It’s been a very long season for all involved with West Ham, and it’s fair to say that the transition from the Boleyn Ground to the ‘London Stadium’ has been far from smooth. In this article, I will be looking at how West Ham can start to put things right as well as highlighting where the club have gone so wrong throughout the summer and this season.
So, where have West Ham gone wrong?
The Summer transfer window- This one had to be at the top of my list for where West Ham have gone wrong, and after the fantastic campaign the Hammers had last time out, Slaven Bilic deserved some real backing from the owners. However, co-owners David Gold and Sullivan decided to do it what can only be described as ‘on the cheap’, bringing in the likes of Jonathan Calleri and Simone Zaza on loan rather than buying a proven goalscorer (which I’ll get onto in a bit). However despite saying the two Davids’ did it on the cheap, they did spend £20.5million on Ghanaian international Andre Ayew. Andre is a talented player, but hasn’t seemed to settle at West Ham just yet and has been unlucky with injuries after his move. However, I truly believe the signing of Ayew was nothing more than a panic buy from Gold and Sullivan after going on record to say “West Ham will sign a £30,000,000 striker in the summer” and failed to deliver that promise, making fans feel rightly let down and made sure that the owners knew this, only adding pressure to the situation which triggered the move. West Ham missed out on the likes of current Sevilla man Yasine Ben Yedder for £8million or Loic Remy from Chelsea – just two of many example strikers who were available this summer that suited West Ham’s style of play.
The sale of James Tomkins came as a shock to many West Ham fans ,including myself. He played very well for the club last season, having spent most of his time at the right back position. When Tomkins left West Ham, the club were without a right back and were in desperate need of one. Dutch international Gregory Van Der Wiel was available, but was one of many West Ham targets missed out on in the summer. The East London side failed to act during the summer window which has left Michail Antonio playing at right wing back, despite his better performances coming from the wings or at striker. Sam Byram and Alvaro Arbeloa are both options for West Ham United, however Byram is still out injured and Arbeloa uncapable of being effective at play right wing back due to his lack of pace which has forced him to be played in the centre of defence when fit.
The formation- The 5-3-2 formation hasn’t really worked for the Hammers this season due to many factors, one of which being that with the five at the back, Cheikhou Kouyate has had to drop to defence as James Collins and Havard Nordtveit have been awful this season, resulting in a loss of much needed energy and stamina in midfield that Kouyate brings. This in turn depreciates the quality in the build up play and general play in midfield and the attacking third, rendering it awfully slow and painful to watch at times. Another reason the formation doesn’t work is the fact that Michail Antonio isn’t a right wing back and is best used further forward as previously discussed. The change in formation has seen a side willing to defend and then burst away at pace and strike fear into opposition defences devolve into a side that will forever pass from side to side due to lack of runners and energy in midfield, then take a very long time to carve out any chances. Opposition sides no longer fear West Ham how they did last season and I firmly believe this is down to the formation we play.
The stadium- To blame the dismal season solely on the stadium would be harsh and unfair, but I do believe it has been a huge factor. The fact the fans are far away from the pitch affects the teams play. Upton Park was well known for being an intimidating place for visiting teams, but for us being the home side it was a major bonus, and in a sense, gave the Hammers a twelfth player. Fans have struggled to make an atmosphere at the London stadium following the move and it is a completely different feeling to what the Boleyn ground was.
The goalkeeper ‘situation’- Adrian has always been a good goalkeeper for West Ham. He’s always had a mistake in him, but everyone does – he’s only human. The Hammers faithful love him, but this season the Spaniard has been absolutely woeful and I always feel uneasy when he’s in goal. On the other hand, you’ve got Darren Randolph, the Mr. Reliable out of the two keepers who has been outstanding for the Hammers since his arrival and that has been no different this season. However, an out of character mistake from Randolph cost us an extra two points at Liverpool and we can’t afford to drop what are such valuable points to us. I must stress that I’m not saying “he’s made a mistake, get him out of goal.” I just feel that in general we need improvement in this position and with reports that Adrian is looking to move away after being rightfully dropped for Randolph, then we need to be looking at ‘keepers such as Joe Hart, Asmir Begovic and Yann Sommer. These are three goalkeepers I rate exceptionally highly and would be extremely happy with any of the three to replace Adrian.
How can West Ham improve?
The owners need to back Bilic!- This one I cannot stress enough! Bilic is a fantastic manager who needs the backing of the two owners who need to give him money to spend in January to save our season after their failed ‘wheeling and dealing’.
Buy a right back!- Personally, I feel the right back spot is more of an issue than the striker spot for the Hammers and it seriously needs addressing. Croatian international Darijo Srna has been one of many right backs linked with West Ham in the last couple of days and is a player I would like to see at the London Stadium. An experienced full back with 134 caps and already with a close relationship with Bilic during his stint as Croatia coach, the Croat has leadership qualities and incredible technique and professionalism to back up his traits. Dominic Iorfa from Wolverhampton Wanderers is also another player worth a look at over the window if the club fail to bring in Srna. If worst came to worst, I’d welcome Glen Johnson back to the club with open arms (yes, we are that desperate). I’ve never been a big Glen Johnson fan, but he’s better than what we currently have, but at no cost should the club look at Carl Jenkinson.
Bring in a centre half!- Yet another addition to that back line. When one of your most influential midfielders is playing centre half, you know you need to invest in a defender and that’s the situation we find ourselves in. Liverpool centre half Mamadou Sakho is another to be linked with West Ham as of late and is yet to play a minute for Liverpool this season after falling out with manager Jurgen Klopp which makes the move all the more believable and one I’d love to see happen.
Get a goalscorer!- We need goals, it’s as simple as that. Current striker Diafra Sakho is out for a further 6-8 weeks after playing two games for the club this season, whilst Andy Carroll has impressed since coming back into the side but so desperately needs support. So who should be that support? Three names spring to mind straight away: Shane Long, Jermaine Defoe and Daniel Sturridge. All three are fantastic goal scorers and would be fantastic additions. Shane Long would be the easier of the three to sign as he seems to be ‘out of favour’ this season at Southampton, however the recent injury to Charlie Austin may hinder our chances. The comeback of Defoe would be a fantastic move and a real lift of hope for the fans. The man scores goals wherever he goes. Jermaine will be very difficult to sign as he is so important to Sunderland who are also fighting relegation, but he is a player that would be worth all the hours and days it’d take to have him put pen to paper. Last but not least, Daniel Sturridge. Another goalscorer out of favour at Liverpool and doesn’t seem to fit in under Klopp. A player that would be worth whatever money we were to spend on him.
Keep our prized assets- You must’ve read that sentence and immediately thought “Dimitri Payet” – wrong. Pedro Obiang. He’s been fantastic for us this season and without doubt our player of the season so far. We need to build our team around the likes of him, Reid, Payet and Carroll, so keeping them through and past the January window is vital for our resurrection in the league.
Move on the dead wood- If the rumours are true that we are looking to move on all the summer signings bar Ayew, Lanzini and Fletcher then I’ll be happy, although it may be harsh on Sofiane Feghouli who hasn’t seen enough game time to prove himself. However the likes of Zaza, Gokhan Tore, Calleri, Nordtveit and Masuaku have all had more than enough game time to prove themselves and the move hasn’t worked out for any of them.
Give youth a chance- West Ham have a history of bringing through terrific youth players, with names such as Rio Ferdinand and Micheal Carrick springing to mind. With Reece Oxford putting pen to paper and looking set to be back from injury any moment, why not give the man a chance? It’s very frustrating seeing senior players such as Zaza wasting their chances when we have very good youth chomping at the bit for a chance in the first team. A fine example is Spaniard Toni Martinez (striker) scoring 12 goals in 11 appearances for the under-23’s an impressive record to have despite being out for six weeks during the season.
In conclusion, West Ham are a side massively underachieving and struggling to settle in at their new home. Tactical naivety from Slaven Bilic isn’t helping and they need some serious investment during the January window which will play a big part as to what league they are in next season.