Welcome to the Last Word on Football’s team of the decade series with today’s edition focusing on West Ham United. The Hammers experienced extreme highs and lows between 2010 and 2019. The club had relegation, European football, a stadium move, protests and leaving and returning managers.
The Hammers started the decade with relegation to the Championship in 2010/11, finishing bottom of the Premier League. But Sam Allardyce took over and guided the club back to the top division after winning the Play-Offs in 2012.
West Ham enjoyed their best season of the decade in 2015/16, finishing 7th with 62 points. But their move to the London Stadium in the following season brought little cheer for the Hammers. The fans and owners wanted further European football, but the team are fighting for survival for the third successive season.
West Ham United Team of the Decade
Manager – Slaven Bilic
Slaven Bilic is the obvious choice to manage the Hammers for the team of the decade. The former Croatia international led West Ham to Europe, finishing 7th in the 2015/16 season. It was the clubs highest Premier League finish since 2002. Bilic’s team played attractive, attacking football without fear and utilised players like Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini and Aaron Creswell to full effect. However, his following season was not as successful. Bilic was sacked by West Ham in November 2017, but his approach or success hasn’t been emulated by successors David Moyes or Manuel Pellegrini.
Formation – 4-2-2-2
An unorthodox formation for West Ham, but to really utilise the amount of quality in midfield over the last decade, two central based players is essential. Two strikers upfront is another area up for debate, but striking a balance between quality and long-serving players needs to be taken into account. The back four is completely solid and reliable, while the two full-backs offer plenty of attacking ability out wide.
Goalkeeper – Adrian
The Spanish goalkeeper made 150 appearances during his six seasons at West Ham, where he kept 43 clean sheets. He was a key component in the side’s defence under Slaven Bilic and played a big part in their excellent 2015/16 season. His penalty heroics against Everton in the third round of the FA Cup in 2016, scoring the decisive penalty in a third-round shoot-out, cemented his cult status for West Ham.
Right Back – Joey O’Brien
O’Brien’s five year West Ham career was blighted by injury. The Irish full-back made 105 appearances for the club between 2011 and 2016. His best season came during the 2011/12 promotion campaign where he made 32 appearances and barely put a foot wrong under Sam Allardyce. If he remained injury-free, O’Brien could have gone on to achieve greater things at right-back for the Hammers.
Centre Back – James Collins
James Collins signed for West Ham in 2012 for a second stint at the club. The Welshman stayed at the club for six years and was a rock at the heart of the defence. Collins was known for putting his body on the line and his no-nonsense approach was influential in the team’s success in 2015/16. He scored nine goals and made 214 appearances for the club before leaving in 2018.
Centre Back – Winston Reid
Reid’s playing time for the Hammers has been hugely affected by injuries recently but has still made over 200 appearances for the club. He left the club on loan in January to play for Kansas City after not appearing for West Ham since March 2018. He is one of the Hammers longest-serving players and his partnership with Collins was the best of the decade. The former New Zealand international scored the final goal at the Boleyn Ground to secure a 3-2 win over Manchester United in May 2016, sending the ground into bedlam for one final time.
Left Back – Aaron Cresswell
It’s hard to remember that Cresswell played for any other club than West Ham. The full-back joined the Hammers from Ipswich in 2014 and established himself as the club’s first-choice left-back. In addition to his reliability in defence, Cresswell has scored eight goals and made 19 assists in over 200 appearances for West Ham. Cresswell was named Hammer of the Year in 2015 after an excellent first season at the club and has maintained his high standards ever since.
Centre Midfield – Scott Parker
Leadership, determination and class. Parker showed all of these during his four seasons at West Ham (despite playing two outside of the 2010-19 decade). Parker won three successive Hammer of the Year awards during his time at West Ham. The midfielder also won the Football Writer’s Association Footballer of the year despite the Hammers’ relegation in 2011. His gargantuan efforts to help the team avoid relegation in the 2010/11 season will never be forgotten by the fans.
Centre Midfield – Mark Noble
‘Mr West Ham’ was the first name on the team sheet. Noble has been through all the highs and lows at West Ham since making his debut in 2004. The 32-year-old’s grit and honesty often reminds West Ham fans that his one of their own. The midfielder is closing in on 500 appearances for the Hammers and scored 60 goals for the senior team. Noble was named Hammer of the Year in 2012 and 2014. The club also held a testimonial for the committed midfielder in 2016, a fitting testament to this one-club player.
Attacking Midfield- Dimitri Payet
Payet was the most talented player to wear the West Ham shirt between 2010-2019. The Frenchman left in acrimonious circumstances in 2017, forcing his way out of the club before returning to Marseille. Despite that, Payet was unplayable in the 2015/16 season and took the Premier League by storm. The Frenchman scored 12 goals and assisted 15 in his first season at West Ham and led the charge for Europe under Slaven Bilic. His sublime free-kicks, like the 35-yard stunner against Manchester United that season, were memorable and earned the Frenchman the player of the year award.
Attacking Midfield – Manuel Lanzini
Lanzini is struggling for form this season, but his incredible contributions to West Ham’s success in previous years cannot be underestimated. The Argentinian playmaker demonstrated his flair and creativity on many occasions and stepped up to the playmaker role after Payet’s departure in 2016/17. Lanzini scored eight goals in this season and contributed to 41 goals in 129 appearances for the Hammers since 2015.
Striker – Marko Arnautovic
Another player who left the club with a stain on his name. However, Arnautovic’s goals kept the team in the Premier League during the 2017/18 season. The 30-year-old Austrian scored five and assisted three in the Hammers final 12 games to fend off relegation for David Moyes’ side. Before leaving for Shanghai SIPG, Arnautovic finished his career at West ham with 22 goals in 65 games.
Striker – Carlton Cole
Not the most prolific goal scorer for West Ham in the past decade but Cole’s long term commitment to West ham was admirable. The striker’s best season came in 2011/12 as he scored 14 goals to help West Ham make the play-offs. Cole then scored a goal in the final and assisted the other for Ricardo Vaz Te, in the 2-1 win over Blackpool. Cole never re-discovered this form for West Ham in the Premier League. But he made nearly 300 appearances for the club and scored 67 goals.