West Ham: How the Hammers’ bright new dawn has been blighted

Having overseen West Ham’s move to the 57,000-seater Olympic Stadium, the ambitions of co-chairman David Gold are undoubtedly lofty, though he may need to work on his timing.

It was maybe unfortunate that his blood would rush to his head after losing 2-4 at home to Watford, but Gold’s zeal was inviting mockery.

“There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t be playing in the Champions League with in the next five years” tweeted Gold and after finishing four points away from the top 4 last season with £52 million worth of investment following in the summer it isn’t an unrealistic target.

After the Hammers suffered another 4-2 defeat on Saturday however, this time to West Bromwich Albion, European competition seems as distant as ever.

Such is the concern and the keenness to have a successful first season at their new home, the hierarchy have shelved plans to open talks with manager Slaven Bilic over a new contract in the new year.


Too many goals getting shipped in

The Croatian’s team conceded 2 or more goals in 8 of their last 10 games of last season and they have carried the leakiness into this campaign; 13 goals have been shipped in the first 5 games to leave them teetering in the relegation zone.

Bilic and Gold, as well as his co-owner David Sullivan and vice-chairman Karren Brady, will be aware that it is still far too early to start preparing to welcome the likes of Burton Albion and Rotherham to the Olympic Stadium and many teams will suffer defeats at Chelsea and Manchester City this season.

But it is back at home where the unrest is clear with disagreements between fans over seating arrangements spilling over against Watford causing a dispute as to whom is responsible for the stewarding.

West Ham secured an advantageous deal to pay just £15 million of the £272 million it needed to convert the Olympic Stadium into a footballing home but while they pay an annual rent of £2.5 million, they are not required to pay for policing, stewarding, heating, pitch maintenance or corner flags.


Stadium move not sitting down well with the supporters

But the move has yet to go to plan with groups of supporters, used to standing up during matches at Upton Park, displeased at being asked to sit down.

The club are obliged to meet a safety agreement if they are to extend the stadium’s capacity to 66,000 and that would require persuading those fans to sit down.

For fans desperate to bring with them the experience of a match-day back at Upton Park, that may prove difficult with many struggling to adjust to the upmarket food outlets, popcorn booths and megastores that have replaced the chip shops and market stalls that littered Green Street.

Whilst there has been teething problems with their attempts to gentrify- it will of course take a long time for West Ham to shake off their east end roots– it hasn’t helped matters on the pitch where Bilic struggles to gel a squad that was oddly distorted by a scattergun transfer approach over the summer.


Injury concerns

Securing Manuel Lanzini, one of their better performers last term, on a permanent deal was shrewd but of the money spent, only he and Andre Ayew, injured until December after a £20 million move from Swansea, arrive with previous experience of the Premier League.

Edimilson Fernandes and Jonathon Calleri have been missing in action since moving to the capital while Simone Zaza, loaned in from Juventus to ease the strain created by injuries to Ayew and Andy Carroll in attack, endured such a dreadful debut at West Brom he was subbed off at half-time.

Sofiane Feghouli’s hamstring trouble has frustrated his attempts to get into the side at this early stage while fellow free signing Harvard Nordtveit has settled in well, though it was made clear on Saturday, as he complained about how easily his team conceded, that the Norwegian international’s best position isn’t at the heart of defence.

Injuries haven’t helped Bilic’s cause, with Sam Byram, Winston Reid, Aaron Cresswell and Diafra Sakho joining Ayew and Carroll on the treatment table, but the logic of touring the USA and eastern Europe ahead of two stages of Europa League qualifiers in pre-season must be questioned as the Croatian is forced to patch up his squad with those still finding it difficult to adjust to a new league.

It is no wonder, on the evidence of a dreadful handball error that gifted West Brom their opener on Saturday, why West Ham have been questioning if they overpaid Olympiakos for Arthur Masuaku.


A chaotic mess

The Hammer’s defence, in a haunting echo of the way Troy Deeney, Odion Igahlo and co. waltzed through them in Stratford a week previous, was in a chaotic mess at the Hawthornes on Saturday and one wonders just how closely they are following the instructions of their manager.

It was bizarre to witness not a single defender in their own half during a corner in the 59th minute with the score at 3-0.

The brilliance of Dimitri Payet and Lanzini nearly found a way back into the match but such attacking wizardry can’t afford to be undermined by feeble foundations.

In midfield Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate, so instrumental in last year’s success, have started the season in uncharacteristically poor form.


A glimmer of hope?

Bilic will hope that Alvaro Arbeloa, set to make his debut against Accrington in the League Cup in midweek, can add some authority at the back while League Two opposition presents a chance to try and familiarise themselves with the wide open spaces of their new home.

Fail to do so and the visit of Southampton next week could begin to spell desperate trouble for a club whose search for a new upmarket identity hinges on an eagerness to avoid it.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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