West Ham United 2018/19 Season Review: New beginnings give hope for a bright future
(Photo: Getty Images - Marc Atkins)

Despite a horrific start to the season, West Ham's 2018/19 Premier League campaign came to an end on a high.

Manuel Pellegrini's first season in charge of the Hammers came in with a lot of highs but also a lot of lows, as the most common occurrence had been West Ham's inconsistency.

And here's a recap of the past season as VAVEL UK takes a look at how and why West Ham nearly missed out on European places while securing their top-flight status for yet another year.

Transfer Business

First team overhaul

After signing with the club in May 2018, both Pellegrini and his director of football Mario Husillos started recognizing targets to improve the squad left by Slaven Bilic and David Moyes.

The experienced Chilean instantly started working on new signings for the club, which resulted in the arrivals of Ryan Fredericks on a free transfer from Fulham; Łukasz Fabiański for £7 milllion from relegated Swansea; and Issa Diop for £22 million from French outfit Toulouse FC, who he was the captain of since the age of 19, before the transfer window got up and running.

It instantly became clear that Pellegrini wanted the club to sign highprofile players, as shown by the arrival of Diop, who was very highly rated and on the radar of clubs such as Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund.

Shortly after followed Jack Wilshere on a free transfer from Arsenal. Unfortunately for both the player and the club, it was yet another season of his struck by injuries as Wilshere missed all but eight Premier League games this season, assisting once.

West Ham's big summer spending didn't end on Diop, as the next player to come in was Andriy Yarmolenko from Dortmund in a deal worth £17.5 million. After a good start of the season and a brace in a 1-3 win against Everton in September, the winger suffered an achillies injury which ruled him out for the whole length of the season.

Before the transfer of a certain Brazilian winger, the recruitment duo of Husillos and Pellegrini decided on a bargain swoop for a generally unknown defender, Fabian Balbuena, from Brazilian top-flight outfit Corinthians, for a fee of around £4 million. It proved to be a brilliant signing for the club as the Paraguayan proved himself as one of the most composed defenders in the league, making his addition one of the bargains of the summer.

And then the big one happened. Felipe Anderson joined the club from S.S. Lazio for a club record fee of £35 million, instantly putting a lot of pressure on the Brazillian's shoulders. And we can say that he not only lived up to those expectations but also excelled them at certain points throughout the season. Felipe's league contribution of nine goals and five assists proved vital as he managed to obtain very important points and carry the Hammers up the table on his own.

Depth issues being sorted out

August started with a £1.35 million signing of youth international forward Xande Silva from a Portuguese side Vitória Guimarães SC.

The last two transfers of the summer transfer window were both to add depth for the side in case of injuries. Lucas Perez joined from Arsenal and Carlos Sanchez from Fiorentina, both in deals worth around £4 million.

While Perez managed to hit the ground running, averaging one goal per 119 minutes in all competitions, Sanchez wasn't that lucky. The 33-year-old midfielder managed to appear only five times for the Hammers before injuring his anterior cruciate ligament in a League Cup win against Macclesfield Town at the end of September, only returning to the first team squad for the penultimate game of the season, a 3-0 win against Southampton.

In January, Pellegrini bought just two free transfers to provide more depth that had been desperately needed due to injuries.

Highly rated 20-year-old winger Mesaque Dju joined his compatriot Silva in the U23 setup after being released by SL Benfica.

On the other hand, Samir Nasri managed to convince his former manager Pellegrini to offer him a six-month contract following the Frenchman's 18-month spell on the sidelines after UEFA convinced him of doping, and ultimately banned from any football activity.

But whenever the winger was on the pitch he looked like a real threat, managing two vital assists, but unfortunately, his long spell out of football took its toll as the winger couldn't stay consistently fit and remained sideline for most of his time in East London.

Story of the Season

Premier League

It was an inconsistent but promising campaign but it was always going to be a transitional one. However, it gives a lot of hope for the near future, starting with the 2019/20 one in less than three months from now.

West Ham kicked off their season on four straight losses which left them deep in the relegation zone, before ultimately turning it around and managing to beat Manchester United three goals to one, with Felipe Anderson scoring his first goal for the club.

Out of the opening ten games the Hammers only managed two wins, two draws, and six losses, including 1-0 against Brighton and 1-0 against Tottenham. And following the Spurs game, after an away 1-1 draw to Leicester, a tragedy happened, as the Foxes' chairman and four other people were involved in a helicopter accident that unfortunately took away all five lives, leaving everyone amongst the footballing world in shock.

After a bad start, West Ham finally managed to get the season up and running. Their next ten games were a complete opposite of the first ten, with six wins, one draw and three losses. And that exact run consisted of the Hammers' longest winning streak since 2015/16, with four wins on the trot (3-0 v Newcastle United, 3-1 v Cardiff, 3-2 v Crystal Palace and finally a 2-0 v Fulham), which saw them go up to the ninth place, only two points away from sixth.

The second half of the season started with a 2-2 draw to Brighton and a 1-0 win against Arsenal, which was only the start of West Ham's inconsistency as they won six and lost seven including results as a 1-1 draw against Liverpool, 1-0 win against Tottenham and a 2-0 loss against Cardiff, which eventually saw the club fell just five points short of the seventh place, guaranteeing a place in UEFA Europa League qualifiers despite winning the last three games of the season.

And a big part of that played Marko Arnautović, who was involved in a little bit of a transfer drama. His brother and agent, Danijel, orchestrated a move to Chinese Super League team Guangzhou Evergrande behind the club's back, telling the hierarchy of the CSL champions that his brother was available for £35 million, which, unfortunately for him, wasn't enough for West Ham's chairmen David Gold and David Sullivan, who demanded at least £10 million more.

The conflict escalated with Danijel releasing a public statement about his brother, telling everyone that Marko is "unhappy" at the club, which led to Manuel Pellegrini dropping the Austrian in fear that the transfer saga might affect his performances. Fortunately, everything is now resolved with the forward being on a new, improved contract and looking to stay at the club beyond the summer.


Carabao Cup

West Ham's campaign in the Carabao Cup started with a 3-1 win against AFC Wimbledon, which saw Issa Diop score his first goal for the club, before an 8-0 thrashing of League Two side Macclesfield Town came at the London Stadium.

Unfortunately, the Hammers' were unable to reach higher stages as their run was cut short by a 1-3 loss to Spurs.

FA Cup

The Hammers' FA Cup run lasted only 21 days, as after beating Birmingham City (thanks to goals from Arnautović and Andy Carroll's last strike in the claret and blue) they suffered a humiliating 4-2 loss at the hands of AFC Wimbledon, who they managed to beat only four months earlier.

The hosts went as far as 3-0 up thanks to goals from Kwesi Appiah and a Scott Wagstaff brace. However, West Ham did not lie down and nearly managed to claw themselves level as Perez and Anderson both hit the net to bring the Hammers back into the game.

Unfortunately, that wasn't enough, as Toby Sibbick scored his side's fourth goal, ensuring the top-flight side crashed out of the competition in the fourth round.

Player of the Season

There have been a few players that deserve a shout to be named as the club's best. Łukasz Fabiański was named as the Hammer Of The Year while Declan Rice claimed the Young Hammer Of The Year award.

And it was the former who deserved the award the most, saving his team's points in very tough games throughout the whole length of the season. The ex-Arsenal keeper finished the season on a total tally of 148 saves, topping everyone else in the league, while also managing seven clean sheets, as many as Man United's David De Gea.

And despite being 33-years-old, the Pole has at least a few more years at the highest level in him, despite people doubting him season after season.

What's to come next?

Manuel Pellegrini already made the Hammers' a threat for the top six, but now he needs to make his team playing at that same level against the lesser teams like AFC Bournemouth, to who they lost twice during the 2018/19 season.

Expectations are going to be big, but it all depends on the summer arrivals as well as injuries, which played a massive part in West Ham's failed quest for European competition. But we can expect a better run in domestic competitions, as well as more stable league form and generally better consistency.

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