West Ham United currently find themselves in the dizzy heights of the top four and it has to be said that no one would have tipped them to be where they are now at the start of the season.
Mark Lawrenson, the BBC football pundit for Match Of The Day stated what most people were thinking, that you would have expected the Hammers to be sitting in the bottom six at this stage with a quarter of the season played. Last season was a disaster for the east London side, fighting a relegation battle for the majority of the campaign using an injury plagued squad with players regularly being asked to perform out of position and not offering much of a threat in terms of scoring goals to kill a game off when they were in the lead.
Sam Allardyce’s head was being called for by the fans due to their struggle and lack of exciting football. But on reflection, last season was the only bad season they have had so far under Allardyce, and a lot of the poor football on display was merely a reflection of the poor squad strength and choice of players that they had.
Fast forward to this current campaign and it is clear to see that the choice of players is much better. They have recruited very well in the summer transfer window and can now boast some strength in depth, which hasn’t been the case for some time now. Take Cheikhou Kouyate, for example. Despite being one of the Hammers’ best players in the early part of the season, he suffered an injury that handed Alex Song the chance to slot nicely in to the holding position of their new diamond formation. Throughout his time on the sidelines, West Ham rarely noticed the absence of their African powerhouse as much as they perhaps might have done a year ago.
There are also very talented players on the sidelines that can’t even make the bench at the moment, such is the depth of the squad. Argentine forward Mauro Zarate, who also had an impressive start to his West Ham career, has ended up out of the match day squad through no fault of his own, but purely on the merit of the players that have been playing and keeping him out of the starting XI.
The quality of the new faces in the West Ham team, alongside the revitalised and much improved existing players like Stewart Downing, Mark Noble and James Collins, has seen the Hammers finally produce the sort of football that the fans have been craving for the last couple of years. And it is playing such exciting and attacking football, whilst keeping the ‘defend from the front and be hard to break down’ philosophy, that the club have discovered their winning mentality and lack of fear regardless of the opposition.
They have found the ability to grind out a win when the performances have not been up to par, like they did against Burnely and QPR, and they have also discovered how to score goals, with the fourth best goal difference in the league so far having already netted 17 times in their opening nine games.
Their winning mentality, their ability to attack without fear and discovery on how to win games by play their brand of football, regardless of the strength of their opponents, has earned them their place in the top four so far. It is by no means a lucky occurrence or a fluke of any kind and it’s safe to say that they will be fighting for a top 10 finish this season without the fear of looking over their shoulders and being dragged into a relegation battle.
Their latest game against Manchester City was a great example of their merit. They fought, outplayed and out witted the Premier League champions and fully deserved the three points. If Allardyce can continue to get his side playing at this level consistently then it will be proof that their claims of being deserving of top ten, or even top six, football as more than justified.