Each year, the transfer windows provide all sorts of excitement and for clubs with even a modicum of ambition, the inevitable arrival of a handful of potential 'legends'. The top signings prov=oke all sorts of speculation and fantasy, but in reality, these newbies often take time to settle in, especially if they hail from foreign leagues where the pace and physicality is often considerably less than the Premiership. And even as these hopefuls arrive, the more average players get quietly pushed down the squad rankings. The upshot is, that when everyone is fit and available, most sides can put out a first eleven that on its day will have a rattle at beating most of their Premiership competitors.
However, as the season reaches its final third, the clubs with less resources find themselves having to dip deeper and deeper into the squad. As a consequence, the points haul during the run in is often decided more by how good the Matt Jarvis' and Joey O'Brien's perform, rather than whether Alex Song or Diafra Sakho hit top gear. At Christmas, Hammers fans were outraged to learn that despite the Hammers fourth-placed position,both Arsenal and LIverpool were still predicted to finish 15 plus points ahead of them in the final table. But let's face it - as we look to Matt and Joey and the like, they can rely on World Cup stars to come in and do a shift.
And so it is for tommorrow's clash wioth Sunderland - both sides are missing half of their preferred starting XIs. For West Ham, our fate may well be decided by the performances of a makeshift centre back pairing and whether Carlton Cole can produce something up front. Sunderland, meanwhile, will probably be forced to do battle without John O’Shea, Sebastian Larsson and Lee Cattermole, with the under a cloud Adam Johnson possibly thrown into action in a desperate bid to produce something incisive up front.
Next Summer, look out for the movement down the squad as well as the marque signings - these squadfillers are the ones we ultimately rely on to get the results when the chips are really down!