West Ham new boys shine at long last
PUBLISHED: 13:00 22 May 2017
PA Wire/PA Images
Hammers’ Ayew, Feghouli and Fernandes show what they can do
There has been widespread condemnation of the efforts made by last summer’s new signings and most of it has been justified.
But on Sunday at Burnley it was the new boys who finally showed what they could do and with so many regulars missing, it was them who stepped up to the mark at long last.
Andre Ayew, the club’s record signing, made one goal and then scored the winner; Sofiane Feghouli levelled for West Ham after they had slipped behind to Sam Vokes’ strike, while Edimilson Fernandes’ thumping shot led to Ayew nodding them to victory.
It was about time. For most of the season players like Havard Nordtveit, Robert Snodgrass, Gokhan Tore, Jose Fonte, Jonathan Calleri, Arthur Masuaku, Feghouli and even Ayew have been hugely disappointing.
For some of those, it has to be the exit door this summer, but perhaps for a few, just a few, there is a future at the London Stadium.
It is clear that West Ham need to strengthen next season, though it would be foolish if they were to make another dozen signings as they did last summer.
Selected positions need to be addressed, right-back and striker being the two top priorities, but widespread recruitment, as we saw last summer is not the way to go.
Sunday’s victory was as excellent as it was surprising. Without skipper Mark Noble, fellow midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate, plus Winston Reid and Andy Carroll, the spine of the team had been ripped out.
Burnley have survived this season largely on their magnificent home form and so there only looked like being one result from the end of season clash at Turf Moor.
And so to come from behind, score a glorious equaliser by Feghouli and then grab a winner without undue pressure at the other end was a deserved result which means they finished in a commendable 11th place.
“It gives you optimism,” said manager Slaven Bilic after the 2-1 win. “I didn’t want to talk about the obstacles during the season and players being injured, because you want to be positive and talk about the players who are going to play.
“We know we had eight major surgeries and we had 10 players who were out, each one of them, for a minimum of two and a half months – this is scary, this is literally too much.
“Considering that and considering the move to the new stadium, we have done well. It is not a season to hail as ne of the best because it ain’t,” he continued.
“Last year was great, but there is something between great and bad and we have done it because we never lost belief. It certainly wasn’t enjoyable.”
He is quite right. At times it has been a nightmare for the fans. How could the same team dispatch title-chasing Tottenham on an exhilarating night at the London Stadium, lost heavily to Liverpool, Southampton, Arsenal and Manchester City (twice)?
“Individually and as a team I am sure we will benefit from this season a lot,” reflected Bilic. “It was a great experience and I expect us to benefit from it, large.”
There are a lot of lessons to be learned and mistakes to be rectified, but West Ham have got over the line with plenty to spare in the end.
They were just a point behind eighth place, they managed 45 points and perhaps most importantly, Bilic looks a lot more secure in his position.
The Croatian is set for a hip operation during the summer, but hopefully he will have plenty of time to recover and plan his raids on the transfer market as well as offloading those surplus to requirements.
We can only hope it goes more smoothly than last summer.
Roll on next August.