Stewart Downing's verdict on what West Ham need to do next season to challenge top six

West Ham Upton Park

West Ham United star Stewart Downing says he knows what the club needs to do to challenge for a top six place in the Premier League next season.

When West Ham were sitting pretty in fourth place in the Premier League at Christmas after their best start to a Premier League campaign they were tipped by many as European dark horses.

At the very least Sam Allardyce's side were expected to challenge for the Europa League places.

But the second half of the season has been a stark contrast. Just three wins in 2015 tells its own story.

Not helped by long-term injuries to key players such as Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho and James Tomkins, the Hammers have fallen to 11th place after their latest defeat, 2-1 to Everton.

Now, one of the club's star performers, Stewart Downing - who scored a nicely taken goal in the defeat to the Toffees - has given his verdict on what the club needs to do to push on next season.

In the wake of the last gasp defeat to Roberto Martinez's side, the winger turned central midfield playmaker says West Ham must do three things to move forward..

He told West Ham's official website: "In the first half of the season we were ruthless, but conceding late in games has cost us.

“If we eradicate those mistakes, individually and as a team, and with the addition of a few more quality players we can be a European place team.

"We’re not far away.”

Downing, 30, speaks with authority as he has been one of West Ham's most influential players this season.

The former Liverpool and Aston Villa star has enjoyed a new lease of life in a central role under Allardyce this season.

At one stage this season Downing had more assists in the Premier League than any other player except Cesc Fabregas and now has six goals after his latest strike against Everton.

But his form, like the team's, dipped when he was moved back out wide as Allardyce tinkered with his side in recent months.

Although the Hammers' poor form has meant they aren't challenging for the European places in the league, they look likely to qualify anyway via the FIFA Fair Play route.

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