After such a successful campaign under Slaven Bilic last year, West Ham were expected by many to kick-on and improve on their 7th place finish.
Unfortunately for the Hammers, a hangover of last year’s success is evidently taking place with the team currently languishing in 17th position. It’s certainly an usual position for the Hammers as whenever they have failed to avoid relegation they normally tend to do so with comfort.
West Ham’s current form certainly cannot go unmentioned without a number of questions being raised. The team that performed so successfully last season now look a million miles from achieving the greatness 15/16. But what is the cause to West Ham’s troublesome start? There are a number factors, some of which may indeed cause visual pain to anyone reading from an West Ham perspective.
The most obvious complaint would be the move to the new stadium. The London Stadium is now the home arena for Bilic’s men, but it has proven to be anything but homely as of yet, with the relocation being borderline disastrous. The main element of discontent appears to be from the home faithful. At the Boleyn Ground, fans were previously allowed to stand for the duration of matches but are now being firmly and sometimes aggressively told to sit down, which has allowed for a stale atmosphere at games this season.
Not only this, the separation of the pitch from the fans has made it difficult for a big singing section to be re-established and that famous Upton Park roar is now difficult to be heard.
It’s not only the fans who have been effected by the move, as a number of players are struggling to adapt to the far superior pitch size. Upton Park was a much smaller ground and suited Bilic’s style of play superbly when it came to closing games off but when West Ham are protecting leads at their new London Stadium, it’s easier for teams to find and create space behind the Hammers.
This was evidently shown against Watford when the Hornets used their width to hurt West Ham.
In saying this, West Ham’s over-reliance on Dimitri Payet is becoming slightly worrying for Hammers fans. Again, losing 1-0 at home, Payet popped up to rescue his team-mates from another embarrassing defeat.
Even by Payet’s standards the goal was sensational, as the France international beat half the ‘Boro team before slotting the ball past keeper Victor Valdes.
However, none of Payet’s team-mates are producing anywhere near to the same level they did last season and now they must reproduce such form at crucial times to move up the table swiftly.
Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid and Chekihou Kouyate are still yet to return to the form of last season. Lanzini may have the excuse of fatigue with it being almost 18 months since he had an extended summer break due to international commitments with Argentina.
Nonetheless, the form of Reid and Kouyate cannot be ignored as neither player seems capable of making the jump back to greatness once again. Kouyate talks a great game as he recently spoke out of his desire to bring Champions League football to the London Stadium but, unfortunately, he cannot achieve such things when he isn’t contributing to performances deserved of such an occasion in east London.
Maybe that’s exactly the problem. Perhaps they overachieved and are just not focusing on a weekly transitional period into the new stadium. Ambitions are high at the Hammers, but are they too high? The club’s board have made no secret of their future plans but the pressure of such demands is clearly providing a negative effect on the players.
Injuries have also played a factor in West Ham’s form, many of which cannot be blamed on anyone but lady luck. Club-record signing Andre Ayew was ruled out for four months just 20 minutes into his debut, whilst players like Aaron Cresswell, Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho and more recently Sam Byram and Arthur Masuaku are all sidelined.
If Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool had the same calibre of players missing from their squads, surely a blip in form would have occurred also.
West Ham are clearly struggling. The potential of the club and demands by the owners and fans has become far too large in such a short space of time. Sticking by Bilic is an absolute no-brainer,but the Croatian needs to turn his team’s fortune around urgently.
Once players return to full fitness and the fans and players alike become accustomed to their new surroundings, then it won’t be long before West Ham become a formidable force once again.