Golden Opportunity Missed To Join The Big Guns

Have West Ham missed a golden opportunity to join the big guns? It almost feels like a lifetime ago since West Ham not only finished above Liverpool and Chelsea in the table, but were a mere four points adrift of the top four. Some may argue that we over achieved last season, but there can be no question that the Hammers performed superbly throughout the 2016/2017 campaign which was littered with superb performances and results, particularly against the best teams in the Premier League. Bilic and his players more than proved that, on their day, they were a match for any team as we maintained a strong push for a Champions League spot throughout the season, and although late defeats against Swansea and Stoke proved costly, it should take nothing away from what the team achieved. Fast forward to the present day, and the Hammers find themselves in limbo between what could be a respectable eight-placed finish or end up as low as sixteenth after a season filled with turmoil on and off the pitch. Even if West Ham were to finish in the top half for the second straight season, it would be difficult not to feel that we have missed a wonderful opportunity to build on last year’s foundations and establish the club as serious top four contenders on an annual basis.
Betsafe were among many who backed West Ham to build on last season’s success and, at the very least, consolidate our position as a top six Premier League side. Beating Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City in their own backyard is proof, is needed, that the Hammers were more than a match for the big guns, with Dimitri Payet playing a prominent role in everything that was good about a team that played with pace, flair and quality. However, despite the excitement that surrounded our move to the London Stadium, the club missed a wonderful opportunity to build on all the hard work that could have pushed us towards being serious contenders at the right end of the table.
A botched summer of transfers, combined with a poor start to the campaign, a lack of consistency and the Payet saga threatened to derail everything that we had achieved. The ambition was certainly there during the summer when we were linked with a host of top quality players that would have taken West Ham to a whole new level, but when the likes of Ashley Fletcher, Arthur Masuaku and Andre Ayew arrived along with Manuel Lanzini whose loan deal was made permanent, it is little wonder that fans started to ask questions of the board. They were well below the calibre of players that we were meant to be targeting, and while Gold and Sullivan spoke a good game when it came to big transfers, they ultimately failed to deliver. Even the loan signings have flattered to deceive; Gokhan Tore has been largely anonymous, and while Jonathan Calleri has shown signs of working hard for the cause, the same could not be said for Simone Zaza who endured an abject six months at West Ham before Bilic cut his losses on a player that left everyone incredibly frustrated. Losing Payet was unquestionably a big blow, even though the club did everything in their power to keep the renegade star at West Ham. It is easy to say in hindsight that we should have sold him after Euro 2016 when he hit the tournament alight with a series of fine performances for the hosts, but while the mood in the camp significantly improved after Payet moved to Marseille, it was always going to be difficult to replace him with a player of similar quality. Being dragged into a battle near the bottom was arguably the prime reason why we were unable to have the pulling power and profile that was surely there in the summer after the kind of season we had, and while we had grandeur plans of competing with the likes of Manchester City, it quickly became clear that all of the blood, sweat and tears that went into finishing seventh were ultimately for nothing.
The contrast in results against the Citizens from last season to the current campaign speaks volumes for the direction in which both clubs have gone. West Ham picked up four points against Manchester City last season, but they more than got their revenge this year with convincing victories in all three meetings between the two sides. Michail Antonio’s goal at the Etihad in the 3-1 defeat in August is the only one that we managed to put past Pep Guardiola’s side, with Manchester City running out comfortable 5-0 winners in the FA Cup 3rd Round and 4-0 a month later in the Premier League. Only the most ambitious of West Ham fans would back their team to win next season with Betsafe, who currently have an official partnership deal with Manchester City, as Guardiola is likely to spend huge sums of money on improving a squad that have ultimately flattered to deceive. The same should be said for the Hammers as Bilic may realise the size of the job he has on his hands to get West Ham back to where they once were, whilst also trying to avoid a repeat of this season’s fiasco. Time will tell as to whether West Ham can put themselves back in contention to become a regular top six side in the Premier League, but with a number of other clubs looking to invest strongly this summer, it is difficult not to think that we may have missed a glorious opportunity to take our club to the next level.

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