Everyone at West Ham need to unite and start pulling in the same direction or relegation beckons. Seven players out, four in, net expenditure of £20 million and West Ham United sit bottom of the Premier League.
It has been a roller-coaster summer for West Ham fans, who have been left scratching their heads as to what is going on at the club.
Initially, there seemed to be little movement in the transfer market, beside the signing of veteran Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta on a free transfer.
Then came a scurry of activity that saw Marko Arnautovic, Javier Hernandez and Joe Hart (on loan) arrive at the club. Spirits rose. There were concerns about some of those going out of the door, particularly the promising Ashley Fletcher (£6m to Middlesbrough).
There was talk for weeks of William Carvalho joining from Sporting Lisbon for £35m but this never happened.
On the face of it West Ham have once again spent little money, failing to strengthen key areas of the team. Strikers were desperately needed. Herandez and Arnautovic look like they will do the job in time.
However, what has been desperately needed for a couple of seasons is quality defenders. The team defended badly at times last season and have looked even worse this time around.
The signing of Hart surprised many, a big name but so far yet to show he is any better than what the club already had.
Zabaleta looks like his best days are behind him, with the league now a step too quick. However, the club seem happy to push ahead with another old defender, rather than give the promising Sam Byram the run in the team that he needs.
At central defence, the excellent, though injury-prone, Winston Reid is surrounded by ageing and inconsistent partners in Jose Fonte, James Collins and Angelo Ogbonna. The clubs promising young centre backs Reece Oxford and Reece Burke have been loaned out, while the other prospect Declan Rice is being played in midfield. Why did the club not go in for the likes of Harry Maguire — who joined Leicester from Hull for £17m — or Michael Keane (Burnley to Everton)?
At the heart of the confusion seems to be a lack of belief in the manager on the part of the club’s owners David Sullivan and David Gold. There seems to be a pattern with managers coming to and leaving West Ham that resembles an hour glass.
They start popular with the owners because they have decided to employ them. A honeymoon period ensues, which usually ends with the first patch of bad form. Slaven Bilic was fortunate in many ways because his first season, the last at the old Boleyn ground, was so successful that there was little criticism.
The second season was different. There were problems from the start with the new stadium, complaints from fans, crowd trouble and bad results on the pitch. Things settled down, with the team securing a creditable 11th-place finish.
There were times when the owners and manager did not seem to be seeing eye to eye. Another unhelpful feature of life at West Ham is that, when things are not going well, there seems to be a leap to social media and anonymous media briefings to put the manager under pressure.
The idea that everyone needs to pull together at a difficult time seems to be something of an anathema. It is a strange way to run a football club.
The complaint of fans is that the owners simply have not put the money in that is required for West Ham to succeed in the top flight. The frustration from the manager’s point of view no doubt is that the owners seem to want a top-six Premier League side but are only prepared to provide the sort of funding that an aspiring Championship side would outlay.
It is frankly amazing that last season the club paid £27m out net on transfers and this year just £20m. This is on the back of having pocketed millions for the sale of the old Boleyn ground and crowds of 57,000 last season.
Not to mention the huge TV money — West Ham were rarely off the screens last season.
All of that said, things need to be viewed from the owners’ side. They seem to have a fading belief in the powers of the manager. The team performed beyond itself in the last season at the old ground, however even then the cracks were beginning to appear.
A better final couple of weeks could have seen the club in the top four and playing Champions League football last season. Inconsistencies, particularly in defence, cost the team dear.
Last season was difficult but the inconsistency which began in Bilic’s first season seemed to reappear. A string of bad games would then be followed by a good run.
This season has continued in the same way, though no-one has been helped by having to play all the games in August away, due to the inordinate amount of time it takes to convert the stadium back to football use after the athletics championships.
What seems clear is that the deal West Ham have at the London Stadium may not be as good — especially for the fans, as opposed to the owners — as is widely touted.
So the worry for the owners is that the team is not really progressing, it remains inconsistent. Is that why they have not backed the manager in the transfer market?
If the owners don’t have faith in the manager, then they should have made the change and brought in a new man. What now beckons is months of inconsistent results paired with undermining comments on social media.
The manager’s chalice will then be passed to someone else, who the club will back with funds in January. However, by that time will it all be too late?
If results don’t improve this is going to prove a long, hard season at the London Stadium, which could — without dramatic improvement — end in relegation. Things need to be sorted out from top to bottom at West Ham United if disaster is to be avoided.
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