FAWSL 2021/22 Preview: West Ham United

The 2020/21 FA Women’s Super League kicks off on the weekend of the 3rd – 5th September. D2B is here to preview all twelve teams in the title race and assess their chances. We’re going back to an alphabetical approach this year and complete our journey with West Ham United who finished in the bottom four but got the point they needed to avoid the drop with a game to spare. (This is the downside of setting timers on blog posts – sometimes you put things out 24-hours late!)

West Ham have signed striker Claudia Walker from WSL rivals Birmingham City.

Full Name: West Ham United Women

Founded: 1991

Ground: The Chigwell Construction Stadium, Dagenham

Last Season, FAWSL: 9th Place

WSL Pedigree / Club History

West Ham United were another club that benefited from the Football Association’s restructuring of the top two levels of the Women’s game and joined the WSL for the 2018/19 season.

The club finished seventh and reached the FA Women’s Cup Final where they were beaten 3-0 at Wembley by Manchester City.

The following season West Ham slipped to eighth.

Jack Sullivan was appointed Managing Director at just 17-years old by his father David – who owns and joint chairs the club. Sullivan junior presided over the first three seasons before stepping down. Aidan Boxall has since taken over as General Manager.

Last Season

It looked like a real grind for the Hammers for most of last year. They didn’t win any of their opening five matches, and got horribly smashed up by Arsenal in their first home game, losing 9-1. That rather set the tone for their home form – they didn’t get a single WSL victory at Victoria Road.

By mid-November after defeat to Brighton, Sullivan felt he needed to make a change and manager Matt Beard departed the club with everyone friendly and declaring ‘mutual decision’. Billy Stewart took on the interim role, running Chelsea close at Kingsmeadow (2-3) before overseeing a 4-0 win at Bristol City.

New permanent appointment Olli Harder came in halfway through the January window just in time to wave goodbye to Rachel Daly, Cho So-hyun and Alisha Lehmann.

Harder’s opening six matches yielded just two points and relegation was starting to look a very real possibility. But a three game unbeaten stretch, including a quite extraordinary 5-0 victory at Reading, helped to get them over the line.

Manager

Hammers boss Olli Harder: “closing the previous chapter and starting a new one…”

“I think you will see a refreshed West Ham United this season. I think you will see a lot of energy and dynamism from the team. For us, it was about closing the previous chapter and starting a new one, and I believe that the players that we have brought in will add value to that and hopefully write themselves into a bit of West Ham history. Pre-season has had its challenges but overall it’s been really good. We’ve had players coming in at different points and players coming back from the Olympics so integration itself has been a challenging aspect. However, we’ve had a lot of really positive sessions out on the training pitch and we’re ready and raring to go ahead of the weekend.”

Olli Harder, Manager, West Ham United

Olli Harder had to try and sort out a season that was quickly turning into a relegation scrap at a time when players like Rachel Daly, Cho So-hyun and Alisha Lehmann were heading out of the club.

The New Zealander was seen as the right type of character to get things turned around, having worked in the top-flight of the Norwegian League where he took relegation threatened Klepp to a top-four finish within 12-months and went on to achieve second and third-placed finishes in the next two seasons.

Harder remained upbeat about West Ham’s performances even when results weren’t going his way. He has now has a summer transfer window plus a pre-season to put his mark on the squad.

Recruitment

Newly signed attacking midfielder Tameka Yallop, in action for Australia this summer.

Eleven new players have signed for West Ham at the time of writing.

Hard working attacking midfielder Tameka Yallop has joined the squad having just starred for Australia at the Tokyo OIympics. The Matildas achieved a fourth-place finish and knocked Team GB out on the way.

The 30-year old played for manager Olli Harder at Klepp in Norway, scoring 32 times in 58 matches.

She made her name at the Brisbane Roar over two spells, where she racked up 52 goals in 110 W-League appearances.

Also joining the Hammers to bolster their attack is forward Claudia Walker. She’s played for both Merseyside clubs but made the switch to Victoria Road from Birmingham where she accumulated enough goals prior to Christmas to finish as their top scorer.

Unfortunately, she didn’t get any more after the turn of the year as the Blues ended up in a scrap with West Ham to avoid the drop. Walker is quick and never gives defenders a quiet moment, but she will want to improve on that strike rate.  She’s more than capable, having achieved a 1 in 3 goal return when at Everton.

Just before the season kicked off West Ham announced that they had signed Scottish international Lisa Evans from Arsenal.

An attacking player that gets up and down the right flank really well, Evans is able to play as a full back, wingback, orthodox midfielder or wide of a front three.

She was struggling to get starts with the Gunners so it’s good to see a player who would rather play for a developing squad rather than sit on the bench of an established one.

Who’s moved on?

There have been wholesale changes at West Ham United over the last year, and with a new manager coming in, perhaps it was little surprise that there was an almost-total clear out.

Ball-playing midfielder Kenza Dali has gone to Everton, while striker Martha Thomas plumped for Manchester United. Those two contributed a third of West Ham’s 21 league goals between them last season.

Right full back Cecile Kvamme ‘Redisch’ has transferred back to previous club Sandviken in her native Norway. Redisch always looked a solid and capable player even when the team was struggling.

On the other flank Maz Pacheco has joined Aston Villa. Just 23-years old Pacheco is closing in on 100 senior appearances so she’s taking youth and experience with her. Teaming up with Pacheco at Villa will be Swiss international Alisha Lehmann who scored nine times in 42 appearances with the Hammers.

Key Players

Gilly Flaherty (left) and Grace Fisk with Olli Harder: A lot rests on these centre backs working well together…

Mackenzie Arnold made some important stops to keep West Ham in games last season.  The 27-year old has 123 senior league appearances to her name and will be an important player if West Ham are to retain the sixth best defensive record – which is what they had in their previous campaign.

Centre back and captain Gilly Flaherty (pictured) also brings 180 matches-worth of WSL experience. She was part of the Arsenal side that won the inaugural Super League, and then followed that up with another one. Prior to that, Flaherty won a Champions League and five, yes FIVE, FA Women’s Cups.

Still only 30-years old Gilly leads by example and is able to be a coach on the field, marshalling her teammates to grind out results when the going gets tough.

Canadian international Adriana Leon would have been disappointed with 1 goal and 1 assist in a thousand minutes of league football last year, but she struggled with injuries towards the back end of the campaign to be fair. Generally working on the left of a front three so that she could cut inside and cross / shoot, Leon looked dangerous for Canada at the Tokyo Olympics – and came home with a gold medal to show for it.

Opening Day

West Ham United lost 0-2 at Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday 5th September at the Amex Stadium. This post was incorrectly scheduled and has been updated to factor in the result. No other content was altered. [Ed.]

Pre-season

The Hammers drew 2-2 at Lewes with Claudia Walker netting twice.

Prospects for 2021/22

There are only eight players left from last season so West Ham is likely to look like a brand new team. Predicting against some sort of squad progression is next to impossible with all that upheaval.

Manager Olli Harder has some experience of taking a bad team ad making it good, but that was Toppserien not the Women’s Super League.  

Basing it on the players they have brought in versus those that they saw leave, West Ham really don’t look any stronger than they were last May. Finishing outside the bottom four, then, would be a good performance.

Transfer Summary

In

  • Tameka Yallop (Midfielder)
  • Zaneta Wyne (Midfielder)
  • Claudia Walker (Forward)
  • Melisa Filis (Midfielder)
  • Abbey-Leigh Stringer (Midfielder)
  • Lucy Parker (Defender)
  • Anna Leat (Goalkeeper)
  • Lisa Evans (Winger)
  • Yui Hasegawa (Midfielder)
  • Grace Garrad (Midfielder)
  • Brooke Cairns (Midfielder)

Out

  • Kenza Dali (Midfielder)
  • Courtney Brosnan (Goalkeeper)
  • Anouk Denton (Defender)
  • Emily van Egmond (Forward)
  • Cecile Kvamme ‘Redisch’ (Defender)
  • Laura Vetterlein (Midfielder)
  • Leanne Kiernan (Midfielder)
  • Alisha Lehmann (Forward)
  • Cho So-hyun (Midfielder)
  • Martha Thomas (Forward)
  • Maz Pacheco (Defender)
  • Nor Mustafa (Midfielder)

==

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