David Moyes has brought with him a new formation to the team. Wingback reliant and midfield heavy, West Ham need to play their roles better, and Sheffield proved that is a glaring issue right now.
The David Moyes formation of 3-5-2 that has been deployed against both Gillingham and now Sheffield United needs some work. The role-specific discipline required was tested and West Ham largely failed in this endeavor at Bramall lane. This is a major concern moving forward.
When did the Hammers play best in their match against Sheffield? When Arthur Masuaku was replaced by Robert Snodgrass in the 69th minute and the lads went on a 20-minute push to get an equalizer. Is it coincidence, then, that this uptick in play followed the change in formation to a 4-3-3/4-4-1-1?
The comfortability of playing in a formation the players have been in for months cannot be overlooked. As well, a new manager just two weeks on from his appointment needs time to settle and drill his players on the shape and style of play he needs out of them, but are the current midfield three good enough?
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Here is the issue, as I saw it, against Sheffield United. Declan is sitting deep to retrieve and use the centre-backs to sustain possession. Noble is ahead of him on the right side with more attacking and buildup responsibility, mirrored by Lanzini on the left. When Sheffield pressed, Rice was first back and Noble right behind him. Lanzini was nowhere to be seen. He stays high like an attacker would and cruises back.
This leaves the midfield light when defending and gave Sheffield ample space to run the channels through the midfield to generate offense. When West Ham did have the ball, the opposite of this was true. Rice was throwing his hands up on multiple occasions because the midfielders in front of him wanted to try and take on players individually rather than run through the pitch to create space.
Mark Noble has earned his place in this team and his leadership, penalty conversion rate, and desire to track back on the pitch more than makes up for his less-than-revelatory skillset (which is still greatly underrated). Lanzini, on the other hand, has earned nothing and is proving he doesn’t want to be here with his play.
Recruitment should emphasize midfield players who prioritize defense, can play with wingbacks, and players who have something to prove, as the character of some West Ham midfielders is being called into question, rightfully so. Maybe it was a blip on the radar, as Sheffield are a good team, but Moyes and the Hammers can’t gamble on that.