Since David Moyes took over for the second time at West Ham, he has made the side a better team, with the likes of Sebastien Haller benefitting from the Scot’s approach.
But what has the former Everton and Manchester United boss done that has made a real difference in his three games in charge, and what does he offer the Hammers and their long-term plans to challenge the established top six?
The 56-year-old offers a back-to-basics approach to which will be needed for the East London club to at least stay in the league this season. At the start of the campaign, pundits including ESPN’s Don Hutchison were saying that they were going to be able to challenge for the top four, while this hasn’t been the case these players are the same and have real ability to save their season if used correctly.
Moyes will work on the training pitch with the squad to improve the little margins that they’ve not been getting right. Despite West Ham having many flair players, they are going to need to start passing normally before they can show their skills because it’s the trying to be exuberant that has cost the side an identity that they’re new manager will have to get back.
We have already seen a marked improvement in Haller, who scored his sixth goal of the season in West Ham’s 4-0 win over Bournemouth, and it was the players around him who really helped the Frenchman flourish.
The inclusion of Mark Noble made a big difference, and the Hammers needs their skipper and Declan Rice in a midfield to offer a combative duo in front of the back line. Mix in another hard worker in Robert Snodgrass, and the London club overpowered a poor Cherries side.
Defensive issues slowly being corrected?
With 21 games played the Hammers sit 16th in the league, having won one and lost one in the league under their new manager.
They’ve conceded one in three, including beating Gillingham in the FA Cap – a team they might have failed to see off under Manuel Pellegrini, considering Oxford United beat them earlier this season. Prior to that, they had conceded four in three games.
Lukasz Fabianski is one of the best keepers in the league, and a workman-like defence of Issa Diop and either Fabian Balbuena and Angelo Ogbonna should be enough to keep them up this season. From there, the club can look to get a serious partner for Diop, who is by far the club’s best defender.
Fabianski only recently returned to action after three months out with an injury, and Moyes will be hoping he can now stay fit. A mix-up between No.2 keeper David Martin and Balbuena cost the Hammers a point against Sheffield United, underlining Fabianki’s importance.
With Everton coming up for West Ham, it could be a make or break game for their season. If they get the tactics right, then they could be four points above the drop zone, and they will then surely have enough about them to get results and achieve safety.
Having Snodgrass ahead of Manuel Lanzini is beneficial because while Lanzini is a better player, he has been below par and doesn’t perform well on the right-hand side.
Snodgrass has three goals and two assists compared to the Argentine’s three assists. He seems rejuvenated by playing for his fellow Scot, getting the assist for Mark Noble’s first against Bournemouth while also having an equaliser ruled out by VAR against Sheffield United.
Wingers have been a real problem for West Ham as they don’t have many good left-sided forwards, Of course, Felipe Anderson can play there but if he is being used as an attacking midfielder then they are short out wide. Pablo Fornals is also better when being played through the middle.
This means that when Moyes is playing with three at the back and a variation of five or six through the middle, he is using a formation that works to the strength of the squad. This will get the best out of all their attacking players, and if Haller plays up front on his own he can thrive with the level of creativity around him.
Moyes tempers expectations
Despite Hammers fans feeling that they need to be in European football, it is clear that the way the club is some way off that, despite spending lots of money on the likes of Haller from Frankfurt, Fornals from Villarreal and Alban Ajeti from FC Basel without splashing serious cash on their defence.
West Ham’s backline is a mess, with both Ogbonna and Balbuena being inconsistent. Ryan Fredricks is underwhelming at right-back, with 34-year-old Pablo Zabaleta his only competition.
Moyes’s brand of football is not necessarily fun to watch but it will minimise the deficiency’s in the squad’s defence.
Without Fabianski, the Hammers leaked goals due to their defence not being as good as the players going forward. Finding a way to mix the defence up without creating a lack of understanding will be one of the biggest tasks ahead for the West Ham boss.
David Moyes for a season or so could build them in the way they need to as he seems to have some good ideas moving forward like it or not this is the situation that they’ve put themselves in Moyes could be a crucial part of the hammers revival.
Signing former Hammers back-up goalie Darren Randolph from Middlesbrough for £4m means that, if something happens to Fabianski, the Hammers don’t have to rely on Roberto, who has been a flop and is likely to be moved on, or Martin – a decent keeper but not of Premier League ability.
Their new boss has also seen that the centre of midfield is a problem as well with Noble and Rice being their only two serious contenders. This is due to inheriting Jack Wilshere’s injury record rather than his footballing talent, while Carlos Sanchez has proved to be a free transfer that hasn’t worked out.
West Ham need someone to fill the back-up void for Rice, who has played all 21 games in the Premier League this season.
Can Moyes keep West Ham up?
The Hammers have some tough games between now and the end of February, with a six-pointer against Everton at the London Stadium, followed by an away encounter with high-flying Leicester City.
They also face Liverpool twice in the space of just under a month, but between those games, they have a winnable tie against Brighton. On February 9th, they travel to the Etihad Stadium in an unlikely search ofor points before ending the month hosting Southampton. By then, they could be in a real fight if some of these games don’t go their way.
Overall, West Ham should have just enough and could nick some surprising points to see them finish between 11th and 16th. Next season is going to be really important for the Premier League side if they are going to challenge like the fans and owners want them too.
Photo via Flickr Creative Commons by Hasegawa Takashi under licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0