It has been a strange three years for West Ham.
The Hammers enjoyed their best ever Premier League season in the 2015/16 campaign, finishing seventh in Slaven Bilic’s debut season at the helm.
West Ham registered a club record 62 points, scored a record 65 goals, and lost the fewest (8) games in their Premier League history. The London club finished ahead of Liverpool, and qualified for the Europa League.
Bilic’s side played an entertaining brand of football, and the West Ham faithful had a new hero to worship in Dmitri Payet.
The club’s last season at the Boleyn Ground was a memorable one, and there was a huge sense of optimism around the club.
However, things have been difficult since.
The Irons struggled to adapt to the Olympic Stadium, and Payet’s controversial exit only made matters worse. They were eliminated by Romanian outfit FC Astra Giurgiu in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League, and struggled to reproduce the form of the previous season.
West Ham eventually finished 11th in the Premier League, in what was seen as a transitional year.
The decline continued.
Bilic – who had previously represented the club as a player – was relieved of his duties in November after a shocking start to the 2017/18 season.
The Hammers were 18th in the table after 11 games, and Bilic was replaced in the dugout by David Moyes.
Moyes, to his credit, steadied the ship somewhat, and eventually steered the East London club to a 13th placed finish after early fears of relegation.
The former Everton and Manchester United manager signed a six-month contract at the Olympic Stadiums, and parted ways with the club earlier this summer.
A new era?
West Ham have appointed Manuel Pellegrini as their next manager.
The Chilean has signed a three year deal with the Hammers in May, and has promised an attacking brand of football during his tenure.
“I think West Ham has a very good team,” he said after his appointment.
“I know all of the players and I saw most of the games that they played last season, so I am sure that, with the players we have in this moment in the squad, and bringing maybe another four or five players in, we are going to have a strong team.”
On paper, it is a shrewd acquisition by the club.
The 64 year old has previously managed Manchester City, winning a Premier League title and two League Cups with the current English champions.
Pellegrini brought exciting, attacking football to City, and remains the only non-European manager to win the Premier League. He is also the first West Ham manager to have a Premier League title on his CV.
He left the club at the expiration of his contract – with Pep Guardiola replacing him – with the fifth highest win percentage in Premier League history (59.9%).
The former Premier League winner has plenty of experience at big clubs with expectant supporters, having previously managed Real Madrid. It will be difficult to break the monopoly of the top six, but there’s no reason the Hammers can’t compete for a place in the Europa League.
Pellegrini’s approach is likely to suit attacking players such as Javier Hernandez, Marko Arnautovic, and Manuel Lanzini (when he returns from injury), and will be far more adventurous than Moyes’ cautious style.
“Manuel brings a reputation for attacking football and getting the best out of his players,” David Sullivan said.
“We believe he will attract new talent to the London Stadium as well as improving the current squad. Above all, he is a winner, who knows what it takes to succeed at the highest level and is driven to continue that success.”
Pellegrini is a proven winner, and the West Ham board have backed their new man in the transfer market.
The club have signed six players already this summer, strengthening the team in all departments.
Goalkeeper Lukas Fabianski has been signed from Swansea, and the club have also snapped up Fulham right-back Ryan Fredericks.
Fredericks possesses pace and attacking prowess, and will rival Pablo Zabaleta – who starred under Pellegrini at City – for a starting berth at right back.
The Hammers have also brought in highly rated centre back Issa Diop from Toulouse, and Fabián Balbuena from Corinthians.
Diop, 21, has joined the London club in a £22 million deal, and the captained the Ligue 1 side last season. Balbuena is a Paraguay international centre half, and has been tipped to succeed in England by Pellegrini.
With the emergence of Declan Rice last season, and experienced defenders such as Winston Reid, Zabaleta, and Aaron Cresswell already on the books, West Ham’s defence now looks strong.
This week, the Premier League club also confirmed the signings of Jack Wilshere and Andriy Yarmolenko from Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund respectively.
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) July 13, 2018
Wilshere has joined the club he supported as a boy on a free transfer, and at 26, has plenty of time to rediscover his best form.
The English midfielder showed flashes of his undoubted quality at Arsenal last season, and could slot into the centre of midfield alongside skipper Mark Noble.
Ukranian international winger Yarmolenko, 28, represents an exciting attacking addition to West Ham’s midfield.
It’s believed that Michail Antonio will be sold this summer, and Yarmolenko is a significant upgrade on paper.
West Ham have also completed a deal to sign exciting Lazio winger Felipe Anderson for £35 million, a club-record fee. The 25 year old – who has been capped once by Brazil – arrives to East London with a strong reputation.
These signings are sure to excite the West Ham supporters ahead of the new season, and will greatly improve the quality of the squad.
As mentioned above, ‘Chicarito’ could also thrive in a more attacking system, and will be hoping for good service from the likes of Anderson and Yarmolenko.
West Ham fans have every right to be excited about the coming season.
They have a new manager with a history of success and attacking football, and have stated their intent with some big signings.
However, Everton found themselves in a similar predicament last summer.
The Toffees invested heavily in the transfer market (around £150 million), but a miserable start to the season saw Ronald Koeman sacked in late October, with the Merseyside club slipping into the relegation zone.
Investment does not guarantee success, but West Ham’s business has been impressive nonetheless.
An improvement in style and upon last season’s 13th placed finish would be solid progress next season.
If Pellegrini and his new players can adapt to East London quickly, the Hammers may even push for a Europa League qualifying place.
It’s an exciting time to be a West Ham fan.
David is the editor of The Season Ticket.
He is a qualified journalist, and a long-suffering Meath and Liverpool supporter.