West Ham

West Ham show the quality they need in order to compete in top-four race

By Sean Walsh
West Ham beat Crystal Palace on New Year's Day
West Ham beat Crystal Palace on New Year's Day / Chloe Knott - Danehouse/GettyImages
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After West Ham's disappointing 2-0 defeat to Arsenal just before Christmas, it would have been very easy to pencil them in as a contender to finish in the top six rather than one for the top four.

They have a relatively thin squad and will continue their Europa League excursions later this season. Around them are Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham all brimming with quality as well as the financial backing to significantly strengthen in the January transfer window.

But just as they've done for two years, David Moyes' Hammers aren't sticking to the script and are continuing to flex their Champions League credentials.

Fortunately for West Ham, the Gunners fell to a late 2-1 defeat at home to Manchester City in Saturday's early kick-off, meaning Moyes' men could move to within a point of the top four if they did their job that evening at Crystal Palace. And they duly delivered.

Despite an early flurry of Palace chances, West Ham stood firm and managed to strike three times before the break to send them into what proved to be an unassailable lead.

Miichail Antonio's clever opener from Said Benrahma's cross was delicious enough, but Manuel Lanzini's showstopper just a couple of minutes later in the eventual 3-2 win oozed the class that the Irons are going to need in the remaining half-season.

It's quality that they're going to need everyone to be chipping in with too - they don't have the luxuries of a deep squad as it is and Benrahma's impending absence could threaten to derail West Ham's charge.

The good news for Moyes and his side is that they have emerged from the dreaded festive schedule only one point from their target, a return they almost certainly would have bitten your hand off for if offered at the start of the season. But the bad news is the road ahead is bumpy and this was the first of many tough tests they'll face.

Come May, West Ham will definitely deserve a spot in the Champions League if they do indeed qualify - either through their Premier League finish or winning the Europa League. If they finish above their three domestic rivals, then that's some feat. If they win one of the most prestigious trophies in European football, then that's legendary.

There's a higher chance of West Ham doing all they humanly can to secure a place at Europe's top table and still not quite getting there. But their goals are definitely attainable and they shouldn't be fazed by the task at hand.

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