James Collins

West Ham’s resurgence epitomizes crazy Premier League season, as Big Sam lauds latest win

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Following West Ham’s third-successive 2-0 victory, a win on Tuesday over Norwich at Upton Park courtesy of two late goals, the Hammers have moved from the relegation zone to the top half of the Premier League table in the blink of an eye.

That’s just the way the PL standings are this season, as a campaign of unpredictability at both ends of the table has us all guessing with 12 games to go.

West Ham have been good defensively all season, keeping a league high 13 clean sheets, and have now added some crucial goals at the other end to spearhead manager Sam Allardyce’s masterful turnaround at the Boleyn Ground. They weren’t fantastic against Norwich but they got the job done, which is vital at this time of the season.

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The latest win marked three-straight PL victories for the first-time since 2007 for West Ham, and Allardyce was over the moon.

“I’m delighted, it was a hell of a game Norwich gave us tonight. I had the chairman ringing me up to say we had not won under lights this season or last and that was in my mind. Our goalkeeper kept us in the game and we scored late, when it is hard for anybody to come back into it. It’s a great end to an important run of fixtures.”

With 2-0 wins against Swansea City, Aston Villa and now Norwich in the last 10 days, this stretch was always going to be a pivotal one for West Ham. Add to that the 0-0 draw that grabbed away at Chelsea before their winning run and you could look at that as the catalyst for their upturn in results.

The Hammers now sit in 10th spot on 28 points, but are only four points off the relegation zone. That, right there, sums up the PL season in a nutshell.

MORE: West Ham United 2-0 Norwich City – Late goals delight ‘Happy Hammers’

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With Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Stoke City all going on recent good runs with plenty of wins and clean sheets, you’d think they are out of danger. But no, they are all piling up at the bottom of the standings with nobody able to pull clear of the bottom three. With just four points separating 10th spot from 18th, the relegation battle has many more twists and turns between now and May 11. Examine how tight the PL standings are, by clicking on the image, left.

West Ham showcased why they should steer clear of danger, as their team is built on solid defense and now they are grabbing the vital goals they need in order to finish teams off and push up the table. But it is still a ‘should’ with West Ham and every other team from 10th downwards, there are no guarantees and the tension is bubbling up nicely.

The Hammers ‘defense first’ model is one other teams at the bottom should follow. Whether or not they can do it is another matter.

Regardless, let’s have some fun watching this topsy-turvy season play out…

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.