Coaches Have to Be Salesmen, Too

West Ham, in the end, could not quite withstand the barrage. Bayer Leverkusen’s first goal — a Jonas Hofmann shot that picked its way through a thronged penalty area — broke its resistance. The second, a late, artful header from Victor Boniface, shattered its hopes. The club’s Europa League adventure will likely extend no further than the quarterfinals.

Still, there is no great shame in that. Leverkusen is, of course, Europe’s great form team: on an unbeaten run that now stretches to 42 games, and on the verge of claiming its first German championship. Xabi Alonso, its estimable young coach, remains on course to claim a treble — league, cup, Europa League — in his first full season.

The bare facts of West Ham’s campaign are not quite as impressive, but they are admirable enough. The club sits seventh in the Premier League, above both Newcastle United and Chelsea and just a point behind Manchester United. A top-six finish remains a realistic ambition.

That would mean another run at Europe next year, a fourth in succession. West Ham is starting to feel at home on the continent: It reached the Europa League semifinals in 2022, losing out to Eintracht Frankfurt, and then beat Fiorentina to claim the Europa Conference League trophy in 2023.

That was West Ham’s first trophy since 1980, and only the fifth major honor in its history. David Moyes, the coach, and his team were met with a heroes’ reception and a bus parade through the streets of east London. The club’s fans have, for much of this season, delighted in making the ever-so-slightly inaccurate claim that they are “champions of Europe.”

At West Ham, the good old days might be right now.Credit…Carl Recine/Reuters
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