Legendary American Football coach Vince Lombardi was known as an innovator. His Green Bay Packers are a legendary teams and won the first two Super Bowl’s of all time. When you take a deeper look at his play calling and preparations, his go to was hand offs and pitches to his running back going left. It worked for him. He didn’t have much of a Plan B. If going left didn’t work he’d go right. At the time maybe it was just the way he called those plays that was innovative but lets face it nowadays that type of simplicity wouldn’t cut it in sports. It really wasn’t his game plans that made Lombardi legendary. When you think of him, it was that he got more out of his players than anyone else could. His motivational speeches were epic. Lombardi once said:
“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
“Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all the time thing. You don't win once in a while; you don't do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time.”
When David Moyes returned for his second stint at West Ham, he did so with the mindset that he would need to return the team to simple football. They were on the verge of relegation and just needed a spark to get them to survive. It's exactly what he implemented and it worked. Moyes also emphasized work rate among his players and used Declan Rice and Michail Antonio to push his system. Later on he brought in players like Jarrod Bowen, Tomas Soucek, Vladimir Coufal to continue to do the same. The message was sent to the rest of the team, if you weren’t going to work as hard or simply couldn’t you were gone. Gone were players like Felipe Anderson, Robert Snodgrass, Ryan Fredricks, Grady Diangana and Andy Carroll.
As more of his type of players came in he would continue to develop his counter attacking system while staying committed to defense. By year two Moyes’ back to basics style of play had propelled the squad into the top 10 and making a run at a Europa League spot. When a team spends enough time near the top, other teams take note. Not only do they want to emulate the same type of success but opponents figure out how to beat you.
Which explains losses like a 5-0 performance against Fulham earlier this season. Moyes has shown that his system works. 3 straight years in Europa, multiple top 10 finishes and several spirited runs in Leagues and FA Cup tournaments. Of course one special night in Prague. While fans have finally tasted consistent success, its not without it's frustrations. Moyes style doesn’t work against everyone and it seems as though its either Plan A or nothing.
“Moyes Out” is a push from fans that have appreciated the success but feel their manager has gone as far as he can. The thought is its going to take a manager of higher stature and it wont be retreds like Graham Potter and Steve Cooper. Last season as the losses were mounting and the whispers grew louder about Moyes being fired all kinds of names were being mentioned as replacements. None were true.
The West Ham board and majority owner David Sullivan have never had intentions of letting Moyes go. Despite the up and down behavior of the team, Moyes is good for business. Again his teams are in the top 10 locking in Europa spots and winning just enough to keep selling out matches at the London Stadium. The team has grown in popularity and ownership has reinvested in the team's hierarchy. More scouts have been brought in, along with front office gurus like Tim Streidten. The project has made believers of foreign players like Mohammed Kudos, Edson Alvarez and Konstantinos Mavropanos who may not have come here in the past.
Moyes ball is not without its pitfalls. West Ham’s manager counter attacking style often isolates the squad’s center forward leaving most scoring opportunities to wingers and defensive midfielders who are joining the counter attack. Sebastian Haller, Marko Arnautovic, Gianluca Scammaca and Danny Ings have all been victims, going from prolific goal scoreres to barely making an impact. The lack of production from the center forward position usually means low scoring games and thought of Moyes being an innovators takes a hit.
In four plus seasons Moyes has yet to find a center forward that can play in his system. When counter attacking is not working the veteran manager rarely makes an adjustment, instead the squad sits back waiting for the counter attack to eventually kick in. Fans, pundits and observers argue that Moyes’ commitment to the starting 11 often means the team will run out of gas by season’s end. If everything goes right West Ham will make deep runs in Europa and FA Cup while maintaining a respectable top 8 position in the league. Unfortunately for the players by the time they are in the final stretch they have been run ragged. And as we’ve seen in league games the last 2 years have not finished strong in the league.
The most frustrating part of Moyes ball has been the lack of adjustments and the lack of trust in players beyond the starting 11. Often times, even in victory, it feels as though Moyes was beat but thanks to late game heroics West Ham willed their way to a victory or a hard earned tie. This year alone Bowen, Paqueta, Kudos and Soucek have played that role several times. Its a testament to the talent on the team who despite poor player performance and poor game planning they are still able to propel themselves. The difference between this team and teams of the past is superior talent. 4 years ago a Moyes team would not have survived or succeeded to this level. The talent just wasn’t there.
What Vince Lombardi may have masked in true innovation and what now seems like a lack of a game plan was made up by being a leader. His players followed his every word. They would run through walls from him. With the departure of Declan Rice this squad seems more together and more willing to follow Moyes then at any time. Maybe that is where Moyes’ biggest strength lies. When Moyes says things like “we’re just not as talented as they are” referring to Liverpool and the brutal loss in the Carabao Cup, maybe he’s trying to tell his players to step up. And even more so he’s telling his ownership we need more players. His players responded with an impressive back to back 2-0 wins versus so called Big Six teams Manchester United and Arsenal. The latter was possibly the biggest win of the season and the first time Moyes has won a game versus a Big Six team away.
It's Moyes pushing the right buttons and bouncing back and getting the right results. He has figured out a way to get his players to respond, but as a fan you are going to have to deal with those 5-0 nothing losses once in a while. You are going to have to deal with no plan B. But as long as the core of this team continues to grow together and add new pieces that work and buy in, there really is a chance West Ham can go from Top 10 to Top 5 and hopefully Moyes never again saying the squad isn’t talented enough to beat Liverpool.
Wondering if Vince Lombardi was a genius or a one of a kind innovator of the his sport is subjective. It also means Moyes doesn’t have to be a genius or a master at the game. He just has to be right for West Ham. It also means that West Ham have no other choice but to offer him a contract.