Another Rocky Year
West Ham’s first game of the 2019-20 season was played on 10 August against Manchester City. The Hammers lost 5-0 to Man City, and this first game seemed to set the tone for their entire season. As a team descended from a ship-building company known as Thames Ironworks, the club is used to rocky waters—and some may say they’ve made a lifestyle of it. To this day, the highest performance the team has delivered in the Premier League was third place in the 1985-86 season.
Fans and Premier League pundits alike are wondering what happened to West Ham this past season. While Manuel Pellegrini, a notable tactician, was released on amicable terms and cited by the club as a ‘gentleman’, it was apparent that his tactics weren’t enough to turn the Hammers’ fate around. After less than two seasons with the club, Pellegrini was released by West Ham’s higher management on 28 December 2019 following a 2-1 loss to Leicester City, their fourth straight home defeat, with the club in 17th place.
The following day, David Moyes was appointed. This isn’t Moyes’ first run managing the club, with an impressive six-month term in the 2017-18 season. During his brief tenure, he not only managed to prevent the team from being relegated to the second-tier league but also reached his 200th victory as a Premier League manager. To put that feat into perspective, only the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsène Wanger, and Harry Redknapp (also a notable, perhaps controversial, West Ham manager) have accomplished that high of a victory tally as managers.
The only thing that keeps the club out of the relegation zone right now is the goal difference. But we know everyone loves an underdog, and this is a feat that Moyes has pulled before. We still don’t know when the league will resume, but pundits will look to him once again to dig West Ham out of the trenches.
Moyes: Guiding Talent
With Moyes back at the helm, the Hammers have slowly been making a comeback. His first game with the team, which took place on 1 January 2020, saw the team walk away with a 4-0 victory against AFC Bournemouth. While the numbers look impressive, AFC Bournemouth is one of only four teams ranked beneath West Ham.
Put simply, the Hammers haven’t been able to put goals away. During their match against Arsenal, the team wasn’t able to score and Arsenal ended up with a goal with 12 minutes remaining. The goal was also controversial, with a decision by a video assistant referee determining Arsenal player Mesut Ozil was onside. Such defeats do more than harm the club’s Premier League rankings, as they negatively affect morale as well.
Manager Moyes, and fans, were understandably upset that West Ham’s strong performance against Arsenal resulted in a loss. The manager flatly called out strikers Michail Antonio and Sebastien Haller for not being able to put the ball in the back of the net.
Top striker Sebastien Haller joined West Ham in the 2019 season after a record-breaking transfer of 45 million pounds from the German Bundesliga. His performance this season has left him looking like any other recruit, despite the fact that many expected him to have a season with the club that was just as momentous as Dmitri Payet’s first season in 2017.
Many have pointed to Pellegrini’s managerial style at the beginning of the season for Haller’s stumbling, during which time he had Haller up top all alone. Rather than blaming Haller for falling flat, pundits have pointed out that Haller consistently lacked support. Now that Moyes has supported Haller with another strong striker, Antonio, the Bundesliga alumni will have a fairer chance at making himself a name amongst fans and pundits of West Ham United—though both he and Moyes still have a long journey ahead of them.