At the halfway point of the 2017/2018 Premier League season, it’s now time to look back at the first three months of what has been a torrid term so far for West Ham United in East London, as the Hammers endured a rollercoaster ride to end of September 2017.
June & July
Pre-season, beginning as the month of June 2017 arrived, would be a fruitful time for West Ham, as they looked to strengthen the Squad ahead of the second campaign at the London Stadium.
One signing had already been secured by this stage and that was right back Pablo Zabaleta from Manchester City, while a number of Youth stars and collection of Senior players would flow in the other direction.
These included the likes of Alvaro Arbeloa who retired, Havard Nordtveit, Enner Valencia, Jonathan Calleri, Darren Randolph, Ashley Fletcher and Sofiane Feghouli, but the Claret & Blue Army would need to wait until mid-July for the next arrival.
This came in the form of Dutch youngster Anouar El Mhassani and another European would swiftly follow with what was a £25 million club-record deal for winger Marko Arnautovic that was met with mass excitement from fans.
Academy duo Reece Burke and Josh Cullen were sent out on loan to Championship Bolton Wanderers, whilst Robert Snodgrass found himself at Aston Villa and Reece Oxford was shipped off to Borussia Monchengladbach for a season, one loan going in other direction was City keeper Joe Hart who soon became the No1 under Bilic.
That month would also see the beginning of pre-season fixtures for the club as they embarked on trips to Austria, Germany and Iceland, although it would only bring one win out of six games, beating Fulham, drawing with Sturm Graz and Altona 93 and losing out to Werder Bremen and the Citizens.
Further Transfer arrivals would see former Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez and teenage Montenegrin International Sead Haksabanovic brought to East London, with the wealth of the business now done, attention could turn to Competitive Football.
Just under two weeks into the month of August, the Premier League campaign began and for Slaven Bilic’s men, a very tricky trip to Old Trafford to face Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United would lay ahead.
The opening game was to be Broadcasted live on Sky Sports on a Sunday afternoon and without several first-team players due to injury, the Irons were trounced 4-0 by the Red Devils courtesy of goals from Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba.
The Hammers looked to bounce back from that quickly on the second Matchday, another away tie against Mauricio Pellegrino’s Southampton, a game that was originally due to be played at London Stadium but was forced to be switched due to the 2017 World Athletics Championships being held in the Ground.
One of the major storylines before kick-off was the award of a start to promising Irish youngster Declan Rice in the centre of midfield, the game itself would be nothing short of dramatic.
Manolo Gabbiadini put the hosts ahead early on before Arnautovic was shown a straight red card for an elbow on Saints defender Jack Stephens and Dusan Tadic gave his side a two-goal lead.
But, Chicharito’s first two goals in Claret & Blue changed the complexion of the tie completely, netting on the stroke of half-time and in the second period to level the scores up.
One last twist in the tale would arrive in added-time though with Charlie Austin converting a late penalty to claim all three points at the St Mary’s Stadium, after a Zabaleta foul on Maya Yoshida.
Bilic’s men had made the worst possible start to the campaign but a Carabao Cup tie away at Cheltenham Town before the Premier League trip to Newcastle did offer a chance to boost confidence.
Once again, the clash was played out live on Sky Sports and the visitors to Whaddon Road breezed through into Round Three courtesy of a pair of first-half goals from Diafra Sakho and Andre Ayew, Bolton would be the opponents next in the Competition.
The East Londoners now headed to St James’ Park, for their final August encounter, having been lifted somewhat by the victory, however, if their off-field spirits had improved, it certainly didn’t show on the pitch.
In what was regarded by many as the worst team performance of the season to date, strugglers Rafa Benitez’s Magpies walked all over the away side, strolling home to a 3-0 win with strikes from Joselu, Ciaran Clark and Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Heading into September, rumours of the sacking of Bilic were soon filling the air and it had been a very unhappy month in East London, although things were about to change rapidly.
An International Break stole away the first week of the month that followed with several of the Claret & Blue stars jetting off to represent their respective Countries.
When they returned to the East of the Capital, a home clash with Huddersfield Town, what was a must-win affair, was on the plate, the first game of the season to be held at the London Stadium.
The Terriers under David Wagner had made a superb start to their first ever PL campaign and proved stern opposition, though second-half strikes from Pedro Obiang and Ayew gave the hosts a vital three points.
The win was enough to lift the Hammers off bottom place and into 18th and that is where they stayed the following week having travelled to the Hawthorns Stadium and played out an uneventful goalless draw with Tony Pulis’ men.
There would be very little in the way of goalmouth action and both sides had to settle for the point, next up would be the League Cup visit of the Trotters to East London.
As the month progressed, players such as Michail Antonio and Cheikhou Kouyate returned from injury, although it would be youth that shined on the Tuesday night.
Although it would be Angelo Ogbonna, Sakho and Arthur Masuaku, in spectacular fashion, with the goals, the likes of youngsters Nathan Holland, Haksabanovic and Domingos Quina all impressing as Bilic’s boys sealed a tie with Tottenham Hotspur in Round Four.
Just days later, attentions turned back to a home League match and this time around the prospect of a classic London Derby at the former Olympic Stadium, with Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs rolling into town.
In the midst of a terrific London stadium atmosphere in an early Saturday kick-off live on TV, the visitors were ruthless and had obtained a lead of three goals by early in the second period, a Harry Kane double and Christian Eriksen strike proving the difference.
But, the hosts fought back with all the backing of the home fans, Chicharito getting his first East London goal in Claret & Blue and Kouyate heading home late, the away side just held on.
The very end of September would present the East Londoners with a chance to end a very mixed month of a high note as they entertained Paul Clement’s Swansea City in Stratford.
The match, on a chilly Saturday afternoon, was reminiscent of the trip to the Midlands just weeks earlier and it looked to be heading for the same outcome in the closing stages.
But, substitute Sakho got on the end of a cross from Masuaku to net his third of the season in all Competitions, what seemed like days after he looked poised swap London for Rennes, popping up to secure another victory of high-importance.
As a result, the Hammers headed into October out of the bottom three for the first time since before the campaign had started on seven points, the horizon suddenly looked a little brighter than it had for the best part of two months.
So, now that the opening weeks of the Irons’ 2017/2018 League and Cup campaign have been well and truly looked back on, what developments would lay ahead in a dramatic run up to Christmas and the New Year? Join us again early next week to find out.