If West Ham continue leaking then Oxford graduation must follow
West Ham are enduring an unexpectedly rocky start to 2016/17 with their capitulation at home to Watford last time out, highlighting defensive issues in need of swift rectification.
The Hammers lie 17th in the early table on three points from four games and although early trips to Chelsea and Manchester City always had the potential for lean returns, those were away assignments that yielded four points last season.
If 2-1 and 3-1 defeats respectively were just about permissible, allowing Watford – who had only collected a point in three games before travelling to the London Stadium – to waltz past them 4-2 from a position of genuine comfort at 2-0 in front, was anything but.
In the aftermath of that Hornets horror show, West Ham manager Slaven Bilic correctly decreed that his side would not win another game all season if they ‘defended like that’ again, so what can be done ahead of the Irons’ next Premier League match at West Brom?
A change of personnel may be Bilic’s best course of action and although he’s young, their most touted defensive prospect since Rio Ferdinand is surely ready to answer the call.
It’s come to light in the past week that 17-year-old centre-half Reece Oxford will be kept out of the clutches of both Manchester powerhouses, for a while at least, when he signs a new and improved deal at the London Stadium shortly.
Oxford has featured twice in Europa League action this season, but is yet to cut his Premier League teeth in 2016/17 despite being named on the bench in three of the four matches to date.
The 6ft 3” defender played 90 minutes of the Hammers’ 3-0 win over Domzale and the 1-1 draw in Astra, performing very assuredly in both, while the Londoners lost both the qualifiers he didn’t take any part in.
Bilic has obviously been happy to begin the new campaign with his senior, trusted faces from last season, but none of Winston Reid, Angelo Ogbonna or James Collins have covered themselves in glory in top-flight action.
Collins put in a particularly ragged display against Watford, and although the 33-year-old generally gives his all, he could be suffering a little from a long summer stay at the Euros with Wales, albeit the centre-back didn’t feature as heavily as he would have liked.
It feels like Oxford must begin to justify the hype sooner rather than later and what better time to be thrust into the spotlight than when West Ham are in a defensive pickle.
Only bottom side Stoke have conceded more than the nine the Hammers have sieved so far.
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