Tuesday, August 4, 2020

European chasers to relegation scrappers – Where did it go wrong for West Ham?

Tom Dunstan in Editorial, English Premier League 19 Jun 2020

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Watching Aaron Cresswell whip in a free-kick and securing all three points against Manchester United on a sunny afternoon at the London Stadium, the mood in West Ham’s camp seemed to be on the verge of skyrocketing back in September.

Promising a genuine European push after breaking the bank last summer, the Hammers were really starting to shine under Manuel Pellegrini and the future in their new home looked rosy.

However, jumping forward nine months from that 2-0 victory against United, West Ham make their return from the enforced break at the heart of yet another relegation scrap and with civil war between the supporters and their board.

With vocal protests prior to the break and growing pressure on the trio of David Gold, David Sullivan and Karen Brady to sell up, many are trying to pinpoint exactly where it all went so wrong for the East London outfit.

22nd September 2019

If you were to ask any West Ham fan to give an exact date for when their season started to plummet, they would undoubtedly point you in the direction of September 22nd 2019.

Since securing a move from South Wales following Swansea’s relegation back in 2018, Lukasz Fabianski has cemented his spot as arguably, if not, the best goalkeeper outside the top-six.

An ever-reliant performer that picked up the Hammer of the Year award last season, the sight of him having to be helped off during a 2-2 draw at Bournemouth was a painful watch for then-boss Manuel Pellegrini.

Cue the relatively unknown back-up keeper, Roberto. Putting on his gloves and taking his place between the sticks at the Vitality, few back in September would have expected quite the disastrous two months that lie ahead.

Booed by his own fans in his last showing against Spurs, the 33-year-old calamity keeper conceded 17 goals in his brief, but, potentially critical cameo appearance.

Branded by many Hammers fans as the worst goalkeeper to ever grace the Premier League, Roberto has since been shipped out to Alaves on loan until the end of the season, and West Ham certainly won’t be desperate to get him back anytime soon.

Ending his Premier League tenure with a highlight reel of bloopers, West Ham can only wonder where their story would have led if Fabianski could have avoided that hip injury nine months ago.

Moyes seen as a step back, not a step forward

Opting to publically back Roberto despite a string of high-profile howlers, that really appeared to be the final nail in the coffin for the 66-year-old Pellegrini.

With growing unrest around the London Stadium and his position becoming completely untenable, a 2-1 home defeat against a heavily-altered Leicester back in December was enough to see him given his marching orders.

With Pellegrini shown the door only 18-months into his three-year deal, some of the optimists in East London saw this as a chance to wipe the slate clean and kick-start their campaign in the New Year.

However, while many were calling for the recently-departed Niko Kovač to take up the role after parting ways with Bayern Munich, an under-pressure GSB elected to take a more controversial route.

Despite parting ways with David Moyes very publically back in May 2018 after a brief six-month stay in East London, the one-time Manchester United boss was back on an initial 18-month deal.

While Moyes’ second-reign at the London Stadium might have got off to a flyer thanks to a 4-0 romp against Bournemouth, the Scot has failed to guide the Hammers to any real signs of stability.

Still unable to get the full backing of the majority around their new home, Moyes is simply seen as a stepping stone, rather than the man to guide West Ham on the European charge they were promised after being dragged away from their beloved Upton Park.

Signing with no sense

When it comes to wasting money and paying over the odds, West Ham almost have it down to an art form.

Employing managers from the likes of Sam Allardyce to Manuel Pellegrini, the Hammers are a side jumping from identity to identity and their transfer policy seems to match that.

Taking a remarkable gamble and bringing injury-riddled Jack Wilshere in on a £100,000-per-week deal, Carlos Sanchez, Pablo Fornals, Ryan Fredricks and a fading Felipe Anderson have all come under increasing scrutiny.

While nobody can argue with the money that GSB have spent big, their choice of investment has been extremely questionable, with Roberto being the key example in that argument.

Although January arrival Jarrod Bowen might have proven to be a blossoming fan favourite prior to the break, the Hammers’ recent exploits in the transfer market can be best labeled as erratic.

With the likes of Ashley Fletcher and Jordan Hugill making almost bizarre brief stops at the London Stadium, club-record signing Sébastien Haller is another who has continued to split opinion following a £45miliion move from Eintracht Frankfurt.

Almost seen as a real target man, the Frenchman’s relaxed approach doesn’t seem to match the expansive and hard-working style Moyes was trying to stamp on his squad.

In fact, their £100million+ was so badly spent that GSB ended up sacking sporting director Mario Husillos after what was dubbed a comical spell at the club.

Now priced at 2/1 with Bet65 to be hit with a stunning drop down to the Championship, can the European dreamers simply hold onto their Premier League status this year?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom is a freelance football and boxing journalist from Essex, England. Currently working for three online publications, Tom is a graduate of the University of Falmouth and has spent the last two years writing across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be followed at @IamTomDunstan

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