The Blind Hammer Column
Blind Hammer reports on a demonstration of Organisation, Determination, and Grit.
Only 6 weeks ago commentators described West Ham as naïve, unfit and disorganised. We had the worst defence in the league, allowing average, poor sides to find the net against us. Against the mega rich team, including Arsenal we would routinely concede 3, 4 and even 5. Phil Neville described Masuaku as an “accident waiting to happen”. Some of Obonna’s early season performances were calamitous. Cresswell always had a mistake in his locker. Few in defence gave us any confidence.
The transformation is little short of remarkable. Whilst Masuaku did not reach the exciting heights of his display against Chelsea, he was dogged, determined and disciplined. This may have much to do with the fact that Moyes was in his ear all through the second half, telling him to keep tabs on Bellerín, and in particular protect Cresswell from his pace on the wing. In the middle Obonna was transformed from a weakness to a colossus which nullified everything Arsenal could throw at him. He was my personal man of the match. Cresswell has recovered the solidity which made him a contender for the England defence.
Yet Moyes is not resting on his laurels.
He said after the game.
“I want them to be more robust and we’re still a bit easy to play against. We’re trying to improve that and we want to make our football better.
“There’s a lot to improve but the first thing was to stop conceding goals. I’m really enjoying it here.”
If Moyes thinks that West ham are still easy to play against they are definitely harder to play than they were a few weeks ago. In the 270 minutes of the last 3 games, at the London Stadium, West Ham has only conceded 1 goal.
It is 3 months since Arsenal were shut out and failed to score. So, in 2 successive games, West Ham has nullified 2 of the most potent attacks in the league. They also run the most potent team close in a tight game in Manchester.
Whilst Arsenal massively dominated possession they managed only 3 shots on target. Crucially West ham’s defence and midfield had the mental strength to maintain shaped and discipline even when starved of possession. Arsenal may have made a thousand passes in a game but this does not mean that they will create chances or win a game. This is the historic weakness in Wenger’s team strategy. Moyes interpreted what he needed to do for this game in much the same way as he organised against Chelsea.
Actually West Ham, whilst not reaching the heights of the performance against Chelsea could quite feasibly have won the game. Arnautovic superb disallowed header after 15 minutes must have been only fractionally offside at best. We were right in line and my sighted guide was convinced, live, that he was onside. Obviously we did not have the benefit of replays. At the other end Hernandez was denied by the woodwork, only inches away from what would have been a stunning winner. This was an important demonstration of the talents we are likely to need in the next few weeks against Stoke Bournemouth Newcastle and West Brom.
Arsenal was always going to be a tougher challenge than Chelsea. Moyes had all week to prepare against Chelsea, and it showed. He had far less time to prepare the team for Arsenal.
In his Everton days Moyes was famous for his team specific preparation. He drilled his teams in detailed tactics devised for each team.
Different challenges will come in the weeks ahead. However Moyes has the experience to adjust. He will still be learning about his squad and he has already indicated it needs strengthening in January. The road to safety from relegation may still be rocky in a league which is already compressing with all the team who have made managerial changes finding form and recovering. Yet we are in a position few would have predicted a couple of weeks ago. Without the 4 points won against Arsenal and Chelsea we would not only be in the relegation zone, but adrift. We would currently have a sense of doom. Instead we go into some, in theory, winnable fixtures with some unlikely optimism.