Were there any positives to take away from August?
Lucy Woolford: There is light amongst darkness. Chicharito performed well and we can hopefully look forward to seeing him perform throughout the season. I didn’t think we were that horrific against Man Utd or Southampton to be honest. If we had cut out sloppy mistakes and maintained discipline, there were elements of play to be positive about. We got a few away games out the way too, which might play into our hands later.
Holly Worthington: Chicharito getting on the scoresheet early is great to see, especially considering the pressure he’ll be under to score this season! Rice’s performances in the first two fixtures were promising and he could be one to watch as well, especially since he’s come through from the academy.
David Bowden: I disagree. There was very little to take away if we’re being honest. The emergence of Declan Rice is probably the only thing to take away from this awful start. And I guess we are one step closer to Wembley after our success against Cheltenham but it’s very slim pickings in terms of positives.
Who is the blame for our poor start?
LW: It’s so hard to point fingers. I’m finding it difficult to see exactly what’s not working, because as individuals we have a decent bunch of players. It’s like once they get onto the field they just lose confidence and sense. The players need to pull themselves together, but we also need to get our feet back under the table at home.
HW: I think a lot of people are to blame. It’s been a mixture of many individual errors. From mistakes all over the pitch to giving away unnecessary penalties, we’ve wasted points and given ourselves a tough start to the season. I can’t put the blame on one particular individual personally.
DB: The most worrying thing for me is this isn’t just a ‘poor start’, it’s the continuation of the poor run towards the end of last season. Of course, we weren’t helped by the fact our ‘home’ wasn’t available, forcing us to play away. But that is no real excuse. Look at Burnley, they collected four points from Chelsea and Spurs. Bilic has been found out tactically and the fact we look woefully unfit is the biggest reason for me.
What needs to happen now to stop the rot?
LW: A decent run of home form and for the fans to get behind the players at the London Stadium. I have a sinking feeling that one shaky performance at home will bring out the ‘boo-boys’ and once that starts, we’re on a slippery slope to players recoiling into their shells. Strikers need to sharpen up a bit too, then we’re laughing!
HW: We need to remain calm on the ball, keep our key players fit and start playing more tactically. We have to stop losing the ball in key areas and giving away penalties, both of which are easy to cut out. If I were the manager, I’d make us go back to basics, keep possession and start feeding it to those upfront.
DB: Sadly as I was very much ‘Bilic in’ last season, the departure of the Croat is the only way out of this mess. He’s stubborn, tactically naïve and too loyal to certain individuals. The defence is simply left too exposed. Bilic has to wise up or walk out otherwise we are in for a long old season.
Was Bilic right to pull Declan Rice off during the Newcastle game?
LW: I think so. He’s being managed pretty well I think, in that he’s getting game time and a chance to prove himself. Although, mistakes do cost points whatever your age and experience and Bilic can’t take that chance for a full 90 minutes in his position. Rice knew he’d made a costly error and seems sensible enough to realise why he was sacrificed.
HW: I don’t think this was necessarily personal. He was swapped for Lanzini and we clearly needed some more creativity on the pitch instead of defensive players. It didn’t pay off in the end but when you’re not winning against Newcastle, you’ve got to make some changes and mix it up a bit.
DB: The Declan Rice situation reminded me a lot of when Reece Oxford was removed at half-time against Leicester, whether or not we will see Declan again this season remains to be seen. I think it was the easy way out for Bilic, he should have taken off Noble, but to make a kid the scapegoat was the easier choice.
What did you make of Joe Hart’s comments after the Newcastle game?
LW: I thought he was spot on in saying that it’s for the whole team to sit down and thrash out any issues and work at improving as a unit. Joe wears his heart on his sleeve and is very honest about poor performances, which I think is a great thing. There’s no progress in a dressing room without people like him to speak up, motivate and address problems.
HW: Fair play to Hart. Everything he said is everything the fans want to hear. We do massively invest in following West Ham and with a strong squad and some great signings, it’s worrying to have ended August with zero points and a terrible goal difference. There is a lot of criticism from fans at the moment, and the best thing you can do is accept it, take it on the chin and try to work past it.
DB: I was full of praise for his words after our thrashing at St James’ Park, it showed the human side to his game. I think he put Noble to shame at fulltime with his honesty. For a bloke who is only on loan, the fact he said those words showed me that he at least ‘gets’ West Ham. Has Noble shown enough to keep his starting place?
LW: He hasn’t made a huge impact in footballing terms but then again he hasn’t done much wrong. He’s been as ‘middleof-the-road’ as the rest of the squad, so hasn’t done anything to warrant being dropped. Bilic has substituted him when he felt he’d done all he could, which is his right. He’s still key to motivation and communication.
HW: Not yet for me, Noble does get given a hard time and has provided some key passes throughout games but hasn’t made enough of a difference for me. I think there are better players in the team at the moment but his leadership qualities is something we need now more than ever in my eyes to keep battling regardless of results.
DB: I think he’s a great bloke and I respect him for what he has done for the club. But it is clear for everyone to see his legs have gone, and he slows down our play constantly, he would merely come off the bench when we are winning to break up play if I was the gaffer.
Are you worried about our games in September?
LW: It’s such a cliché, but it’s true that there are no easy games in the Premier League. Yes, I am a little concerned that if we don’t gather momentum early then we’ll struggle to get points through September too. Arguably, Spurs at home is the toughest test on paper, but it’s the game we’ll probably be the most up for so there could be positives to come from that.
HW: I’m not worried at the moment but we have to start picking up some serious points. Huddersfield, West Brom and Swansea are massively important to get points in, and I’ll definitely panic if we don’t start strong. Spurs is going to be a tough one, but with a bit of luck we can beat them and gain a confidence boost at the same time!
DB: It seems silly so early on in the season to be ‘worried’ but after our abysmal start, this month has already taken on a great deal of importance. It’s a month with winnable games, and we have to get the ball rolling ASAP or we risk lagging even further behind. Huddersfield at home is now a huge, huge game for Bilic.