With West Ham’s win over Wigan, the Hammers have ensured their survival in the Premiership. It has been a difficult second year for manager Gianfranco Zola, from cracking the top ten in his inaugural year to a must win against Wigan to keep continued representation in top flight.
The Icelandic banking crisis resulted in a ownership vaccuum as Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson gave way to CB Holdings and then onto majority owners David Gold and David Sullivan.
As the histogram shows, West Ham’s return to the Premiership since 2005 has been marked with noticeable volatility.
Their best year was the year of their return under Alan Pardew when Danny Gabbidon formed a strong partnership with Anton Ferdinand in central defense and Marlon Harewood had a break out year with his goalscoring. Yossi Benayoun was the creative spark in midfield as the Hammers poured in 52 goals while conceding 55.
The following year, under Alan Curbishley, the Hammers barely dodged relegation with Carlos Tevez’s extraordinary output in their last seven games making the difference. The notable feature of that season was how West Ham fared extra-ordinarily well against top teams while getting blown away by lower rated opposition. 35 paltry goals and 59 conceded with 21 losses, the most in the Premiership.
The Hammers have always done well when they have matched their defensive intensity with their goalscoring output. That was the case in Zola’s first year. With Carlton Cole, Steve Parker, and Mark Noble they have managed some attacking consistency. The trend continues with the arrival of Alessandro Diamanti and the rise of talents like Jack Collison and Freddy Sears.
However the defense is missing necessary robustness with the departure of stalwarts like Anton Ferdinand, George McCartney, Paul Konchesky, Lucas Neill, and Danny Collins. The present back line have not stepped into the vacuum sufficiently enough. Both Matthew Upson and Jonathan Spector have had disappointing seasons. 62 goals given up is an unflattering statistic.
If Zola has to do better next season, the defense needs to tighten up. David Gold and David Sullivan should make the necessary investments to strengthen the Italian coach’s hand. He has the support of the players. For what it is worth, West Ham against Arsenal and Everton this season provided a snapshot into the best and the worst of the club.