F365’s early losers: David Moyes and Paul Merson

Date published: Saturday 3rd March 2018 5:00

“Give him a contract now. He’s done enough. There aren’t too many better managers than David Moyes.”

Those words from Paul Merson sent me scrambling to Google ‘West Ham results’ as I was almost certain that things were not going swimmingly for David Moyes. As I suspected, they had won just one of their last six games. It doesn’t sound like he has earned a new contract.

Moyes was supposed to make West Ham hard to beat. Nobody was expecting thrilling football but we were told that he knew how to organise a defence. In reality, they are now as comically bad as they were under Slaven Bilic. Make that comically bad and entirely lacking any kind of game plan other than a hopeful long ball towards Marko Arnautovic.

On Saturday, it did not take Swansea long to work out that the Hammers lacked the quality to play through a high press and instead would almost always panic and then knock the ball long to an isolated front pair. It should have been a front three but Manuel Lanzini was so desperate for the ball that he dropped deeper and deeper, proving that he really could be Philippe Coutinho’s replacement at Liverpool.

Some will point to West Ham’s injury problems and lack of spending in January – exacerbated by an injury to Winston Reid at Swansea – but if you have a lack of central defenders, why would you play three of them? Especially when your wing-backs are 33 and bloody 36. And when you lose Reid when 1-0 down, why would you then bring on another full-back? That’s the question being asked by West Ham fans who were screaming for European Championship winner Joao Mario; instead they got Sam Byram to take their full-back total to four. Oddly, there was no improvement.

“Andre Ayew, he left cause you’re shit,” was the song from the Swansea fans at 1-0; at 4-0 they were laughing too hard to get their words out. By now Patrice Evra had been replaced by Michail Antonio but that did nothing to improve their defending from set-pieces. And nothing to improve their attacking prowess; their first real chance came in the 57th minute and it seems apt that Arnautovic chipped his chance harmlessly into the arms of the goalkeeper. That was their first shot on target.

Let’s take a minute to talk about the choice of a 36-year-old Evra at left wing-back when the Hammers’ last victory – over Watford – featured Antonio in that position, assisting one goal and being generally pretty dangerous over 90 minutes. He was then dropped for the trip to Liverpool, which ended in a 4-1 defeat (the one goal was scored by substitute Antonio), so of course Evra kept his place for the trip to Swansea. Of course he did. And of course Antonio then came off the bench and scored another consolation goal in Wales.

We can have sympathy for the way that Moyes’ hands have been tied by circumstance and inactivity at board level, but when those tied hands are repeatedly punching Hammers’ fans in the face with a series of terrible tactical decisions, that sympathy is at least partially withdrawn.

Never a popular appointment as West Ham manager, Moyes should now set his sights a little lower than a long-term contract, which would result in pitchforks bursting bubbles at the Olympic Stadium. The best he can now hope for is survival by the skin of his teeth and another firefighting job at another desperate club next season. He has vehemently not done enough.

Sarah Winterburn


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