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Paging Big Sam: Are West Ham this season's Everton?

Thursday 30th August 2018

Sometimes spending isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Ask Everton and West Ham United. Last year, the Blues were among the transfer window's biggest spenders, splashing the cash in an attempt to break into the top six. The tactic didn't work. Ronald Koeman paid the price for the disastrous start in October. Sam Allardyce replaced him. Everton bored their way to safety. This year, West Ham are repeating the Toffee's mistakes. They're threatening to be this season's Everton.

The Hammers spent £93 million in the summer window. Nine new players arrived during Manuel Pellegrini's squad overhaul. Felipe Anderson cost a club record £34 million. outlay on Felipe Anderson. Issa Diop and Andriy Yarmolenko cost £22 and 20 million respectively. Jack Wilshere at least arrived on a free transfer. Big transfer fees tend to be accompanied by high wages and higher optimism. Fans were predicting a top-seven finish. The season's first three matches brought three defeats.

Last night's EFL Cup tie with Wimbledon saw disaster narrowly averted. The League One side scored in the third minute but Rod MacDonald picked up two cautions in the first 20. Even so, Neal Ardley's Dons clung to their lead until Diop hit a low screamer from distance just after the hour and Angelo Ogbonna tapped in a corner on 83 minutes. Two goals from two defenders. Chicharito finally involved the attacking players with a goal two minutes into added time. 

So far, the big money signings haven't lived up to their hype.  Yarmolenko's anonymous. Diop's other goal went into his own net. Wilshere offers nothing positive. Felipe Anderson played a good game against Arsenal but compare him to fellow Brazilian record transfer fee, Richarlison; he’s disappointed.

None are proving their worth. The only new signing offering hope is goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski but, thanks to the group in front of him, the Pole's conceded nine goals.

For all that, the greater concern lies in their own third. Last year, the Hammers were the Premier League's joint-worst defence. They conceded 68 goals, 12 more than relegated West Brom and Swansea. Three new defenders and a goalkeeper arrived to remedy the problem. It was evident they needed to work on the training pitch. Has Pellegrini done it? Not effectively at any rate.

In four games, including the League Cup tilt, they've surrendered the lead three times. Opponents already claim 49 shots attempted, 24 on target. Poor Fabianski averages five saves per game in the league to date. Saying the Hammers are open is an understatement. According to WhoScored’s rankings, West Ham’s defence is second worst in the league so far.

It boils down to teamwork. So far, Pellegrini's squad is a collection of individuals. The defence does not work with the midfield, which does not work with the attack. Three separate units doing their own thing. There's no cohesion. Each has its problems, too.

I've mentioned the attack and defence. It's also become evident pairing Wilshere and Mark Noble in midfield won’t work. One must go.

Morale is low. Heads dropped when Arsenal scored in their London Derby. Last season’s woes continuing to haunt the squad. Summer hopes are already dashed and it's still August. West Ham looks like a team with their heads stuck in the past. Even Pellegrini looks glum despite his effort to push the positives in interviews.

Of course, caveats exist. Away games to Liverpool and Arsenal aren't an ideal start to any season. By December, when they've taken on Newcastle, Cardiff, Crystal Palace and Fulham, things may be more cheerful.

For the moment, however, they don't. Last season's problems still exist. New signings haven't impressed. They're not bedded in. The season's already getting away from the club. West Ham are not taking Everton’s mistakes from last year on board. Here’s hoping they don’t end up with Sam Allardyce [again] as a result.

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Sean Lunt

Football journalist working in the North West mainly covering Everton and Liverpool but with musings on anything football related. 

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