“I HAVE to change the way West Ham play,” said coach David Moyes resolutely ahead of the season.
And so the Scot signed summer transfers worth £163million to help, acquiring Brazil’s starting number 10 Lucas Paqueta and Italy’s rising number 9 Gianluca Scamacca.
Other established international footballers have also been brought to East London.
Moroccan Nayef Aguerd arrived from Stade Rennes, Italian Emerson from Chelsea, Ivory Coast winger Maxwel Cornet from Burnley and Issa Diop was shipped to make way for German regular Thilo Kehrer.
2018 loanee from Paris Saint-Germain, France goalkeeper Alphonse Areola also became permanent after a successful spell at the club last season.
One signing, however, flew under the radar in the Premier League, but the mystery surrounding the player still wowed West Ham fans: Flynn Downes.
The 23-year-old hammer for life was snatched from under the nose of London rivals Crystal Palace at the last minute and West Ham paid Championship club Swansea £12million for the midfielder.
West Ham had been longing for an extra body in the middle of the park to help Hammers captain Declan Rice and Czech Republic’s Tomas Soucek, who had soiled each other since Moyes’ return to the club in December 2019, and to replace the retired Mark Noble.
Despite showing promising signs in pre-season, Downes had to wait for his chance to impress in a competitive game.
It meant watching Moyes cling to the old guard, suffering four losses in the first six Prem games.
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Downes has also had to wait in West Ham’s Europa Conference League campaign.
He played a total of 29 minutes in qualifying against Viborg before making his first starting XI against FCSB in the group stage of the Conference League.
They say, “As you see the opportunity, seize it”. And take it, he did it.
Downes buzzed across the pitch at London Stadium, effortlessly stopping play while displaying his impressive passing ability – something Swansea fans have said is one of his best qualities.
For the next group game against Silkeborg, however, he was dropped mercilessly. tough love? Maybe.
He then sat out three Prem games before returning to midfield in West Ham’s third group game against Anderlecht in Belgium, where he produced another man-of-the-match performance.
Moyes celebrated after the 1-0 win: “He played really, really well.
“He’s starting to show us a little bit more. He started a bit slowly but tonight he really made a mark.
“I thought he played very well tonight.”
Audience praise from the gaffer… Result.
But such a ‘marker’ meant Downes was given just an extra minute of prem action in the Hammers’ next league game against Fulham to add to the 60 seconds he had against Manchester City on opening day.
Anderlecht at home? No problem.
Downes made the deal again last Thursday, reminding fans of a young Rice despite being born just six days apart.
This weekend’s reward? A place on the bench at Southampton while Moyes insisted on Soucek, hoping the once prolific midfielder would get in shape.
Soucek delivered another lackluster performance, shaking his lines for the Saints opener but was saved by the individual brilliance of midfield partner Rice, who leveled the World Cup.
The Czech completed just 64 per cent of his passes at St Mary’s, which has become a recurring problem over the past year when West Ham have been in possession and compared to Rice, who consistently hits the 90s, it’s not a pretty sight.
When he’s not scoring, Soucek struggles to impress in a game and his performances are littered with missed passes and flatfoot touches that slow down the game.
It’s also important to note that Soucek’s role has changed as Rice has evolved, with the England mainstay becoming a box-to-box midfielder rather than a keeper, which will dictate his long-term future alongside the £150m- midfielder in question.
And even though West Ham are five games unbeaten, it’s not too late for Moyes to “change the way West Ham plays”.
Downes arrived in East London as the most accurate passer in England’s top four divisions.
He completed an impressive 92.6 per cent of the passes he attempted at Swansea last season.
Now Hammer’s teammate Rice was second with a 91.6.
Downes also played on a team with the highest average possession in their division at 63.8 percent.
The Hammers only managed 47.7 last season.
Downes also made 78 tackles and interceptions in League Two, which proved effective in regaining possession.
The number 12 could be the ideal pivot in the initial build-up phase and will help keep the ball under pressure.
Downes, who plays in a midfield three behind Rice and Paqueta, could prove to be one of the most dominant combinations in the division.
A midfield threesome of sturdy workers with a dash of Brazilian flair.
And adding a little more pace at the back could allow the Hammers to play a few yards higher up the pitch.
evolution of rice
Regular West Ham viewers would have known of Rice’s skills both on and off the ball before the rest of the footballing world started to settle in.
The former Chelsea academy ace was even branded a centre-back playing in midfield by Gary Neville, which the Manchester United legend has now admitted was wrong.
A defensive rock with dancing feet and the power of a locomotive once it’s up and running.
Rice can be unstoppable at times, and he’s the key to turning defense into offense.
He’s one of the best when it comes to carrying the ball on his foot and, as a midfielder, is highly valued for successful dribbling.
Rice is also considered one of, if not THE, best striker on the ball at West Ham.
His goals for the Hammers showed that, including Sunday’s equalizer against Southampton.
Scamacca could lead him to that title, however, as the Italian can unleash a thundering punch at any moment.
Rice checked his shoulder, played a one-two with Said Benrahma, ran into the room and fired a flick into the bottom right corner, throwing the away game into chaos.
Strangely, he seems to be better at shooting from the penalty area than at the penalty spot.
Rice himself has admitted he needs to score more and playing with Downes could free up some of his defensive duties, allowing him to focus more on the offensive aspects of his game.
Paq a hammer
The Hammers paid Paqueta £50million in the summer, taking him out of the hands of last season’s Europa League quarter-final opponents Lyon.
A player with a great reputation. Typical Brazilian ginga style. Flicks, tricks and loose hips.
But he’s also capable of doing the dirty work and was among the best attacking midfielders with defensive moves last season.
Because of this, Moyes was delighted to grab Paqueta and throw him straight into the team.
But like Rice, Paqueta could be a beneficiary of Downes’ inclusion.
Downes’ quick approach and pinpoint passing brought the ball to Paqueta faster and helped the midfielder increase his influence in games.
Paqueta also appears to be on good terms with his con artists Benrahma and Scamacca, assisting the Italian in his last two goals.
However, the direct Benrahma is behind Pablo Fornals in the pecking order to start on the left.
He is also in competition with Cornet.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6470158/flynn-downes-west-ham-style-declan-rice/ Flynn Downes can help David Moyes change West Ham’s style and help captain Declan Rice develop