West Ham United 2021/22 season review: part one

This article will review the West Ham United squad utilising data from WyScout to provide an objective assessment of the squad performance over the period of 2021/2022 season.

The objective of the document is to review the current West Ham United first team squad via the data along with subjective scouting observations on player performance and make recommendations on their potential future at the club.

There will be a subsequent piece detailing recommendations for the upcoming summer transfer window. Based on the review of the current squad the article shall look to provide an overview of possible targets, highlighting players who are viewed objectively as realistic potential targets for West Ham United which would be reasonable based on wage structure and potential fee.

All players within the review shall be accessed and presented as to their percentile scoring against the Top Five European Leagues or their domestic League where they fall outside this search range. Any player part of this review will have played >900 minutes in their respective leagues across the Europe and Top Five European Leagues .

This document is is the work of Mike Hare (@Scouting_BTL – PFSA & FA Talent ID, PFSA Technical Scouting, PFSA Opposition Analysis & PFSA Advanced Scouting certified)

West Ham United Squad Depth – Including Youth Options

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West Ham Squad current average age is 28.14, placing second to relegated Burnley. There are seven players 30 or above next season and eight players should Alphonse Areola sign permanently. Additionally, five players are out of contract in the summer of 2023.

Another concerning trend is the lack of sellable assets from those on the fringes of the first XI.

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West Ham Overview

West Ham’s attacking style is one that is heavily weighted to set pieces utilising players such as Craig Dawson and Tomas Soucek who are consistent threats in these situations to attack the deliveries into the area.

Defensively, West Ham utilise a low defensive block with a willingness to concede possession to the opposition which has seen this on average at 46.77%. Often the aim of the low block is to filter the opposition out wide, remaining compact centrally and defending deliveries into the area. The defensive unit is supported by an active midfield closing space in front of the back four which is largely passive engaging in fewer defensive duels.

The design of the low defensive is to encourage the possession onto the defence and to quickly transition into attack, exploiting spaces left by the opposition. Under Moyes, West Ham look to utilise progressive passers and ball carriers in build up phases looking to create openings for the likes of Antonio and Bowen.

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Season Review 2021/2022

Goalkeeper – Lukasz Fabianski

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Fabianski has been the no.1 for WHU in the EPL this season missing just one game due to injury. By and large Fabianski has performed strongly but has demonstrated limitations in possession.

He has been a busy goalkeeper for West Ham facing a high number of shots on goal (8th most shots faced in the EPL) with a save rate of 70.6%.

An area where Fabianski has drawn frustration is in his reluctance to exit his goal line to claim or punch clear deliveries. This has seen him ranked 18th out of the 23 goalkeepers featured in the EPL and compounded the frustration by his lack of aerial duels favouring the defence to deal with deliveries.

In possession Fabianski is sparingly utilised as part of the build-up with his involvement largely coming through restarts recycling possession through the centre backs. The below average distribution can impact the ability to play through a high press or to draw the opposition before playing longer passes into free teammates.

Fabianski is likely to receive an extension to his existing deal with him displaying himself as a largely reliable shot stopper. The dilemma will be should Areola be made permeant does Moyes persist with Fabianski for another season (likely his last) or does he entrust Areola with the number one spot and utilise the former in cup competitions.

Goalkeepers – Alphonse Areola, Darren Randolph, David Martin & Summary

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Areola has operated as the cup competition goalkeeper for West Ham this season, with his notably save against Sevilla in the second leg of the Europa League quarter final a highlight of his impressive reactions. In the Europa League, Areola has faced 3.21 attempts p/90 with a save rate of 79.49% keeping five clean sheets in the process.

In the latter half of the season, Areola’s distribution has improved which has resulted in him performing strongly against the incumbent number one Fabianski. Whilst Areola’s passing is marginally better (85.03% pass completion & 66.27% long pass completion) this has enabled West Ham to retain possession better.

Neither Darren Randolph or David Martin has seen any minutes of competitive football for West Ham with Martin’s contract expiring this summer and Randolph potentially available for sale.

This summer Areola’s stay at West Ham is likely to be extended which would provide a long term number one option with Fabianski entering into potentially his final season at the club. During the cup competitions Areola has matched up or exceeded Fabianski statistically which will no doubt support the inclusion as first choice goalkeeper, should David Moyes wish to do so.

An area which West Ham arguably need to work on with either goalkeeper over the summer is on their distribution and creating angles for them to play through an opposition press. Should the distribution improve this could ensure West Ham are more consistent in possession against strong opposition.

Right Back – Vladimir Coufal

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Coufal's early season had been blighted by a persistent groin injury and playing through pain until surgery was required in February.

Defensively, Coufal has demonstrated good anticipation and positioning to perform above the average in interceptions, as well as shots blocked on goal. His combative nature ensured that he performs strongly in aerial duels.

His willingness to compete does mean he fouls often which can place the defence under pressure defending set pieces in dangerous areas. His defensive duels and actions are below average, but this is in line with how West Ham defend as a unit.

The number of duels won are an increase on last season (53.9%) although, it does highlight the opposition is winning a large share of the battles on the right flank. What is a cause for concern is the 6.51% drop in duels won since 1 January by Coufal.

With Bowen operating as an inside forward and vacating the right flank to explore the half spaces, Coufal is an outlet in the right. This takes advantage on his willingness to advance forward. His ability to create is optimised by his key passes p/90 (61st percentile) and delivery into the area putting him firmly into the >90th percentile for both crosses and assists.

Coufal is a reliable ball carrier, but his progressive play is due to his aggressive passing style and positioning in the final third. An area which requires improvement is in his accuracy which has seen a marginal drop off last season.

Whilst this season will have been largely frustrating for Coufal there are still positives to take and with work on specific areas such as ball retention, West Ham can only benefit from him. But the emergence of the more defensively minded Ben Johnson will add pressure.

Right Back – Ben Johnson

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Ben Johnson has had somewhat of a breakthrough season amassing 2,028 minutes in the EPL. He flexibility has been utilised in covering both full back positions, as well as a right sided centre back as part of a three.

Defensively, Johnson has performed strongly and largely above average. His ability to anticipate play has seen him intercept possession 11.97 times p.90 with 6.27 of that number resulting in regaining possession for West Ham.

His anticipation and timing has allowed him to be secure when tackling, resulting in very few fouls, but more importantly his positional sense has provided above average blocks to shots on goal. An area defensively Johnson requires improvement is in aerial duels where he can be exploited.

Johnson is naturally more defensively minded although there are promising signs that he can develop into an outlet in attack. His ball carrying is secure (61.11% success rate) and he should be encouraged to do so more consistently which should see an upturn in his progressive carries.

Additional signs are evident through the number of crosses and deep crosses completions p/90, along with an impressive 37.50% cross success rate. His passing is predominately forward thinking looking to progress play up field and influence the attack positively. This has seen good progressive passing metrics and completion of passes into the penalty area.

However, improvements to his overall passing accuracy and ability to get into the opposition area consistently are required. Should Johnson improve these areas he will enable him to become more consistent threat in attack for West Ham moving forward.

All in all, Johnson has seen steady development and growth this season with the increase in minutes. There are area of improvement to his overall game, but his development this season provides promise for the future.

Right Back – Ryan Fredericks, Harrison Ashby & Summary

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Ryan Fredericks has found himself to be the third choice right back this season and after four years with the club his contract is expiring. His career has at West Ham has been littered with injuries and he's become no more than a sporadic feature in the XI.

With Fredericks turning 30 next season and out of contract this summer, a move away from West Ham United in search of fist team football is best for all parties with Fulham the likely destination.

Harrison Ashby, 20 has had a productive season for the Under 23 team and was a positive feature of the final Europa League group stage game versus Dinamo. Not only did Ashby make his Europa League debut but his EPL debut this season and he put in a good performance at right wing back against Tottenham in the Carabao Cup.

Ashby has otherwise been part of the Under 23 which finished second to Manchester City’s academy. Next season ideally Ashby will be sent on loan to a club willing to provide in excess of 1,000 minutes of football to ensure he is able to develop through competitive football.

In Summary, West Ham have good depth at right back with Coufal and Johnson established, while Ashby can provide additional cover should he not be sent out on loan. Right back is possibly the only position in the first team which isn’t open to an overhaul.

However, it could be make or break season for Coufal and Johnson with the wide changes happening elsewhere within the squad. With Coufal injury free he will be hoping to continue as the first choice option and rediscover the form he displayed in his first season where he was a Hammer of the Year contender along with Rice and Soucek.

Left Back – Aaron Cresswell

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Cresswell's defensive actions and duels follow a similar pattern to that of the defensive unit deployed by David Moyes at West Ham. There is a degree of passiveness to the defence to which they can remain compact and not engage.

Whilst Creswell's duels and actions are low, he is successful in a large proportion of them when he engages the opposition. His positioning inside the area is a positive when defending as demonstrated by his ability to block shots consistently.

However, his concentration and marking at left back can lead to opposition players running in behind him at the back post area - an example being the last minute winner for Manchester United. Positionally, he looks to remain tight to Zouma out of possession tucking infield leading to few opportunities to break up play through interceptions.

Whilst Cresswell does provide a threat at set pieces his attacking contributions are significantly less than his contemporaries and full back down the right, which can lead to Benrahma enjoying fewer 2v1 opportunities as Cresswell sits deeper.

The deeper positioning also impacts the regularity of deliveries into area which is a below average contribution. His lack of advancement in the channel means final third passing such as deep completions and passes into the penalty area are largely below average, impacting the team's attacking threat.

The positive Cresswell brings besides set pieces is his ball retention which benefits West Ham in building through the left and inside left channels. He’s supported largely by Benrahma who remains wide to provide a viable forward and progressive passing option.

With Cresswell entering into his final contractual year there is an opportunity for West Ham to look in the market for a more rounded left back who can contribute more consistently across each discipline. Cresswell however remains an important character in the dressing room and still has a role to play within the squad.

Left Back – Arthur Masuaku, Manny Longelo & Summary

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Masuaku has suffered another stop-start season for West Ham with persistent concerns over his recovery from knee surgery, which saw him miss 20 games in all competitions in the 20/21 season. He also didn’t feature in the league until he made a substitute appearance in the closing minutes of the 3-2 victory over Liverpool.

Masuku however, did provide a moment to remember with his unorthodox winner versus Chelsea which left Edouard Mendy caught out as his near post. West Ham are now arguably at a point where our time with Masuaku comes to an end after six years. He still remains the most expensive full back of the GSB era at €7m and with Fulham interested it would be sensible to move on so he can compete for regular football.

Manny Longelo made his Europa League debut against Dinamo where he appeared assured carrying possession (80% success rate from five carries) and committed defensively (21 duels, 62% won). Longelo is a promising talent and with two years left on his existing deal a loan would be great for his development and provide further experience.

In summary, West Ham's left back position requires greater depth and improvement; the club need to introduce a left back comfortable in attacking/defensive phases. Cresswell is a key member of the squad in which his experience will be vital over the course of the season, although with a year left of his existing deal a longer term option would be preferable to ensure the success of West Ham moving forward.

Centre Back – Kurt Zouma

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Despite the controversy off the field and an injury-hit season, Zouma has been a consistent performer for West Ham displaying strong reliance mentally. As is the trend, the defensive actions and duels are very much below average.

Defensively, Zouma has been a calming influence leading the back line and doing so whilst playing predominately on his weaker side. Physically he has been dominant winning a large proportion of his individual battles with 67.50% defensive duels & 58.33% aerial duels won.

A key asset within Zouma’s arsenal is his pace which ensures he can make strong recovery runs to stifle the opposition as they look to exploit space in behind, although in the latter part of the season Zouma’s pace has been utilised to aggressively press the opposition centre forward as they drop deep. This has led to mixed results with space left in behind for the opposition to exploit from diagonal runs into the vacated space.

In possession Zouma enables West Ham to maintain possession and rotate positions as they look to build up play through the defence. Whilst Zouma isn’t one for progressive passes towards goal nor an overly active passer on a consistent basis compared to his contemporaries, his accuracy with through balls and entries into the final third is impressive. Should West Ham develop into a more possession based team, Zouma is well placed to adapt.

The selection choice this summer will be whether to pursue with Zouma as the left sided centre back or not. Much will depend on those available as to which side Zouma starts from, but the ideal solution would be to utilise Zouma on his stronger side with a natural left-sided defender brought in.

Centre Back – Craig Dawson

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After starting the season as third choice centre back, Craig Dawson has seen his role and importance to the squad increase through Angelo Ogbonna's ACL injury. Dawson has been ever present in the starting XI and played through injuries to help West Ham through an almost crippling injury crisis.

Defensively, Dawson has performed consistently showing reliability in defensive duels and combatively engaging the opposition aerially. Whilst he may not be as successful as Zouma aerially, he exerts pressure on the opposition to force an unclean contact.

Where Dawson excels in aerial duels is at set pieces where he has very good movement and understanding as to how to lose or better his marker. This has resulted in two league goals this season, though his xG suggests he should have - at a minimum - three league goals.

His ability to find space in a grounded area at set pieces has ensured that he is able to gain an advantage in attacking duels and led to a high number of touches in the opposition area during the campaign.

An area which has seen an improvement and increased productivity is in Dawson’s passing ability. Whilst the number of passes are below average compared to other centre backs across the top five European leagues, his accuracy has been of a higher standard compared to last season particularly with passes into the final third and long passes (producing a minimum 5% increase). This has manifested into a wider range of passing out of defence.

Dawson, now in his final contractual year is left with a decision as to whether he is happy to be third choice once again or ask for a move to get more first XI minutes outside of cup appearances. He would still have a key role to play as part of the squad for West Ham next season and will need to continue his progress in possession should West Ham look to become more possession based.

Centre Back – Issa Diop

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Issa Diop has seen this season mainly as a squad player as part of the cups and early Europa League group campaign. He was provided his opportunity in the starting XI with injuries to Ogbonna (ACL) and Zouma (knee) during the busy December to February period as the left-sided centre back.

Defensively, Diop looks to play aggressively by stepping out of the back line to challenge the opposition and win possession. Whilst the approach can be advantageous resulting in a good win percentage in duels, his decision making can leave him and the defence exposed with space left for underlapping/diagonal runs behind.

The decision-making issues have also provided Diop timing issues in aerial duels and due to a lack of physicality he has been bested too often. Conversely, Diop is very useful aerially at set pieces as he can find mismatches in the area when challenging deliveries into the box.

Diop is a decent option in possession with a good level of accuracy across multiple metrics, although less comfortable when playing more direct with longer passes.

There has been interest from Ligue 1 for Diop who could also be in favour of a return to France for a chance to rejuvenate his career with it stalling having showing early promise. West Ham are also rumoured to be interested in a new left-sided centre back which would limit Diop’s opportunities further.

With two years left on his existing contract, now would likely be the best time to move on Diop to partially fund the new centre back rumoured to be signing during this coming summer window.

Centre Back – Angelo Ogbonna

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Ogbonna’s season was curtailed early on with an ACL injury in the 3-2 victory against Liverpool at the London Stadium. This has led to the question of what might have been as Ogbonna and Zouma appeared to be building a good understanding. There was also balance added to the defence with both centre backs operating on their strongest foot

Ogbonna amassed 996 minutes of play in the EPL before his injury and during that time was involved in three clean sheets. Interestingly, he was more accomplished and impactful in possession than in defence where we was largely passive and below average across multiple metrics. The area in which he stood out defensively was in aerial duels where he was commanding and authoritative alongside Zouma.

In possession, Ogbonna was utilised as West Ham looked to play out through the defence and recycle possession as part of build-up play. His ability to resist the opposition press ensured that he was able to complete a high level of passes and progress play consistently.

With the injury, the question remains as to how well the ACL has repaired and how much strength has been retained. With the intensity of the EPL and the severity of Ogbonna’s injury it’s a valid concern as to his readiness to compete next season under the stresses the league brings.

With a one-year extension rumoured to be on the table, as well as a big overhaul due to several expiring contracts the continuity of Ogbonna remaining for another season would seemingly be the right decision.

Centre Back – Aji Alese & Summary

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Alese, 21, has performed strongly for the Under 23s at left centre back and named captain this season leading them to a second place league finish. He made four professional appearances this season representing West Ham in the Europa League & EFL Trophy.

In these matches he demonstrated a robust defensive display with 6.48 p/90 winning 78.6%. A particular area where Alese would need to improve upon is in his aerial duels where he won just 52.9% of the 3.93 p/90 faced.

Naturally left footed, Alese could provide West Ham with a long-term option once Ogbonna’s contract expires. However, Alese would need to demonstrate (on loan) that he can perform at a higher level than Under 23 with early signs indicating promise. Entering his final two years at West Ham it will be important for Alese to get first team exposure on loan playing consistently

With Diop likely to be sold in the summer and question marks on Ogbonna's recovery, there is a requirement to bring in at least one new centre back. The recruitment process has already moved quickly to add to the depth after the crisis of this season with highly rated Nayef Aguerd edging closer to being signed.

A long-term partnership with pace, athleticism and good distribution is an exciting prospect. It should provide the midfield to push further forward with the increased passing range out of defence.

The concern for West Ham is what to do with Craig Dawson if the alleged rumours are true regarding him wanting to return back north. If this is the case, an additional centre back would be required in order to safeguard the squad's quality and depth.

* Click here for the second and final part of Mike Hare's 2021/22 season review. You may also follow Mike on twitter at @scouting_btl.

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