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West Ham are the Premier League’s great entertainers as they surge towards a Champions League place

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west ham are the premier leagues great entertainers as they surge towards a champions league place

West Ham may well be able to call themselves a Champions League club next season, but they already appear to have become the Premier League‘s brand-new great entertainers.

The outlook appeared bleak very early on in the season, with many backing the Hammers for the drop and boss David Moyes for the sack following a defeat by Newcastle on the opening day.

But the Scot has sparked a remarkable rejuvenation tactically and been the driving force behind a resurgence in his players’ confidence, which has seen them rise up the table and sit in the top four with just seven games of the season remaining.

West Ham have become the Premier League's brand new entertainers in recent months

West Ham have become the Premier League's brand new entertainers in recent months

West Ham have become the Premier League’s brand new entertainers in recent months

After a drab opening day, David Moyes' men have stormed back to sit in the current top four

After a drab opening day, David Moyes' men have stormed back to sit in the current top four

After a drab opening day, David Moyes’ men have stormed back to sit in the current top four

Even more stunning, however, is how their laboured, one-dimensional approach has transformed into dynamic, free-flowing football, which their latest results have demonstrated.

They have scored three goals in each of their last three top-flight games, but have also conceded seven at the other end in a thrilling draw with Arsenal and victories over Wolves and Leicester. 

So with that in mind, how have the Hammers become the league’s great entertainers, and who has played a major role in creating this exciting force? 

Having already amassed 15 more points than last season, the team’s statistics in front of goal have certainly improved in comparison to 2019/20.

Jesse Lingard has been at the centre of the Hammers surge with eight goals since joining

Jesse Lingard has been at the centre of the Hammers surge with eight goals since joining

Jesse Lingard has been at the centre of the Hammers surge with eight goals since joining

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41648366 9461257 image a 11 1618224178217

Moyes’ men scored just 49 top-flight goals throughout the entirety of the previous campaign, but have already netted on 55 occasions already this term having played seven games fewer.

That has led to increases in their goals- and shots-per-game ratios, rising from 1.3 and 11 to 1.6 and 11.6 respectively, as highlighted by Opta – but it is their shot conversion rate which has dramatically risen from 11.8 to 14.2

They are averaging the same number of shots on target per game as last season – 4.3 – but this is where smart business and believing in the players he has acquired has benefited Moyes.

Having not played a single minute of Premier League football this season at the beginning of February, Manchester United loanee Jesse Lingard has resurrected both his club and international career at the London Stadium.

The 28-year-old attacking midfielder has scored eight Premier League goals for the Hammers, including two goals against Leicester to put the hosts into a comfortable lead.

The Manchester United loanee has added much-needed quality to the Hammers attack

The Manchester United loanee has added much-needed quality to the Hammers attack

The Manchester United loanee has added much-needed quality to the Hammers attack

That return puts him ahead of the likes of Liverpool stars Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino as well as Manchester City maestro Kevin De Bruyne, who have an underwhelming seven, six and five league goals this term.

Lingard also leads Everton forward Richarlison, fellow England stars Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Mason Mount, and the latter’s Chelsea team-mate Timo Werner in the goals department.

His total is just six goals short of the tally former £45million striker Sebastien Haller managed in 18 months with the Hammers, and the quality of goals have not gone unnoticed too.

Lingard controlled superbly before lashing in a terrific strike into the top corner past Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno, before a measured shot curled back enough to beat Kasper Schmeichel against Brendan Rodgers’ men for his first goal on Sunday.

Goals against Wolves and Leeds have also come in recent weeks, meaning the absence of star forward Michail Antonio through injury – potentially for the rest of the season – may not be felt as harshly as had been initially feared.

De Bruyne has just five league strikes this term

De Bruyne has just five league strikes this term

Mane is one behind Lingard on seven

Mane is one behind Lingard on seven

Lingard already leads Kevin De Bruyne and Sadio Mane for league goals scored this term

Jarrod Bowen (left) is also flying having matched Michail Antonio's goal contributions

Jarrod Bowen (left) is also flying having matched Michail Antonio's goal contributions

Jarrod Bowen (left) is also flying having matched Michail Antonio’s goal contributions

The only man, however, who can match the 31-year-old for West Ham Premier League goal involvements this campaign is Lingard’s strike partner at the weekend, Jarrod Bowen.

Moyes claimed ahead of the Leicester game that Jamie Vardy is a good example for the former Hull star to follow given their non-league background, and Bowen demonstrated the pace that is so crucial to the Leicester star’s game against the Foxes.

After beating the offside trap, Bowen squared for Lingard to fire the ball into an empty net, before keeping his cool amid a sliding challenging from Wesley Fofana to fire home a third, meaning he has equalled Antonio’s 12 goal involvements, having scored eight goals and assisted four others this season.

The 24-year-old also kept up with the counter attack to net West Ham’s third at Wolves, and has added craftiness to his game too after taking advantage of Arsenal’s defenders losing concentration by firing home following a quick free-kick.

But that fails to tell the full story of why Bowen and Lingard – and Antonio for the first half of the campaign in particular – are leading the charge, given the impressive work those operating behind them have been churning out on a regular basis.

The trio, alongside Pablo Fornals, have not been shy to carry the ball upfield at pace, and while the central midfielders tend to sit narrow, especially without the ball, a change in formation at the start of the season has provided a further attacking outlet out wide.

After a four-at-the-back system failed to pay dividends against Newcastle, Moyes has adapted to deploy three central defenders and five men at the back in his bid to make them more compact and squeeze the space between the lines.

But a system involving wing-backs has also allowed the likes of Arthur Masuaku and Vladimir Coufal to provide support to the attackers. The latter caused Arsenal all sorts of problems, leading to Tomas Soucek capitalising, and he once again found space to pick out Lingard at the weekend.

But their impact is just as crucial at the back, tracking the wide runners and allowing the backline as a whole therefore to remain fairly narrow, with the centre-backs including the imposing Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna backing themselves to deal with any aerial challenges that come their way.

Their performances mean Antonio's (above) injury may not be as big a blow as feared

Their performances mean Antonio's (above) injury may not be as big a blow as feared

Their performances mean Antonio’s (above) injury may not be as big a blow as feared

The midfield too have played their part, with the four men in there – led by Soucek and Declan Rice – forming a compact horizontal shape to reduce space and force the opposition to deliver crosses into the box.

The statistics show some improvements, with their goals conceded per game decreasing this season from 1.6 to 1.3. But with their tactic trying to force teams to attack from the wide areas, the shots Lukasz Fabianski is facing per game has reduced from 13.2 to 12.

Moyes still has concerns at the back from their near capitulations against Leicester and Wolves and shooting themselves in the foot against Arsenal.

That was no more clearly demonstrated than by the clear look of anguish on the Scot’s face as they narrowly escaped throwing away a significant lead for the second game running at the weekend.

Vladimir Coufal (left) assisted Lingard at the weekend

Vladimir Coufal (left) assisted Lingard at the weekend

Arthur Masuaku is also providing a threat down the left

Arthur Masuaku is also providing a threat down the left

Vladimir Coufal and Arthur Masuaku are performing key roles as wing-backs in Moyes’ set-up

Lukasz Fabianski has had to face less shots per game this season than during last term

Lukasz Fabianski has had to face less shots per game this season than during last term

Lukasz Fabianski has had to face less shots per game this season than during last term

The Hammers were in full control against Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal before Martin Odegaard inspired a comeback, with the Hammers scoring two own goals preceding an Alexandre Lacazette equalising header in their 3-3 draw.

Wolves, on a three-game winless streak at the time, were then given hope after the Hammers had stormed into a 3-0 lead at Molineux before half-time, with Leander Dendoncker and Fabio Silva’s goals crucial in their fightback but ultimate failure.

Leicester then dominated the majority of the second half having been totally subjugated in the first period, and had Wesley Fofana been more accurate with a last-gasp header, Moyes’ men would have thrown away another match they should have had tied up for a second home game running. 

‘That [game management] is really important,’ Moyes said after the Leicester match. ‘The first time it happened, against Arsenal, it was a surprise and then last week when it happened and now today again so we have got to do something about it.

Moyes, however, will be concerned by the manner in which his side have nearly capitulated

Moyes, however, will be concerned by the manner in which his side have nearly capitulated

Moyes, however, will be concerned by the manner in which his side have nearly capitulated

‘We are a little bit short on personnel for altering things or doing things differently but if you gave me 3-2 before the game against a team that is third in the league, going for the Champions League and in the semi-final of the FA Cup, I would have snapped your hand off.’

The comebacks and attempted comebacks staged by opponents has contributed to the Hammers having conceded 39 goals this term, two more than any team in the current Premier League top seven. 

And for all the drama that has regularly unfolded in those games, only London rivals Chelsea have scored fewer league goals than West Ham this season among those seven clubs.

But from a side that would often draw boos from their own fans for what were perceived as dismal displays, the unprecedented transformation in style of play and consequent place among the top four certainly adds credibility to their tag as the great entertainers.

Now likely without key men Antonio and Rice for the majority of the remainder of the season due to injuries, Moyes will hope that their newly-assigned tag only helps rather than derails their hopes of appearing at the top table of European football for the first time.  

Moyes may also be without key man Declan Rice for the run-in as they attempt club history

Moyes may also be without key man Declan Rice for the run-in as they attempt club history

Moyes may also be without key man Declan Rice for the run-in as they attempt club history

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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