After two successive seasons of qualifying for Europe and a big summer spend-up, it’s a good time to be managing West Ham. Although David Moyes hasn’t exactly made a cracking start to 2022/23… Reckon you can do better in Football Manager 2023? Then here are my tips for managing West Ham in FM23.
West Ham’s FM23 squad
The West Ham squad of FM23 is in much better shape than the one of FM22. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its problems, though.
The game has a cracking new feature called the Experience Matrix that lets you look at the age profile of your squad, and as you can see from the grab below, West Ham’s squad is heavily weighted to the ‘getting on a bit’ end of the scale.
With the board demanding that you sign young players, one of your medium-to-long jobs will be moving on players on the right-hand side of the chart above and getting some young blood in to replace them. And you might want to move quickly on that, because several of the older players’ contracts run out in 2023, meaning you probably won’t get any money for them if you don’t move them on in the first window. Those players include Lukasz Fabianski, Darren Randolph, Aaron Cresswell, Angelo Ogbonna and Craig Dawson. If you get a good offer for any of those, it’s probably time to sell.
So, now we’ve taken a look at the squad, let’s deal with the problems and opportunities you’re going to face as the West Ham boss.
Even though I’ve made a very decent start as West Ham manager (4th going into the World Cup break and tearing up the Europa Conference League), players are declaring they want out.
Tomas Soucek says he want to explore the options at the end of his contract, although with two years still to run and a club option for a further year, that’s not a cause for panic. The Italian Ogbonna declared himself homesick – and then took a move to Wolves! Antonio decided he wanted to move on before Christmas, before getting a long-term injury that meant I had to flog him on the cheap in January. Randolph and Fabianski both want moves for first-team football, too.
Be ready to deal with these or watch squad morale suffer.
Declan Rice is the only world-class talent in the entire squad, and that of course means bigger teams are sniffing around him. I somehow managed to convince him to sign a new contract in October of the first season, but his agent demanded a release clause, which I eventually haggled up to £110m. That’s a good price and one I’ll probably have to accept in summer 2023, having got through the January window without any bids being tabled.
Lack of squad depth
Even with the summer signings, the squad remains thin. With the World Cup squashing fixtures and the Europa Conference League to contend with, you’re going to be playing twice a week, almost every week, until the break. You need to rotate players regularly, or you’re going to end up with a knackered shell of a team.
You’ve got two big problems here. First, the game starts with long-term injuries for Aguerd and Dawson, meaning you’ve got limited options at centre-back. Pluck Jamal Baptiste from the Under-23s and use him for the Europa Conference League games against the Albanian part-timers. The second problem is up front. Scamacca is decent and Antonio’s an OK backup option, but Antonio is made of balsa wood and feathers and will likely break. When that happens, that leaves only Jarrod Bowen as an auxiliary striker. If you’re turning the first transfer window on (I didn’t), you might want to get another striker in on loan as cover.
By the way, Flynn Downes and Conor Coventry are both good enough to cope with the Europa League games, allowing you to rest Soucek and Rice, although I wouldn’t trust Coventry in the Premier League.
Neither Fabianski or Areola are good enough (in the game) for a Premier League club with European ambitions. Fab is 37 and needs moving on anyway, while Areola is too error-prone for my liking. Don’t even think about Randolph.
I shipped out Fabianski to Newcastle in January and brought in Dominik Livakovic, a £7.5m signing from Dinamo. He’s not amazing, but a 19 rating for one-on-ones and 18 for reflexes makes him a very hand shot-stopper.
A strong first-choice XI
As mentioned above, I’ve got West Ham hovering around the Champions League spots in the first season, largely by keeping my best XI fit for Premier League duty and letting the also-rans cope with the cups.
I play a Control Possession 4-5-1 with Areola in goal (now replaced by Livakovic), Cresswell and Johnson as wing-backs, Zouma and Kehrer at CBs. Rice and Soucek both sit deep, looking after the shop, with Rice playing a DM on defensive duty and Soucek as a ball-winning midfielder. Ahead of them is Paqueta, playing as an advanced playmaker, although he’s very handy at arriving in the box to score goals too. Out wide, I’ve got Fornals/Cornet and Bowen/Benrahma playing as inverted wingers, giving space for the wing-backs to bomb on. And Scamacca is deployed as an advanced forward up top.
Work hard on training and setting up your set-pieces, because these are a real strength. Zouma, Soucek, Dawson, Ogbonna, Rice and Scamacca are all useful in the air, meaning you should be looking to exploit corners. Near-post corners seem to be a good route to goals, again.
When it comes to taking set-pieces Cresswell is useful for both corners and free-kicks, although you’ll want to think about buying another set-piece specialist, as he’s getting on a bit. Scamacca, Benhrama and Lanzini are OK (13) from free-kicks too, but Cresswell is your go-to taker.
There’s no guarantee it will happen in your game, of course, but in my save the board whacked £40m into the transfer kitty ahead of the January window, which came in very handy for squad strengthening.
Remember, I disabled the first transfer window and was over-achieving, so if you spend big in the first summer or you’re struggling in the bottom half, Sullivan and Gold might not be as generous.