RAPID RISE: HOW HAVE WEST HAM BECOME CHAMPIONS LEAGUE CONTENDERS
Updated: Nov 10, 2021
Many people involved with West Ham will still look back on to the final season at the famous Boleyn ground, the 2015/16 Premier League season. It was one of the most historic seasons in Premier League history. Leicester City overcame 500/1 to become champions, Tottenham were on a resurgent title charge and Chelsea were fighting for a top half finish.
But for West Ham United, it was the end of an era. After 112 years at their famous ground in East London they were moving to the Olympic Stadium.
That season was a memorable one with the likes of Dimitri Payet and Michael Antonio becoming club heroes for their mesmeric performances but also West Ham United were on the fringes of European football for the very first time.
Looking back to the 10th May 2016 it was an emotional day for all off the pitch with it being the end of the Boleyn. However, it was just as important for the recent future of the football club. It was a game written for a blockbuster finish.
West Ham United vs Manchester United will live long in the memory of Hammers fans because of what the game meant to the football club. It was a Hollywood ending for their home which led to high aspirations and hopes heading into their new home.
However since their move it has been rather underwhelming for the club. There has been little to shout about for the 60,000 Irons fans with their fondest memories being survival.
There have been 3 different managers to sit in the home dugout for West Ham since the move with Slaven Bilic and Manuel Pellegrini both having a less than memorable time in charge. However for David Moyes, it could be very memorable.
The Scot first took charge of the Hammers in the 2017/18 season following the departure of Bilic. He took over on the 7th November 2017 with the club in 18th position and being strong favorites for relegation. The Scottish international was able to get the club a 13th place finish overseeing 9 wins and 10 draws in his 31 games in charge although despite his good job he was to be replaced by Italian Pellegrini for the upcoming season.
It was a poor time for Pellegrini as he was sacked 18 months after taking over, leaving the club in 18th position in the Premier League.
When Moyes took charge for a second time many had their doubts based on the Scots previous encounter with the Londoners as again he came in during a relegation battle. As well as this there was a global pandemic to contend with as COVID-19 affected the whole world.
Football was momentarily postponed due to the pandemic although once it returned, it was when we began to see the best of Moyes and his side. With wins against Chelsea, Watford and Norwich they were able to maintain their status in the top flight.
During this run, we were able to see the very best of a few individuals including Czech Republic international Tomas Soucek, who was initially brought in on a 6-month loan but due to his outstanding performances and goal scoring prowess his move was made permanent from Slavia Prague for £21 million.
As well as the 26 year-old, we saw the very best of Jamaica international Michail Antonio. In another injury hit season he began to find a level of form following the restart after COVID.
He racked up 4 goals against Norwich as well as a goal against Chelsea to become the first ever Player Of The Month winner for July.
Because of this successful run Moyes remained in charge for the following season and that proved to be the perfect decision from the West Ham board.
The 2020/21 season proved to be the best Premier League season in the club's history. Understandably, many believed that it would be déjà vu for the Hammers after a disappointing transfer window and the loss of many young players it was anticipated to be another season of relegation fear for West Ham.
However the season was quite the opposite. The start was a familiar one with 3 defeats in their opening 5 matches. Although they began to find some form before the turn of the year and at the start of 2021 they won 5 out of 6 league games.
There seemed to be a point in the season where Moyes’s vision was finally working and the players were performing to their capabilities.
It was a season like no other and there was football being played that was worthy of being watched by 60,000 fans, although the only bad thing was that there were no fans there.
Without the blowing of bubbles and fortunes hiding from the famous claret and blue fans, West Ham were surprising everyone in the country with what they were doing on the pitch and proving to be a real dark horse in the Premier League and against all odds they were really pushing for a European place.
Arguably the reason behind this was the reappointment of Moyes. His managerial career up to this point had been one of mixed emotions and contrasting experiences. Whilst at Everton he was constantly on the fringes of success with various good spells and considering the types of teams he was working with, it was regarded as impressive.
He has very good managerial ability in making players that would be considered as “mid table players” into some of the best in the league.
An example of this at West Ham is the recent emergence of Declan Rice. Rice was first introduced into the first team in the 2016/17 season when he made his debut against Burnley on the final day of the Premier League season. Although it was the 2018/19 season that he really broke through and looked to be one of the best young English players in the country.
Since that season he has been a mainstay in the West Ham team and has been regarded as untouchable by manager Moyes but also the owners David Sullivan and David Gold.
In a midfield which has recently seen the absence of club legend and club captain Mark Noble, Rice has stepped up and taken the armband ahead of a lot of senior players and has taken the responsibility like a duck to water as he plays with maturity and professionalism week after week. This has meant that he is now a regular not only for club but also for country.
He was one of England’s standout performers as Gareth Southgate’s men reached the final of Euro 2020 in which Italy won on penalties.
Rice, as well as many other players have continued to impress following on from their surprising season last campaign and once again there were doubts due to game congestion considering that they were now in the Europa League group stages for the first time.
Going into the season many believed that the club needed a big transfer window because of their increase in games and the owners went out and did something that they hadn’t done for a long time which was spend a lot of money.
It was a big summer for West Ham with the recruitment of many high profile names including Champions League and 2x Premier League winner Kurt Zouma for £35 Million pounds from Chelsea as well as French goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.
With the new signings it showed intent and gave the backing to the manager that hadn’t been seen for a long time. And they haven't been disappointed.
It's been another brilliant start for the Irons this season with wins against Manchester United, Man City, Leicester and Tottenham but as well as this, they qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League after 4 games.
Most recently though Moyes really showed why they should be taken seriously as they beat Liverpool 3-2 at the London Stadium.
Going into the game, Jurgen Klopp’s side were unbeaten and 4 points behind leaders Chelsea. With Mo Salah having the season of his life and Van Dijk back to his solid form it looked as if it would be a victory for the Merseyside team.
But once again Moyes and his team got their gameplan spot on and created one of the best games of the season. Goals from Pablo Fornals and Kurt Zouma ,as well as an own goal from Alisson, either side of 2 Liverpool goals meant that the Londoners inflicted a first defeat of the season on Klopp’s side.
The victory has taken West Ham up to third in the table and only three points behind Chelsea in first.
This season looks as if it is going to be the most competitive yet and the race for a Champions League place looks tougher than ever with many teams looking to break their way into the top four. One thing is for sure though is that West Ham will certainly be in that race and cannot go unnoticed.
With that fight for top four and into the knockout stages of the Europa League, this could set up to be the most exciting and successful season in the clubs history.