The Football Manager 2022 (FM22) beta is out, and if you’re not one of the 98% of players making an instant beeline for the Newcastle job and the untold riches that await there, you might be looking for another Premier League club to manage. David Moyes has done a ridiculously good job of turning West Ham from relegation fodder into a top-six side. If you fancy taking the club to “the next level” here are some tips on managing West Ham in FM22.
I’ve broken this article down into ‘Problems’ that need dealing with as soon as you take charge and ‘Opportunities’ to take advantage of. This is all based on the beta of FM22, not the full release, but it’s unlikely that much will change.
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You’ve only got one striker
West Ham start FM22 with only recognised striker, Michail Antonio, and as any West Ham fan will tell you, he’s made of balsa wood and china. After my first proper game of the season, Antonio was out injured for four weeks, leaving me entirely strikerless. Nikola Vlasic can play up top, but he looks about as dangerous as a bean bag up there. Before the first window closes, you must get a new striker in. There’s just one problem with that…
Tiny transfer budget
West Ham start the game with only £8 million in the transfer kitty. Hot take: that’s not going to be enough to tempt Dortmund to part with Haaland. Unless you raise money from player sales (see The Rice situation, below), you’re going to be shopping in the striker bargain bins. I generally avoid making specific player recommendations, because it feels a bit like cheating, but I’m just saying Christian Benteke is available from Crystal Palace for less than £1m, and he’s not actually that bad if you play to his strengths (more on that later). He’s nabbed three goals in six games for me, with a couple of assists thrown in. Look:
No scouting department/Director of Football
West Ham is, of course, the country’s best Sunday League team. Which is why when you arrive at The London Stadium, you’ll find no director of football and precisely one scout waiting for you. So, if you were hoping the scouts would have a £2m Serbian wonderkid striker up their sleeves to solve the Antonio problem, think again. Set about hiring scouts and a Director of Football right away.
The Hammers have a decent team, as we’ll come to later, but they’re not the TikTok generation. Fabianski in goal is 36. Dawson, Ogbonna and Cresswell in the defence are all 30+. Captain Mark Noble is on his last legs, as is Yarmalenko. Antonio is the wrong side of 30. The spine of the side is, frankly, creaking.
You’re going to need to address that sooner rather than later. Areola is the backup keeper, on loan from PSG, but he’s 28 and as good as Fabianski. I’ve made him my first-choice keeper, with a view to triggering the £13m optional future fee in the summer. Meanwhile, my first bit of transfer business was to sign a younger centre-back (Moussa Niakahte) and ship out the 33-year-old Ogbonna, as Villa were willing to part with £6m quid for him.
Noble and Yarmalenko will go either in January or the end of the season, and will be replaced with young ‘uns.
The Rice situation
Declan Rice is by far and away West Ham’s best player – and the club’s most saleable asset. He’s valued at between £72m – £82m at the start of the game, but if you can beat off the vultures circling in the first window (Newcastle chief amongst them), it’s likely his value will rise to £100m or beyond by the end of the season.
Unless you get Champions League football by the end of the first season (and that will take some doing), you’re probably going to have to part with Rice in the summer of 2022. That’s going to create a big problem, with fellow team leader Noble also due to be shipped out, so you’re going to need to replace Rice with a decent midfielder with strong leadership skills. I’d reinvest the rest of the Rice money on a long-term replacement for Antonio.
The first team is decent
West Ham didn’t fluke their way into Europe last season, as the real-life start to this season has shown. The first XI is more than good enough to compete in the top half of the table. Zouma is a very strong CB, Cresswell and Coufal are decent full-backs, Rice and Soucek are as good a midfield duo as any outside of the top four, and Antonio will bang in the goals if his hamstrings stay intact.
The supporting squad is the worry, with a real lack of depth behind the first XI. If you can create strength in depth, there’s no reason why West Ham shouldn’t become European football regulars.
Great at set pieces
West Ham scored more goals from set-pieces than any other side last season, and they’ve only got stronger in that department. Zouma is a big target for free-kicks and corners, joining Soucek, Dawson, Diop and Rice in the big lump brigade. Add big Benteke to that list, if you invest some spare change in him.
Cresswell is excellent at both corners and free-kicks, giving you the delivery needed to hit the big lads. Niakahte, my new CB, also has a tremendous (19) long throw, which is another weapon you can exploit with so many big fellas to aim at. Make sure you set up your set-pieces properly, assign the takers, and get them worked on in training. It definitely pays dividends, as one of the new data charts proves.
West Ham’s owners are as much loved as an ingrowing toenail. However, the virtual Sullivan/Gold are pretty reasonable chaps. The first season demands are a top-half finish, which shouldn’t be beyond a competent manager, and modest progress in the cups. The challenge will come in later seasons, if the porn barons don’t loosen the purse strings, but you should have at least a season or two to start moulding the squad, with the Rice money letting you put your stamp on the team when you decide to cash in.