Everton return to action after the international break when West Ham United visit Goodison Park on Sunday.
While the Blues are unbeaten after four matches under new boss Marco Silva, with one win and three draws, the Hammers have lost every league game with Manuel Pellegrini, who replaced David Moyes as manager in May.
Evertonians will be hoping for a repeat of the last time they hosted West Ham United, when Wayne Rooney scored a hat-trick - the third goal coming from his own half - in a 4-0 thumping last November.
⚽️ | @WayneRooney's strike from inside his own half against @WestHamUtd has been nominated for November's @PremierLeague Goal of the Month. #EFC— Everton (@Everton) December 6, 2017
Vote ➡️ https://t.co/W29yL4HXR1 pic.twitter.com/Ahw3vkmnKX
Ahead of Sunday’s match, RBM spoke to Jack Kavanagh (@JackKavanagh), a writer for SB Nation’s Brace the Hammer, a dedicated blog for all things West Ham United.
Jack chatted about the Hammers’ horrendous start to the season and what he expects from the weekend’s game:
RBM: It’s been the worst possible beginning to the new season for West Ham, losing all four league matches. Have they played as badly as their shocking start suggests?
Jack: We have been bad. The most worrying part of this season is that West Ham have been legitimately terrible since the start of the season. There were some less depressing moments such as taking the lead against Arsenal, but the grim reality came crashing down in a crushing 3-1 loss.
Worst of all was the abysmal performance against Wolves; the players gave up and we were thoroughly outplayed at home by mediocre opposition. Adama Traoré scoring a last-minute winner was the fitting way to complete such a poor performance.
RBM: The new stadium has been a well-documented issue. What do you think of it and is it still as big a problem for the club as it was at first?
Jack: For our second season in the London Stadium it was hoped the team would make a good start, with decent results on the pitch creating the positive energy needed to get the fans on-side. While the London Stadium does have several critical limitations, mostly due to the distance from the pitch, we can no longer use it as an excuse for the poor results.
West Ham are going to be in the stadium for the foreseeable and I enjoy walking into such a prestigious and large stadium. But it won’t feel like home until the club sorts itself out on the pitch and creates a better atmosphere for the players.
RBM: West Ham’s board have come in for a lot of criticism in recent years, but spent more than £80 million on summer signings and attracted a Premier League-winning manager in Pellegrini.
How much can they be blamed for the club’s issues at the moment?
Jack: I can’t remember such a positive summer for West Ham; the club was making progressive and sensible transfers. It appeared that David Sullivan was no longer controlling a bizarre, lopsided transfer policy and everyone was happy.
The owners financially backed the team and spent more money than I can recently remember. It seems now the problem with the team is due to chemistry issues caused by adding nine first team players and expecting it to all work out. I love to critique the Hammer’s ownership but it doesn’t feel like they’re to blame for once.
RBM: West Ham have been compared with last year’s Everton side, when a great deal of pre-season optimism caused by several big-money signings quickly disappeared after a terrible start, and the aim became simply to avoid relegation.
Is West Ham’s target this year just to survive now?
Jack: It’s easy to forget that West Ham and Everton both had bad starts to the 2017/18 season, but the Hammers again started the season bottom of the league after three games. I will never forget that [Wayne] Rooney hat-trick against West Ham after the squad was supposedly mentally checked out.
I am encouraged that Everton managed to finish that season in eighth. Perhaps I am an especially deluded Hammer, but I think we can recover from this poor start and aspire to have our campaign defined by more than avoiding dropping into the Championship.
RBM: Evertonians are obviously familiar with Pellegrini’s predecessor, David Moyes. What did you make of him and would you have liked to see him stay on?
Jack: David Moyes had a very difficult job taking over a club in freefall. In November 2017 he signed a six-month contract to manage West Ham, then 18th in the Premier League with nine points from eleven games. His first four games weren’t encouraging - including an embarrassing 4-0 spanking at Goodison Park - and we only took a single point, at home to Leicester City.
Moyes rectified the toxic atmosphere, inspired Marko Arnautovic to become Hammer of the Year and solidified the team in mid-table. The Scotsman did a remarkable job at West Ham and he was treated unfairly in favour of a big-name manager. I was one of the fans who supported a managerial change, but in hindsight it might not have been such a clever move.
RBM: With home fixtures against Chelsea and Man Utd to come, could Pellegrini face the sack if West Ham lose at Goodison Park, or should he be given more time?
Jack: Manuel Pellegrini is a manager of undeniable quality, arguably one of the best ‘on paper’ managers West Ham have had in their history. However, despite being a Premier League winner, he has spent the last couple of years chilling in China, which does raise legitimate concerns about his competitive spirit.
Can someone who has been coasting in a lesser league help the squad dig deep and recover from an awful start?
RBM: How do you expect West Ham to set up on Sunday?
Jack: Recently, Pellegrini has favoured a 4-5-1 with two central midfielders; in the last couple of games this has been Jack Wilshere and Carlos Sanchez. We conceded four goals in these matches, which shows how much protection this has given the defence.
I don’t think this system is flawed, we didn’t concede against Wolves for until a last minute lapse in concentration gifted them a goal. After the international break I am expecting the squad to have greater comfort in the system and the manager’s expectations so I hope we perform better here.
RBM: Which of West Ham’s players do you think could cause Everton the most problems?
Jack: Marko Arnautovic is our danger man; interesting fact: he’s the only player to have scored a league goal for the club. In fact, he has two of them. Based on these depressing, yet compelling statistics, Arnie is the only Hammer we can have faith in at this point.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s game?
Jack: We have to win at some point! I doubt we are capable of keeping a clean sheet so I am predicting a 3-1 win.
Our thanks to Jack for his time. You can read RBM’s interview with Brace the Hammer here.