Balancing dreams and realities in West Ham’s ‘New Season’

In the past 12 months, no other Premier League club has gone under more of a transformation.

And for all the bombastic talk of challenging the league’s giants, a reality check may be in order for the club’s first season in their new home and that is reflected in the title odds you can get from www.bestbetting-sites.com.

The move to what is now officially known as ‘London Stadium’ – but will be better known in its previous incarnation as the Olympic Stadium – loomed over the 2015/16 season.

Every home fixture seemed to necessitate the announcement of ‘the last…’ – “The last time Arsenal will play here”; “The last FA Cup fixture”; and – in the frenetic and at times ugly 3-2 win over Manchester United – “The last game at The Boleyn Ground”.

 

A season preoccupied with looking to the past through rose-tinted glasses often meant the on field successes were overlooked.

And there were successes – The ‘Hammers’ recorded their highest ever Premier League points tally; matched their record League finish of seventh and scored the most goals they’ve ever scored in a Premier League season.

Whilst the dream of Champions League qualification petered out into a Europa League place-by proxy, the season was a resounding success for new manager Slaven Bilić and confirmation of sorts that West Ham owners David Gold and David Sullivan were right to take the risk of jettisoning Sam Allardyce and taking a punt on a relatively untested coach.

In hindsight the choice to replace ‘Big Sam’ seems pretty cut and dry, and despite the pretty reasonable argument that the former Bolton and Sunderland manager provided stability, no one could ignore the fact that the relationship between the fans and manager rarely improved beyond antagonistic and at times bordered on poisonous.

Part of this was due to the perception of Allardyce’s pragmatic tactics as at odds with the mystical ‘West Ham’ way and also due to an emotional disconnect with ‘his’ team.

Despite relatively solid performances, the truth is West Ham fans never warmed to Allardyce disciples such as one-time captain Kevin Nolan or goalkeeper Jussi Jääskeläinen.

Fortuitously for Bilić, through accident or design, last season West Ham fans latched on to one player in particular – Dimitri Payet – a player who fulfills the requirements determined by previous fan favourites such as Joe Cole, Paolo Di Canio and Carlos Tevez.

Payet’s absence through injury has not only denied the club a talent that provided nine goals and 12 assists in the league last season, it has also drawn into sharp focus the deficiencies that still remain in the squad.

 

West Ham’s opening league fixtures have been less than easy – trips to Chelsea and Manchester City have both resulted in losses, and only a late Antonio winner at home to Bournemouth saved his club from more disappointment – but, in the fixture against Manchester City, the lack of depth in defence was clinically exposed in a first half where the hosts could have been five up at half time.

Injuries haven’t helped – Winston Reid and Aaron Cresswell in particular would both be considered key defensive starters and have been missed, but the lack of depth in defensive cover seems to have gone unnoticed as Bilić seemed more focused on attacking options.

During a rather shambolic and scattergun summer transfer window, West Ham brought in no less than seven attacking players, with left-back Masuaku and former Real Madrid right-back Álvaro Arbeloa being the only defensively inclined talent being signed and central defender James Tomkins being transferred across London to Crystal Palace.

Hardly the the transfer strategy of a club concerned with defensive strengthening.

And there probably is room for concern. Statistically, West Ham were ‘lucky’ last season – their average shots on target per game was the third lowest in the final top ten standings and they were fourth highest for shots on target conceded.

These are not exactly statistics to build an argument for continued improvement on.

And while optimism and a bright future may be the official messages coming out of West Ham’s new media offices in the Olympic Stadium, the more all more familiar face of uncertainty decked out in Claret and Blue may be a more common sight from fans this season.

Author Details

Charles Pulling

Co-Editor of @bpfootball. Content for ViceUK, inbedwimaradona, sabotagetimes + Others. Featured on http://WorldSoccer.com

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