David Moyes reiterated the fact that West Ham are relative newcomers to European football ahead of their Europa League clash with Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday.
West Ham impressively qualified for Europe’s secondary tournament by finishing sixth in the Premier League last season. This will be their first time in the competition proper since it was the UEFA Cup in 2006-07. They are in a group along with Dinamo, Genk and Rapid Wien.
The Croatian outfit will be their first opponents and they have history against another London side. Last season, they knocked Tottenham out of the same competition.
In fact, they have been in the group stage of a European competition for nine of the past 10 seasons. Therefore, Moyes was keen to stress that while many may fancy West Ham’s chances, they are the novices.
“You need to gain experience so that is why we need to give respect to Dinamo Zagreb who have been regular in European football,” he said. “We are still relatively new to the challenge.
“We have tried to take everything on positively and forward-thinking, we will try and be aggressive in our own way but ultimately we know we are new to the competition. Hope we will get to understand it the longer we go in the competition.
“This is new to us but we have watched Zagreb and we are very much 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 confident. This could possibly be the toughest game, away from home, but we go into it with a fit group of players.”
With a full squad available to him, Moyes may have the opportunity to rotate his lineup. But given his respect for Dinamo, it may be something he has to resist.
One player whose involvement would be a benefit for West Ham is Michail Antonio. Their only recognised centre-forward, he has started the season in fine form with four goals and three assists from four games.
Dinamo are aware that Antonio will be West Ham’s danger man, although Moyes must be careful with how much he uses a player who suffered five separate injuries last season, missing 13 games.
“We will always try to look after Mic at the right times but it would still have been a game where we will always try to be as strong as we can,” he said.
“Mic might have been someone we left out but I don’t think we will do that.”
Moyes pleased with new signings
Also important in the attacking line could be Nikola Vlasic, who joined the club late in the summer.
The Croatia international will have faced off with Dinamo many times back in his days with Hajduk Split. Now, that experience could be crucial for his new side to get things off to a good start.
Moyes has been happy with Vlasic since bringing him to the club from Spartak Moscow on deadline day.
“We have been really impressed with Nico,” Moyes enthused. “His attitude is first class.
“We like him, we watched him a lot at Spartak and in the Euro. He is a young player still developing but has caps for Croatia, he can play 7, 10 ,11 which will be important through the season, but we also want to give him a chance to adapt.”
Vlasic was one of four new faces to arrive across a slow-burning 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 excitement about all the new signings and warned his players from last season that their places are up for grabs.
He said: “I brought them into the club because I knew they would come into an unbelievable dressing room and would have no problems settling in.
“I feel as if we’ve made additions which can actually affect the first team. I think the boys who played last year did an incredible job to get us here, so they need a little bit of an opportunity to show that. But I’ve not brought in players just to stand back and watch.
“We’ve got six games in this tournament so as it goes on I’ll know better by the end of it. But probably in the early days I’ll be trying to find the right team at the right time to fit in with the Premier League fixtures we’ve got as well.”