The David Hautzig Column
Robbie Earle, one of Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang members, said something here as a studio analyst for NBC’s coverage of the Premier League that some might find crazy. He said, more than once, that this West Ham side should have been mid-table and challenging for Europe as opposed to surviving by the skin of our teeth. But is that crazy? While saying anything that could be construed as Pro GSB hurts me like one of those leg cramps you got growing up…growing pains my mom called them…I think I agree with him. And if that’s the case, what do I expect and want from this window?
Not a lot.
In fact, if we did absolutely nothing I’d be less afraid of relegation than I was a few weeks ago. If Moyes has shown us anything in his two spells it’s that he is a good coach. Probably a far better coach than Bilic or Pellegrini in that he can take existing players and make them better when needed. Arnautovic as a striker? Why was Moyes the only one to think of this at any time through Arnie’s career? Other managers used Antonio up top in emergency situations, which at West Ham seem to occur every other Tuesday, but with no success. One thought right back was a stroke of genius. Bless him. Yet Moyes not only put him in the strikers seat, he also gave him specific instructions as to how he wanted him to play in that role. Antonio said as much after his goal explosion at Norwich.
There are some other examples, notably Ogbonna and Rice, both of whom seemed to improve under Moyes tutelage. Yes, the additions of Soucek and Bowen were instrumental and helped support both Oggy and Dec, thus allowing them to work with far less angst. But if we are to blame managers when things go south, Moyes has to be given credit for Soucek and Bowen because he was at the helm when they joined.
I’m even cautiously optimistic Moyes could help Fredericks become a better defender if he stays, which I believe he will. Impossible, you say? Well, if you remember what a train wreck Winston Reid was under Moron Grant you know that such reclamation projects aren’t impossible. Regardless of what you think of his four years at the club, Sam taught Reid how to defend. Moyes might be able to do the same with Fredericks. If he can, that would truly be like a new signing, one that could help end the rot of losing more points than any other team from winning positions.
Up front we have the curious case of Haller. Some have decided he is useless. A flop. A snowflake unable to handle the rigors of the EPL. Let me ask you something. If you owned a restaurant, would you hire a chef from a competing establishment that specializes is fine seafood and expect him/her to crank out Hawksmoor worthy steaks, cooked on a stove you bought at The Home Depot? Haller was fantastic, top drawer, when teamed with Jovic. Yet we wanted him to be Drogba 2.0, then quickly judged him as Zaza 2.0. If Moyes doesn’t think he’s up for it, fine. But I would much rather keep him and play him correctly, with Antonio lurking around the box as instructed by Moyes.
Covid has turned our normal internal calendar into total mush, and mine has reset to something like this;
With only a few weeks to go until 2020/2021 kicks off, I think we have a chance to keep the form we showed for the final six matches. That form ended up being our lifeboat, because we very well might have gone down without that points haul. And under that lens, Soucek and Bowen are kind of like summer signings, and we are just taking an unusually long international break. Hate ‘em or just dislike ‘em (notice liking them isn’t an option), GSB did spend a ton of money on their Pellegrini Project and it did not go that well. So I understand the need for a little fiscal responsibility, even if that’s not palatable on Twitter.
My friend and West Ham Yoda, Nigel Kahn, has often said the focus each window should be on bringing in one or two better players, and then integrate them into a squad that is being improved by the manager and his staff. I think if we do that this summer, we could go to the next level. And before any of you lose your cookies over that, the word “next” is of the utmost importance. For us, that means somewhere above the bottom five. Then, it will mean mid-table. Then, if we are lucky, it will mean consistent top half with the occasional flirtation with Europe. Any ideas that we can do better than that anytime soon are likely pipe dreams.
That’s called a “plan” in case you’re reading this, Mr & Mrs Board.
Maybe it’s time we tried that.