Jesse Lingard might be the poster boy for West Ham’s shock Champions League push but Jarrod Bowen has been equally important.
The former Hull forward, 24, has three goals and two assists in his last five games. Prior to that, his last goal arrived in the middle of January in the 2-1 win over West Brom and his last assist followed a week later.
His return to form could not have come at a better time for the Hammers. With five games remaining, David Moyes’ men are six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
Ahead of West Ham’s trip to Burnley tonight, we turn the spotlight on Bowen’s remarkable run of form and explore whether he can sustain it.
Striking up an understanding
Bowen assisted Lingard in the 3-2 win over Leicester and their roles were reversed in West Ham’s victory against Wolves by the same scoreline.
The pair are flourishing playing alongside one another.
Both are aggressive players who like to carry the ball. As a result, they attract opposition attention, creating space for others to exploit.
It is no coincidence that since Lingard’s arrival, Bowen’s expected assists per 90 minutes average is the highest it has been for the Hammers.
Right place, right time
Bowen has been much more involved in the final third in the last five matches.
Perhaps a consequence of the opposition focusing on Lingard, West Ham’s No22 is averaging more shots per 90 minutes (2.3, up from 1.99) and the space he is finding means he is hitting the target more frequently.
In fact, his shot accuracy is 60% in those games compared to his season average of 28%.
Furthermore, he is using his weaker foot. Right-footed efforts make up 30% of his expected goals total in those five matches. His season average prior to this run was 21%.
Less is more
Some players are much more impactful when they see less of the ball — and Bowen falls into that category.
He is having fewer touches (39.49 vs. 42.41) and attempting fewer passes (20.2 vs. 21.61) per 90 minutes.
Despite that, Bowen is attempting more passes into the final third (10.33 vs. 8.86), more shots, creating more big chances (0.46 vs. 0.33) and scoring more goals (0.69 vs. 0.25) per 90.
Moyes has tasked Bowen with doing less defensively and he is reaping the rewards further forward.
This is backed up when looking at some of the defensive numbers.
His interceptions (0.46 vs. 0.99) are down and he is not winning the ball back in the middle and defensive thirds (3.22 vs. 4.35) as often as he was. But possessions won in the final third have risen (0.92 vs. 0.63).
Speaking in December, Moyes challenged Bowen to score more goals.
He said: “He plays a similar role for us here to what he did there [at Hull] but we are looking for goals and assists from him. It’s a big part of his game we rely on.
“Of course there will be different times when we have to take him out but, yes, we’d like more goals from him. Overall, I think he is still making a big contribution to the team.”
The former Manchester United boss felt there was more to come and he has tweaked the system and the style to accommodate Bowen.
Patience paying off
It is easily forgotten this is Bowen’s first full season with the East Londoners.
He signed in January 2020 and the season was halted in early March.
Players take time to adapt in normal circumstances. The pandemic might have hindered Bowen’s settling in period and maybe we are only now seeing him be at ease in his new environment.
While Lingard continues to steal the plaudits, Bowen is quietly and effectively propelling West Ham to new heights.