West Ham: Balancing Europa League & Premier League Football

Over the last 18 months, there have been a lot of changes to West Ham both internally (with the addition of a new manager and coaching staff) and also in terms of players (with a dramatic increase in quality of players brought in). This has given fans a lot of hope and excitement for the new season, as well as future seasons as we prepare to enter the Olympic stadium. While the news of the stadium may have split opinions, no one can doubt its attraction with the likes of Dimitri Payet already signing after having had a glimpse at the future we could have.

Factors such as these vindicate the David’s’ decision to move in my opinion. With the potential this club now possesses, it is hard not to see a big future for us moving forward. However, like every club, there are always the doubters that believe history will repeat itself and will be waiting to say “I told you so” if it does.

Source: whufc.com

Source: whufc.com

For example, we had a lot of hope for last season under Sam Allardyce due to some very shrewd signings such as Kouyate and Song,  and while up until Christmas day our faith was well placed as we were sitting fourth, the turn of the new year seemed to bring a new team and a far poorer one at that. This was then reflected in the results that saw us slip further and further down the league to an eventual 12th placed finish, which may not have looked so bad if the first half of the season hadn’t have been so good in comparison to the second.

But now, a new season brings a new manager, a new philosophy and hopefully, new fortunes for the club. The appointment of Bilić as our new manager was done in a typically-disjointed West Ham way. Though, it was not who most wanted to take over, especially as we were rumoured to be after far more proven and higher quality managers such as Rafa Benitez and Unai Emery. However after Bilić was eventually appointed by the David’s, the fans accepted it and we moved on to the usual summer plans of believing the rumours for players we want and dismissing the others. In that sense, we seem to have done very well by capturing the likes of Ogbonna from Juventus and growing our squad ready for the jewel of this season’s competition – the Europa League.

It’s been a long time since West Ham have competed in a European competition, and it was a welcome surprise after what was an underwhelming season, especially as West Ham had qualified via the fair play ruling.

Now we have a far more pleasing issue that needs to be addressed compared to the usual problems of previous seasons such as the inevitable, “which player should we loan in to cover the injured player”, as we now need to decide which takes priority – the Premier League or the Europa League. This is a very big issue as it could decide the future of the club, and whether we progress this season or conclude this season feeling like we have stayed still as a club.

In my opinion, if we concentrate too much on Europa League games but find out that we don’t have the quality to compete with the bigger clubs in the competition, we could be in a poor league position which may leave us with nothing else to do but try to save our season. However, if we focus on the Premier League we could be knocked out very early and it would all seem like a pointless exercise.

For me personally, I feel it should depend on the fixtures at hand. For example, the away leg against Astra on Thursday should take priority over the Arsenal game on Sunday. I feel that although Astra are no push-overs, especially having knocked the likes of Lyon out of the competition in the past, it would be disappointing to go out to a team of this quality. That would mean bringing our best team to Romania to ensure that we beat them and progress through the competition but having a still-good but admittedly, lesser team against Arsenal with a few big hitters on the bench to change the game if the situation requires it.

I feel that progression to the next stage of the Europa league and a point at Arsenal would be the best-case scenario from that week’s fixtures. However, if we progress, I do think that a team in similar position as us in the league should be priority over lesser teams in the group stages of Europe, if we get there. Either way I can’t wait for the season ahead.

Update – 05/08/2015. Some very credible and reliable sources on Twitter have now weighed in on this subject with some information, most notably @ExWHUEmployee who has proven to be reliable over the past with the information he has passed on. It is said that due to the poor quality of refereeing as well as some of the ill-discipline and poor defensive play, Bilić has now decided that Europa League football is no longer a main focus and could instead be seen as an unneeded distraction and that the Premier League should instead be the main focus. And, because of this a weakened side include many youth players will be taken to Romania for the game on Thursday, leaving the best squad possible as fit as possible for a hopeful scalp against Arsenal on Sunday. Despite this, it is understood that the owners would still like to see a good run in either of the cup competitions if the European adventure, that does now seem to be nearing its inevitable early finish, should end prematurely in the eyes of the owners.


Jack Morgan

Jack Morgan

Lifelong West Ham fan, keen writer.
Jack Morgan

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