The West Ham Way – Season 1

You can guarantee 3 things in life, you’re born, you’ll die and West Ham fans will never be happy unless they’re playing The West Ham Way.

I joke, it’s not that bad, we’re a passionate bunch and just want the club to be as successful as our dreams, but like the song goes we’re far too used to seeing our dreams fade and die.

It’s not all doom and gloom, our fortunes are hiding and with the rebuild comes the desire to make changes for the better. This save was designed to be as realistic as possible, I didn’t want to find an overpowering tactic that would see us dominating the league from the start (yeah,I could build one if I wanted, I just don’t wanna..) I wanted to build a system that works with the players we’ve got, whilst giving me options to build on it moving forward.

Tactically I only had 2 things that I wanted to stick to, three at the back & two strikers. The board wanted me to play attacking football so I thought, sod it, I’ll build the tactic with an attacking mentality but a counter attacking style, the results…. well, they were a bit West Hammy!

Our three at the back complimented each other well, N’Dicka on the left, Balbuena through the middle and Diop on the right all performed well in my opinion, Evan N’Dicka even finished the season with the most interceptions and most tackles in the league. I have the development of this tactic in the back of my mind as the playing squad gets better and one improvement I want to make will be to the middle of the three, replacing Balbuena with someone a little better with the ball at their feet.

Our wide play came in the form of wing backs. On the left was Aaron Cresswell who had a fantastic season, but he’s getting on a bit so finding a replacement is high on the agenda. The right wing back position was to be contested by the experienced Pablo Zabaleta, the rapid Ryan Fredricks and the new boy Patrick Burner. Unfortunately Fredricks picked up a long term injury and missed big chunks of the season which meant Burner got a lot more game time than I expected with Zaba struggling with the rigours of Premier League football.

In the middle of the park is where I had to experiment, Rice was nailed on as my defensive midfielder, but the remaining two roles were often shared between Mark Noble, Jack Wilshere, Lucas Tousart & Pablo Fornals, often determined by the opposition but as the season went on the combination of Noble & Fornals became settled, but it doesn’t feel right & changes have to be made.

Then we come on to our strikers, a combination of Sébastien Haller & Karl Toko Ekambi in theory, should compliment each other beautifully, Haller is powerful and can hold the ball up well and Ekambi has the lightening pace to catch teams on the counter. The reality was that Haller became our talisman and Ekambi couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo and the timing of his runs saw him rack up the impressive award for being caught offside the most times in a season. Impressive.

How The Season Panned Out

In real life, I said at the start of the 2019/20 season that I’d be happy with 10th place in the Premier League. People scoffed as they expected West Ham to be challenging for Europe but I am a realist and I’m actually quite happy that my in game results saw us finish 9th in the league. I know that I could have done better, I could have picked a 4-2-4 tactic and mixed in the cheat code Håland but as I have already said, this save is more about me trying to stick to a philosophy playing 3 at the back with 2 strikers.

Sébastian Haller finished the season as the Golden Boot winner scoring 22 in 37 in the league, helped in the second half of the season by his new Brazilian strike partner.

I saw this signing as somewhat of a realistic one, he’s been linked with West Ham for a while so I was happy to fight it out with Flamengo and do what Gold, Sullivan & Brady failed to do IRL this January window and sign him for £18m.

The Brazilian link up didn’t stop there though, Walter Kannemann was poached from Grêmio for his release clause value of £8.5m. I had two thoughts in mind when I went in for Kannemann; first of all he has a higher quality than Balbuena and secondly, I know that I’ll recoup at least double my outlay when the inevitable transfer offers come in at the end of next season.

The final signing of the January window wasn’t actually one I’d had my eyes on but I happened to receive a scout recommendation and I noticed a host of the big clubs interested in his services, but nobody had made a bid. I was thinking purely about money when I came to doing this deal, if Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and PSG were interested in him then surely they’ll be interested when he’s a Premier League midfielder. So the two clubs settled on a £16m transfer fee and a rather hefty £55k p/w contract and Eduardo Camavinga became a West Ham player.

A semi-final appearance in the Carabao Cup was probably the highlight of our season, we lost the two legged tie by a single goal and if Haller had converted his penalty we’d have potentially taken West Ham to Wembley, imagine the anguish!

As I covered above, the way we played was encouraging, exciting and very West Hammy. I’d already started identifying areas that I’d like to improve and players that I wanted to get out of my club:

  • Try and reduce the number of £100k+ p/w week players at the club.
  • Find a centre half that was comfortable with the ball at his feet and possessed some passing ability.
  • [M.E] Full backs were getting so many chances on goal that I thought playing a forward/winger there may convert more of those opportunities so I wanted to sign a pair of ‘wingers-come-wingbacks’.
  • Improve the standard of goalkeeping at the club.

I always enjoy the second season of a save, you have had a season to instil your DNA in to the club, you’re about to deal your way through a transfer window and you can put right the wrongs of the season before. Next season we will do better, I’d like 7th place and a good cup run. The board are backing us financially and I feel pretty secure in the job so it’s time to stop writing and time to start playing. See you next time and Come On You Irons!