West Ham are in danger of being dragged into a relegation battle in the Premier League after a horrendous run of form has seen them slide down the table. The Hammers have a talented squad, but there is a terrifying question for them to answer. Do they have the players that can cope with a fight for survival?
Manuel Pellegrini’s future at the club is under scrutiny and if he remains or is sacked, West Ham will still face the prospect of having to drag themselves out of the mire. They are backed in the latest Premier League betting odds at 7/2 to be relegated to the Championship – so there is optimism from the bookmakers at least that they are able of pulling away from danger.
After a solid start to the season, West Ham’s results began to decline after Pellegrini made the curious decision to rest his key men for an EFL Cup third-round clash against Oxford United. They were hammered 4-0 by the League One outfit at the end of September and at the time of writing have not recorded a victory since.
The Hammers have suffered home defeats at the hands of Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Tottenham, games that Pellegrini and his staff would have targeted as potential wins to aid a push towards the top six. However, they were outclassed by both the Magpies and Spurs, with the two 3-2 scorelines flattering the home side at London Stadium. West Ham were also humiliated on the road by Burnley, losing 3-0 to the Clarets and even that was a generous scoreline.
Lukasz Fabianski’s injury has been massive as his replacement Roberto Jimenez has been a calamity between the sticks. He has not been able to cope with the physicality of the Premier League, while his shot-stopping has been brutal to say the least – notably allowing Son Heung-min’s strike to travel straight through him in the defeat to Spurs. Fabianski is due to return in the New Year, but if the Pole is sidelined beyond then, the Hammers have to look into signing another keeper. Teams have been relegated before on the basis of having terrible stoppers in the net.
Even with the performances of Roberto as a mitigating factor, West Ham have been nowhere near good enough through the middle of the backline. Issa Diop has taken a step back this term, while Fabian Balbuena and Angelo Ogbonna have been poor alongside the Frenchman. There’s a complete lack of cohesion along the back four as Ryan Fredericks and Aaron Cresswell are two attacking full-backs. It has left the Hammers exposed to pace on the break – as was the case against Palace, Newcastle and Spurs. The balance of the side needs to be addressed as teams that ship cheap goals are destined for struggle throughout the campaign.
In the final third, Sebastien Haller has not been as prolific as the Hammers would have liked, notching four goals in his opening 11 appearances. However, support has not been forthcoming around him as only Andriy Yarmolenko has contributed from the rest of the strikeforce. Felipe Anderson has gone off the boil in his second season in the Premier League, while Pablo Fornals has taken time to adjust.
Manuel Lanzini’s broken collarbone has added to the litany of problems. West Ham have a lot of flair, but not a lot of substance. Michail Antonio’s return could be a key factor as he has the physical tools as well as a propensity to score important goals that could be extremely useful in a battle at the bottom. As it stands it would be a surprise to see West Ham continue to struggle, but if some of these serious issues are not addressed, it could spell disaster for the club.