West Ham United 2021/22 season review: part two

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).

* You may read part one of this season review, covering the goalkeeping and defensive positions here.

Centre Midfield– Declan Rice

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Declan Rice was made vice captain of West Ham this season and the de facto captain on the field with Mark Noble being largely on the bench. Rice, despite his age displayed leadership qualities that belied his years, leading the club to a seventh place finish and the semi finals of the Europa League.

Rice has stood out this season for his leadership, industry, resilience and consistency. His growth has been impressive with him developing into a box-to-box midfielder. As part of his development, he has exceeded the performance metrics of his contemporaries to show vastly above average contributions. A particularly impressive development has been in Rice's attacking output which provides an additional dynamic to his overall game.

Progressive play is a strength of Rice driving West Ham forward through incisive passing and strong ball carries into the opposition half. His ability to retain possession is integral to enabling the team in breaking down the opposition.

He has been able to mix up his passing style and add greater variety, becoming more expansive and influence play. Rice often finds himself dropping deep forming a temporary three-man defence in possession as the full backs push high. This leaves him with the option to look for a cross-field diagonal or attempt penetrative passes through the defensive lines of the opposition.

Despite Rice showing greater attacking intent there has been no significant impact on his defensive contribution. His ability to slow down the opposition enables team mates in transition to get back into possession or engage in a 2v1. Furthermore, his ability to read the game ensures he positions himself in the optimal position to win his duels, but also to incept possession, disrupting the opposition consistently.

It's vital West Ham convince Rice to remain this season as captain and build a team of quality around him. There is big interest from elite EPL clubs and should a sale be sanctioned, it’s imperative the club secure a substantial fee to rebuild the squad.

Centre Midfield – Tomas Soucek

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The 21/22 season has been difficult for Soucek and one where a change of role hasn’t been able to get the best out of him as the club look to provide Rice more freedom in midfield. Ultimately, Soucek has struggled to meet the standards of last season in a more reserved role and his output has been affected across the board.

The positives for Soucek this season have been his defensive contribution to the team. His physicality and willingness to put his body on the line for his teammates has not only seen him bandaged up multiple times but seen above average ground and aerial duels won.
This season an area Soucek has improved on is his ability to break up play through interceptions and ground duels posting stronger stats that last season. Whilst his aerial duels are less frequent this term (-2.53 p/90) and winning fewer (-9.58%) his aerial ability is invaluable. With this aerial prowess so important at defending and attacking set pieces.

Soucek in possession has limitations. This season it has been brought into stark contrast with his attacking outputs dropping off from last season and the role change requiring him to utilise possession from a deeper position. A positive amongst the below average performance in possession is the improvement in accuracy when passing into the penalty area (+17.7%) this season.

The role change has seen Soucek's attacking threat nullified with less offensive duels (-0.35 p/90) but more alarming is his drop in winning his individual battles in attacking phases (duels won -13.46%). His ball carries are low, but this has not been part of his game including last season. The positives are that, despite the struggles, he’s still provided goals including an incredibly important header verses Sevilla at the London Stadium.

Soucek still has a role to play in the squad adding defensive resilience and a willingness to put himself on the line. The big questions are: do we adapt to push Soucek further forward as last season and do we amend our set up to accommodate a deep playmaker - or is now the time to sell with two years left on his deal?

Centre Midfield – Conor Coventry

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Conor Coventry has spent the 21/22 season out on loan getting much-needed minutes to help with his growth and development. After being utilised as a bit-part player at Peterborough where he amassed 485 minutes, he was recalled in January before moving to MK Dons on loan (starting 22 matches).

Coventry operates as a box-to-box midfielder utilising his high fitness levels to provide support in offensive and defensive situations. His desire to contribute defensive is optimised to engage the opposition in duels where his commitment and intensity is very positive, winning 62.79% of the 7.25 duels p/90 he engages in.

League One is a physical division requiring commitment to press the opposition to assert yourselves on the field which Coventry has done, achieving impressive metrics. Whilst the number of fouls is higher than average it does further highlight his willingness to step up to the physical challenges before him. An area which is a weakness defensively is in aerial duels where he tries to utilise his body to influence the duel rather than commit aerially.

In possession there are positive signs that Coventry is assured and composed with good ball retention. Further evidence can be seen in him securing 90.1% accuracy from 56.04 passes p/90 in the EFL Championship. He actively progresses play through intelligent passes creating openings in the final third with above average deep completion and key passes.

This season has been a successful learning experience despite the mixed fortunes of the initial loan to Peterborough. His performances have shown promise which could convince teams in the EFL Championship to request Coventry on loan next season. As he is entering into his final season it will be a big decision from him to either fight for a chance at West Ham or to go perform on loan to either earn himself a new deal at the club or earn himself a contract elsewhere.

Centre Midfield – Mark Noble, Alex Král & Summary

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Alex Kral's loan has been nothing sort of a disaster not only for Kral but also West Ham, who’ve failed to utilise the Czech International. This move has highlighted a failure in either integration or talent identification to bring in a player ill-suited for the squad and EPL. His integration hasn’t been helped with only 282 minutes of football since joining, with him leaving West Ham feeling frustrated, as well as the club.

Mark Noble bowed out of West Ham this season after 550 appearances, 60+ goals and 17 years of service to his boyhood club. With Noble departing there is a big personality and presence leaving the club, which will be difficult to replace. On the field fortunately West Ham already have a leader in Declan Rice who has been mentored by Noble since he broke through into the first team.

Prior to the conversation of Soucek being available for transfer West Ham ideally needed to find a suitable upgrade in midfield who is proficient in both offensive and defensive phases, as well as comfortable in possession. Should Soucek leave there is added pressure to not only find his replacement in the XI to complement Declan Rice but to also review and integrate competition in the remaining centre midfield positions.

West Ham have struggled this season to consistently maintain possession against high press opposition and struggled to break down a low block. Therefore, any midfield option needs to be press resistant, proficient in penetrative passing and a dynamic ball carrier to bring the variation required to midfield.

Right Midfield – Jarrod Bowen

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Jarrod Bowen this season has seen his greatest goals and assists return in the EPL and performed in the final third for West Ham. His scoring exploits has also drawn the attention of England with him being named in Gareth Southgate's squad for the Nations League games.

With Bowen operating as an inside forward/inverted winger he vacates the right hand flank to explore the half spaces looking for opportunities to hurt the opposition through off the ball movement. What this means is that Bowen is infrequently involved in build-up play requiring the right back to remain high and wide to provide width.

Bowen’s creativity in open play has been vital, providing six assists along with producing four assists from corner set pieces. Should Bowen develop greater involvement in possession with improved ball retention his overall game could move onto another level than he is currently performing at for West Ham United.

Defensively Bowen works incredibly hard, pressing from the front, harrying the opposition to rush possession and force an error. As a result of his front foot defending, he has benefited from disrupting the opposition on several occasions or retrieving possession through interceptions. His desire to work hard for his team mates ensures that he gets into positions to engage the opposition where he can positively impact the defence, winning a large proportion of his individual battles.

Bowen’s composure and the timing of his forward movement is impressive and was evident against Manchester City, when he broke the offside trap twice & scored two goals with only two shots. His composure has ensured he has exceeded his xG as he takes a 'moment' to set himself both technically and mentally, picking his spot before executing.

This summer the most important piece of the jigsaw is to extend Bowen's contract and to find genuine competition to continue pushing his progression forward.

Right Midfield – Andriy Yarmolenko & Summary

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Andriy Yarmolenko leaves West Ham United this summer when his contract expires in June. In all competitions he was utilised for a total of 637 minutes, being used sporadically. The second half of the season has shown the mental resiliency and strength of the man to handle the events that have unfolded in his native Ukraine whilst playing. Two of the three goals he scored have been vitally important for West Ham United.

For the goal against Aston Villa, he displayed a sublime touch along with brilliant technical ability to caress the ball with the outside of his left foot into the bottom right corner. The goal against Sevilla demonstrated his instinct in the area to follow in shots anticipating a parry from the goalkeeper and then the composure to place the ball into the net in the 111th minute of extra time to lift the roof off the London Stadium. The transfer for Yarmolenko has never truly lived up to expectation, but he has been an important figure during his time and scored several important goals.

The summer is now about finding suitable competition for Jarrod Bowen to ensure that he is challenged daily to improve further, otherwise his position could be under threat. Only with competition can Bowen be rotated more effectively; this will alsol provide him additional challenges which could spur his progression onto another level.

The ideal option in the summer would be for the club to sign another inverted winger/inverted forward who has the ability to carry possession at pace, commit the opposition full back, be creative and produce scoring opportunities for himself or teammates as Bowen has done this season.

Left Midfield – Said Benrahma

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Said Benrahma has provided a vital contribution to West Ham’s success this season and been a far more prominent fixture in the XI compared to his first season in claret and blue. Consistency within games can be a frustration with Benrahma but his overall style has many positives for West Ham in possession and attack.

Defensively, Benrahma has had to work hard to earn the trust of David Moyes and he is often utilised as part of the forward press before dropping back into position to provide a compact shape.

Benrahma isn’t a natural defender but endeavours to be a positive influence in defensive phases of play which is typified by his above average duels win %. There are areas to improve upon, but this season Moyes has allowed Benrahma to sit a little higher to initiate counters and deploy Fornals at left wing when a more workmanlike/defensive discipline is required.

In possession and the final third, Benrahma has been important as a confident ball carrier with the ability to progressively carry possession consistently into the opposition's final third. With the Algerian seeking to cut inside onto his favoured right he opens up additional avenues for deliveries into teammates which is demonstrated by his deep completions. His creativity on the ball has not only brought about five assists, but also produced above average key passes p/90 and laying chances on for his teammates.

Benrahma is largely positive in possession, always looking to link play and provide productivity which by and large he has managed this season contributing with 16 G/A in all competitions. Should Benrahma continue under Moyes one of the areas of improvement would need to be in his decision-making. Should this improve, the success rate of his passing should improve as there are less “forced” attempts into teammates which can be cut out or misdirected.

All in all, Benrahma is a technically gifted player who has largely overperformed this season, but inconsistencies during games has affected his standing in the club. With more consistently good decision-making Benrahma could yet again prove to be very important for West Ham and flourish under Moyes. An additional benefit to Benrahma could come in the form of a marauding left back providing additional options in attack.

Left Midfield – Armstrong Oko-Flex & Summary

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Armstrong Okoflex was bought in the summer for the Under 23s with the view to develop as a potential option within the first team. In his 21 appearances for the Under 23s he has amassed 12 goals and two assists as an inverted left winger. His style is direct and progressive, with him consistently looking to utilise his technical ability and creativity to create scoring opportunities for himself and teammates. His form has earned him opportunities so far to be part of the match day squad, but no first team debut as yet.

After signing a two-year deal with West Ham (summer, 2021) and enjoying a productive season with the Under 23s it would be advantageous to provide Okoflex with a year extension before placing him on loan. This would protect West Ham on value should they wish to sell and would ensure that should he do well, there is the option for a place into the first team squad for next season.

When reviewing the performances of Benrahma it’s clear that West Ham have a good creative and progressive inverted winger, but there are inconsistencies which can frustrate David Moyes. This summer the ideal solution would be to find suitable competition for that left midfield role or maybe upgrade.

Statically, an upgrade would be difficult with Benrahma performing so highly against his contemporaries in the top five European leagues, but there are certainly options available who can improve productivity further in the final third. However, much of the improvement to the left channel is dependant on the upgrade put in at left back and attacking midfield which will ultimately add a new attacking dynamic and ultimately provide more options for those playing at left wing to exploit.

Attacking Midfield – Manuel Lanzini

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Manual Lanzini has had a resurgence in the first team this season with him adapting his style operating as a deep-lying orchestrator more often than his traditional role as an attacking playmaker.

Defensively, Lanzini has shown a big improvement in his defensive work and seen a positive increase in his dual success (+7.34%). His work rate off the ball and desire to press the opposition, looking to close off passing lanes has resulted in the opposition being disrupted with Lanzini incepting regularly. Having discipline out of possession is a key attribute in a Moyes midfield and one that Lanzini has certain improved on and worked to achieve consistently.

Lanzini has found himself in a dual role this season operating as both an #8 and a #10. With Soucek struggling with his consistency and helping to retain possession, Lanzini has been able to provide the assurance in a deeper role. His contribution has been integral to retaining possession as West Ham attempt to shift the opposition, probing for openings and looking to play penetrative passes into team mates situated between the lines of the opposition defensive structure.

With Lanzini taking a deeper role as the season progressed his ability to be more involved in the attacking final third has been limited with him often not in a position to get into threatening areas to score. When he has managed to join from deep he has been able to product a moment or two of magic, such as the KUMB Goal of the Season contender against Crystal Palace. The focus on retaining and circulating possession has seen his dribbling opportunities limited, forcing progression through passing over ball carries

Lanzini’s season has been largely positive and he has played his way back into favour with David Moyes with his ability to retain possession. The dilemma that now faces West Ham is does Lanzini as part of a 4-2-3-1 have a future as a starter? If not, are his wages too high for a bench player? Or does a 4-3-3 add the progression required with the addition of a creative playmaker complimenting both Lanzini and Rice?

Attacking Midfield –Pablo Fornals

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Pablo Fornals has again displayed steady improvement this season with his versatility and work rate providing Moyes with an important member of his first team. Fornals this season has found himself deployed as a left wing back and across the line behind the centre Forward.

Fornals' tenacity and work rate is a valued asset which Moyes utilises, particularly in matches where there is a need to remain compact and operate without possession. Fornals' tactical discipline ensures he can consistently be successful in defensive phases to slow the opposition and support the defence when closing off space. He takes up good positions in which to close off passing lanes with the view to capitalising on loose passing to intercept.

Fornals' passing success rate can be inconsistent which can be a cause of frustration and stop promising attacking situations. However, his passing is positive enabling West Ham to progress frequently into the opposition final third . His vision and intelligence in possession allows Fornals to make penetrative passes, creating dangerous or goal scoring opportunities.

Whilst his offensive actions are low (a trend with our attacking players bar Benrahma and Antonio) this isn’t a reflection on his contribution to the attack. His style dictates he moves the ball on before being engaged in a duel, so as not to disadvantage himself as he is not physically as strong as some. Nor does he have the acceleration to burst past players or the pace to sustain a breakaway.

With the likely overhaul of the squad next season there is an opportunity to generate the depth required so that Fornals can be more productive in a central role.

Attacking Midfield – Nikola Vlasic & Summary

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Nikola Vlasic's transfer has not been a success. His arrival was positioned as an exciting signing and as an alternative for Antonio, as well as an upgrade at attacking midfield. Unfortunately, a lack of consistent minutes in either role have compounded a frustrating season. Vlasic has shown signs of promise with looking to drive West Ham up field with progressive carries of 2.41 p/90 (+0.87 progressive carries p/90 than Bowen). Another positive has been his consistent deliveries into the area with 2.27 crosses p/90 & 31.3% accuracy (-1.09 p/90 crosses & +5.72% accuracy than Benrahma).

Vlasic also works hard defensively, with 8.66 defensive duels p/90 winning 57.4% (+4.01 duels p/90 & +0.26% success rate). Whilst the % of duels won is negligible in comparison to both Bowen and Benrahma the sheer amount of defensive work means he wins 4.97 duels p/90 in defensive situations.

Whilst he has not quite been the success West Ham would’ve hoped for there are encouraging signs, should he stay, that he could be an asset once fully accustomed to what Moyes wants. Although it would appear that West Ham aren’t willing to wait and with the World Cup coming up, Vlasic desires more minutes to be part of the Croatia set up.

Therefore, a sale of Vlasic is likely the sensible option for both parties with West Ham looking for a pacy attacking midfielder who is more dynamic in front of goal. This also leaves the question of how best to utilise both Fornals and Lanzini with both being under threat from the signing of a new attacking midfielder. Lanzini at this point is the most under threat due to age and wages with Fornals able to operate across the line of attack behind the centre forward, as well as a potential #8 to utilise his passing ability.

Centre Forward – Michail Antonio

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Michail Antonio has enjoyed a highly productive season and with a little more composure, during a period where he struggled for form in front of goal, West Ham’s leading all-time EPL goal scorer could feasibly have exceeded his total of 24 G/A in all competitions.

Antonio started the season in scintillating form with six goals and three assists in 10 Premier League appearances. After such a rapid start to the season the goals became harder to find for Antonio with him going on an eight and 14 games streak in the league without scoring.

Whilst the goals where not flowing as freely, Antonio was operating in the lone striker role without back up or competition to provide additional support. During these barren periods his form was inconsistent, but this can be attributed to tiredness due to a lack of rotation.

Despite periods of inconsistent form and physical tiredness, Antonio was relentless in his attempts to drive West Ham forward. Operating as the focal point in attack he remained confident in his ability to receive possession and compete with the opposing defender. Antonio was successful in these duels but through poor control at times or bad decisions was often disposed.

In possession, Antonio’s ability to positively carry possession ensured progression consistently with a high success rate as his physicality and speed was difficult to handle by defenders. In the final third, Antonio’s creativity ensured he was a constant threat with dangerous deliveries into the area or key passes, but his accuracy could let him down in key moments to sustain pressure on the opposition.

Whilst Antonio had periods of inconsistency his displays across all competition have been hugely important to help West Ham reach the semi finals of the Europa League and end seventh in the EPL. Should Antonio improve his composure, he will be amongst the goals for West Ham once again next season.

Centre Forward – Sonny Perkins & Summary

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At just 18, Sonny Perkins has had a rapid rise this season not only by becoming a key figure in the Under 23 set up but by making his first team debut for West Ham in the Europa League vs. Rapid Wien where he almost scored with his first touch. His development was also acknowledged in the end of season Player Awards where he received the Dylan Tombides Award for best young player. His development into a centre forward with the Under 23s has proved to be a smart move and resulted in 13 goals in 27 appearances for the development squad.

Such has been his growth West Ham could consider fast tracking his development next season by sending him out on loan for first team opportunities. This would also allow West Ham to promote promising youngsters Divin Mubama and Callum Marshall into the Under 23 set up for a higher level of competition.

Ultimately, this summer it is imperative West Ham bring competition for Antonio by finding a player who is more accustomed to being in the penalty area and composed when faced with scoring opportunities. Ideally, the new centre forward would also be viewed as a long term replacement for Antonio.

The difficulty is trying to find a centre forward who operates like Antonio as he is unorthodox, whereas reviewing the market for someone who brings variety would enable West Ham to mix up the attacking options dependant on opposition. As has often been the trap for West Ham there is a view that spending big sums will guarantee success. Through smart scouting and analysis there will be inexpensive signings who can bring the necessary quality without vast expectation.

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