27 April 2022

Come on, you Hammers (well, on Thursday, at least...)

Emile celebrates his goal to make it 2-0 back in December.
We're all Hammers fans, at least until tuck-in time on Thursday, as we await our trip to London Stadium on Sunday. Of course, on Thursday, West Ham host Eintracht Frankfurt in what is amounting to a must-win for both sides. I hope it doesn't come across as cynical—or, failing that, excessively cynical—to suggest that all of us from the right side of London will be throwing the full weight and energy of our support behind our Prem League brethren from that side of London, if only because a Hammers victory on Thursday renders our Sunday clash all the less meaningful for them. All the better for us.
It's pretty clear that Moyes is putting all of his eggs in the Europa League basket, and who can blame him? He's done a fantastic job of getting this squad as far as it's gone in both the Prem and the Europa League itself despite a raft of injuries that would make any wizened Arsenal fan nod in sage appreciation. Add in a few unfortunate red cards, and we're ready to spit in our palms and offer a fraternal hand-shake. What's more, Moyes's squad have shown admirable spirit and tenacity, with a heavily rotated side taking Chelsea to the brink of a well-deserved draw at the Bridge only to lose their talisman (or at least elderly) Craig Dawson to a red card that also gave Jorginho a chance at doing his best Bruno Fernandes routine, missing the spot-kick before Pulisic spared his blushes.

The upshot is that West Ham will have none of their CBs available for Sunday, with Diop, Cat-kicker—back off, spell-check—Zouma, and Ogbonna ruled out through injury, and Dawson now suspended. Lest we get too salivatory at the prospect of facing a makeshift backline, however, let's remind ourselves that West Ham's second-best held its own against Chelsea for the better part of 85 minutes before succumbing. In other words, we can't simply waltz on in expecting our hosts to roll out the proverbial red carpet—fitting though that may be. Even if the Hammers do defeat Frankfurt, boosting their chances at winning a European trophy for the first time since 1965, we should be wary. We can ill-afford a slip-up  now.

Last but not least, lest anyone be wondering, it won't matter one whit whether West Ham win the Europa League. Fourth place still guarantees a Champions League spot. Should West Ham win, the Prem will send five clubs to the Champions League—Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, whoever finishes fourth, and West Ham. In an ideal world, we'd qualify by finishing fourth while West Ham's triumph would demote a fifth-placed Tottenham to the European Conference League. Alas, it's not to be. On the other hand, Arsenal finishing fourth and qualifying for the Champions League and Tottenham finishing fifth and qualifying for Europa League play would feel like a restoration of the natural order.

Having said all that, let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's one match at a time, and there will be plenty of time to ponder the permutations later. For now, let's content ourselves with doing our patriotic duty in supporting a London club against their German visitors. We're magnanimous enough to do that, eh?

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