West Ham United 2019/20: Late Form Can’t Disguise Another Disappointing Season

If the 2019/20 Premier League season was judged on post-lockdown form alone, West Ham United would have achieved a second consecutive tenth place finish.

Unfortunately, the other 29 matches have to be included and the Hammers actually finished six places and 11 points worse off than last season. Finishing 16th to narrowly avoid the drop, it was the club’s worst season since 2010/11. A far cry from the European lights promised following the move to the London Stadium four years ago.

One managerial change, a club-record signing and 100 football-less days later, 2019/20 was another disappointing season for West Ham United fans.

West Ham 2019/20 Season Overview

Good Start Derailed by Injury

Despite losing 5-0 at home to Manchester City on the opening day, West Ham United went on a six-match unbeaten run to climb into fifth position.

Unfortunately, disaster struck in game seven when in-form keeper Lukasz Fabianski tore his hip muscle and was ruled out for three months. Replaced midway through the first half by new signing Roberto, West Ham lost at Oxford United in the Carabao Cup before clinging on to a point at Bournemouth, but the injury would prove costly.

Without the Pole between the sticks, West Ham slid from fifth to 17th, taking just seven points from 11 matches and conceding 22 goals. Fabianski returned on December 28th for his side’s 2-1 loss against Leicester City, and Manuel Pellegrini was shown the door.

New Manager, Same West Ham United

With West Ham United one point above the relegation zone, David Moyes returned to the club tasked once again with preserving their Premier League status.

Starting 2020 brightly with a 4-0 victory over Bournemouth, West Ham quickly slipped into old habits.

A 2-0 defeat to Sheffield United the following week kick-started a dismal run of form that saw Moyes’ side collect just five points from nine matches. Coincidentally, Fabianski missed another four matches during this period as West Ham struggled without their number one.

Only outside the relegation zone on goal difference when the season was paused due to COVID-19, the break couldn’t have come at a better time for West Ham.

Restart and Reboot

Returning from lockdown with two defeats in two games, the reality of relegation began to set in. However, Andriy Yarmolenko’s 89th-minute winner against Chelsea changed the course of the entire season.

West Ham played seven matches in July, collecting 12 valuable points, and losing just once. Michail Antonio scored eight goals – including all four in a memorable victory against Norwich City at Carrow Road – to record his first ten goal season in claret and blue, and safety was assured with one match to spare.

Mission accomplished yet again for David Moyes, and this time he gets to keep his job.

Transfer Rollercoaster – Summer Signings Falter

West Ham United spent around £80 million last summer, including £45 million on club-record signing, Sebastien Haller.

On paper, the former Eintracht Frankfurt star’s first season was a failure. After scoring four in his first seven appearances, the Frenchman added just three goals to his tally in the following 25.

However, this is only half the story. As Haller came in, Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez left, taking a combined 17 goals with them. As the only proven striker signed in replacement, there was a lot of pressure on Haller in his first Premier League season and he will hopefully get better with time.

He also wasn’t helped by Felipe Anderson and Yarmolenko, both of whom suffered from second season syndrome. Anderson, in particular, was a shadow of his former self, scoring just once in 25 appearances and unable to find his groove in Moyes’ favoured 4-2-3-1 formation.

As for the other signings, Pablo Fornals and David Martin had moderate campaigns, Albian Ajeti didn’t get the minutes to make an impact, and Roberto was woeful. He has since been loaned back to Spain.

January Transfer Success

If Pellegrini’s summer spending was uninspiring, Moyes’ New Year purchases were a revelation. Former Hull City midfielder Jarrod Bowen added some much needed attacking flair, whilst Tomas Soucek changed West Ham’s season.

Although slow to get started in a Hammers’ shirt, the Czech was the missing piece of Moyes’ puzzle, as demonstrated in the Norwich demolition job.

Slotting in next to Declan Rice, Soucek was an extra midfield body to shore up the defence whilst his marauding runs made him a nuisance offensively.

More importantly, his presence allowed Rice, Fornals and particularly Mark Noble to play with more offensive freedom. Stationed higher up the pitch, Noble resembled the player he was a few years ago, nipping at Norwich’s defence like a terrier and picking up an assist for his troubles.

Soucek revolutionised the West Ham midfield and, despite only playing 13 matches, is a worthy contender for Player of the Season.

Defensive Woes

West Ham lost 24 points from winning positions this season. 24 points which would have seen them qualify for the Europa League.

Fabianski’s injury and the subsequent second choice ‘keeper woes aside, it’s fair to say that the back four didn’t cover itself with glory. A stable centre-back partnership proved hard to come by with only Angelo Ogbonna emerging from this season with any credit. Meanwhile of the fullbacks, youngster Ben Johnson was arguably responsible for the most inspiring performances despite only starting three matches.

There were improvements post-lockdown, but the defence is a problem area for the Hammers that drastically requires investment.

2019/20 Game of the Season: West Ham 3-2 Chelsea

This match was the turning point in West Ham’s survival, kickstarting their impressive July form. Coming from behind to lead 2-1, Willian’s late equaliser would ordinarily have been enough to send the Hammers spiralling. However, on this occasion, West Ham pushed until the end and were rewarded with an 89th-minute winner, courtesy of substitute Yarmolenko.

Three valuable points, a Soucek masterclass and the first of Antonio’s eight July goals. You’ll struggle to find a more significant match from this season.

Player of the Season: Declan Rice

Declan Rice was West Ham’s Hammer of the Year and it’s hard to disagree. The 21-year-old played every minute this season and was one of the only players to emerge from the season with any dignity. Rice was easily West Ham’s most consistent performer and looked assured defensively, offensively and with the captain’s armband. Retaining his services for next season is vital if the club want to move forward.

Overall: A Busy Summer Ahead for David Moyes

Moyes has a big summer rebuild on his hands. He’s already secured the services of Soucek on a permanent basis, which is a major boost. But, there is so much more to do.

A competent second choice goalkeeper, defensive reinforcements and a proven striker to support Haller and Antonio are a must whilst there is plenty of deadwood to be jettisoned.

With the right signings, Moyes could do with this West Ham side what he achieved at Everton and finally bring some joy to the London Stadium. The only question mark is whether Gold and Sullivan will give him the necessary time and resources to achieve this.

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