How quickly fortunes can change.
After all the optimism surrounding West Ham from last season’s impressive season of seventh and the move to their new London Stadium, this was meant to be the campaign where the club went to the next level. Now, just six games into the new season and panic has already set in.
The Hammers are 18th in the table with just one win and five losses to their name.
Not only that but they have conceded 16 goals so far – the most in the league – and have lost heavily to the likes of Southampton, Watford and West Brom – all teams they expected to finish well above this season.
So what is going wrong for West Ham?
Why have they gone from high-flyers last season to no-hopers at the beginning of this? Here are some possible reasons behind their downfall.
The loss at home to Southampton was a damaging one.
The 0-3 scoreline is worrying enough but the way they were taken apart provides even less room for comfort.
West Ham’s front four consisted of Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini and Michael Antonio in attacking midfield behind lone striker Simone Zaza. Ideally, in a 4-2-3-1 formation, a team needs its wingers to track back for their full-backs as well as offering attacking threat.
On Sunday, the two wingers, Antonio and Payet, did not do their job defensively.
On too many occasions the Southampton full-backs Bertrand and Cedric got space on the flanks as a result of Antonio and Payet not tracking back enough, therefore the West Ham full-backs Nordtveit (who is usually a midfielder) and Arbeloa were left exposed.
It was very hard for West ham to be secure defensively when they were constantly outnumbered as a result of the lack of defensive cover from their front four.
As a result, Southampton attackers Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond were allowed space to create while striker Charlie Austin occupied West Ham’s two centre-halves. It proved decisive.
Lack of attacking threat
Defensive inefficiencies were also evident with West Ham last season but one area that got them out of trouble of numerous occasions was their considerable attacking threat.
However, this season, they have offered very little on that front. The Hammers had only one shot on target on Sunday, compared with Southampton’s nine.
What’s more, West Ham made only seven passes inside the opposition’s penalty area and created just eight chances. Compare that to Southampton’s 19 passes in West Ham’s penalty box along with 19 created opportunities and the difference is there to see.
What seems to be frustrating West Ham fans is the sudden fall in intensity in front of goal, which seems puzzling especially with the technical ability of Payet and the goal-scoring threat of Antonio in their side.
West Ham rank 16th in the league table of shots per match (14.5) and are also ranked 16th in terms of average shots on target per game (2.8).
Scoring a good amount of created chances was what made Slaven Bilic’s men such a dangerous team last year as it made up for their insecurities in at the back.
Now, with West Ham becoming insipid at both ends of the pitch, results are taking a turn for the worse.
Admittedly, injuries to record signing Andre Ayew, Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho have West Ham’s offensive options.
The club needs an alternative to current front-man Simone Zaza and with Sakho due to return at the start of October, he could be the man to fulfill the role up front.
One thing is for sure, West Ham need their main attacking players to find the form of last season, and quickly.
London Stadium problems
During their days at Upton Park, West Ham had an atmosphere which the team thrived off.
The smaller, yet compact ground allowed their fans to create an intense environment that seemed lift their team’s performances at crucial periods.
This is a feature in which the London Stadium is possibly lacking.
“West Ham won’t feel like they’re playing at home, it won’t feel like home yet because it’s not, they’ve only played four or five games there,” Sky pundit Jamie Carragher told Monday Night Football. “Something has got to change there massively, because every game you play away from home is tough, and if they find games tough at home because they still don’t feel like it’s their home game… it could be a long season for West Ham.”
Making the London Stadium a fortress could well be a catalyst to future success for the Hammers.
Manager Slaven Bilic certainly has a big job on his hands.
Changes in team set-up and in attack will need to be made as West Ham are quickly falling behind the pack.
The club needs to get out this bad run quickly otherwise, a season which was supposed to lift them to new highs could send them crashing back down to Earth.
Written by Sean Wilson
Follow Sean on Twitter @WilsonFC2012
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