The day he was signed the West Ham fan base exploded with glee.
There was talk about Armando Broja from Chelsea, Ben Brerteren Diaz and there were rumours about MLS gold boot winner Taty Castellanos, but no one expected to land Gianluca Scamacca.
With his transfer complete, West Ham finally had a replacement for Sebastian Haller.
Now passed the halfway mark the fan base is split. Is Scamacca a one-year wonder at Serie A Sassuolo scoring 16 goals in a defensive-minded league, or is something else going on?
Had there not been a track record with a legitimate number 9 in Haller we could lay the blame at Scamacca’s feet, but there’s been a few things that have gone wrong. First and foremost nagging injuries eventually lead to Scamacca missing a few games and then David Moyes decides to use his fitness as an excuse to work Michail Antonio more. The problem is you don’t spend millions of dollars to bring in Scamacca only use the same offense from the previous two seasons.
Moyes is having a hard time figuring out how true number nines fit into his offensive system or lack there of an offensive system. Recently even captain Declan Rice questioned the offence wondering “When you play with five at the back and the three, like we set up, maybe our strikers felt a bit isolated,” the captain said. “When we got the ball up to them, they didn’t really have enough around them, not enough support.”
Rice said this after the loss to Tottenham, but really you can apply what he said to just about any match. Including the recent tie against Aston Villa. How many times did we witness runs by Bowen, Benhrama and Emerson only to have no one in the box because everyone is playing back or there just aren’t enough players thinking offence first?
Makes no sense to have a player like Danny Ings if he’s not going to be in the box where he’s his strongest. That goes the same for Scamacca who all season long has had to make opportunities for himself rather than be fed in the box where he can use his strength, speed, and ability to close.
Instead, fans have gotten a healthy dose of watching Antonio fumble balls in the box and drop to the grass in order to draw a penalty. As much as we can appreciate what Antonio has done for this team, it was always clear he was not a true nine.
He belongs on the wing or up front with another striker creating lanes and using his brute strength to get balls in play for scoring opportunities. Moyes refuses to return Antonio to his natural position but instead showing a real weakness: He has no idea how to use the number 9 since joining West Ham.
His sample size being small, Marko Arnautovic had career years under Manuel Pelligrini, only to force himself out to Shanghai when under Moyes. His replacement Haller scored 20 overall goals at Eintracht Frankfurt in Bundesliga before arriving at West Ham. In 48 matches with the Hammers and mostly under Moyes he managed only 10 goals. Last year, Haller scored 32 goals with Ajax before being sent back to the Bundesliga and Borussia Dortmund.
Its not just number nines other offensive-minded players have felt the pinch. Felipe Anderson one of the more gifted players in recent history struggled under Moyes and was sent away as soon as he could get rid of him.
Said Benhrama struggles with consistency, despite this being arguably his best season with the Irons. It took Aaron Cresswell a string of bad games for him to play the more offensive-minded Emerson Palmieri and he took Pablo Fornals from being a creative number 8 midfield player with an aggressive offensive approach on the pitch and turned him into a defensive winger, if that even makes sense.
Moyes has without a doubt stifled young offensive players. And in the Premier League not scoring goals and playing for ties will mean the death of your team. Not just for the fans, but as players who questioned tactics, you are killing team confidence and team morale. Not going for it sends a horrible message to players. Seeing their extremely talented and potentially best offensive player waste away on the bench makes it even worse.
You can make the argument that Moyes’ way of playing is antiquated. It also belongs in other leagues, not this one. Moyes rarely makes in-match adjustments when West Ham are down. This year this team has found itself playing from behind quite a bit, but you won’t see early subs or a change in tactics. With 5 subs you should easily correct a wrong, but its almost as if Moyes has thought to catch up to the rest of the league. What’s worse is up 1-0 or tied you rarely see Moyes step on the gas and put the game out of reach instead, his subs and tactics mainly try to preserve a tie.
As the season started we all wanted to commend Moyes for somehow spending 180 million in transfer fees and getting some of the world’s most talented players, but he has yet to figure out how they fit into his system which means he’s done a horrible job in scouting and instead thought they’d just all conform immediately to his style of play.
He somehow mistook Lucas Paqueta for a full-time number 10 at Lyon after seeing him twice. The way Emerson has played both ways, should mean he starts the rest of the season, but that hasn’t been the case. When the majority of your talented roster is having trouble playing the way you want it to, it’s time to look for ways to get everyone on board and playing together, even if it’s just for this season as West Ham battles for survival.
A perfect example of how Moyes’s system doesn’t work in the Premier League any more is how they are performing in the Europa Conference League where the competition is inferior. Yet they still struggle to compete against the bottom half of England’s top flight. For survival’s sake, we hope Moyes conforms his tactics for the rest of the season before its too late.
Since arriving Scamacca has been a mystery that needs to be unlocked. West Ham can’t afford to wait till those players like Haller, are unlocked somewhere else. There should be no reason why Scamacca doesn’t start the rest of the season and maybe there’s another reason for that. More on that coming soon…