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Can West Ham realistically aim for Europe this season?

Whilst the last few results West Ham have recorded in the Premier League have seen Big Sam’s side drop ever so slightly off the boil, the Hammers have nonetheless had a fantastic start to the 2014/15 campaign.

Staving off relegation is usually the biggest priority for the Upton Park faithful, whether or not that is an ambitious enough goal, so to see their side currently hold the 7th spot in the Premier League, after holding 4th for a number of consecutive weeks, is nothing short of miraculous.

It took the Hammers till January of last season to record only their fourth win of the 2013/14 campaign, but now with nine games won and 31 goals scored, things are certainly looking bright down in the East End at the moment. With Sam Allardyce’s side hoping to fill London’s Olympic Stadium in 2016, can West Ham realistically aim for Europe this season?

The number one factor behind changed fortunes at Upton Park this season has been successful summer recruitment. Ecuador’s World Cup hero Enner Valencia, and little known ex-Ligue 2 star Diafra Sakho, have proved a revelation for the Hammers upfront. Their unpredictable nature has seen defences unsure of how best to deal with the in-form pair that have recorded 11 goals between them already this season.

Both Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Cresswell have also had a huge role to play this campaign, as they give Big Sam’s side that added dimension to West Ham’s attacks. In 2013/14 with George McCartney and Guy Demel usually filling the full-back roles, the Upton Park faithful saw nowhere near the level of performance they are seeing in 2014/15.

Alex Song has simply been the best new recruit both David Gold & Sullivan and Big Sam made over the summer, however; he still has all the hallmarks to his game that got him signed for Barcelona in the first place, and if the Hammers can somehow manage to tie him down to a permanent deal this year, it will be the best bit of business the club will have achieved in a long while.

Whilst Allardyce’s new recruits have proved a hit at Upton Park in 2014/15, some of the West Ham regulars have also stepped up their game in their side’s recent good spell. Winston Reid, James Collins and James Tomkins have largely been a handful to deal with at the back, Andy Carroll has maintained his superiority in the air since coming back from injury, and Stewart Downing simply looks a brand new player after finding a more central role in the heart of West Ham’s midfield.

Whether or not all this means that Big Sam is a changed man is another matter, however. Although he has been constantly distancing himself from the long ball label that has been thrown at him throughout his career, last season Sam Allardyce oversaw a West Ham team that seemed incapable of doing anything but a long ball.

This year, however, the plays are being made on the deck with a great deal more pace involved. Big Sam has certainly made the move to a more progressive style of football, but long balls up to Andy Carroll and an overreliance on Kevin Nolan have still been lingering around Upton Park this season. The recent reported dismissal of Mauro Zarate is further evidence that all is not changed on the Allardyce front.

With all things considered, though, and not to mention a certain Teddy Sheringham overseeing an impressive season in front of goal as West Ham’s striker coach, the situation is certainly rosy for West Ham at the moment.

That said, Champions League qualification definitely still seems unlikely for the Hammers. The likes of Liverpool and Everton are simply not at their best, but Arsenal and Spurs are slowly but surely making their way back up the league, and Southampton have so far managed to maintain their lofty league position.  With that in mind, the Europa League looks like the next best option available for West Ham, and a realistic one at that.

Article title: Can West Ham realistically aim for Europe this season?

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