It’s difficult to think of many positives at West Ham these days. From a mysterious lack of desire from the players, to underperforming star signings, discontented fans and most concerning of all, the appointment of a manager who has failed at his last three clubs. All the ingredients are in place for disaster.
Only a few months previously, the common perception was that Slaven Bilic had spent well in the summer. Based on the players he had at his disposal, many predicted the Hammers would be top ten contenders, but from the season opener, clearly something wasn’t right. Shameful defensive displays from players who were supposed to lead at the back in Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta, dreadful form and a lack of goals from the biggest summer singing Arnautovic and equally inconsistent displays from the other arrival Javier Hernandez meant that all of Bilic’s four transfers had failed him. Bilic seemed unaware as to his best team. Rotating players and changing systems served only to destabilise West Ham even more in the early months of the season and eradicated any sense of identity from their displays.
The poor chemistry was evident from the word go, the team looking soulless during the first three games of the season. Three defeats followed. The fact that all of these games were on the road due to the Olympic Stadium being unavailable only increased the frustrations of West Ham’s fans, already bitter when it comes to their new home.
An inconvenient commute for many season-ticket holders with stands unnaturally distant from the pitch by English standards, the London Stadium was always going to be a tough sell for fans. Teething problems with security saw a series of fights break out last season highlighting how difficult it was for West Ham to adjust. On the pitch the Hammers have managed 2 wins, a draw and three defeats in the Premier League this season, barely passable. The stats from last season followed a similar pattern 7 wins, 4 draws and 8 defeats.
The writing was very much on the wall for Bilic and his sacking when it came in early November was no surprise. He was eventually undone by the quality of displays at both ends of the pitch. These were characterised by a lack of fight from the team as a whole and poor discipline from his star players. Twice this season West Ham have missed out on victories due to red cards, whilst the attitude of the team in the last weeks of Bilic’s reign was nothing short of disgraceful. Professionalism has been called into question and all too often players have let their heads drop. Defensively West Ham have looked extremely suspect, almost inviting opposition teams to run at them. If letting Bilic go was supposed to resolve these problems, we have yet to see the turnaround.
The truth is that many a West Ham fan felt that Bilic wasn’t the problem. Indeed supporters warmed to the passion and humility shown by the manager in the three games prior to his dismissal. This was in stark contrast to the performances of his players. The view of the club’s owners was that a combination of poor form, underperforming summer signings and disappointing transfers made in the two previous windows gave them reason enough to look for a new manager. Enter David Moyes.
The Moyes appointment has not been greeted with optimism amongst the West Ham faithful. A single point collected from his first three games in charge, one goal scored and seven conceded suggest there is little reason for optimism. Last time out against Everton, it took the team going behind by two goals to start playing. Hardly the attitude needed at this difficult juncture. Further problems for the Londoners come this month in the shape of three impossibly tricky games against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal. On current form it’s difficult to see the Hammers getting any points from those matches. Christmas mired in the relegation zone most certainly beckons.
Given how things have gone so far, it seems that considerable emphasis will be placed on the manager bringing new players in, in January. The more sceptical onlooker would point to the questionable transfers made by Moyes in his recent Premier League jobs at Manchester United and Sunderland. They hardly instil confidence in his ability to turn things around. Also disconcerting is the conflicting message that the club have sent out by giving Moyes a six month contract, but at the same time giving him cash to spend.
Moyes will have to be at his best to motivate his players and give them some much needed self belief. The Hammers see only 0.8 of their 10.1 attempts on goal in every match come from inside the six-yard box and despite having players that can play as target men, they struggle to deliver quality crosses when it matters. The Everton game demonstrated very clearly that when crosses do come in, the front men lack the self belief to get themselves into position to benefit from them.
In each of his previous three jobs, Moyes has been criticised for failing to get the best out of his players. Question marks remain over his ability to motivate and it seems doubtful whether he can drive the team forward from the touchline. On the pitch, captain Mark Noble is out of form and low on confidence. Relegated to the bench for the games against Leicester City and Everton, he is in no position to steady the ship either. At a time when the Hammers desperately need an inspirational leader, it is anything but obvious to whom they can turn.
The Premier League has boasted some excellent cent...