It was May 2021 and West Ham United had clinched a top six finish when David Moyes privately admitted qualifying for Europe alone wasn’t enough for him. He wanted sixth place to send West Ham into the Europa League, not the Conference League.
For an inspired run in the second continental competition, there seemed a route to the Champions League. Even after the bad-tempered end at Eintracht Frankfurt in the semi-finals, the Europa League lured again. A goal at half-time in Brighton on the last day saw them move up to sixth place. A second-half collapse demoted them to seventh place. A year later, West Ham make their Conference League debut.
Her manager’s attitude has changed, perhaps out of necessity. “It’s an absolutely fantastic thing,” Moyes said on Sunday. “We finished seventh in the league last year and you’re talking about ‘Is Europe good?’ Gosh, I don’t know how many teams in the leagues would shake your hand and say, ‘Please give us European football.’”
It’s a valid point and West Ham would have been one of those clubs to watch with envy for years. The gap between aspiration and reality was huge at times. Until last year they hadn’t had a good run in Europe for four decades; Long cajoled to deceive, Moyes’ reinvention of the club should make them more regular. He’s a specialist at carving a path into positions between five and eight – by contrast, West Ham had not managed consecutive top seven finishes until his re-appointment – and a club that attracted 62,443 fans to its first home game of the The type of infrastructure that suggests their participation in Europe should not be an isolated case.
Moyes represents consistency and relentlessness, while West Ham tended to follow good seasons after bad ones. The downside of the Scot’s tally is that it still doesn’t come with any trophies apart from a League Two title with Preston and a Community Shield which Manchester United only featured on because Sir Alex Ferguson won the Premier League.
The Conference League offers the opportunity to remedy this. Certainly West Ham are starting a play-off against Viborg, who finished seventh in the Danish Superliga last year, and expect to win, and not just on Thursday. They must be among the favorites in the competition along with Fiorentina and Villarreal, albeit with the caveat that it can be won by a team starting the season in the Europa League.
West Ham start with a trio of suspensions, each of which should cause embarrassment. Aaron Creswell’s red card against Frankfurt bore certain similarities to his dismissal against Lyon, suggesting he hadn’t learned any lessons. Moyes was sent to the stands for booting the ball at a ball boy. Declan Rice banned for two games for accusing referee of corruption; He might want to check the definition of the word. If Moyes and Rice’s actions have any flattering slant, they showed just how important winning the Europa League was for West Ham.
Now every victory can be welcome. Your Premier League season has started with back-to-back defeats. The wait for a first goal has increased, suggesting the problems may extend beyond just facing Manchester City and doing everything but scoring, having only scored three in their last four preseason games since a visit in Nottingham Forest a missed penalty involved goal-line clearance, an illegal shot and some hits with the woodwork.
This should offer a chance to give Moyes’ two attacking approaches a first start. Gianluca Scamacca has made two substitute appearances and West Ham’s progress in Europe last year meant Michail Antonio was overworked and his goals dried up. Maxwel Cornet made his debut in Nottingham.
The former Lyon winger scored four Champions League goals against Manchester City and Moye’s summer deal shows he is keen to build a squad big enough to compete on a variety of fronts and with plenty of European heritage . One target, Emerson Palmieri, was a 2021 Champions League winner with Chelsea, albeit as an unused substitute in the final, and scored in a KO win over Atletico Madrid; Moyes’ latest signing, Thilo Kehrer, played for Paris Saint-Germain in the 2020 final.
Each could be a sign of ambition, or the kind of commitment West Ham made in the days when they bought up the bigger clubs they ditched and signed players on the way down. Moyes has largely succeeded in reinventing West Ham, forging a work ethic and finding players who share his determination. Previous Hammers teams have spawned a string of ignominious European exits. He scored memorable victories against Sevilla and Lyon last season. But if similarly fond memories are to be created West Ham must first avoid going back to type, stave off excitement and ensure they play in Europe for only the second time since 1981 after Christmas.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/west-ham-europa-conference-league-b2146867.html The Europa Conference League offers new opportunities for David Moyes and West Ham