Today we can not drop points.
It is going to be very tight at the top until the end of the season, and the league could end up being won on goal difference.
With tricky trips to Manchester City and Newcastle still to come, we need to ensure we win the other 6 games, starting today. That will take us to 91 points.
Quick maths would mean City have to win 7 from their last 8 to also finish on 91 points, and that would likely see them win the league on goal difference.
We need City to drop points in at least two of their remaining 8 games. If they only drop points in 1 game, we need to win at St James Park. Not an easy feat. That will take us to 94, exactly the same as the maximum points City can get. And that will again see them probably win on goal difference.
But all this means nothing if we do not get the 3 points at the London Olympic Stadium.
For once, we face a team who have had a mid-week European away game whilst we had a rest.
How often have we seen us struggle on a Sunday following a tough Thursday match on the continent? This time, it is our opponents who had that tough away game whilst we have had a clear week.
David Moyes did rest a few against Gent – Aaron Cresswell, Lucas Paqueta, Kurt Zouma, Michail Antonio and Tomas Soucek were all on the bench. But hopefully we should gain that advantage of having a week to focus on the game against West Ham who could only prepare for it on Friday.
As with all teams in Europe, they tend to start their next fixture a big sluggishly. We need to be quick out the blocks and hit them hard in the first 15 minutes.
It was gutting going 2-nil up to Liverpool only to draw 2-2. But West Ham are no Liverpool and the council house stadium is no Anfield. We go 2-nil up in the first 20 minutes, we will not be losing points.
We have been linked heavily with Declan Rice again mid-week. It is a deal that does not seem to go away. I think the West Ham man will be a superb signing.
Rice has the defensive attributes and awareness to compete with Thomas Partey as the sole defensive midfielder. He also has the ability to replace Granit Xhaka further forward.
With Champions League football next season, there will certainly be enough games to accomodate all 3.
We will play at 46 games in 2023/24 (38 PL, 6 CL, 1 FA Cup, 1 LC). It will probably end up being above 50 as we progress in domestic and European cup competitions.
Partey has not started more than 24 games in a single season since joining us, and we have been managing his injury issues this season. So straight off the bat that would be 26+ starts for Rice. By the time he plays a few further forward instead of Xhaka, you can easily picture him starting at least 35 games, and probably coming off the bench a dozen times.
Rice will also provide an option at centre back. We could potentially sign him, afford to sell Rob Holding, and then rely on Rice being Saliba’s cover. Although a lot of that could depend on how long-term Saliba’s back injury is.
Further up the pitch, Rice offers something different to what we have.
Xhaka and Martin Odegaard are very good on the ball. But neither drives forward from the middle of the park, breaking those lines.
Sometimes you need to use a battering ram rather than a locksmith to break down a door. And Rice is very good picking upo the ball and using his power to get through the lines.
Yaya Toure was brilliant at this. Getting the ball on the half way line and using pace and power to set up an attack. It is certainly something we miss.
Years ago Jose Mourinho spoke about wanting players who could transition the ball. Either from defence to midfield or midfield to attack. The quicker you do it, the quicker you get your opponents running backwards.
Someone like Cesc trasnsitioned the ball with his passing. Michael Essien would do it with his running.
If teams are playing a low block against us, you put Rice on and see if his direct playing style can break down the opponents. He will win free kicks, he will break the lines.
He is still just 24, but will bring experience and more leadership. He is the next England captain.
When next season kicks off, Xhaka and Partey will both be in their 30s. And both also have just 2 years left on their contracts.
Sign Rice this summer, he competes alonside the pair of them. Then in 2-years we could afford to let both leave for free and will only need to sign one replacement.
Today could be the last time we see Rice in a West Ham shirt against Arsenal. Next season he will hopefully be in the red and white, and getting booed by the West Ham neanderthal’s.
I don’t think Rice will ever be England captain. He’ll be an Arsenal player. And we all know how Arsenal players are misused by England.So is he willing to give that up playing for Arsenal? , one would hope not. He’ll lose his England place , be told he isn’t playing enough first team football ( Harry Maguire ) and all the other stupid excuses all previous England managers have used over the decades. So Declan if you’re coming to Arsenal remember your England place will be under threat too. But do come after all you’ll win more here than you ever will as an England player.