Back in November things were looking bright at Upton Park. West Ham were 4th in the table and playing some exceptional football, Sam Allardyce and striker Diafra Sakho won the Manager and Player of the Month awards for October and the club had already beaten the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City. The prospect of European football in their penultimate season at the Boleyn Ground was looking likely.
But fast-forward to February and progress seems to have stalled. The Hammers haven’t won a league game since 18th January and were convincingly dumped out of the FA Cup at the fifth round stage by a resurgent West Bromwich Albion, losing 4-0.
Ravel Morrison had his contract cancelled and speculation surrounding ‘Big Sam’ and his future at the club won’t go away. Allardyce was also handed a huge blow when it was revealed that striker Andy Carroll would miss the rest of the season following a knee injury.
With the club now sitting in 8th position, many fans are thinking, where do we go from here?
For West Ham, to get Europa League football would constitute a great season. Spurs currently occupy the 6th place spot needed to qualify and only five points separate them and the Hammers, a very achievable gap to chase down.
Losing Carroll does not mean that West Ham’s season is over. The onus now is on Sakho and Enner Valencia to get goals for the Hammers. Valencia has played the majority of his games out wide, but Carroll’s injury could see the Ecuador international shifted to his favoured central striker role, the position he played so well at last summer’s World Cup.
Allardyce has also signed free-agent Nene to give the side another attacking option. The former PSG man would definitely ease the load that Sakho and Valencia have to carry, but at 33 years of age his best days are very much behind him. It’s a gamble signing this type of player but he could turn out to be a major coup come May.
Allardyce’s side is also built on solid foundations in defence. Adrian in goal has been a revelation and is loved by West Ham supporters, in front of him centre-halves James Collins, James Tomkins and Winston Reid have been solid all season. It looks as though Reid’s future lies away from Upton Park, with Spurs favourites to sign the New Zealander as a free-agent in the summer, but he has still performed excellently at the heart of defence.
Full-backs Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Cresswell both look like future England internationals in the making. Cresswell in particular has been outstanding as a left-back playing his first season of Premier League football. His pace and attacking instincts give the Hammers plenty of options going forward.
Another contributing factor to West Ham’s successes is the resurgence of Stuart Downing. Moved into a number 10 position at the start of the campaign, Downing has flourished in the new role which earned him a deserved recall to the England squad. He’s been given freedom by Allardyce to express himself on the ball and has shown his ability to create and score goals in this new position.
However, for me, the key player in this whole Hammers side is Alex Song. Song joined on a season-long loan from Barcelona and has arguably been the Premier League’s signing of the season. The former Arsenal man has been outstanding playing as a holding midfielder and without him, West Ham wouldn’t be so high up the table.
Song hasn’t scored a league goal and only has one assist to his name, but his role in the team allows those around him to grab the headlines. Having been schooled by Barcelona and Arsenal, Song’s range of passing is understandably superb. Stopping opposition attacks and making that first pass to get West Ham going forward is what Song has done throughout the season with apparent ease.
What will be disappointing for the club is missing out on signing Lassana Diarra. The 29 year-old was training with West Ham but due to apparent ‘FIFA regulations’ the deal is off for now. Diarra plays his game in a similar style to Song; sitting as a defensive midfielder his main qualities are breaking up the play and his distribution of the ball. Allardyce has stated that he wants to try and sign Diarra again in the off-season but whether that’s as Song’s replacement, or whether Allardyce will be the West Ham manager at that time, remains to be seen.
There’s no doubting that West Ham is a club with so much potential. The owners have lofty ambitions and the move to the Olympic Stadium in 2016 supports their aspirations. But for now, the main focus should be this season and whether they can bring European football to the Boleyn Ground for the last time, and give one of England’s most iconic football stadia the send-off it truly deserves.
Have West Ham United found the next Mark Noble in Alfie Lewis?
The 18-year-old put in a fine performance against Dagenham and Redbridge this week.
West Ham United took on Dagenham and Redbridge in a friendly yesterday, in a match to raise funds for the National League side.
It was no surprise to see West Ham come out victorious. They won 3-1, with Michail Antonio at the double and Jordan Hugill scoring his first goal for the club.
It was, however, a Hammers team depleted by international selection.
With that in mind, David Moyes’ side fielded some of their younger players. Plenty of them caught the eye, but none more so than central midfielder Alfie Lewis.
The 18-year-old put in a fine display for 90 minutes which left West Ham fans very excited on social media.
It was an even more special achievement given Lewis spent most of last year on the sidelines with a serious knee injury.
Lewis himself told the official West Ham website after the game: “I’m delighted.
“It was a good experience for me tonight, to play with the likes of Patrice Evra, and Mark Noble in midfield. It was a good challenge and a good test for us as well, and I think I did well.”
He spoke of it being an honour playing alongside Mark Noble, but is he the successor to the throne?
Whilst Noble has had his critics in recent times there is no doubt he has been a long-term hero at West Ham.
Fans of the club have often wondered why Noble has never received England recognition given his consistent form in the Premier League.
Noble has gone on to play over 400 games for West Ham since his debut for the club back in 2004.
Lewis certainly has the ability to follow in his footsteps. An energetic midfield creator, West Ham look to have another midfield gem in their ranks and one that can hopefully progress into the first-team soon.
The Hammers have a fine record of bringing through young players.
Noble is one current example and Lewis could not be at a better club if he is to find his way into the West Ham first-team.
This season, with a relegation battle raging, might come a little too soon for the teenager.
Nonetheless, in 2018-19 it will not be a surprise if Lewis finds himself playing alongside Noble in the West Ham midfield once again.
West Ham should consider Quique Sanchez Flores in summer
The Espanyol boss is set to leave the club in the summer.
Reports in Spain today are suggesting that former Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores would like to one day return to manage in the Premier League.
AS is reporting that Flores’ time at Espanyol is up and he will depart the La Liga side at the end of the season. The report continues to say Flores would love a return to England, where he managed Watford in the 2015-16 season.
So with Flores looking for a Premier League return, should West Ham take an interest?
The future of David Moyes at the London Stadium is far from secure. The Scottish manager was never a popular choice among the West Ham fans when brought in to replace Slaven Bilic. Whilst he has done well to guide West Ham away from relegation recent results have seen them slip again.
Rumours are rife that Moyes may not be in the West Ham job for the long haul and if he isn’t then Flores would be an excellent choice as the club’s new boss.
The Spaniard has a wealth of experience at clubs such as Atletico Madrid, Benfica and Valencia. During his time at Watford he earned a reputation for playing attractive football and getting the fans off their seat.
His style of play is exactly what West Ham fans would like to see at the club and he is certainly a big enough name to draw exciting new recruits to the London Stadium.
A calming influence, Flores could be the perfect man to steady the ship should West Ham decide to ditch Moyes and start afresh in the new season.
No doubt the 53-year-old will be in high demand come June, so West Ham would need to swoop quickly if this was the case.
But if Moyes is given the boot, there are few better options for the West Ham job than Quique Sanchez Flores.
Injury gives Moses Makasi a chance to show West Ham what he can do
Antoni Sarcevic is out until April for Plymouth Argyle, giving West Ham loanee Moses Makasi a chance to shine.
West Ham United talent Moses Makasi might be about to get a prolonged experience of regular first-team football. Not with the Hammers, but with his loan club Plymouth Argyle.
The 22-year-old joined the Pilgrims on transfer deadline day but has since had to settle for a place on the bench. Plymouth, who are pushing for promotion in League One, had a settled side which Makasi could not break into.
Yet last weekend Makasi did get his first start. He featured in the 1-1 draw with Fleetwood Town, and scored on his full Football League debut.
Plymouth confirmed this week that the man keeping him out of the first team, Antoni Sarcevic, has suffered a groin injury. With the playmaker absent until mid-April it seems Makasi is going to get his chance. Plymouth boss Derek Adams stated to the Plymouth Herald:
“He (Makasi) came here from West Ham under-23s for regular football.
“To start with we had been playing well Sarcevic, Ness in that midfield with Fox and it was difficult for him to get in.
“He got his opportunity at Fleetwood and took it.”
For Makasi, it is a chance he must take. At 22 his time at West Ham is running out. The midfielder is still to feature for the Hammers first-team despite impressing with the under-23s.
An all-action midfielder the closest he has come to a West Ham breakthrough was a place on the bench v Burnley on the final day of the 2016-17 season.
Makasi turns 23 in September and West Ham will no doubt have to consider letting him go in the summer if he cannot prove himself. Sarcevic’s injury gives Makasi a chance to string together some regular playing time at a team in good form.
If Makasi can help Plymouth into the League One play-off picture in the weeks to come he will certainly give West Ham food for thought.
If not, then West Ham may decide that Makasi will be better off finding himself a new team in the summer transfer window.
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