West Ham swatted Birmingham aside in a comfortable 2-0 win to surge into the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday afternoon. Marko Arnautovic put the Hammers 1-0 up with a poacher’s finish and big Andy Carroll killed the Championship side off with a trademark towering header in the dying moments. It highlighted West Ham’s squad depth, as several big players were rested and new boy Samir Nasri put in a decent shift. It left fans daring to dream of a first piece of silverware since the FA Cup triumph in 1980 and it would be great to see Pellegrini throw everything into a cup run.
The Hammers have shown their quality in fits and starts throughout the season, with Anderson often running riot among opposition defences. But a lack of consistency will prevent them from challenging the top six and they are already 10 points off the pace. They will also not be dragged into another relegation battle, as they are far too good for that. Comfortable mid-table obscurity beckons once more and it therefore makes perfect sense to give 100% effort in the cup.
If you look at the odds on a well regarded site like YouWager it will show you that West Ham are 25/1 outsiders to win the FA Cup. They are well behind the big six of Man Ciy, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man Utd, Tottenham and Arsenal, and they find themselves in the next bracket along with Everton and Leicester. That is a fair assessment of the quality that Pellegrini has at his disposal. But many of the teams ahead of them in the betting will be distracted by the battle to either win the title or finish in the top four, plus the elite teams have European competition to distract them.
That gives the Hammers the perfect opportunity to capitalise. This expensively assembled team, blessed with a lavishly gifted attack, should be able to ease past any lower league sides or teams in the bottom half of the Premiership. On their day, they could beat an Arsenal or a Chelsea. And they could certainly take down a half-strength Liverpool or Man City side that had one eye on bigger prizes, provided they play with intensity, desire and passion.
It was great to see Carroll back among the goals on Saturday, but even more encouraging to note how little this team now depends on him. In seasons gone by, West Ham’s form would nosedive whenever the big Geordie succumbed to yet another injury. Now he is competing for a starting berth with the likes of Arnautovic, Javier Hernandez, Lucas Perez and Michail Antonio, reducing his status to that of squad player, an added luxury to bring off the bench and change games.
It speaks volumes about the new depths of West Ham’s squad, and the future could start looking bright if the club can furnish Pellegrini with as many options in defence. Issa Diop looks like a great prospect, but there are still question marks over the men around him. But the young Declan Rice offers superb protection to the backline and Lukasz Fabianski looks reasonably solid in goal.
The creative department is also looking well stacked and it will be thrilling to watch former Arsenal maestros Jack Wilshere and Nasri wreaking havoc alongside Anderson, who already looks like the best player outside the Big Six in the Premiership. There are plenty of reasons to feel positive about the Hammers’ future as everyone becomes increasingly accustomed to the new stadium, but a trophy would really help boost everyone’s confidence, give the fans something to cheer and make the club a really attractive destination, and the FA Cup looks like a great opportunity.