West Ham United have recovered after losing their first three matches of the season, but there are still problems that they need to address if they are to move up the Premier League. They are currently on seven points from seven matches, which placed them in 15th position, only two points above the relegation zone. This is too close for comfort and there are plenty of reasons for supporters to be concerned about this campaign.
Constant speculation regarding Slaven Bilic
It is clear that the West Ham manager doesn’t have the full backing of the board, as rumours regarding his future arise after every defeat. The mixed messages in the media aren’t helpful to the team and that is evident every time a match is played. Before the Tottenham game last month, the Independent reported that the Croatian was fighting to save his job, whereas after the win against Swansea City, the Evening Standard suggested that he would get until the end of the season.
It seems that the board’s position on their manager changes with every result and that isn’t a great way to run a football club. Bilic can’t plan for the long-term and that will hinder the development of players. There isn’t a motivation to experiment and give young players a chance, as he needs to regularly pick-up positive results. If the board don’t see him as the man for the job, they should act now, as the current situation is damaging to the club.
The regular changing of tactics
The one criticism levelled at West Ham during the summer was that their recruitment was completed on name-value rather than the club bringing players in to fit the club’s identity. The Hammers currently lack an identity and there is no consistency in selection. Already this season, the club have used 4-2-3-1, 3-4-3 and 4-4-2. Slaven Bilic doesn’t know his best team or even the formation that best suits the players at his disposal.
Chicharito was considered a good signing by the majority. Although he has scored three goals, he has struggled to find his stride at the London Stadium. He has been used as a lone front-man, as a wide forward and as part of a strike-partnership. It is near impossible for the Mexican to adapt to the team as he could find himself moved into another role at any point.
An ageing defence
West Ham have conceded 13 times in the Premier League this season, which ranks as the second-worst defence in the division. That is a concerning statistic at this early stage and one that suggests the team are set for a year battling towards the bottom of the league. Pablo Zabaleta and Jose Fonte have both arrived at the club this year. Although they have both had great careers, they are the wrong side on 30 and their lack of mobility has been targeted this season.
This is problematic area for the Hammers, as they have a clear weakness for opposition teams to target on the right-hand side of their defence. Opposing teams will look to deploy quick players in that area of the pitch and on recent evidence, West Ham won’t be able to cope with it.
Joe Hart’s lack of confidence
The loan signing of Joe Hart was always going to be a risk and like the rest of their signings, it was made on name value. Adrian has had his critics, but in current form, the on-loan Manchester City goalkeeper isn’t a substantial upgrade. There have been signs of poor keeping already from the England international, with a clear weakness in saving shots to his left-hand side.
Due to his status in the game, it will be difficult for West Ham to drop the keeper, even if he doesn’t shine on the pitch. The club will be hoping that a clean sheet against Swansea City will boost Hart’s confidence as there is no rhyme or reason for his decline. It must be confidence-related, but until he improves, he is an error waiting to happen.
Manuel Lanzini’s injury problems
After the sale of Dimitri Payet, it was expected that Manuel Lanzini would step up and fill the void. The Argentine has been struggling with injuries at the beginning of the campaign and has only played 73 minutes in the Premier League. Last season, he was one of the better performers in a poor team, as he scored eight goals and contributed two assists. His drive and creativity from midfield make the Hammers much more threatening in the final third.
The midfielder tried to come back against Newcastle United at the end of August, but suffered another set-back that saw him miss the majority of September. He returned during the match against Swansea and supporters will be hoping that he can stay fit from now. That seems a huge ask for a player that has yet to properly start his season.