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Nobody was expecting West Ham

How Moyes' team is in the Europa League semifinals and is continuing to do great things in the Premier League

Nobody was expecting West Ham How Moyes' team is in the Europa League semifinals and is continuing to do great things in the Premier League

Raise your hand if you haven't felt sympathy, at least once, for West Ham. Although they don't have the crest of Manchester United or Liverpool, nor the charm of Arsenal or Chelsea, the Hammers, straight from East London, have become one of the most hype soccer teams in the pop scene. The cinema is certainly involved, with the movie "Green Street" (a cult of the relationship between screen and football), but also a narrative emphasized by the world of the hottest English fans. Not surprisingly, among the most popular books on football is the one written by former West Ham fan Cass Pennant, "Congratulations, You Have Just Met the I.C.F." (the West Ham fans' firm).

But for the past couple of seasons, West Ham hasn't just been about sports iconology or merchandising. It's also football, pure and true. From the fields of the Premier League to those of the Europa League, the Hammers, thanks to a long-term project, have found stability and planning under the guidance of ex-United and Everton coach David Moyes. The Scotsman has taken the last difficult seasons' old guard and has stuck players with an ambitious profile, building a model that scores a lot (56 goals, like Manchester United) and concede some (43 goals). But from Guardiola to Klopp up to UK TV commentators like Jagielka and Jamie Redknapp, everyone has praised the revolution brought about by Moyes that, obviously, could not fail to pass through a very precise program. 

The rebuilding of the team, which began when it moved from the old Boleyn Ground to the Olympic Stadium in North London in 2016, has been synonymous with internationalization. West Ham has chosen to abandon, as is happening at Tottenham and Everton, the idea of a traditional club and strongly tied to its fan base as it has been until now. It has expanded with new and ambitious coaches - Bilic, who had already taken the team to Europe, and Pellegrini, former City coach and now on the bench of Real Betis - and neglecting the criticism that has come from the fans it has managed to build an international club. A result obtained certainly not having the finances of Tottenham or the new Arab ownership of Newcastle at its disposal, but West Ham has built a team that, for its squad and for the solidity shown on the field, can be placed below the English big six. At the moment, in fact, it is in seventh place, just below Manchester United, and in the semifinals of the Europa League against Eintracht Frankfurt.

The narrowing of the gap against the big boys in the Premier League has been evidenced by the results this season. West Ham has beaten both Chelsea and Liverpool, the latter at Anfield with a 3-2 victory already voted by fans as the game of the year. In the Europa League, no one - not even the experts at The Guardian - would have expected West Ham to be one step away from the Europa League final, the first international of this millennium. With the exception of a group defeat against Dinamo Zagreb (after qualification had already taken place) and the 1-0 loss to Sevilla in the round of 16, Moyes' team has never lost in Europe this season. Overcoming the Spaniards and Lyon at home, they'll face the Germans no longer with the allure of the Cinderella, but as a small panzer tremendously insidious on set pieces ("set piece monster" Sky UK defined it) and very strong in counterattacks. 

This is because the core of the revolution of West Ham and Moyes passes through the field. In addition to the new faces, that with the Scottish coach have found a definition of the second floor, such as Lanzini and Ogbonna, the reinforcements arrived in this two-year period have helped to make the Hammers a team finally technical. Areola, Zouma, Soucek, Pabo Fornals and, above all, Declan Rice, midfielder and vice-captain who for years has been considered the next big thing in English football, and who has now finally reached the level that insiders had predicted. Speaking of born and raised in the UK, Jarrod Bowen, taken from Hull City, has also been a sort of rookie at 25 years of age. He scored twice against Lyon and even in the Premier League has quickly become one of the most important players for Moyes. One of those players who is changing his career thanks to his great performances and who, like many, is living the best period of his life. In fact, everyone at West Ham has experienced a small revolution and the team's revolution has come as a consequence.