West Ham's first season in Stratford marked by mediocrity and frustration
The 2016-17 season was always going to be difficult for West Ham. The move from Upton Park to Stratford was expected to be painful and so it proved. A poor summer in the transfer market made things more difficult, however, and the club struggled to rise over mediocrity for most of the campaign.
Surviving without any real relegation threat might prove to be the season's real success.
Rating out of 10: 5
The 1-0 win against Tottenham was not only a good night in terms of beating a local rival, it was also the evening the team showed a desire and tenacity that had eluded them for most of the season. The reward was an atmosphere that rivalled that of the post North/South Bank Boleyn -- and there were few who ever thought that was likely to happen this season.
Running it close was the 2-1 fourth-round EFL win against Chelsea, when it seemed -- for just a brief period in October -- the Hammers might be able to turn the early season tedium into something positive. It wasn't to be.
In reality, the season's highlight was all around. Many supporters complained and, early on, there was much to complain about. Some stayed away and will never come back. Too many who had nothing to do with the club, said West Ham had sold its soul. The fact is the London Stadium has secured West Ham's future and has raised the profile -- not to mention the attendance -- of the club several notches. It will take time, but the Hammers have taken a giant step into the future.
There's always a tendency from those outside a club to assume the heavy defeats are the hardest to bear. Thrashings at the hands of Arsenal (5-1), Liverpool (4-0) and Manchester City (4-0) -- all at the London Stadium -- were certainly painful. However, the Premier League is a competition that isn't set on a level playing field and sometimes, when the opposition is demonstrably superior and playing at their best, the only thing to complain about is the manner of the defeat.
West Ham have looked clueless, out-classed and jaded at times this season certainly, but what fans do expect is for the team to perform against opposition their equal. The 4-2 defeat at home by Watford in early September, after leading 2-0 just before half time, was undoubtedly a low. Even at the time, it suggested there was a problem beyond settling into a new home.
Michail Antonio was named the Hammer of the Year and would undoubtedly be classed one of the few players to show anywhere near his real form this season.
Argentine Manuel Lanzini would run Antonio close though. Lanzini stepped up after the departure of Dimitri Payet and has been head and shoulders over most of his teammates, particularly since Antonio suffered his season-ending injury.
A Flop of the Season award at the London Stadium would surely consist of a queue of players jostling each other and shouting "Me! Me!"
Andre Ayew, Edimilson Fernandes, Havard Nordtveit, Gokhan Tore, Alvaro Arbeloa, Robert Snodgrass, Jonathan Calleri and Jose Fonte have all disappointed at various times. Some, like Fonte, have stuck to the task and have shown fleetingly why they were purchased; others, like Snodgrass, hold out hope for the future. Some though -- World Cup Winner Arbeloa stand up here -- just leave supporters dumbfounded; scratching their heads at exactly how football works sometimes.
Nevertheless, despite all the poor signings -- and even for West Ham this has been a bumper crop -- the biggest flop has been Payet. A man who could have ruled in Stratford and joined the legions of the greats, Payet had his head turned in the summer at Euro 2016 and, though his body arrived back in England, his head and heart never did. A tragic outcome that has benefitted neither club, nor one suspects, player.
The frustrating thing about talking about transfers in the summer of 2017 is that the club's needs are exactly the same as those in the summer of 2016. Last year, despite bold talk and brave attempts, the club was reduced to scuffling around and buying players for much more than they were worth.
To make any headway next season, the club desperately need two strikers. With some firepower up front, there might be less pressure on the defence and midfield.
A right-back and a creative midfielder are also needed, and the money for those could be found by ditching many of last season's failures.
Peter Thorne, aka Billy Blagg (@BillyBlaggEsq), is ESPN FC's West Ham blogger.