West Ham may have forged a nine-point gap between themselves and the drop-zone with their 1-0 win over Swansea, though their massive 18/1 price to be relegated this season may still hold appeal for some.
Victory over the Swans ended a run of four top-flight games without a win but, in order to put any lingering relegation doubts to rest, they’ll have to follow it up with some more positive results fast, especially with the sides below them continuing to improve.
Each of the bottom five avoided defeat this weekend, with Reading in particular impressing. Their win over Sunderland was their third in four Premier League outings and, should they and the others around build further upon these reasons to be cheerful, this could see the Hammers sucked into the mire.
Another very worrying aspect haunting the east Londoners is that there are several fixtures of exceptional difficulty remaining to them; the kind that will make their fans thankful their early-season showing was as good as it was.
Their next five games include a trip to Villa – who showed they’re not ready to throw the towel in with a spirited showing at Everton – a home game with bitter rivals Tottenham, then a run of three that sees them visit the Britannia and Stamford Bridge before hosting Manchester United.
Two wins in this spell is definitely a target the Irons can realistically hope to achieve, however, five defeats is also an eventuality they could be faced with. Should that be the case, the breathing space between themselves and the bottom three will come in for some serious downsizing.
Their remaining fixtures, with the exception of West Brom at home, are all against teams who are forecast to have something to play for and when you’re struggling over the finish line these are the sorts of games you want to avoid.
Furthermore, some incredibly shabby away form is not likely to serve them well when the run-in intensifies.
Despite losing 5-1 an 3-1 to London foes Arsenal and Fulham, these results actually represented their best attacking efforts on the road since the end of November. They managed goals in these games, which was something they could not muster in any of the five matches that preceded it; all bar one of them were lost.
If they can’t stem this alarming flow of away-day woe then it’ll be difficult to allay any relegation fears until the season’s end and, while it will take a special kind of implosion for the Hammers to go down from their current position, those who envisage a disastrous close to the campaign at Upton Park can get paid out handsomely.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date