Saturday, October 24, 2020

West Ham United 2018/19 Season Review

The 2018/19 season saw West Ham United enter their third season at the Olympic stadium. The first two seasons could hardly be considered campaigns to remember for the Hammers faithful. Both previous Premier League seasons had seen the club endure painful relegation battles for the most part, leaving behind casualties in the managerial department as both Slaven Billic and David Moyes saw their head on the chopping block.

The season of 2018/19 promised something other than bottom of the table blues. After much deserved criticism from the fans, which saw many storm the pitch and round on the directors box amidst a drab home performance against Burnley, owners David Sullivan and Gold finally seemed to realise that the investment which they had promised prior to Upton Park’s exit, was direly needed.

The appointment of former Malaga, Real Madrid and Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini at West Ham made the Premier League winner the third highest paid manager in England. As well as a new manager, the summer of 2018 proved to be the most expensive in West Ham United’s history as the East London side spent roughly £100 million pounds to bring in the likes of Issa Diop, Andriy Yarmolenko, Lucas Perez, Carlos Sanchez, Fabian Balbuena, Lukasz Fabianski and record signing Felipe Anderson, while Jack Wilshere and Ryan Fredericks joined the club on free transfers.

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Jack Wilshere and Felipe Anderson signed for West Ham United in the summer transfer window of 2018. Image © West Ham United.

Given the new man in charge, along with the over due arrival of new faces and the money that had been spent, rather understandably, the claret and blue army had good reasons to feel excited and optimistic about their teams prospects heading into the new season.

In terms of starting the season, things could hardly have gone any worse for the Hammers. The opening four games of the Premier League season saw the Irons suffer hard defeats at the hands of Liverpool, Bournemouth, Arsenal and Wolves with a Capital One Cup victory over League 1 Wimbledon sandwiched between the fixtures against the Gunners and Wolves.

From the poorest of starts came an incredible upturn in both performances and results. A 3-1 victory for the Hammers away at Goodison Park gave the Hammers their first three points of the season which saw the East London side go on an undefeated run. This turn in form saw West Ham become the first side of the season to take points off Chelsea via a 0-0 stalemate before battering Macclesfield Town 8-0 in the League Cup and securing a 3-1 victory against United, all of which came on home turf.

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Felipe Anderson scored his first competitive goal for West Ham in the 3-1 home victory against Manchester United. Image © Hammers Chat

Those early season fixtures in all honesty set the tone for what was to become West Ham United’s season. Consistently inconsistent throughout. The side seemed to go through waves of bad performances and results before then turning out a fantastic run, a polar opposite of what had occurred potentially days earlier.

Come January, that consistently inconsistent sort of form saw West Ham United comfortably safe from the fear of relegation in a battle for a European and seventh place. The opening month of 2019 certainly proved to be a season defining month for the Hammers.

After a 2-0 victory at the London Stadium against Birmingham City in the third round of the FA Cup, West Ham secured a huge victory against Arsenal a week later. The 1-0 home win was the Hammers first against their North London rivals in 13 years and marked a huge moment for 19 year old academy graduate, Declan Rice, as the then future England international scored his first senior goal for the club.

Unfortunately, January would also appear to be the month in which the Hammers season effectively came to an end. A disgraceful 4-2 away defeat in the Irons second clash of the season with League 1 Wimbledon ensured that West Ham United’s dreams of silverware faded and died for this season.

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West Ham’s loss against Wimbledon saw them exit the FA Cup in the fourth round. Image © BBC Sport.

As well as a premature FA Cup exit, West Ham’s season took another dire turn in regards to star player, Marko Arnautovic. Appearing to say goodbye to the fans while being subbed off in the victory over Arsenal. The Austrian international very nearly joined a Chinese team at the advice of brother and agent before adverting his mind on the eve of the Wimbledon game and signing a new deal with the Hammers.

Sadly, Arnautovic struggled to recapture his fine form from the first half of the season and did not find the net again until the second from last game of the season in a 3-0 win over Southampton at the London Stadium.

From January until the end of the season, the Hammers were presented with a number of opportunities to go seventh place but squandered them on each occasion before finally finishing 10th. The end of the season continued to highlight the inconsistency of the East London club’s campaign.

A horrific 2-0 defeat at home against Everton was followed by defeats against Chelsea and Manchester United, before drawing at home with Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester. The Irons then proceeded to end the season with a fantastic trio of wins as they became the first team to beat Spurs at their new stadium before ending the season with comfortable victories over Southampton and Watford.

Given the dangerous nature of the previous two seasons, a comfortable top table finish made for a much more enjoyable campaign with some fantastic highlights. Manuel Pellegrini has laid down a good foundation to build upon in his first season as West Ham manager. The upcoming transfer window will be as much about getting rid of the deadwood as it will be bringing in the right players, as Andy Carroll and Adrian have already departed, with the former’s exit having been long overdue.

Lukasz Fabianski deservedly won the Hammer of the Year award in his first season at the club, proving to be an outstanding figure between the posts. The manager’s decision to put faith in Declan Rice also proved to be inspired as the youngster won three end of season awards and booked himself a place in Gareth Southgate’s Nations League squad after developing a fantastic midfield partnership with club captain and legend, Mark Noble. I look forward to seeing the what Pellegrini will add and the team that he will assemble for next season.

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Lukasz Fabianski became the first goalkeeper since Robert Green in 2008 to win the Hammer of The Year Award. Image © West Ham United.

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