It was a highly anticipated clash in English football. Not only were two British managers facing each other at the grandest stage of all, but they were also leading two highly over-achieving sides in the English top-flight. But nobody expected Moyes to outclass Brendan Rodgers in such an explosive manner.
How good have the Irons been under David Moyes this season? 31 games into the 2020/21 Premier League season, West Ham sit fourth with 55 points, ahead of elite clubs like Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. What has been the secret to success for Moyes in East London? How has he turned a usually mid-table or bottom-half side into a European spot candidate? It all goes back to the basics of the beautiful game.
How David Moyes’ West Ham Went Back to the Fundamentals as he Aims for Europe
Creation and Exploitation of Space
All the three goals by West Ham against Leicester on Sunday were visually very different. But there was one very key similarity. This connection happens to be the crux of the Hammers’ success this season. If you look closely, all the goals were a basic implementation of creating space and then exploiting it leading to such an impressive win at such a juncture of the season.
Not only this game but the entire season, Moyes has been deploying basic tactics and getting the results. There hasn’t been a lot of playing from the back, but the aerial abilities of the advanced players have been relied upon after the keeper distributes the ball. Two midfielders take the centre of the field, one with an eye for the goal, while the other remains talismanic in the holding role. The defenders are instructed to find vertical passes for the players high up the pitch and the forwards either play a poaching role or play as excellent target men. Nothing but pure basics.
There have been no flamboyant tactics like Pep Guardiola, nor any game-management masterclasses like Jose Mourinho. David Moyes would have never imagined that going back to the fundamentals of football would hand him a probable European competition chance in the 24th year of his managerial career.
Tying Together a Group of Mid-Table Stars
On an honest note, nine of the 11 West Ham regulars wouldn’t start a game for the traditional Premier League top-six. But how miraculous have the results been when they are brought together under one roof? The East London club is a testament to how glory can be achieved by unifying the talents of eleven average individuals rather than building a world-class team.
It is the era of Gegenpress and Guardiola’s numerical overload. But in such times, Moyes has built a squad that just believes in doing things right. West Ham haven’t been impressive against the top-six this season. In the 11 games against the English giants, the Hammers just have one win over Jose Mourinho’s Spurs. What they have done though, is focused on the games that they were expected to take points from.
History has been evident that Premier League produces some shocking results every year. Call it a matter of over-confidence or coincidence, but there are always a few results where the top sides lose out to the bottom ones. Sometimes, this has huge consequences as the leagues have been lost by a point in the past.
Moyes has been in the Premier League for too long to not understand this small but integral aspect. This season, he has taken it up a notch by not panicking in the so-called smaller games.
Where are David Moyes’ West Ham Heading?
A fantastic lineup of the last phase means that David Moyes’ West Ham just have one big game yet to play – the London derby against Chelsea in the last week of April. Apart from playing Thomas Tuchel’s team, Moyes faces five bottom-half sides in the last seven games. The Champions League spot is West Ham’s to lose from this moment on.
The next game at St. James’ Park could be frustrating. Newcastle United are known for playing a successful low-block and attacking on the counter. But the way West Ham have been playing this season, it shouldn’t be a very big headache for them.
Nobody would have wondered even a year back that David Moyes would be coaching West Ham on a Champions League night in 2021. This may be very much a reality soon.