Groundhog New Year’s Day: The Moyes Is Back In Town And This Time He’s Looking For A Bounce

Cometh the man, cometh the dour. He’s back but what will be the biggest challenge – winning over the opposition or winning over the fans?

Another year and the eternal hope for the dawn of an exciting new era for West Ham. At least, that is what they would like us to think. That a change of manager will wipe away the past, fix the present and lead us to a future of sunlit uplands and silverware.

Without doubt getting shot of Manuel Pellegrini was the right thing to do.  The current predicament, flirting with relegation, was largely his doing and we need not feel sorry for him. Beyond that, the lack of direction, the failure to deliver a plan or strategy that might produce a step change in the club’s fortunes and the absence of a required level of investment is down the board. I have said this several times before but the two Daves lack both the financial resources and imagination to turn West Ham into a club capable of challenging at a higher level. The appointment of David Moyes, as West Ham’s seventh manager in their ten-year tenure, was typical of their muddled thinking and short-term outlook.

I don’t have any particular issues with Moyes, but he is not a progressive choice. He will most probably keep us in the Premier League but the fact is, once again, survival has become the only objective. From the owner’s perspective retention of Premier League status will see the value of the asset appreciate until the right time comes to sell. The level of investment need only be sufficient to keep heads above the Championship. A cynical view, perhaps, but one that the owner’s actions have done little to dispel. I have read some fans on social media hoping for relegation as a means of forcing the owners out. That feels like a naive view to me as they would unlikely sell in those circumstances. In fact, the level of investment has been fairly consistent with other also-rans but most others have spent more wisely.

There are two schools of thought concerning Moyes previous spell in the West Ham hot seat. One that he steered the club from a desperate situation to mid-table respectability and did what was needed to make that happen; the other that it was a grim period in recent Hammer’s history where a couple of late wins put an undeserved gloss on an otherwise mediocre record and below average win ratio. The case for the prosecution will also point to the signing of Jordan Hugill.

Unfortunately for Moyes he finds himself back in a similar position as last time, where the priority for points is weighted far more highly than a duty to entertain – if, in fact, he has that tool in his locker. As we supporters should have learned from our own history, it is very difficult to reach judgement on a manager from a single or part season only. Maybe the situation will spawn a new round of anti-Board protests but I sense that we will now have Moysie here for the next 18 months. I can’t see anything other than pretty ugly football for the remainder of this term; after that we will need to wait and see which way the latest new direction points.

There have been some horrendous suggestions in the media and online of players linked with a move to the London Stadium during the transfer window. I prefer to take these with a pinch of salt as only a small percentage of rumours turn out to be true. Maybe it is just wishful thinking.

Today’s game against Bournemouth is a classic six-pointer. Both teams have struggled for points in recent weeks and look to be in free-fall, just as other clubs in relegation peril start to rally. There has been precious little time for Moyes to work on the team’s obvious lack of fitness and organisation, but it would be no surprise if he decided to go for a change of formation – to the 3-5-2 set-up that he settled on during his previous reign. As many of us were imploring Pellegrini to do likewise, I couldn’t argue with that. Whatever the eventual line-up, we could certainly do with a generous helping of new manager bounce to help us on our way. Perhaps losing but not from a winning position will be as good a bounce as we’re likely to get!

The visitors have been badly hit by injuries this season but any team that lost Leicester reserves cannot take much relief from that fact.  Eddie Howe’s team have a good record against West Ham and strikers Callum Wilson and Josh King must both rate the Hammers as a favourite and hospitable opponent. Fortunately, King looks to have been added to list of sick and will probably miss the game.

Graham Scott from Oxfordshire is the matchday referee aided by Lee Mason on VAR duty in the underground Stockley Park bunker. The implementation of VAR appears to be getting worse and more intrusive week by week – more so for those in the ground who are left waiting with little information. Allowing the referee’s to supervise implementation was never going to be a good idea.

Our pundit buddies have both gone for a West Ham home win: Lawro by 2-0 and Charlie Nicholas by 2-1.  I can see this being the most cagey of games and wouldn’t be surprised to see it settled by a single goal. Hopefully, it will be one that works to our advantage.

17th v 16th, another 6 pointer. Can West Ham reap the benefit of the arrival of an old acquaintance when Bournemouth visit the London Stadium to begin the New Year?

So, at last action was taken. I won’t need to write about my perception of Mr Pellegrini’s shortcomings any more. Minutes after the final whistle following the disappointing defeat to Leicester Reserves on Saturday, he was summoned to face Ms Brady, who, having seen Lord Sugar perform the act on numerous occasions, extended the index digit on her left hand and added the words “With regret, you’re fired.” Relief at last for the majority of West Ham fans who couldn’t wait for him to go, but this was tempered by news that David Moyes was odds on to replace him, an appointment that was confirmed by late Sunday evening.

If you want to see what West Ham fans think of the appointment just head to the appropriate social media sites which give a whole variety of opinions on the new manager. There are literally thousands of them, mostly negative I would say on balance, but many saying wait and see. This is my stance too. I saw his interview on West Ham TV as well as his press conference and he was certainly saying all the right things. You wouldn’t think that based on his track record after leaving Everton he would be the person to “take us to the next level”, but having said that, the immediate next level for our club at the moment is movement away from the relegation zone, and he does have previous in that respect. In my opinion his record as manager at Goodison Park was largely impressive, and though he didn’t pull up any trees at Old Trafford, no manager has really been able to replace Alex Ferguson, have they?

Many have pilloried the board for the appointment, but then again Messrs. Sullivan, and Gold and Ms Brady are so disliked by so many, that I doubt there was little they could possibly do in the circumstances mid- season that would satisfy a majority of fans. It was interesting to read the views of fans on social media as to who they actually wanted to manage the club. Such a diverse list of possibilities but nobody knows who would want to come here or who was available. I really hope that David Moyes is a success because I am a supporter of over 60 years who wants to see the club move forward. Whether or not it will happen I don’t know. Personally I am just glad that they didn’t turn to Allardyce or Pulis, I rate David Moyes much higher than those two. We’ll just have to wait and see. I’ll make my views known on the appointment in a few weeks’ time in this blog. For now I give him the benefit of the doubt.

Bournemouth haven’t been in the Premier League for long (this is their fifth season), but in the short time that they have been they have a good record against us. We have only beaten them twice in nine meetings, and only once in the four home games, when we won the very first league game that we played at London Stadium with a late headed goal from the Snowman. So head-to- head recent history is not in our favour.

Both teams go into the game with very poor recent form and that is why they are 17th and 16th in the Premier League table. We have the worst home form of all the teams in the Premier League, and as we all know, we have lost the last four home league games. The most consecutive home games that we have ever lost in our entire history is five, and that happened in 1931! There aren’t many of us who remember then! That is one record that we don’t wish to equal.

Even conceding a solitary goal can be a problem for us this season. In the 15 games we have conceded at least one goal we have only won one of them. That happened in August when we beat Watford 3-1. Even the day itself has been a problem in the past as we have lost seven of the eleven Premier League games played on January 1st, which is more than any other team, apart from Everton.

Bournemouth have been equally poor, losing seven of their last nine league games, and winning only one of them. In the last four and a half seasons they have lost more Premier League games away from home than any other team, apart from Watford. Two things in particular worry me though. Bournemouth are second only to Liverpool when it comes to scoring set-piece goals in the Premier League this season, and you know how good we are at defending set pieces! And Callum Wilson has not scored for 12 games. He has never gone 13 games without scoring!

It will be interesting to see our new manager’s team selection and the way we set up. I reckon he may try three at the back (Balbuena, Diop and Ogbonna) and then use two wing backs (Fredericks and Masuaku or Cresswell). But who knows? He hasn’t really had the chance to assess very much in a couple of days, but our fans will be on his back if it doesn’t go well.

There has never been a 0-0 draw in a West Ham v Bournemouth game in history. In just 14 games that have been played there has been between 1 and 7 goals in every game, including every number in between. Who can possibly predict what we can expect today? We are fractionally odds-on to win the game despite our recent poor form, probably as a result of the new manager effect. West Ham to win and both teams to score is 23/10, and if you want to predict a score, my forecast would be a 2-1 win at 15/2. I’d settle for that.