After winning the Europa Conference League last June, optimism was peculiarly low coming into the 23/24 campaign for West Ham. Whether that was down to a loss of faith in manager David Moyes or the loss of captain Declan Rice, West Ham fans were not looking forward to the season ahead.
However, despite playing some stiff competition through 8 league games and a few in Europe, it’s safe to say West Ham have made an extremely encouraging start to the new season.
Here are five takeaways from the opening weeks of the season:
- Tim Steidten and Mark Noble did an unbelievable job on transfers this summer.
Over the past few years West Ham have not shied away from spending big in the transfer market, but recruitment and spending that money on the right players has been a constant issue. With Noble as Sporting Director and Steidten as Technical Director, the two seem to have struck a great balance in their relationship.
The first signing of the summer was Edson Alvarez of Ajax, who was crucially brought in to replace Rice in defensive midfield. Credit must go to Noble on this deal for his scouting which was done months in advance and to Steidten for finalizing the deal and negotiations.
James Ward-Prowse was next to be brought in, and while he may have been more of a Moyes signing than Stediten’s, the German’s ability to work with the manager has paid dividends in the form of plenty of goals and assists already from the Englishman.
Konstantinos Mavropanos seemed to be a Steidten target, and he has impressed since his move from Stuttgart. While it looked like the club was going for Harry Maguire, this cheaper and younger alternative looks a great bit of business.
Finally, Mohammed Kudus. A mercurial talent also identified by Noble when scouting Alvarez, Kudus was a major coup for West Ham and is already demonstrating his ability. Much credit has to be given to Steidten on this deal for traveling across Europe to get this deal over the line.
2. Emerson is the most underrated player on the team.
Since being brought over from Chelsea last summer, Emerson played second-fiddle to Aaron Cresswell for the majority of last season, but slowly won over the starting job. This culminated in an outstanding performance in the Europa Conference League Final where he was probably the best player on the pitch.
Emerson’s end to last season has continued into the start of this campaign and that starting role is now entirely his own. Known for his attacking capabilities, the Italian has shored up the defensive side of his game while also continuing to offer a threat going forward.
Emerson’s relationship with Lucas Paqueta is also crucial for the team. The two were good friends at Olympique Lyon and Paqueta’s decision to come to East London was influenced by the signing of the Italian before his arrival. Further, with Paqueta playing as a left-sided forward, the two’s chemistry is obvious for all to see and is providing a real spark to the West Ham attack.
3. David Moyes is the right man for the job going forward.
Many questioned whether David Moyes would still be manager of West Ham at this time last year given the team’s poor domestic form, but the capture of European glory has silenced those critics.
Beyond that, Moyes seems to have gone back to the tactical style that he knows best and the results are showing that. Through eight league games West Ham have only lost two, coming at the hands of Liverpool and Man City, hard to complain about that.
Further, major question marks over Moyes’ ability to continue with the modern game arose after last season’s failed attempt to change tactics. However, Moyes has demonstrated that a few new signings and a few tweaks make his style as effective as ever, and he should be offered a new contract before his current deal expires this June.
4. Mohammed Kudus must start from now on.
There were question marks over where Mohammed Kudus would start in this West Ham team, but his performances as of late have meant a starting role must be coming soon. The games Kudus has started in the Europa League and League Cup have been extremely promising. It’s pretty simple, there just is not another player like him in the team.
While his natural position seems to be on the right flank which is currently occupied by Bowen, Kudus has shown quality at the number 10 position and this could be where he fits in the starting team. This would be in place of in-form Tomas Soucek, but the Ghanaian’s quality simply can’t be ignored for much longer.
Kudus could also start in place of striker Michail Antonio if Moyes sees fit. Regardless of where he plays, Kudus has to start getting more starting minutes because he is too good to be coming off the bench as an impact sub.
5. Jarrod Bowen’s new contract is as good as a new signing.
With Bowen’s current contract expiring at the end of next season, it was imperative that he signed a new one. After failed attempts previously with Declan Rice and an extended deal, the fact Bowen signed a nearly seven-year contract without a release clause is unbelievable news.
Bowen wrote himself into West Ham folklore with his winning goal in Prague last June, and he seems to be back to his best domestically after a down year last year. Bowen is also back in the England team so he’s content that he can achieve everything he wants in his career while staying loyal to West Ham, the team that gave him his big chance in the Premier League.
Bowen’s quality is integral to the success of this West Ham team, and with the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal rumored to be interested, it is a big deal that Jarrod’s future is now only with West Ham;
Finally, Bowen has a true affection for West Ham. It helps that his soon-to-be father-in-law, Danny Dyer, happens to be one of the most famous West Ham fans there is, but Bowen just feels like he is now a part of the fan base himself. With two young kids and his partner Dani Dyer, Bowen now has long-term security for his career which is invaluable.
All in all, a less than inspiring offseason following victory in Prague has meant West Ham’s start to the season has smashed all expectations, and things are only looking up.