The Mistakes of Moyes: West Ham’s Tactical Survival

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: David Moyes the manager of West Ham United looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester City and West Ham United at Etihad Stadium on February 19, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: David Moyes the manager of West Ham United looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester City and West Ham United at Etihad Stadium on February 19, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images) /

The well-worn adage “we did it before so we can do it again” seems to be guiding David Moyes’ managing thought process but so far this mentality has not helped achieve results as West Ham struggles to stave off relegation: is Moyes making the same stubborn mistakes that Pellegrini was guilty of?

David Moyes was chosen as a tried and true replacement for West Ham manager to right the expensive, “world-class ” attacking flop of Manuel Pellegrini’s 4-2-3-1 quick pass football.  His defensive strategies and simple methods are supposed to correct the overly complex attacking system of Pellegrini that the West Ham squad could not fit into, but a closer look at his tactics shows that what worked in the past will not work in the now.

When Moyes kept West Ham in the Premier League in the 17/18 season, he used a highly defensive system, with a heavy backline or packed midfield and a solitary striker that the defending players would hoof the ball to.   Mark Noble served as the pivotal central midfielder who would dictate play and distribute the ball often to Marco Arnautovic, creative football magician Manu Lanzini, or the wingback Arthur Masuaku for the occasional cross.

Due to the trust in Noble, and the well-rounded abilities of Arnautovic who could play as a target man, a general forward, or even a poacher, West Ham was able to get the goals they needed to keep points and scrape by.

But just as Manuel Pellegrini’s downfall came due to his stubbornness of maintaining a defunct system that worked for him once so is David Moyes sticking to an old routine that no longer plays well in the present.

Related Story. West Ham needs to simplify tactics. light

Both managers seem unable to adapt to new trends in football, to playing formations that work to particular players’ strengths, and to utilizing players that are able to actually contribute instead of choosing favorites.

Here are Green Street Hammers 5 well-worn practices that Moyes should abandon:

1.) Forget Favoritism:  It’s the right of any manager to observe, choose and favor players who they think will bring the club to fruition – they see the abilities and inner workings of their players and know more than the fans.  But sometimes favoritism clouds judgment and limits the potential of the team.

Manuel Lanzini is not the creative force he was – he’s hasn’t been the same since the injury and is playing scared – there’s not enough time to build him up in a relegation battle;  Fornals has the potential of becoming the old Lanzini!  Throw him in!

2.) Haller is not and will not become Arnautovic – Yes, David Moyes you get the accolades for turning a winger into (arguably) West Harm’s best striker, but because you succeeded once in making a different type of forwarding it doesn’t automatically imply you can change Haller especially with 12 games to go.

Use Sebastien Haller for his strengths and play him in a 442,  a 433 or a 4411.  Neither Arnautovic or Drogba, Haller is unique unto himself; don’t be arrogant in making assumptions about your abilities to revolutionize a player in a few week’s time.

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3.) 3 at the back with 2 wingbacks doesn’t work – Yes West Ham’s defense needs help, and there need to be more players guarding the goal than not. It’s an understatement that West Ham needs to shore up their defenses.  But the team is not used to playing a 352 or a  532 and it confuses the defenders as to what their roles are.

If the defense is in confusion they won’t know what man to mark or what ball to chase down, as seen in the Brighton match.  They’re familiar with 4 at the back, so stick with that and allow it to work before dramatically changing it.

4.) Noble is no longer nucleus – Noble will always hold the highest regard to the West Ham family; he is a time-honored classic and has saved West Ham from more losses than can be named; he is the backbone of the Hammers.

But Noble has not been the same player or Captain for several months now.  It may be age or something deeper as Noble may have tired from constantly saving the team, or from being the only one to light a fire under his teammates.

He admitted recently to talkSPORT that he couldn’t be expected to come on and save each match at 33, and what’s more the players now don’t seem to trust or know him as they did in 17/18.  Use Noble as a 60-minute substitute to stabilize the team and offer long balls, but not as a starter

5.) Use your arsenal and play to win – With West Ham’s bad luck injury record, there may be a propensity from a conservative manager to save his good players for matches against weaker sides, and not to waste them on “unwinnable” matches where injury is rife, but with the short amount of games left, West Ham doesn’t have time to save for the future… the future is now.

If Felipe Anderson, Pablo Fornals, and Jarrod Bowen are available – use them.  These players won’t gain form from training drills, but from actual Premier league grade matches.  Don’t expect a 5-a-side to give Bowen the experience to bang in goals-against Southampton; play him against Liverpool so he gets knowledge of his team and the competition.

Next. A few quick ways to fix West Ham before Liverpool. dark

If David Moyes wants to save West Ham from relegation and lineup to assume his own description as “someone who wins” he has to abandon methods from the past and start playing progressively for the future – it is the only way West Ham will stay up.