West Ham have had some difficult fixtures early this season and have lost all four of their Premier League games.

But then again, the Hammers had some tricky games early in the 2015/16 season, where the outcome was a little different.

In Slaven Bilic’s first season in charge of West Ham, he led the side to away victories against Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City in his first three away games.

West Ham United’s Croatian manager Slaven Bilic (L) celebrates after his team won 3-0 during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and West Ham at the Anfield stadium in Liverpool, north-west England on August 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / LINDSEY PARNABY RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo credit should read LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP/Getty Images)

West Ham ended that season in 7th place. Bilic helped the Hammers qualify for Europe. It was a perfect farewell to Upton Park.

Since then, the side has changed dramatically. We look at Bilic’s favoured XI and compare it to Pellegrini’s preferred starting line-up.

Slaven Bilic’s 2015/16 side

The undoubted star of this team was Dimitri Payet. The Frenchman oozed class with deceptive skill and a wonderful free-kick.

Dimitri Payet of West Ham United celebrates scoring during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Crystal Palace at Boleyn Ground on April 2, 2016 in London, England

The players around him upped their game; Manuel Lanzini was sensational, Michail Antonio worked hard and got on the end of crosses, Carl Jenkinson was solid at the back and Cheikhou Kouyate offered non-stop running in midfield.

There is no surprise that this team performed so well, with all the players pulling in the right direction.

Manuel Pellegrini’s 2018/19 side

Some players still remain from Bilic’s era. Adrian is still at the club but summer signing Lukasz Fabianski is the preferred choice.

Angelo Ogbonna remains at centre-half, although his partner Winston Reid seems to be perpetually sidelined.

 

He is joined by Lanzini on the injury list, while Mark Noble is still going strong. Antonio and Aaron Cresswell have been shadows of the players they once were.

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 01: Michail Antonio of West Ham United is challenged by Jonny Otto of Wolverhampton Wanderers during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at London Stadium on September 1, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

The new players are Felipe Anderson – who will be desperate to fill Lanzini’s void – and Robert Snodgrass, who is not quite the same level as the magical Payet.

It is too early yet to compare Ryan Fredericks with Jenkinson and Fabian Balbuena is also bedding in, while Jack Wilshere is a different player entirely to Kouyate, but has had a slow start.

Marko Arnautovic is an upgrade on the strikers West Ham had in 2015/16.

How would a joint team look?

It’s tough to compare these two sides after just four games under Pellegrini. But the early signs are indicating that things were a lot better under Bilic.

The defence looked more resolute, Noble, Cresswell and Antonio in 2015/16 were much better than they have been in 2018/19, and Payet orchestrated the whole show.

There are hopes that Anderson turns out to be a new Payet. There are hopes that Fredericks can replicate Jenkinson’s first-season success at West Ham. Fabianski looks solid between the sticks.

It would be very helpful if Cresswell, Noble and Antonio suddenly returned to their best form.

But the Hammers have been less than convincing so far. It is going to take a while before any of the new signings (other than Fabianski) are pushing for a spot in the joint XI.

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