Manchester United host West Ham this afternoon, and we spoke to Charlie Walsh from our bubble-blowing sister site Brace the Hammer to find out what's going on in East London.
It's probably fair to say that 17th isn't where West Ham expected to be at this stage of the season. Have they actually been that bad, or is it a slightly false position?
Could you argue it's slightly false? Possibly. Slightly would definitely be the right word however.
We have been very, very, bad. Fans are starting to come to terms with the fact we now find ourselves in a relegation battle. We're struggling to defend. We're struggling to create. We're struggling to score. We're struggling. It's been quite the comedown after last season ...
To an outsider, it looks like the defence is a bit of a mess. That fair?
Completely fair. Last season we made a habit of going away to the big teams and defending resolutely. This season, the most basic attacking move seems to cause our defense endless problems. Reid and Cresswell are brilliant players but the rest?
Ogbonna can be clumsy and has the positional sense of a statue. He's always close to giving away either a goal or penalty and it's becoming a real issue. Collins has the turning circle of a limousine and a penchant for charging out of defence. We also don't have a good enough RB. Sam Byram just isn't ready and Alvaro Arbeloa looked like a decent makeshift for a season or two while Sam got up to speed but he's gone missing. Literally. No one knows what's going on with him. Antonio has been playing there as a replacement but all the workrate in the world can't teach him defensive positioning. All 3 Tottenham goals came from that side.
Moving to 3 at the back has helped but I'm not convinced it'll work without Reid in the centre running the show.
Up the other end, apart from the admirable Michael Antonio, there seems to be a lack of regular goalscorers. This the fault of the strikers or those in charge of making chances?
The strikers have fluffed their lines but quality chances have been few and far between. No matter what formation or team we play, we aren't creating enough clear cut chances. Fans are calling for a top class striker to be brought in but who can create something out of nothing? A wizard maybe? We're broken.
The obvious talking point is the new stadium. What's the atmosphere like, and do you think it's affecting the players?
It's incredibly loud when 54k~ fans are singing Bubbles at the beginning of the game but it subdues quickly. For the vast majority of matches, it's like being in any random pub. Indistinct conversations happening all around you. The occasional chant rings round the stadium but outside of the "oohs" and "aahs" that happen whenever a chance occurs, the atmosphere isn't there yet.
It must affect the players. When a goal goes against us, the atmosphere turns toxic. The club are a huge mess right now but on matchday fans can forget about it if the team is performing. Unfortunately, that ain't happening.
Is Bilic's position under threat?
At this point, it has to be.
I like Bilic a lot. You'd have a hard job finding a West Ham fan that doesn't want him to be the man to take us forward but we cannot afford to get relegated. If we're still in the dire situation we are in now, I suspect he could go before January. Our owners are super conservative and won't fire him until they have a replacement ready. Is there anyone better than Slav available?
On to Sunday's game: are you expecting West Ham to have a go, or will they be trying to keep it tight?
We'll probably come out of the gates fast to try and get an early goal but if our overall gameplan is to try and dominate United, that would be a mistake. We look better when our opposition is in charge. When sitting deep and counter attacking, we almost look like a capable football team.
Reid is also suspended for the game and I simply do not trust our defense without him at the moment. We have to sit deep.
And aside from Payet's freekicks, what's the biggest danger to Manchester United's defence?
Dimitri Payet is (obviously) far and away our best player. He's capable of the extraordinary from a dead ball or otherwise. You'll have 2 people charging him down the second he collects the ball. Everyone always does. Don't underestimate him and think that alone will stop him though.
It cannot be understated just how much of a constant threat Michail Antonio is. It doesn't matter how deep he plays, he can still score a header out of nowhere. He is the personification of "Right place, right time".
Cresswell can cross with the best of them and if the rumours of Andy Carroll possibly returning to the side from injury are true, your CBs will have a very difficult time stopping them.
After the weekend's game against Manchester United comes a League Cup game against, er, Manchester United. If you had to choose one to win, which would you prefer?
League, all day. We need the points and we need them now. As much as I want to see West Ham play at Wembley again, I've been in enough relegation scraps to last a lifetime.
Finally, your prediction for Sunday's game ...
I haven't the foggiest. During the Brace The Hammer Predictions Podcast I was originally going to predict a 2-1 loss. I eventually let my heart rule my head and bravely stated we would win 2-1. If Jose does a classic Jose with a defence first mindset, we'll cause our own downfall and you'll win.
Our thanks to Charlie for his time. You can see our answers to Brace the Hammer's questions here.