Can West Ham achieve European football?

Written by Ross Daggett

West Ham into Fourth place after victory against Spurs. Can they achieve Champions League Football next season or is it a step too far? 

West Ham continue to defy the odds after a hard-fought game against rivals Spurs saw the East London side run out 2-1 victors. 

An early goal from Michail Antonio and another from, new signing, Jesse Lingard early into the second half, gave The Hammers a 2-0 lead. 

Despite Lucas Moura’s near post header to make it 2-1, as well as hitting the goal frame twice, Mourinho’s Spurs could not find a way to take anything back from the London Stadium. 

The victory sees West Ham move up to fourth place, two points clear of Chelsea and five points clear of Liverpool. 

Even with the position they find themselves in, David Moyes’ side continue to be discounted out of the Champions League race, but as we’re almost two thirds of the way into the season who’s to say they can’t keep up the momentum and finish in a top four spot?

The Striker Situation 

West Ham’s inform Michail Antonio opens the scoring against West Ham. (Photo by CLIVE ROSE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

One of, if not the most crucial area in West Ham’s success for the rest of the season is the striker position. 

The sale of Sebastian Haller to Ajax in the January transfer window was largely accepted by the fanbase as it was clear he did not suit the tactical system deployed by Moyes.  

It was the lack of reinvestment that created backlash from the fanbase, as Michail Antonio was left as the only remaining first team striker available. 

Having missed nine games already this season, as a result of his frequent hamstring injuries, it is understandable that there was concern over who could lead the line in his absence. 

Although much outrage was directed towards the board, it was David Moyes who ultimately claimed to have made the decision not to buy another striker, as there was no one available who saw fit to play the role. 

Moyes has instead looked within the club to find a suitable striker. 

The Scot has had previous success at West Ham converting wingers into exceptional forwards, doing so with both Marko Arnautovic and Michail Antonio. 

In the 3-0 win against Sheffield United, Jarrod Bowen played as the lone striker, and was praised for his efforts by Moyes after the game. 

It is therefore likely he will occupy that position again as West Ham’s other option, Andriy Yarmolenko, was injured in the FA Cup fixture against Manchester United. 

The signing of Jesse Lingard in the January window also protects the forward line due to his ability to attack the final third from midfield and support the striker.  

Lingard has been an exceptional signing so far with 3 goals in 4 games for The Hammers, providing excellent support to whoever the lone striker is. 

Despite this, there is no doubt West Ham’s attacking capabilities will be lessened with an injury to Antonio, who is crucial to the way Moyes has set up his side to play. 

Antonio’s ability to hold up the ball and bring others into play is exceptional, and there are doubts as to whether Bowen will be able to perform the role against tougher opposition. 

If there is any reason why West Ham can’t make the Champions League places, this is it. 

Another injury to Antonio at some point is almost certain, therefore it is crucial Moyes finds the right system to compliment Jarrod Bowen if West Ham want any hope of finishing in a top 4 spot. 

Defensive resilience 

Summer signing Craig Dawson has been in fantastic form for The Hammers. (Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

With the lack of depth in the forward department, goals may become hard to come by. 

However, the defence for The Hammers has been as resolute as any this season. 

Whether in a back four or five West Ham concede very few chances and with a goalkeeper as reliable as Lukasz Fabianski, goals are not given out easily. 

Moyes has demanded that every player, from back to front, works hard for the team. This is evident from the running stats of the team, which have improved dramatically since the Pellegrini era. 

Perhaps the most important aspect that contributes to the strength of the defence is the cover provided by the midfield. 

Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek have been amongst the best central midfielders in the league this season, nobody epitomises the work-manlike attitude installed by Moyes like these two do. 

If these two can remain fit for the rest of the season it will be extremely beneficial for achieving the goal of European football. 

The cover provided by the duo, has made the central defenders job a lot easier, although the performances of the defenders cannot be undermined. 

At the start of the season Angelo Ogbonna and Fabian Balbuena were the starting centre backs, but an injury to Balbuena has seen Craig Dawson given a run in the team as well as some game time for young French defender Issa Diop. 

Despite a lack of game time before they got their chances, both Dawson and Diop have performed remarkably, especially Dawson who has made himself virtually undroppable since breaking into the team. 

Each time a new defender has come in there has been little to no drop off in the teams overall defensive performance, which is a major part of the success they have experienced so far. 

After Ogbonna’s injury, which will see him side-lined for the next few games, there may have been concern in previous seasons, however the backup centre backs have shown there is little to worry about. 

The depth and strength in all defensive areas for West Ham will continue to be key in their push for Europe. 

The Hammers have already had to hold on to one goal leads many timers this season and with the lack of depth upfront their defensive strength will be crucial if they are to achieve Champions League qualification. 

Published by Callum Owen

18 years old Undergraduate at UCFB Wembley, studying Multimedia Sports Journalism Writing for Archball, WDSportz and on my personal blog Football and Formula One content

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