West Ham’s start to the season has been almost parallel to the previous term. Playing enterprising football to satisfy their supporters, seeing an instant return from their new recruits and sending shockwaves through the division by overcoming a rampant Manchester City.
Sam Allardyce was in the process of dispelling the myth that percentage football was the only dynamic he could implement upon a Big Sam team. In fact, they were even sitting pretty in the Champions League places right up until Christmas.
But all things came to a unfortunate conclusion as West Ham tumbled down the table at an alarming rate. The sudden decline in form was deemed sufficient enough for the board to conclude that Allardyce was not a suitable option to take the Hammers on to the next level, with his departure announced in the aftermath of their final day defeat away to Newcastle.
With an impending move to the Olympic Stadium in mind, it was vital that David Sullivan and co sought a manager who’s coached at the top level and is able to attract marquee players. Cue Slaven Bilic.
A manager who has strong ties with the club and it’s supporters, Bilic is a man who has assisted the development of Croatia’s finest players in Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic during his five year spell in charge of the national team.
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Having been linked with the post on numerous occasions, the popular Croat has appeared to time his entrance to perfection.
After being provided with a salutary budget to improve the squad, Bilic has recruited cleverly. Dimitri Payet has been the standout of those signings following his move from Marseille. With attributes comparable to former West Ham saviour Carlos Tevez, the Frenchman has made an instant impact since his arrival to England.
His outstanding early form has come as no major surprise. The fact that only the likes of Messi, Ronaldo and De Bruyne provided more assists than the robust winger makes the fee of £10.9 million appear cut-price, especially when compared to the £30million Liverpool splashed out on luring Roberto Firmino to Merseyside.
However, it is not just Payet who has impressed since his summer arrival. The recent form of on-loan winger Victor Moses looks to have been a very astute piece of business given his recent displays, with Angelo Ogbonna and Pedro Obiang looking equally influential in the Hammers midfield since they made the switch from Serie A.
Results on the pitch have been even more breathtaking than the impact of their summer recruits. Consecutive away victories at Arsenal, Liverpool and last week’s win at the Etihad have seen the Hammers hit the heights that even Bilic couldn’t have comprehended when he perused the fixture list in June.
In addition to a tremendous start to the campaign, West Ham have avoided the metaphorical bullet by passing up on the burden that is the Europa League group stage. Midweek treks to Belgrade, Bilbao and Augsburg would not have been ideal preparation for weekend fixtures, judging by Everton’s deterioration last season.
Yielding maximum points from arguably three of their toughest assignments of the entire season has provided Bilic and his squad a golden opportunity to kick on and cement their place in the upper echelons of England’s elite.
With a home fixture against Norwich City on the horizon, Bilic will be sure to guard against complacency having already suffered home reversals against Leicester and Bournemouth.
But, with a squad that has outwitted three of the top seven clubs in their own backyard, there is plenty of optimism amongst Irons’ fans that West Ham’s stay in the top half is more permanent and avoid the degeneration that the Hammers endured last season under Allardyce.
Bilic has already sprung a few surprises in his brief sojourn in Premier League management, and with the Hammers occupying third place at present, who’s to say that the Croat can’t spring the biggest surprise of all and usurp the big guns come what May.