I just entered ‘Road To Wembley’ into my new AI powered SAT-Nav software and was directed to “take the 3rd round exit at Brentford.” You can’t argue with the algorithm!
If I interpreted David Moyes press conference wisdom correctly, he stated that, as a manager, success in the Premier League is the most important thing, but that a good cup run is equally important. I’m glad he cleared that up. The pressure of the alleged three match ultimatum must clearly be getting to him.
Whatever happens today, it is unlikely to have much bearing on Moyes’ future. Winning will be meaningless if the crucial games against Wolves and Everton both end in defeat. In the same way, losing today will not harm his prospect of he follows it up with two wins. We can only speculate on what the owners would view as an acceptable return from those two games. Four points at least I would imagine.
We should be encouraged that Moyes is now talking about trying to find a winning formula. After all, its only a year since it was lost. How far away from achieving it is a matter of opinion. There did seem to be a greater sense of spirit and purpose in the performance at Leeds but much more needs to be done. Clearly the return of Kurt Zouma and Nayef Aguerd at the back will help enormously, but it will not solve the full-back conundrum. And if the manager needs Gianluca Scamacca to get into the box more, he needs to set up for better service and support.
Moyes has also recently changed his tune on the likelihood of January signings – having previously said the cupboard was bare. The decision may well have been taken out of his hands in the light of his precarious position and the less than spectacular impact of the summer arrivals. The club has painted itself into a corner. Replacing a manager with just a few days remaining in the window would be far from ideal timing.
Moyes’ FA Cup record in his two spells at West Ham has been as indifferent as those that went before him. A 4th round defeat away at Wigan (League 1), a 4th round loss at home to West Bromwich Albion (Championship) and exits away to Premier League rivals Manchester United and Southampton, both in 5th round ties.
In the years since the 1980 FA Cup final victory against Arsenal, West Ham have been knocked out of the competition at the following stages: 3rd round (12 times), 4th round (12), 5th round (8), 6th round (8), semi-final (1) and final (1). In the last ten seasons they have only made it as far as the 6th round once, in 2016. Will we ever see the claret ribbon fluttering on the famous trophy again?
This season’s third round opponents are Brentford who will be looking for a fourth straight win against the visitors. In the previous three games West Ham were overcome by the aggressive pressing and powerful running employed by the Bees. A different attitude and approach will be needed today if a different outcome is to be secured. The best hope of victory may be to rely on the ancient unwritten rule that a team that has just beaten you in the league will lose in the return cup tie a few weeks later.
West Ham and Brentford have met just once before in the FA Cup – a 4th round tie in 1927. Third Division Brentford held First Division West Ham to a 1-1 draw at Upton Park and the two teams met again four days later at Griffin Park. Despite having four England stars in the line-up – Vic Watson, Jimmy Ruffell, Ted Hufton, and Stan Earle – the Hammers were soundly beaten 2-0 by their lively opponents. Syd King Out!
For the older generation the excitement of the 3rd round cup was as much part of the new year landscape as frozen points at Upminster. It was a time to varnish the rattle, re-align the badges on your bobble hat, and order a brand-new jar of Bovril. Now the competition only comes alive in the later rounds, when the metaphorical twin towers are in close touching distance.
Moyes’ pre-match comments suggest he will be rotating his squad for today’s game. it is understandable that he will not want to risk further injuries with key games coming up. But if he really is trying to rediscover that elusive winning formula, he needs to be doing it with his first-string players. His stock is already close to flatlining with supporters and a half-hearted approach today will not be tolerated.
Maybe just as important to how the match unfolds is the approach Thomas Frank takes to the game. The Bees are currently buzzing. Will he want to give certain players a rest or will he leave things alone to build on the momentum of wins against Manchester City, West Ham, and Liverpool.
It is always difficult to call these games without knowing how much importance the coaches attach to the FA Cup. What is certain is that another low intensity, passive performance by West Ham will be routinely punished by the hosts. The only way to get a positive result will be to match Brentford physically. Will we be up to it and up for it? COYI!