Slaven Bilic believes West Ham were lucky to be in the top four this time last year – insisting his team will not suffer the same slide down the table.
Under former boss Sam Allardyce the Hammers sat fourth on Christmas Day just nine points off the top of the table before a disastrous run that saw them win just three Premier League games over the rest of the campaign.
Allardyce then departed at the end of the season and Bilic has overseen another strong start with West Ham now third in the table ahead of Saturday’s trip to Watford.
With victories already recorded over Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea in their opening 10 games, the Hammers are flying high again similar to the way they were 12 months ago.
But Bilic reckons last year’s team were in a false position having benefited from luck during the opening months of the season.
“I think it is very simple,” the Croatian said about why the good start tailed off spectacularly in the new year.
“I think that in the first half of the season, in some games, we were a little bit lucky last year. We were winning, deservedly, but we were winning 2-0, like after 10 or 15 minutes or whatever and then the opponent hit the post.
“And after that (start), you are in a comfort zone because you lost a little bit of motivation because you know you can’t catch those that dream of a top six finish.
“On the other hand, you are not hungry as Leicester were because they were fighting for their lives. And it’s only that two per cent or five per cent.
“It’s invisible and it’s that difference from overdrive to a comfort zone and that’s it.”
Victory at Vicarage Road could yet see West Ham top the table after the weekend if other results go their way. Chairman David Sullivan insists the club can win the title.
Bilic believes his current crop of players will not fall off the pace and does not buy into the idea of key individuals being found out by the opposition – pointing to some interesting examples.
“That finding out how they play, I’ve never bought that cliche,” he said.
“We all know how Lionel Messi is playing, or how Cristiano Ronaldo is playing, or how Zinedine Zidane, or how Gary Neville is playing – I rate him but we all know how he was defending but he was defending very successfully for all his life.
“And the coaches were coming to the wingers and saying: ‘Look, go there or go there, it is his weaker side or not.’ He was the best right back in ages for England.
“I said Neville because it is obvious with Ronaldo or Messi but all good players, the people are trying to stop them or pass them. But they are not successful because that is why they are good players.
“It goes to some of our players as well. So the motivation well it’s all part of our job and my job to keep them on their toes and to keep them motivated.
“That is again what we are focussed on the side, analysing the side, planning the training, to keep them like that. Not to lose those two, three or five per cent that are crucial.”