It’s fair to say that this season has taken a turn for the worse, isn’t it?
August optimism has quickly slipped into looking over our shoulders within touching distance of the dreaded ‘R’ word.
Talk of managerial changes is a complete flip side to the chat of mid-September when things were going swimmingly.
On the surface, it’s difficult to see just what went wrong. But perhaps it’s not one incident that has led to a downturn in fortune, maybe it’s a perfect storm of events.
League Cup woes
Our heavy defeat to Oxford United certainly didn’t help anything. Manuel Pellegrini picked a somewhat weakened side to face the League One side, however there were still plenty of first team players starting and on the bench.
This performance may have affected confidence and was probably the result of complacency, which should have been a warning that attitudes weren’t right. It was also the West Ham debut of Roberto in goal, which leads nicely to my next point.
Filling the Fabianski void
The sharp decline in results and performances coincides with the injury of Łukasz Fabiański. Picking up just one point in six games following his injury and shipping 14 goals in the process, we’re seeing far too many unforced errors.
Statistics show that in the first five games that Roberto was between the sticks, the Hammers’ expected goals against was 8.07 (which as it was left them the sixth worst in the league). To make matters worse, the Spaniard conceded 11.
At the point of injury we knew that this was going to be a worry for West Ham’s season, but we didn’t realise just how disastrous it would be.
We’ve been rumbled
Pellegrini knows what (and who) he likes. He has a system with the players he prefers to utilize and he generally doesn’t deviate too much from that.
It seems as though teams coming up against West Ham have worked it all out. They know how to set up against us and how to exploit our weaknesses.
There have been questionable substitutions made on occasion too in favour of mixing up tactics and style of play.
Leaking like a sieve. Missing the target.
In the first six games of the season, the Hammers defense let in seven goals and kept three clean sheets. In the six games to follow, they conceded 13 goals with zero clean sheets.
Not only that, the amount of shots coming their way increased, exposing a faltering midfield. The first six games saw 27 shots on target for the opposition, while the later six games allowed 44 shots on target for opponents. While the ‘keeper has a lot to answer for, the players in front of him also haven’t stepped up.
The attacking force is also leaving a lot to be desired. In the six games before playing Bournemouth, West Ham were taking 12.1 shots per game, on average. The season average up to game 12 dropped to 10.4. Touches in the opposition box have also dropped by 6.4% over the season so far and average goals per game is down to a lowly 0.8, down by 0.6.
Confidence and hard work
There’s clearly a lack of self-belief for many players. The more defeats that come our way, the harder it’s going to be to get that confidence back.
Players that promised so much this season are struggling to perform since mid-September. Haller started so well and seems to have gone missing, Yarmolenko made a triumphant return only to look off the pace in the last few games, even Declan Rice hasn’t seemed himself and has made a few costly errors.
The team as a whole isn’t putting in enough work compared to the opposition. In every game this season (up to and including the Spurs defeat) the Hammers have been outrun by their opponents. Statistics also show that teams make quicker attacking progress versus West Ham than against any other team.
New recruits disappointing
West Ham fans were initially excited by new signings made over the summer, but it seems they’re struggling to impress.
Following an initial impact, Haller looks off the boil. Fornals never really gave us anything to shout about. Ajeti hasn’t had a chance to shine. Roberto has been truly awful.
This comes after letting Grady Diangana go out on loan, a player who had showed potential at times last season. Also failing to renew Adrian’s contract is now looking like a huge error.
Losing Arnautovic was inevitable, but the club hasn’t really moved mountains to make sure a proven replacement was found to take us to the ‘next level’.