Can West Ham Survive Arteta’s Spanish Inquisition At The London Stadium

Nobody expects a West Ham victory in today’s big London derby. The Gunners have no fear, and the Hammers lack the element of surprise. Will it be an afternoon of torture to endure in Stratford?

It’s exciting isn’t it that West Ham are one of the teams able to have a say in the destination of the Premier League title. As they prepare to face Arsenal this afternoon and travel to Manchester City in a couple of weeks’ time, both opponents will have an eye on the games as a great opportunity to boost their respective goal differences.

Combining David Moyes miserable managerial record against ‘big six’ sides with the Hammers long-term tendency for lame surrender in such games injects a double dose of pessimism into today’s encounter. West Ham’s Premier League record against Arsenal is especially woeful. Just eight wins out of 53 attempts. Since a purple patch of three consecutive wins in 2006 and 2007, there have been just two victories to celebrate from a 34-match run.     

According to reliable sources, the Oracle Cloud algorithm for win probability is struggling to cope with small enough numbers for calculating the chances of a West Ham win. Whereas the Arsenal win probability can be seen from space, the Hammer’s probability is invisible to the naked eye.


Apart from avoiding defeat, there was little solace to be taken from the performance against Gent on Thursday evening. The Europa Conference campaign has been an isolated glimmer of hope for supporters this season. But as the quality of opponent has improved, performances are beginning to align with those in the league – never mind the performance, it’s all about the result! Being given the run around by a spirited but limited Gent side was unexpectedly dispiriting.

There was a not-so-subtle dig by Moyes after the match about the importance of supporters getting behind the team. Of course, a rocking stadium is everyone’s dream scenario, but there has to be something to get people off their seats – to keep the spirit of the crowd lifted. The atmosphere at kick-off is consistently positive but is sure to lose its sparkle if not reinforced by action on the pitch. Starting on the back foot, defending deep with ten players behind the ball, and failing to get forward in numbers is not a recipe for raising the passions. No surprise that West Ham have still yet to score in the first 15 minutes of any of this season’s Premier League games. It is easy to point to examples at clubs, such as Leeds, and praise the fanaticism of the support but they are cheering a team who are always willing to give it a go, despite whatever other limitations they may have.

Watching West Ham sitting back in passive resignation is about as stimulating and inspiring as settling down for an evening watching the Test Card on TV. While a relegation battle might suggest a reappraisal of tactics, West Ham are relying on the same approach that got them into a mess to get them back out of it. There is not just the one option of grinding out results and hanging on to a lead in every game. Sometimes the initiative must be seized. To play the game on our own terms that askes questions of opponents rather than sitting back and hoping for the best. Learn a little from the style we have seen from the likes of Brighton, Villa, Fulham and Brentford.

I don’t really care much for Mikel Arteta but have to admit that his team play superb fast attacking football and are a joy to watch. For some strange reason, I also have an irrational dislike of Aaron Ramsdale even if he is rapidly becoming England’s number one keeper. The Gunners have tremendous flexibility in the way they approach games with the ability to adjust formation and structure to suit changing circumstances throughout the game – a far cry form our own pre-formed rigidity. They can attack at pace through the middle as well as down the flanks, get plenty of support into the box and never leave their attacking arrowhead isolated to chase lost causes. Saka and Martinelli will give our full-backs a torrid time this afternoon and Jesus is always a handful pulling central defenders out of position. The player who makes everything tick for me though is Ødegaard. He is the dream creative midfield player – great decision maker who rarely wastes a ball. How long since West Ham have had a competent player in that role?

Arteta will now be feeling the hot, garlicky breath of Pep Guardiola on the back of his neck and it will be interesting to see how his team copes with that. A touch of the jitters might be our best hope for this afternoon. I do think that Manchester City will eventually pip them at the post but only based on their prior experience of handling the pressure of the run-in.

What I don’t find as exciting as the tile race is being entangled in the relegation battle. Yesterday’s results were generally favourable for West Ham although Crystal Palace, Wolves and maybe Bournemouth look to have eased themselves clear of danger. It’s now more a six-club race with Southampton starting to lose touch with each passing week. A disastrous result for Everton, a not unexpected defeat for Leicester, and Forest and Leeds yet to play. Could have been far worse in what all the omens suggest will be a blank weekend for the Hammers.

So, what might we expect from Moyes this week? As ever, his decision making will be underpinned by stereotypical caution. Perhaps, he will view a one or two goal defeat as a good enough result in that it preserves the goal difference advantage. My guess is that the starting XI will be the same as at Fulham except for Lucas Paqueta replacing Pablo Fornals. Nothing more adventurous or revolutionary than that. Plan for draw, prepare for defeat. If we are to pick up a point it will as likely be due to a sub-par performance from an anxious opponent than to our own enterprise. The type of game to watch through your fingers. COYI! 

10 thoughts on “Can West Ham Survive Arteta’s Spanish Inquisition At The London Stadium”

  1. They say that hope springs eternal, and it does. Unfortunately, reality also kicks – in from time to time, and the reality is that the current West Ham side is barely Premier League standard. Our performance against Gent was abysmal and we were very lucky indeed to come away with a draw against a side you rightly describe as “ limited”. As it happened, I watched the game on tv on my own, and found myself,time after time, shouting at the screen as time after time we gave the ball away with misplaced passes, passes hit too hard, passes to players already tightly marked. The only plan seemed to be to pass the ball, together with the responsibility, to someone else.
    Our goal was the sort of fluke we are very unlikely to see repeated against Arsenal, and our threat outside of that was nil. And yet Moyse will put out the same side in the same formation and adopt the same tactics. Expecting a different result is truly the definition of madness.

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    1. They grey-area is the extent to which the shortcomings are down to the quality of the players or the tactics of the manager. My view is it is largely the result of appalling management. Watching Villa yesterday was a perfect example of how an underperforming squad has been transformed by a talented manager who knows how to get the best from his players and sets up according to their strengths. I’m fairly confident if West Ham had replaced Moyes with someone like Emery in November we would riding high by now.


      1. Geoff, as you know, I have been advocating the replacement of Moyse for at least a year now. I’ll be honest and say I have never liked him as a Manager, but I agree with everything you say about what our squad could have achieved with better management.

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      2. That first full season under Moyes was probably our best ever in the Premier League. But it has been downhill ever since. He just doesn’t have the capacity to change and adapt does he? And he has become prickly as the results have dried up.


  2. We spent more last summer than Arsenal or Newcastle, and 4x more than Brighton. Yet we’ll end up needing points from the final games against Leeds and Leicester, who’ll be equally desperate. Such a poorly run club, from team selection, tactics through to recruitment. Just hoping that Rice, Bowen and Paqueta stay fit…

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    1. Recruitment has long been lazy – lacking the thought, planning and hard work that a team like Brighton put into it. The impression given is that is something only small clubs need to do. There is no fit between the style of football and those recruited to play it. It’s a shambles. No signing comes to West Ham and improves as a player. It’s become a graveyard for players who are sold at a loss even though they are in their prime.


      1. Fine recovery after we started to press and play further forward. Less of the aimless passing back. Sensed some self-belief returning! Teams that pick up points playing badly often seem to start improving. But there’ll be plenty more twists and turns. It certainly was, for a change, an enjoyable match to attend. Hopefully there’ll be more!

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      2. Amazing that we can still put in a performance like that given the right setup and motivation. Looked so much better when we press further up the pitch instead of the mass retreat. You could see the confidence growing and it was encouraging that the half time break didn’t interrupt the momentum. For once, we appeared to realise where the opposition might be vulnerable. Every player put in a great shift.


  3. The negative, safety-first tactics have been disastrous for morale, leaving the team tentative and vulnerable. Yesterday the players had to go for it. Hopefully some of that remains in the muscle memory for Thursday. The new manager needs to use the funds from the Rice sale to buy wisely and build a team around Paqueta, who is some player. Rice and Bowen usually shine, but this time Kehrer and Coufal were also outstanding.

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