West Ham 19/20 Review: Moyes no better than Pellegrini
Alex Keble has tough words for Hammers fans as he turns to West Ham in his Premier League reviews...
The Premier League table has been oddly compressed throughout 2019/20, making reactionary opinions and panicky managerial changes particularly unnecessary this year. West Ham are the archetypal example.
Manuel Pellegrini his side might have been one point above the relegation zone when he was mercifully let go on December 28, but they were also a mere six points off 10th. There was no need for owners David Gold and David Sullivan to turn to a fire-fighter in David Moyes; no need to abandon the optimism, or the attempt at progressivism, that had led them to Pellegrini in 2018.
And so, like so much that's wrong at West Ham, the current malaise is all of the owners' doing. Things might not be as toxic as they were in March 2018, when fans protested beneath the directors' box, but we can't be too far away from similar scenes.
Season so far
The Hammers picked up 11 points from their first six games of the season, culminating in an impressive 2-0 win over Manchester United, but their early form was a false dawn.
Over the next few months Pellegrini's laid back approach and lack of attention to detail led to stodgy, aimless performances as West Ham slid hopelessly down the table.
It was difficult to know what the Chilean was trying to achieve. Having abandoned his attempts at expansive attacking football for a deep-lying counter-attacking approach during 2018/19, the current season was a confused mix of the two.
West Ham won just two of the next 13, and while Roberto's awful performances in goal certainly didn't help there were flaws in pretty much every department. More worrying still, Pellegrini openly admitted in post-match interviews that he didn't know what to do about it. Unsurprisingly, he was relieved of his duties after a 2-1 loss to Leicester made it four home defeats in a row.
Gold and Sullivan reacted swiftly - too swiftly in truth, terrified of what relegation would do to the club's finances. Moyes was parachuted in with the aim of grinding out enough points for West Ham to survive, but so far his defensive football hasn't worked at all.
Since beating Bournemouth 4-0 in his first match in charge, Moyes has won just once in nine Premier League matches, despite having Lukasz Fabianski back in goal. The Scot has failed to use new signing Jarrod Bowen enough and has failed to inspire an upturn in form from any of the club's key players.
Their 2-0 win over Man Utd was no doubt the best West Ham fans have felt all season, the result - courtesy of goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Aaron Cresswell - lifting them towards the top of the table and sparking talk of a push for European football.
The only other noteworthy highlight was a 1-0 victory against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, when Cresswell's second half strike earned a shock result against the run of play. Pellegrini's side had just 34% possession and five shots on goal, but somehow stole a result that could ultimately be the difference between relegation and survival.
The worst moment of all was losing 4-0 at League One Oxford United in the EFL Cup. That Pellegrini put out a weakened team is irrelevant; the like of Issa Diop, Pablo Zabaleta, and Jack Wilshere ought to have performed considerably better in a tournament that remains important to West Ham fans.
Similarly a 1-0 defeat at home to West Brom in the FA Cup will have stung, while supporters will want to forget some abysmal losses, such as those to Crystal Palace, Newcastle, and Burnley. However, perhaps the main lowlight is the performances of their new signings Sebastien Haller, Pablo Fornals, and Bowen, signed for a combined fee of £80 million.
What they can achieve in 19/20
It would be naïve to look beyond staying above the dotted line, priced at3.80 with Betfair Exchange, should the Premier League get back underway. A more progressive manager, and one who could inspire greater self-belief by preaching entertaining football, could have looked towards the top ten. Not Moyes.
The good news for Hammers fans is that the club's home form isn't too bad, and they still have Burnley, Watford, and Aston Villa to play at the London Stadium. Winning seven points from these three fixtures would probably be enough to stay up.
What next: Summer transfers & 2020/21
Central midfield is the biggest area that needs an upgrade, especially if Declan Rice moves on as expected. West Ham could also do with a better striker, but apart from that theirs is a talented squad with a lot of decent mid-table talent in its ranks. The big change they really need, then, is a new manager.
Moyes' contract runs until the end of 2020/21 but there will be significant pressure from the fans to terminate his deal early. Should that happen, then West Ham can get back to building towards a future in the top half of the Premier League.
West Ham have endured another frustrating and tedious campaign of Premier League football. The club's owners continue to make shambolic decisions, and one gets the impression the Hammers will never fulfil their potential until there is a change at the top.
Nevertheless, for the time being let's hope Sullivan and Gold have learnt from their mistake of panicking too soon and hiring a fire-fighter before time because, remarkably, in 2019/20 Moyes has been just as bad for West Ham as Pellegrini.