West Ham in the past have welcomed greats at Upton Park: Bobby Moore, Rio Ferdinand, Paolo Di Canio, Trevor Brooking are just a few. However the good times at the Boleyn Ground are sadly coming to an end, with the Hammers due to move into the Olympic Stadium this summer.
Again, like last season, West Ham have caused shocks, and could again be looking at the prospect of playing in Europe. They are producing some of their best football in years, which all started when they beat Arsenal on the opening day of the campaign.
Since then, Bilic’s side haven’t looked back, and are currently sitting in sixth place, eight points off the top four, still in the FA Cup – with an away tie to Blackburn – and very much in with a chance of taking European football to what will be a packed out Olympic Stadium. Could this be a reality or just a dream?
Well, when you consider that they had some European football at the beginning of the season, then possibly not. West Ham were of course in the Europa League, but crashed out in the qualifying stage with Slaven Bilic not taking the competition seriously enough. But, it seems to have paid off, with the Irons taking all three points against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool (x2) and Manchester City. It is very much different to last season under Sam Allardyce, where the fans grew bored with the style of play.
Now West Ham have a squad built around the club idol Mark Noble, with new talent being bought in to compliment the current system. Brilliant signings like Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini, Victor Moses, Sam Byram, Angelo Ogbonna and Pedro Obiang have illustrated that this was a side on the up.
With West Ham now taking trophies seriously, they could be the dark horses in the FA Cup, assuming of course that they don’t struggle against Blackburn. They have become a side that the big teams hold in high regard, no longer a long-ball team, but one that can completely play any side off the park on their day.
In August, this team made both Arsenal and Liverpool look like non-league clubs, dispatching them 2-0 and 3-0, emphasising how this team was on the up.
When you look at the fixture list, West Ham still have ties against Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal, however they are all at home, giving the Hammers the advantage. They also come up against Chelsea, but considering their recent form it should be a breeze for West Ham. Their real trouble will be consistency against the lower teams, having lost to Leicester and Bournemouth, as well as picking up a lot of draws along the way, so far.
Their best bet when it comes to securing European football could well be the FA Cup, and should the draws be kind in the future, then there is no reason why they cannot go far. This, alongside being consistent in the league, could see West Ham welcome in their new era in Europe.
Should they keep all their best players: Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho, Payet and Lanzini, then there is no reason why this West Ham team cannot be a force for the foreseeable future.