West Ham are not a pressing side, and that’s a good thing

West Ham.(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
West Ham.(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images) /

West Ham’s improved performances have been largely due to a defensive uptick. But despite the fashion, they’re not a pressing side.

If you’ve read a solid number of football articles over the last five years, there’s a good chance you’ve read a lot about the defensive press. Whether that be the full-scale gegenpress popularised by Jurgen Klopp at Dortmund or a more triggered press to capitalise on mistakes, it seems to be what everyone wants to do. But not at West Ham.

David Moyes has looked at the trends, looked at the squad, and decided that he’s going to put himself in the less fashionable section. West Ham is one of the least aggressive pressing sides in the league, instead looking to block the space for the attacking side and force them to lose control of their possession.

Don’t believe me? Well according to fbref.com the Hammers have the league’s second-lowest percentage of their defensive pressures in the final third (Wolves are lowest) and have made only 17 tackles in that area all season.

West Ham defender,
West Ham defender, /

We’ve also made fewer than 200 tackles which compares to Liverpool. But they’re a pressing side you shout. Yes, they are, but they average 62% possession per game, we’re only at 41%. Comparing instead to Crystal Palace or West Brom (our two closest in possession percentages) we average 3 or 4 tackles fewer per game.

On the other defensive aspects, we’re higher up. 8th in the league for interceptions and 3rd in the league for clearances. All in all, this shows that we’re sitting in our shape, making life hard and forcing poor crosses or hopeful balls. But we’re not pressing in the way that has become the fashion.

What is notable is it does require workmen in the midfield to make things hard. Declan Rice is third in the league for interceptions, Tomas Soucek in 21st whilst Pablo Fornals is 8th for the number of midfield pressures and Rice and Soucek again make the top 20. Just as a fun point, who’s up next? Sebastien Haller. Not bad for a player constantly berated by the fans for being lazy.

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West Ham’s shape and system are extremely well thought through, and David Moyes deserves a lot of credit. He hasn’t given into the fashion of the time or social media demands. He’s picked a system that works for the squad perfectly, and that other teams are finding hard to deal with. Let’s hope it carries on.