Despite winning European glory just 6 months ago, David Moyes has now seen his West Ham team lose three games this past week, and questions about his future are creeping to the surface ever so slightly.
Everything was going swimmingly for Moyes and his men to start the campaign. Wins against Brighton and Chelsea, alongside encouraging performances against Liverpool and Manchester City meant positivity was beaming throughout the club. However, worrying losses to Aston Villa, Olympiacos, and now Everton at the weekend have raised the eyebrows of West Ham fans and board members.
The silverware won by Moyes can’t be taken for granted, but are West Ham still not reaching their potential given the crop of players under David Moyes?
Are Moyes’ tactics holding West Ham back?
The two consecutive seasons where West Ham finished in the European places saw Moyes utilize a counter-attacking system. This system was predicated on direct play in attack, and a steady backline. At the beginning of last season, however, it was clear Moyes was trying to play a bit more progressive, and have his team be more comfortable on the ball.
You can hardly blame Moyes for doing this. Afterall, if a team knows you like to sit back and counter, they can simply let you have the ball, and let you fail to dictate the game. Therefore, Moyes’ efforts to adapt his style were commendable. With that being said, it became abundantly clear that Moyes was unable to adapt his style of play, leading to a 14th place finish last season in the Premier League.
This year, Moyes has gone back to what he knows best; a counter-attacking style that focuses on the attacking quality of Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen for offensive output, and a steady defensive unit led by Kurt Zouma. For the first few weeks of the season, this style worked to perfection. The defense was good enough, and Bowen and Antonio both looked like they had gotten back to the best versions of themselves. The result, 10 points from a possible 12.
However, since being Luton Town on September 1, the only team West Ham have beaten in the league is rock bottom Sheffield United, a worrying trend. Granted, there has been some stiff competition including the aforementioned Manchester City, Liverpool, and Aston Villa, as well as Newcastle. The bottom line is though, performances have tailed off in the last month or so, and the style of play is becoming a worry.
When Moyes’ system is working in full effect, West Ham fans are okay with a mere 25% of the ball in a game, if they get the three points. If West Ham aren’t winning the games, however, and are being dominated in them, you’ve got a real worry. The Everton game is a perfect example.
Hosting a 15th placed Everton side who like to sit back and counter was a recipe for disaster for Moyes on Sunday. Why? Because the impetus was on West Ham to dictate the game and create chances, not the other way around. Moyes is extremely uncomfortable in games like these and his track record of having a plan B to deal with opponents like Everton remains to be seen.
With players like Lucas Paqueta, Jarrod Bowen, and Mohammed Kudus all starting, there is plenty of attacking firepower to really have a go at Everton. Instead, what we got was a tepid, slow, disjointed looking attacking performance because these players aren’t used to breaking down a defense. Moyes’ counter-attacking system usually leaves acres of space for attackers to operate on the break, but against Everton, that wasn’t the case.
So, what’s the solution? Unfortunately, there really isn’t one. Having a manager like Moyes undoubtedly has its positives. Some of them being stability, a solid defense, and great work rate from the team. However, with that comes the prospect of not being able to control a game, and carve out chances against a low-block.
The point is this, West Ham can only go so far playing a counter-attacking style, because you get too many games like the Everton one to reach the maximum heights in the table. Should West Ham fans be happy with mid-table? Maybe. But you can’t ignore the fact that a more progressive manager, with this group of players, can turn hosting a team like Everton to a strength, as opposed to a weakness.
Moyes still has plenty of credit in the bank, but one manager that would suit West Ham and these players is Vincent Kompany. Kompany’s Burnley destroyed the Championship last season, playing scintillating football. Granted, it has been a struggle for them since being promoted, but it’s obvious the players at his disposal just aren’t good enough for the Premier League.
Should Kompany get the West Ham job, you’d like to think that he can get them firing and playing in a more attack-minded manner.
That said, a hire like Kompany comes with its risks. He is unproven at Premier League level, and after David Sullivan appointed Manuel Pellegrini to make West Ham more attacking and saw that fail, he may be more likely to stick with Moyes for the time being.
West Ham is a squad filled with great talent currently, but performances on display this past week certainly raise questions over whether David Moyes is the manager who can get the absolute best out of all of them.
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