West Ham: From relegation battle, to the top 4 battle

Talib Haider
By Talib Haider
7 Min Read

West Ham United have come a long way since their shambolic run of performances in the 2019/20 season. Although, they finished just 5 points adrift from the relegation zone that season, the people close to the club know that it was only a miracle that they didn’t get relegated. There was a time in the season when they were just hovering above the relegation zone.

Manuel Pellegrini, the former manager, was clueless as to how the club’s form was dipping. From being a top-6 contender, back in September, to be on the cusp of getting relegated two months later. There 2019/20 season was heading to a ditch-hole. 8 seasons, since the promotion to the top tier, the players, and the fans alike, were feeling the pressure – just 2 wins in 14 games.

It was not an ideal situation for anyone around the West Ham camp, at the time. And, certainly not one for the Chilean manager. Even Pellegrini did not see it coming, having led the Hammers to a 10th league finish in his debut season, the year before. West Ham parted ways with the former Manchester City manager, in December. The players needed a boost in confidence, while the fans just needed a glimmer of hope. The whole board, meanwhile, looking for a change in the managerial position to satisfy the club’s needs.

There were options aplenty for West Ham to go for. But, they needed a tactician and someone with experience. And that’s where the former Manchester United manager, David Moyes, come to the fore.

How David Moyes revitalized West Ham

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The Scottish manager, Moyes, took over the charge from the Chilean back in December 2019. West Ham were languishing in the bottom half of the Premier League table. Fans and the whole team, alike, were convinced that only a miracle could save the Hammers’ 19/20 campaign.

Moyes has kept it simple since then. He established a straightforward method in approaching the problem. Starting from building the players’ confidence then hitting the core areas, the Scottish gaffer just played on each of the players’ strong suit/abilities. He built a system that don’t overlook a player of Declan Rice’s caliber, Antonio’s strength, Bowen’s pace, Lanzini’s darting runs, and even Soucek’s aerial abilities.

And so it was established- 4-2-3-1 formation. Players didn’t take long to adapt to this setup. It was as if, they wanted something just like this.

If we draw an analysis of what has changed since Moyes took over. Well, there are a lot of changes that have been made that are clearly visible.


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Firstly, talking about the team’s defensive play, Moyes set up a narrow defence. So, basically, the 4 or the 3 defenders that play, accordingly, play as a cover to each other.

Adding to this, the defenders lay deep inside their box. Letting the opposition attackers come at them. This has helped in strengthening the Hammers’ defence. For the opposition, it just becomes difficult to find the pocket of space in the West Ham’s box.


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Moving on, The Hammers’ one of the weakest areas of plays under Manuel Pellegrini was their midfield. The likes of Fornals, Lanzini, Soucek and even Bowen looked slow on the turnovers. Now, under the new system that David Moyes has provided, the same players are flourishing. The two defensive midfield options in Soucek & Rice, have made sure that the play remains fluid when played from the back.

They have been key in keeping a perfect rhythmic balance between the defence and the forwards. Further the wide and the attacking players – Bowen, Fornals & Lanzini, respectively – have constantly looked to help the attack up front. Providing a couple of pairs of legs in the attacking 3rd for the Hammers.


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The third and last area of play is the attack. To be honest, West Ham’s attack has just been the same. Antonio then, Antonio now. The bigger picture, during Pellegrini’s time, was that there was not enough supplies through the middle and from wider areas, to Antonio.

But, since the appointment of the Scottish Professional Manager West Ham have built their attacking plays around Michael Antonio. It is easy to notice how they have been playing long balls over the top to play directly to Antonio, on counters. Moyes has been successful in churning out Antonio to his strengths.

In the recent games in the PL, especially against Liverpool, Michael Antonio has been playing a role similar to that of what Harry Kane does in the Spurs’ side. Going deep and opening up plays for his teammates. This has assured the free flow of the game- the fluidity- to the West Ham’s outfit.


In the Last season, Moyes successfully guided the London club to the top 6 finish. Helping West Ham gain a spot in the Europa League this season.

Whether West Ham finishes in the Top 4 or not, their 20/21 campaign will for sure be much talked about. Meanwhile, they will be looking to go all the way and win a European trophy – after such a scintillating Europa League run that has brought them to the Last 16. It is just the beginning of West Ham’s fairytale, and so far they have been the writers to it.

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