I can’t understand you West Ham United. How do you beat Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City AWAY from home, but lose to Leicester City and AFC Bournemouth at the Boleyn Ground? I want to believe that you can finally push yourself up the table and finish in at least a Europa League qualifying spot, but this frightening inconsistency in your results makes me think it will be yet another subpar finish in the bottom half of the table.
The man to lead this season’s charge up the table is Slaven Bilić. The 47-year-old took the job after the sacking of “Big” Sam Allardyce, who had led the club for the previous four years and had even earned them promotion back in 2012. With Allardyce at the helm, the Irons didn’t play what you would call “attractive” soccer. On many occasions, fans would watch as the team resorted to long-ball tactics from the back, with any possession seen as more of an added bonus.
However, with Bilić in charge, the team appears to be in the midst of a change. Now, the Irons at least attempt to play a somewhat attractive style on the pitch with more emphasis on midfield buildup, and creative passing possession. As much as lovers of the game praise clubs for trying to play the “right” way, it all means nothing if the club lacks the talent to execute it and get results. Over the summer, the board made sure to provide their new gaffer with plenty of weapons for his arsenal.
The biggest, and by far the most influential signing of the summer for West Ham has to be Dimitri Payet. The Frenchman came over from Marseille for a reported fee of a little more than £10 million and now that seems like the bargain of the century. In his first six games of the season, Payet has already scored three times while also providing two assists. His influence on the pitch goes far beyond goals and assists as he brings a flair and creativity that has long been absent from the West Ham midfield. If he keeps up with the form he’s been in, the 28-year-old could be a major contender for a spot in the BPL Team of the Season come May.
A magnificent midfielder can only do so much for a club if there isn’t a supporting cast around him. Luckily for Payet and Hammers fans alike, the club made sure to bring in some more reinforcements. On deadline day, Chelsea midfielder Victor Moses was brought in on a season-long loan and it seems as if the Nigerian is a perfect fit for Bilić’s new squad. I particularly like Moses for his pace and passion on the wings. You’ll have a hard time finding a player that will outwork the 24-year-old in on-field battles, and this type of work ethic is going to immediately endear him to the West Ham faithful. In just his second start, Moses was able to find the back of the net against City and if he and Payet can establish a partnership in attack, we may be looking at the start of quite the lethal duo.
Even with the likes of Payet and Moses added to the squad, I still have doubts about a successful West Ham season this year. Their inability to claim points against beatable teams on their schedule is a major concern because you can’t rely on historic upsets forever. It may be a mindset problem going into the match contributing to the poor performances, but continued inconsistency on the pitch can only end badly for the Irons and Bilić.
Let’s not forget the promise of last year’s West Ham United either. For a good portion of the early campaign, it looked as if West Ham had finally turned the corner into becoming more than a mid-table contender. The likes of Alex Song, Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho filled the Irons’ faithful with hope, but after the midway point in the season, this optimism quickly vanished. In their first ten games after the Christmas break, West Ham won just once and collected just eight points out of 30. This disastrous run of form saw them drop from seventh to tenth in the table and in the remaining nine matches; they would win just two more games.
It’s hard for me to put my faith in a team that was arguably one of the worst in the league for the final months of last season. The early signs of inconsistency on the pitch possibly foreshadow a similar collapse this time around.
With all that being said, I do believe that Bilić’s West Ham United will be one of the more exciting teams to watch this season. I can’t wait to see how high Dimitri Payet can rise in the Premier League, and possibly to another club if things don’t work out in London. Only time will tell how far West Ham can go this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them in Europe again soon.