West Ham United: 2021 European Challengers or Pretenders

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LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 15: Declan Rice of West Ham celebrates with teammate Jesse Lingard after scoring their team's first goal during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Sheffield United at London Stadium on February 15, 2021 in London, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

West Ham United has had the best start to a Premier League season in their 125-year history. After 22 games, the hammers currently sit in 5th place with 38 points. Coming off an impressive 3-1 win at Villa Park, it is a real possibility that West Ham will find themselves in a European Spot at the end of the season.

But, in order to achieve the goal of playing in Europe, West Ham will have to keep up their incredible form. With an upcoming stretch of fixtures that includes Tottenham, Manchester City and Leeds, continuing to pick up points will be huge. But just how did West Ham get to where they are? Let’s discuss it.

Good Transfer Business

The first signing that West Ham made in the summer was making the loan deal they had for Tomas Soucek permanent. What an addition Soucek would turn out to be. To make the deal permanent, West Ham would have to pay Slavia Prague around $18 million, not including the initial loan payment. In his 22 appearances this season, Soucek has 8 goals, which leads all midfielders in the Premier League excluding penalty kicks. With him only being 25 years old, his partnership with Declan Rice in the middle of the park will keep West Ham near the top of the table.

West Ham United’s Tomas Soucek leads all Premier League midfielders in non-penalty goals this season.

West Ham also went out and got Said Benrahma on loan from Brentford. What started out as a loan with an obligation to buy in the summer of 2021, turned into a permanent signing in January for the obligated $26 million. So far in his West Ham stint, he has been very valuable for the hammers. Even though he has yet to score, he does have 3 assists in his 14 league appearances. But what’s been more impressive is his ability to control the midfield. His touch, combined with his skill allows him to beat defenders on a regular basis.

Arguably the best bit of business that West Ham has done this season was the signing of Vladimir Coufal from Slavia Prague. Since coming to the Premier League, he has made the starting eleven in all but one game, away at St. Mary’s Park against Southhampton. Coufal has 3 assists in his 18 appearances, but it is the work rate that has won over West Ham fans. He is almost always covering the most ground in a game. He is also very solid defensively. But what is most impressive is his attacking work rate. He is not afraid to bomb up the pitch to play a ball into Michail Antonio.

In the summer, West Ham really needed cover at the center back position. And they got just that with Craig Dawson. Craig Dawson was not a team sheet regular until recently. Dawson got his first start against Southampton. In his first start, he helped keep a clean sheet, and has not been left out of the staring eleven since. His leadership and aerial threat is a huge boost for the West Ham squad. In just 7 Premier League appearances, he has 2 goals and has helped clean 3 clean sheets.

The last bit of business that West Ham United did was a little less than a week ago. One of the most important things for them to do was to bring in midfield depth, and they did just that with the loan of Jesse Lingard from Manchester United. Jesse Lingard has not appeared in a Premier League game this year for United, and in his first game for the hammers, he bagged himself a brace. David Moyes has said that if he can continue to perform, that West Ham will look to make his move permanent in the summer.

Jesse Lingard for West Ham United
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 15: Jesse Lingard of West Ham United during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Sheffield United at London Stadium on February 15, 2021 in London, United Kingdom. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

David Moyes

A major factor as to where West Ham currently stands in the Premier League table is manager David Moyes. This is David Moyes’s second stint with West Ham United, and it has been amazing for Moyes. Moyes came back last season after manager Manuel Pelligrini was sacked following a poor start to the season. Moyes came to the London Stadium with West Ham in 17th position, only out of the drop zone on goal difference. Since that time, he has completely changed the identity of his team. West Ham is now a very hardworking team that defends very well. They are a very hard team to break down. For the most part, Moyes has got his tactics spot on.

The West Ham United Push for Europe

While West Ham is not considered a “Big 6” team, they sure are making a case of being in that group this season. While the hammers still have 15 games to go, they are still very much in the running to finish in a European spot. Though, their odds have decreased with recent injury news. Angelo Ogbonna, who has been a standout for the hammers in defense this season, will be out for 6 weeks following an injury in the FA Cup tie against Manchester United. Andriy Yarmolenko also sustained an injury in the same game, which will put him out for the remainder of the season.

West Ham United have real potential to finish in a European spot. Only time will tell if they can keep up their current run of form, and get back to where they belong!

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Main Image Credit- Embed from Getty Images

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