How does West Ham's start to the 2016/17 campaign compare to last season?
After finishing seventh in the Premier League last season, things appear to have gone very wrong for West Ham United. Seven games into the current campaign, Slaven Bilic’s side are languishing in the relegation zone with just one win and five defeats to their name.
More than that, they are struggling to adapt to the environment of their new stadium, are leaking goals and look a shadow of the side that took the Premier League by storm last time out.
Five defeats already this season is a bad enough stat, but compared to four wins from their opening seven last time out, it looks even worse. The Irons have lost to Chelsea, Manchester City, Watford, West Brom and Southampton so far this season, whereas last season they were defeating the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City in their emphatic start.
However, digging a little deeper, it appears that the main difference between the Hammers’ contrasting starts to the season may not be down to their form at the new stadium, which has received much of the blame, but their form on the road.
Those aforementioned wins over Arsenal, Liverpool and City came at the Emirates, Anfield and the Etihad Stadium respectively. They were West Ham’s first three games on the road in 2015/16 and they won them all. This time around, they have lost every game on the road, being turned over by West Brom, City and Chelsea, already giving them a massive nine point deficit on last season’s seven game total of 13.
Despite the teething problems with the new stadium, West Ham’s early season home form is actually fairly in line with what they achieved last term. This season, the Irons have defeated Bournemouth, drawn with Middlesbrough and lost to Southampton and Watford, the latter being a 4-2 thriller in which Bilic’s side threw away a 2-0 lead.
In 2015/16, though, their record was exactly the same at Upton Park. They did manage to defeat Newcastle at home, but a draw with Norwich, added to defeats at home to Leicester and Bournemouth meant that they only took four points from their opening four games last time out. Although form improved at home across the season, the blame for the poor start being placed solely on the London Stadium is way off the mark; it is on the road where the Hammers are really letting themselves down.
In Europe, things were much the same for West Ham. An early win in qualifying was met with an exit to Astra Guirgui, possibly the most niche bogey team that any Premier League side has ever had, which disrupted the Hammers’ start to the season.
The real difference lies in injury problems, which have hampered West Ham’s ability to continue the momentum of last season. Their attempts to sign a top quality striker failed, and left them with Simone Zaza, who has been filling in for the injured Andy Carroll up top. To describe his performances as appalling would be on the kind side.
Elsewhere they have missed crucial defenders Winston Reid and Aaron Cresswell, who have been replaced by Arthur Masuaku and James Collins, leaving them struggling at the back. In front of them, the likes of Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble and most crucially Dimitri Payet appear to have lost form, although Payet’s mazy run against Middlesbrough suggests he may be returning to his best form.
West Ham’s start may appear disastrous, but in reality, they have been unlucky with form and injuries. Every team goes through certain blips, which are much more pronounced with the added complication of a new stadium, and that is all that is happening to West Ham now. They sorted out their home form last year and they’ll do the same this, but if they don’t buck their ideas up on the road, this season could be a fair old slog.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Craig Ballantyne
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