David Moyes and West Ham United: A Year of Two Halves

David Moyes West Ham

In November 2017, David Gold and David Sullivan tasked David Moyes with saving West Ham United from relegation. Steering the club to a 13th place finish, nine points clear of the relegation zone, he delivered. His reward? Watching Manuel Pellegrini sign a three-year contract.

Just over two years later, with the Hammers once again in dire straits, Moyes returned to the London Stadium to pick up the pieces. To many, his appointment lacked ambition and the club’s pre-lockdown form did little to quiet the doubters. However, since June West Ham have played like a team re-born.

Marking his one year anniversary on December 29th, the Scot has the potential to be West Ham’s man for the future.

David Moyes and West Ham: A Year of Two Halves

Part One: Relegation or Survival

Returning to West Ham last December, Moyes inherited a side in freefall. In 12 matches the club plummeted from fifth to 17th, successfully turning a promising start into a relegation battle in three short months. On December 28th, minutes after losing 2-1 to Leicester City, Pellegrini departed; 24 hours later, Moyes arrived.

After starting brightly with a 4-0 demolition of Bournemouth on New Year’s Day, Moyes’ new era endured a lean period. Earning just eight points from ten matches, West Ham entered lockdown in 16th position, outside the relegation zone on goal difference and still very much in danger.

However, West Ham returned from the break refreshed and revitalised.  Switching to playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, West Ham picked up 12 points in the final nine games of the season – including losing just once in seven July matches – to secure Premier League survival with one game to spare. Not quite the turnaround of 2017/18 but mission accomplished nonetheless.

Part Two: Unlikely European Dreams

Given the opportunity to put his own stamp on West Ham in 2020/21, Moyes’ first full season in charge is showing promise. Shifting to five at the back after beginning the season with two defeats, Moyes’ side have picked up 22 points from their last 13 matches, including shock victories over Leicester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers and spirited draws against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City. Four points off the Europa League places in 10th, Moyes has Hammers fans dreaming that anything is possible, even European nights.

It’s true, West Ham have struggled in recent weeks in the absence of Michail Antonio and Arthur Masuaku and poor performances against Crystal Palace and Brighton & Hove Albion have shown that Moyes doesn’t always get it right.

However, whereas West Ham of old were prone to defensive implosions and throwing away points, Moyes’ team battled for the full 90 minutes to earn successive home draws- signifying an impressive improvement on last season.

David Moyes’ Smart Signings Underpin West Ham Success

During his tenure at Everton, Moyes became renowned for making shrewd transfers on a shoestring budget- having signed the likes of Tim Cahill, Mikel Arteta, Tim Howard. Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman for Everton- and he’s returning to his roots with West Ham.

Admittedly, Craig Dawsonsigned on loan to provide experienced defensive cover – is surplus to requirements whilst Danish youngster Frederik Alves doesn’t arrive until January.

However, his other four signings have all had successful starts to life in claret and blue. Vladimir Coufal, signed from Slavia Prague for £5.4 million, is a revelation at right-back and surely a contender for bargain buy of the season. Said Benrahma is still settling in but his match-winning assist one minute after coming off the bench against Aston Villa showcased why his signature was in such high demand during the summer.

And then there’s Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek. Poached from Championship side Hull City in January, Bowen was instrumental in West Ham’s survival, providing one goal and four assists in 13 appearances. This season, he is West Ham’s joint top scorer (alongside Soucek) with four goals and arguably the club’s liveliest attacking threat.

Soucek, meanwhile, has replaced Mark Noble as West Ham’s midfield anchor. An impressive aerial threat at set-pieces, the Czech patrols the centre of the park like a shark – a huge physical presence that’s always on the move – whilst providing the perfect safety net for Declan Rice to roam. Securing his services on a permanent basis in July was a huge indicator of Moyes’ at the London Stadium.

A New Lease of Life for West Ham and Moyes

Calculated, sensible and successful. That’s how one would characterise West Ham’s transfer antics under Moyes and there can be no denying the impact of the squad’s fresh faces. However, his most laudable quality as a manager isn’t his ability to spend wisely, nor the fight he has instilled in the dressing room but his talent for breathing life into players who have been left out of luck on one too many occasions.

Just as he did with Marko Arnautovic during his first spell, Moyes has realised Antonio’s potential. The 30-year old thrived in the lone striker role at the back end of last season, scoring eight goals in July to finish the campaign with ten goals, and had three in seven matches before injury struck this season.

Aaron Cresswell has as many assists this campaign as in the previous three combined with four. Fabien Balbuena, a commanding presence at the back alongside Cresswell and Angelo Ogbonna, is finally living up to his nickname – the General – whilst Pablo Fornals has improved dramatically under Moyes’ leadership.

But perhaps the best transformation is that of Moyes himself. Since leaving Everton in 2013, the Scot’s managerial reputation has taken a beating. Sir Alex Ferguson was an impossible act to follow at Manchester United, his spells at Real Sociedad and Sunderland were disastrous and even after leading West Ham to safety in 2018, he wasn’t trusted with a permanent role.

Yet, twelve months into his second spell at West Ham, Moyes is showing signs of the manager who ruled Goodison Park for over a decade. He may not play the most attractive football, he may not always get it right, but given patience and time, he may be just what West Ham need.

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