After a slightly disappointing season in 2017/18 under David Moyes, West Ham United have spent big this summer as they look to challenge for the Europa League qualifying spots.
2017/18 was West Ham’s second season at the London Stadium and following the impressive summer signings of Marko Arnautovic, Javier Hernandez and Joe Hart, hopes and expectations were certainly high. However, things did not exactly go to plan. Following a poor start to the season, Slavan Bilic was sacked in November and David Moyes was hired to steady the ship. This is precisely what he did initially, but unfortunately, a run of poor form which included back-to-back 4-1 defeats to Liverpool and Swansea, followed by a 3-0 home defeat to Burnley, led to some very ugly scenes at the London Stadium. Tempers flared amongst fans, with some even invading the pitch. Nevertheless, Moyes did eventually manage to rally his troops and finish in a respectable 13th position – a decent job from a man attempting to re-establish his credibility as a football manager. Ultimately, this was not enough for him to keep his job.
Manager and Preferred Tactics
West Ham fans have every right to be excited about their new manager for the upcoming season. Manuel Pellegrini is a manager with genuine pedigree and a proven winner. His most notable achievement is winning the Premier League title with Manchester City in 2013/14. Pellegrini remains highly flexible with his choices of formation, having used a 4-2-3-1, a 4-3-3 and even a 4-2-2-2 formation during his time at Manchester City. More recently, whilst coaching in China, the Chilean manager tended to use a 4-1-4-1 formation. This would quickly transition into a 4-3-3 formation in possession as the two wingers joined the lone striker in attack, with the two central midfielders remaining in the centre of the pitch, just in front of the defensive midfielder. Given the shrewd acquisitions of Jack Wilshere, Filipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmelenko, these two interchangeable formations could potentially work wonders for the Hammers this season.
One player who really came into form when West Ham needed him most last season was Marko Arnautovic. The Austrian striker would fit perfectly into Manuel Pellegrini’s flexible system as he possesses the ability to drop deep and run with the ball, whilst also being able to move out wide and allow other players such as Felipe Anderson to adopt a more central position. Javier Hernandez is another player West Ham are able to rely on in attack. Despite a tough debut season there is no denying his immense poaching ability and superb hold up play, something he has proven several times throughout his career.
The captaincy at West Ham is one issue that new manager Manuel Pellegrini will not have to concern himself with at all. The tough-tackling central midfielder Mark Noble will once again wear the captain’s armband this season, and will probably continue to do so until retirement. Noble will most likely play a slightly more advanced role than either Pedro Obiang or new signing Carlos Sanchez, but deeper than another summer arrival, Jack Wilshere. He is a true leader on the pitch and possesses all the leadership qualities that fans want to see in their captain. If more West Ham players played with the same attitude and conviction as Noble, the Hammers would find themselves much higher up the table than they have been in recent years.
It is certainly no exaggeration to say that West Ham have had an incredible transfer window thus far. They have strengthened almost every position they have needed to in a very efficient manner. They signed the ever-dependable Lukasz Fabianksi from relegated Swansea – someone who at the age of 33 still has a fair few years to prove himself as West Ham’s new number 1. Ryan Fredericks also arrived on a free transfer, and he provides a much younger and pacier option to the ageing but highly experienced Pablo Zabaleta. West Ham also added two new central defenders to their squad; the young but highly rated Issa Diop from Toulouse; and the ex-Corinthians captain Fabian Balbuena. This will give much needed competition to Angelo Ogbonna and Winston Reid, who have palpably let their performances drop recently.
Another smart free signing for the Hammers was that of Jack Wilshere. On his day and given an injury-free season, Wilshere could play a crucial role for West Ham this season with his excellent ball carrying ability, linking the defence and attack. Andriy Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson are both very exciting wingers who have proved their worth in the Bundesliga and Serie A respectively. These two stars will be able to push high up the pitch and join Marko Arnautovic in attack, whilst also being able to drop into the number 10 position if needed. To provide likely back-up to the Austrian international, Lucas Perez was signed from Arsenal in a £4 million deal.
These signings all constitute an impressive transfer window for West Ham United. If they can continue to gel together throughout pre-season and learn to convert Pellegrini’s system and tactics, Hammers fans might finally see the West Ham they were promised before the stadium move.
There is no denying that West Ham have struggled since the controversial move to the London Stadium. Their fans were given a glimpse of what life as a real contender could be like after a successful campaign during the 2015/16 season. Since then, the club have only gone backwards. But now there is a different feel at the club; the owners have listened to fans’ protests and brought in the best possible manager available and backed him heavily in the transfer market. A top half finish seems to be a realistic goal for West Ham this season and something the fans would surely be satisfied with in Pellegrini’s first year in charge. The early signs from this year’s transfer window have been extremely promising from a West Ham perspective. However, with greater expectations comes greater pressure, and if the results don’t follow, you can expect yet more angry voices from Hammer’s fans.