It’s been a strange old season so far for West Ham United, three wins out of three on the road and just one at home. That is in stark contrast to that of years gone by, in fact the Hammers only won three games away from home all of last season under Sam Allardyce.
Under Slaven Bilic though, it has been a historic few weeks. Wins at the Emirates, Anfield and the Etihad made the Irons the only club in Premier League history to secure victory in the same season at the three aforementioned grounds.
It is impossible to pinpoint exactly what has changed over this short period of time, but I will try to put my finger on it during this piece.
The first thing to look at is the style of play. Away from home under Allardyce, the team seemed only to have one plan – “respect the point”. But when we conceded a goal we looked clueless, one dimensional and powerless to resist the opposition’s dominance. Now though, under the Croatian and his staff, we look more defiant and game smart.
It starts from the back; with Reid, Ogbonna, Tomkins and co, the East End club look strong defensively conceding just one league goal on the road all season. Their solidity allows our flair players, like new arrivals Manuel Lanzini, Victor Moses and Dmitri Payet, to attack with purpose.
As I have touched on in other pieces, I had an inclination that our away form would be better than our form at the Boleyn. Away from the East London, the onus is on our opponents to attack us, and the telling stat is that every time the Hammers have dominated proceedings they have lost – in the games against Bournemouth and Leicester the Irons enjoyed more than 60% possession. It seems as though when Bilic’s men are in control of the game, they struggle to penetrate sides.
It is clear to see that under the Croatian, the club will look to play on the counter using the pace now contained in the team through the likes of Payet, Moses and Lanzini, which has already proved fruitful at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City. On home soil though, with the pressure from an expectant Claret and Blue army, we seem to freeze, a concern I am sure to Bilic and his men.
In glimpses against Newcastle, the team showed they could turn their away form into home performances, breaking at pace particularly with Victor Moses, who shone on his home bow and backed that up with a stunning goal at the Etihad.
He is a player that I am sure will prove to be a top, top signing. He brings a new dimension to our play and makes us a different side at times. His pace and power on the flanks gives us an outlet when we are in trouble. You only have to look at Payet’s second goal against Newcastle for proof of this. The Magpies’ poor free-kick allowed the Irons to spark a counter attack led by the Nigerian, who powered his way through the Toon defence before unleashing a rocket against the crossbar – and the rest is history.
Moses, Lanzini, Antonio and Payet have a huge role to play at the Boleyn, with their pace allowing us to play a similar style to that away from home. The Hammers’ away form will come to an end at some point, so Bilic and his men will hope that quartet can deliver the goods at our famous old ground.
The other thing to look at is the change of mentality; we look fearless on the road now. Under previous managers, we turned up with a negative mindset, survival of the fittest; unfortunately we weren’t the fittest on numerous occasions.
With a new manager at the helm, and a host of new faces, there appears to be a new lease of life amongst the squad. They go away from home and now expect to pick up points on the road. That comes from the confidence that Bilic has in his side, in press conferences he says “every game is winnable”, whereas other managers have prioritised other games and rested key players against the big boys. It is the belief shown in the players that has allowed this good start on the road, and long may it continue.
It has been fantastic start to the season; I never thought for a second that I would see us win away at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City in the same season, let alone in a space of a month. Slaven, his staff and the players deserve massive credit. He said upon arrival he understood the ‘West Ham way’, and he is certainly proving that with these gutsy and classy performances, and I know for one know the West Ham faithful love it!
Come on you Irons!
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