The Hammers want to keep the top four in their sights but need the summer’s transfer spending to come off
Guardian writers’ predicted position 8th (NB: this is not necessarily Jacob Steinberg’s prediction but the average of our writers’ tips)
Last season’s position 7th
Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker) 150-1
The aim is to challenge for a place in the top four again. The question is whether West Ham have grown stale. They captured the imagination with their run to the Europa League semi-finals last season, but a small squad struggled to cope with the additional workload and David Moyes has spent the summer trying to add more quality in several positions.
The positive is that West Ham have lessened their dependence on Michail Antonio, who looked weary during the second half of last season. The striker has had no competition for his place during the last 18 months, but the arrival of Gianluca Scamacca from Sassuolo gives Moyes’s attack a fresh look. A tall and powerful forward, Scamacca scored 16 goals in Serie A last season and has broken into the Italy squad. The 23-year-old has all the makings of a fan favourite, though the recent history of attacking players moving to the Premier League from Serie A is not hugely encouraging.
However, the striking situation is not the only issue. Moyes needs more from Saïd Benrahma and Nikola Vlasic in attacking midfield. He will hope that Flynn Downes is capable of helping the overworked Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice in central midfield. As for the defence, all is not well. Nayef Aguerd, a Moroccan centre-back who has signed for £30m from Rennes, could be out for three months after undergoing ankle surgery. Angelo Ogbonna is just back from a long-term knee injury. Issa Diop wants to leave and Kurt Zouma picked up injuries last season. Another huge season for Craig “Ballon” Dawson, then?
Of course, there is no need to panic yet. West Ham have made rapid progress in the last two years. But have opponents started to work them out? Moyes, who tore into his players after defeat to Brighton on the final day forced West Ham to settle for a place in the Europa Conference League, has sounded a little impatient recently. It could be a testing campaign.
Moyes has performed wonders since returning to the London Stadium. He has transformed a struggling team into top-six contenders, got a previously disgruntled crowd onside and taken the club on a dramatic European adventure. Gone are the days when West Ham were regarded as flaky pushovers. Moyes has made them resilient and hard to beat, but he has also succeeded in making his side fun to watch and capable of scoring against anyone. The perception of the Scot as a tactical dinosaur has been shown up as nonsense. Moyes has grown as a manager and is busy developing a solid culture at West Ham. However, there are slight concerns over some of the club’s recent recruitment. There have been some questionable signings recently and West Ham need Moyes to be sharper in the transfer market if they are going to maintain their rise.
West Ham went 18 months with Michail Antonio as their only senior striker after selling Sébastien Haller to Ajax in January 2021. It put Antonio and his notoriously shaky hamstrings under a lot of pressure, so the arrival of Gianluca Scamacca from Sassuolo in a deal worth £35.5m is a huge boost. The Italy striker was a target for Paris Saint-Germain this summer. West Ham will hope he’s more Paolo Di Canio than Simone Zaza.
World Cup impact
Much of West Ham’s squad could get a rest during the World Cup. Rice is a guaranteed pick for England while Jarrod Bowen will hope to stay in Gareth Southgate’s plans, and Aguerd is a key player for Morocco. Pablo Fornals will also hope to force his way into the Spain squad and Alphonse Areola could represent France. However, Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal will be staying home following the Czech Republic’s failure to qualify.
Alternative attractions during the World Cup
Anyone wanting to reminisce about London 2012 can register for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park half marathon on 27 November. As a bonus you can limp over to Westfield to do your Christmas shopping once the race is done.
Leading the shirt sales
Rice is the obvious crowd favourite. The 23-year-old has developed into one of the best midfielders in the world and is about to take on even more responsibility following the retirement of Mark Noble. The worry, though, is that Rice does not plan to emulate Noble by becoming a one-club man. The England international has no intention of extending his current contract and is keen to play for a club in the Champions League. Chelsea, who let Rice go when he was 14, will be watching the situation closely. It is no secret that he is unlikely to stay at West Ham beyond next summer.
Benrahma may not be a regular starter, but there are no concerns over his social media game. The Algeria winger leads the way on Instagram with an impressive two million followers. Fans can tune in for post-match reaction (sample caption: “Sunday win and three points”) and moody shots of Benrahma living his best life away from the pitch. Log on to see Benrahma smiling in a car. Scroll down to see him making the most of his holiday by riding a jet-ski. Keep going for a photo of him trying on a hat.
If West Ham were a Netflix doc …
The cameras catch an exasperated Moyes pining for Tony Hibbert after Benrahma takes it too far with the flicks and tricks during training. The players wonder if a new signing is coming in. The answer soon arrives. “I’ve got unfinished business at West Ham,” a 39-year-old Alessandro Diamanti says after leaving A-League side Western United and sealing an emotional return to east London.