End of Season Report: West Ham

21May 2013

England - Premier League

 

Survival rarely looked in doubt for West Ham in their first season back in the big time...

 

Season Summary - 10th

 

West Ham fared far better than Reading and Southampton, the teams that outperformed them in the Championship, to earn a top-half finish on their Premier League return.  It wasn't obtained in processional fashion though, with a fantastic first dozen games and a similarly successful final stretch ensuring that a lengthy lean streak in  the middle went unpunished.

 

An uplifting summer window in which they spent a record fee on Matt Jarvis, nabbed Mohamed Diame on a free and somehow snared £35 million man Andy Carroll on a  season-long loan inspired a strong start. They were sixth after 11 games and lost just three of their first 12.

 

A meek 3-1 surrender at Spurs in week 13 started a run of 10 defeats in 15. During that dreary winter, they pocketed a paltry 11 points and only one of those on their  travels. Their fortunes turned with a 1-0 victory at another slumping side, Stoke, and - with Carroll finding form following two injury layoffs - they were competitive  throughout the final two months.

 

They exited both cups in the third round, losing a replay 1-0 at Manchester United in the FA Cup and, more disappointingly, falling 1-4 at home to Wigan in the Capital  One Cup.

 

 

Talking Points

 

The big off-pitch news was confirmation that West Ham will enter the Olympic Stadium in 2016. The optimistic outlook is that it could be their Etihad Stadium moment -  triggering growth and making the club a more attractive prospect to wealthy overseas investors.

 

On it, the relationship between fans and boss Sam Allardyce, fractious throughout their Championship cameo, provided the intrigue, particularly as the bleakest spell  of 2012/13 coincided with icon Paolo Di Canio's Swindon departure. David Gold and David Sullivan, far quieter than in prior campaigns, never voiced doubt and got his  signature on a two-year contract extension in May. Love for the manager is still somewhat lacking but respect has rightly been earned.

 

 

Plus and Minus Points

 

Freebie Jussi Jaaskelainen - seemingly finished after being benched by Bolton mid-relegation season - was superb in the closing months while James Collins excelled  with the exception of major errors against Swansea and Reading. Winston Reid was the star of a defence that kept 11 league clean sheets, with Joey O'Brien a surprise  hit in both full back positions.

 

Results-wise, a first triumph over Chelsea since 2003 in December was the pinnacle, though competitive displays in all four meetings with dominant champions Manchester  United also impressed. They suffered just four home league losses.

 

Less laudable were the woeful two points claimed on trips to top-half colleagues and a league-low tally of 11 away goals. They also had a habit of helping teams in  distress, distributing three points to Wigan, Reading, Fulham and Aston Villa while each were at their lowest ebb.

 

Ricardo Vaz Te didn't step up as well as hoped and chance conversion across the squad remains a problem, albeit one masked by captain Kevin Nolan delivering double  figures again. Injury meant waiting until spring for Carroll to peak, but in that period he hinted at being the solution.

 

 

What Next?

 

The minimum long-term target is to be in the Premier League when the stadium move happens, yet that shouldn't be a concern under Allardyce. Another top-half finish is  probably the best that they can aim for without a splurge, however Villa, Sunderland and Newcastle could improve next term.

 

Sorting out the striker situation is a priority. Keeping Carroll is desirable but potentially financially unviable. If so, an alternative is required and an understudy  too, with Carlton Cole expected to leave.

 

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