Could West Ham have another shot at Champions League qualification this season?
Two points is all that came between West Ham United and qualification for the Champions League for the first time in their history last season. There was a point at which it looked likely that the competition’s famous anthem would ring around the London Stadium but the Hammers had to make do with the Europa League.
At the time, it seemed that West Ham had missed their one and only chance to pull up a seat at the top table of the European game. Circumstances, including the relative weakness of a number of ‘Big Six’ clubs, were in the favour of David Moyes’ West Ham side, yet the Champions League remained out of touch.
Now, though, the Hammers are giving themselves another shot at the top four. With eight rounds of fixtures of the 2021/22 Premier League campaign complete, the East London outfit are just one point off the top four having lost just twice. Far from dropping off, Moyes’ team might just have built on the success of last season.
The 1-0 away win over Everton on Sunday illustrated the strength currently at the London Stadium with Moyes so ambitious he was unhappy with the manner of victory. “I was annoyed because I thought our play warranted more goals from it or even if we had clear opportunities created from it,” said the Scottish coach. “But credit to Everton, they defended the box well when we got there and we didn’t show enough in the final third.”
West Ham are currently one of the best-coached teams in the Premier League and Moyes must take credit for that. The Scot was widely written off after an underwhelming first stint with the Hammers, but he has achieved vindication by building a side capable of competing against anyone.
In Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek, West Ham boast one of the best midfield pairings in English football and one that certainly wouldn’t look out of place in the Champions League. Rice in particular has reached another level this season with the 22-year-old giving the Hammers structure, protection and even goal threat in the centre of the pitch. There’s a reason West Ham reportedly want £100m for the player believed to be on radar of numerous rivals.
Jesse Lingard was such an influential figure for the Hammers in the second half of last season that many predicted Moyes would struggle to fill the England international’s void after his return to parent club, Manchester United. However, Saed Benrahma has picked up where Lingard left off by giving West Ham a spark in the attacking third.
Michail Antonio continues to prove himself as one of the most effective centre forwards in the Premier League at this moment in time while the energy of Jarrod Bowen and the guile of Pablo Fornals makes West Ham an accomplished attacking outfit. There is balance to their play in the final third of the pitch.
At the back, a lack of clean sheets has frustrated Moyes, but the likes of Vladimir Coufal, Angelo Ogbonna and Aaron Creswell give West Ham strength in defence. The summer addition of Kurt Zouma from Chelsea has also fortified the Hammers at the back, as demonstrated by the Frenchman’s impressive display at Goodison Park on Sunday.
Sunday will see West Ham host Tottenham Hotspur. Victory over a close rival would underline the chance Moyes and his players still have of finishing in the top four this season. The Hammers’ away win over Everton, along with wins over Leeds United, Manchester United and Leicester City this term, prove they are a force to be reckoned with. West Ham might still end up playing the Champions League anthem at the London Stadium.
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