F is for failure, but also for feeble, fiasco, farcical or several other words that are too fruity to mention here. Admittedly expectations weren’t high from Wednesday night’s game-in-hand against Newcastle, but self-harm, surrender, capitulation and a complete mullering hadn’t been on my radar. How might that one-time goal difference advantage look once West Ham have crossed swords with Arsenal and Manchester City?
In other circumstances, the result could be written off as a freak – a one-off like Manchester United losing 7-0 to Liverpool. But we are well aware the problems run much deeper at the London Stadium. Except that no-one seems to want to do anything about it. Continuing to treat it as a temporary dip in form that will be effortlessly turned around by doing the exact self-same thing again for the remaining ten matches of the season.
In his Groundhog Day press conferences, David Moyes has been true to form. Assuring us that his genius had given West Ham and the fans the best two years of their lives by finishing 6th and 7th and presenting the European adventures that this had spawned. Supporters should be grateful for such scraps and are fooling themselves if they think they are too good to get dragged into desperate and demoralising relegation scraps every few seasons. This season, he had been let down badly by the shortcomings of the very players he had signed, coached, and selected. And by supporters who were not fanatical enough to appreciate the alternative interpretation of the beautiful game being served up at the London Stadium. The beauty of Moyes ball can only be truly understood by the perceptive and grounded few!
To be fair to Moyes, that first full season in 2020/21 was excellent as the club established new records for number of wins, points, and size of goal difference. The football played during the purple patch immediately following Jesse Lingard’s loan signing was a joy to watch. The team were well organised but also played with a freedom that is totally missing today. Much of that decline is entwined with the star-crossed love affair between David and Jesse. Moyes couldn’t get his man, lost himself in the pursuit over several transfer windows, and was negligent in not finding an alternative to bridge the enormous gap between midfield and isolated striker.
I doubt Moyes is left with many backers outside of the boardroom, and there are constant rumours of tensions between manager, coaches, and players. It is an untenable situation in the middle of relegation struggle and the only feasible solution is surely a change of manager. Strangely, the Board don’t see it that way – quite what the rationale is for sticking with Moyes defies comprehension. Whatever credit the manager had is well and truly used up, and no-one guides a team to this level of underperformance and then miraculously recovers from it. It is only the inevitable that is being delayed.
The easy conclusion to jump to is that it is all about the money. Yet, for all Sullivan’s deranged attempts to run a professional and sustainable football club, he has invested heavily in it and must be aware that the value of his asset is closely aligned to its Premier League status. The drop in value that relegation would bring far outstrips the cost of compensation payments due.
We should not ignore, however, that the Newcastle debacle rested heavily on collective and individual player errors. We should demand a reaction from that on Saturday. The views of supporters on individual players – as posted on online forums and social media – is varied and often scathing. At the more extreme end there is no player who escapes criticism of being either hopeless, stealing a living, out of his depth, or lacking commitment. If that is true, then it is a hole that not even a change of manager can repair.
From my perspective, I think the current woes stem almost entirely from outdated and rigid tactics that exist in isolation from the strengths and abilities of the players on the pitch. Sure, some positions require upgrade, but as I have written before, football at the elite level is a game of fine margins that requires a collective sense of spirit and direction. It must combine sound organisation with freedom of expression if it is to flourish and tactics have to adapt as circumstances change. West Ham under Moyes have stood still tactically and opponents will give hardly a second thought as to how we will setup. Even when he makes in-game changes, they are like for like personnel swaps rather than tactical switches. Belief and motivation have disappeared and the the team have been going through the motions. No cohesion, little movement, few options, scant variation.
And so, we are back to yet another episode in the long running series of ‘One More Game To Save His Job’, this time against Fulham. I suppose it means that avoiding defeat tomorrow gives Moyes a free hit to lose to Arsenal the following Sunday, before the last chance cycle repeats again at Bournemouth in two weeks’ time. Seems to make perfectly, practical, and professional sense – to nobody!
I’m wondering whether Moyes will revert to a three/ five at the back at Craven Cottage. It’s rarely looked convincing for us, but it would be a typical Moysey thing to do following a heavy defeat. It would allow him to quietly drop Tomas Soucek for tactical reasons and play Jarrod Bowen further forward alongside Danny Ings or Michail Antonio. The idea of playing two up front but sticking with a back four doesn’t feel particularly viable given West Ham’s tendency for being overrun in midfield. I’m guessing something like: Areola, Aguerd, Zouma, Ogbonna, Coufal, Rice, Paqueta, Fornals, Emerson, Bowen, Ings.
It is fortunate timing that Fulham will be missing talisman striker Mitrovic for the game as he continues to serve his lengthy referee grappling ban. What we need now is for Toney to receive an equally lengthy ban for his betting misdemeanours before the visit to Brentford in mid-May.
Fulham have enjoyed a creditable season so far, and together with Brighton and Brentford have formed a refreshing alliance of ‘minnows’ upsetting the status quo of the Premier League. Whenever I have seen them, they have played an entertaining brand of football under the talented but volatile management of Marco Silva. Silva will be serving a touchline ban for tomorrow’s encounter. What odds a man-of-the-match performance from Issa Diop?
There needs to be a helpline setup for those of us who desperately want Moyes gone but equally would be devastated by a West Ham relegation. Despite a shockingly bad away record it is one of the potential winnable game for the Hammers. But if we get the win, then we are stuck with the manager for several more weeks. Lose, and we might be rid of the manager, but the opportunity for points is lost. What is the right thing to do? COYI
There was at least some good West Ham news last night when the U18s made it through to the FA Youth Cup Final with a 6-1 victory over Southampton at the London Stadium. It is the first time the Youths have made it to the final in 24 years. There are some serious good prospects among that group and I look forward to the final against Arsenal towards the end of April. Well done lads!
5 thoughts on “There’s Only One F in Failure: Paralysis and Denial Set West Ham on Course For Catastrophic Relegation”
A great summing up of a sad, disgraceful picture. I thought we fought back well towards the end of the first half against Newcastle. But the players seems rattled after the half time team talk. As they ran back onto the pitch one of the training staff stood in their way, frantically jabbing at his head, telling them to focus. The change of manager is now inevitable, but will it be in time? With Rogers I can see these players still winning games.
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To be honest I think I’ve largely been repeating myself these last weeks. But what to do when nothing changes? I agree completely that the players are good enough to win games under a manager they trust and respect.
A couple of homes games back Scamacca was ordered to warm up repeatedly in front of where I was sitting. He looked eager and full of running. Moyes never brought him on, saying later that his ‘stats’ weren’t good enough. So why was he asked to warm up? I felt for the player. Some stats can, though, be revealing : 14 wins in the last 55 league games…
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Moves doesn’t give the impression of a smart man-manager. Astonishing that he has survived such an appalling win percentage
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