As the season has come to a close, and teams are already releasing the new kits for next season, I thought it appropriate to reflect on several of the best moments in the season. I think it is important to reflect on things and try to learn from them, and in a week which has seen me finish my undergraduate degree, I am feeling rather contemplative.
As fans of West Ham, along with fans of most other clubs, you come to expect ups and downs. The opening four games were certainly not positive but, as the season has progressed, we have seen improvements in individual players and as a team.
The 3-1 win at home against Manchester United in late September was brilliant, and was made better on a personal note given one of my best mates and housemate supports United. I dislike Manchester United at the best of times (sure I’m not alone there. Incidentally, Man U is the only other club my Dad would have objected to me supporting) but to see them fall from the dizzying heights of the Ferguson era, to that dismal side that we deservedly beat was very satisfying. Anderson’s silky first goal for the club was great, and it is a shame we couldn’t see an attacking trio of Anderson, Arnautovic and Yarmolenko for an entire season. This result was exactly what Pellegrini had emphasised when stating the club needed to have the mentality of a ‘big team’, and given my friend Louis down the years has been able to poke fun following results between the two teams, this result was very enjoyable to say the least. To witness a Manchester United fan realise his club is at the moment very mediocre has also been entertaining. I hope (as Yazz yodelled back in the day) the only way is up in East London! And like the Quo: down, down, deeper and down for Man U…
Furthermore, the 1-2 away win against Southampton just after Christmas was very satisfying. I was at the pub with friends and I recall not feeling overly confident due to a slightly depleted squad and the Saints had started well under Hasenhüttl. After going 1-0 down to a slightly dubious goal, we struck back instantly with a brilliant goal from Felipe, and then counter attacked to great effect to score a second and win the game. The game was by no means a brilliant performance but, given that Antonio was at right back for example, it was a performance that highlighted Anderson’s quality as well as the team’s resilience.
The 1-0 home win against Arsenal again demonstrated how well we can play against the bigger sides and, while the performance was very impressive, it was Rice’s debut goal that was the real highlight. I remember texting my mate who’s a season ticket holder and saying ‘I’m so happy for him’, and you could see the genuine happiness from all of the players when he scored. The England international had a fabulous season in holding midfield, and I’m sure he will only get better.
Of course the 0-1 away win at Spurs was fantastic. I have one friend who supports Spurs, and I know along with the rest of their fans they really did not want the first team to score and win to be us. It was an excellent performance from the team with everyone working for each other. Antonio’s celebration was random but made the goal all the more iconic! Last team to win at Highbury, first team to win at the Emirates, and the first side to win at the Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium. If every other team could kindly build new stadiums, we’ll be contending for the league!
Finally, along with the Spurs result, the six points gathered from both Southampton at home and Watford away was a great way to conclude Pellegrini’s first season. The form in particular of Noble in the final few games was great to see, and it’s always nice for him to silence the critics he has always had, as well as several pundits recognising his underrated ability.
The 2018/2019 season was a transitional one allowing for Pellegrini to implement his attacking style and assess the squad. After the summer window, we should have a good idea where we are. I am usually optimistic regardless but things do appear to be on the up at the London Stadium. Hopefully whatever I do now that my time at University is over is as positive as West Ham moving forward!
Hope everyone is well, have a good week.