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Is This The Reason Why West Ham Are Struggling With Their Defence This Season?

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What is happening to West Ham? From European football to flirting with relegation within the space of 6 months is shocking as they come. But half a year is a lot of time in football for fortunes to change, this time, for the worse.

And considering the London’s club current woes, 4 months into the 2016-17 Premier League season that have seen them produce just 3 wins, 2 draws and 7 whopping defeats can’t get any much worse. Especially with Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool being their next 3 fixtures.

But how did they went way down to 17th on the log when many expected them to build up on their 7th place finish of the last term?

While injuries have played a part in their collapse to a little extent, a lack of defensive reinforcements over the summer transfer window is obviously the main reason for the Hammers shortcomings this term.

During the off season, Slaven Bilic’s major targets were forwards. Zlatan, Bacca, Batshuayi, Lacazette and Ayew were all on the radar as the club looked to start life in their new stadium with some couple of marquee signings.

Of the 5, only the former Swansea man arrived, and he played just the season’s curtain-raiser against Chelsea before spending the next 10 matchdays on the sidelines.

At the other end of the pitch, Cresswell’s pre-season and long-term injury forced Bilic into signing Arthur Masuaku, while Alvaro Arbeloa arrived on a free from Real Madrid.

Despite doing very little business at the back, Slaven sanctioned the sales of James Tomkins to Crystal Palace, leaving the trio of Reid, James Collins and Angelo Ogbonna as the club’s only first-team centre-back choices.

West Ham ruing decision to neglect defensive investment

Having conceded the most goals (51) amongst the top 8 teams of last season, there was no reason on earth why adding steel to the defence wasn’t supposed to be of topmost priority to West Ham.

The result of that poor planning and failure to add depth to the defence department is glaringly clear. West Ham have conceded 23 goals this term in just 12 games, and only Hull have shipped more goals.

At the front, they have averaged a goal per game and scored 13, which isn’t completely poor considering that all their strikers are presently on holiday – both on the treatment table and in front of goal.

With the Croatian tactician now in dire need of quality defensive options, he has been forced to change his tactics – employing a 3-man defence since matchday 8 against Crystal Palace and turning defensive midfield stalwart Cheikhou Kouyate, into a makeshift defender.

What followed was back to back wins against Pardew’s charges and Sunderland. But it has proven to be a short-lived solution as they lost 2 and drew 1 of their last 3 Premier League games. The 6 points they picked up with it was only made possible because they came against equally weak sides.

West Ham ruing decision to neglect defensive investment

Bilic’s choice to move Kouyate further down the pitch as part of his 3-man defence is actually doing more damage than good to West Ham, as they have not only lacked the contributions the Senegal international box-to-box makes at the centre of the park, there has also been a reduction in the number of tackles the team and the player make per game.

As if gambling with his new formation wasn’t enough, Bilic went a step further to gamble with a needless substitution at the weekend against Tottenham. He decided to withdraw Payet with the scores at 2 – 1 in his side’s favour with 5 minutes to the end of regular time.

Håvard Nordtveit replaced the Frenchman and the rest, as they say, is history. Tottenham bagged both an equaliser and a winner within the space of 3 minutes to leave the visiting manager dejected.

That unexpected and bitter defeat actually happened back in the summer transfer window, when West Ham chose to neglect defensive investments, and it’s just the reason for their slump this season.