West Ham v Arsenal: competitive knitting against the team that don’t want the ball



By Bulldog Drummond

Unexceptional on every metric

In 2016 West Ham United were given the London Stadium as their new home, as the ground had been built for the London Olympics but now stood empty.  Moyes joined West Ham as manager in November 2017, and thus for almost all their time in the ground they were given for nothing, the club has been under his leadership, if that is the right word.

In these seasons the club has finished 6th, 7th, 10th, 13th, 14th and 16th, and won the smallest of the European trophies.once.   And yet have seemingly had a 60,000 capacity ground for which it appears they paid no development cost.

According to an article in the Mail last year they were asked to pay £3.6million in rent in 2022, but added that, “their highly-rewarding deal see’s them take all of the ticket money without having to foot the cost for heating, cleaning, or maintenance.”  No wonder their directors are quite happy and don’t seem too worried about the quality of on-field performances.    Here is West Ham’s record under Moyes.


P W D L F A Pts Pos
2017–18 38 10 12 16 48 68 42 13th
2018–19 38 15 7 16 52 55 52 10th
2019–20 38 10 9 19 41 62 39 16th
2020–21 38 19 8 11 62 47 65 6th
2021–22 38 16 8 14 60 51 56 7th
2022–23 38 11 7 20 42 55 40 14th


As for this season, as we have noticed they are currently eighth in the league


Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
3 Arsenal 23 15 4 4 47 22 25 49
8 West Ham United 23 10 6 7 36 36 0 36


And looked at from a financial point of view, really one might think they ought to be higher up.  I mean, with only a pittance of rent to pay (compared with the real value of the ground) and a 60,000 capacity ground full for each match, with all the money coming to the club, shouldn’t they be challenging for a higher position?

One explanation as for what is going on is that in Moyes they have a manager who plays the game in a different way from the clubs that are seriously challenging at the top.  These figures below from FB Ref show the anti-possession game they are playing with a lower number of players used than most clubs.


Club Players used  Possession
Manchester City 25 65.2%
Brighton And Hove Albion 27 61.2%
Arsenal 23 60.1%
Liverpool 28 60.0%
Tottenham Hotspur 27 59.3%
Chelsea 29 58.8%
Aston Villa 27 55.8%
Newcastle United 30 53.1%
Manchester United 30 51.7%
Fulham 25 51.0%
Wolverhampton Wanderers 25 47.7%
Brentford 28 45.8%
Burnley 30 45.5%
Bournemouth 27 44.6%
Crystal Palace 26 42.7%
West Ham United 24 41.4%
Luton Town 23 40.5%
Nott’ham Forest 33 40.3%
Everton 25 38.5%
Sheffield Utd 32 37.1%


Although the link is not exact it is clearly there: the clubs with the low possession rates are nearer the bottom, the clubs with the high possession rates are nearer the top.

Last summer West Ham received almost £150m in incoming funds from sales of players (mostly from Arsenal), and were one of only four clubs to make an overall profit on transfers.  Their companions in this approach to football were

  • Brighton and Hove Albion (-£114.6m net spend)
  • Wolverhampton Wanderers (-£80.7m),
  • West Ham United (-£21.2m)
  • Everton (-£21m).

It is a way of running a club, but it simply doesn’t lead to trophies very often.

To cope with this approach to football which could be called “profit at any cost” West Ham play anti-football, basically meaning they don’t bother with possession,

In fact West Ham United are according to the Guardian, “seventh bottom in Europe’s top five leagues on possession percentage this season, and the only team in that company for whom this is a deliberate choice, the only team to have translated so little of the ball into so many points, to remain unexceptional on every metric apart from clearances and goals from set pieces.”

Which by and large sums it all up.

The report in L’Équipe’s on the game against Brighton, pointed out that in that match West Ham made 13 passes to Brighton’s 221 in the opening half-hour.    That West Ham still won the game shows that there is something in this style of anit-football, but also explains why getting into the stadium is so cheap.  The Guardian called it “the footballing equivalent of competitive knitting.”

That gives you an idea of what might well be in store unless Arsenal can blast a few goals past the knitters.

5 Replies to “West Ham v Arsenal: competitive knitting against the team that don’t want the ball”

  1. Looking at Everton being the best financial dealer after transfers, it makes you wonder what they were punished for by the FFP committee?

  2. Obviously West Ham are the only club subsidised by the London taxpayer. But without a proper financial analysis there’s no way of assessing what they can actually afford to do. The crowd stat is misleading as West Ham’s ticket prices are much lower than Arsenal, and Spurs. Which in turn means a reduced income from a similar number of fans.

  3. This gives a list of cheapest season tickets: https://uk.news.yahoo.com/premier-league-season-ticket-prices-171728714.html

    20th: West Ham United: Cheapest adult season ticket: £310. 19th: Burnley: £335. 18th: Manchester City: £385. 17th: Sheffield United: £418.50. 16th: Brentford: £419. 15th: Newcastle United: £438.

    14th: Nottingham Forest: £465. 13th: Luton Town: £510. 12th: Wolverhampton Wanderers: £525. 11th: Crystal Palace: £545. 10th: Manchester United: £551.

    9th: Brighton & Hove Albion: £565. 7th: AFC Bournemouth £595. 7th Fulham: £595. 6th: Everton: £600. 5th: Aston Villa: £610. 4th: Liverpool: £699. 3rd: Chelsea: £750. 2nd: Tottenham Hotspur: £807. 1st: Arsenal: £973.50.

    While the most expensive are all London clubs (as you’d expect) West Ham are right down at the bottom.

  4. Very many thanks Jod. Appeciate that. It does show that WHU supporters have had some of the benefit of the club being given the stadium after the Olympics – which of course is very much how it should be.

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