I don’t think anyone could ever accuse life as a West Ham fan of being boring. The club never seems to lack any sort of drama and it’s once again been an eventful campaign for the Hammers who currently lie in 16th place, outside the relegation zone by goal difference only. Manuel Pellegrini fell victim to the need for change and once again David Moyes was re-instated in order to save the club their blushes once more. Talking us through the Iron’s time of it with 29 games played is West Ham fan Rhys Paul.
Premier League – 16th
FA Cup – 4th Round Exit
Carabao Cup – 3rd Round Exit
What were your hopes and expectations going into this season under Manuel Pellegrini?
There was a lot of hope and expectation after a strong campaign last year. It certainly was not flawless (Cup performances were woeful to put it mildly), but it was enough to buy into the Pellegrini Project after nothing but disappointment since the stadium move. Having demonstrated he could get the team playing football the right way and the acquisition of Sebastian Haller and Pablo Fornals, there was a lot of optimism heading into the current season.
What did you make of your playing squad after the summer transfer window? Were there any concerns or areas you thought you were particularly strong in before a ball had been kicked?
Aside from the aforementioned signings of Haller and Fornals, the summer transfer window hamstrung what was already a small first team squad. We lacked depth (striker) and flexibility (midfield) in key areas that simply were not addressed in the summer. In the case of the former, there is no excuse for letting five strikers leave the club and then only replacing them with two new signings. Other positions – such as the two full back positions – also needed improvement but were once more neglected in favour of attacking players.
Still, you always hope you can keep key players fit for the majority of the season and, in that regard, we seemed to possess a strong core on paper that was typically exposed when individuals became injured (Lukas Fabianski) or struggled for form (Haller, Issa Diop).
Can you put your finger on why West Ham can’t ever find enough consistency? Does this extend to beyond on the field matters?
The biggest hope going into the season was that the team would find the consistency to compliment the progressed made under Pellegrini the previous season. Yet again, however, the only consistency we could show was in our own inconsistencies – both on and off the pitch.
It is very difficult to build any kind of consistency on an unstable foundation. For David Gold and David Sullivan, that means sticking to your guns; do not promise a new dawn without ensuring you have the means – both financially and mentally – to deliver. The owners’ lack of ambition and disconnection with the club’s identity has undoubtedly had a detrimental impact after ten years at the helm.
Inconsistency is nothing new and it would seem there is a deep-rooted mentality issue within the club that is the cause. Currently we have a squad that, whilst not quite at the level some believe it to be, should strive to compete in the top half and the later stages of the cup competitions not least steering clear of another relegation battle where we undeservedly survive to merely exist another year in the top flight.
What did you make of Pellegrini’s departure and David Moyes being hired once more?
Make no mistake about it, Pellegrini – a Premier League winner – was the most accomplished manager we ever appointed. Yet, frustratingly it became evident he had simply lost interest as the season progressed and failed to answer any tactical questions asked of him. That lack of motivation had rubbed off on the players and that meant his departure became inevitable.
Realistically, the options were always limited for who would replace Pellegrini. But David Moyes? He is an uninspired choice at the best of times, but even more so with the discontent that has grown among supporters this season. Moyes may have kept us up in 2017/18, but prior to contrary belief, he did not save us from relegation. This is a manger who proclaimed ‘winning is what I do’ on the back of a year out of management having failed to make the West Ham job his own the first time around. It is baffling how a guy with a worse record than Avram Grant and Glenn Roeder was reappointed at a club where he only managed 9 wins out of 31. To appoint him once was unambitious, to appoint him twice was sheer negligence.
What have been the real highs and lows of this season? Have any players stood-out for you both good and bad?
It has been a season of very few highs. One, however, has emerged from arguably the biggest low and that is the increasing union of a previously divided fan base against the owners. On the pitch, it has been a story of passionless and disappointing performances. It is worrying when watching the team you love sometimes feels like a chore. On a more personal note, a notable low for me was the club’s failure to acknowledge Slaven Bilic on his return to the London Stadium in January despite being arguably the best manager of the Gold & Sullivan era. Sometimes it is the small things and attention to detail that really makes the difference to fans.
Individually speaking, Declan Rice has recovered from a few shaky performances to provide the kind of individual consistency we have otherwise lacked. He reads the game better than any other player at the club and, bias notwithstanding, will surely become the Michael Carrick of his generation – an under-appreciated midfielder who astutely gets the job done.
Likewise a few, albeit not many, deserve a mention too; Pablo Fornals was beginning to find his feet at the club, Jeremy Ngkakia has made the right-back position his own and Jarrod Bowen has already proven to be a breath of fresh air.
If the season were to resume shortly how would you feel about the club’s survival chances?
Not overly confident. The general level of performance seemed to be improving prior to the postponement of the season, but I fear it will take us a while to gain that momentum again if the final 9 games of the season are played. The same crippling problems, however, will still be present. Unless something changes drastically, we are just treading water until relegation; whether that be this season or next.
Like Bournemouth and Aston Villa, we have a difficult run in scattered with winnable games. However, I think both those sides are capable of having a late flurry, particularly if key players are once again available with the delay of the season. Likewise, I think Watford have shown enough under Nigel Pearson to suggest they can keep themselves up. If not, I can see a lot hinging on when they visit the London Stadium on Matchday 36.
What are your immediate emotions when reflecting on the whole journey? What would you rate your season out of 10 so far?
The overriding emotion for most of the season has been discontent with everything from the (lack of) direction of the club to the lack of ambition from top to bottom within the club. On reflection, I think the journey this season has been an important one. Not only has a unity been returned amongst the supporters, but the reaction from the players has generally been a positive one. Still, the overall season has been a struggle and one that many will be glad to see the back of – whether we survive or not – and that speaks volumes. 4/10.
What do you make of these thoughts West Ham fans? Let us know in the comments below!