Graham Keefe > When referring to the state of a fanbase’s feelings, perhaps one of the most overused clichés in sports journalism is the phrase “a rollercoaster of emotions.” With that being said, it perhaps best describes the ride the Hammers faithful have been on over the past 12 months. At the end of last season, West Ham finished with 39 points from 38 games, just five points above the drop zone. After Wednesday night’s 3-1 victory over Aston Villa, they are one point worse off with 16 fewer games played. They are also fifth.
Any West Ham fan can be forgiven for nervously peering over their shoulder to see if the bottom half of the table have caught up yet. Form in recent years has at times been as perilous as a seesaw on the edge of a cliff, needing just one over exuberant “saw” to plunge the club into the depths of disaster. Despite the trials and tribulations of recent seasons, it is by no accident that Moyes’s men find themselves where they are. Something has changed around the London Stadium. The mindset of hard work David Moyes instilled in his players towards the back end of last campaign appears to have reverberated around the squad and spread like wildfire. From new signings to the old heads to youth prospects, their now appears to be an identity in place to ensure the club progresses forward. The Scotsman deserves praise for what he has done during his second tenure, including the positive behind-the-scenes work with the scouting department and youth academy.
It is primarily down to his tactics and signings that West Ham currently find themselves in this brave new world. He has strengthened the defence with the additions of Craig Dawson and Vladimir Coufal, the latter of whom is quickly becoming a fan favourite. He has complimented the talent of Declan Rice with the potato salad-loving Souček, who netted his eighth goal of the season against Villa and has now scored more non-penalty goals than any other central midfielder since his arrival. As for the attacking positions, while there are strong options in Bowen, Benrahma, Fornals and now also Lingard, Michail Antonio remains the only recognised senior striker at the club since the sale of Haller in January. This is perhaps the only major concern at present, particularly given his well-documented injury record. However, if Moyes can successfully manage his minutes Antonio may just be able to continue his fine form.
Based upon current form, a top eight finish is certainly not out of the question. Murmurings of Europe are also beginning to gather legitimate momentum but with these places so hotly contested, West Ham will need to add a big scalp or two to their list of wins if they are to stake a legitimate claim. Amidst the gloomy backdrop of the Coronavirus pandemic, the men in claret and blue continue to bring some much needed joy and entertainment to the homes of the Hammers faithful. With last season now well and truly in the rear-view mirror, it is now time to focus on the road ahead. While no one can be sure of what the journey has in store, for the first time in years, it should be met with a real sense of optimism.