Nobody Said It Would Be Easy
There was no new manager bounce on show at Vicarage Road and David Moyes will now have a much better idea of the challenge that lies ahead of him. Looking at the immediate fixture list, Moyes must have pencilled this in as one as of the easier games to pick up points from between now and the end of the year, but it was not to be. If there was any discernible difference between this performance and West Ham’s other attempts away from home over the last twelve or so months it was difficult to detect. An energetic, forthright opening frenzy petered out after the first twenty minutes and by then the Hammers had found themselves a goal down courtesy of typically sloppy defending that allowed Watford to get their noses in front. With players absent over the past two weeks on international duty, injuries and a low starting threshold there was little evidence of the new training intensity being translated into something positive on the pitch. Whether it was stamina, confidence or attitude the team looked completely spent beyond the hour mark. It is far too early to finger for Moyes & Co for the poor performance but improvements cannot be too long coming if there is to be any chance of disaster being averted.
Missed Chances and Opportunities
The game plan was very much a safety first one which was clearly undone by the early goal. Watford looked far more comfortable in possession and their familiarity with each other and the ball far exceeded our own efforts and understanding. Even so, the hosts didn’t appear to carry a huge goal threat. Although West Ham had offered nothing going forward, the first half ended with the Hammers squandering two excellent goal scoring opportunities. First Kouyate fluffed his lines from Noble’s fine through ball and then Arnautovic brought a smart save out of Gomes only then to lack conviction in trying to convert the rebound. My mood at half time was (foolishly) optimistic with an expectation that a stiff half time talking-to would galvanise the players enough to drag themselves back into the game. As it turned out West Ham were even worse in the second period allowing Watford to dominate proceedings at their leisure. In the long period of play when Sakho was waiting to replace Carroll (and which ended with Watford scoring their second goal) the ball refused to go out of play as the Hammers collectively demonstrated some of their finest ball watching. For me, it was a clear hand ball in the build up to Richarlison’s goal but that didn’t excuse the halfhearted attempts to prevent it being scored. Ironically, West Ham also had two more gilt edged chances to score in the second half with Kouyate blasting wildly over and Lanzini’s shot lacking both power and accuracy.
In his post-match comments, Moyes took aim at big reputation players who had failed to deliver. It is a fairly widely held belief that West Ham have a better squad (on paper) than at least half of the other teams in the Premier League. That belief is largely built on the reputations of the players (the fact that they are well known names) rather than any performances that they have been putting in for the last season and a half. Although there were no names mentioned the comment could have been aimed at almost all of the team that turned out yesterday. If level of reputation is synonymous with size of wage packet then the likes of Carroll, Arnautovic, Noble, Reid (and others) might need to take a good long look at themselves. I have to say I am also not convinced by Hart, who despite a very good game at Palace, looks no better than Adrian; he appears rooted to his line (Randolph style) most of the time and is often slow to get down, as he was for the second Watford goal.
Arnie: Will He Be Back?
After Arnautovic’s injury I was half expecting to wake up this morning to news of his obituary. I admit to never having broken (or fractured) a thumb but I have played in matches where much worse has happened and the injured player has never gone into full body convulsions. Maybe it hurts more than I imagine but I can’t help thinking of Stuart Pearce trying to play on with a broken leg. That moment of over acting aside, Arnautovic did get more involved than in most of his previous appearances although much of his work was deep in his own half. He could, and should, have got his name on the score-sheet and also set up the second of Kouyate’s missed chances; a tally which may well have doubled his statistical contribution for the entire season. The introduction of Masuaku, following his departure, was one of the few positives in the whole match for me where he demonstrated nifty footwork and put in some decent crosses during his twenty minute cameo. Masuaku is something of an enigma in that he can flip between top class and pub team player from one week to the next. In truth, he is probably a very decent wide midfield player but not cut out to play at full back.
Getting the excuses in early our unfit squad has only five days to improve and prepare before the next time out against Leicester at the London Stadium on Friday night. Perhaps each small, incremental step up in fitness will add some value but the immediate challenge is how to assemble the odds and sods of the squad into a competent, functioning unit in the meantime; we are like a pack of self-assembly furniture where many of the pieces are missing and the instructions are only available in Croatian. The formation that Moyes employed at Watford (or at least the way that it was executed) failed to address the many long standing problems with the lopsided squad that has been put together. Carroll or whoever plays lone striker is isolated, there is no width or penetration in attacking positions, there is little creative influence with Lanzini wasted stranded out on the wing, midfield players do not do enough to support the defence and passing decisions and execution are poor. There is much to improve before a difficult game on Friday.