After the highs of the previous two seasons, when West Ham were challenging for Champions League qualification and reached the Europa League semi-finals, the 2022/23 Premier League has been something of a disaster but has David Moyes earned more time to turn things around?
Poor Start But Has David Moyes Earned More Time?
Four Wins – Relegation Threatened Hammers
4 wins in their opening 16 league games sees the Hammers lie in 16th position, 1 point off the relegation places. After spending over £150 million in the summer on the likes of Gianluca Scamacca, Lucas Paqueta, Nayef Aguerd and Thilo Kehrer to name a few, supporters with high expectations have begun to show their anger and frustration.
After the home defeat to Leicester, the boo’s that rang out at full time were deafening. Among the fanbase, many feel that it is time for a change. A harsh assessment but the West Ham supporters are not known for their patience.
Despite the struggles, Moyes has been given the backing of the board – understandably given what he has achieved at the club – to rectify the club’s poor start.
With the six week break for the World Cup coming in the middle of the season, the former Everton and Manchester United manager will have been taking time to think and regroup; some soul searching and self examination will be required.
What Is Going Wrong?
Quite simply, West Ham have not scored enough goals. Four players – Antonio, Benhrama, Bowen and Scamacca – are level in the clubs’ scoring charts with only 2 goals each after 15 games. For the lofty ambitions the club aspires to, it is simply not good enough. In too many of the matches this season, they have been too passive, especially with the quality of players they have in attacking positions.
The stats don’t lie; 12 goals scored and 14 big chances created, leaving them second worst in the league.
With a lot of sides figuring out how to outmaneuver Moyes tactically, the Scot’s conservative style of play has failed to get the best out of Italian, Scamacca. It is clear the striker has a lot of ability but he is suffering from the same problems Sebastien Haller had when he was at the club, often feeling isolated without support.
Michail Antonio has often come on in games as a direct replacement, not really able to impact games due to the unwillingness to change things from the sidelines.
Pairing the Italian international with Antonio upfront would seem an obvious solution to rectify this issue, causing Premier League defences more problems and to help get the best out of the former Sassuolo player.
Which London club will finish highest in the table?
Time to Bench Soucek
When the season resumes on Boxing Day – West Ham travel to the Emirates to face Arsenal – the reliance on players who have served the cause well in the past will need to be rethought, namely Tomas Soucek. It has been a while since his performances have merited starting every week and it feels like Declan Rice is doing the work of many when he plays alongside the Czech which in turn is meaning that Rice is struggling to turn in the kind of performer he delivered on a regular basis last season.
With Flynn Downes impressing since joining from Swansea City and the flexibility of Lucas Paqueta to play in a number of positions centrally in the midfield, Moyes has solutions to this midfield conundrum. Moyes has not helped himsellf through a percieved stubbornness to make wholesale changes. It is in this kind of area in which whether David Moyes has earned more time may rest.
Moyes has achieved much of his success at the London Stadium playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, setting up in a low block and hoping to catch teams on the counter with the speed of the Jamaican star Antonio.
Previously with a limited squad you could have forgiven him for setting up in such a way however with the summer additions there is no need to be so defensive.
Switching from his preferred 4-2-3-1 to a 3-5-2 would help to keep the defensive stability and allow Antonio and Scamacca to play up top. The midfield could have Rice and Paqueta playing deeper with Benrahma, Fornals or Lanzini playing as the No.10 to provide more creativity in the side.
If the formation remains unchanged, tweaks will still need to be made to help West Ham offer more going forward. Paqueta, similar to the job he performs and is performing for Brazil at the World Cup, could go into midfield slotting alongside Rice.
His vision and range of passing are superb; playing closer to the halfway line, with a wide range of options ahead of him, would allow him more freedom that could unlock an attack that has looked feeble.
One Last Dance for David Moyes?
Despite his failings this season it is only fair he gets the opportunity to turn things around. His successes at West Ham have earned him that right and sacking the manager is not always the answer. His efforts means it is right to say that David Moyes earned more time – for now at least.
Leicester stuck with Brendan Rodgers after their poor start (no wins in the opening 8 games) and the Irishman has guided the Midlands club to an upturn in fortunes taking them from bottom up to 13th place.
Moyes is vastly experienced and has the knowhow to ensure that the club starts to climb the table. If you had offered Hammers fans two top ten places and a European semi final a few years ago they would have snapped your hand off. Why sack the man who has made that happen?
Realistically, if the club were to relieve him of his duties, who would they bring in as his replacement?
Recently sacked Ralph Hassenhuttl would most likely not improve things and his standing is low after several underwhelming seasons with Southampton. Mauricio Pochettino is also available after leaving French champions PSG at the end of last season, but it remains to be seen if the Argentine could be persuaded to come to East London, especially with his previous association at Tottenham Hotspur.
Bringing in an up and coming manager might provide some excitement, but it is a massive gamble when it comes to securing Premier League survival. The list of suitable alternatives looks thin on the ground, sacking Moyes at this stage of the season would be rather foolish.
After the Arsenal game, fixtures against Brentford, Leeds, Wolves and Everton come over the horizon. All winnable games, if 7-10 points can be gained from these games against sides in and around them in the table things will look much rosier.
Fail to achieve this then by the end of January the London Stadium could become a very toxic place, similar to what we have seen in the past, where the calls for Moyes to go could become too loud for the board to ignore.
After the World Cup break West Ham, and their manager, have a massive month that will heavily impact their season and could prove to be decisive to both their fates.
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