Premier League: Hammers hitting new heights under new boss Bilic
While last season represented progression for West Ham United, as they strengthened significantly, following criticism from fans, there is a general consensus that they have carried on in that vein so far this term, even upgrading their options in the transfer market.
Tying up Alex Song on another season-long loan was probably the best piece of business for the club over the last two years. His presence probably makes up one of the most athletic and dynamic central midfield partnerships in the Premier League, or, on a par at least, with Manchester City.
Alongside him, Cheikhou Kouyate who was brought in last summer has been nothing short of outstanding and is fast becoming one of the most effective midfielders in England with his high energy approach and eye for goal.
West Ham’s impressive start to the campaign means that they lie third in the league just three points off first place Manchester United. However, it was a similar story last term.
At Christmas they were fourth after a superb first half of the campaign, before eventually finishing 12th with Sam Allardyce unable to keep the side motivated when times got tougher.
New boss Slaven Bilic seems to be made of sterner stuff and he is a former player. One, who never gave up without a fight; it is this trait that he is slowly starting to instill in this group of players.
Arguably the jewel in his crown, French ace Dimitri Payet will be crucial to the team. Lead assister in Europe last season, he has already laid on four goals, while scoring three so far.
It is almost as though they haven’t been affected by the injury to Enner Valencia. In his absence, Diafra Sakho has stepped up and has answered Bilic’s call. Another arrival last summer, the 25-year-old has already scored five goals this season and will be tough to supplant.
One thing Bilic has is options. He has the personnel to play a number of systems, whether this is 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or a variation of 4-4-2 the Hammers have genuine strength in depth and look stronger than they have for a long time.
Then there is Andy Carroll, who is a defenders nightmare and useful if the Hammers want to mix it up. Victor Moses and Michail Antonio give them genuine alternatives should they want to utilise wingers, and if not, full backs Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Cresswell are fast proving that they are two of the best in the top flight.
Bilic has described another new recruit, Manuel Lanzini as “West Ham’s David Silva” and the versatile attacker has already got off the mark in the Premier League. The 22-year-old Argentinian, who arrived from River Plate, is certainly an exciting talent.
While the signings of Payet, Antonio, Moses (on loan) are quality, they are also compliment last summer’s able recruits; however, it is Italian centre half Angelo Ogbonna who really takes them to the next level.
What makes them so attractive, is that, without realising it, they have built a starting XI which has a very strong spine; something each of the top four sides crave.
To keep their run going though, they need to develop what most of the top four teams have; a 20-goal per season striker. Interestingly, as a side note, they have already beaten Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City away from home this term.
Valencia and Sakho definitely have the potential and if they start to score consistently, keep playing with confidence and stay injury-free, there is no reason why they cannot finish in the top four, with the club 66/1 to achieve this.