West Ham have endured a nightmare start to the Premier League campaign, losing all four of their matches to begin the new season. The optimism brought about by several new quality additions – along with the hiring of a Premier League-winning manager in the form of Manuel Pellegrini – has quickly dissipated, leaving the sense of a familiar malaise at London Stadium.
The Hammers have suffered their worst start to a top-flight campaign since the 2010-11 term. In that season the club were relegated from the Premier League, leaving co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan in desperate need of a quick turnaround from Pellegrini in the dugout.
As a result of the club’s poor start, West Ham are now 9/4 contenders to be relegated from the top flight, which is more than worth a punt using a free bet by signing up through Oddschecker. There’s more than enough talent in the Hammers’ dressing room to kickstart their campaign, but as long as they remain pointless their problems will only get worse on and off the pitch.
Pellegrini was a bold choice as manager, but he is not renowned for digging teams out of trouble. West Ham will be forced to battle hard for every point due to the intense competition that has developed in the Premier League, with very little separating the 14 teams outside of the top six.
His lack of experience of relegation battles in England could come back to haunt the Hammers, who found their form under David Moyes last term, despite the Scot’s faults. At the age of 64, Pellegrini’s energy and vitality for the fight will be instrumental in keeping his team away from the drop zone.
The Chilean has not been overly inspiring thus far, while his team even struggled to beat AFC Wimbledon in the EFL Cup, despite the League One outfit having been reduced to 10 men early in the contest. Pellegrini’s abilities in the crux of the battle could make or break West Ham’s season.
Marko Arnautovic is the epitome of West Ham’s problems at the moment. At his best, the Austrian can be one of the best players in the Premier League. He was linked with a move to Manchester United and has proven calibre to score top quality goals, giving nightmares to opposing defenders. On the other hand, Arnautovic can be very unpredictable depending on his mood, which can sometimes boil over and lead to rash decision making. The 29-year-old notched his best goal tally in the Premier League last season, scoring 11 times. West Ham will need more from him, especially as he is playing ahead of Javier Hernandez, who can be equally mercurial in the final third.
The Hammers’ great hope for the campaign will be Felipe Anderson. Anderson costs £36m to acquire from Lazio over the summer, smashing the club’s record fee. The 25-year-old has all the talent to be a brilliant player in the middle of the park. He can dictate matches with his range of passing and movement, typical of a Brazilian player. However, during his time in Serie A, Anderson developed the reputation of being a hit-and-miss character – so much so he had disagreements with former manager Simone Inzaghi.
It can take time for foreign players to become accustomed to life in the Premier League, especially ones that lack physical attributes. Pellegrini will be hopeful that the Brazilian can hit the ground running and overcome his slow start. Fellow new arrivals Jack Wilshere and Andriy Yarmolenko also fall under the same category. There’s potential in the midfield, but whether they can click together as a unit remains to be seen.
Despite spending a significant sum of money in the summer, breaking the transfer record twice to sign Isaac Diop and Anderson, Gold and Sullivan still draw the ire of a section of supporters. The duo faced in-stadium protests last season, which boiled over when players, including Mark Noble, were confronted on the field by a couple of fans. West Ham’s move to London Stadium has not been a success, failing to provide an advantage to the team on the pitch. The atmosphere that Upton Park provided has not translated across to Stratford as the athletics track around the pitch has made it difficult to create a cauldron of passion.
West Ham are not alone in the Premier League in their feelings of discontent. There’s a malaise that spreads due to the inability to push forward in the league due to the dominance of the top six clubs. After surviving the drop and consolidating, there’s a ceiling that prevents further growth. Stoke and Swansea both found life difficult after making similar investments in the transfer market and ultimately paid the price with their relegation to the Championship.
Signing players for big money can seem the right idea to attempt to break into the European places. However, if it’s the wrong sort of player for the club, it can have disastrous consequences. The Hammers have ample time to prove they are not following the trend, although they will have their work cut out for them. They face Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United in consecutive weeks, which will put a lot of pressure on Pellegrini and his team if they fail to get off the mark. Crystal Palace proved that it’s not impossible to stave off relegation after an eight-game winless start, but the Hammers will be hopeful of ending their drought long before then.