Since switching to the Olympic stadium, West Ham United’s home form seems to have taken a dip but it’s not the first time a club has struggled to adapt to it’s new surroundings. There’s been a few stadium changes in the Premier League in recent years, with Arsenal’s switch to the Emirates being one of the biggest in English football history.
West Ham played their first fixture at the unfamiliar Stratford turf on 4th August in a Europa League qualifier against NK Domzale on a warm Thursday evening. The club’s previous record attendance was just over 42,000 when they faced Tottenham in 1970 so when 54,000 attended to watch the Hammers this summer it was a historic day. With Upton Park thrusted to the back of the fans’ memories, Cheikhou Kouyate kick-started life in the London 2012 arena by scoring the Hammers first goal, shortly after a rendition of ‘Forever Blowing Bubbles.’ West Ham thrashed their opponents and concerns over the unfamiliar surroundings were quickly forgotten.
However, the celebrations were short-lived when the Hammers then lost 2-3 at home to Juventus three days later and suffered four consecutive defeats against Astra Giurgiu, Manchester City, Watford and West Bromwich Albion going into the start of September. So far, West Ham have suffered three home defeats from their five matches as hosts and they’ve come against weak opponents. After finishing seventh in last season’s Premier League, there were high hopes for Bilic’s side this year but they’ve had an underwhelming start to the season. The 4-2 defeat at home against Watford was the most shocking of all and the Hammers have failed to really kick-start their season so far.
Statistically, they’ve struggled so far this season. West Ham have won just one of their opening five Premier League fixtures, losing all of the other four and two of those have been at home. They’ve already conceded 13 goals in the league, including two at home against Watford and since making the switch to the Olympic Stadium, they’ve conceded five goals and only scored six. The Hammers need to pick up form soon and with away victories coming too far and too few, they’ll be hoping to familiarise themselves with their new home surroundings soon.
As well as West Ham, three of England’s biggest club’s have undergone stadium changes in recent years and Liverpool were the latest club to celebrate a mass stadium expansion. The Main Stand extension, which added an additional 8,500 seats at Anfield, was the host arena for Liverpool’s Premier League clash with Leicester City and Jurgen Klopp’s side didn’t disappoint. They thrashed the reigning Premier League champions 4-1 in a ruthless victory in front of a full 54,000 capacity of watching supporters. If Liverpool’s start is anything to go by, the Reds could become serious contenders in the Premier League this season and their Main Stand expansion will surely only add further fire to their ambitious campaign under Klopp.
Before Manchester City became one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs, they were an average mid-table team. However, ten years on from making the switch to the Etihad stadium in 2003, they were the reigning Premier League champions and had become one of the biggest clubs in Europe. Now, with Pep Guardiola at the helm and a Champions League semi-final still in memory from last season, it seems they’ve come a long way. The Etihad was built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games and had a capacity of 38,000 which has now grown to 48,000. There’s been some more plans to add further tiers to the North and South stands, increasing the capacity to 62,000, but Manchester City have struggled to fill their current stands let alone accommodate for the second largest spectator number in the league.
Manchester City’s stadium switch cannot factor in for their success and there still remains frustration at the lack of spectators the club attracts. Pep Guardiola recently spoke of his disappointment for the lack of support at the ground but with money bursting out of their pockets, it seems the club won’t hesitate to expand further. Arsenal however, did have reason to move and when the Emirates stadium was unveiled in 2006, it was a truly exciting and historic moment for the Premier League. It could’ve been a nightmare start for the Gunners too, as it took a late strike from Brazilian midfielder Gilberto Silva to salvage a point against Aston Villa in the first league match at the Emirates.
Arsenal followed it up with a victory against Din Zagreb in the Champions League and a draw with Middlesbrough but it took them four weeks since the stadium’s unveiling to get their first home league win against Sheffield United on 23rd September. However, the switch didn’t bring much look and it kick-started a ten year wait for silverware as Arsenal had to wait until 2014 to lift the FA Cup and they’ve yet to regain the Premier League title since 2004. Maybe West Ham will have better luck? They’ll have to start pulling some serious results out of the bag though…