West Ham’s weekend defeat to Bournemouth was a game the Hammers faithful would sooner forget.
To the neutral, and perhaps even to the fans of other clubs who signed that petition to get West Ham out of the Olympic Stadium (thanks for that, btw, that’s very nice), the phrase ‘seven goal thriller’ must have suggested an afternoon of end to end entertaining football.
However, to most Hammers fans, it was a horror show and a painful wake-up call that a new manager and new star players are not enough to improve on last year’s position in the league – or even enough to guarantee safety.
To be fair to the opposition, Bournemouth are certainly not to be underestimated this season; they are organized, disciplined and should have got a point (or points, really) off of Liverpool earlier in the week had it not been for poor refereeing.
The trouble with West Ham on Saturday is that they never asked any questions of Bournemouth – well, other than ‘would you like to score some goals?’
So where did it all go wrong for Slaven Bilic’s “new look” Hammers? And, most importantly – how do they fix it before the rot sets in?
This was a game in which West Ham should have been defending to save their lives.
Star goalkeeper Adrian is currently serving out a three match ban, so up stepped reserve keeper Darren Randolph – who brought with him the worrying stat of having let in 12 goals last year against Bournemouth – including eight in one game.
This should have been motivation for the defenders to keep the ball as far away from him as possible, but instead, Randolph easily out-shone the men in front of him and was the best West Ham player on the pitch.
Full backs Aaron Cresswell and Carl Jenkinson were responsible for individual errors which led to every single goal and seemed to be competing for who could have (what you can only hope was) the worst individual performance of their careers.
It was a contest Jenkinson narrowly edged, when after getting beaten for around the 400th time, he took down Bournemouth’s Max Gradel in the box to give the opposition a penalty and earn himself a deserved red card.
West Ham’s defending actually improved after that point.
Lack of Discipline
The red card earned by Jenkinson was West Ham’s fifth of the season – three in the Europa League and two in the Premier League.
Last season, West Ham qualified for the Europa League through Fair Play, and this year the club seem determined to ensure they never qualify through playing by the rules again.
This recklessness is embarrassing and extremely costly, and West Ham simply cannot afford to have a player sent off every game while their treatment room is overflowing at the seams – the Hammers are currently without the injured Enner Valencia, Andy Carroll (obviously) and Mauro Zarate.
Also, playing with ten men tends to make winning a heck of a lot harder, as the Hammers continuously demonstrate.
Lack of Options
West Ham are suffering from a lack of options both in team selection and also in how they move forward.
While some positions were extremely well strengthened over the summer – midfield and centre back in particular, the Hammers currently have one – one – fit striker on their books, and he’s been arrested twice in the past ten days.
Although it is important to note that the player denies the allegations and has not been charged with a crime.
Modibo Maiga, the striker who actually scored on Saturday, is reportedly off to a club in the Middle East, because why not put all your eggs in one currently-released-on-bail basket?
The Hammers are also lacking in wingers, which is truly hindering their ability to move the ball forward.
They currently boast just Matt Jarvis – a player who was last seen in the Europa League barely getting the ball past an Andorran defender who was wearing just one boot.
The options they do have on the field aren’t doing much to actually create chances. Take Dimitri Payet for example – this is a player who, last year, created more chances than anyone else in the top five leagues in Europe and this year couldn’t even create five chances against Bournemouth.
It’s not looking too happy for the Hammers at the moment, but can they turn it all around?
After all, this is a team that deservedly and competently beat Arsenal on their first game of the season and, early days, but at the time of writing they sit just one point behind both Chelsea and Arsenal.
The challenge now, for Bilic, is to learn from the (many, many) mistakes of this game and improve them before it gets any worse.
Bilic can take small comfort in the fact that although West Ham are being scored against, they aren’t capitulating as they did in previous seasons.
2-0 down in the first half under former manager Sam Allardyce would have defeated the Hammers then and there; this season the fight doesn’t completely go out of the players and they are pulling back to score goals – just not enough goals to get wins.
This game has to be a wake-up call for a team that could go either up or down from here – and given that their next game is at Anfield, where they haven’t won since 1963 – they need to wake up as soon as physically possible.