With our Europa League campaign kicking off next week at Upton Park in the first qualifying round against Andorran minnows FC Lusitans, West Ham can arguably afford to field a lesser team in the earlier stages, to preserve energy for the tougher tasks that may lie ahead for the Hammers. With that in mind, we asked our writers:
How far do you think West Ham will go in this season’s Europa League?
As a fan, I believe West Ham will reach the group stages without much of an issue. The teams we’ll be facing over the next two months aren’t on our level, although it is a risky business underestimating your opponents, and any team could turn us over on any given day. That being said, I think the group stages are the expectation, and you can’t predict who’ll you’ll be facing in the group, or possibly after. That gives the fans as well as the club six enjoyable and entertaining European nights before our big move next season. For someone like myself, I want to be in the stands watching the club foray into Europe alongside the likes of Napoli, Borussia Dortmund and Marseille. Anything on top of that will be a bonus.
To be frank, I think we can go all the way. The qualifying rounds will be a walk in the park, but crucially they will give new manager Slaven Bilic the opportunity to give some of the squad players playing time, in an attempt to sort out the squad during the transfer window, so we’ll safely be through to the group stages. I can see us finishing second in the group, albeit it will be detrimental to our league form. After that, who knows? It’s the luck of the draw to be honest. Who would have thought Dnipro of Ukraine would have got all the way to the 2014/15 final? Middlesborough reached the Europa League final back in 2006 as well, so let’s be positive and hope that our Hammers can bring home some silverware.
Obviously I’d love West Ham to go all the way this season. Being realistic I think we can definitely get to the group stages and push on from there. Anything less than this is a failure considering the dreadful quality of the teams we have been drawn against in the first two rounds. Whether we get through the group stages depends on three things; the luck of the draw, what injuries we get and what signings we make. If the remaining transfer window is successful then we stand a much better chance of proceeding through the group stage. However knowing our luck with injuries, our star signing will probably get injured within the first 18 minutes of putting pen to paper. Nevertheless I think we can push on to the Round of 32.
I think West Ham will cruise through the qualifying rounds, but the Group Stages will be the real test. After playing lowly FC Lusitans from Andorra, and either Birkirkara or Ulisses in the second round, the Group Stages are a wake up call for European football when Schalke, Napoli and other more foreboding clubs are possible opponents. With a favourable drawing for the Group Stages, West Ham could find their way out of the group, but I do not see the Hammers making much of a run past the Group Stage. With the signings of Dimitri Payet and Pedro Obiang, and a few more new faces looking close to join West Ham, the depth of the team will be enough to get out of a group, and battle for an upper half finish in the Premier League.
I think we will probably get to the group stages in the Europa League. Our squad is good enough to breeze through the qualifiers but, considering this is the first European campaign we’ve had for a while, I think we may find it tough in the group. Our seeding won’t be great and there’s an awful lot of travelling to deal with, something some of our players aren’t quite used to. Getting to the group stage, however, would be an achievement in itself and also act as a building block for the club. Fans, therefore, shouldn’t be too disappointed if this is how it pans out.
Realistically, I think we’ll manage to get to the group stage. But because we will be lower rated in the pot (since we would have qualified for the group stage by the qualifying stages) we’ll end up with an incredibly tough group. In this group stage I think we’d have a good shot at the second place, which could see us go on to the knock-out stages, but frankly I think we will end up third by losing in our final match when Joey O’Brien scores and own goal before getting sent off because the ball struck his elbow with the intention to block it, injuring Winston Reid in the process, just like he did in the final minutes of this years first leg of the FA Cup game against Everton.
Personally, I would be impressed if we manage to reach the group stage. We ideally should breeze through the opener with FC Lusitans and then brush aside the awaiting Birkirkara or Ulisses. However, a lack of competition up until this stage will not prepare us for a potentially tough third qualifying round clash. And even if we do get a fortuitous draw, we would still need to survive a qualifying round against a third round winning side or a team that has narrowly missed out on the Champions League. This is a tall order for a team with a new manager and a new style of play. In addition, we have only played once in Europe since the turn of the century. I would love West Ham to embark on a European adventure but I am a realist and I predict defeat in the play-offs.
Looking at the the way the draw might work out I don’t think West Ham will have much trouble negotiating the first three qualifying rounds, even if we put out half a first team with the rest being made up of development squad players.
The first real test will come in the final play-off tie to get into the Europa League proper, as we are likely to get a reasonably tough draw. With Premier League games either side of this tie it will be interesting to see what sort of side we would put out and where Bilic’s priorities lie.
Unfortunately because of the clubs inexperience in Europe I could maybe see us going out at this stage like Hull City did last year but if we did make it through then I think we could have enough to claim one of the top two positions in the group stage to qualify for the knock out stage.
It’s almost impossible to predict anyway. We’ve seen Middlesbrough and Fulham reach the final in previous years, so why not us?
Personally I think we can make the group stages at least. Let’s be fair – it’s hardly Barcelona, Juventus and PSG we’re facing and with all due respect to the teams we face, we should win against them. If we revamp the squad, buy some new starting players, buy some new backup, we should be fine. We’ve got players like Pedro Obiang raring to go, exciting young players, including new signing Martin Samuelsen and others such as Moses Makasi, Manny Onariase and Josh Cullen and we’re linked with lots of exciting players such as Yohan Cabaye, Loic Remy, Angelo Ogbonna, Dimitri Payet and Charlie Austin, so I see no reason why we shouldn’t get to the group stage. Onwards from that, depending on the opposition and the players from that, we could get to the first knockout stage maybe.
Realistically, I think we will get to the first possibly second knockout stage at best. What with us competing in the Europa and a solid league position so important, if push comes to shove, we will prioritise a decent finish in the league. The only concern I have about being in the Europa is the effect it does have on a league run, no matter what you argue, it’s proven every season that teams in the Europa possibly under perform in the league to some extent. Hopefully we can buck that trend and have a roundly positive season at home and abroad under Slaven.
The Europa League is considered to be more of a hindrance than a competition to sink all your teams resources into, these days. Do I think West Ham can go far in this, I would have to say yes given the excitement and prospect heading into the new season but at what cost? It can decay a team’s League position over the course of the season, the further you progress, the more resources of first team players will be used therefore, tiredness and fatigue affect your season as a whole.
In terms of would I want West Ham to go far in the Europa League, based on what I feel is more important for the club, we should be concentrating on the Premier League just for this season. I dont want fans to get caught up in the hype of Europe just yet because i’m just starting to get the feeling that our time for Europe is coming; let’s not get impatient and let’s get a firm grip on the Premier League before thinking about the European dream.
For the sake of argument, we asked a couple of non-West Ham fans for their view.
West Ham will progress to the last 16 of the Europa League. They have made solid signings so far and it appears more will follow with the likes of Payet and Austin linked to the club. They have a manager who has done well in Europe with Besiktas and a manager who is a good enough tactician to be able to change the set up of the team against more physical sides from the likes of East Europe. Some good teams get into the last 16, and i predict the Hammers to lose out to a team dropping down from the Champions League. They will have no trouble progressing into the group stages and they could easily win their group depending on who is in it.
In my opinion, West Ham should cruise through the first three qualification stages but may face a tough task in the play-offs, but should be able to overcome whoever they face.
The group stages can be unpredictable at times but it looks as though the Hammers will be active in the transfer market and sign a wide variety of players that can do the job. For this reason, I think that they’ll make it through to the first round of knockouts but no further. Although, this prediction is reliant on Bilic fielding a strong side in each match and not preserving players for league fixtures.
A successful run, but not enough to earn them masses of credit. Round of 32, for me