West Ham find themselves in a familiar position, precariously perched over the precipice of the relegation zone with David Moyes desperately trying to ensure the east Londoners don’t trip. But how did they get there?
The Hammers began the season under coach Manuel Pellegrini, who joined the club in May 2018 after Moyes’ first brief stint at the club. With the Chilean’s arrival, the intention of owners David Gold and David Sullivan was seemingly to turn West Ham into a side genuinely capable of achieving European football. But then again, that was apparently the aim when West Ham moved into the London Stadium in 2017.
While both measures have at least helped to attract a higher calibre of player in recent years, including the likes of Sebastien Haller and Pablo Fornals last summer, the club has failed to synthesise such signings with the ill-defined ‘West Ham Way’ that some fans so keenly seek.
The enhanced technical prowess that Haller and Fornals brought seemed to gel well with the qualities of Felipe Anderson and Manuel Lanzini early in the season as West Ham overcame an opening day 5-0 thrashing by Manchester City to go on a solid run, but durability was lacking. The club were fifth in the Premier League after seven games, but soon slid and were down to 16th by the end of gameweek 12.
Pellegrini’s side managed to halt a winless streak of seven games (a period that featured some comical cameos from goalkeeper Roberto Jimenez) late in November by beating Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, a game that was marred by homophobic chanting from the away supporters. But a month later Pellegrini was gone following a defeat to Leicester, with the Hammers hovering just above the relegation zone.
Moyes stepped in at once and oversaw a surprise 4-0 home win over fellow strugglers Bournemouth in his first match in charge, but West Ham then went another six matches without achieving a single victory in the league.
The run, which resulted in the east Londoners finally dropping into the relegation zone, incited protests against the club’s owners in February – almost exactly two years after a similar sentiment led to pitch invasions at the London Stadium.
West Ham rebounded with a crucial win against Southampton to lift themselves out of the relegation zone before losing to Arsenal right before coronavirus forced a three-month break from Premier League action.
As such, they sit in 16th, level on points with 17th Watford and 18th Bournemouth with nine games remaining.
They will return on 20 June as they take on Wolves, before facing London rivals Tottenham and Chelsea. While clashes with those top-half opponents may be cause for concern among West Ham fans, what follows is a seemingly kinder series of fixtures to round out the season.
That said, those remaining games will likely be must-wins for Moyes and his players, and while they will be against weaker teams, some of those sides – namely Watford, Norwich and Aston Villa – will be as desperate for points as West Ham.
So, don’t be surprised if the Hammers’ pursuit of Premier League survival goes right down to the wire, as it has on many occasions in the past.