West Ham: 10 Things the Hammers Must Do to Return to the EPL in 2012
We all known the story by now: the Hammers did themselves in.
They lacked passion, integrity, desire and will in the 2010-11 campaign. Despite a roster packed with experienced players like Carlton Cole, Scott Parker, Robert Green, Matthew Upson and Thomas Hitzlsperger, the team couldn’t get its act together.
Next season, West Ham has a chance to rectify things by regaining promotion to the EPL from the Championship. While this is a highly improbable dream, it’s not completely impossible.
Here are 10 things the Hammers must to do succeed.
Get a Decent Left Back
Other than the valiant efforts of Robert Green and the intermittently heroic play of Matthew Upson, West Ham’s defense was embarrassing to watch in the 2010-11 campaign.
However, some of the team’s youngsters show signs of life and potential. A season in the Championship will help the likes of Jordan Spence, Manuel Da Costa, James Tomkins and Winston Reid develop presence and decision-making skills.
Yet all of those lads play either right back or central defense, and now that the side is relegated, there’s no way the Hammers can afford to pay Wayne Bridge.
West Ham desperately needs a talented left back with the skills to play at the Championship and Premiership levels. That player needs the talent and presence to fit in with the rest of the team straight away and make an immediate impact.
Keep Freddy Piquionne
We already know Robbie Keane is gone—his contract stipulated as much.
Demba Ba is probably already speaking with other clubs. Ditto for Carlton Cole. Victor Obinna is on loan and will be off to greener pastures come the fall.
Interestingly, and somewhat fortuitously for the Hammers, Freddy Piquionne is the forgotten man in talks of strikers transferring out of the club.
Though Piq has been sluggish and uncertain in recent weeks, he scored six league goals and had five league assists for the Irons. He scored nine goals across all competitions.
Piquionne is the type of striker who could score double digit goals for West Ham in the Championship while serving as a great mentor for young forwards like Zavon Hines and Freddie Sears.
Hire the Right Manager
The Avram Grant disaster of 2010-11 hammered home just how important this will be for West Ham in moving forward.
A number of names have been put forth, from Martin O’Neill to Sam Allardyce, Steven McClaren and Kevin Keen. Regardless of whom the Hammers hire, it is essential that the team hire the right manager.
Right now, West Ham needs a sure manager. A manager with a vision of how football should be played and how each player in the West Ham roster fits into that vision, and the wherewithal to realize it.
If West Ham can’t play like a team, or with a purpose, it stands no chance of gaining promotion next season. The manager must bring these things to the table.
Develop a New Mentality
West Ham played with a defeatist mentality during the past two campaigns. The team takes the pitch thinking it will lose, or if not lose, at least struggle to win.
The new squad and new manager need to change this. West Ham needs the passion the Hammers are famous for back on the pitch and touch line. They need the never say die attitude that served Blackpool well in its EPL stint.
Luckily, a number of old players will probably be heading out of the club, while young Hammers and reserve players come into the first team.
The right manager, with the right mentality, will have the power to shape a whole new attitude and approach to football in the young Hammers, which will be instrumental if the team is to gain promotion.
The teachings of Yoda may help the Hammers gain promotion: "Do, or do not. There is no try."
Replace Scott Parker and Robert Green
With West Ham relegated, team leader Scott Parker will undoubtedly be bought by a big squad over the summer. The same goes for keeper Robert Green.
If the Hammers are to gain promotion back to the EPL at the end of the 2011-12 campaign, the team needs a collected and creative central midfielder pronto. Without a player of this nature, the Irons don’t stand a chance.
Thomas Hitzlsperger could easily play this role, and play it very well. However, it remains to be seen whether Hitz will stick around for a season in the Championship.
Luckily for West Ham, the team has a pair of very talented young midfielders in Robert Hall and Blair Turgott, both teenagers.
Whoever replaces Parker as the central figure in the West Ham starting 11 must make an immediate impact on the team if the Irons are to return to top-flight football in 2012.
The same goes for Robert Green and his command of the backline.
Choose the Right Captain
Every great team needs a great leader on the pitch. West Ham had Matthew Upson, Scott Parker and Robert Green in the 2010-11 season, and the team couldn’t find a reason to care.
All of those leaders will be gone from Upton Park next season, leaving West Ham adrift. If the Hammers are to return to the EPL in 2012, it’s imperative the team find a new leader, a captain to inspire great performances and dedication.
As has been mentioned countless times, the passion West Ham is known for was lacking this season. The team’s new captain must inspire that passion in his teammates, or West Ham is destined for a fair few seasons in the Championship.
If all else fails, the Hammers will have to get creative in their search for leadership. Could Captain Underpants (pictured above) be the right man to lead West Ham?
Play the Opponent on the Day
If you watched even one West Ham match in the 2010-11 season, save the unexplainable thrashings of Blackpool and Liverpool, during which everything that was going wrong suddenly went right, you saw this problem.
Match in and match out, the Hammers looked like a team whose strategy was simple: show up and play. But West Ham is not Barcelona. Hell, the Irons aren’t even Aston Villa.
West Ham has rarely been a team that can simply show up and bull doze another team with talent, pace and creativity. To gain promotion in 2012, the Hammers need to focus on their opponents on the day.
They need to understand how their opponents play and why they play that way. The new manager and first team need a specific strategy for every opponent, and they need to execute that strategy with lethal precision. Anything else will not be enough.
Develop Their Play on the Wings
With few exceptions, the Hammers played a bottled, centralized game in 2010-11. Avram Grant tried to change that with the addition of Gary O’Neil and Wayne Bridge during the January transfer window, but it didn’t do much good.
For a successful season in the Championship, West Ham must utilize more space on the pitch. They need to play to the wings, creating chances with crosses and opening up opposing defenses with a widespread and elastic formation.
Of course, Freddy Piquionne and Jordan Spence did an admirable job of this in the last 15 minutes or so against Wigan two weeks and it came to naught because no one was on hand to finish.
But the fact remains that in those 15 minutes the Hammers showed more creative spark and attacking threat than they had for the majority the season.
West Ham need look no further than The Nightmare at 20,000 Feet gremlin (pictured above), who has mad wing play.
Look for Talent in Untapped Markets
With its already limited budget shrunk to a fraction of its former size thanks to relegation, West Ham needs to make some shrewd acquisitions to bolster the depth and breadth of its talent.
In recent years, the emergence of East Asian soccer stars has been striking. From Ji Sung Park at Manchester United to Shinji Kagawa at Borussia Dortmund and Keisuke Honda’s performances for the Japanese national side, these players are creative, quick and lethal.
While the Academy has always been of extreme import to West Ham, the team needs to bring in some developed, top class players who will fit in straight away and cost a reasonable fee.
Searching in places like Japan and Korea, and other untapped or less highly trafficked markets like America’s MLS may provide West Ham with the players it needs at prices it can afford.
You’d think this one goes without saying, but the Hammers left their desire to win at home in 2010-11.
If West Ham is going to regain the Premiership in 2012, the owners, manager and first team need to really, really want it.
It will take endless hours of hard work, dedication and perseverance to achieve this. Luckily, the team has a chance to mold a whole new mentality at Upton Park, which will go great measures to improving morale.
Yet at the end of the day, if West Ham doesn’t want promotion more than anything else, it isn’t going to get it.
West Ham needs to want promotion like this dog wants bacon.