Sunday 25 March 2018

5 reasons why West Ham have struggled this season

Slaven Bilic and West Ham are enduring a miserable start to the season
Slaven Bilic and West Ham are enduring a miserable start to the season

West Ham's 3-0 defeat by Southampton on Sunday condemned the Hammers to their worst start to a season since 2002 - when they were relegated.

Slaven Bilic's side were one of last season's surprise packages and their seventh-placed finish earned them a place in the Europa League qualifiers.

But they were knocked out of that by Romanian minnows Astra Giurgiu and have since lost five of their opening six Premier League matches, including the last two in the league at their new London Stadium.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at five reasons why it is all going wrong for the unhappy Hammers.

1. New stadium

There is a lot of misty-eyed nonsense surrounding West Ham's move from Upton Park to the vast former Olympic Stadium and the so-called lack of atmosphere. In fact, the Boleyn Ground could resemble a library at times, just like any other ground in the country. And, believe it or not, they did lose games there as well. That said, many teams have taken time to adjust to their new surroundings after switching grounds and West Ham are certainly making heavy weather of things.

2. New signings

West Ham brought in 11 new players over the summer and yet only one of them, Andre Ayew, could be considered a starter in Slaven Bilic's first-choice line-up - and he was injured half an hour into his debut. Of the rest, Ashley Fletcher has shown potential but Simone Zaza is struggling to make an impact up front while Gokhan Tore, Sofiane Feghouli and Arthur Masuaku frankly look out of their depth. Their exit from the Europa League has left the Hammers with a bloated squad full of average players.

3. Injuries

New stadium, same old story. Yet while Andy Carroll being injured comes as little surprise, the loss of Ayew and Aaron Cresswell - as well as Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini earlier in the season - has taken its toll. Diafra Sakho's move to West Brom fell through due to concerns over his fitness so he remains at the club, but he too is still injured.

4. Defending

The Hammers have conceded 14 goals in their last four Premier League matches and at times have looked a shambles at the back. Time seems to be catching up with James Collins while Winston Reid and Angelo Ogbonna have become error-prone and Bilic does not seem to trust talented teenager Reece Oxford. All of which makes the sale of James Tomkins to rivals Crystal Palace utterly baffling. Thankfully the experiment of playing Michail Antonio at right-back seems to be over, but on the other flank Masuaku looks like a disaster waiting to happen.

5. Maybe they're not actually that good

Yes, West Ham were challenging for a top-four finish last term, but Leicester won the league, remember? At the end of last season the Hammers lost 4-1 at home to Swansea and slumped 2-1 at Stoke on the final day to drop to seventh. The memorable win over Manchester United in the last game at Upton Park may just have papered over the cracks appearing in a team already on the slide. Payet took the Premier League by storm last season but even he can't win every game on his own. Perhaps teams are finding out that if you keep him quiet, there is not too much else to worry about.

Press Association

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