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David Moyes pondered another significant moment for West Ham, but unfortunately, it will not lead to a celebratory parade. The same manager who guided West Ham to their first European title since 1965 is now responsible for their worst home loss in 61 years. Just eight months after the joyous night in Prague where fans cheered on their Europa Conference League champions, the London Stadium quickly emptied as West Ham suffered a crushing defeat. As Arsenal triggered a mass departure, Moyes was left to survey the aftermath.
Moyes started, “It’s not easy to clarify.” The atmosphere has changed dramatically, not just since the June celebrations. Just six weeks ago, West Ham’s strong defense led to two consecutive victories against Manchester United and Arsenal. However, after believing they were in the running for a top-four spot, West Ham has now gone seven games without a win in 2024 and their defense was chaotic as Arsenal scored six goals. Moyes stated, “I don’t think my team has ever defended this poorly since I returned to the club.”
Moyes acknowledged that his team’s significant loss was a normal part of the unpredictable nature of football. “There will always be difficult times,” he stated. “Just a few months ago, we were experiencing some of the best moments in West Ham’s history. However, today was undeniably a terrible day for us. I understand why some fans may have left, but it’s important to remember that every football club has its ups and downs. I won’t forget the good times we’ve had.” However, in the past, Moyes has not received much public support during these tough moments, and people’s patience is once again wearing thin.
It is part of the paradox of Moyes: despite what he has achieved at West Ham, his position has never felt completely secure. While taking West Ham from the brink of relegation to Premier League finishes of sixth and seventh, and from reaching the semi-finals of the Europa League to lifting the club’s first trophy in 43 years, the Scot has equally faced periods of dissent and disapproval. The man who gave modern day West Ham their greatest night survived a “Moyes Out” banner at Craven Cottage just weeks before the Prague final.
Currently, Moyes’ contract is set to expire at the end of the season and the cycle is repeating itself. Just six weeks ago, after defeating Manchester United and Arsenal back-to-back during the Christmas period, Moyes was said to be in line for a new contract lasting two and a half years. However, this did not come to fruition and with no additions made during the January transfer window, West Ham is now slipping in the league and has been eliminated from the FA Cup after losing a replay to Bristol City in the fourth round. As a result, Moyes now finds himself in a precarious position once again.
It can be perceived as unjust. Despite losing their captain, Declan Rice, this summer, Moyes has managed to keep West Ham on par with Newcastle in the standings and above Brighton and Chelsea. Pochettino spent more money in one summer than Moyes has in four years, yet he was the one who achieved better results with his team. While Roberto De Zerbi receives praise and is linked to Liverpool, Moyes can argue that his team has demonstrated greater efficiency and effectiveness compared to the Italian’s.
However, Moyes’ pragmatic tactics and careful management style can also limit his room for error. In their match against Arsenal, West Ham showed a concerning lack of traits that are typically associated with a Moyes-led team, such as organization and defensive instincts. Moyes expressed his surprise at his team’s performance, stating, “I’m not accustomed to my team conceding goals in the manner we have been. We have no apparent explanation for this.”
Is it appropriate to question West Ham’s identity at this point? Moyes has not had the opportunity to utilize the talented Lucas Paqueta in midfield, which was integral to his plans for the team’s development. Although Mohammed Kudus has shown his attacking abilities since joining last summer, he was uninvolved in the recent match against Arsenal. With the failure to acquire a replacement for Said Benrahma in January, Moyes once again turned to a full-back, Ben Johnson, to lead the attack. This decision could be seen as a reflection of Moyes’s uncertainty in how to utilize the new players on his team.
“We were not strong enough. We did not perform our duties adequately,” he elaborated. “We did not put enough effort into containing the situation and preventing any goals from being scored. There were also chances for other goals to be conceded. In the past, I have worked with teams that may not have been as skilled as this one, but we always made sure to avoid a performance like this. We are attempting to progress and incorporate new attacking players, but our defensive performance was simply not sufficient.”
The situation at West Ham is a puzzle that has been encountered in the past, triggered by a sudden halt in their success. Some may view it as overly critical to suggest that Moyes should have parted ways with West Ham after achieving a high point last June, or disrespectful to imply that he lacked the ability to lead them further. Moyes is justified in believing that West Ham has improved under his guidance, but as they strive to progress, they seem to stray further from his vision. As he witnessed his team suffer a humiliating 6-0 defeat at home, what pained Moyes the most was that he could not recognize the trademark style of a David Moyes team.