West Ham United: Can Rehanne Skinner’s Irons find a spark?

Rehanne Skinner’s West Ham United side have commenced their 2023/24 Barclays Women’s Super League season in undesirable fashion, with the Hammers currently battling the relegation zone as they sit level on points with Lauren Smith’s Bristol City side on the bottom of the league table.

After being appointed the role of head coach in July, Skinner immediately found herself stuck between a rock and a hard place, faced with minimal time before the summer transfer window drew to a close. East London saw the departure of defensive duo Grace Fisk and Lucy Parker, as well as the conclusion of Amalie Thestrup’s loan spell, which saw the Danish footballer sign for fellow strugglers Bristol City.

Embed from Getty Images

Skinner’s side welcomed some fresh faces, though the signings were few and far between, meaning the West Ham boss will be eagerly anticipating the commencement of the January transfer window. Having already signed United States midfielder Kristie Mewis on a transfer from NWSL side NJ/NY Gotham FC, Skinner is certain that the winter window will see the Irons add significant firepower to their perhaps depleted armoury.

Despite concluding their 2022/23 campaign in the mid-table midst with a 21-point total, West Ham United’s season was far from uninspiring. The Hammers were able to secure points against the likes of both Arsenal and Liverpool, and found themselves maintaining an authoritative stylistic football identity come season’s close. Though as we now look toward the new year, West Ham currently find themselves in an ominous position in and amongst the relegation zone. So, what needs to change for Rehanne Skinner’s side?

Embed from Getty Images

The commencing week of the Barclays Women’s Super League season proved disappointing for West Ham United, with Rehanne Skinner’s side falling to a 2-0 defeat against Manchester City in their first home fixture of the season. Despite Leila Ouahabi’s red card that saw the Citizens fall to ten players in the second half, finishes from Jill Roord and Lauren Hemp proved to be the difference at the Chigwell Construction Stadium.

Skinner’s West Ham side would add the first points to their tally come gameweek two, as the Hammers travelled to the seaside to face Brighton and Hove Albion. An early score from Kirsty Smith saw Skinner’s side control the fixture’s tempo with inspired authority, before a second-half finish from Riko Ueki solidified the three points for the Hammers. Despite their opening weekend defeat to Manchester City, Skinner’s side showcased their confidence both in and out of possession, showing many signs of a side on the rise.

Embed from Getty Images

Despite leading the season in a positive direction, Rehanne Skinner’s side saw out the remaining fixtures of 2024 without a victory. Sam Kerr and Erin Cuthbert both had their say in the London derby clash, as a showcase performance from a clinical Chelsea saw the Hammers submit to a 2-0 defeat at Kingsmeadow.

Their second home match of the 2023/24 campaign saw Matt Beard’s Liverpool side lead for the fixture’s duration, before a finish from Riko Ueki in the game’s dying seconds allowed West Ham to scrape a point from what was an increasingly disorganised clash.

Skinner’s side returned from the international break to face an anticipated clash against a struggling Bristol City, with Lauren Smith’s side looking to add their first strike to their depleted Barclays Women’s Super League tally. A five-goal thriller resulted in disappointment in Dagenham, as Brooke Aspin’s second-half finish was enough to secure victory for the newly-promoted Robins.

The loss proved dire for Skinner’s side, now seeing them on equal points in the relegation zone’s heartbeat – only Carla Ward’s Aston Villa were left with a more emaciated points tally.

Embed from Getty Images

Woes continued to mount for Skinner, as her side fell to a troubling 5-0 defeat to Manchester United at Leigh Sports Village. Marc Skinner’s side showcased clinical brilliance, as five Red Devils each wrote their name on to the scoresheet in what was an electric display of confidence from the Mancunian side.

As for the East Londoners, Rehanne Skinner’s side appeared both dishevelled in defence, and lacking the presence of any fruitful effort in attack. Not only did the defeat prove a hit to West Ham’s goal difference, the result seemed to be a real blow to the side’s confidence heading into 2024’s closing fixtures.

West Ham fell once again the following week, as a 2-3 loss to Aston Villa extended their losing streak on home turf. Once again unable to mould Chigwell Construction Stadium into a victorious haven, a 92nd minute strike from Rachel Daly saw West Ham’s situation grow increasingly dire.

It was a trip to North London that saw the carpet once again pulled out from under the feet of Rehanne Skinner. Meadow Park played host to Beth Mead magic, as the England forward secured a brace in Arsenal’s 3-0 victory over their London rivals. Despite the loss in Borehamwood, Skinner’s side recorded 13 shots, though to no avail, with the Hammers unable to write themselves onto the scoresheet.

Embed from Getty Images

As the calendar year drew to a close, West Ham United were able to make a minor addition to their campaign tally. Despite trailing for the majority of the battle at Leicester City’s King Power Stadium, Honoka Hayashi was able to scrape the equaliser in the 98th minute, marginally thieving away the victory from Willie Kirk’s Foxes. As we approach the end of the winter interval, West Ham United currently occupy eleventh position on the league table – with a measly tally of five points to their name.

So, is there trouble in East London? It would be simple to draw such a conclusion, though with the January transfer window looming before us, it could be unsurprising to witness a resurgence from Rehanne Skinner’s side.

Having already announced the arrival of U.S international Kristie Mewis from NWSL side NJ/NY Gotham FC, Skinner’s midfield armoury has already seen an increase in quality. Rumours continue to circulate surrounding the potential arrival of Australian international Katrina Gorry, an experienced footballer who would be sure to advance the composure and control of Skinner’s midfield group.

Embed from Getty Images

The experience present in Skinner’s side is also not to be discounted, the Hammers boss currently nursing a youthful group still in the process of development. Players in Izzy Atkinson, Jessica Ziu and Emma Harries are amongst the many still finding form in an adjustment period, each a stellar talent still set to find strength in their footing amongst the senior league.

For Rehanne Skinner, it is imperative that her side finds form to avoid the drop zone they currently find themselves in. However, given an aggressive performance in the January market may be on the horizon, the gloom in Dagenham could be a short-lived affair for West Ham United.