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West Ham United: Premier League Strugglers, Europa Conference League Champions

West Ham have had a very indifferent season. Struggling in the Premier League, with David Moyes nearly losing his job over results shortly after the World Cup break, but then winning a trophy, the Europa Conference League.

Can this season be considered a success? The easy answer is yes, they did win a trophy, but after finishing so high in the league last season, it has been a hard watch for The Hammers during their relegation fight.

Europa Conference League Winners

West Ham‘s performances in the Europa Conference League were brilliant. Their journey started back in mid-August, with a playoff tie against Denmark‘s Viborg, with West Ham comfortably winning 3-1 at home, and 3-0 away, ensuring a place in the group stages.

West Ham kicked off their group stage with a home win over FCSB. Despite trailing by a goal for the first hour of the game, a Jarred Bowen penalty and a goal from Emerson 5 minutes later quickly turned the tie around, with Antonio wrapping it up late on.

West Ham were quickly becoming the entertainers of the Europa Conference League as they beat Silkeborg 3-2 away from home. A Lanzini penalty brought West Ham level after conceding early on, with Scammaca and Dawson giving West Ham a strong 3-1 lead before halftime.

They then recorded back-to-back wins against Anderlecht before beating Silkeborg again 1-0 at home. In their final group stage game, they travelled to FCSB, where they won 3-0, resulting in them finishing top of their group, without dropping a single point.

AEK Larnaca were their opponents in the round of 16, who were well beaten over the two legs. 2 Antonio goals gave West Ham a good lead going into their home game against them, where they ran riot and won 4-0, progressing 6-0 on aggregate.

Gent were West Ham‘s opponent in the quarter-finals. A Danny Ings goal gave West Ham the lead in the away fixture, but a goal just before the half-hour mark for Gent meant that West Ham did not win a fixture in the Conference League for the first time this season.

In the second leg, West Ham suffered an early blow, conceding just before the half-hour mark. But West Ham turned it around in style. Two goals from Antonio, a Paqueta penalty and a Declan Rice goal meant they progressed to the semi-finals, winning 5-2 on aggregate.

A big semi-final against AZ Alkmaar awaited. With home advantage in the first leg, West Ham were hoping for a good result to take into the reverse fixture. After starting poorly, West Ham went behind just before halftime, Reijnders the scorer. But as West Ham have shown time and time again in this competition, they are capable of coming back from behind.

A Benrahma penalty and an Antonio goal gave West Ham the victory they were looking for, taking a 2-1 aggregate lead into the second leg. Away from home, West Ham had to hold on and survive an onslaught at the start of the game.

The goal never came for Alkmaar, and Pablo Fornals made sure of their progression to the final, with a stoppage-time goal, leading to some unsavoury scenes caused by both sets of fans.

A massive final waited at the Eden Arena in Prague. Fiorentina v West Ham. Fiorentina dominated the ball and attacked with cause, but West Ham held firm. Goalless at half time, the deadline was finally broken after 62 minutes. West Ham awarded yet another penalty, dispatched by Benrahma again to give The Hammers the lead.

Fiorentina hit back quickly, with Bonaventura equalising just 5 minutes later. A fascinating game ended in brilliant fashion. Jarred Bowen scored in the 90th minute, sending the West Ham end into raptures, as they ran out 2-1 winners.

The game summed up what was a brilliant tournament for West Ham. Not losing a single game, capable of coming back from behind to win games, and being able to score goals freely, both home and away. It was a complete contrast to what was on show in the Premier League.

Premier League Strugglers

West Ham‘s story in the Premier League completely contrasts the one told in their Europa Conference League campaign.

A season of struggle awaited West Ham, one that nearly cost David Moyes his job, and could have cost West Ham their Premier League status.

The season did not start brightly for them. After a positive campaign the previous season, which got them their Europa Conference League spot, they began with 3 straight losses, against Man City, newly promoted Nottingham Forest, and Brighton. To make matters worse, they did not manage a single goal in any of these games.

After these 3 games, West Ham were the only side in the league to have not picked up a single point, as they sat at the bottom of the table. They managed 4 points from their next two games, but plummeted back into 18th after that, with two losses on the bounce.

Goals became hard to come by for The Hammers. By the end of September they had managed to find the back of the net just 3 times, with one of those being a winning goal against Aston Villa.

Results were a bit kinder throughout October. Back-to-back wins against Wolves and Fulham lifted them back into the comfort of mid-table. By the end of October, West Ham found themselves in 13th, but just 4 points above the relegation zone.

Another set of back-to-back losses meant that they went into the World Cup break in poor form, in 16th place, and 1 point above the relegation zone.

Their form did not entirely turn around after the break either. December came to a close, as West Ham lost their two games against Arsenal and Brentford, leaving them hovering above the relegation zone on goal difference alone.

West Ham then spent the next few months flirting with the relegation zone, constantly flipping between 16th and 18th, unable to put a run of form together to take them clear of the bottom three.

With eight games to go, West Ham started to turn it around. They finally brought their Europa Conference League form to the Premier League. They beat Fulham, picked up a very good point against Arsenal, then smashed an inform Bournemouth 4-0, taking them up to 13th, 6 points clear of the bottom 3 with 7 games to go.

3 losses on the bounce against Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Man City left them 4 points above the relegation zone with 4 games to go. It looked likely they would stay up, especially considering the form of the other teams below them, but there was still a chance they could go down.

A crucial win against Man United essentially ensured their place in the Premier League next season. Although it was still mathematically possible, they were 7 points clear with 9 points to play for.

A loss against Brentford delayed the confirmation that they would play in the Premier League next season, but they got the job done against Leeds, beating them 3-1, and making it mathematically impossible for them to be relegated.

West Ham finished the season in 14th, with 40 points, scoring 42 and conceding 55, a drastic change from their 7th place finish the season before, with 56 points and 60 goals scored.

All in all, West Ham will be happy that they avoided relegation, but they need to push on next season. They need to manage playing in Europe and the Premier League much better than they did this season.

They will have a much harder time next season in the Europa League, and so will need to be at their best to progress in that competition. They need to invest more into their squad depth so they can manage playing Thursday nights as well as weekends in the Premier League.

They did a brilliant job winning silverware this season. After being knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Blackburn on penalties, and out of the FA Cup in the 5th round by Man United, they needed to go far in the Conference League.

This season can be considered a success. It is often you see new teams struggle once they start playing in Europe and the Premier League, and West Ham were no exception. They retained their spot in the Premier League, and have a European trophy to add to the cabinet as well, all in all, a brilliant season for them.

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