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Why we come back

Filed: Thursday, 11th May 2017
By: Adam Smith

'Abysmal' would be the best way to describe the 2016-17 season, but a near perfect 1-0 win over London rivals Tottenham Hotspur quells this ugly truth for an moment.

Slaven Bilic employed the same tactics as West Ham's last outing and effectively shut down Tottenham's offensive trio of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen. With a smothering tactic, West Ham secured three points in what was far more than a just another meaningless end-of-season affair.

The goal scorer in this affair, the jewel of east London, Manuel Lanzini has been nothing short of superb this season (and in London derbies, specifically). His goal came from a broken play off a cross into the box from Aaron Cresswell, which eventually found its way to the #10.

Lanzini made no mistake, putting his whole body behind the ball and slotting it far side past the 'keeper and sprawling defender.

The magnitude of this goal is telling of Lanzini in 2017. Since the turmoil of January, he has stepped up and become the playmaker West Ham have needed to avoid relegation, battle top teams, and aim for the top of the table.

This season's downfall can be attributed to many things; Lanzini is not one of them. He has established himself in the minds of Hammers fans as the offensive sparkplug and is gaining attention around the Premier League and wider football world.

Moving forward, Lanzini must be the focal point of the West Ham offense. Forwards like Michail Antonio and Andre Ayew will maximize his ability to create but so too would a top-class striker. West Ham have many holes to fill in the summer transfer window and Lanzini should be thought of as the inspiration to these moves.

What the ever-so-important win over Tottenham has also proved is the Slaven Bilic may just be for real. Now one win does not cement anyoneís position (even winning the Premier League wont cement a job apparently) but Slav has certainly impressed in the last few games.

As a self-admitted Slav Outter, I have been swayed to at least see what he can accomplish in the Summer transfer window to grow the club. Why I have been swayed is a simple explanation - because he has changed his playstyle which has eliminated the reasons I wanted him gone, for the most part.

I understand playing three at the back is not technically new as it was used earlier this season, but its recent success in itís execution should be reason to credit the manager. As well, he has used players in their natural positions maximising the likes of Cheikhou Kouyate and Havard Nordtveit.

He has also used youngster Edmilson Fernandes at wing back - not his natural position, but one which has utilised his speed fantastically and allowed him to play up with the back three to support him defensively.

This season is far from a success and that cannot be overlooked when assessing the team. However, the positive end to the season that is hoped to be continued hosting Liverpool and visiting Burnley can at the very least allow for some restraint on the scorched earth mentality many supporters want for this team.

Getting back to the match, two men outside of Lanzini who stood out above the rest were Jose Fonte and Adrian. An absolute highlight from Fonte came in the first half when he blocked a Dele Alli shot. Simply put he has been getting more and more comfortable since his tumultuous beginnings at the club.

Fonte is playing alongside James Collins and Winston Reid and has adopted their hardnose, blocking-based defending. He can become a player that West Ham rally around, hopefully with more games next season he can be utilised alongside the depth at centre-back the Hammers currently have.

Adrian was sensational in this win. Unlike his last few games, he was called on multiple times for ten-bell saves. In a sequence that saw two shots from Harry Kane, Adrian deflected the initial attempt, Fonte blocked the Alli shot and then Adrian, who had stayed with the ball, made a stunner of a save with his left foot to send the ball to safety over the bar from Kane again.

This was reminiscent of the Adrian that tended last season for West Ham. He has taken a stranglehold on the 'keeper position again.

What Adrian offered in this game (and the previous few) is leadership at the back. He commands his defenders on set pieces and seems to calm the attack from the corners. The side in general has appeared less frantic than they did earlier this season. This calmness must come from having complete faith that your 'keeper can make the save if you miss, or that he will make the correct play to take the ball to safety.

Overall this is what would be considered a complete effort by the team. Players worked together to defend and move the ball into the attack. West Ham were able to creep into the Tottenham side and sustain possession while also counter-attacking with the likes of Ayew, Lanzini and even Jonathan Calleri.

With Kouyate now out for the last two games after undergoing surgery on his always-wrapped wrist, Nordtveit will step into the central midfield with Noble. These two, both cut from the same captain-material cloth, alongside alternate captain Reid and former Southampton captain Fonte, should lead the Hammers to more defensively strong games to end the season - hopefully rising in the table to West Hamís rightful position.

So why do us Hammers fans keep coming back? For the game described above, and because even a season wrought with disaster cannot stop our team from inspiring singing and dancing in the street over a stunner of a game.

The beauty of this game, this league and this team is that every match day provides new opportunity to rise above all else, and ďhave a party".. because Tottenham messed it up.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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