Can West Ham Qualify for the Top Four? – Analysis & Discussion

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Despite a disappointing loss to Newcastle United this weekend, David Moyes’ West Ham are still in the race for the top four. Their injury crisis might be building, but any form of European football would be a major plus for the team. Here is Amelia-Toni Adejobi’s analysis of their chances of finishing within the top four, and how they fared in some of their recent matches.

NEW FORMATION? – 3-4-1-2

West Ham have mastered the art of playing to their strengths, and haven’t needed to play to a style normally expected of a Premier League top four team. They are quick to win the ball from their opposition, and immediately push bodies forward, trying to set Lingard or Bowen free on goal. Their recent style of play can be summed up in one sentence: they make three direct passes in under ten seconds on the break, and then look to score. Moyes’ has recently adopted a 3-4-1-2 formation to accommodate Michail Antonio’s injury, which is aiding in their verticality during attacking transitions. In this formation and without Declan Rice, Moyes’ defense has been placed under more pressure. In fact, they’ve conceded 10 goals in their last 4 matches. Beyond those niggling injuries, this will be Moyes’ greatest concern as the team head into the final few matches of the season. Particularly, the team has a tendency to relax after scoring goals, which usually results in the other team scoring at least two and denying West Ham a clean sheet. Nonetheless, the 3-4-1-2 formation is one that shows West Ham’s true aim in the matches they play—to win at any price. 

Jesse Lingard – His Influence and Growth

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A major component of the Hammers’ success this season is Jesse Lingard, on loan from Manchester United. Lingard’s game has transformed since his arrival at the club, and he’s helped to transform West Ham into genuine top four contenders. The wing wizard was just a young man making his way during David Moyes’ brief spell at Manchester United, but they have continued to instill trust in each other now late into the Brit’s career. 

Lingard was a favourite under Louis Van Gaal and even Jose Mourinho had some level of faith in the attacking midfield, but players like Bruno Fernandes, Daniel James and Marcus Rashford eventually pushed him out of the side under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Lingard was often put deeper in formation to make space for other players, or worse, left on the bench. Now at West Ham, he’s arguably the biggest name at the club and has transcended positions. In the past two games he’s even played up front, alongside Jarrod Bowen in the 3-4-1-2 formation. His intelligence and quick thinking has inspired his teammates to perform better, and it was only when he did not play that they suffered a lifeless defeat to Manchester United. 

Since starting at West Ham, the 29-year-old has 12 goal involvements in 10 games (9 goals, 3 assists). No other Premier League player has accumulated more goal involvements since Lingard’s arrival at West Ham. 

They have won 10 matches this year in the Premier League and only lost 4, third only to Manchester City who have won 16 matches, and Manchester United, who have also won 10 but have lost fewer. Remarkably, West Ham have secured 32 points from a possible 48 since the turn of the year; a stark contrast from a team who were battling relegation this time last season. 


West Ham Vs Leicester, Sunday April 11
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In their match against Leicester, they started off well, but Leicester didn’t shake them up enough. Their defence was porous, allowing Lingard to score 2 goals in 15 minutes. But with West Ham’s lack of possession, it could be argued Leicester were always in the game. Leicester had more shots, a higher amount of possession, and created the better chances of the two teams. However, this only showed in the final third of the match, when West Ham relaxed their play. Four Leicester players were left out of the team due to breaking COVID-19 protocols, and their presence was felt in the match. Instead of staking claim in the top four race, the Foxes’ poor performance only highlighted West Ham United’s strengths.

West Ham Vs Arsenal, Sunday March 21
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In West Ham’s match against Arsenal, Moyes’ team dominated the first half. They scored two goals in quick succession, and took advantage of Arsenal’s mismatched play and lack of concentration. The greatest example of this was Lingard quickly taking a free kick and Bowen converting before some Arsenal players even became aware that the kick had been taken. 

Arsenal were disappointing in the first half, and the players looked tired from playing during the week. The Hammers punished their mistakes, but luckily enough for Arsenal, the Gunners were relentless in the second half. Arsenal’s first goal was an own goal by West Ham’s Dawson and through a Callum Chambers inspired performance, they completed the comeback in the second half. This was another example of West Ham crumbling under the pressure as the match went on, and a massive miss in the race for Champions League football. Their disappointment to only get a draw still highlights just how far they’ve come, and the Hammers still currently sit in the top four at the time of writing.


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West Ham United is not just another Premier League team. With a semi-unique style of play, they have proven themselves time and time again, scoring an average of 3 goals in their recent matches. Through Jesse Lingard they have a shining star and a constant feature on the scoresheet, but other West Ham players (the likes of Rice, Soucek and Bowen) are doing very well too. Their cooperation and teamwork shows in the way they play and the heart they display game in, game out is undeniable. Along with David Moyes’ tactics that play to their strengths and their strong belief, they have been able to work their way into the top 4 in the Premier League and are in the running for a spot in the next season’s Champions League. This team is definitely one to watch closely.

So there it is! An analysis of West Ham’s top four chances and recent performances. Be sure to check out more of our Tactical Analyses including our latest West Ham United – 4-2-3-1 – Tactical Analysis (2020-21). Thanks for reading and see you soon!

You might also enjoy…

-> West Ham United – 4-2-3-1 – Tactical Analysis (2020-21)
-> David Moyes – 5-4-1 – West Ham United – Tactical Analysis
-> Futbol Masterminds – Lingard, Bundesliga Top Four Race & Racism in Football

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