To say it was an up and down season for West Ham supporters last campaign would be an understatement. Moving into a new stadium, the loss of talisman Dimitri Payet in January and a number of injuries meant manager Slaven Bilic was not afforded the possibility of improving on the seventh place he achieved during his first season at the club.
The eleventh place finish does not sound too bad on paper, but the heavy home defeats against the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal made it feel much worse, and the fact that the Hammers were 17 points off their 2015/16 season total, indicated that the team had taken a few steps backwards rather than forwards after switching from the Boleyn Ground to the London Stadium.
Still, West Ham fans should be heading into a new season with much more confidence. There are a number of areas where Slaven Bilic and his team can be hopeful of at least a top half finish in the upcoming campaign.
1. Better Recruitment
The poor summer recruitment last year played a massive part in the Hammers not being able to build on their positive 2015/16 campaign. Unknown quantities in the Premier League such as Simone Zaza, Havard Nordtveit, Sofiane Feghouli, Gokhan Tore and Jonathan Calleri were signed.
Very few of the signings worked out for the Hammers with even the club’s record purchase Andre Ayew struggling to establish himself initially. The club tried to address the lack of Premier League experience with the captures of Jose Fonte and Robert Snodgrass in the January transfer window, but neither has yet worked out as planned either.
This summer, the pursuit of experienced Premier League players has been the order of the day again but the Hammers have looked to set the bar higher with the quality of their signings. Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta and Javier Hernandez have all won the Premier League, whilst Marko Arnautovic offers some much needed pace in the front three.
2. The stable presence between the sticks
It was clear last season that neither Adrien nor Darren Randolph had convinced Bilic. The Croatian chopped and changed in the goalkeeping position, which did not help the shaky defence in front of them. The signing of Hart gives the team some stability, and he will likely play every Premier League match if he stays fit. His experience will give some much needed assurance to the players around him, and the England international will hopefully win some points on his own with the saves he makes.
3. The poacher in front of goal
With Andy Carroll up top, the frontline always had a target man; a physical presence who was the focal point of the attack. He is not going to consistently score 20 goals a season though, and the signing of a poacher like Javier Hernandez should provide West Ham with a major game changer in tight matches. The £15m paid for the 29 year old could be a bargain if he replicates his form from Manchester United.
4. The Stadium Situation
Some of West Ham’s inconsistent form at home last season was no doubt down to the switch to the new stadium. The Boleyn Ground could be relied upon to garner a good number of points each season, but the London Stadium has taken some getting used to. Hopefully after a year in their new surroundings, West Ham’s settling in period is coming to an end.