West Ham United v Brighton: the predictions and the psychology

19:45 West Ham United v Brighton
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Assistants: Daniel Cook, Sian Massey-Ellis
Fourth official: Craig Pawson

West Ham have a home record that is just a little below average:

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
10 Watford 11 5 1 5 16 18 -2 16
11 Leicester City 10 4 2 4 12 10 2 14
12 Wolverhampton Wanderers 10 4 2 4 12 13 -1 14
13 West Ham United 10 4 1 5 14 16 -2 13
14 Cardiff City 11 4 1 6 13 23 -10 13
15 Fulham 10 3 3 4 12 19 -7 12
16 Burnley 10 3 1 6 12 20 -8 10

Four wins, one draw, five defeats.  Scoring and conceding around 1.5 goals a game.

Curiously West Ham are higher up the league if we just look at away games, but of course our focus here is on Brighton

9 West Ham United 10 4 2 4 13 14 -1 14
10 Watford 9 3 3 3 11 10 1 12
11 Newcastle United 10 2 5 3 8 12 -4 11
12 Crystal Palace 10 3 1 6 12 17 -5 10
13 Everton 10 2 3 5 13 15 -2 9
14 AFC Bournemouth 10 3 0 7 12 23 -11 9
15 Brighton and Hove Albion 10 2 1 7 7 16 -9 7
16 Southampton 10 2 1 7 10 21 -11 7
17 Cardiff City 10 1 2 7 6 18 -12 5
18 Huddersfield Town 10 1 2 7 8 21 -13 5

And for away matches Brighton are in the lower half of the table with two wins, one draw and one defeat.  A goal difference of Brighton away of -9 while West Ham at home is -2.  It gives West Ham the edge – especially if they can get an early goal.

In December West Ham went on a winning run before losing at home to Watford and then away to Burnley.

01 Dec 2018 Newcastle United v West Ham United W 0-3
04 Dec 2018 West Ham United v Cardiff City W 3-1
08 Dec 2018 West Ham United v Crystal Palace W 3-2
15 Dec 2018 Fulham v West Ham United W 0-2
22 Dec 2018 West Ham United v Watford L 0-2
27 Dec 2018 Southampton v West Ham United W 1-2
30 Dec 2018 Burnley v West Ham United L 2-0

That last away defeat was very unexpected since it was just Burnley’s third home win of the season, and this against a team that can certainly win away.

Both of these recent WHU defeats have been by 0-2, and although West Ham won the first four games of the month they were all against teams that were having problems.

Brighton on the other hand have had a more bumpy ride of late.  Here are their December results

01 Dec 2018 Huddersfield Town v Brighton and Hove Albion W 1-2
04 Dec 2018 Brighton and Hove Albion v Crystal Palace W 3-1
08 Dec 2018 Burnley v Brighton and Hove Albion L 1-0
16 Dec 2018 Brighton and Hove Albion v Chelsea L 1-2
22 Dec 2018 AFC Bournemouth v Brighton and Hove Albion L 2-0
26 Dec 2018 Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal D 1-1
29 Dec 2018 Brighton and Hove Albion v Everton W 1-0

Three wins, three draws and a defeat.  They too have lost to Burnley, and they did manage a draw against Arsenal, and they limited the damage in a defeat to Chelsea by just one goal.

The psychological position.

We have all seen clubs go on long winning or at least undefeated runs, but then when the run ends, they find it impossible to pick up the pieces and start winning again.  Typically there might be three, four or even five defeats against clubs that would previously have been swatted aside without a second thought.

The issue in this, as in so many aspects of football, is psychological.  A goal is given away and the players think “oh no not again” instead of metaphorically rolling up the sleeves and getting on with winning the match.

Yet psychology is very rarely taken into account by pundits – so we’re now adding the psychological element to our predictions.

Brighton’s players will very much be on the up having ended their run of three defeats.  West Ham players however will be nervous.  An early goal by Brighton and they will have that sinking feeling, thinking the good run is over.

So the first goal in this game is going to be very important, and neither side will want to give it away.  Neither is a side that is currently feeling that they can come back when going one down.

I suspect West Ham will go all out for the first goal, and get it, and so win the game, probably 2-0.  But the first goal is vital.

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