Football | West Ham’s opening day woes

Football | West Ham’s opening day woes
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West Ham will host Manchester City on the opening weekend of the 2019/2020 Premier League season.

The Hammers will welcome the champions to the Olympic Stadium in the early kick-off on August 10th.

City did the double over the Hammers last season, winning 4-0 at the Olympic Stadium in November and 1-0 in Manchester in February.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side will be eager to avoid a repeat of last year’s slow start to the season, while City could be playing catch up on potential title rivals Liverpool, who face Norwich a night earlier in the season’s curtain-raiser.

West Ham have lost 12 of their opening Premier League matches, more than any other club.

However, the fixture list has done them few favours in that regard in recent years.

Remarkably, it is the sixth season in a row in which West Ham have been drawn against a top six team on the opening day.

The London club have faced Spurs (’14/15), Arsenal (’15/16), Chelsea (’16/17), Manchester United (’17/18), Liverpool (’18/19) in the last five years.

But how have the Irons fared in those difficult opening matches?


Spurs (2014/15)

West Ham’s first fixture of the 2014/15 campaign was a clash against bitter rivals Spurs.

Sam Allardyce’s men hosted the North London club at the Boleyn Ground on August 16, 2014, in what was Mauricio Pochettino’s first Premier League game in the Tottenham dugout.

West Ham were the better team for the majority of the game, but came away empty-handed after late drama in East London.

Mark Noble missed a penalty in the first half, and his failure to find the net from 12 yards proved costly.

Eric Dier popped up with a stoppage time winner on his debut to break Hammers’ hearts in stoppage time after both sides had been reduced to 10 men.

Kyle Naughton received his marching orders for the visitors, while James Collins was shown two yellows for West Ham.

“We have only ourselves to blame,” Allardyce said afterwards.

“The game was there for us to takem but we did not and we have ended up with nothing.”

Arsenal (2015/16)

The Irons made their way across the capital to the Emirates on the first day of the 2015/16 season.

Arsenal awaited the Hammers on Sunday, August 15th in Slaven Bilic’s first game at the helm.

The Gunners’ only summer signing came in the form of Petr Cech from rivals Chelsea, but the experienced goalkeeper endured a debut to forget for Arsene Wenger’s hosts.

Cech misjudged Dmitri Payet’s free kick in the 43rd minute, allowing midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate to head the Hammers into the lead two minutes before the interval.

Bilic’s side doubled their lead in the 57th minute through Mauro Zárate.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Francis Coquelin both made errors in the buildup, and Zárate’s powerful strike wrong-footed Cech from just outside the box.

Excitingly, Reece Oxford became West Ham’s youngest Premier League player at the age of 16 years and 237 days, and produced a man of the match display on his top-flight debut.

West Ham held on to secure an impressive 2-0 win; ending a run of nine straight defeats against Arsenal, and sealing a dream start to Bilic’s reign.

They would go on to finish a club Premier League record seventh with 62 points.

Chelsea (2016/17)

Another difficult start.

West Ham traveled to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea in Antonio Conte’s first game in charge on the first day of the 2016/17 season.

Chelsea took the lead in the 47th minute from the penalty spot.

Hazard kept his cool from 12 yards after Michail Antonio fouled Cesar Azpilicueta in the box.

Conte’s men were the better team on the day, with summer signing N’Golo

Kanté impressing in the heart of the Chelsea midfield.

The Irons drew level with their first shot on target in the 77th minute.

James Collins pounced on a loose ball to restore parity 13 minutes from time for Bilic’s visitors.

However, there was still time for late drama at the Bridge.

Diego Costa found the net from 20 yards in the 89th minute to send the home fans into raptures.

Like their opening ’15/16 Premier League game against Spurs, West Ham were undone by a late goal.

Chelsea would go on to win the league under Conte, with the Hammers finishing a somewhat disappointing season in 11th place.

Manchester United (2017/18)

Another easy start.

For the third season in a row, Slaven Bilic had an away fixture at a top six side to contend with on the opening day of the season.

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United awaited at Old Trafford on August 13th, 2017.

Expectations were high at United after the club’s Europa League triumph, with Mourinho expected to dramatically improve upon the team’s sixth-place finish the previous season.

It was a game to forget for the Hammers, who were put to the sword by the ruthless Red Devils.

After a strong summer of recruitment – on paper at least – West Ham weren’t at the races in Manchester.

Romelu Lukaku scored twice on his United league debut, opening the scoring in the 33rd minute.

He fired United ahead via the post after being released by Marcus Rashford, scoring on his Premier League debut for a club for the third time.

The Belgian striker grabbed his second – his 11th in 11 games against the Irons – in the 52nd minute, heading a Henrikh Mkhitaryan free kick past Joe Hart.

It was a stylish display from the Red Devils, and substitute Anthony Martial made it three with an excellent finish three minutes from time.

Paul Pogba had time to add a fourth in stoppage time, adding to the growing optimism around Old Trafford.

United would go on to finish a distant second behind record-breaking Man City, while Bilic was sacked by West Ham in November after a poor run of results, with the club turning to David Moyes to avoid relegation.

Liverpool (2018/19)

West Ham started the 2018/19 campaign with a new manager.

Manuel Pellegrini replaced Moyes in the dugout, and his first task was to take his new team to Anfield on the first day of the season.

West Ham arrived in Liverpool with a buzz of excitement after an eye-catching transfer window, but more misery awaited on Merseyside.

The Reds had secured Champions League football on the final day of the previous season with a resounding 4-0 triumph over the Hammers, and inflicted an identical defeat on Pellegrini’s men.

It took Mohamed Salah just 19 minutes to score his first goal of his second season, finishing off a flowing team move which featured summer signing Naby Keita.

Sadio Mane smashed home a second from a James Milner cross in first half stoppage time to give Jurgen Klopp’s men a 2-0 lead at the break.

Mane scored his second – and Liverpool’s third – in the 53rd minute, slotting Roberto Firmino’s through ball past Lucas Fabianski, though replays showed the Reds attacker was offside.

It was a rampant, devastating performance from the Reds, and substitute Daniel Sturridge added a deserved fourth with a late header seconds after his introduction.

The Reds would go on to finish second with a record number of points behind champions Man City, though Klopp’s men sealed an historic sixth European Cup in Madrid.

West Ham endured a horrible start to the season, but gradually improved as Pellegrini implemented his philosophy, and players settled in and returned from injury.

They eventually finished eighth on 52 points, behind Leicester City on goal difference, and five points off the Europa League places.

More of the same?

There is no reprieve for West Ham this time around.

Pellegrini couldn’t ask for a more difficult opponent than his former employers.

The Irons have lost four of their last five clashes against members of the top six on the opening day of the season.

Aside from the win over Arsenal, there have been two last-gasp defeats and two 4-0 drubbings.

West Ham are a better side now than the one that was blown away at Anfield at the start of last season, and only lost 1-0 in Manchester earlier this year.

Can the Hammers improve their dismal opening day record against the visiting champions?

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