In an excruciating game to watch, the West Ham faithful face yet another season without the European football they crave. Another lethargic, dreary first half led to the Hammers conceding on the stroke of half time, and going in 1-0 down at the break. The goal injected life into the depleted home side, but it wasn’t enough to break down the wall Astra had built in front of their goal. They play acted, took what felt like forever to take throw ins, and accumulated several bookings for their troubles but, it must be said, they did defend valiantly.
Watching the match, it was blatant to all that when the chips are down and the opposition are fighting tooth and nail for every ball, that West Ham side lack the ability to change the game and force their hand. Every final ball was poor, never reaching it’s intended target; every shot was scuffed, bouncing politely into the keepers grasp – there simply wasn’t enough quality on display to open up the stubborn Astra back line. And yes, West Ham were without their two greatest creative entities in Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini, but it is frankly unacceptable that a side like West Ham’s cannot defeat a team like Astra’s; who will fittingly be greeted back home like heroes.
In terms of transfers, the loss could mean a lot. With Italian striker Simone Zaza set to join the Irons on loan with an obligation to buy at the end of the spell, the lack of European football could halt the deal. Additionally, the board may deem the transfer unnecessary now without the extra burden of Thursday night games. Bilic also said in the week that any more transfers will be in the light of European football, so like my before made point, any new faces may be thought of as not needed anymore.
On the other hand, and certainly the view that the more optimistic of us will take, is that this defeat will spark Sullivan and Gold to take action and sign the striker the fans are crying out for. It would be a sign of intent and prove they are as desperate as us to see West Ham finally playing in Europe next season. I am rarely a critic of the two Daves, and I appreciate their continued hard work; but I hope for their sake that they make the Zaza deal happen as soon as possible, and weather the storm that has begun following tonight’s defeat.
Bilic and his side will be immensely disappointed with their poor performance tonight, failing to clutch the European football that was so tantalisingly close for the second year in a row. With the absence of the Europa League though, there is no excuse for failing to make at least the top 8 this season and impress in the league. The consistency however, must improve. Slaven Bilic’s troops were marvellous against the big clubs last season, boasting an impressive record when facing the top 10. That being said, it was the teams they were expected to beat that they fell victim to on most occasions. To improve as a side they will have to impose themselves on the lesser teams, and not lose in frustrating fashion as they did tonight.
To conclude, with some swift business and pivotal new additions to the squad, tonight’s result may be forgotten, or at least tamed for the time being. So sit tight Hammers, and have faith in Sullivan and him getting the players we need to again challenge for European qualification, and continue climbing the steep steps to becoming the sort of club we want to be.