High expectations greeted West Ham at the start of the season . It all began with the arrival of manager Manuel Pellegrini as a change in the dugout had become necessary following a spade of unsatisfactory results. Then came player signings that demonstrated ambition and a readiness to challenge for a place higher up the league table.
From wingers Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko who acted as complement to Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez in attack. To midfielders Jack Wilshere and Carlos Sanchez, and then defenders Fabian Balbuena, Ryan Fredericks and Issa Diop it was a total job of strengthening West Ham in all departments to become more competitive. Yet, the side couldn’t have had a worse start to the new campaign.
Pellegrini and the West Ham faithful had to endure four straight losses and wait until Match Day 5 to secure the first win of the season. Under such circumstances, some may have started questioning if the Chilean was the right choice for the club. Yes, he achieved relative success with Manchester City just two seasons back, but things change fast in the modern game and no manager is judged solely based on yesterday’s success anymore.
Dutchman Frank De Boer had achieved similar results with Crystal Palace just a season ago and he was relieved of his duties immediately. West Ham are even more ambitious than their London counterparts and could have sought a similar solution if things had not improved fast.
Be that as it may, the side has gradually but surely clawed its way from the bottom of the table to a respectable 11th place. With six wins and three draws in the last 12 games, the 65-year-old is demonstrating his experience as he is calmly guiding the team back up where it belongs.
It is important to note that the team has been beset by injury to several key players over the cause of the season. Apart from Manuel Lanzini who had surgery back in June, Winston Reid and Andy Carroll have also had long-term injuries. the likes of Sanchez, Wilshere and more recently Arnautovic have also befriended the physios.
The former Arsenal man is well known for his injury problems. He had ankle surgery in September and is still recovering. Ukrainian Yarmolenko also got injured in October while Fredericks suffered a shin problem in November. Missing all these players can affect any side. Yet, the team has dug deep to get the needed results at critical moments.
With three consecutive wins in the last three games, the Irons are on the match upward. Wins against Manchester United, Everton and the draw against Chelsea in the London derby earlier on are highlights of the season so far. But they will not be the last.
The next five matches provide an opportunity to accumulate more points as the side will square up against, Watford, Southampton, Brighton and Burnley. These are sides that ordinarily should not pose serious problems for Pellegrini’s team. With Southampton and Burnley all struggling this season, West Ham should aim for maximum points against them.
All things going well, the Hammers will emerge from the busy festive fixtures at the right end of the table and ready to give the top six a run for their money. In the end the team may not pose any serious challenge to the big six, but to be anywhere close to them will be a huge achievement going by how the side started the campaign.