Written by Yianni Garris (@Garinho14):
Nobody can deny that West Ham had a terrific run in the Premier League last season. Finishing ahead of teams like Everton, Liverpool, and Chelsea should be nothing short of remarkable to the club. Last season Dimitri Payet hit the ground running and performed at a fantastic level throughout the entire season when he was fit. Players like Michail Antonio as well as Mark Noble also performed well with a number of England fans arguing they should have made the squad for the Euro this past summer. To the neutral fan, West Ham looked like a team that has an excellent future with Slaven Bilic at the helm along with the new Olympic Stadium to compete with the big teams and look as a team that will be able to consistently challenge for the top four in the coming seasons.
Last season was a great year for West Ham and its fans, however, the start of this season has been nothing short of a disaster. West Ham has already lost five games this season, something they did not reach last season until January. They also currently have the weakest defense in the league having already conceded 16 goals. Two of those losses came against Chelsea and Manchester City making them more sympathetic as the former started off the season in great form and the latter has won every game they have played so far this season. However, losses to Watford, West Brom, and Southampton should be concerning. West Ham blew a two-goal lead at home to Watford to concede four. They also allowed a Tony Pulis coached side to score four goals on them, which definitely has not been achieved, in quite a long time and the game against Southampton this past weekend was personally tough to watch from a neutral point of view. Being dominated at home by a Southampton team, which many would argue the Hammers should’ve earned at least a point, should be concerning. The West Ham season and future can go into a downward spiral if they do not turn things around. West Ham’s greatest and most valuable asset at the club is Dimitri Payet and they cannot risk losing him in January. Payet is a world-class player, able to create that spark on the pitch that not many others can as well as also improving the players around him. Some may argue, but Dimitri Payet can be seen as a player that is too good for West Ham and will definitely have a number of clubs that will look to sign him in January and allow him to almost escape the problems that are going on at the moment. Payet stayed loyal to West Ham over the summer, but a player of his class should not be in a team that is currently towards the bottom of the table and it is something that can easily sway his loyalty to the club. If West Ham does lose Payet they will lose more than a player on the pitch, but also a player who can help boost their reputation as well as boost their revenue.
Many rumors have been going around that if Payet is unhappy the board will fire Bilic in attempt to keep the player as well as try and turn these problems around. Bilic did a great job with West Ham in his first season, but there is a hint of Roberto Martinez in him as well. Roberto Martinez had a great first season with Everton and brought them to a fifth place finish, however, in the years to come saw them drop to an underwhelming mid-table position. Something Martinez was never known for was his defensive organization and the more he started to get away from the organization David Moyes implemented during his years, the more goals they conceded and it was evident how unorganized Everton were at the back. The same question can be asked of Bilic and if he is not putting the same focus defensively into the team as Allardyce did during his time at West Ham. Like Everton, West Ham still are a dangerous side going forward as Antonio and Payet have seemed to pick up where they left off from last season, and even though he has not hit the mark yet Simone Zaza looks like an improvement up top. However, it is the back that needs to be sorted out. Soon enough, the question will arise if last year was just a fluke for West Ham or does Slaven Bilic needs to be replaced by someone who puts more focus on organizing the back four, because West Ham cannot afford to lose the current assets they have in place at their club.