Sunday’s clash between West Ham United and Leeds United is simply a must-not-lose game for the Yorkshire side, who could be relegated should other results go against them on Saturday, and they suffer defeat in east London.
West Ham vs Leeds: Quick Stats
- West Ham given a 41.2% chance of victory by the Opta supercomputer in this game, with Leeds given just a 29.7% chance of taking three points back to Yorkshire.
- The Hammers have lost four of their last five Premier League games, although they won their last home match against Manchester United.
- Leeds haven’t won any of their last seven league games (D2 L5) and have conceded 32 goals in their last 12 Premier League matches.
Both West Ham and Leeds have found the 2022-23 Premier League campaign a struggle, with the Hammers spending 80 days in the drop zone – their most since 2017-18 (87) – and Leeds currently occupying one of the relegation spots. That said, the night before this game will be just the 34th night Leeds have ended in the bottom three this season, with the Whites hovering just above the drop for most of the season and landing in it at the worst possible time.
After an excellent seventh-place finish in the Premier League last season, West Ham have toiled this campaign, losing 19 games, five more than they did last season. They’ve also managed to find the net just 38 times, having scored at least 60 in each of the previous two campaigns (62 in 2020-21, 60 in 2021-22). The Hammers have found goals hard to come by, with Saïd Benrahma their top scorer with six goals and Michail Antonio managing just five, exactly half the totals he posted in each of the previous three seasons (10 in each).
Although West Ham have had a poor domestic season, they have excelled in Europe, reaching the Conference League final by defeating AZ in the semi-final, and have won more games (13) in European competitions than in the Premier League (10) in 2022-23. They have won 25 games in all competitions, which is their joint most in a season in the Premier League era, along with the 25 they won last season. Their 14 home wins are their most in a season since winning 15 in 2004-05 at Upton Park, and most as a top-flight side since 1999-00 (15).
For Leeds, the season began with seven points from three Premier League games, a position from which only two sides had ever previously been relegated – Wolves in 2011-12 and West Brom in 2017-18. But after beating Chelsea in August, their form has seen them win just five times in 33 games, a record that only already relegated Southampton can match. They conceded 23 Premier League goals in April, a new record in a single month in the competition, breaking their own record of 20 from February 2022.
Four different managers have taken charge of a game for the club this season, with relegation firefighter Sam Allardyce recently taking over from Javi Gracia, who lasted just 11 league games in charge after taking over from Jesse Marsch (with Michael Skubala as three-game caretaker in between). Last week, we looked at how effective late-season managerial changes have been historically.
Allardyce’s two games in charge have yielded one point so far, although he has faced Manchester City (1st) and Newcastle United (3rd), which were statistically the most difficult opening two games for a manager at a Premier League club (with an average position of second between them) since Joe Jordan’s two games in caretaker charge of Portsmouth in late 2005, facing Chelsea (1st) and Man Utd (2nd) before handing over to the returning Harry Redknapp.
Leeds have conceded the most Premier League goals this season (71) and have the second fewest clean sheets (five), tallies they also ranked unfavourably for in the 2021-22 campaign too (second most goals conceded and second fewest clean sheets). Their defensive issues have simply not gone away, despite also changing goalkeepers under Allardyce, with the former England manager favouring the older Joel Robles over the beleaguered Illan Meslier.
London proved to be a good place to visit for Leeds on the final day of last season, when they beat Brentford to stay up, but since then they haven’t picked up a single point in the capital, conceding 18 goals across their six defeats. They are the only team in the top flight this season to have visited London as an away side and not managed to pick up a single point.
Leeds 2-2 West Ham: 4 January 2023 (Premier League)
Going into the last meeting between West Ham and Leeds, the Hammers had lost their previous five Premier League matches, their worst losing run since April 2017 and David Moyes’ worst run since October 2005 when he was Everton boss, with the pressure very much on the Scotsman with the Hammers in 17th position. Leeds weren’t faring much better under Jesse Marsch, with two wins from 13 league games going into the clash at Elland Road.
The result was a 2-2 draw in which both teams held a lead before surrendering it, halting West Ham’s losing run but extending Leeds’ winless run to four games. Manager Marsch would only last three more (winless) league games in charge before being sacked after a 1-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest.
It was the third time Leeds had scored first in a home Premier League game against West Ham since promotion in 2020 and the third time they had failed to win, although at least they took a point in this one – they lost 2-1 in the other two in 2020-21 and 2021-22. It also meant the only time Leeds had beaten the Hammers in the last three seasons was a 3-2 away win in January 2022, the last win of Marcelo Bielsa’s reign at the club, with Jack Harrison netting a hat-trick.
The game was symptomatic of Leeds’ lack of control after scoring first – in the 2020-21 campaign, they scored first in 18 Premier League games and only then fell behind in two of them (one was at home to West Ham). In 2021-22, they scored first 16 times and fell behind in five. This season, they have scored first in 14 games and then gone behind seven times, a ratio of 50% – 39% higher than in their first season back in the top-flight in 2020-21 (11%). The game with West Ham in January was the fifth time this season Leeds had scored first and then failed to win, something which has happened four times since. Only Nottingham Forest (10) have scored first in more Premier League games this season and failed to win than Leeds (nine).
West Ham capitalised on Leeds’ sloppiness and cancelled out Willy Gnonto’s opening goal via a Lucas Paquetá penalty in first-half stoppage time. They then went ahead in the first minute of the second half with a goal from Gianluca Scamacca. West Ham are one of only four teams to have scored in the 45th and 46th minutes of an away Premier League game and were the first since Chelsea against Aston Villa in April 2016.
Rodrigo’s 70th-minute goal for Leeds – his 10th of the season – levelled the game and, despite Leeds having seven of the last 11 shots, 2-2 is how it ended.
Leeds enjoyed 63.3% possession in the match, well above their Premier League average under former manager Marsch (49.9%) and a figure they have only bettered in a league game once since (70% vs. Nottingham Forest in February). The Whites also had six shots on target, only having more in one game under the American, his third game in charge last March vs Norwich (seven). They’ve only managed more shots on target in one Premier League game since then, having seven – all in the first half – against Crystal Palace in April, a game they lost 5-1.
West Ham come into Sunday’s game on a run of four defeats in their last five Premier League matches, conceding at least twice in every defeat. Across their last 10 games, they have either kept a clean sheet (four games) or conceded at least two goals (six games), with the 18 goals they have conceded in that time the joint fifth of any club, with Leeds topping the list with 27 conceded in that timeframe.
The Hammers haven’t won any of their last 20 Premier League games in which they’ve conceded (D6 L14) since a 3-1 win over Fulham in October, with nine of their 10 wins this season coming to nil. One of those wins was in their last home game, beating Manchester United 1-0, and their last four home games have been against teams starting the day third, first, seventh and fourth, marking a very difficult run of games at London Stadium. They haven’t lost a home game against a team starting in the relegation zone since December 2017 against Newcastle and are unbeaten in 12 since (W10 D2).
Clean sheets have been a big issue for Leeds, with none in their last 12 Premier League games, a run that only Nottingham Forest can top (15 games without one – their last was a 1-0 win over Leeds). The Whites have, however, also scored in each of their last 11 games since a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea. That run of 11 consecutive games with both teams scoring is the longest by a Premier League side since Everton did so in 16 games in a row between September 2012 and January 2013.
Leeds have conceded a whopping 150 league goals since the start of last season (79 in 2021-22 and 71 so far this season), more than any other side in Europe’s top five leagues in that time. Sam Allardyce has been brought in to rectify those defensive issues, with ‘clean sheets’ the top of his Allardyce Survival Blueprint that was unveiled on a Monday Night Football appearance on Sky in September 2017. Since then, he has managed 51 Premier League matches across spells with Everton, West Brom and Leeds and kept as many clean sheets as he has seen his teams concede three or more goals (12), which suggests he has his work cut out in the short timeframe he has to improve the Whites defensively.
It’s unlikely to be stylish football under Allardyce for the Whites, who have posted their fewest successful passes since returning to the Premier League in 2020 in both games under him (120 vs. Man City, 163 vs. Newcastle), while their two highest long pass percentages have also been in his opening two games (25.4% vs. Man City, 25.7% vs. Newcastle). However, style, at this late stage, will be as unimportant to Allardyce as it will be to the Leeds fans if he can guide them to safety.
West Ham: Declan Rice
It is looking highly likely that Declan Rice will, finally, depart West Ham in the summer with manager David Moyes saying there is a “good chance” he will leave the club.
It’s not difficult to see why Rice is so highly regarded by a host of other top clubs. Rice has won possession more times (322) and made more interceptions (62) than any Premier League player this season, while only Rodri (7,184m) has carried the ball a further distance than Rice (6,439m) among central midfielders. Rice has also covered the second most distance in the division (391km) and recently started his 188th Premier League game for West Ham – at the age of 24, only Mark Noble and Aaron Cresswell had started more games for the Hammers in the competition.
That durability is also borne out in the number of games he’s played across the league – in the last five seasons, the only outfield player with more Premier League starts than Rice (173) is central defender James Tarkowski (180), with the Everton defender also the only outfielder with more minutes than Rice (15,573).
Rodrigo has been Leeds United’s best source of goals this season, scoring 14 in all competitions and 12 in the Premier League (outscoring his xG by 4.15 in the process), both seasonal bests for the Spaniard at the Whites.
Going into the World Cup, only three players – Haaland (18), Kane (12) and Toney (10) – had more Premier League goals than Rodrigo (nine), who made an excellent start to the season, netting in Leeds’ last four games prior to the World Cup break. Goals have been harder to come by in more recent times – three in 16 league games since then – but injuries and the changes in managers haven’t helped, as evidenced by the fact that his last three goals have come under different managers – Jesse Marsch (vs. West Ham in January), Javi Gracia (vs. Wolves in March) and Sam Allardyce (vs. Man City in May).
One other thing in Rodrigo’s favour going into this game is his record against teams beginning with W. He has netted in his last five Premier League games against those teams, scoring three times vs. Wolves and once against both Watford and West Ham. It’s unsurprising that in his first Premier League spell in 2010-11 in Bolton, his only goal came against Wigan.
West Ham vs Leeds Prediction
West Ham are the favourites for this game with the Opta supercomputer, given a 41.2% chance of victory, compared to just 29.7% for Leeds.
Despite losing four of their last five Premier League matches, West Ham won their last home game against Manchester United and have won their last two games against sides in the relegation zone, beating Everton in January and Southampton in April.
Leeds’ horrendous record in London – 14 defeats in 18 Premier League games in the capital since promotion in 2020 – stands against them, with the Whites keeping just one clean sheet across those 18 games, a 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace last April. One of their three wins, however, came against West Ham last January, while another was in their must-win game against Brentford on the final day of last season.
Going into the weekend, the Opta supercomputer has Leeds at a 65.7% chance of relegation back to the Championship, not helped by their recent record, a run of just two points in seven Premier League matches, and just three wins in their last 23 in the competition. They will need to upset the odds to avoid their first Premier League relegation since 2004 – and it took them 16 years to return to the top flight last time.
West Ham’s most fancied final position is 15th (43% according to the supercomputer), happily clear of the drop. It would however be their second-lowest position since returning to the Premier League in 2012-13, finishing 16th in 2019-20, and a drop of eight places compared to last season’s seventh-place finish.