A lot of people are worried about West Ham United right now, they believe that we are going to be in a relegation scrap and are bemoaning the chances of the team. I have thought a lot about it and, while I understand these reactions, I also believe that they are entirely based on emotion. It is true that our results haven’t been good lately and that we are only 3 points above the relegation zone. It is also true that we have won only 3 in 14 games against 7 losses. However, looking a little deeper at the results, and particularly the team’s goal differential, gives us something to think about.
Through 14 games the team’s goal differential is at -3. Extrapolated over the entirety of the season would mean that we can expect to have a goal differential of around -8. Since the 2006/2007 season no team has been relegated with a goal differential of better than -16 and most relegated teams have had a goal differential of -25 or worse. Teams with a -8 goal differential typically finish between 9th and 14th in the table, well above the relegation heap.
Now, what has to be further taken into consideration is how we have gotten to that goal differential. Having allowed only 15 goals through 14 games we are tied for 6th best in the league when it comes to allowing goals. The problem, of course, is that we have only scored 12 goals, which ties us for 4th worst in the league. It is worth noting that by no metric possible, are we one of the three worst teams in the league. This includes just looking at raw goal differential; where we sit squarely in the middle of the pack.
So, if that is the case, what has us hurting so bad in the standings? The reality is that lack of goal scoring will often equal having draws that should be wins and losses that should be draws (or wins.) That combined with any kind of bad luck, of which we have had plenty, it is no surprise that we are lower in the table than we ought to be. The funny thing about luck is that it tends to even out for people and teams over time. Luck is, in reality, a short term statistical anomaly. The bad bounces and bad breaks are going to affect all teams, for the most part, equally, as are the bad calls from refs and line judges.
Taking emotion out of the equation, which is hard for fans I know, it is pretty clear that what West Ham United is right now is a solid, talented team that is having trouble finding the back of the net and has had some bad breaks ranging from bad calls from the officiating teams to near misses that could have easily found the net. A large portion of the goal scoring problem can be chalked up to the injuries to Andy Carroll and the failure to bring in a solid striker during the transfer window.
Hopefully January will see both of those things change. In the mean time, it is probably worth keeping these statistical realities, and faith that luck will sometimes go our way too, in mind.