Grace Fisk of West Ham Women. West Ham United Women v Arsenal Women, WSL football match, Chigwell Construction Stadium, London, UK - 12 Sep 2020 Photo: Kunjan Malde for The FA

Will defensive reinforcements top new West Ham United boss Harder’s wanted list?

There will be a new face in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League in 2021 with West Ham United having announced Olli Harder as their new manager yesterday on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

The 34-year-old arrives at The Chigwell Construction Stadium with coaching experience from across the globe with one of his most-notable achievements having been the transformation of Norwegian club Klepp IL from seasonal strugglers into a solid top half of the table outfit.

Harder faces a similar challenge at new club West Ham United. The New Zealander will undoubtedly want to use his experience of world football to put his stamp on the squad in next month’s transfer window. FA Women’s Super League Full-Time look at the area where Harder may most want to add to his squad.

The statistics don’t lie when it comes to The Hammers’ defensive record this season. The East Londoners’ goals conceded tally of 23 in just nine Barclays FA Women’s Super League fixtures is only better than bottom club Bristol City who have shipped 45. On average, West Ham United have conceded 2.56 goals-per-game, a record that is always going to give the club a mountain to climb. Defensively, they have been particularly poor at home where they are yet to collect a single point. West Ham United have conceded 15 home goals and scored just three.

Every player in the West Ham United squad will begin life under their new manager with a clean record, a fresh chance to impress, but expect Harder to consider bringing in defensive reinforcements in January. Only bottom club Bristol City have failed to score against West Ham United so far this season and the fact is that the club should begin to find points easier to come by if they become both harder to breach defensively and more difficult to beat. It is unknown just how much financial backing Harder will receive in January, however, former boss Matt Beard received some strong support from the club in previous transfer windows in bringing in his transfer targets.

Another short-term solution to The Hammers’ defensive woes could be a change in system. Under former boss Beard, West Ham United regularly lined-up in a 4-3-3 formation but new boss Harder could maybe opt to alter the playing style, bringing more protection directly in-front of the back four or maybe even adopting a back five.

All-in-all, it is an intriguing time to be a West Ham United supporter. The club have gone outside of the box to make their managerial appointment and on paper, you can see exactly why Harder has come out as the top candidate. The players should benefit from his wealth of coaching experience and it would be no surprise to see the club’s recruitment policy of casting the net far and wide continue with potentially an exciting month of transfer window activity ahead at The Chigwell Construction Stadium.

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