With Christmas fast approaching, West Ham should already have sent their list in the Santa Claus a long time ago. With the lofty gifts like a lifetime contact for Declan Rice, or 20 goals in the second half for Gianluca Scamacca brushed aside for the more likely, all we need is West Ham to get their identity back.
Lost and aimless has been the mantra of this West Ham team thus far into the season. They are far too talented to be where they are, yet their play dictates precisely where they deserve to be – less the Nottingham Forest match where the Irons deserved MORE than three points.
West Ham could do with a present or two under the Christmas tree this year, with nothing more pressing than finding the identity of the squad again.
That being said, previous teams under David Moyes’ leadership had one thing in common – work rate. This has not totally disappeared, but the lack of end product for this West Ham team seems to downplay any direction in their game plan.
Where Santa can work his magic in helping spark that identity back in West Ham’s game is in the middle of the pitch. The Hammers are already 15th in the Premier League in possession averaging 45% possession this season so far, however, they are ranked 18th in middle-third possession.
A lack of creativity and strength in the middle of the pitch seems strange when Declan Rice commands this area for West Ham. Rice sits 8th in passes this season while sitting atop the ranks of passes into the final third (tied with Rodri). He isn’t the problem, but his battery mate seems to be.
Tomas Soucek is searching for his form that helped save the Hammers when he first arrived on loan in January 2020. Not only has the goal threat of Soucek disappeared (1 in 15 matches this season), but his box-to-box marauding style of play has really dropped off. Instead of being the free-wheeling midfielder who crashed from attack to defence, Soucek has struggled as Rice has taken over that position.
Rice, whose passing and possession play is elite, needs a reliable midfield partner to both allow him to play off of and one who can trade responsibilities with him. The obvious choice is Lucas Paqueta, but David Moyes’ philosophy seems to be stuck in that trusted double-pivot mindset.
Perhaps Santa can just bring some grease to loosen the mind of Moyes, or maybe a winch to pull him from the mud his tactics have been stuck in this season. Either way, if dynamic football with attitude and identity is wrapped up under the tree at Christmas, a Claret and Blue charge up the table seems more than realistic.