If there’s one thing David Moyes has shown so far in his early stages as West Ham United manager, it is is tactical flexibility. The Scot has been in charge for two games, providing two wins, while using two different formations.
In his opening fixture as permanent boss against Bournemouth, he stuck to the 4-3-3 which the squad had been playing for the majority of the season. He did add his own twists though, with Felipe Anderson providing constant support to Seb Haller, which gave the attack a new lease of life, evidenced by a 4-0 victory.
His second fixture came last Sunday in the FA Cup against Gillingham, where he tweaked his formation as he opted for a three at the back formation, with wing-backs pushing on to form part of the attack. The three centre-backs, Fabien Balbuena, Issa Diop, and Angelo Ogbonna, dealt with everything that came their way as the Gills’ main threat came from set-pieces and long balls into the danger area. This shows that Moyes isn’t scared to change formation and tactics when necessary depending on the opposition.
With a tricky fixture away at Sheffield United next up, it will be intriguing to see what Moyes and his staff come up with next. The Blades play a flexible five at the back formation under Chris Wilder, which changes into a three throughout certain stages of the game depending on whether they are focusing on defense or attack.
And it is this formation and set of tactics, rather than their personnel, which has seen them enjoy a marvelous start to life back in the Premier League, as they find themselves sitting in eighth place in the table with a respectable 29 points. That’s seven points above the Hammers who are looking to push clear of the relegation zone.
So how can Moyes combat Wilder’s formation to come away from Bramall Lane with all three points?
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Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United side came away from Sheffield with an unexpected 2-0 victory back in December, and on the night deployed a five at the back formation. The Magpies matched up to the Blades in a game that saw the home side have no answer, as their wing-backs couldn’t find the room down their respective flanks that they normally play down due to being matched up by their opposite numbers.
The West Ham boss may stick to the same formation which worked wonders for the northeast club and will hope that Wilder hasn’t yet figured out a game plan to counter such stifling tactics for his side.
For this to work, the West Ham wing-backs on the night (likely to be Pablo Zabaleta and Aaron Cresswell) will have to stay disciplined to stop Sheffield United’s marauding pair, while also remaining acute enough to push them back, out of fear that they could find themselves outnumbered by the West Ham attack.
These important tactics, along with the current buzz around the playing squad at West Ham, may be key to Moyes carrying on his perfect start to life as West Ham manager.