Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Premier League Season in Review: West Ham

West Ham delighted fans as the club moved from near relegation in the prior season to climb to sixth in the table, qualify for Europa League, and post the club’s highest top-flight finish in 22 years. A 26-point improvement over their 16th place 2019/20 campaign provided redemption for manager David Moyes. The Scotsman enjoyed his best season as a manager since a successful final 2012/13 season at Everton before embarking on an odyssey of failed projects at Manchester United, Real Sociedad, Sunderland, and a previous stop at West Ham. The building of a squad which posted West Ham’s highest ever Premier League point total is a credit to the veteran manager as well as long criticized West Ham ownership.

Transfer dealings, a subject of criticism prior to the season following the sale of young defender Grady Diangana, proved critical to the Hammer’s rise. Former Slavia Prague teammates Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal were essential to the turnaround in their first full year with the club. Midfielder Soucek was joint top scorer for the club with ten goals. Coufal was second on the team in assists, his total of seven matching the output of Liverpool fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. 24-year-old Jarrod Bowen, who along with Soucek joined the club midway through the prior season, played in all 38 league matches and accounted for eight goals and five assists. Jesse Lingard, a mid-season loan acquisition from Manchester United, energized the team with nine goals and four assists in only 16 league starts. Craig Dawson was a valuable contributor in defense, making 22 league starts on loan from Watford. Said Benrahma, signed from Brentford, struggled to impress before finding consistency toward season end. Benrahma has the potential to be a key contributor going forward as Lingard appears unlikely to return.

The transfer additions complemented existing talent within the Hammers’ ranks. Striker Michail Antonio was joint top scorer with Soucek, despite continuing hamstring injury problems. Aaron Cresswell led all league defenders in assists. English international Declan Rice continued his rise as one of the best young defensive midfielders in the league.

The Hammers found their footing by winning eight of 11 league matches to open the calendar year and showed their mettle with two wins and a draw in their final three matches to cinch European competition. A heavier match schedule will now challenge the depth of a Hammer squad which needs an additional striker option to complement the oft injured Antonio and adequate replacement of Lingard’s production should the midfielder not return. The club also needs to retain the services of young captain Declan Rice who is attracting the attention of larger rivals. The fairy tale 2020/21 season resulted in a new three-year contract for Moyes.

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