It’s been hard to know how to feel about West Ham at the start of this season. It’s been far too easy for any optimism to be offset by the constant feeling the manager’s position is under threat, that all is not well within the club, and as we are West Ham, we always find a way to threaten even the most promising of seasons.
Initial signs, however, since we’ve been back in competitive action have been encouraging despite the defeat to Southampton in our last league game. So perhaps, it’s fair to say that cautious optimism might be returning to even the most hardened fan – but why is this? What are we doing better than most of last season? Here’s four reasons to be optimistic.
1) New signings making an instant impact
Against Palace in particular, Mauro Zarate came to the fore. He scored a fabulous opening goal and demonstrated the kind of quality that was absent from the attack for large parts of last season. Aaron Cresswell and Cheijhou Kouyate have also settled in very well, adding strength in depth to the squad. You feel that when our injured players, including Andy Carroll and Carl Jenkinson return, we’ll have a pretty decent squad and should comfortably stay clear of the bottom three.
2) There are clear signs of a new approach
In the same game, it was interesting to watch some of the football that West Ham played. The second goal really was quality; the move started from the back, and while it was a fabulous finish from Stewart Downing, it was a team goal with no long ball in sight. It was a refreshing, more attacking approach. This has been borne out in the stats: 18 shots against Tottenham, 17 against Crystal Palace.
3) The side seem to be high on confidence
The team have been far more adventurous in the league matches and have clearly grown in confidence. Perhaps it’s the new players or maybe the shackles have come off somewhat – whatever the reason, it’s far easier to play well and win matches when you’re more confident about doing it.
4) The manager now has a much bigger squad
Last season, in our deepest darkest moments, with an injury list as long as your arm, there were points at which you wondered where the next goal or win was coming from. Our sequence of wins in February, taking us clear of the relegation zone, still failed to inspire.
Right now, there’s a definite sense we’ve moved on – you feel that decent performances, or pulling a result out of the bag is more of a possibility than last season. Of course, only time will tell, but with returning players, and a new approach, you feel there’s more to come from this team. Let’s hope so for the season ahead.