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West Ham: Why Confidence Is Key to Avoiding the Drop

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23:  Santi Cazorla of Arsenal scores their thord goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and West Ham United at Emirates Stadium on January 23, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJanuary 25, 2013

West Ham's 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Arsenal on Wednesday evening has some fans mightily alarmed. "Everyone gets smashed once in a while," reason some, while "this is nothing but a disaster," argue others.

So at an important juncture in the English Premier League season, where do West Ham stand?

Confidence is at rock-bottom after that dismal night at the Emirates; five goals in 10 minutes—all of world-class quality—has absolutely deflated players and fans alike.

The Hammers' system is predicated on several constants, and in the first half of the season those constants helped create a mid-table team capable of giving anyone a game.

A strong, uncompromising defence, a battle-hardened midfield and a direct, pressurising approach in attack made playing at the Boleyn Ground a truly terrible prospect to consider. Confidence was high at home; expectations were tempered away.

James Collins has shown his bravery over the last few years, and alongside Winston Reid they formed an initially formidable duo. The midfield partnership of Kevin Nolan, Mohamed Diame and Mark Noble is the envy of many Premier League teams, while who better to have up top than Andy Carroll the human battering ram?

An organised side bettered a possession-hungry Aston Villa on the opening day as the Villans never came close to threatening Jussi Jaaskelainen's goal, while a delightful attacking display ripped Southampton apart 4-1 in October.

The physical nature of this side make them difficult to live with, and the recent draw with Queens Park Rangers saw Harry Redknapp admit to the BBC that he was relieved to leave with a point.

They pinned us in.

They play it long and they get it up to the front men and we couldn't get out [of our own half] for long spells.

It was really difficult, they were picking up second balls, it was hard. They had plenty of corners, they're strong on set plays too.

We got penned deeper and deeper in our own box, they were teeing balls off and dropping balls off to front men. In the end we're happy with a point.

But the bright start that had Sam Allardyce so jovial has faded. The Iron's superlative performance against QPR was an anomaly in a sea of poor performances.

Team Wins Losses Draws
Aston Villa 2 5 5
Queens Park Rangers 2 5 5
West Ham 2 4 7
Wigan Athletic 2 2 8

Initially it seemed the likes of Ricardo Vaz Te were helping Big Sam's cause to shed the long-ball tactics tag, and in fairness the Irons were spreading it about quite nicely when the season was in its infancy.

But players and fans alike may well have pushed the panic button in recent weeks. Seven losses from 12 is, to be frank, relegation form.

It compares directly with relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic's unfavourable results, and it also suggests Aston Villa and QPR are in better form. That's a far cry from the opening 11 games, where West Ham recorded five wins, three draws and three losses.

They've resorted to hoofing it, which signals low confidence.

The opening-day win over Aston Villa was more than just three points—it was a phenomenal start, welcoming the Hammers back to the prime time with a clean sheet on a glorious sunny day.

That optimistic mood even survived a couple of severe gaffes in a 3-0 loss to Swansea, and early form placed West Ham in eighth place in the EPL. They're still hovering in 12th and remain eight points clear of the relegation zone, but the slump is more than alarming.

The fan reaction is mixed: the talkSPORT phone-in session after the game revealed the diverse feelings of the stands on what should be done and how things are panning out.

This is a good team who've been made better with the astute January addition of Joe Cole. An injection of confidence is all it would take for this side to steer well clear of the relegation scrap. Who can provide it?

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