West Ham still being underestimated to break the top six

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Fourth at Christmas and looking set for a spell in the upper echelons of the Premier League table, many have questioned whether West Ham can sustain the level of results that has caused echoes of “Barcelona, we’re coming for you” to ring around the Boleyn Ground.

But they now look in a better place than ever to challenge for a spot in Europe, even if a Champions League place remains a 12/1 shot.

After picking up a 2-0 victory over Leicester at the weekend it what was a performance short of their best, Sam Allardyce’s men have racked up 31 points from their opening 17 Premier League ties.

To put that into context, at the same time last season they had just 14.

And to illustrate even more how far they have come in recent years, they are just two points short of the total they racked up in the entire 2009-10 campaign.

But where can the Hammers realistically finish this year?

It’s good news for the east Londoners, as even a slight drop off in points could see them break the top eight.

The Upton Park outfit picked up an average of 1.05 points a game last season, in a campaign where they ended up in 13th position.

Applying that average over their remaining 21 matches of 2014-15 would see them finish on a tally of 53 points, a total that would have seem them in the leading octet in three of the last four seasons.

But this Hammers squad is quite visibly a stronger team than 12 months ago.

The form Andy Carroll’s displayed since returning from injury has been a major factor in recent results with the Geordie hitman offering Allardyce the opportunity to revert to his favoured ‘direct’ style when necessary.

That is, however, not to say that Big Sam will simply return to the exhorts of last year. The pace they now have available up top with Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho allows them that other option.

And with Alex Song looking a class above in his performances for the Irons so far, they should easily improve on last season’s average.

So continue at their rate of picking up, on average, 1.8 points a game and the plump figure of 68 will adorn the points column next to West Ham in the Premier League table.

The positions sides reaching that total finished in recent years will have Hammers fans drooling with excitement.

Of the 27 Premier League seasons completed to date, only twice would a tally of 68 points have seen a side finish outside of the top six.

Furthermore, in 11 of those seasons, the top four has been breached with the same total.

Champions League talk may be premature, but get through a pair of tough fixtures against Chelsea and Arsenal without damaging confidence, and now is the time to push on.

With the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham already distracted by European football, and Southampton’s squad depth coming under question, taking the 12/5 for Allardyce’s men to finish in the top six looks a worthy investment.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.