With the news that West Ham United striker Andy Carroll is injured yet again, Slaven Bilic must be wondering what’s going on at his football club. Given last season’s promise in the club’s final season in Upton Park, to say that their first season of a new era has gone badly wrong would be an understatement.
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) April 27, 2017
A dreadfully poor summer transfer window coupled with players being played out of position and the squad unrest caused by the Dimitri Payet situation haven’t helped, but it hasn’t all been about tactics and players: West Ham have had terrible luck with injuries, too.
In fact, with Carroll out again, that takes the Hammers’ injury tally up to 74 since July, and the start of pre-season. Thanks to the Europa League qualifying rounds, games in the Balkans against Domzale and Astra Giurgiu – which now seem like an age ago – pre-season had to start earlier and quicker than Bilic might have liked.
A rushed pre-season can’t be the only factor, though. The Hammers had to start early last season, too, and yet the injury tally has gone up to 74 from just 53 last year, according to PhysioRoom.com. Partly that can be put down to bad luck, but hiding fortune can’t be the only reason for such a jump. It makes you start to look around for other excuses. The move to the new stadium and a new training ground at Rush Green, coupled with what even the manager himself has described as a lack of intensity in training, at times, could well be the culprit.
But although the Hammers clearly have injury issues to deal with, and even though player absences hamper the consistency of team selection, squad cohesion, and are just plain annoying, they’re not the only reason for the slump in form this year.
With Andy Carroll in the team from December to February, before a groin injury sidelined the striker for a month in February, the points return was only marginally higher than it had been up until that point.
And yet, it was almost enough to lift the Hammers out of a relegation battle. Terrible form in March and April – despite Carroll’s return – dragged Bilic’s side back into the mire, even if victory over Swansea and points picked up against Sunderland and Everton seem to have all but ensured Premier League status for next season.
If West Ham are to point fingers about what happened this season, though, they may well be pointing at everyone. Injuries are not the sole reason that a team who qualified for the Europa League through their league position last season found itself in a relegation battle this time. Nor can poor player recruitment, the new stadium, bad management or the board solely be blamed for the failings this year.
West Ham’s injury record is dismal, but it may well be a symptom of some of the real problems at the club rather than the problem itself. And when it comes to writing the story of their first Premier League season at the London Stadium, there won’t be many people to read their name written too kindly.