Last year was West Ham’s most successful calendar year since the inception of the Premier League.
It was a year that saw the continuation of progress made under David Moyes in 2020.It was a year that saw fans reclaim their love and pride for West Ham United.
It was, to put it simply, a wonderful year in the history of the football club.
But despite ending the year with a thumping 4-1 victory over Watford at Vicarage Road, the last two months of 2021 seriously threatened to overshadow all the positives we should have been celebrating from such a fantastic 12 months.
Looking back to the beginning of November and the visit of Liverpool to London Stadium, there was a real buzz around the club and throughout the fanbase.
Victory over Jurgen Klopp’s Reds was our 14th in all competitions since losing to Everton at home in May.
It extended our run of form to just two defeats in 20 games, both of which came via late winners against Man United and Brentford. We were third in the Premier League and we were massive.
But that win over Liverpool also proved to be a turning point for all the wrong reasons.
Angelo Ogbonna limped off in that game and it was later confirmed he would likely miss the rest of the campaign with an ACL injury.
Three games later we lost Aaron Cresswell to a back injury and then two games after that, we lost Kurt Zouma to a serious injury.
Suddenly, our defence was depleted and we’d lost games to Wolves and Man City and drawn with Brighton.
The victory over Chelsea was unbelievable, but it proved to be our only win in seven Premier League games before travelling to Watford. We’d only kept one clean sheet during that period, conceding 11 goals in the process.
So it’s no surprise that there was a flat feeling amongst the fanbase heading towards the end of 2021.
After all the great form, superb results, high league positions and everything else that comes with being a massive football club, we’d suddenly shown signs of reverting back to the same ol’ West Ham, and it was worrying.
But that dip form should’ve been expected. It was inevitable when you look at the situation with David Moyes’ squad.
Any team in the world would struggle to maintain their form after losing their three best defenders in the space of just a few weeks.
Any team in the world will experience periods of struggle in the goalscoring department when they rely solely on just one single first-team striker in the squad.
As we’ve seen, too, any team in the world will struggle to maintain massive status when key players are struck down with COVID ahead of big games. These things happen.
It’s why looking back on that time with perspective is important for West Ham, and we must look back at the whole of 2021 to realise the blip towards the end of the year actually wasn’t as bad as we thought it was.
It was frustrating, sure. It was also very annoying but, West Ham’s failure to beat the likes of Wolves, Brighton, Burnley and Southamptin during that spell was not because we’d simply stopped over achieving and we were beginning to revert back to the norm.
It was because of the injury problems in defence. It was because of Michail Antonio’s mini goal drought.
It was because our lack of squad depth meant some of our best players were beginning to get tired. Looking back, it was all understandable.
But the win over Watford should be proof that we should expect to see the team return to form in 2022.
Sure, Watford weren’t very good and were pretty shambolic defensively, but they had more than enough to hurt us on more than the one occasion that they did.
With a makeshift defence, West Ham are always vulnerable. Without Declan Rice in midfield, West Ham are always vulnerable.
But we thrashed Watford. We should’ve scored more than four. We were very good and showed that recent form can be put down as just a blip.
It gave us the perfect ending to what was the perfect year, and a platform to continue that in 2022.
In all competitions in 2021, West Ham played 53 games. We won 30 of them. We scored 91 goals.
We played 41 Premier League games and only ended a top-flight gameweek outside of the top six on six different occasions. We started the year in 10th, we ended it in 5th.
We spent 18 different gameweeks in the top four. We were top of the Premier League twice.
In other words, 2021 saw us become a top-six club. We were in it more than we were out of it, and deservedly so.
The progress made in 2021 is all the perspective we need during a period of poor form and struggles.
We were 17th in the Premier League after ending 2019 with a 2-1 home defeat to Leicester City.
We were 11th at the end of 2018 after losing 2-0 at Burnley. At the close of 2017, we were 17th after that 3-3 draw with Bournemouth.
So as we enter 2022 in 5th place, having smashed Watford away from home despite being on a poor run of form, we must take a step back and acknowledge just how far we’ve come in 2021.
2022 promises to be another superb year but we should also expect to experience little slumps in form every now and then.
Massive teams don’t stay massive unless they experience hard times and then learn from them. West Ham are no different. Here’s to a massive 2022.