Maybe we didn’t expect Stoke City to be this bad so early, but they are. We knew Sunderland would be. And yet, has there been a more embarrassing team in the Premier League than West Ham this season?
Nope, and it’s not particularly close.
You remember West Hama��seventh in the EPL last season, just four points off a Champions League spot. A new-look side under Croatian manager, Slaven BiliA�a��leading a rejuvenated attack, producing 65 goals last term. In three previous Premier League seasons under Sam Allardyce, the Hammers never put more than 45 in the back of the net.
We’ve also seen how suddenly it can all go wrong. Antonio Conte is quickly learning with Chelsea that all the money in the world cannot buy consistency. While Claudio Ranieri only has Leicester sitting 12th after a title-winning campaign, they’ve won their opening two UCL matches. Right now, that’s their dream.
BiliA�, on the other hand, doesn’t have either of these luxuries. West Ham doesn’t have the ability to draw world-class talent. Yet. At least not consistently. And if things remain as they are, they won’t next summer either. It would make Dimitri Payet’s exit all the more imminent as well. They are also without the lure of European football. They can thank Astra Giurgiu for that.
Over a month ago, I was joking when I said West Ham’s win over Bournemouth was their biggest of the season. It was a silly thing to say for multiple reasons. One, it was just their second league match of the campaign. Secondly, all their victories up until that point occurred during Europa League qualifiers. But even then, they struggled.
So let’s get serious.
Losing to Chelseaa��away, no lessa��is understandable. Losing to Manchester City two weeks latera��again, awaya��is understandable. But a 2-4 loss at home to Watford? A 4-2 loss away to West Brom? Needing an injury time winner against Accrington Stanley to advance in the cup? Plus, a 0-3 lossa��at home, againa��to Southampton this past weekend? There’s not even a shred of competitiveness in those results.
Their goal differential of (-9) is second-worst in the league. Their mark of 16 goals conceded is the worst mark in the league. It doesn’t matter how sharp their a�?newa�? stadium looks, or the potential draw of 60,000 fans on match days. None of that matters if you aren’t winning, and the fact of the matter is West Ham is strugglinga��which prompts a couple questions.
Is BiliA�’s message already stale? Ora��and sometimes the harsher reality is the one that’s harder to seea��did West Ham simply over-perform last season? Of course, diagnosing the problem isn’t always so simple. Typically when a club is struggling, we immediately point to the manager. It’s become our reflex; an instinctual response. We lose patience incredibly quickly in our desperate search for answers.
So, let’s revisit that second question for just a moment.
Suggesting they over-performed isn’t too far-fetched. Since the turn of the century, West Ham has been relegated multiple times. Their highest-ever finish in England’s top tier is third (1985). The last time they won a trophy was 1980 (FA Cup; English League Championship). They have very little European historya��this season’s struggles took them at least a couple steps backwards.
The thing is, there isn’t just one player in this squad that’s to blame. Everyonea��well, just about everyonea��is performing poorly. Their goalkeeper, AdriA?n, has been mediocre-at-best for the past couple seasons. This year, according to Squawka, his appearances haven’t even registered a positive performance score.
Not one of their forwardsa��from the oft-injured Andy Carroll, to the normally electric (and also currently injured) AndrA� Ayew, all the way to new man (and loanee) Simone Zazaa��boast a positive score among them.
That’s where the managera��in this case, BiliA�a��typically comes in. His job is to get the best out of his squad. But if the entire squad has been sub-par, then what? Even the richest clubs in the world can’t just snap their fingers and produce an entirely new starting eleven. This isn’t Football Manager or FIFA; it doesn’t work that way.
Remember how Tottenham Hotspur played down the stretch last season? They were poor, very poor. West Ham is experiencing a very similar stretch now, just at a different time. There’s just one small problem: the Hammers don’t boast the squad Tottenham does.
Now we can sit here and believe West Ham will settle down and sort themselves out. But, we cannot expect them to flip a switch and start playing like they did last season. All of the team-bonding exercises in the world cannot magically turn their early-season struggles around. Plus, speculation over BiliA�’s job alreadya��oh yeah, of course it’s already starteda��won’t do anyone any favors. Is Roberto Mancini really the answer?
I cannot answer that. You can’t either. We’re only six matches into the season. In other words, it’s far too early to speculate. But I will say this: it’s been a while since West Ham supporters had a club they could get consistently excited about. Last year looked like the start of something new. But now?
It could be back to square onea��meaning the cycle of change, and perhaps desperationa��is about to begin all over again.