The West Ham website held an optimistic tone this week – “Highlights: West Ham 0-4 Liverpool” read the headline on an entry with a wilful disregard of the facts.
For while the Irons’ outings in recent weeks had been drab – and generally goalless – the team had managed to secure something, if only a point and a lunge for safety.
Instead, it was Jurgen Klopp’s “perfect” afternoon in Stratford and West Ham left ruing the complete destruction of their new clean-sheet habit and the continuation of the goal-drought. Now, with one game left – away to Burnley – doubts about the new London Stadium will linger over the summer.
In truth, West Ham were lucky to get away with the scoreline as it was with Liverpool free-flowing and unimpeded. The home side just evaded criticism of “beach mind” because of the heavy toll of injuries – including captain Mark Noble, fitness room familiar Andy Carroll and Michail Antonio, named the club’s Player of the Year.
Manager Slaven Bilic told the club's website : “We spoke before the game and I expected the guys to put in the same kind of performance as they did against Spurs, with energy, organisation and teamwork, but it wasn’t to be. We were slower than on Friday night and they were quicker.”
That Spurs game might be the reason. With Premier League safety assured and a ragged season endured, the end – against Burnley on Sunday – cannot come soon enough. Bilic conceded that complacency was a factor but “we simply had too many injuries, throughout the season”.
He added: “We had eight operations this season, which was kind of weird, and that’s why I would like to give credit to the players because it was very hard.
“We had a minimum goal and we achieved it and we’re going to benefit from this season long-term with the knowledge and experience because it was a very tough season.
“First, we have to adjust to the stadium. That period is not over, but it’s going to be better because we already had one season here.
“Then we have to find good players in a few positions that we need to improve the squad. We have a good squad, but we need to improve the quality in the positions that we really need and where we had to improvise this season. That’s all, really."
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