Earlier this season West Ham were looking like they could challenge for the European spots in the Premier League this season in Slaven Bilic’s debut campaign.
However an injury crisis that would have crippled any team saw a slight dip in the Hammers league position.
The Hammers failed to win in eight Premier League games, but the Londoners have now claimed consecutive victories, the latest coming in a 2-0 defeat of Liverpool on Saturday.
That win included a return to action from the bench for French international playmaker Dimitri Payet.
Sustained a decent position
During that winless run of games, West Ham did not actually play that badly and in fact they drew six of those eight games, as they tried to whether the storm of such injury problems.
The important thing was that the team maintained a decent position in the Premier League during that injury crisis. Bilic’s side did just that and are now sixth position in the league, just three points off fourth-spot.
West Ham’s injury list looked like a petition at one point. The Hammers were suddenly low on attacking talent as Payet was joined on the sidelines through injury by the likes of Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho, Victor Moses and Manuel Lanzini at one stage.
Carroll has now returned to fitness and scored in consecutive games, while Payet’s return could be the most crucial of all. Moses and Lanzini are both still carrying knocks, but could return in the Hammers next Premier League game at Bournemouth on 12th January.
A shrewd operator
Prior to his arrival at the Boleyn Ground, Bilic’s record in management was patchy, but one aspect of his reign as Hammers boss that has stood out is his shrewd work in the transfer market.
The Croatian made one of the best signings of the summer in Payet, who was one of the players of the Premier League season prior to his unfortunate injury against Everton in November. The loan signing of Manuel Lanzini was also an inspired one.
Central midfielder Cheick Kouyate also looks like he could turn out to be a very good signing for the Hammers. Bilic may be given funds in the transfer market to strengthen his squad in the January transfer window.
If the Croatian is given money to spend in the January transfer window then he looks likely to spend it very wisely.
A European tour
Bilic deserves a lot of credit for not only the Hammers good position, but also a complete change of style from Sam Allardyce’s more functional style shall we say.
Due to the open nature of the Premier League the Hammers are well within a chance of claiming a European spot, whether that is a Champions League spot or a Europa League spot. There is lots of competition for a top six spot, with more than half the Premier League looking to make those top six positions.
The return to fitness of Payet will be vital to the Hammers chances of claiming a European spot this season. Payet was outstanding before his injury, scoring five goals and producing four assists as well.
He is the man that can create something from nothing, as he has done for the last few years of his career and it shows in his career statistics. Bilic signed Payet to be the brains of the West Ham attack, but despite injuries the Hammers have also been solid at the back, as you would expect with a former centre-back in charge.
With everybody fit West Ham have a good balance and look like a decent outside bet at odds of 9/2 to finish in the top six of the Premier League this season.
The Hammers good campaign so far owes a lot to the hard work and talent of boss Slaven Bilic. The Croatian has made the Londoners a superbly balanced unit and I certainly would not write-off the Irons claiming a European spot this season.
Can Slaven Bilic guide West Ham to European qualification?