West Ham two out of their last twelve Premier League games, losing eight and drawing twice. They currently sit in eighteenth place in the division, one point behind Aston Villa, and they’re in real danger of being relegated if they don’t begin turning the tide.
After a dismal run under Manuel Pellegrini, West Ham turned to David Moyes for the second time to get the team back on track and moving in the right direction. However, since returning to the London Stadium, the 56-year-old has overseen just one victory in the Premier League, with West ham picking up five points from a possible twenty-one.
It’s at a stage now when picking up points is vital to West Ham, because they’re in a relegation dog fight and every point crucial. The team travelled to their rearranged fixture midweek against Manchester City, and while nobody expected them to pull up any trees, Moyes set his side up for damage limitation from how things played out.
The Scot went with a back five and three central midfielders in front of them. Michail Antonio and Robert Snodgrass were the two playing highest up the pitch for West Ham, and immediately there was negativity about their play. If you’re a team out of form it’s tough going to the Etihad, but it’s still in many ways a free hit, and City have been beaten six times in the league this season.
You could immediately see this set up wasn’t going to work when Gabriel Jesus wasted a couple of excellent opportunities after finding himself in behind the West Ham backline. And then it became a case of when not if, as City continued to exert their dominance. It took half an hour for Pep Guardiola’s men to break the deadlock, and on sixty-two minutes they were two up, and the game was secure.
If you set a team up as Moyes did, there is a possibility you believe that somehow you can absorb the pressure and defend well enough to get a point. Or, even hit a team on the break. Butut when the plan immediately begins to unravel, and you go one down and then two, but don’t attempt to change things, you can tell it’s damage limitation.
When you’re in a relegation battle, shouldn’t you be encouraging your team to fight and give it everything they’ve got? While West Ham’s form has been poor, they do have a squad that has an array of attacking talent that could and should cause most teams problems. Felipe Anderson, Manuel Lanzini, Sebastien Haller and new signing Jarrod Bowen started on the bench against City, and it was only the latter who got onto the pitch, and that didn’t happen until there were only ten minutes to play.
West Ham undoubtedly have a challenging set of fixtures to come between now and the end of the season, with Liverpool, Southampton, Arsenal, Wolves, Spurs and Chelsea their next six opponents. Using the Liverpool game as an example, it’s another free hit. The game is at Anfield, and nobody will expect West Ham to win, so, there’s nothing to lose.
If I recall correctly, Moyes played a five at the back system when Liverpool visited the London Stadium and lost 2-0. So, he knows doing so again won’t yield a positive result, and it won’t endear him to the travelling West Ham supporters either.
With the players Moyes has available, wouldn’t it make more sense for West Ham to go with the mentality of taking their free hit, and playing a team that is capable of at least causing the Liverpool defence a few problems? They have conceded in eight out of thirteen league games at home this season after all.