FA WSL Preview – West Ham United

The 2020/21 FA Women’s Super League kicks off on the weekend of the 5th / 6th September. D2B is here to preview all twelve teams in the title race and assess their chances. Last year we went alphabetical in presenting the teams, but this year we’ve plumped for reverse order of where each club was placed when the league was finally abandoned due to the COVID-19 crisis. Having looked at the bottom four scrappers in previous articles now we turn to West Ham United who – despite the club’s clear ambition – weren’t able to push on in their second FAWSL campaign…

West Ham United Women

West Ham Manager Matt Beard gets his point across…

Last Season: 8th of 12

Nickname: The Hammers, the Irons

Founded: 1991

Home Ground: The Chigwell Construction Stadium (capacity 6,078)

At the time of writing, an extraordinary 13 nationalities are represented in West Ham’s squad which points to a serious focus on scouting – certainly not an activity in the women’s game that can be accomplished successfully by reading tabloid websites and watching YouTube clips.

Over the last couple of seasons this level of diversity has achieved mixed results. The Irons contested (but lost) an FA cup final in 2018/9, but have generally looked a bottom half team in the league. It’s fair to say they never seemed likely to fall into the relegation scrap last season and virtually matched their points per game average (PPG) from the previous year, when they joined the WSL.

But Matt Beard’s squad didn’t look like it had pushed on either with Spurs and Manchester United arriving from the FA Women’s Championship, plus Everton’s resurgence, making the competition significantly tougher.

Defensively, they were prone to some horrible off-days. D2B witnessed the 8-0 mauling they got at Chelsea, leaving travelling fans utterly shell shocked. Coupled with a 5-0 defeat at Manchester City and you’ve already got -13 of their eventual -15 goal difference. Only Bristol City shipped more goals that the Hammers and the ladies in claret and blue conceded at least twice in ten of their fourteen fixtures.

The good news is (thrashings aside), they tended keep matches close and were usually good for a goal or two, or three, or four – which made West Ham one of the more exciting sides to watch last season.

So, perhaps a bit of rebalancing of defence and attack has been required and Matt Beard has hinted that perhaps there hasn’t been enough competition for starting places as he would have liked.

Eight players moved on over summer, In turn, seven have been acquired including seasoned former Reading full back Maz Pacheco and French international defender Hawa Cissoko.

New signings Hawa Cissoko and Emily van Egmond confirm that players get at least two shirts at West Ham…

“We’ve now got a bit of consistency in the squad and we have a core group of real quality players. I feel the team has higher fitness levels now, which will enable us to do the things we need to do. I am excited to see what this group of players can do. The most important thing is that no one in this squad is guaranteed a starting place; from the goalkeepers to the attackers and everyone in between. That shirt is earned, on merit, from performing in training and in games.”

Matt Beard, West Ham Manager, via Club Website

West Ham were early to the party on bringing Australians over to England. Diminutive and super-rapid young striker Jacynta Galabadaarachchi was already embedded in their squad before this year’s antipodean influx to the WSL, but goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold has now also signed from Brisbane Roar. Arnold has featured 24 times for her country and plied her trade in the US and Norway as well as ‘Oz’.  She’s seen plenty of game time and offers a welcome selection headache for her manager going up against Courtney Brosnan.

Emily van Egmond increased the Matildas’ contingent further joining a few days ago on loan from Orlando Pride. Van Egmond, a skilful free-role midfielder (or ’10’) scored 6 goals in 13 matches for W-League champions Melbourne City last season.

Which segways nicely to the attack. Beard’s squad already have players capable of hurting an opponent. Canadian winger Adriana Leon made the WSL’s top ten list last season with 5 league goals, while Martha Thomas and Alisha Lehmann chipped in with 3 apiece. Thomas started the campaign on fire but seemed to labour more as the season unfolded. Swiss international Lehmann clearly enjoys being at the club. Still relatively young, she can drift in out of games but is equally capable of the kind of brilliant, explosive moments that fans love.

Alisha Lehmann (Switzerland) and Adriana Leon (Canada) – 2 of 13 nationalities represented in the squad.

Swede Nor Mustafa has been allocated the number 11 shirt to bolster the frontline and Kateřina Svitková will look to provide creativity and goals from midfield – having scored a mind-blowing 177 times in 188 league appearances for Slavia Prague in her native Czech Republic. Svitková will have significant boots to fill, though, donning the number ten shirt vacated by talented and experienced midfielder Julia Šimić, who has departed for AC Milan.

Like several other teams in the WSL they are moving ground. So, it’s goodbye to Rush Green and hello Chigwell Construction Stadium (AKA Victoria Road), where the National League’s Dagenham and Redbridge have been playing their home games.

For anyone that doesn’t know, the club and specifically 20-year old Managing Director Jack Sullivan (son of David), were the subject of a BBC Three Documentary, Britain’s Youngest Football Boss, following their 2018/19 campaign. Now they are set to return to TV screens once more in a new BBC show – Squad Goals which will give viewers some insight into their COVID-19 hit 2019/20 season.

It’s great that the club are raising their public profile and that of the wider women’s game in England, but one has to wonder whether the constant accompaniment of a camera person following the players and coaches around all the time eventually has some negative impact on their performances. Or maybe that view just comes over as curmudgeonly…

West Ham United looks like a club here to stay in the WSL, with a manager who has been around the women’s game a long time and enjoyed his fair share of success. They begin their fixture programme at Spurs – a club that beat them twice in the league last year (the upstarts!).  So, opening day already has an edge. No better time, then, to show their opponents and the rest of the top flight that they are primed and ready to take some forward steps, and fight their way into the division’s top half.

Departures

  • Katharina Baunach, Midfielder
  • Esmee de Graaf, Forward
  • Vyan Sampson, Defender
  • Ruesha Littlejohn, Forward
  • Olivia Smith, Defender
  • Anna Moorhouse, Goalkeeper
  • Tessel Middag, Midfielder
  • Julia Simic, Midfielder
  • Filippa Wallen, Defender (after original article)

Arrivals

  • Mackenzie Arnold, Goalkeeper
  • Maz Pacheco, Defender
  • Katerina Svitkova, Midfielder
  • Hawa Cissoko, Defender
  • Nor Mustafa, Forward
  • Ruby Grant, Midfielder
  • Emily van Egmond, Midfielder
  • Rachel Daly, Forward (after initial article)

Earlier this year, we charted on the Feedspot Top 40 list of Women’s football blogs. No one was more surprised than us here at D2B Towers; there’s so much other good stuff out there. Anyhoo, check out the link above, there’s a heap of great blogs and websites written by people who really know their stuff and have an infectious passion for the women’s game…

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