If you are going to end a season then to do it away from home winning 4-1 is a pretty decent way to send supporters into the summer on a high and that is certainly what West Ham did at Vicarage Road with a thumping victory over FA Cup Finalists Watford.
The win saw West Ham finish the season in 10th place which all things considered is a more than satisfactory position given how poor the team was last season and the crippling injury problems that have befallen Manuel Pellegrini’s squad during this campaign.
For long periods of the season it didn’t seem as though a top half finish would be achievable and as someone who has been critical of the progress (or apparent lack of) I will hold my hands up and say that this season has been a improvement and there have been a number of positives.
The three wins at the end of the season have given a very different outlook to what looked as though being a lame end to the season. The wins over Tottenham, Southampton and Watford were vital in ensuring that we all go into the summer with optimism for next season.
If we go back to the start of the season things could have been so very different. The first four games were all met with defeats with the opening match away at Liverpool showing just how far we were away from the top clubs despite spending £100m in the summer. A loss at Home to Bournemouth followed, then a 3-1 defeat at Arsenal and the run of bad form continued with a 1-0 loss to newly promoted Wolverhampton.
For me it was at this point where our season was defined. The next three fixtures were Everton (a), Chelsea (h) and Manchester United (h).
These are normally fixtures we get very little from. I remember posing the question on twitter that if we lose the next three matches should Pellegrini’s job come into question. I was met by a lot of people annoyed that this would even be suggested but if West Ham had lost those games, we would have equaled the worst start to a topflight season in English football history.
But this question was answered by a superb and unexpected 3-1 win at Goodison Park, a 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea (with a chance at the end which should have saw us win the match) and a wonderful 3-1 win at home to Manchester United.
These results were vital, and I dread to think what would have happened if they hadn’t come.
The season overall seemed a cacophony of inconsistency. The form in December was excellent and 4 wins out of 5 gave us the basis of doing something more than just a mid-table finish but ultimately when January hit it was clear that this group of players were not was required to really push on.
The 4-2 loss in the FA Cup 4th round away to League One’s bottom club AFC Wimbledon really hit home just how many players West Ham have in their squad who know their futures do not lie here.
The team put out in that match should have been more than enough for Wimbledon but to lose 4-2 was a truly embarrassing moment.
It is January where the season took a dip that until the last three games never really recovered with Marko Arnautovic revealing that he would like to go to a Chinese club because they were going to pay him an ridiculous amount of money.
It was clear the club would only sell him for a ludicrous fee but the Chinese club would not go for this which left Arnautovic stuck at West Ham and clearly unhappy. His attempts to get supporters to see his side of the story seemed forced and it was all very uncomfortable. He would not score another goal until May.
His attitude from then on had me wanting him to leave the club. I just couldn’t see a way back and whilst the last month has gone a long way to repair the damage I can’t help thinking that he now doesn’t want to leave because we simply gave him more money by extending his contract and he is not going to get this anywhere else.
From a West Ham perspective where are we going to get a better player for the money that he would generate from a sale which is only realistically going to be around the £20m for a player who is 30 next season.
The question I have been asked is – Did West Ham have a good season? I think those wins at the end of the campaign have changed the outlook slightly and yes if you had offered me a top 10 finish at the start of the season I would have been more than satisfied given just how bad we were during the previous campaign.
A number of the signings made have been successes, non more so than goal keeper Łukasz Fabiański who was my clear player of the season. I must admit that when we signed him I didn’t think it was really required as Adrian was a solid goal keeper but I have been proven wrong as Fabiański has been a massive upgrade.
Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena have been excellent acquisitions and you could argue that if Balbuena had not suffered an injury which kept him out for a few months then we may have done better as his replacement Angelo Ogbonna I do not believe to be good enough if you really want to kick on.
Felip Anderson was the big money signing and it took him a while to get going. I can recall supporters being unhappy with the defensive side of the game but that wasn’t my concern as he was brought in to attack and I was happy for him to have that freedom to not be responsible for that part of the game as long as he was potent in the attacking areas.
And that is what happened with his form really picking up and most of our attacking play going through him. His form did dip in the new year which saw us struggle going forward which only says to me that he is the vital cog in our attacking play. I do not think this is a responsibility that should lie solely with him and next season I want more goals from other areas of the team.
Ryan Fredericks struggled early on and then was injured for a large period of the season. He came back and put in some excellent displays and I would expect him to be our first choice right back next season unless a much better player becomes available.
Lucas Perez may have score the odd goal but his overall performances have been poor and the club were looking to move him on in January but couldn’t get the deal over the line. I do not expect him to be here next season and if you really want West Ham to push on then you are not going to do it with players like Lucas Perez.
Jack Wilshere and Carlos Sanchez have been injured of the majority of the season and whilst I still believe Wilshere is a good player I have no faith that he will remain injury free. Certainly not for long enough to make a real impact.
Andriy Yarmolenko looked a decent player before his injury and hopefully he can stay fit next season.
There are three players there in Yarmolenko, Sanchez and Wilshere who never got going this season because of injury so that old phrase of “they will be like new signings” may well apply here.
The amount of injuries we have suffered meant that the pressure was on workmanlike players like Robert Snodgrass and Mark Noble. I find criticism of both these players odd as it wasn’t as if there were better players to come into the team.
Mark Noble gets a lot of stick and whilst I agree to a point that he isn’t the most dynamic of players some of the comments directed towards him are grossly unfair. I would love to see a better player replace him but there isn’t one available. Some were clamoring for Pedro Obiang but once he did come into the side he was exposed for being the bland beige footballer he is and I would be shocked to see him at the club next season.
I am sure Mark Noble doesn’t expect to be playing every week if the squad is full of top quality players but there fact is there isn’t and Mark Noble is the best we have in that position.
If next season Robert Snodgrass and Mark Noble are starting 30+ games then West Ham will finish exactly where you would expect them to. I am not slagging these players I am just pointing out a reality that these two players I like but they are not going to fire you into the upper echelons of the Premier League.
Michail Antonio has turned things around as the season went on as I do not think he was liked by Manuel Pellegrini. There was a moment in the season that Grady Diangana was ahead of him but slowly but surely Antonio has gone back to being that impact player he was during the 2015/16 season. His goal away at Tottenham being one of the highlights of the season.
One player I would very much like to see leave the club is Javier Hernandez who at no point since he came to West Ham has been a success. We had a manager in Slaven Bilic who didn’t know how to use him, David Moyes who had no interest in using him and now Manuel Pellegrini who sees him nothing but a bit part players.
And Hernandez is a bit part player who is never going to work at West Ham on a consistent basis.
I never envisage a time where he is leading the line week in week out and to have such an expensive player on massive wages sitting on the bench is not helping and he should be shipped out this summer.
One of the best things to come out of this season is that we will never have to see Andy Carroll play again. Not that he played very often.
There are many wonders in this world but the most fascinating is that there is a football club out there who is going to sign Andy Carroll next season. Mind Blown.
It hasn’t been the season that many hoped it would be with this free flowing football but I have to defend Pellegrini on the basis that the injuries to key players and the issues with Arnautovic derailed what could have been a push for 7th.
And 7th is as high as West Ham can go unless there is a complete disaster at one of the top 6 clubs which I just cannot see. The top 6 are light years ahead of everyone else and the money these clubs are generating ahead of the others is extraordinary.
Despite finding logic in how we have done this season I can’t help but still feel a bit deflated by the campaign. The last three matches have been enjoyable but for long periods of this season I have found myself in a quite negative mode of what I have seen.
The fanbase is fractured and the stadium move is the cause of this. There have always been disagreements among fellow supporters but never have I fundamentally disagreed with others so vehemently on just about every aspect of what is going on at the club.
There are many who do not want to hear about the issues with the London Stadium and what it has done to the club but I assure you I won’t be forgetting it any time soon.
Overall though, a top 10 finish under the circumstances is a good season and I just hope this is the start of something positive on the pitch and not another false dawn.
Finally, the West Ham away support this season has been truly exceptional. I am proud to be among my fellow West Ham fans who whether we win, lose or draw have been outstanding this season.