Despite a turbulent 2016-17 campaign, West Ham manager Slaven Bilic survived and has been given the chance to improve on the team’s Premier League position this season. So will West Ham repeat or even improve their seventh-placed finish of 2015-16? Or will this season prove to be just as difficult as the last?
A lack of summer transfer activity and difficulty adjusting to their new home at the Olympic Stadium contributed to a slow start to the 2016-17 season. West Ham lost four games in a row between the end of August and the end of September, conceding fourteen goals in the process; a run of form, which dropped them into the relegation places. Losing their star Dimitri Payet in January didn’t help matters, and there was another sequence of five straight defeats in the spring, but five wins from seven over Christmas and a strong unbeaten run at the end of the campaign ensured their safety as they finished eleventh on 45 points.
It isn’t so long ago that West Ham were finishing seventh in the Premier League and threatening to earn a Champions League spot, but although he has been publicly backed by the club owners, Bilic knows that another poor start could see him sacked.
Unfortunately, the staging of the World Athletics Championships means that the Olympic Stadium won’t be available for the opening weeks of the season and West Ham’s first three Premier League games will be away from home, against Manchester United, Southampton and Newcastle. Still, if you think they will be able to weather that tough opening and improve on last year’s showing, you can back them at 11/8 with Bet Victor to finish in the top half and 22/1 with Black Type to break into the top six for the first time.
Although West Ham underperformed for long periods during the 2016-17 season, it also fair to say that they had no luck with the draw in cup competitions. They were dumped out of the FA Cup in the third round by Manchester United, and having overcome Chelsea in the EFL Cup, were drawn against Manchester City and knocked out in the fifth round.
With a Champions League spot an unlikely ambition, West Ham’s best chance of improving on their 2016-17 campaign and giving their fans something to cheer about is in the cup competitions, and they can be backed at 40/1 with Sporting Bet to lift the FA Cup and 40/1 with 888 Sport to get their hands on the EFL Cup.
The departure of Payet and the early injury to Andre Ayew drastically affected West Ham’s ability to score goals last season, so much is expected from Javier Hernandez and Marko Arnautovic. Both have bags of Premier League experience, but Hernandez will be particularly important to the Hammers. The former Manchester United striker has scored goals wherever he has gone and can be backed at 50/1 with Unibet to finish as Premier League top scorer.
After last year’s poor performance in the summer transfer window, Bilic has acted decisively this time round and has gone for experience over potential. Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta worked well together at Manchester City and Bilic will expect them to bring some defensive stability to the shaky West Ham defence, while Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez should make the Hammers more dangerous up front.