West Ham moved to their new home two years ago to this day. Their last game was against Manchester United, who they welcome to the London Stadium on the exact day two years on. Has the move gone to plan? Calum Scotland discusses.
Generally speaking, two years after moving to a new house, you’ve settled in and got the place looking roughly how you’d like it to. Maybe the kitchen still needs a lick of paint, or the garage still has a few unopened boxes of miscellaneous artefacts from the move, but you’re more or less there.
Try telling that to West Ham United Football Club, whose new home at the London Stadium has been more like moving into a botch-job by a bunch of cowboy builders than a sleek new-build that looks as good on the inside as it does from the outside.
There have been a number of high-profile mishaps since the move from E13, most notably the shambles of the stadium seating, the departures of both Slaven Bilic and Dimitri Payet, and the now infamous ‘dildo brothers’ comment following the failed transfer of William Carvalho and subsequent lies from the board.
But in the two years since that unforgettable night at Upton Park, has the club made any progress at all?
Firstly, a quick look at the playing squad shows the emergence of youngster Declan Rice, as well as the undeniable influence players like Manuel Lanzini and Marko Arnautovic have had in claret and blue.
Of course, Lanzini was there in 15/16, but the purchase of Arnautovic showed a willingness to play football ‘The West Ham Way’ (which incidentally doesn’t exist, but that’s for another article).
However, having lost Payet and the likes of Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho, Jose Fonte, and Robert Snodgrass (who is definitely not going to want to play under the current board after they described his signing as a mistake), can anybody really say that the team taking the pitch every week is any stronger than that which finished 7th in the Premier League in 2015/16?
“The atmosphere is bland, the football is insipid, and there is no reason that people should be expected to pay up to £1100 for a season ticket to watch what is being put on at the London Stadium week in, week out.”
I would argue not. The squad is paper thin, and ravaged by injury more often than not, with key players such as Winston Reid and Michail Antonio unavailable for large chunks of the season. Add to this the fact that the club is without a bona fide first choice goalkeeper, and the issues grow ever more.
So the squad isn’t as good as it was two years ago, but are they at least playing good football?
In a word, no. At Upton Park, West Ham were generally a threat to score. In fact, they scored in all but one of their home games in the league in 15/16, and managed 13 goals and 14 points against the ‘Top 6’.
This season, those numbers drop to 5 goals and 4 points, with Manchester United still to come to London. Depressing at best, you’d have to agree. Bilic’s insistence to put square pegs in round holes, like Antonio at LWB, and Moyes’ defensive approach, like playing 5-4-1 at home against teams like already-relegated Stoke City, makes for dismal viewing, and the fans have had a lot of that to put up with this season.
Speaking of the fans, nobody can deny the influence that the atmosphere had on the club at Upton Park.
Right on the touchlines, the fans were inseparable from the action, and many argue that they were often the difference between a defeat and a draw. Contrast this to the toxic atmosphere present at games, not just this season, but last season as well, and you start to see a club heading for turmoil.
The off-field issues have been discussed at length, and the decisions being made at board level are affecting fans at an unprecedented rate. Look at the badge, the seating arrangements, the lack of investment in the squad, and the poor standard of football, and you can see why the fans are coming to the end of their tether and turning their backs on the club they love.
There have been a number of fans posting on social media about their stories and how they have fallen out of love with West Ham after being turned into a corporate machine by Gold, Sullivan, and Brady, and who can blame them?
The atmosphere is bland, the football is insipid, and there is no reason that people should be expected to pay up to £1100 for a season ticket to watch what is being put on at the London Stadium week in, week out.
Of course, the investment in the summer needs to be thorough and well-researched, not just for players, but for a new manager as well. But to bring the analogy full circle, West Ham United’s new home needs more than just a lick of paint. The walls need tearing down and rebuilding so it feels like a proper home, and the landlords need to have a good think about how they are treating their tenants, or they will walk away and not come back.