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Why Slaven Bilic’s West Ham are the new giant-killers of the Premier League

COMMENT: Before this season, West Ham United had never beaten Arsenal and Liverpool away in the same campaign, in 119 seasons of competitive football.

They achieved that feat in the first four weeks of this season.

No big deal.

Arsenal and Liverpool are hardly the unbeatable clubs they were in yesteryear anyway. A couple of fluke victories were bound to happen sometime, right?


These were no fluke victories. And when the Hammers beat league leaders Manchester City 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium at the weekend, they confirmed themselves as the Premier League's modern day giant killers.

There were a few eyebrows raised when Slaven Bilic was appointed gaffer of the East Londoners back in early June, and plenty more were raised when he made the unusual decision not to take charge of his first game as manager in July.

Bilic left the managerial duties for a Europa League qualifier to youth coach Terry Westley that night, instead staying back in Ireland with half of his squad on a team training camp.

After an ultimately unsuccessful Europa League qualification campaign, what has happened since has been nothing short of amazing.

The Hammers sit third (the same as their highest ever finish which came in the 1999/00 season) with three wins away from home against three of England's big guns. To put it into perspective, they failed to take a single point from those same away clashes last season.

Had they not tripped up and let four goals in against Bournemouth, or taking more of the host of chances they created against Leicester City, they may even be higher.

Make no mistake, this is all Bilic's work.

The Croatian turned over a brand new squad in the summer, bringing in 14 new faces, and letting 17 players head for the Upton Park exit door.

Dimitri Payet is probably the most impressive of the new boys, with the Frenchman impressing with power and skill in the early part of this campaign. Angelo Ogbonna, Pedro Obiang and Manuel Lanzini have also proved shrewd acquisitions.

Bilic has also shown faith in the youngsters, blooding teenagers Reece Oxford (16-years-old) and Josh Cullen (19).

The Hammers usually set up with 8 or 9 players behind the ball against the big sides, before the likes of Payet, Diafra Sakho and Lanzini break with pace. It is a classic strategy employed by Premier League underdogs, but Bilic has been able to acquire the right players to execute the game plan to perfection.

The win against City ended that club's 11-game Premier League winning streak, and was also the first time City had conceded this season. If Sunday's smash and grab win was impressive, then the victories against Arsenal and Liverpool were even better, considering West Ham were in complete control on both of those occasions.

The Hammers still have the likes of Andy Carroll, Nikica Jelavic and Alex Song up their sleeve, all of whom have had interrupted starts to the season. If Bilic can figure out a way to get the points against the lower ranked sides, starting with this week's clash with Norwich City, then Hammers fans may well be in for the ride of their life this season.

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Tim McGlone
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Tim McGlone

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