West Ham United make history for the wrong reasons

West Ham United hoped that making history this season would be all about moving into their new -stadium.

Published: 26th September 2016 08:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th September 2016 08:59 AM   |  A+A-

Britain Soccer Premie_Moha (1)

West Ham's Dimitri Payet stands with his hands on his legs during the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham and Southampton at The London Stadium in London. | AP

West Ham United hoped that making history this season would be all about moving into their new -stadium. Instead they have lost five of their first six league matches, the first time that has happened to them in the top flight. Ever.

There was more recent history, here, also with Charlie Austin scoring one goal and smartly creating another as Southampton ran out deserved winners. This from a striker who last year suffered what he called the "outrageous slur" of West Ham co-owner David Sullivan dismissing talk of signing him because of concerns over his long-term fitness - no ligaments in his right knee, it was alleged.

Here Austin expertly scored his fifth goal in four games, all won by Southampton, to reignite talk of an England call-up. He departed before the end, substituted, with the cheers of his club's fans and the hurt jeers of the West Ham supporters ringing in his ears.

Angry boos rang out at the final whistle and there would have been more volume had so many not already departed. "You should have stayed at the Boleyn (strictly speaking Upton Park)," gleefully sang those Southampton supporters as they trolled their opponents.

"We've got more fans than you," they added as they surveyed the acres of empty seats after the angry exodus. For a moment, at the end, Slaven Bilic stood motionless in the vast technical area, deep in thought. What can go wrong is going wrong, the West Ham manager said later adding: "My team. My responsibility. And I am taking it."

For all the fears over the new ground, over security, ticketing, segregation and the suitability of moving to the Olympic Stadium, there were no disturbances. Except on the pitch. It was three goals and, captain Mark Noble later claimed, it could have been six as West Ham's defence collapsed again.

Eleven goals have been conceded in the last three league games - 16 in six - with that terrible statistic compounded by the fact that the last three losses have been to Watford (4-2) West Bromwich Albion (4-2) and Southampton. The home match against Middlesbrough next Saturday, the last game before the international break, takes on even greater significance in terms of mood and trajectory.

Beyond that they face Crystal Palace away and Sunderland at home and if points are not -gathered quickly, the pressure will mount hugely on Bilic. He knows that. He also knows that the credit for the achievements of last season - seventh in the Premier League with a host of outstanding performances - is running out. Not just for him but for below-par players such as Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini, Cheikhou Kouyate and, yes, Noble.

The new signings, also, are struggling to impress. This was not a good day for Simone Zaza - booked for diving in search of a penalty - Havard Nordtveit or substitute Sofiane Feghouli. West Ham have been hit by a "perfect storm", as Bilic acknowledged, of the stadium move, new players and, above all, injuries. The season is crashing around them and they are in rising danger and need to stabilise quickly.

Of course, it remains ridiculously early to talk of crisis and Bilic, for all the problems, remains a very good - and honest - manager who will work tirelessly to turn this around and deserves the opportunity. Maybe, in this case, it really is the players who have to look at themselves first as there was a fearful listlessness and lack of intensity to everything they attempted to do.

It was a meandering, aimless encounter until West Ham were easily cut open just before half-time for the kind of goal that Southampton manager Claude Puel will point to as evidence that his reworking of the team and their style of play is reaping its slick rewards. Steven Davis, one of those tidy, clever, hard-working midfielders who is relentlessly excellent, initiated with Dusan Tadic then played Ryan Bertrand into a position where he could cut the ball back for Austin to pass calmly beyond Adrian and into the net. It was the first shot on target and an accomplished goal.

The West Han goalkeeper denied Tadic superbly but, time and again, his defence was being bypassed or caught out. They were also complicit as Winston Reid won the ball but then allowed Kouyate to take over. The midfielder's control let him down as he was dispossessed easily by the razor-sharp Davis. Nathan Redmond then found Austin, whose brilliant first-time pass picked out Tadic. He jinked past Adrian to shoot home.

West Ham needed something desperately and pleaded for a penalty when Feghouli's fierce shot was blocked by Bertrand with his arms outstretched. Referee Jonathan Moss looked long and hard but awarded a corner instead.

Then Payet fired narrowly wide before substitute Ashley Fletcher flicked the ball past goalkeeper Fraser Forster from close range, only for Virgil van Dijk to hack it off the goal-line.

But that was it. Southampton hit back and can point to chances for Tadic, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and James Ward-Prowse before the -latter, who had come on as a substitute, added the third goal in injury time. Redmond once more combined with Davis, who burst through to pull the ball back. Ward-Prowse simply sidefooted into the corner of the net.

West Ham remain in the bottom three with just three points. This time at the London Stadium there was no crowd trouble. Instead of a riot there was a rout.

16: No side has conceded as many Premier League goals as West Ham this season

5: West Ham have lost five of their first six top-flight games for the first time in their history

2.7: They are conceding 2.7 goals per game this seas

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