West Ham manager Slaven Bilic’s in-tray is heavy with grim news, much of which is out of his control.
Take, for example, the issue of his strikers. The club spent a summer looking for the right frontman to give Dimitri Payet a target. The plans have fallen flat with Simone Zaza still finding his feet and most of the forward complement on the treatment table.
Worse still is the predicament of Andy Carroll who shows flashes of brilliance in between injuries. Now, it has been confirmed that he will be out of action for longer than initially feared, possibly until November. Still, he’ll have injured Andre Ayew and Diafra Sakho to talk to as he recovers.
However, the focus has been on the shaky defence on which Bilic pinned the blame for Saturday’s dismal 4-2 thrashing by West Brom – the second such scoreline in succession.
Aaron Cresswell is injured, Winston Reid has lost form as has Adrian, and James Collins is showing his age. Angelo Ogbonna is rusty, Arthur Masuaku blows hot and cold and James Tomkins plays for Crystal Palace.
West Ham return to the new London Stadium on Thursday (7.45pm, September, 21) with an EFL Cup third round tie against Accrington Stanley. It should be a walk-over against the League Two side but West Ham’s luck is stuck in the wrong gear with their early departure from the Europa League still fresh in their minds.
The defence will come under intense scrutiny, especially with Bilic being uncharacteristically forthright in his criticism of the back four’s display.
Manager Bilic told the club’s website : “We are determined to get back on the winning trail at London Stadium and I have been speaking with the players to address the issues we have faced. We now need to see a reaction on the pitch.”
The prospect of another Stratford encounter must get the nerves jangling with murmuring criticism turning into shouts from unlikely quarters – not least of which comes from one of their own. Legendary captain Billy Bonds is the latest to decry the atmosphere and space of the vast stadium.
The 70-year-old, who made 799 appearances for the Hammers, declared his club’s new home “isn’t a football ground”.
“I went to the Bournemouth game and I was sat behind the media,” Bonds told fan site KUMB.com . “It just seemed miles away from the pitch and you couldn’t get the atmosphere up there.
“It’s like an island out in the middle. Slaven has to walk 20-odd yards to get to the edge of pitch and when you’re sitting up high you can see a big trench where they’ve moved the seats. Arsenal built a new stadium but they’re two yards away from the playing surface.”
With all this dire news swirling around, Bilic is worried about the C-word – confidence.
He said: “The worse thing that can happen in football is to lose confidence. Our confidence is harmed a bit because of the results and the position we are in. But you can’t lose it.
“If you lose your confidence as an individual and as a team then you’ve got no chance.”