Where did it all go wrong for West Ham in the Europa League? I am sure many of us were asking ourselves this question over and over at the end of last month. After a brilliant campaign last year we earned a stab at the Europa League but for the second year in a row we haven’t made the group stages thanks to the same team.
Was it bad luck? Our injury crisis is unbelievable. The season has barely started and the number of players out is obscene. These aren’t just squad players missing as well. Payet and Lanzini are two wonderful players who make a huge diff erence to our side. Our exciting new signings Ayew and Feghouli were both injured as well. They would have surely brought some pace to our attack.
With such a lengthy injury list we do have one excuse for losing to what has to be said is a lesser team. But did Slaven even want us to be in the Europa League? Bilic has expressed his disappointment for not qualifying for the group stage but, is he quietly relieved? We all know Thursday nights in Eastern Europe take their toll on squads, with ours not on the large side we would have struggled to cope.
Perhaps Bilic isn’t as disappointed as he says he is. Now we can make a better attempt at achieving a similar league position to last year. Or was it a lack of European experience? Many members of our squad have not played much in Europe but we did sign Feghouli and Nortdtveit who have some experience. For players like Noble, who have not played a lot of European football before, it’s a different environment for them so perhaps they struggled from this lack of experience.
Perhaps it was tactics over quality? With upsets like Iceland beating England and Slovenia drawing against England, there were more than a few eyebrows raised this summer. Some people believe, and I agree with them, that tactics have a huge impact on the result of the match. A tactically sound team can beat a better team who aren’t on song. Were Astra tactically brilliant? They stopped us from scoring and knicked one so I’d say that their game plan went perfectly.
There are many reasons we didn’t qualify but I do not believe these are good enough. Astra are not a quality side and we have some strong players. Injuries or not we possess a higher quality team. At the end of the day we should have qualified.