Being a part of the West Ham squad over the past two seasons has looked like pretty good fun.
Successive top-seven finishes in the Premier League have brought European football back to east London, with the high point being their memorable run past Sevilla and Lyon to the Europa League semi-finals last season.
Hammers fans have also been able to savour wins against Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea, with their team doing as much as anyone to loosen the grip of the ‘big six’ clubs at the top of the division.
But the problem with being a club that proves itself capable of beating the best sides in the country and reaching European semi-finals is that other teams begin treating you like one.
That is the key reason for West Ham’s sluggish start to the season, according to Lukasz Fabianski who, as the club’s No 1 goalkeeper, has been at the centre of their rise in recent seasons.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, Fabianski explained: “Apart from the three games we played against the ‘top six’ clubs, what we’re finding now is that probably we are the team that is a lot more in possession.
“It wasn’t the case always in the previous seasons, so I think that’s some sort of sign of respect towards us as a team. We are being seen differently, which on one side is a really good thing [but] now we have to adjust the way we play as it’s not the way it was.
“Before, maybe we were a little more direct and relied a lot more on counter-attacks and set-pieces and we were a very powerful team. Now we are finding sometimes in the games that we are playing a lot more positional attack and that’s something a little bit different for us.
“We are working in training to try to improve and find the best way to attack teams when the game is like that. I think that’s not a big surprise but we can see the effect of us doing so well in the past three years. I think that’s what’s changed.”
The evidence from West Ham’s four matches against teams outside the traditional big six so far this season help to back up Fabianski’s expert opinion.
The Hammers registered more shots on goal than Everton, Nottingham Forest and Brighton when they met, yet found themselves on the end of a defeat on all three occasions. They were particularly dominant at the City Ground, where they drew a blank despite recording 58 per cent possession, a missed penalty and two shots against the woodwork.
Teams outside the big six are also taking fewer shots against West Ham and scoring fewer goals than they were last season. But with teams seemingly playing more conservatively against them, Fabianski remains hopeful West Ham can “turn those losses into wins” simply by “changing small things.”
‘Quality of new signings is amazing’
Lucas Paqueta became West Ham’s record signing after joining from Lyon for £51m
Not only has West Ham’s success on the pitch over the past two seasons caused their opponents to approach them differently, but the huge investment in their squad has drawn further attention.
Nearly £180m was spent on nine new players in the most recent transfer window, making West Ham the third-highest spenders in the country.
But the majority of those new arrivals are yet to find their feet at the London Stadium. Thilo Kherer has already started five Premier League games, but Lucas Paqueta, Gianluca Scamacca, Maxwel Cornet, Emerson, Flynn Downes and Alphonse Areola only have five starts between them, while Nayef Aguerd is yet to make his debut due to injury.
But Fabianski, who has started every Premier League game this season, is not concerned.
“The jump is quite big when you come from a different league – maybe not in terms of the way you play, but I think the intensity is much different,” said the former Arsenal and Swansea stopper. “That’s something that you always have to adjust to and that takes time.
“Some players, they just quickly transition, but in different cases you need a bit more game time. It just comes from playing a lot more games and experiencing the intensity of the league, the physicality of the league, the strength of this league.
“I believe with playing more games the players will get used to it. It’s not something that we as players really worry about.”
Fabianski is West Ham’s No 1 in the Premier League, while Alphonse Areola plays in Europe
Fabianski is confident the quality of West Ham’s new recruits will soon come to the fore. In fact, the former Poland international is so impressed by his new team-mates that he says they were one of the factors in his decision to sign a new one-year deal at the London Stadium in the summer.
“If you look at the players who came in this summer in training, sometimes you are amazed by the quality,” he said. “I think the quality players always find a way to settle in, so we should be OK.
“Since I joined, I just really enjoy playing for this club and working with people at this club. I think the group of people we have is unique – it’s one of the best I’ve ever experienced.
“With what we’ve done in the last two years and the way we’ve progressed as a club and a group of players, I think you just want to continue to be part of it. I know the start of the season is not ideal for us but I still believe.
“With the transfer business we added quality players, so you feel this club is really trying to move forward and develop into something bigger.”
‘Too early to talk about league table’
As befits a goalkeeper with more than 300 Premier League appearances under his belt, Fabianski is also relaxed about West Ham’s current standing in the fledgling league table.
The Hammers lie 18th and will remain in the drop zone if they fail to beat 17th-placed Wolves at the London Stadium on Saturday – live on Sky Sports – but the 37-year-old says it is too early to panic about occupying one of the relegation places.
“Obviously we are aware,” Fabianski said of West Ham’s league position. “But now we have to be calm about the situation.
“In terms of the players, we have improved so much – even compared to last season – when it comes to the quality we have in the changing room. We need to be confident.
“It’s too early in the season to talk about going above them [Wolves] or going out of the relegation zone. It’s more about us clicking in the best way possible to then go and make a really good run of games.
“There will be losses and draws, but it’s more about good performances so you know you’re on the right path. [The Wolves] game, in my opinion, is all about the win – it’s not about jumping out the relegation zone.
“Winning gives you a confidence and then going into the next game you will be in a better mental state to make a good run.
“We just want to climb as high as we can in the table. I think as a club we are better than just being out of the relegation zone, so that’s not really our aim, to just to be above it. We want to continue what we have done in the past three years.”
‘Conference League success would be remembered forever’
While West Ham have endured a disappointing start domestically, their Europa Conference League campaign has been anything but.
Moyes’ side have won all four of their matches in the competition to date, meaning supporters would be forgiven for already dreaming of going one better than they managed in the Europa League last season and reaching a European final.
West Ham’s supporters would not be alone. While regular No 2 Areola has been handed the gloves in the Conference League up to now, Fabianski knows how much it would mean for his and his team-mates’ legacies if they were able to secure European glory.
“Experiencing last year the Europa League, we know we can get up there in the Conference League,” said Fabianski. “That’s something we want to go for.
“What we experienced last year in the Europa, you can’t really compare it to anything else.
“If you do a good run, you can write your name in the history of this football club.
“As a football player you always want to be remembered and I think by doing things like the Europa League last year – and hopefully the Conference League this year – you can achieve something special, something extra where you’ll be remembered forever.
“As a part of this group, I would love to again be on a great journey.”