David Moyes reiterated that West Ham are a newcomer to European football ahead of their Europa League clash with Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday.
West Ham impressively qualified for the European secondary tournament finishing sixth in the Premier League last season. This will be their first appearance in the competition as it was the UEFA Cup in 2006-07. They are in a group with Dinamo, Genk and Rapid Wien.
The Croatian team will be their first opponent and they have a history against another London team. Last season they eliminated Tottenham from the same competition.
In fact, they have been in the group stage of a European competition for nine of the last ten seasons. Therefore, Moyes was keen to point out that while many can imagine West Ham’s chances, they are newbies.
“You have to gain experience, which is why we have to respect Dinamo Zagreb which has been consistent in European football,” he said. “We are still relatively new to the challenge.
“We’ve tried to approach everything in a positive and forward-thinking way, we’ll try to be aggressive in our own way, but ultimately we know we’re new to the competition. Hope we can figure it out as we go into the competition.
“It’s new for us, but we watched Zagreb and we are very aware of their history. We saw their performance against Tottenham which was very impressive.
“I don’t think Zagreb will see us as anything different so they will come into the game with confidence. It might be the toughest game away from home, but we’re going with a group of fit players. “
With a full squad at his disposal, Moyes could have the option to rotate his roster. But given his respect for Dinamo, maybe this is something he needs to resist.
One player whose involvement would be an advantage for West Ham is Michail Antonio. Their only recognized center-forward, he started the season in great shape with four goals and three assists in four games.
Dinamo are aware that Antonio will be the dangerous man for West Ham, although Moyes has to be careful how much he uses a player who suffered five separate injuries last season, missing 13 games.
“We will always try to deal with Mic at the right time, but it would still have been a game where we will always try to be as strong as possible,” he said.
“Mic might have been someone we left out, but I don’t think we will. “
Moyes satisfied with new recruits
Nikola Vlasic, who joined the club at the end of the summer, could also be important in the offensive line.
The Croatia international will have faced Dinamo several times at the time with Hajduk Split. Now that experience could be crucial for his new team to get off to a good start.
Moyes has been happy with Vlasic since he brought him to Spartak Moscow club on deadline day.
“We were really impressed with Nico,” Moyes said enthusiastically. “His attitude is first class.
“We like him, we watched him a lot at Spartak and the Euro. He’s a young player still in development but he has caps for Croatia, he can play 7, 10, 11 which will be important throughout the season, but we also want to give him a chance to adapt.
Vlasic was one of four new faces to go through a slow summer for West Ham. They added Alphonse Areola and Alex Kral on loan deals and Kurt Zouma on a permanent basis, like Vlasic.
Moyes explained his enthusiasm for all the new signings and warned his players from last season that their places were up for grabs.
He said: “I brought them to the club because I knew they would walk into an amazing locker room and have no problem settling in.
“I feel like we’ve made some additions that can really affect the first team. I think the boys who played last year did an amazing job bringing us here so they need a little opportunity to show it. But I didn’t bring in players just to step back and watch.
“We have six games in this tournament, so as I go, I’ll know better at the end. But probably at first I’ll try to find the right team at the right time to adapt to the Premier League games that we have as well.
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