West Ham were supposed to be one of the stories of the season with the new stadium and optimistic future. Now, stuck in the doldrums, the stadium something of an albatross round the club’s neck, they have become stooges in other people's stories.
They were stooges in the story of Bournemouth’s validation of open play, the stooges in the story of Chelsea’s ascent to the summit and, on Saturday, they were stooges in Leicester’s soap opera revival.
West Ham United , despite their attractive football and goal-mouth chances, took second billing again, with little to play for except to keep those extra thousands of seats filled.
As with the Chelsea game, there was little wrong with the performance except the result, which pushed the Irons firmly in the bottom half of the table, where they are likely to stay. Or at least, they won’t be troubling the headline writers come May.
The only way West Ham are likely to get top billing again is if impatient club co-chairman Davids Sullivan and Gold decide that Slaven Bilic has had his chance.
David Sullivan fired another shot across the bows of the Croatian after the 3-2 home defeat against a resurgent Leicester City.
He said: ”All we can do after Saturday’s defeat is say is ‘sorry’ to the supporters.
“To be 2-0 down after seven minutes of any football match, be it in the Premier League or in your local Sunday League, makes it very difficult to get a positive result.
“In parts of the second half we were very good. But, we need to be good before we are losing.
“We have to find out why we are conceding so many goals and fix it because it is harder to win games when you concede two or three goals in a game than if you keep a clean sheet.”
It would be surprising if the board hadn’t considered, at least in passing, a post-Bilic future even though the inclination is to stick with the charismatic manager.
However, the gloom that has descended over Stratford and hung around like a bad smell is the exact opposite of the feel-good factor West Ham were promoting before their shift from Upton Park.
Again, the lack of striker is most telling, with Andy Carroll again frustrated and all the attractive lead-up play leading only to disappointment – although Foxes keeper Kasper Schmeichel deserves a lot of credit.
Meanwhile, the Irons’ best outlet, Michail Antonio has withdrawn from the England squad with a hamstring injury. Manuel Lanzini and Andre Ayew made the scoresheet.
Bilic himself is perplexed by West Ham’s inability to grab points. He told the club’s website : “The intensity in training is really good. You can’t call us a team who is not fit, because in almost every game we finish better than the opponent.
“It’s very hard to defend a situation when it’s 2-0 after seven minutes. No problem, that’s my job. We are preparing them to be focused.”
West Ham now have the international break to rid themselves of the voodoo that has left them luckless and clueless as to when the good times will return.
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