Ryan Smith from takes a look at West Ham’s chances of finishing in the top six this season after a wobbly start.

West Ham United enjoyed a successful 2015/16 season as they finished seventh in the Premier League, but can they break into the top six this term?

The start the Hammers made to the campaign suggests that they will not, after collecting just four points from their opening seven matches in the English top-flight.

Struggling to adapt to their new home at the London Stadium following the switch from the Boleyn Ground over the summer, they failed to build on their momentum from the previous season in which they narrowly missed out on the top six, and were left languishing inside the relegation zone.

However, Slaven Bilic’s men have responded well after the international break. Dimitri Payet’s wonderful equaliser against Middlesbrough appeared to lift spirits prior to that, before they enjoyed narrow 1-0 victories over Crystal Palace and Sunderland.

They then marked their return to form with an impressive 2-1 success over a vastly improved Chelsea in the fourth round of the EFL Cup last Wednesday, with Cheikhou Kouyate and Edimilson Fernandes scoring the decisive goals.

Edimilson FernandesAll of the big guns came to fruition for the Hammers with Payet looking typically dangerous whenever he got the ball, while Michail Antonio did not stop running all night and caused Chelsea endless problems at the back with his movement.

Those two have arguably been West Ham’s stand-out performers since the start of last season but, while there is plenty of quality throughout the Hammers’ squad, whether they have players capable of stepping up to the plate should Payet and Antonio get injured is another question.

Antonio has been impressive in front of goal this term – netting five times already – but, with the likes of Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho missing through injury and Juventus loanee Simone Zaza still adapting to English football, the lacking of an out-and-out centre forward may prove to be crucial for the East London club.

Their objective to improve on last season’s performance will also be difficult considering the way that the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are desperate to up their game following Leicester City’s fairy-tale success last term.

Although, as demonstrated in 2015/16, Bilic has a good group of players that work hard for each other and are inspired by the likes of Payet and captain Mark Noble, while Winston Reid is a rock in the heart of defence.

Therefore, there is no reason why West Ham cannot challenge for the top six in the Premier League this year.

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