Struggling to find the back of the net early on in the season, West Ham and Slaven Bilic have come under a lot of pressure to replicate their 2015/16 form.
Last season wasn’t pretty, and picking up four points from their first five games in the Premier League doesn’t exactly suggest things are going to be any better this time around.
A lot seems to stem from the board, who promised great investment over the past couple of summers, yet the club always seems to stumble at the last hurdle, missing out on the likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Michy Batshuayi or, more recently, William Carvalho.
The 2014/15 season was key for them, showing under Sam Allardyce they could stand up to the big boys.
A small end of season collapse saw the Hammers finish 12th, but there was hope, a sign things could definitely improve, and they did.
After Big Sam’s resignation came Slaven Bilic, which in turn saw the arrival of Dimitri Payet, the driving force behind their most successful campaign since 2001/02.
That summer was filled with astute signings, such as Angelo Ogbonna, Michail Antonio and Pedro Obiang.
The Spanish midfielder did take some time to adjust, but he’s now seen as one of the best performers in the squad at Bilic’s disposal.
Some didn’t work out, like Nikica Jelavic and Emmanuel Emmenike, but, on the whole, the recruiting was good and showed realistic ambition, trying to build on a promising season without getting carried away.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case the following year after finishing seventh behind Ronald Koeman’s Southampton.
Qualified for the Europa League, West Ham’s board appeared to get ahead of themselves, making big moves in the transfer market, which, in hindsight, they were never going to pull off.
Desperately wanting a top striker, the Hammers saw a €40m bid for Alexandre Lacazette swiftly rejected by Lyon, while rumoured attempts to attract Michy Batshuayi from Marseille met a similar fate.
A summer of close but no cigars ended up with the panic button being pressed, meaning the arrival of Simone Zaza and Jonathan Calleri on loan from Juventus and Deportivo Maldonado respectively.
West Ham were a club with a great platform to build on, yet instead of following the previous season’s mentality of plucking good players the big teams were overlooking, they went straight for the sun, only to end up plummeting towards, in this case, the bottom half of the table.
There’s a fine line between ambition and delusion, and it seems the board got carried away with promises they couldn’t keep.
It says a lot that seven of the recruits from the summer of 2016 have already left the club.
Simone Zaza, Jonathan Calleri and Gokhan Töre never saw their loans become full-time transfers, and all four of the free arrivals have already moved on.
Sofiane Feghouli is now at Galatasaray, Ashley Fletcher at Middlesbrough, Havard Nordtveit back in Germany and Alvaro Arbeloa has given up on football entirely.
Sure, some profits were made, but none of those signings really helped West Ham who, after finishing the 2015/16 season with a goal difference of +14, ended the 2016/17 campaign scoring 17 fewer goals than they conceded.
One seemingly positive move was buying André Ayew from Swansea, but a mixture of bad luck (his injury against Chelsea) and the Africa Cup of Nations saw the Ghanaian become a sporadic performer, only finding his legs in the second half of the campaign.
Then came the Dimitri Payet fiasco.
Yes, the French winger was probably out of line, and he admitted as much in a recent interview, but something had changed at West Ham.
As he said himself, the club’s goals weren’t the same, and you can understand, to a certain extent, why a player who basically carried his team to a top half finish started looking elsewhere, namely at a budding project in the south of France.
Fast forward to this summer, and it seems a similar trend was followed.
Replacing Alvaro Arbeloa was Pablo Zabaleta, who probably has more legs left in him than the Spaniard did at the same stage in their careers, but there are still question marks over the £20m spent on Marko Arnautovic.
All the forward has to show after a potential seven games is a red card picked up against Southampton and a pair of assists against Bolton in the Carabao Cup.
We’re not saying he won’t be a success, but has the Austrian shown enough over the past few seasons to be the club’s most expensive transfer?
Bringing in Robert Snodgrass from Hull City in January to add much needed creativity also backfired, and the Scot is now on loan at Aston Villa in the Championship.
Next was Javier Hernandez.
When the transfer was announced, many got excited following his early success in Germany and his goalscoring ability at Manchester United, yet it’s worth pointing out his 2016/17 season was a far cry from what he achieved the previous year, showing familiar inconsistency.
Chicharito is the kind of player who thrives off good delivery, meaning that if the ball lands to him in the box, there’s a good chance he’ll get it in the back of the net, or at least force a save/hit the woodwork.
Both his goals against Southampton came off rebounds, which is what he’s there for, but that’s about all he’s getting in terms of delivery.
Compare that to their targets the previous summer in Lacazette and Batshuayi, forwards who can create their own chances, and the decision to recruit Hernandez is a strange one, unless the aim was to improve their social media standing by tapping into the Mexican star’s celebrity in his home country.
Then came the final act of the summer: William Carvalho.
We’ve already covered this in excruciating detail since the transfer window “slammed shut”, but it’s worth briefly revisiting, just because it’s not every day we can type the words ‘Dildo Brothers’ and get away with it.
This attempt at bringing in a player demonstrated a whole new level of incompetence from the board, bordering on arrogance, showing no prior research of how to deal with one of the most eccentric football club presidents in Europe.
An email allegedly sent to Sporting CP was leaked as proof that West Ham did indeed make an offer for the defensive midfielder, one the Portuguese club deny ever receiving (which is never a good start), but even the way David Sullivan worded it lacked class.
If you’re trying to convince someone to sell you a player, don’t end your ‘offer’ with ‘if you don’t accept this, we’ll just go get another player instead’, hinting at Grzegorz Kychowiak, who ended up going to West Brom anyways.
Currently 17th in the league after five games, West Ham still have plenty of time to turn their season around, and this is by no means us writing them off.
However, there’s a danger the Hammers could end up where Crystal Palace are right now if they don’t change the way they approach the transfer market.
Are they currently the worst run club in the Premier League? Probably not.
The aforementioned Eagles likely hold that crown with the way things went after Allardyce’s departure, but West Ham aren’t far behind, and that’s a very worrying sign for a club who, just two years ago, had ambitions of cementing their spot as a top half side, as well as eyeing up semi-regular European football.