Promising signs from pre-season as Bowen and youngsters shine

We were unbeaten in pre-season under Avram Grant but history surely won't repeat itself

Jarrod Bowen (WHU) at the EPL match Arsenal v West Ham United, at the Emirates Stadium, London, UK on 19th September, 2020. English Premier League matches are still being played behind closed doors because of the current COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, and government social distancing/lockdown restrictions.

Pre-season is always a very interesting topic for Premier League football fans. 

Often, clubs like West Ham start off by playing so called ‘smaller’ sides before moving on to similar standard clubs prior to the start of the domestic campaign.

As it has in previous years with David Moyes, the Hammers pre-season began in St Andrews, Scotland. 

The initial pre-season squad was made up of first team members not selected for international duty and some youngsters. A week-long training schedule of double and triple sessions helped the squad to regain fitness. 

At the end of this, we had our first friendly against Dundee, and we found ourselves 2-0 down around the hour mark but plugged away and managed a 2-2 draw. 

As always, there was a mini meltdown on Twitter from Hammers fans as many worried about the draw. 

However, in my opinion results are not important at all in the early stages of pre-season.

There were a couple of standouts in the game including Jarrod Bowen who scored the second for West Ham and young centre half Frederick Alves who looked very comfortable on the ball. 

After the game against Dundee, David Moyes brought the squad back to east London to prepare for two simultaneous friendlies against Northampton and Leyton Orient. 

David Moyes took half of the squad including Mark Noble and Michail Antonio to Leyton and Stuart Pearce took the others to Northampton. 

With the squad split in half, it would seem reasonable to suggest that the main priority in both was match fitness rather than the result. 

We had a similar schedule last year where we played both Ipswich and Wycombe on the same evening. 

Moyes’ team drew 0-0 in Leyton whilst the other half of the squad earned a 2-1 win with Jarrod Bowen scoring again. 

The week after the squad took a trip to Reading where the emphasis shifted from fitness to tactics and effective gameplay. 

Multiple Hammers such as Pablo Fornals, Angelo Ogbonna and Said Benrahma returned to the squad and a much stronger XI was fielded. We dominated the game winning 3-0. Standouts included Jarrod Bowen (again), Conor Coventry and Ben Johnson.  

Two days after the Reading game, our Under 23s travelled to Southend for a game at Roots Hall.   I wasn’t planning on mentioning the youth fixture, however, there were some quality performances that need to be discussed.  

The youth side beat Southend’s first team 5-1 with new signing Thierry Nevers scoring a hat-trick. Other familiar names such as Longelo and Baptiste put in very convincing performances. 

These performances could quite easily warrant an opportunity in the first team in the future.

Later in the week, the first team were back on the road and travelled back Scotland to face potential European competition in Celtic.  

Moyes fielded the strongest team we had available and the result reflected this. The Hammers put six past the Scottish side and only conceded two. 

Michail Antonio, Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen (again) were the stars of the show.

We completed our pre-season with an away trip to Brentford and a home game against Atalanta. 

Over the first stages of pre-season there have been some real encouraging signs for me.

Firstly, I have been extremely impressed with two academy graduates Ben Johnson and Conor Coventry. 

Johnson has been in and around the first team for a season or so now, but over the pre-season he has shown real maturity and versatility playing in a variety of positions.

Coventry has shown a real tidiness to his play and reminds me of a young Mark Noble. He is very efficient and keeps it very simple. 

As we know GSB don’t look to be too keen on splashing the cash despite earlier rumours that a large budget is available. 

Coventry could prove to be important this season if a central midfielder isn’t signed and he has impressed me so far in pre-season. 

Jarrod Bowen has also really impressed me. He has always been a very direct player for us but he seems to have ramped it up even move over the pre-season. I think he could be really important for us in the upcoming season. 

However, worries about a good pre-season have set in. With two wins and two draws in the first four games, we could be on course to go unbeaten in pre-season. 

Flashbacks to that 2010 pre-season are a real worry as in that year we won six and drew one before getting relegated later on in that season. 

Of course relegation would be extremely unlikely but with good results, there’s a chance that complacency could develop and we could have a slow start to the season. 

Similarly, the promising performances from some youth players could lead to GSB cutting corners and investing less. 

Pre-season is not the be-all and end-all so we shouldn’t have too much to worry about, butI think it is very possible that we could see some corners cut this summer after good pre-season performances.

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