes into the next match v West Ham and then on for the remainder of the season. Playing the odd good game/ half is nothing more than we were achieving under Pellegrino.

I’d worry if MH simply tells this team to ‘go and win’ the West Ham game. This remains a young, inexperienced side at its heart – McCarthy, Hoedt, Stephens, Lemina, Hojberg, Boufal, Sims, Carrillo all lack experience for various reasons and MH has highlighted that in his view, the players could do with more individual instruction and preparation than they were previously receiving. First and foremost, MH needs to ensure each player is well prepared tactically, understands their individual role and is capable of executing it on match day under pressure. These players do all need motivating but if they’re simply told to go and win a huge stakes game without the foundation of confidence and momentum, they may simply crumble under the pressure. It’s clear the team is fragile so I think the message needs to be ‘you CAN win this game’ and MH must convince them. If this squad can find self-belief, trust their team mates and trust the tactics, it will free them up to express themselves. That’s the key to winning.

On the Huddersfield point Gregg, they’ve lost two and drawn one of their last three games but its not the results but the manner that is of note. This month, they’ve failed to score in their three games and against Palace at home, they were totally dominated by a fellow struggler. Palace are better with Zaha back but Huddersfield’s strength has been their defence this season. They’re not going to score a lot of goals so if their defence starts to wobble, they could be in big trouble. Right now, I can’t see them getting too many more points. They may surprise me, yet again, with a big result against Newcastle, Brighton or Everton. I think their best chance of a win is against Watford but even that’s not easy. If teams have sussed them out or their performance levels drop now, they could have it tough.

My 34 points guesstimate is based on Huddersfield only picking up a couple of draws in their remaining fixtures a I suspect they may take that last relegation spot if that happens. Maybe its just wishful thinking as 33/ 34 points gives Saints a more makeable target.

I think, moving forward, the club needs invest in a better coaching team across all levels. They need to hire not only better coaches, but more of them if they want to ensure that the teams remain attractive to young players, they develop to their full potential and that they are able to integrate seamlessly into the first team as intended. As for senior players, the head coach needs to have a true understanding of each player and their best position, decide the formation that best suits and then recruit a few players to ensure there aren’t any square pegs in round holes. In today’s game, young players are coached to perform specific roles by the top sides. Central midfield is not really a defined position anymore. Instead, you’re an anchor man, defensive or deep-lying playmaker, a box to box midfielder, advanced playmaker, roaming playmaker and on and on. Left and right backs can be attacking, defensive, wing-backs or full backs. Now more than ever, its crucial for the club to ensure that each season it knows the best formation for the players and any players brought in fit naturally into that system. That’s the art of team building. Not just buying the best young players, but the best players that fit into your system. If not, that new signing will not be able to play to their potential.

7.) 21 Mar 2018
21 Mar 2018 19:16:52
So the two big games for me where I think we can get maximum points is against West Ham and Swansea, simply because I think we have the better squad than both teams. Swansea has come under great form, but the change of management should favour us. The worrying thing for me is that we've got Arsenal and Chelsea back-to-back. However, both teams are underperforming and again, we'll see what effect Mark Hudges has.

These next two weeks are crucial and I would say that the break has come at a perfect time, because of our form only a few players have been called up to their national squads, which should give Hughes some time to know what he's working with and prepare for the West Ham game. Facing Man City on the last day is a massive burden for us, they will have probably won the title by then and if they're still in the Champions League, they should be focussed on that. However, if they're breaking records I expect it to be a bad game.

8.) 22 Mar 2018
22 Mar 2018 14:06:04
Agree on last game. Let’s hope it’s not a thumping 8/ 9 -0 and screw our GD!