Premier League 2022-23 Preview No. 19: West Ham

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Guardian writers’ predicted position 8. (NB: this is not necessarily Jacob Steinberg’s prediction, but the average of our authors’ tips)

Last season’s position 7

Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker) 150-1

Outlook

The goal is to challenge for a place among the top four again. The question is whether West Ham have gone stale. They captured the imagination with their run to the Europa League semi-finals last season, but a small squad struggled to cope with the extra workload and David Moyes has spent the summer trying to add more quality in several positions.

On the plus side, West Ham have reduced their reliance on Michail Antonio, who looked tired in the second half of last season. The striker has had no competition for his place in the past 18 months, but the arrival of Gianluca Scamacca from Sassuolo gives Moyes’ attack a fresh look. A tall and powerful striker, Scamacca scored 16 goals in Serie A last season and has broken into the Italy squad. The 23-year-old has every chance of becoming a fan favourite, although the recent history of attacking players moving to the Premier League from Serie A is not very encouraging.

However, the striking situation is not the only problem. Moyes needs more from Saïd Benrahma and Nikola Vlasic in the attacking midfield. He will hope that Flynn Downes is able to help the overworked Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice in central midfield. As for the defense, all is not well. Nayef Aguerd, a Moroccan centre-back who has signed for £30m from Rennes, could be out for three months after undergoing ankle surgery. Angelo Ogbonna has just returned from a long-term knee injury. Issa Diop will leave and Kurt Zouma suffered injuries last season. Another big season for Craig “Ballon” Dawson, then?

Of course, there is no need to panic just yet. West Ham have made rapid progress over the last two years. But have their opponents started to figure them out? Moyes, who tore into his players after last-day defeat to Brighton forced West Ham to settle for a place in the Europa Conference League, has sounded a little impatient of late. It could be a test campaign.

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The boss

Moyes has worked wonders since returning to the London Stadium. He has transformed a struggling team into top-six contenders, won over a previously disaffected crowd and taken the club on a dramatic European adventure. Gone are the days when West Ham were seen as flaky pushovers. Moyes has made them resilient and hard to beat, but he has also succeeded in making his side fun to watch and capable of scoring against anyone. The perception of the Scotsman as a tactical dinosaur has been shown to be nonsense. Moyes has grown as a manager and is busy developing a solid culture at West Ham. However, there are slight concerns surrounding some of the club’s recent recruitment. There have been some questionable signings of late and West Ham need Moyes to be sharper in the transfer market if they are to maintain their upswing.

West Ham manager David Moyes during the club's media day.

West Ham manager David Moyes during the club’s media day. Photo: Simon Dael/Shutterstock

Transfer coup

West Ham went 18 months with Michail Antonio as their only senior striker after selling Sébastien Haller to Ajax in January 2021. That put Antonio and his notoriously shaky hamstrings under a lot of pressure, saw the arrival of Gianluca Scamacca from Sassuolo in a deal worth £35, 5m is a huge lift. The Italy forward was a target for Paris Saint-Germain this summer. West Ham will hope he is more Paolo Di Canio than Simone Zaza.

WC influence

Much of West Ham’s squad may be rested during the World Cup. Rice is a sure-fire option for England, while Jarrod Bowen hopes to stay in Gareth Southgate’s plans and Aguerd is a key player for Morocco. Pablo Fornals will also hope to force his way into the Spanish squad and Alphonse Areola could represent France. However, Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal will stay at home after the Czech Republic does not qualify.

Interactive

Alternative attractions during the World Cup

Anyone who wants to reminisce about London 2012 can sign up for the half marathon in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on 27 November. As a bonus, you can limp over to Westfield to do your Christmas shopping once the race is over.

Leads shirt sales

Rice is the obvious crowd favorite. The 23-year-old has developed into one of the best midfielders in the world and is set to take on even more responsibility following Mark Noble’s retirement. The concern, however, is that Rice doesn’t plan to emulate Noble by becoming a one-club man. The England international has no intention of extending his current contract and is keen to play for a club in the Champions League. Chelsea, who let Rice go when he was 14, will monitor the situation closely. It is no secret that he is unlikely to stay at West Ham beyond next summer.

Social climber

Benrahma might not be a regular starter, but there are no worries about his social media game. The Algerian winger leads the way on Instagram with an impressive two million followers. Fans can watch post-match reactions (example text: “Sunday win and three points”) and moody photos of Benrahma living his best life away from the pitch. Log in to see Benrahma smiling in a car. Scroll down to see him making the most of his vacation by jet skiing. Keep taking a picture of him trying on a hat.

If West Ham were a Netflix doctor…

The cameras capture an irritated Moyes longing for Tony Hibbert after Benrahma took his tricks and tricks too far in training. The players are wondering if a new signing will come in. The answer will come soon. “I have unfinished business at West Ham,” says a 39-year-old Alessandro Diamanti after leaving A-League side Western United and sealing an emotional return to east London.

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