As any grizzled manager worth his weight in cliches will tell you, no silverware is handed out in January.
However, West Ham passed up on the chance to take a step closer towards Arsene Wenger's cherished fourth place crown with a chaotic 3-2 defeat at home to a decimated Leeds United on Sunday afternoon.
Exactly seven days prior, West Ham cruised to a 2-0 victory against the same opponents, on the same ground in the FA Cup. West Ham's frontline - and Jarrod Bowen in particular, a scorer in both matches - can point to their consistency across the two fixtures. Yet, as David Moyes' side struggles for balance, a porous rearguard proved West Ham's downfall.
More than halfway through the campaign, West Ham have a decidedly middling defensive record, reflected in the team's underlying numbers, that undermines their attempts to qualify for the Champions League.
Moyes made four changes to the starting XI that earned passage into the fourth round of the cup. While there was a swap of goalkeepers and Tomas Soucek was deemed unavailable, West Ham's theoretically first-choice full-backs were drafted in.
However, both Aaron Cresswell and Vladimir Coufal were at fault as West Ham's backline was stretched and strained by Leeds' typically enthusiastic press. Raphinha methodically tormented each member of the opposition defence. Having first beaten Cresswell to an arrowed pass from Luke Ayling ahead of the game's opening goal, Leeds' talisman spotted the space vacated by Coufal as Jack Harrison completed his hat-trick.
The central pairing between West Ham's flailing full-backs hardly covered themselves in glory either. Craig Dawson's creaking limbs and Issa Diop's unpredictable decision-making were repeatedly exploited by a 15th-placed Leeds side - who were without last season's top scorer, their captain and midfield linchpin - that deservedly earned three precious points in the fight for survival.
While it was a case of deja vu for Leeds with a duplicate fixture list, West Ham had their one COVID-suspension against Norwich City sandwiched in on Wednesday night. Moyes touched on the 'unfair' circumstances before kick off but returned to this topic after a thoroughly frustrating afternoon.
"I have to give a lot of credit to our players because when you play Leeds United one Sunday then another Sunday and the Premier League put a game in between it, really difficult," the irked manager told Sky Sports. "Leeds didn't have a game, we did. Is it an excuse? Yeah, a little bit. But I think it's a fair one."
Declan Rice cited a recurrence of the individual errors which have creeped into West Ham's game of late - contributing to a glut of 11 goals conceded in their last six league matches. Yet, Moyes still angled this towards the rearrangement.
"They come from fatigue and tiredness - mental tiredness from the games. We found it difficult to get prepared quickly again."
Leeds named seven teenagers on the bench for Sunday's fixture and had to call upon two of them in the opening 25 minutes such has been the unrelenting onslaught of injuries throughout their squad.
West Ham don't conjure anywhere near the same sympathy but have been without both Angelo Ogbonna and Kurt Zouma, their first choice centre backs, since the latter pulled up in the first week of December.
Dealing with a slim squad to begin with, Moyes hasn’t been hesitant to put a little pressure on the higher ups at West Ham during the winter window, echoing a call for fresh bodies he has made on numerous occasions this month before the weekend’s defeat to West Ham:
"I’d like to bring some new faces in if I could and I’d like to add to the group that I’ve got.
“We’ll try and do it as well as we can but at the moment the ones we’re looking at and the ones we’d like to get are either not available or we just can’t get."
Injuries were at the root of West Ham's late decline in the race for top four last season as well. As late as mid-April, 31 games into the season, West Ham were fourth last term. However, the loss of Rice and top scorer Michail Antonio contributed significantly as the Hammers went on a run of one win from five thereafter, including defeats to a relegation-scrapping Newcastle and a painfully mediocre Everton.
A dip into the winter transfer market - which has served the club well in recent years, bringing the likes of Jesse Lingard and Jarrod Bowen - would certainly help bolster a thinning team.
With the Europa League knockout stages on the horizon, Moyes will be forced to deal with more midweek matches that can't be written off as excuses.