Indeed, having finished in the continental field at the upper end of the Premier League table for the past two seasons under the tutelage of David Moyes, optimism was brimming from east London with hopes of attaining that coveted qualification to the Champions League, especially after a lucrative summer spending spree that saw the club part with roughly £161m.
It has not been the case, and cohesion and fluidity have been washed away by the relentless pace of the current season, but against Brentford, the Irons have a golden opportunity to rectify the wrongs and start the ascension toward greener pastures.
Last time out, Moyes’ squad lost 3-1 to high-flying table-toppers Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in the first match back since the conclusion of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, putting in a gallant performance and taking the lead via Said Benrahma’s driven penalty before the Gunners displayed their title credentials with a blistering second-half showing.
There were positives to be picked from the defeat, one being the Algerian Benrahma snatching his fifth goal of the term from 22 appearances, with two assists to complement his tally.
His form and fitness at the business end of the Premier League year might prove the difference between thriving or floundering, with his flair and guile capable of unlocking even the tightest of defences – Brentford B coach Sam Saunders once proclaimed that he could “nutmeg a mermaid”, such is his innate ball-playing ability.
The 27-year-old arrived at the London Stadium in October 2020, converting his loan move to a £20m permanent deal in January 2021, signing from Brentford – who played in the EFL Championship at the time.
Against his former outfit, Benrahma can stake his claim as an offensive focal point for West Ham and leave his mark in a fixture with a sprinkling of added meaning for him.
Last season, the dynamic flanker netted 11 goals and six assists throughout a mammoth campaign for Moyes’ team, a drastic improvement on the meagre three strikes scored during his debut season the year before.
He certainly has a knack for making an impact, with the Athletic’s West Ham correspondent Roshane Thomas lauding him for a “promising cameo” in October.
And with FBref ranking him within the top 17% of attacking midfielders and wingers for total shots and the top 14% for dribbles completed, he clearly possesses a forward-thinking, direct approach that can prove invaluable for the Hammers’ travails across the next phase of this crucial year for the club.