Manager Julen Lopetegui, who has been out of a job since August when he left Wolves, signed a deal with West Ham. Lopetegui is joining West Ham on a two-year contract, with an option for an additional year. The deal was contingent on David Moyes leaving the club ahead of the summer transfer window.

After differing opinions between Lopetegui and the Wolves organization and Wolves’ financial situation, Lopetegui left days before the team’s 2023/24 Premier League opener. Sources linked the Spaniard to teams like Bayern and Nottingham Forest, but he favored West Ham over the bunch.

“I feel that we have a fantastic platform,” Lopetegui told West Ham TV. “I think the last few years have been very good years to have this base, of course, but my ambition as a coach is always to be better and better, to achieve more and bigger aims, and to encourage and improve the players, the team, and to compete because football is about this – to compete. We are very ambitious about this.”

He succeeds Moyes, who left the Londoners after a poor run of results. West Ham finished ninth in the table.

Simply put, West Ham hiring Lopetegui is a good move. The team has an incredible amount of talent in their ranks, and they figure to add more with Lopetegui’s arrival. Lopetegui could bring his former player Youssef En-Nesyri to the club with the aging Michail Antonio nearing the end of his contract. Sevilla left-back Marcos Acuña could provide healthy competition to star player Emerson.

West Ham is on an upward curve with Lopetegui

Lopetegui inherits a great attacking group in Lucas Paqueta, Mohamed Kudus, Jarrod Bowen and more. All of them had at least ten goal contributions and they can continue developing as players. They ranked inside the top eight in goals scored this season, largely thanks to the acute finishing of Bowen who scored 16 goals. Although Antonio is still a decent striker, it’s hard to see him playing a significant role for West Ham, especially with rumors linking him to the MLS.

If the English FA finishes its gambling investigation, Paqueta will likely complete a $90 million deal with title holders Manchester City. Sassuolo winger Armand Laurienté and Forest midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White have all been named as potential replacements.

James Ward-Prowse has quietly been one of the best playmakers in the league this season, creating countless opportunities for attackers and operating as the team’s main creative force. He’s a skilled set-piece taker, and he’s the favorite to become captain if Kurt Zouma leaves. His midfield partners, Tomas Soucek and Édson Alvarez, are invaluable as a defensive presence.

West Ham’s defense is the biggest obstacle is their defense. They conceded 74 goals this season — good for fourth-worst in the league. Their loss of Declan Rice played a role. Yet, general sloppiness and a lack of organization in the defense led to defensive disasters.

Nayef Aguerd and Kurt Zouma’s struggles with form could lead to several defensive signings. Emerson and Vladimir Coufal will likely stay at London Stadium, but we could see signings to introduce competition.

How the Hammers profit

Lopetegui enters West Ham with a distinct style of play that stems from his days at Sevilla and Wolves. The Basque manager prizes defensive solidity, control over possession, and a slow, collected style of play. We saw it at Wolves, where Lopetegui became infamous for his low-scoring matches and numerous short passes. His safety-first approach eliminates poor mistakes in the midfield at the cost of their high-tempo, blitzing offense.

His teams have historically pressed high, sat in a mid-block, and defended doggedly, but they don’t counter-attack often. Rather than huge goal-scoring games and thrilling wins, Lopetegui’s squads look to win at the cost of entertainment. One goal is often more than enough for him.

West Ham will appreciate this calculated playstyle because of the errors that their players make under pressure. The Hammers scored nine goals from counter-attacks this season, good enough for a tie for first in the league. It still conceded countless more on the opposite end.

“Julen lives and breathes football. He thinks deeply about the game, he is tactically astute and he has shown he can adapt to work in different leagues, in different countries, with national teams, and in each situation, he has shown his outstanding qualities,” West Ham sporting director Tim Steidten said. “Julen is highly experienced in the way we will now work at West Ham United, and I am looking forward to working with him to grow a successful future for the Club.”

With his arrival, several players could join West Ham. Celtic playmaker Matt O’Riley was linked to a move, while Flamengo defender Fabricio Bruno could join West Ham soon. Lopetegui should be eager to have a say in West Ham’s signings and selling. It will be interesting how he approaches West Ham’s defensive problem.