Things are never dull at West Ham United, even when the team isn't playing. The international break has been full of finger-pointing and rumors. With the break in action after a demoralizing loss to Leicester City, it will be good for the team to get back on the pitch and maybe work out some frustration with a visit to relegation strugglers Hull City.
While Hull do sit in the drop zone in 18th place on 24 points, six positions and nine points away from West Ham United, they have shown signs of life since their new manager, Marco Silva, took over the team in January. The Portuguese manager has breathed new life in a team that looked like the were certain to go down in December and has got them fighting to stay in the Premier League, with a league record of 3-2-4 since taking the team over including big home wins against AFC Bournemouth, Liverpool, and Swansea City and a draw at Manchester United. By comparison, West Ham has the exact same league record as Hull City in the same timeframe, and West Ham as also lost three games in a row, and without a win in five.
A lifeless West Ham team beat a struggling Hull team in December while facing a drop in form and injuries to key players, part of a run of games that gave the team confidence going into the new year and put the threat of relegation behind them. Oh how January seems so far away now. The team is struggling again, and injuries against Leicester have left the Hammers without three key players in Pedro Obiang, Michail Antonio, and Winston Reid. The Hammers need this win for lots of reasons, but three reasons stand out as to why this may be the most important game left in the season for West Ham.
First, West Ham needs a resounding win to get the hounds off of the heels of Slaven Bilić. The endless rumors about the owners looking to not extend his contract after rumors that they would resign him before the summer coupled with more rumors about new managers being considered for the hot seat hurts the club. It doesn’t help that the board is taking to twitter to blame the manager for poor transfers, implying that they wanted better ones but the manager overruled them.
Also, if the players think he’s not going to be around anymore, there is a chance he loses the dressing room. If the team is constantly defending him in the press, it will start to wear on them as well. No one works well if they think their boss is going to get fired, and especially if they think that their mistakes are going to be the reason their boss gets fired.
Secondly, the club needs to get it’s mojo back. The team that came out and crumbled against Leicester did not look like the team that won at Southampton or Middlesbrough or pasted Crystal Palace at home. West Ham looks disjointed, and the leaky defense creates problems all over the pitch. If the team is going to end the season on a high note, beating Hull is the first step for the team to regain its collective form and look like a mid-table Premier League team, not a team that will be lucky to avoid relegation because it can’t stop goals from pouring in.
Finally, West Ham needs to win to make the team believe they can win even with injury issues. Too often this season the team has been undone by key injuries. Carroll has been hurt, Diafra Sakho has been out for the entire season except for two games, and record signing André Ayew was injured for weeks and missed another month with the African Cup of Nations. It’s like the team collectively hangs its head and accepts that the team won’t play well with key players and waits for the bad results to come. If the team wins away at a team that has given “top six” clubs problems, the team will start to believe that defeats aren’t inevitable when key players are out. They need this belief with injuries plaguing the team right now, and it’s too easy to point to those rather than hold themselves and their teammates accountable for poor results.
West Ham need to hold Hull’s feet to the relegation fire and get a win, not a draw, in the north of England to start to solidify their position in the table. Three points away from the “friendly” confines of the London Stadium will go long way towards pointing this team in the right direction for the rest of the season.