Moyes Faux Pas, With Managerial No-No’s

Liverpool dismantled West Ham, in what many predicted could be a sloppy loss for the East London club. The impressive offensive line of Firmino, Salah, and Mane was a constant threat, while the revitalized defence with the addition of Virgil van Dijk shut down the West Ham attack. But, with the predicable better team winning, how did West Ham’s manager, David Moyes, contribute to the teams loss. With these three football managerial adages:

Don’t Change a Winning Line Up

West Ham secured three massive points against Watford before lining up against Liverpool, in what was a convincing win. The hornets were buzzing, coming off of a 4-1 win against defending champions Chelsea resulting in high team moral and confident players. West Ham executed a game play that saw the use of a two pronged striker duo of Marko Arnautovic and Chicharito, while Michail Antonio made his starting return as a left wingback.

This team used Antonio’s speed up the wing, and Arnautovic’s physicality up front to create offensively. Supported by Joao Mario in an attacking midfield role, the West Ham attack was able to hold onto the ball and sustain pressure on the Watford defence.

For the defence, the attack was kept on the outside. Having netted a penalty goal Watford captain Troy Deeney terrorized the Chelsea back line by shielding the ball behind his body and smashing into the penalty area. For West Ham, Zabaleta and Antonio limited Richarlison and Deulofeu to the perimeter, while the back three of Cresswell, Collins and Ogbonna deflected away any aerial attacks.

Moyes opted to remove in form Chicharito for Manuel Lanzini who was returning from injury. As well, Antonio was moved to the bench to give Patrice Evra his first start for West Ham. Both players were underwhelming and did not factor into the limited success West Ham saw, unless you give credit to Lanzini for being subbed for Antonio who scored. Moyes missed the point here, and in the process he deflated his marquee striker and newly fit forward.

Play Your Best Players

Similar to the first issue, Moyes opted to nitpick rather than let his team play. In doing so he stranded his two midfield maestros, Lanzini and Mario. When playing “alongside” Arnautovic, Lanzini realistically was sitting below him and acted as a linkup man who would join in the offensive rush. No one watching them play together would say they lined up parallel. Now, since Lanzini had been out with injury Joao Mario too that position of midfield link up man, while Chicharito stepped up as a striker, matching Arnautovic’s advanced position.

This was abandoned with Lanzini coming back. Lanzini stepped into his old role, while Mario also remained higher than Kouyate and Noble in centre mid. So, if we look at how the players played, West Ham lined up 5-2-1-1-1. Absolutely revolutionary football management from Moyes! I am not privy to the backroom discussions of Moyes’ managerial team, but the emphasis was clearly “get Lanzini back on the pitch at any cost” when it really didn’t need to be.

Don’t Over-manage Your Squad

Again, linked to the previous issues with Moyes’ strategy, over-management was very apparent. It factored into the sloppy team selection and opened the door for the Liverpool attack. Essentially, Chicharito was dropped when in form for a player who may be the most important person on the squad. It was clearly an effort to recapture the team that saw success against Chelsea earlier in Moyes’ reign, but the team had since changed. Chicharito was gaining momentum playing alongside Arnautovic and that was overlooked by Moyes.

Lanzini is a must start for West Ham, sure, but only when he is fully fit. As well, he isn’t a damn striker! Let him play offensive, let him roam, but don’t think he is a striker. Chicharito’s pedigree and current success should have guaranteed him his spot, with Lanzini as either a sub (as he was coming off injury) or a replacement for Kouyate.

Over-management was again present in Patrice Evra’s first start for West Ham. A centrepiece in an alleged racist event with Liverpool’s Suarez, Evra is a polarizing figure in Merseyside. He was constantly booed, and had Suarez’s name chanted at him, even though he was the victim in that alleged event. Regardless of passed transgressions, Evra is 36 years old and was implemented in his first team action since November 2017 as a wingback against Mohammad Salah.

West Ham could have used Antonio’s speed on the wing to at least match Salah on his runs, while adding something offensively. As well, against Watford Antonio didn’t seem out of his depth in a new position, sticking to the wing and moving up and down the pitch on the outside. Evra often wandered, and as the play would build on the right side he would overlap his defenders in the middle of the pitch.

Moyes seemed to fall victim to what every fantasy sports manager often succumbs too, too much tinkering. To be fair West Ham has needed over coaching for much of this season in order to minimize mistakes but in this instance the faux pas’ of the managerial world seemed to have overwhelmed Moyes at Merseyside.

Come On You Irons!
-Adam

 

 

 

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Red In The Face

A carbon copy of the stat line that saw Slaven Bilic sacked, West Ham lost 4-1 to Liverpool. The game was similar, speed and skill in Liverpool’s front three dictated the play and poked too many holes in an already shaky defensive line for West Ham. With goals from Emre Can, Mohammad Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane, West Ham were merely another victim to the Liverpool machine. Frustrating for fans, frustrating for players and frustrating for the manager, this match left every West Ham supporter red in the face.

Lets look for positives first, of which there were few. As predicted, Marko Arnautovic kept his form up as West Ham’s lone offensive threat in the first half. He spun a terrific shot at keeper Loris Karius who managed a terrific save on a looping chip that was deflected off the ball. As well, he scorched in a shot that was curling into the net before Karius again foiled the opportunity. He is absolutely impressive with his work rate and his ability to mix power with a delicate, fine touch. A mainstay in the first team, without a doubt.

Now for the negative, of which there was plenty. Specifically Patrice Evra, Cheikhou Kouyate, James Collins, and Joao Mario were atrocious. Evra, who saw his first game action and start for West Ham looked his age completely. Often drifting out of position and not marking his man along the wing, Evra getting the start was a gamble that did not pay off. Personally I think it was a terrible spot to start him for a multitude of reasons. He was involved in a racial incident with Luis Suarez in a Man Utd vs Liverpool match, which saw Evra get booed whenever he touched the ball. As well, 36 years of age, in first team action for months, and he is tasked with marking Mo Salah – it didn’t make sense.

Kouyate looked like his old self again. Recently having returned to form, Kouyate was a mess in the midfield against Liverpool. Outmatched with pace and touch Kouyate could not hang with the likes of Can,  Milner, and Oxlade-Chamberlain. With the ball on his foot he often coughed it up far too easily, or slung it downfield in a panic. He also picked up an early yellow card in the match that dictated a reduced physical role he could play for the rest of the match. He is purely surviving on a lack of options, but Josh Cullen deserves starts over him at this moment.

James Collins is an unusual name to see in the negative column, but Liverpool picked on him at will in this match. The problem is that he is playing far too many minutes, and in consecutive games than he is capable to. His position moving forward should be a depth option or late game sub, which is why another year extension makes sense for him. His speed is not high enough to catch the likes of Salah and Mane, and it was well on display. Then, out of fatigue or panic he would launch the ball back to the halfway line and give up possession with better options around him. If anything, Collins was a victim of team selection more than anything, but he did not impress at all in this match.

Finally, the last name in the (overly) bad column is new loanee, Joao Mario. This match was really his first bad game for West Ham, but there were silver linings within it. He started in an in between role under Lanzini but above Noble and Kouyate, with Arnautovic above everyone else. His touch was bad, often giving the ball away in what should have been promising positions. What was positive about his game was the amount of touches he had and how often he seemed to find himself with the ball on his foot. I’ll chalk this performance up as a one time flop, but realistically Lanzini should be in the outlet attacking mid role, with Mario and Noble in central midfield.

West Ham just need to brush off the performance. They were out matched skill wise, out managed, and out paced throughout the game. What they would have needed was had defensive structure, but too many mistakes allowed for Liverpool to capitalize offensively. This should be taken as a wake up call as West Ham face off against Swansea next week, a matchup that is a must win for West Ham.

Come On You Irons!
-Adam

West Ham Visit Liverpool: Clench and Pray or Fight Fire with Fire

One of the most dynamic offences in the League this season has been the Liverpool front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mohammad Salah. West Ham will have to disrupt this attack in order to get any result from the Merseyside, but how can they do this? One of two options would likely be how Moyes organizes his team – clog the middle and counter attack while giving up possession, or hold onto the ball and try to break down their defence.

Ideally West Ham would perform the best of both plans – keep a strong defensive form, forcing the attack to the outside, and once they retrieve the ball have a front three of Arnautovic, Chicharito, and Lanzini to hold up the attack with support from Zabaleta and Antonio on the wings. I just don’t think its likely they do both.

Realistically, West Ham will clench their cheeks and try to repel the Liverpool attack. What bodes well from this plan is that the Liverpool defence is notoriously weak, even with the addition of Virgil van Dijk, and their keeper situation is worse than ours. Often beaten too easily, the Reds’ backline is usually unorganized or confused, leading to counterattacking success, or fruitful set pieces.

Liverpool is coming off of a 5-0 assault of FC Porto in Champions League. Predictably the aforementioned front three of Mane, Firmino, and Salah scored all of Liverpool’s goals, with Mane getting a hat trick. This doesn’t bode well for West Ham, but to be fair to the Hammers they have done well at stymying the top dogs since Moyes has taken over.

The close loss to Manchester City, draw against Arsenal, win over Chelsea, and draw with Tottenham are all examples of how West Ham can succeed. The need to be disciplined in defence, and limit mistakes anywhere on the pitch. With such speed up front Liverpool can take a muffed opposition corner kick and turn it into a blazing odd man counter attack with the ball ending up in your net.

Outside of defending with discipline West Ham will need to take the chances they are given. Some early pressure on either Simon Mignolet or Loris Karius in net could see a soft goal sneak by, flipping the script of the game. Arnautovic will get his wingman back this weekend as well with Lanzini rejoining the squad after a hamstring injury, a welcomed sight to all West Ham fans.

Lanzini’s return means that he will likely be nestled in behind the striker duo of Arnautovic and Chicharito. Joao Mario had been filling this void, but Lanzini is the man who pulls the offensive strings and will regain his position without hesitation. Mario will likely slot in beside Mark Noble in midfield with Kouyate moved to the bench.

Arthur Masuaku’s spitting suspension, compacted with the return of Winston Reid to the match-day squad will see either Aaron Cresswell or James Collins out at centreback, and either Cresswell or Antonio in the left-wingback position. Moyes certainly has some decision to make on the squad, but the return of first team players is hardly anything to complain about.

So how will it play out for West Ham? Likely the clenched cheeks of an organized, out of possession, disciplined, counterattacking option for Moyes’ men. The key to success for West Ham will be not breaking down early, and winning the first battle of not conceding an early goal. Liverpool snowballed their momentum from an early goal against Porto and it could not be stopped. In order to stop the snowball from growing is to make sure it never gets started. It’ll be tough, but West Ham knows how to do it, and can do it.

Come On You Irons!
-Adam

Fonte To China Makes Sense, Relax.

With David Moyes confirming it in his most recent, pre-Liverpool press conference, centre-back Jose Fonte will be headed to the Chinese Super League new comers, Dailan Yifeng. The move will leave a gap in West Ham’s defense, a rumored £5 million in their pockets, and an opportunity to make a splash in the summer transfer market. Despite the squad being historically shallow now, the loss of the Portuguese defender makes sense for both parties in the big picture.

What has probably spelled the end for Fonte at West Ham is the emergence of two payers at centre-back: Declan Rice and Aaron Cresswell. For Rice, he became West Ham’s prized prospect, passing Reece Oxford, Reece Burke, and Josh Cullen. He has played and played well in the first team this season, demanding attention when it comes to the future of Moyes’ West ham.

Aaron Cresswell has been a bit of a surprise. Coming off of a horrible season Cresswell seemed to have settled his game down in a four at the back formation. With Moyes’ wingback formation Cresswell got pushed out of the starting job on the left side as Arthur Masuaku dribbled his way into the first team. Cresswell, out of necessity jumped in as a left centre-back and has thrived. His speed has been an asset and he has settled in nicely to a non-ideal situation.

With Cresswell and Rice West Ham have Collins, Ogbonna, and Rice alongside them at centre-back. It is West Ham’s deepest position on the roster, and despite Fonte nearing a return from injury, it looked unlikely that he would unsettle any of the other defenders.

So, with the World Cup only months away, and Fonte looking for what would probably be his last opportunity to make the Portuguese squad, he moves out to China in search of game time. Ironically, West Ham defenders like Ogbonna and Collins have had their defensive prowess on display in recent weeks with Moyes as their manager, if it hadn’t been for an untimely injury Fonte would likely be featuring still.

The move is mutually beneficial, despite recent fan unrest on twitter. With the board being slated for transfer let down daily, West Ham are desperate to impress with new signings, and Fonte leaving allows an addition in the summer. West Ham will likely have to make hard decisions on  their remaining centre-backs like Collins and Reid.

The moving out of Fonte also allows West Ham to get younger in defense. Looking for a young, English core West Ham will desire players who can have Moyes imprint his defensive structure into their developing football IQ on the pitch.

Fonte has been nothing short of a professional for West Ham in his time at the club. He always wanted to be a factor in the first team, and helped in recruiting the likes of Joao Mario to the club now. A West Ham fan before joining the club, Fonte has been a polarizing figure for West Ham supporters, but many were impressed by his turn in form before being injured.

Despedida, Jose Fonte. Best of luck abroad!

Come On You Irons!
-Adam

Understanding The West Ham Family: My Interview with Dave Walker

Few have been more involved in the West Ham fan community than Dave Walker. Creator of the online Fanzine Sex Drugs & Carlton Cole, host of The West Ham Way Podcast, Co Creator of the West Ham Way pre-match Events and ever-present Twitter personality, Dave Walker is the perfect candidate to interview to get his views on the West Ham Family, personal history with the Club, and get a better understanding of how international Hammers are perceived. So I did!

Enjoy my chat with Dave Walker:

What is your family’s connection to West Ham?

Like many fans, I was born into it. My Dad grew up in New City Road, a 5 minute walk from the Boleyn Ground. Like my Grandad, he was a proper East End boy and loved West Ham. My Mum grew up just off the Kings Road in Chelsea but eventually left West London and moved next door to my Dad, which is how they met.

The two families became close and aside from the football, Upton Park became a big part of their life. They all worked locally which included one of my Nan`s working in Nathan`s Pie and Mash shop with the other one working as a cook in The Boleyn Pub.

When I was born, I was immediately put into a West Ham baby grow. I was inherently
passionate about this club as a kid and used to spend hours and hours with a ball at my feet recreating classic games and goals that I had studied on VHS. The 85/86 season was my main addiction.

I`ll never forget my first game. I remember holding my Dads hand walking through the crowds, being transfixed by the atmosphere and the smell of the burger vans around the ground. It was so raw, so intense, almost overwhelming. I remember feeling that I was suddenly part of something special, something I hadn’t experienced before. That feeling was like a drug.

That game was against Hull City in October 1990, I was nearly seven years old. We won 7-1 and on the way home I thought we were world beaters! My passion for West Ham soon turned into an obsession and I have never looked back.

Who was your favourite player at West Ham?\

I have two because I can`t choose between them! They are Julian Dicks and Paolo Di Canio. Julian gave everything for West Ham and demanded the same from others around him, he was a leader, a warrior and the closest thing I experienced to Billy Bonds. He wasn’t just a hard man, he was a quality player too and how he didn’t played for England I will never know.

Paolo was just poetry in motion and was another player that gave you his heart. You could literally feel his energy on a Saturday afternoon. His class, swagger, aggression, passion and quality on the ball will be remembered forever. Both Paolo and Julian are two of the best players to ever wear the shirt in my opinion.

What is the most entertaining game you’ve seen West Ham play?

If it`s based based on pure entertainment and not importance, then I would have to say the 5-4 win over Bradford City. That game had absolutely everything and in my opinion, for different reasons will always belong to Paolo Di Canio.

Whilst you receive a lot of positivity on social media, at times you also receive some negativity, does this ever affect you or your love for the club?

Absolutely not. Love me or hate me, one thing I have always done and will always do is stay true to myself and speak from the heart. Whilst I genuinely appreciate the positive attention I receive and love meeting and interacting with the people that give it, unlike some I don`t judge myself by the number of followers I have, I judge myself on what my family and closest friends think of me, as they know me better than anyone. Everything that I am lucky enough to do in the name of West Ham is out of pure love for the club and nothing could ever change that.

Is David Moyes the right man for the job at West Ham?

It’s a difficult question. When David was first appointed, the majority of fans kicked up a shit storm on Twitter but I was one of a select few who thought it was a good appointment and went public with that opinion on the podcast. Since then, I think he`s done a very good job. He has succeeded where Slaven was failing in terms of discipline, structure, organisation, fitness and more importantly, results. As content as I was with the appointment, I did also say that I only wanted him until the end of the season, at which point I would want to replace him with a top European Manager. Ideally that would still be the case, however as it stands I don`t honestly know who the person should be.

There is also a strong argument that with the right level of investment in the transfer market, David deserves more time at West Ham. Ultimately, I think it would be logical to revisit this question in the summer.

What are your views on West Ham Supporters outside of England, and how would you put the club into perspective for new and potential supporters?

Wherever you are in the world, if you support West Ham United then you`re one of us. We are all part of the same family, it`s as simple as that. I also believe that supporters from overseas play an important role in establishing the club on a global scale and this shouldn’t be underestimated or under appreciated.

If I was to put the club into perspective for new or potential overseas fans, I would say that West Ham are a very special club but if you are looking to support a club that will be littered with success then West Ham isn’t for you! In fact I’m still waiting to see us win a major trophy and I`m 34 years old! You support West Ham because of everything the club represents. The history, character, passion, loyalty, love, dedication, humour and an undying enthusiasm that one day we will achieve great things.

Is Mark Noble a “Next Level” player?

I love Mark Noble and what he has given to this football club will be remembered forever. He is still capable of doing a job for West Ham and continues to prove people wrong in that respect but is he my definition of a “next level” player? No he isn’t. Sorry Nobes!

Based on the season so far, who is your Hammer of the Year?

Arnautovic hands down. Not just for what he`s done going forward this season but for his work rate and determination, which has been exceptional. He has given us the one thing Stoke fans said he wouldn’t, which is consistency and if he can maintain that level of consistency not only will he win the Hammer of the year award but he could also be on his way to becoming a cult hero at West Ham.

I also think Ogbonna deserves a mention, he would be my runner up based on the season so far. He was losing his way under Bilic but has found his form again under Moyes and has been outstanding at times (which David has to take a lot of credit for).

Where do you see West Ham finishing this season?
It’s a strange season with such a fine margin between success and failure. First and foremost, I have absolutely no doubt that we will stay up, which after the challenges we’ve faced this season is the main objective for me. My prediction is that we’ll finish between 12th-15th. If you want a
specific league finish, I’ll say 13th .
So there it is – the voice of the West Ham Way Podcast, co-creator of the West Ham Way Pre Match Events and the online Fanzine Sex, Drugs & Carlton Cole, Dave Walker. I couldn’t say enough about how much of a fan he is based off of this conversation with him. From what he said, he encompasses what the West Ham family is.

As defined by Dave, West Ham is a special connection for those who support the club. Whether you’re born into it, or have made a lifelong decision to follow West Ham, this club is a unique, shared aspect of all hammers. Possibly now more than ever the supporters need to show their togetherness and bond together over the common happiness and excitement a blowing bubble can bring to our faces.
Come On You Irons!
-Adam

 

West Ham Not Alone In Wigan Disappointment

West Ham have the most highly touted squad join them in FA Cup disappointment as 2018’s team of destiny, Wigan Athletic, topple Manchester City in a stunning win. West Ham, who have been undermanned and appropriately outgunned in all extra-curricular tournaments this season, were not so surprisingly handed a loss at the hands of the EFL League 1 side.

The man responsible for both goals against West Ham, Will Grigg, was at it again. He converted the only shot on target for Wigan, a stat which a salty Pep Guardiola brought forward post game to discredit Wigan.

Every year it seems that the domestic tournaments produce a team or two who defy the odds and make a miracle run deep. Wigan is just that for this season, and the pouty, pissy mood of Pep Guardiola shows a lot about his character in this situation. Shrugging post game, slouched in his seat, and overly critical of the team that beat him, Pep seemed to have no understanding of the gravity of the situation.

Fabian Delph, a player who dove leading to a goal for Manchester City in their 2-1 win over West Ham this season was red carded in extra time at the first half. Many viewers thought the player and fan reaction caused the referee to adjust his card in hue from yellow to red, but for any West Ham fan its an instance of delayed justice for the player.

Manchester City and Pep Guardiola playing victim in this match really does seem pathetic. The most expensive squad, costing over £700 million, Manchester City should be able to shut down a League 1 team with ten men. Excuses, excuses, I guess money can’t buy happiness OR an FA Cup trophy!

With a pitch invasion to end the game, City now are threatening legal action against Wigan fans who have been accused of harassing and spitting at/on Sergio Aguero. If true there is no place for spitting in the game – i’m sure the Wigan fans calling for Arthur Masuaku’s head will agree with that, no? Regardless of the fallout, with the overly sensitive world we now live in we have to be bubble wrapped at all times, and in this instant maybe have a spit-proof umbrella.

It sort of takes the sting out of what is still an embarrassing game for West Ham, doesn’t it? Wigan couldn’t fill their stands, their wage bill a shadow compared to West Ham, a Hammer spitting at their team getting a red card and ban, and a striker netting a brace on a tragic handball decision. But, hey – if Manchester City lose to them that is all anyone is going to talk about. Not a shallow team, no excuse of a failed transfer window, and top European elite talent. Manchester City bottled it badly, and West Ham are option 1a on the beneficiary list!

Come On You Irons!
-Adam

Antonio, Master Of His Own Fate At West Ham

After that masterclass against Watford’s rightback Daryl Janmaat, Michail Antonio has found another position he can play – wingback. For a natural attacking winger, this must be a sigh of relief for the young Englishman as Moyes’ formation (singular) does not use wingers specifically. Ultimately he provided length up the pitch, and the ability to extend the play by running onto the ball deep in Watford’s end, something that has been missing since the Masuaku suspension. Cresswell has been a good servant in expanding his leftback role to a wingback, but his transformation to a centreback has been much more impressive and effective.

In a flat four at the back, Antonio does not register as an option at leftback or rightback. But, with the formation Moyes has stuck with, and with it looking like the team will stick with Moyes as the manager, Antonio could become a Swiss-Army Knife for the team.

Naturally a right winger, Antonio assisted the Andy Carroll wonder goal from the left side, and as a left wingback put Jaanmat on roller skates and dropped a perfect cross on Chicharito’s head for a goal. Crossing prowess on both sides, Antonio could and should be applied on the most susceptible wing for a counter attack, example Janmaat. With the Dutch defender prone to overlapping with his forwards, Antonio exposed the out of position defender with long balls down the wing.

As an out-and-out striker, Antonio fairs well too. This season, although a small sample size, he has looked threatening. At Burnley alongside Carroll in a striker duo Antonio netted a goal assisted by Joe Hart off a long kick downfield. His speed offers something up top, and as shown in his first season at the London Stadium, he is quite effective with his head. If West Ham can find an central attacking midfielder to play alongside Lanzini, Antonio as a striker offers a lot to the team.

For Moyes Antonio should be used as a shock trooper. Apply him where ever the defence is susceptible. For most of the top six teams wingbacks or overloaded midfields are used with a back three. Antonio can expose narrow defences or over involved wingers, creating depth from either side of the pitch. With Zabaleta approaching a suspension for yellow cards, Antonio could draw into the right side wingback role as well.

So where is his best position? Your guess is as good as mine. But what is certain is that West Ham need his speed on the field moving forward.

Come On You Irons!
-Adam