West Ham’s awful start to the 2017/18 Premier League season has provoked questions about the suitability of manager, Slaven Bilic. He’s a dead man walking, with four games to save his job. With this extra scrutiny it has to be asked: was he to blame for the poor performance of last season’s acquisitions?
We were promised a “20 goal a season striker” and wound up with Robert Snodgrass, André Ayew, Simone Zaza and Jonathan Calleri. Between them they managed just 7 league goals - 6 of which came from Ayew. People blame David Sullivan for picking bad players. The real issue is that no West Ham signing has improved under Bilic since last season. Here are three prime examples:
We all remember Zaza being a huge joke while playing at London Stadium. His tenure coming in the aftermath of his hilarious penalty miss for Italy at Euro 2016. No one could quite take him seriously as a player.
There were many lowlights, including this shot that went out for a throw-in, showcasing a glaring lack of confidence.
Slaven Bilic confirms Simone Zaza's 'story with West Ham' is finished.— Marathonbet (@marathonbet) January 5, 2017
Hammers fans will be happy to see him gone.pic.twitter.com/gsZOjYI2O2
Zaza’s only goal at London Stadium came against the Hammers during a pre-season friendly against Juventus. After 11 fruitless games, the Italian’s loan deal was terminated and he later joined Valencia in January 2017.
Almost immediately, Zaza started scoring, including this delicious volley against Real Madrid.
Since moving to La Liga, Zaza has recorded 7 goals in 22 appearances, about one goal in every three games. Which is similar to the goals-to-game ratio he recorded at Juventus. The one career aberration is the zero goals in eight games for West Ham.
Don’t get me wrong, Zaza was awful in a West Ham shirt, but as we will see with the other examples. He isn’t the only player to regress while playing under Bilic.
Ayew joined in August 2016 for a then-record £20.5 million from Swansea City. He was their top scorer, recording 12 league goals for the Swans, next season at West Ham United he managed 6. Exactly half as many goals.
There isn’t a great deal to say about André Ayew really, he’s been mediocre at West Ham. Nothing stands out too much about his time at the club.
He’s still only 27 years old, but hasn’t made the sorts of improvement you would hope, Bilic hasn’t given his development the boost we were expecting. Judging by his goal output, Ayew is performing half as well as he did at Swansea.
However, he tries every week and is the only player on the list to have actually scored for West Ham - making him the best by far on the list.
The most disappointing signing of 2017 January transfer window was Robert Snodgrass. The Scotsman joined from Hull City after leading the team in goals. In the first half of last season, he had 7 goals in 20 games as the focal point of their attack.
His struggles at London Stadium have been well-documented:
Snodgrass doesn’t have the speed or athleticism to play on the wing in a 3-4-3 and the Hammers have a number of better options up front, with Andre Ayew and Manuel Lanzini having cemented their starting places alongside Andy Carroll.
robert snodgrass has signed for £10million. Our second signing for the window he has 7 goals and 3 assists in 20 PL games this year.— Jack Sullivan (@jsullivanwhu) January 27, 2017
While there have been many who doubt whether Robert Snodgrass is Premier League quality, his performances for Hull show that the player has ability. He performed poorly in his 15 games for West Ham, looking a shadow of the player we saw at Hull. During his previous two stints the in the top flight with Norwich City, Snodgrass recorded 12 goals in two seasons.
Fact:— 888sport (@888sport) May 5, 2017
Robert Snodgrass is still Hull's top scorer this season. He joined West Ham in January. #WHUTOT
Like Zaza, Snodgrass had an uncharacteristic barren spell for goals, atypical for the rest of career.
Snodgrass is now on loan at Aston Villa, it’ll be interesting to see how he performs there and whether he starts scoring again. Upon leaving West Ham, Snodgrass slammed Bilic for playing him out of position, blaming this for his poor performances in claret and blue.
Again, Snodgrass was poor for West Ham, but there is a pattern here of good players underperforming for Slaven Bilic. You can’t tell me that all three of these guys suddenly became bad players overnight. In the case of Zaza we can see that he still has the quality that got him into the Italy national team for Euro 2016.
Even the hated Jonathan Calleri has managed to score a goal for Las Palmas now. We haven’t even mentioned the rapid regression of Jose Fonte in a West Ham shirt either.
Perhaps the training is an issue, players such as Reece Oxford have expressed surprise at how hard other teams train their players compared to West Ham.
With West Ham’s bad start to the season it’s time to question things around the club, and unfortunately it looks like Bilic is behind a lot of the disappointments