Four league games played; zero wins, zero draws, four losses. Two goals scored, ten conceded. Rock bottom of the table. Safe to say it wasn’t going well for West Ham United at the beginning of the season.
Much like it is unfair to judge those teams at the top of the league table at this premature stage, it’s just as ignorant to judge those at the bottom, but four games in and it certainly didn’t look promising for the Hammers. The only saving grace, however, was that the sides around them weren’t fairing much better. That is a fact that provided all West Ham fans with just the slightest inch of confidence, yet that is where that slither of confidence came to an abrupt end, considering that they were the only club in England’s top four leagues without a single point to their name. There was seemingly no way out.
Three league games later; two victories and one draw. Six goals scored, two conceded. Moreover, those three simply phenomenal results – considering the position the club were in – just happened to be with Everton away and Chelsea and Manchester United at home. They were very dark days for the club, but a new leaf has now been turned.
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Pre-season and there were issues that hadn’t gone unnoticed. A passionate fanbase were still frustrated with their new home, a move that simply should never have come to fruition. New stadiums can be viewed as a time of regeneration and change, of a bright future and a hugely exciting time of hope, much like the current situation at Tottenham Hotspur. This was more than a move for West Ham. Leaving their beloved Upton Park was not the right decision, but the club have done their best to generate a brand new fortress at Upton Park.
The Hammers hadn’t won at home until high-flying Chelsea came to the Olympic Stadium, yet keeping Eden Hazard and the Blues at bay was a stunning feat by Manuel Pellegrini’s men. The battling display was, however, on the back of a fantastic 3-1 victory at Everton, which may just be viewed as the turning point in an otherwise bleak campaign. To then trounce Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United just a week later was unthinkable. Squeeze in an 8-0 confidence booster over Macclesfield in the Carabao Cup Third Round and you have all the ingredients for a brilliant run of form.
While off-field problems have reared their ugly head at the club more often than the Hammers would have cared for, it was assumed that they would stay in the past. Last season ended in horrible circumstances for West Ham, yet much of it is now long forgotten as the club have finally got their season underway.
Other problems were, however, slowly but surely coming to the fore in the early stages of the current Premier League campaign, with the man tasked to guide the club to new successes under huge scrutiny after just a month in charge. Pellegrini was the man thought to be the cure to a period of disillusionment, despite the youth of countless other potential candidates for the job.
This unity and spirit has transformed itself onto the pitch, with the current crop of players a massively dangerous outfit on paper. New signing Felipe Anderson has brought East London to life with his talent and ability on the ball and looks set to become a star in the coming months, having already proven just how important he is to the club going forward.
Much like his manager, Pablo Zabaleta has proven himself in English football and has immense experience that will help the squad both on the pitch and in the changing room, while the club can boast the most underrated goalkeeper in the Premier League in Lukasz Fabianski between the sticks. Andriy Yarmolenko has finally delivered the goods that many in football knew he was capable of, while the return of the likes of Andy Carroll, Javier Hernandez, Jack Wilshere and Manuel Lanzini can only be good news for the West Ham faithful.
With the passion and determination typified by captain Mark Noble, the Hammers now have the chance to steer the ship in the right direction, but know that they are up against it in a league full of battling competitors. While his 2013/14 Manchester City side had all the talent in the world, Pellegrini will be looking to find the net as much as possible with his current crop of players. The English football record of 151 goals in all competitions set by the Citizens won’t be matched, yet one man is doing his utmost to go as close as he can.
With ten goals and seven assists in 2018, Marko Arnautovic has proven himself to be one of the league’s top talents. Up there with the feats of Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah, the Austrian has shown just how crucial he is to everything the Hammers do, with the fact that he often fills roles that aren’t natural to him further conveys his passion on the pitch. The loyal and determined forward has all the flair in the world, and is among the league’s top strikers in terms of efforts on goal, with seven shots on target from his 16 so far this season. Much like Crystal Palace are hugely ineffective without their talisman Wilfried Zaha, West Ham more often than not struggle without their main man.
Brighton await the travelling Hammers this Friday night in the earliest kick-off of another important weekend of Premier League football, yet Pellegrini’s men might just be looking ahead to the grudge meeting with Spurs at the Olympic Stadium considering their recent success against the other top teams in the league. Can the East London outfit continue their fine run of form against Chris Houghton’s side, or is this current rise in performance just a brief ray of light in an otherwise gloomy season?
Feature Image via The Independent
Pellegrini Image via The National
Arnautovic Image via Evening Standard
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