David Moyes has securing European football for next season as down the target for the end of the current campaign with West Ham United.
After his Hammers came from behind to win at Burnley 2-1, Moyes admitted that he would be “disappointed” if a place in continental competition wasn’t on the menu for 2021-22. When speaking to the BBC following that Premier League away day success, he said: “I’m hoping that, with four games to go, people still talk about us being in the Champions League. We want to keep going.
“We want to go right to the last day and see if we could maybe sneak [into the top four]. That is what it would probably take, us winning all our [remaining] games. I think if we made European football this year, [then] it would be a brilliant achievement.”
Qualifying for Europe is a rare enough thing for West Ham. We aren’t regulars in UEFA competitions like London rivals Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham. On our last two European campaign, we haven’t even made it into the Europa League group stage after defeats in qualifying and the Play-off rounds.
Continental competitions are undergoing something of a shake-up, both this coming season and in the years ahead. The UEFA Europa Conference League launches in 2021-22 with the Premier League team that finishes seventh set to take part in that with EFL Cup winners Manchester City guaranteed a Champions League spot.
An appearance in Europe would mean more live football on TV featuring West Ham. The Europa Conference is yet another competition that streaming services over the internet will provide, although Moyes and skipper Declan Rice hope his Hammers are competing at a higher level.
Provided that FA Cup finalists Chelsea and Leicester City both maintain their presence in the top four in the final Premier League table, both fifth and sixth spots will bring Europa League football with them next season. West Ham sit above Spurs, Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal in the standings ahead of the run-in, so qualifying for Europe is in our own hands.
After disappointingly losing to the Toffees at home, all of the Hammers’ remaining fixtures are against teams in the current bottom seven. Brighton have nothing to play for, as they are safe, while West Brom are down and will have nothing to play for when Moyes takes the team to The Hawthorns against old West Ham boss Sam Allardyce. Southampton are safe for the final day of the season too.
Such favourable fixtures on paper explain why Moyes feels bringing European football to the London Stadium is within reach. The Hammers have a march on Tottenham, who sacked Jose Mourinho just days before their Wembley date with Man City in the EFL Cup final, and Merseyside’s top two clubs.
Liverpool couldn’t mount any sort of defence of the Premier League title because of injuries to key players in defence. Everton haven’t quite fulfilled the promise of their fine start of the season, suggesting there is still a long way for them to go.
Moyes may not even regard Arsenal, who faltered in the latter stages of the Europa League once again with a semi-final exit to Villarreal, as a threat. The Gunners trail West Hamquite significantly. Hope is very much alive that the Hammers can get into Europe once more.